- The Honourable S.J. – First Published: Judy: #1034 (03 Nov. 1979) – #1048 (02 Feb. 1980)
The Honourable Sarah Jane Cheetwell, is a nasty cheater and blackmailer but she fools most people into thinking she is really nice person. Ann Smith meets S.J. while waiting for a train to her new school. She is one of the few girls to have ever received a scholarship to the Millford boarding school and a reporter is interested in doing a news paper piece on her because of this. On mentioning that Ann’s father works for Lord Cheetwell, S.J. butts in and gets her picture taken with Ann. She offers to help Ann settle in at school, but as soon as they are in the train away from the reporter and Mrs. Smith, S.J. is quick to abandon Ann. She is left standing in the corridor while S.J. and her friends take over the compartment. Ann sees S.J. cheating at a game of cards and S.J. soon threatens Ann to keep her mouth shut as she could get her family thrown out of their cottage and her father sacked. So it doesn’t take Ann long to see S.J.’s true colours
Ann’s a junior and thinks maybe she won’t have to see S.J much but unluckily for her she is assigned as S.J.’s helper (nicknamed Sprogs at the school). S.J. is everyone’s favourite prefect, one of Ann’s clasmates Bessie thinks Ann is lucky to be S.J.’s Sprog. Of course S.J. makes Ann do extra work and also uses her to take the blame for things she does. When a dodgy friend of S.J. blackmails her for money, she takes it from a charity collection and blames Ann for stealing it. Luckily for Ann the boy is caught by the gardener and he gets the money back. S.J. makes sure there’s no further questioning, she creates a distraction by fainting, giving him time to escape.
S.J.’s goal for the year is to become school captain and she is not going to let anyone upset her plans. When out for a hike S.J. slips pulling another girl, Laura (a captain nominee), down with her. She saves herself and lets Laura fall, and as everyone is blind to S.J.’s lies, they believe that she tried to save Laura after she slipped. She isn’t happy when Laura’s boyfriend, Tony, not only gives her the cold shoulder but tries to find out what really happened on the hike. She frames him with stealing her necklace in front of the other girls but doesn’t report him. Tony still won’t back down, and S.J. continues to cause trouble for him by pretending he made her horse rear up. Of course Ann believes Tony but can’t say anything for fear of her family.
Ann is happy to see S.J. has outsmarted herself by pretending to be hurt, she won’t be able to take part in a gymkhana. Of course S.J. doesn’t give up that easy and makes a hoax phone call for Mary, her replacement, to be called away. Ann tries to fix it but in a rush Mary trips on the stairs. S.J. blames Ann for hoax in a “kindly” way, saying Ann was disappointed for S.J. and had made the hoax call but then felt guilty. One of the teachers, Miss Norton, is suspicious of this story. S.J. isn’t too happy that Miss Norton is keeping a close eye on her, so she has to get rid of her. S.J. gets her father’s influence at another school to hire her as a Headteacher. Miss Webb comes as Miss Norton’s replacement and she is perfect for S.J. as she is impressed by money and people’s titles. When S.J. gets Webb an invitation to her home she follows it by emphasising how much she wants to win a swimming competition. Miss Webb takes the hint and overlooks her turning short at one point. Ann notices it though and she implies that Bessie may have caught it with her video camera, even though she knows she only videoed the other end of the pool. This makes Miss Webb nervous and S.J. “accidently” knocks Bessie and her camera into the pool. and lets Webb knows she knows.
S.J. continues to use Miss Webb to her advantage whenever she can. She continues to scheme although she doesn’t always come up on top, she tries scamming an old woman out of a valuable paperweight paying £5 for it but then it turns out it’s worthless. Bessie also continues to be S.J.’s biggest fan and helps her campaign for school captain. Meanwhile Lord Cheetwell fires Ann’s father so S.J. loses her power over Ann and isn’t too happy that a newspaper report about the incident may jeopardise her election chance. Of course S.J. has still charmed everyone so they believe her when she says it is all a misunderstanding. She is a bit anxious about her rival Sue so in order to hurt Sue’s campaign, S.J. spray paints Sue for captain defacing property. She also intends to get Ann into trouble be blaming her. Leading everyone to Ann’s locker they see the spray-paint in Ann’s locker. But Bessie speaks up saying she saw S.J. put the can there. S.J. leaves Millford and more good news for Ann as her father has a new job with housing. It ends with Ann being glad of a fresh start and being rid of Cheetwell family forever. Little did she know!
Unfortunately for Ann she keeps running into S.J. after this, at different schools and the cycle repeats. When the Millford School is destroyed in a fire Ann is transferred to Castlefield School, only to find S.J. on top form there. S.J. manages to get rid of another old Millford student, Mary, before she sees her and blames it on Ann. As Ann has only accepted as a trial student, S.J. uses this to keep Ann’s mouth shut about Millford. . But knowing that she needs a stronger hold over her, S.J. tricks Ann into going out of bounds and takes a photo of her at a disco. Again everyone thinks she is great and only Ann knows the real S.J. There are similar plots to the first story like the matron becoming suspicious of her then suddenly getting better job else where. There is also another instance of a girl falling and hurting herself because of S.J. She is also looking to win something this time its a Popularity cup rather than captain.
On parents day S.J. makes sure Ann doesn’t invite her parents so she won’t get recognised. Although Mary has returned for the day and spots S.J and begins to think maybe she’s being blaming the wrong person. S.J still thinks Ann might make things difficult for her, so she starts getting her in trouble. When the Head tells her the trial hasn’t worked out the Smiths come to pick Ann up, They see S.J. there and at the same time Mary’s parents have rung to tell the head about S.J. So once her actions are revealed and she has to leave the school.
Later Ann takes a domestic job at an exclusive Switzerland school. She finds S.J. is the head girl there and responsible for domestic staff. Again most people think she is great but she has been blackmailing one girl. Gretchen took some old pies home that were going to be thrown out and now S.J. keeps her scared. S.J. has threatened to get Ann sacked and her parents would have to repay the costly airway price. But Ann isn’t so easily pushed around any more and sets out to find away to expose S.J. She also convinces Gretchen to team up with her. S.J is up to her usual tricks; sneaking out to parties, her and her cousin Rodney try to steal a necklace and she tries to steal a watch during a school trip. Ann and Gretchen manage to get the upper hand at times. Again a staff member gets suspicious of her but S.J. manages to get the matron dismissed. Eventually she is exposed yet again.
These were not the only S.J. stories, there was another sequel titled “Is It?” and prequels “Young S.J.” which I’ll get to another time. So as a character, she had a long run. From the structure and ending of the first story it seems that “The Honourable S.J.” should have been a one time serial but obviously it proved so popular that she became a regular character.
There have been plenty of serials with nasty characters like S.J. so I do wonder why she was chosen to become a regular. She was tag lined in later stories as “the girl you love to hate” so there must be interest in following such a character and presumably cheer at her inevitable downfall. S.J. covers every negative characteristic you can think of she’s a snob, selfish, greedy, lazy, two-faced, sly, mean and vindictive. Still she doesn’t come across as one dimensional, her motivations given her character makes sense and clearly a lot of her behaviour seems to be genetic or influenced by her father and cousin Rodney!
As for Ann I think she made for an interesting protagonist. There is an actual development of the character as she gets older. In the first story she feels quite trapped by S.J. but there was times she tried to foil her plans, as time goes on by the third story she is far more active in keeping an eye on S.J. and trying to expose her. Her character gets stronger in time, she isn’t a pushover in later stories and she is quite smart at spoiling S.J.’s plans. I always thought that Ann also had a bit of a wry sense of humour. When the other girls would go on about how great S.J. was her expression isn’t one of misery its more of pitying their naivety. Also even though S.J. made things tough for Ann and I wouldn’t call her time at school overly pleasant, she was still never completely miserable. Ann had friends, enjoyed school activities and especially got satisfaction out of seeing S.J.’s plans not going right. So it wasn’t all doom in gloom.
The second story in particular seemed to thread familiar ground, but I do think there was enough in future stories to keep it fresh. S.J. was impressive at turning situations to her advantage and like I said as time went on Ann became a more active opponent for S.J. I liked that in the third story that Ann had an ally in Gretchen. She starts off quite meek but with Ann as a friend she becomes more confident, it was nice to see Ann being able to have someone to confide in. It can be amusing watching S.J. at times, she wants all this popularity but sometimes this backfires on her like when she wants to sneak away at the ice rink but all the younger students won’t leave her alone. Also what makes S.J. interesting is she never had just one scheme going. She usually had an ultimate goal like wanting to be school captain, but all her time isn’t devoted that, she also sneaks off to parties, tries to steal things and tries to get out of any boring jobs or hard work. This keeps the story more appealing. The art is also good throughout, there’s some great detail put in and the characters do actually start to look older in later serials.
When Judy ended and became part of the new comic Mandy & Judy the first classic story they printed was The Honourable S.J. In preperation for this the last Judy issue had a prequel story. It takes place in the holidays before Ann starts the school. S.J.’ s aunt has given her a horse Brandy and she also hires a girl Rosie to help. S.J. enjoys riding but has no intention of mucking out. A film crew are using the Cheetwell’s property at the time as well and are looking for an extra to take part. The director sets up a competition to choose the best rider. S.J. threatens Rosie to help her cheat as she is a better rider. Rosie then finds out that she is no longer reliant on the Cheetwell’s job, so tells the director the truth. S.J.’s father comes home from his trip in America complaining about his employee’s daughter has won a scholarship. He doesn’t think lower classes should be allowed mix. Alhough S.J sees there could be some advantage. Presumably part of the reason for this story was to encourage readers to buy the new comic.
The next page has a list of published Hounouable S.J. stories.