Letters of Hate

  • Letters of Hate  Bunty: #1678 (10 March 1990) – #1686 (5 May 1990)
  • Artist: Tom Hurst

Plot/Thoughts

This story is narrated by Gemma, her life isn’t going so well, these days, her boyfriend Mike dumped her and her father has lost a job.  So she isn’t having a great time, but she still seems surprisingly upbeat. She brushes off Mike having a new girlfriend as no big deal and encourages her father to keep going for interviews. Then people in her school start getting poison pen letters. Janice is called out for being spotty, Ben and Abigail break up after he gets a note that Abigail spent evening with another guy. Gemma and her friends Cathy and Laura decide to play detective and find out who is sending the letters.

Spoilers! In the end the shocking twist is  that Gemma is the  culprit herself! Having protagonists be the person behind nasty tricks was one of those plots that would pop up sometimes. The story tries to steer towards other suspects, even in the first issue two girls Babs and Josie are highlighted to be mean gossips, so later on they become suspects. In the second issue Gemma herself gets a nasty letter. Again this was common to have the supposed victim be behind everything.

The letters are written in different methods, so these clues to lead them to new suspects. In one instance a letter is typed right after girl bragging about new typewriter. Conveniently Gemma always is on her own when a letter arrives. When  Gemma and Laura decide to hide in the classroom waiting for the writer, Gemma goes to tuck shop and it turns out a letter appears in another class. Next a letter is sent with cut out comic bookletters (Bab and Josie are suspects). Later Gemma and Laura find spare letters in cloakroom they are surprised that they are beside best friends Cathy’s peg. When Cathy is off sick the next day the rule her out,

Throughout the story Gemma’s ex Mike and his new girlfriend Dawn pop up. Her thought bubbles reveal she still wants him back even though she says she she doesn’t mind outwardly.

Mike and Dawn both become suspects, when they find a typed list of names including most of the victims. It is actually a party list and typewriter doesn’t match.

Cathy meanwhile has figured out why the crooked M on typewritten note looked so familiar, it’s Gemma’s. So Laura and her confronts Gemma and yes she did it because she was having a miserable time. Some people who got notes was just to make them miserable too, others like a girl Tania got a note because she disliked her for beating her in a race. Of course Gemma loses all her friends after everyone knows what she has done. She seems quite surprised by this.

Again its not breaking any new ground, but at least some of the suspects like Cathy, Mike and Dawn seem possible and less obvious than earlier suspects. Gemma seems a bit oblivious to the consequences but her motivation is plausible.  She is not an overly vicious character, she did a terrible thoughtless things, more because misery likes company than any real spite. But in the end its good to see her get what she deserves. The art is solid. Some stories have settings that gives the artist lots to explore with like old style Victorian, or futuristic sci-fi, or even having crazy pets but with stories set in a modern era schools, there can seem to be less to play around with.  Still the expressions are subtle, characters are distinctive and while there isn’t lots of action it is still nice nice and consistent.

7 thoughts on “Letters of Hate

  1. Yes, the formula is so common that you can pretty much guess how it’s all going to end up. Bunty’s “Stop Thief!” is another story in the same vein, except that it is stealing, not poison pen letters. The narrator/culprit ends up wishing she had been expelled because it would have been better than ending up an outcast at school and losing all her friends.

  2. One variation of this formula is the protagonist appearing to be a victim of a hate campaign eg Bunty’s ‘Hot Gossip’. Once you know the formula the question is not who is persecuting the girl, but whether she really is the victim of a hate campaign or if she is faking it all to get attention or whatever. Personally, it would make a nice change for it to be the former.

  3. Loneliness drives the protagonists of some strips to more malicious acts than Gemma. For example, Lonely Lynn (Bunty) sets out to break up as many friendships as she can because she finds it difficult to make friends and is left friendless after losing the only ones she had. Lynn does not seem a bad person at heart (unlike Brenda the Breaker from Tracy, who causes similar trouble) but she has absolutely no remorse or guilt over what she does. In her final act, she goes as far as to frame a girl for vandalism in order to break up her friendship. But it fails because she fell into a trap set by two former victims who compared notes. As a result, Lynn changes schools and turns over a new leaf after finally getting a friend. But Lynn is still not really sorry for what she did, which is probably why the final panel is set for Lynn to get a possible taste of her own medicine….

  4. Sometimes the formula fails because the writer/editor did not think it through properly. This was the case in one Pam of Pond Hill story where Catherine Bone fakes being persecuted by a secret society in order to gain sympathy and friends.
    But it does not work as Catherine is the one who had repulsed all offers of friendship in the first place by being rude, snappish, unfriendly, and worst of all, a tell-tale. This story is easily one of Pam’s worst offerings and it would have been better if the secret society had been genuine.

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