Winner Loses All! (Misty)
17 parts, 4/8/79-24/11/79
Artist: Mario Capaldi?
This is a comic-strip aimed at pre-teen girls about selling your soul to the Devil. Yes, it could only be from Misty. Misty is one of the most famous and fondly remembered girls’ comics, despite it lasting less than two years. It is also responsible for a considerable number of nightmares. (I was six/seven during its years of publication, and hid the copy that I was bought by a kindly relative underneath their mat so I wouldn’t have to take it home and read it again. I was pretty seriously traumatised…)
Winner Loses All! has all the elements for a classic girls’ comic story. Tragic background (Sandy Morton, our heroine, lost her mother in a car crash and her father is now a drunkard who’s in danger of losing his job and making them homeless); terrible secret that must be kept at all costs (no one must know she’s sold her soul), and even a nasty girl that we all want to see humiliated (rich rider Jocasta). It doesn’t even have a happy ending.
Sandy is led into temptation by bookie Mr Dayville who shows her how things could be if she sold him her soul – her father sober and offered a new job and better house. To make things slightly more shades of grey, the deal also includes an Olympic gold medal for Sandy herself and the horse he’s going to let her ride – a living inn-sign called Satan. He also tells her that as almost everyone ends up in hell anyway, she might as well get some benefits out of it (there you go, kids! We’re all doomed!).
Disasters pile up. Sandy discovers she’s to win the 1980 Olympics, so has less than a year until she’s dragged to hell. A further clause, accepted to save Satan, means that if anyone discovers that he’s not a real horse, she’ll be claimed by the Devil in that instant. She realises that she’s only going to win medals thanks to the Devil cheating, rather than fairly as she’d hoped. And as misunderstandings pile up, her secrecy leads to an estrangement with her father. Phew! Could anyone bear all of that? Well, she doesn’t have to for very long. But what happens next is arguably worse…
In most fiction, when a secret leads to misunderstandings, the truth is finally discovered and things arrange themselves happily. But this is no Wodehouse farce, this is a Misty strip. Sandy’s dad does discover her secret. But he trades his soul for hers – and then dies. Yes, this story ends with the heroine’s father going to hell to suffer for all eternity. She gets a horse out of it (Satan is made real as part of the bargain) and will probably become a champion rider – and let’s hope she’s now eventually heaven-bound – but she is now an orphan with the knowledge that her father is damned because of her. Happy, happy.