This is the last Mandy annual to have art on the cover, rather than a photo of a cover girl. It is also the first cover not to depict the Mandy character. There are 22 picture stores, 2 text stories and 6 features. There are no photo stories, and as usual with Mandy there is one longer picture story split into 3 parts. There is also a symbol beside each story to show what type of story it is; drama, humour, spooky or romance, so there is a nice mix here and the layout is nicely done.
When this was published, Mandy and Judy had already combined in the week issues to become M&J and Judy’s last annual was published the previous year, so it makes sense that some traditional Judy characters continue to show up here; Cinderella Jones, Wee Slavey and Pepper the Pony. Angel as an original Mandy character, is the focus of the long picture story. Along with these regular characters there is also a lot of original stories. (For just a list of contents click here)
Rhymes for our Times (Pages: 4/ 39/ 64/ 97)
These humorous one page strips update the old rhymes of Little Miss Muffet, The Queen of Hearts, Mary had a little Lamb and Little Bo Peep. In Little Miss Muffet, Muffet refuses curds and whey in preference of a strawberry yoghurt, she isn’t scared off when a fake spider appears beside her and excepts the trickster John’s offer of a date.
In the Queen of Hearts, pop star Gloria Hart bakes some tarts but they are rock hard so no one wants to steal them. Only the local paper boy accepts the tarts to give to his boxer to chew.
Next Mary helps out at a local farm and with a young lamb, Larry, when he follows her to school there isn’t laughing and playing instead she gets 200 lines.
Lastly, Betty “Bo” Peep helps look after her dad’s sheep and is quite taken by the handsome new shepherd. He is too busy to talk to her and a bit of a know it all, so Bo hides the sheep in order to help him find them later!
Angel (Pages: 5-10, 33-38, 113-118)
- Artist: Dudley Wynne
Angel is a well remembered tragic heroine that appeared in the Mandy and M&J comics. When Angela Hamilton a wealthy young woman discovers she has only a year to live, she leaves home and dedicates her life to helping the poor. After she dies her parents dedicate a home to help the poor children and have a statue built in her memory. Here the story set up is that 3 older people meet at the statue to pay their respects to Angel, each tell their story of how she helped them.
Firstly is Peter, who as a young boy grew up with wealth, but after losing his parents he ends up on the streets. His pride makes him refuse Miss Angel’s offer of a home, because it is in a stables, which he believes is only fit for animals. Angel worries about him, then realising it is Christmas time, takes Peter to a church to see a Nativity scene and if a stable was good enough for Jesus, then Peter can accept her offer. This fits in with religious tones of the original story.
The next story is from Annie and actually takes place after Miss Angel’s death. She was given a violin by Angel’s parents which she then used to busk on the streets. She also tried to live up to Angel’s goodness by helping out the family living next door to her. When the money she earns to buy a Christmas feast for the family is stolen, she goes to sell off her violin. A customer hearing her play gives her a job in the orchestra.
The last story is told by the youngest woman, Peter points out that she couldn’t remember Miss Angel, as she has been dead over 40 years. But she actually owes Angel, her life. She was born under a railway at Christmas and Miss Angel paid for her and her mother’s medical bills. Years later when the family is doing well they recognise the statue.
The art and the inking are great a like the soft pastel colours used. A lot of browns and greys are used, though it does not look dull. Also this helps to make Miss Angel stand out more with her green dress.
A Shy Romance (Pages: 11-15)
- Artist: Georgio Letteri
One of the many romance stories in this book. Trina is a shy girl and is delighted when a boy she likes Ross asks her out. She is nervous about the date but seeing a tv programme about “the shy guide to dating” gives her confidence. Another girl Sophie, a jealous, tries to interfere with her plans with Ross. Because of this, Trina arrives to the date late and things don’t seem to be going well. Taking the advice of the TV show she leans in, to show her interest only to knock heads with Ross.
She tries to follow the rest of programme’s advice but Ross gets in before her, asking about her hobbies. She realises he also saw the show, meaning that he is shy too and wants to make a good impression. This is a sweet story with some humour, the artist is good at humorous expressions.
Cinderella Jones (Pages: 17-22)
- Artist: Oliver Passingham
Arnold Jones, Cindy’s father has been made redundant and Agnes is making sure he doesn’t laze around the house by putting him hard at work. As a Christmas present, Cindy helps him stand up for himself, when she gets someone to pretend to be from the tourist board, who expects a male in charge. This leads to him ordering Agnes around for a change! The last panel has the characters looking out of panel saying Happy Christmas. In this annual there is actually a few times where characters address the reader directly..
M&J (Pages: 23-25/ 59-61)
Mandy and Judy, best friends have some small adventures. In the first story, Mandy is worried when her dog Patch goes missing. It turns out he sneaked into Judy’s family car and had a great trip to the country, while Mandy was searching for him.
In the second story Judy arranges a tennis game with Mandy but can’t find her racquet. She visits various friends that she may have lent it to. They don’t have the racquet, but they do have other things she lent them. Judy arrives at court with various things but without a racquet, but it turns out she had lent racquet to Mandy! Both stories have a lost theme, and it is nice to see a focus on both characters in the different stories.
The Perfect Pony (Pages: 27-32)
Julie has an old pony, Pixie, who is not a show jumper or a very fast horse, then Julie sees the opportunity to get a better horse in a competition. She wins an Arab horse, Desert Prince, in the competition. Her parents tell her they can’t afford to keep both horses, so she advertises to sell Pixie. In the meantime when Desert Prince arrives, Julie is very excited at the prospect of entering competitions. But soon she notices other differences in the horses, such as Pixie comes to greet her when she arrives at the field and comes to comfort her when she hurts herself. Julie realises that she wants a sweet pony that she has a bond with, more than a fast competitive one and ends up selling Desert Prince instead.
A Fairy Story (Pages: 43-47)
- Artist: Claude Berridge
A more fantastical romance story. Carrie and Bill, are dating and unknown to them they are also getting help from Carrie’s good fairy and Bill’s elf whispering in their ears. Carrie can be hotheaded, so her fairy helps calm her down. While Bill is easygoing and his elf encourages him to be more honest, like not agreeing to see a romance film when he doesn’t like them. It seems the advice they are giving is causing arguments between Carrie and Bill which also leads the Fairy and Elf to argue about each others methods. They are so busy arguing that it takes them a while to notice that Bill and Carrie are getting on great without their help. They wonder who could they help instead and so breaking the fourth wall, they say to could help the girl reading the story!
This is a fun story, the similar looks of the fairy/elf with their protagonists seem like they may be part of Carrie and Bill’s conscious, a part of them. Maybe when they find a new person to help their looks will change!
Wee Slavey (Pages: 49-56)
Trouble for Nellie when the family buy the Little Wizard (an early vaccum cleaner model)! It’s meant to save her time for housework but actually it is so big, bulky and hard to carry that it creates more work for her. Then a diamond clasp goes missing, Nellie has idea to solve 2 problems at once by reversing hoover. So they find the clasp had been accidentally sucked up by the Wizard and the family get rid of the “faulty” machine.
Big ‘n’ Bertha (Page: 57)
Dad kicks Big out of the house, saying he’ll be fine in the shed with his basket. But when Dad get locked out of the house one night, and ends up sharing Big’s bed, he agrees the shed is too cold. So Big can stay in the house again.
Love Next Door (Pages: 65-69)
- Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)
Tony and Julie are neighbours and also boyfriend and girlfriend, but they have a falling out. Their younger siblings John and Jane try to get them back together but seem to make things worse. Only after Tony rescues Julie from a ladder do they get back together. A couple of months later they get married. Some neighbours comment that they will miss the romance across the fence, but it seems John and Jane’s friendship is changing to something more. The story is fine, although not very memorable, still the art is very good.