It scarcely needs mentioning that of all of the Treasury of British Comics’ many collections over the last several years few were as eagerly anticipated or have had such a dedicated cult following as the various Misty volumes. The short-lived but hugely influential British girls comic of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2023. and to celebrate Rebellion have published a very handsome compilation of classic strips as a select representation of the weekly’s output. Misty: 45 Years of Fear, the Essential Collection brings together four well-regarded serials, a number of short stories, and some of the original material revival strips from the Misty/Scream! Specials of the last few years.
Before considering the work collected here it is important to mention the aesthetic appeal of this hardcover. Designed by Gemma Sheldrake, 45 Years of Fear includes introductory essays to each section by comics commentary luminaries like Dr. Julia Round (author of Gothic for Girls: Misty and British Comics, the 2019 Broken Frontier Award winner for Best Book on Comics), David Roach, Chloe Maveal, Claire Napier and Karl Stock. This isn’t simply a compilation of beautifully restored comics craft, it is also a loving appreciation of the material herein, with plenty of insightful context provided for those interested in the historical backdrop of these comics.
‘Moonchild’ by Pat Mills and John Armstrong
The stories selected by editor Olivia Hicks are knowingly curated and indicative of Misty’s propensity for both inventive takes on the horror genre and its playful adoption of some the more standard subgenres of supernatural narrative. What does need to be noted though is that for those who have been picking up the Misty Treasury collections that around half of the material in 45 Years of Fear has already been reprinted in previous volumes. However, this is unsurprising given that the objective here is to showcase some of the very best stories from the comic’s two years or so of publication. and presumably to appeal to a wider audience than simply nostalgists and hardcore fans.
‘The Sentinels’ by Malcolm Shaw and Mario Capaldi
In that regard, then, we already have Broken Frontier commentary on some of the longer-form work presented here. Pat Mills and John Armstrong’s ‘Moonchild’ was part of the very first Treasury Misty edition and is the story of schoolgirl Rosemary Black, cruelly treated by her mother while coming to terms with the developing psychic powers that are a part of her family heritage.
I said of it in 2018: “Written by Pat Mills, it has an obvious Carrie vibe to it but it’s all the more relatable in that the true horrors at its core are those of parental neglect and schoolyard bullying. John Armstrong’s packed pages have a clarity and realism that make the supernatural elements all the more disturbing given the otherwise normal and mundane routine of Rosemary’s world.” You can read the full review here.
‘Nightmare Academy’, art by Jaume Rumeu
Malcolm Shaw and Mario Capaldi’s ‘The Sentinels’ is one of the most remembered serials from Misty and its inclusion here feels obligatory. It follows teen Jan Richards and her family who having found themselves homeless take refuge in an abandoned tower block. One which turns out to be a portal to a parallel timeline where the Nazis won the Second World War an invaded Britain. Again, returning to my 2018 review, I said then that “The ending of the original serial is horrifically bleak in many respects and perhaps rather prescient as well.”
As a sidenote it seems a missed opportunity that Hannah Berry and Ben Willsher’s short story return to the world of ‘The Sentinels’ from the 2017 Scream! and Misty Special wasn’t included in 45 Years of Fear given it is one of the most powerfully socially relevant stories Rebellion have published in the last several years.
‘The Day the Sky Grew Dark’ by Jordi Badia Romero
The other two main strips republished in 45 Years of Fear are ‘Nightmare Academy’ (art by Jaume Rumeu, writer unknown) which twists the boarding school narrative that was such a regular fixture on the girls weekly comics landscape of the time into something even more sinister than the norm. Sharon Watts is sent to Knightstair Academy where she finds her freedom curtailed by the mysterious headmistress Miss Nocturne and a curriculum with an oddly nocturnal twist. Rumeu’s art creepily uses the potential of black and white to its fullest in terms of mood and atmosphere, giving the story a sense of claustrophobia that matches its thematic considerations, and while the eventual supernatural revelations are hardly unsurprising the horror of ‘Nightmare Academy’ is more in the subtext than the obviously monstrous.
‘Home for Christmas’ by Lizzie Boyle, David Roach, Dylan Teague and Simon Bowland
The final main entry here is the wonderfully unsettling ‘The Loving Cup’ (again writer unknown but art by Brian Delaney who gives a solid authenticity to a delightfully bizarre premise). In this serial young Lucy Bayley inherits an ancient loving cup when her Italian mother dies; an artefact that begins to exert the strangest of holds over her. Ghostly visions of a malevolent woman from the past hint at the truth of ‘The Loving Cup’ as Lucy finds herself a manipulated prisoner of her own destiny. What makes this strip is that even though its eventual answers are indeed unashamedly ludicrous the whole thing is played so straight that it remains convincing regardless.
With a number of classic and recent short story reprints complementing the main features, Misty: 45 Years of Fear, the Essential Collection ticks all the boxes in both reminding readers of, or introducing them to, a landmark part of British comics history. Now if only someone could persuade Rebellion to give Misty the same monthly miniseries treatment they gave Battle Action this year in 2024…
Pat Mills, Malcolm Shaw, Lizzie Boyle, Kristyna Baczynski (W), John Armstrong, Mario Capaldi, Jaume Rumeau, Brian Delaney, Isidre Mones, David Roach, Mary Safro (A) Dylan Teague (C), Simon Bowland, Mary Safro (L) • Rebellion/Treasury of British Comics, £40.00
Review by Andy Oliver