- Pat the Brat – Bunty: #1638 (03 June 1989) – #1647 (05 August 1989)
- Artist: Colin Merrett?
Pat Barnet, is a good tennis player but doesn’t have the killer instinct, she plays for fun not to win. At some point in the past, her mother died of unnamed reasons, so it’s just her and her dad at home. Then her father gets in some serious trouble when he borrows money from a charity fund he is treasurer of to help out his own business, planning to pay it back later. An audit is coming up in 4 months and if he doesn’t replace the money by then, he is sure to go to jail.
Pat decides she must start winning cash prizes at tennis and show no mercy to other players. The other girls are surprised at this new attitude, especially when she does dirty tricks to get her opponents nerves, such as “accidentally” breaking a girl’s lucky racquet and throwing people off their game by arguing with the umpire. She starts acting nasty in general, so not to give away the reason why she is suddenly so keen to win. She gets the nickname “Pat the Brat” and she upsets her coach, Anne, even more when she refuses to play in charity match, as it means no money. This ends up with them going their separate ways.
Needing more money Pat goes onto a Europe tournament, she has to keep up her brat act, though one reporter Pauline suspects there is more behind this brat act. Just as Pat is regaining Anne’s trust, she notices Pauline watching so she has to act up again. Back home she goes for her last match against a nice girl Amy, and although she could probably win on her own merits, just to be on the safe side she also shatters Amy’s confidence.
She presents her dad with the money she’s won, so he can replace the money and things also are looking up for his business as he just landed a big contract. She goes on to explain to Anne about the situation, who understands the difficult situation she was in and also promises not to tell, though she does not condone her actions. After their last match Amy has quit tennis. Pat tries to make amends she talks with Amy and helps her get her confidence back. She is also happy to be back playing tennis for fun.
Tennis was one of the more popular sport for girls to play in these comics, usually with an end involving winning some big tournament. Here instead of been driven by a need to prove her talent, Pat is doing it only to help her father. Even if she is quite talented she also feels the need to use dirty tricks as well, though her coach Ann points out their were many matches she could have just won with skill alone. While understandably Pat doesn’t want to take the risk, but it does mean the matches weren’t fairly won and that makes it harder to root for the protagonist.
Overall the story is okay and the art is fine. In lots of ways it is hard to feel sympathy for some of the characters, especially the father. He is the cause of the trouble to begin with, once he mentions his concern that Pat is getting a bad reputation, but for the most part he is so distracted by his own problem he actually doesn’t take much notice of Pat. He also tends to go around feeling sorry for himself, but not really doing anything pro-active to solve the problem. As for Pat there have been many characters that may act hard and nasty to cover their true feelings (for example The Seeker) but it doesn’t really excuse her actions.
So yes there is a moral grey area, but I think the biggest problem I have with the story is actually that it’s a bit boring. Even if I dislike some of the characters actions, it doesn’t make them un-likeable people, but mostly they are just bland and forgettable. I wasn’t eagerly awaiting to see what happened next. I will say my my story preference is more towards sci-fi stories or the unusual, but that’s not to say I don’t like some of the grounded more soap like stories. It may have appealed to other readers but personally I think this is one of the weaker stories printed.
11 thoughts on “Pat the Brat”
Yes, I do not condone Pat’s actions either, even if she had a reason for them. Any real-life tennis player who behaved like that would be suspended or banned, and that would put paid to Pat’s hopes of raising the money. She would have been better to just try harder and maybe force herself to act more driven and ruthless, but not cheating and dirty.
Pat isn’t the only one to act dirty for misguided reasons. In Tammy’s “Backhand Billie” the heroine not only pretends to be a dirty tennis player but changes her name as well – and all to hide the fact that she is the daughter of a famous tennis player.
No doubt there are other stories with the same concept as well.
I do remember coming across this story. I was one who did follow it, even though I thought the premise was a bit stupid and contrived, and Pat was misguided. Still, I have seen stories with dumber and weaker premises than that.
Thank you for another interesting & detailed post. I agree it would be hard to invest any sympathy in Pat’s character, although I’d still have followed the story, probably hoping she got her comeuppance! It’s really a murky story morally from the outset, isn’t it, and it seems like Pat’s behaviour is directly learned from her embezzler father, with his ‘short-term illegality is okay’ attitude.
A tennis story in Diana (called The Wonder Girl) sees Minerva Forth excel so effortlessly that she plays with a table tennis bat instead of a racquet to give her opponents a chance. (She goes on to be unbeatable in other sports too, and we see her play cricket with a stump instead of a bat. This rule-breaking doesn’t come across as brattish somehow, I think the character remains quite likeable, even when she insists, “I’ll bat with whatever I want. Now please get on with the game.”) This story doesn’t really go anywhere surprising either, it’s a humour piece, but I enjoy it because of the artwork, which is very dynamic. I do remember that, regardless of how boring I might have found a plotline, if the illustration was attractive or inventive, I would follow it happily.
At least Pat does feel guilty about her brat act, so she does retain a smidgen of my sympathy (though not a lot). There have been characters who have been even more misguided and less sympathetic.
One is C.A. Johnson from Bunty’s “Down with St Desmond’s!” C.A. is out to destroy St Desmond’s because she had been brought up to believe the school wrongly expelled her mother and drove her to her death. The father is to blame; he spun her that story because he couldn’t tell C.A. the truth about her mother – that she is a nasty piece of work who doesn’t care squat about her daughter (so why the heck did he marry her?). Maybe he is to blame for C.A. hating the school, but C.A. is as nasty as her mother; her campaign gets pupils get expelled, teachers sacked, livelihoods ruined, and scandal after scandal about the school hitting the headlines. And not a smidgen of guilt until she is confronted with her mother and how wrong she has been. She does gain a bit of sympathy when she and her father save the school from a WWII mine in the final episode, but really, I was glad to see the back of her.
Sometimes sympathy can shift, such as in Bunty’s “When Harry Dumped Sally.” At first I was sympathetic with Sally because Harry hurt her pretty badly when he dumped her and lauded her bids to get even. But gradually my sympathy shifted to Harry because I felt Sally was going too far with her revenge campaign and didn’t know where to stop, and I began to hope she would get caught out.
Sometimes I wonder if girls’ comics give their readers a test of sympathies with serials like Pat the Brat or Mandy’s Slave to Love! (discussed elsewhere on this site). It’s like they give us a character who is definitely in the grey shades for sympathy ratings and then they ask us the question: do we have any sympathy for the protagonist or not?
I think the artist is Colin Merrett.
Thanks Mistyfan, that’s a name I haven’t come across.
Most of his girls’ comics work was done for IPC/Fleetway, especially June and Princess Tina. However there was at least one DCT serial. “They’re No Match for Mo!” (another tennis story) was published in Bunty October 1977 to February 1978, and reprinted in Lucky Charm 12 as “Nellie Never-Give-In”.