Valda was a long running and popular character from Mandy. She is a mysterious girl, who gained long lasting life, youth and powers from the fire of life. She has to bathe in the flames regularly to replenish her youth and strength, whenever she exhausts her powers. The powers and skills that Valda primarily is shown to have are; a youthful appearance, strength, ability to leap great distances, mental influence, a knowledge of herbs and a rapport with animals. As a baby over 200 years ago, she was found by an old gypsy woman Dorcas. Dorcas raised her and taught her about herbs and potions and shared with the water of life. After Dorcas died, Valda continued her quest to find the fire of life. While the flames will restore Valda when she is weak, she also has temporary restoration methods, gained from a crystal pendant she wears.
Due to her long life, she appeared many times over the years. She had adventures with hidden tribes and lost worlds, she fought evil forces and sometimes she competed against athletes to prove her skills. In her first appearance she challenges the world champion ice skater, and other stories saw her compete in sports such as tennis and diving. When the Valda serial appeared in Mandy it would usually come under different names such as; “The Amazing Valda” “The Ten Tests of Valda” and “The Return of Valda”. In 1974 her origin was told in the “The Girlhood of Valda“.
She was an interesting character, and her original inspiration may have been from a boys comic strip from the 1940s “The Truth about Wilson” in The Wizard, which had some similarities. Obviously she was quite popular character, and is well remembered. She appeared in a lot of the annuals and in the 2002 annual she was updated with a more cartoony and superhero look.
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The Truth About Valda
- The Truth About Valda – Mandy: #56 (10 Feb. 1968) – #75 (22 Jun. 1968)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #347 (08 September 1973) – #366 (19 January 1974)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #590 (06 May 1978) – #609 (16 September 1978)
- Reprinted – Lucky Charm: #22 (1983)
- Reprinted – M&J: #129 (30 October 1993) – #143 (05 Feb 1994)
- Art: Dudley Wynnne
In Austria a mysterious stranger interrupts a skating competition, she jumps into the ice rink, skates beautifully accompanied by an eerie music. She asks the judges to mark her performance. A man objects that this stranger is not an entrant but she uses her mental influence to get the judges to mark her. She gets top marks, and she tells the objectors that she is Valda and she is not interested in being named winner, just in testing her skill. When she leaves the two men follow her back up the mountains. She stops them and tells them they won’t be able to follow her any more. She jumps a large ravine and disappears from sight as she enters her cave. She practices skating again, but finds herself feeling tired. She bathes in the blue flames of life and is restored.
Valda continues to enter in ice skating contests to prove her skill, and many people are intrigued by her. At one contest she says that she doesn’t want any prize but if it’s money to give it to a hospital, St. Griseide. A man realises that’s a hospital that shut down a hundred years ago and wonders how a young girl like her, would think it was still opened. Along her way to another competition she helps some men who were buried in an avalanche, when the rescue party arrive she refuses their help and continues on to the competition. She is just finishing her performance when she collapses. They take her onto a helicopter to bring her to a hospital. She wakes up in the helicopter when it is passing over the mountains and she tells them she can’t go to hospital but thanks them for their help and jumps from the helicopter. She reaches her cave in time to restore her strength.
As she enters more competitions, people began to question, where she has come from and acknowledge that there is something strange about her. Irena Petrova a mid-European champion, is competing in one such contest that she thinks she is sure to succeed, but her coach warns her that Valda has entered. Irena has heard of rumours of Valda but she doesn’t think that a person who won’t reveal anything about herself should be allowed to enter. Valda arrives late to the competition due to a road blockage forcing her to skate to the town. After its clear that Valda has won, Irena demands that she be examined by a doctor as no normal person could skate for miles and not be worn out. She thinks she must be sustained by some drug but the doctor finds no evidence of drugs, although he is surprised that her heart beat is strong but beats at a very slow rate.
Valda continues to move up in rankings. When a competition takes her away from her cave for a few days she reserves her energy by arriving in a refrigerated box full of ice. She finally gets her chance to skate against the world champion Ingrid Larson. Ingrid seems conceited, she doesn’t bother with anyone she thinks would waste her time. She brushes pass an old lady who wants to talk to her. Valda stops to helps the woman who is obviously unwell. Valda recognises the woman as an ice skater named Eva. Eva also recognises Valda but doesn’t know how its possible as she saw her beat the world ice skating champion fifty years ago. The woman is too ill and weak to question this any further and Valda pulls her on a sled to a hospital. On her return she challenges Ingrid to a contest but she has exhausted her strength pulling the sled and suddenly feels weak. Ingrid dismisses her, challenge due to her obvious weakness. Back at the cave Valda recovers and looks through her old chest containing photos past skaters that she has beaten.
Valda once again shows of her ice skating skills to prove to Ingrid she is a worthy challenger. When she comes down the mountains to meet up with Ingrid, she is arrested for crossing the border without papers. She breaks out of jail by bending the window bars, but is not able to face Ingrid until she regains her strength. Later she uses a television crew to get the attention of Ingrid. With it all over the news Ingrid must accept her challenge. She sends her friend Franz to research Valda. While trying to track her on the mountains he falls and Valda rescues him. She takes him to her cave to care for him and he pretends to be asleep but he later he sees her bathing in the fire of life. Valda returns him to the village and he still pretends to be unconscious but the moment he gets a chance, Franz tells Ingrid what he saw. But she believes he is still concussed and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Ingrid skates her best but she is no match for Valda. Franz tries to help her by distracting her with a camera but Ingrid tries to stops him as she wants to win fairly. The camera drops on the ice but Valda is quick to clear it with a handspring. Ingrid admits defeat gracefully, Valda hands back the title to her, now she is satisfied she has tested herself against the best. She returns home but Franz leads some reporters to the cave. Valda says goodbye to them, then she walks into the flames and she dissappears and the fire goes out. The group just make it outside before an avalanche buries the cave. They muse that they will never learn the truth about Valda and wonder if she will turn up in a another time and place.
Valda was a favourite character of mine, she was always engaging and just a very cool character. She had lots of different adventures, an interesting background, impressive powers and her stories weren’t repetitive. I think she is a character that would still do well today and could appeal to a lot of people. She is otherworldly and powerful, but she also has weaknesses. In some stories she shows the burden of a long life being a lonely one and of course there is times where she is physically drained and there is the possibility of death if she can’t bathe in the flames of life. In later stories this is shown more as she begins to age drastically as she weakens. In this first story while she does look tired and weaker when she uses too much of her powers, she doesn’t look old like she will in other stories.
Her first appearance isn’t the best of her stories, in my opinion (“The Girlhood..” and “The Return of…” would be two of favourites) but it is still good. She got more development as time went on and I prefer the more adventure/lost world stories, than stories of her competing in sports. Interesting that in this story Irena thinks she may be using drugs to sustain her, this is not true but Valda does have an unfair advantage. The fire of life is like a drug making her stronger and giving her quick reflexes and an ability to leap great lengths. Not to mention that Valda has the advantage of having 200 years of practice.! This is meant to be okay only because she doesn’t take the title of winner and only does this to test her skills. So I think her other adventures are more noble and heroic! Not that she doesn’t show compassion and risks her life to help people in this story, its just that her main motivation is skating against a world champion.
Still if this had been her only appearance it would still be a satisfying story. A mysterious young girl, who lives in the mountain, challenging some arrogant skating champions to contests. We find out early that she gains strength from a fire in the mountain, and there are hints of how old she really is. As time goes by we find out more about her yet still know nothing of where she comes from. She arrives and wins contests only to reject all prizes and disappear into the mountain again. Valda seems to stand apart being mysterious, even eerie at times. Yet she still engages with people by being compassionate and helping them when needed. Ingrid, as the world champion actually gets some character development, (for the few issues she’s in) after starting out quite conceited she is a gracious loser when the time comes.
The art is by the talented Dudley Wynne, and he really does a good job at capturing Valda as the mysterious and beautiful girl. He displays her weakened state convincingly, though like I said later stories would show her more aged. I have little knowledge of ice skating, but these girls do look skilled and talented. I also like her skating outfit, she more commonly wore a lighter sleeveless dress, The mountains, the village and the cold atmosphere, the shadowy cave are all well drawn too.
Later stories have the fire of life in different places, allowing Valda to have adventures in different places. I haven’t read every Valda story, but I think there may be some continuity issues, such as what powers Valda can use, or the location of the fire, but that still doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the stories. Valda is a very enduring character and one that really stands out in the history of girls comics.