Across The Pond: Buggery Bastard iMacs

*warning, this piece contains some Misty spoilers warning, no I don’t mean the Clint Eastwood movie

This piece was originally entitled `Play Misty For Me`, although I was toying with calling it `Girls Talk` after the old song. Then my iMac broke down, forcing me to write this on a toshiba laptop. Just thought I`d share that with you.

(one cup of coffee later). Anyway, why read ‘Misty’, a British girls comic from the late 1970’s? I`m not British. Nor am I a girl. And it`s not the 70`s anymore. I think we are now in the `0s. Well, one reason for reading Misty (which ran, in various forms from 1978 to 1984) is because I can. It`s available free online at I’m a sucker for free stuff, especially if I can read all of it.

Another reason for reading it is period charm. This may sound odd, since for me 1978 wasn`t that long ago. I was 16 and reading my Marvel comics whilst studying for English lit exams. In newsagents my eyes automatically ignored the `girls` section, which was all flared trousers long hair-do`s and big eyes (I was looking for Captain America or Penthouse. Or both. It was a time of transition). However, Misty, like other British comics of the time, looks now like something from the 1950s by comparison with Marvel. Almost all is black and white and the coloured pages are pretty hit and miss. Clearly we were meant to be impressed by the fact that there was any colour at all.

The characters are often plucky schoolgirls. The stories are all aimed at girls who like a bit of a scare, an agreeable shiver as one ex-Misty addict told me. Girls like my sister, who at the time Misty was coming out, kept leaping from her room to tell me about some new paperback she had discovered in which a man’s face melts right off half-way through. Come to think of it, Misty might have been a bit wet for her.

One good-ish story I haven’t finished yet is The Sentinels. No, not the giant flying robots who are so crap when fighting the X-Men. These Sentinels are two huge blocks of flats, one of which contains a gateway into a world in which the Nazis won World War Two. Its annoying that they don’t say how they did it; deal with the Americans? Getting the Bomb right? Sensibly not invading Russia? Anyway, they have landed the prize of running an alternate 70s UK in which plucky schoolgirls live in fear. What is charming about this story is the background. The heroine’s family is homeless and waiting for her father to be allocated a new council flat. He seems to be working and the homelessness is treated as a background detail, just one of those things. The council will find them somewhere to stay, and there is no suggestion that the guy should look for his own flat. They wander into the leads-to-Nazi-UK flat whilst waiting for the council to fix them up. All very socialist.

Another story concerns a plucky schoolgirl who has bought an old box of paints and is chanelling a long-dead painter through them. Every time she paints with the long-dead woman’s paintbox, it’s as if she’s being controlled. Each painting tells her something more about the dead woman’s life. Its quite good and spooky and much less waffly than The Draughtsmans Contract, which used the same trick (kind of). Suspension of disbelief is necessary when looking at the pictures she paints; everyone says “this is genius” “I’ll pay 100 seventies pounds” and so on, whilst looking at pictures as ordinary as the rest of the comic.

Another story, The Cult of the Cat deals with an Egyptian cat-cult trying to enlist an English schoolgirl into their cult as the new High Cat or whatever. Coincidentally she’s a bit plucky too, although kind of hesitant and timid in an endearing way. The Cult of the Cat is taking forever as story by story the kid develops a fear of water, of dogs, good climbing ability and so on. She hasn’t as yet started coughing up fur or cleaning her entire body by licking, but I’m only about half way through. Since she doesn’t want to be a cat and is happy with her plucky schoolgirlhood, the suspense lies in seeing if she can get away from the ancient Egyptian crone who has chosen her (with an army of pubescent cat worshippers) or if she will grow to enjoy or at least put up with being the new top cat. It’s a position which involves being worshipped by adoring adolescent women in vaguely Egyptian robes, which sounds alright to me. There is not a bloke in sight though, so I guess I’m not eligible. This strip is dying to be discovered by some gender studies academic (thesis title; Dykey Subtexts in British Comics with particular reference to Cat Cults).

There is also psychic power, in the form a girl who has a moon shaped mark on her forehead giving her a strange power to…well, move things. What does this power mean? Some evil girls who show a lot of leg and who, gasp, smoke are plotting something terrible for her although the fools don’t know she can really move things with her mind. I remember my sister raving about Carrie…

There are also a few shorter stories which are the sort of thing Enid Blyton would do if she were trying to get published in 2000 AD. Oh and a completely wet story about a woman who dances in fire with salamanders. This goes nowhere and ends with her dancing with salamanders. Nice legs though, for one so lizard fixated.

Like 2000 AD, Misty has a fictional editor named Misty. This makes Tharg seem almost humble. The eponymous editor is always depicted as a somewhat tasty type arising from some mist to introduce each issue. She looks a lot like the young Suzi Quattro to me. Misty reveals in a FAQ section of the website that she doesn’t have or need legs or feet. “Do the mists need feet?” she asks rhetorically. Well, no, but the mists don’t have faces nor do they edit comics. Notice how I refrain from bad jokes about editing whilst legless.

None of the artists or writers are credited in the comic, although the website names a few names. I can’t read it without remembering the comment about John Wagner and Pat Mills being driven to violence and savagery by years of working on girls comics. I’d love to know if working on Misty (and the even more soppily named comics it was swallowed up by, Tammy and Jinty) drove anyone to violence, paganism and/or savage political satire. Me I’m off for some more Cult of the Cat.

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