- Angel – Mandy : #529 (05 March 1977) – #548 (16 July 1977)
- Art: Dudley Wynne
In Victorian times, a wealthy young girl, Angela Hamilton, discovers has only a year to live. She decides to dedicate her remaining time to helping the poor waifs of London and earns the name Miss Angel. Despite her story being concluded, the character proved to be popular enough to return in sequels. These sequels were framed by girls reading untold stories from Angel’s diary or in the case of some Annual appearances stories told by the children she helped.
In Victorian London, 14 year old Angela Hamilton lives with her wealthy parents. While out with her parents she thinks how unfair it is that she has so much, while there are children on the streets suffering such poverty. When she brings this up with her parents, they tell her not to distress about such things, they want her to be happy and carefree. She plans to use her education and position to help the poor when she is older. But soon after she collapses and the doctor diagnoses her with a rare condition that has no cure, he tells her parents that she only has a year to live. Her parents are devastated by the news but decide they must keep it secret from Angela so they can make her last days happy. Angela overhears them talking and makes her own plans, she pretends not to know anything and then fakes her death, thinking this would be less cruel and drawn out for her parents. Then she will devote what little time she has left to the poor in London.
Her first day in her new life, she gets lost on the way to the market. She meets a young boy Alfie and after helping him against some thugs, Alfie shows her the way and she buys him food. He then takes her to his young sister, Sarah, who has an injured leg. Angela takes her to a hospital where they bandage her leg but refuse to give her a bed. The lodgings where Angela is staying also refuse to let her bring in two dirty urchins with her. Angela, Alfie and Sarah end up under the railway bridge for the night with other children. One of the children asks Alfie who she is, Alfie says her name is Miss Angela but he reckons she should be called Miss Angel. The next day Miss Angel finds better accommodation in a big stables. Starting with the small group of children she soon adds more to her group. A humpback named Annie she rescues and also gives her more confidence by encouraging her musical talent and teaching her to play the violin. Usually each child she rescues has other problems other than a need of food and shelter, such as Harry who is very prideful and doesn’t like to take charity or Mary who is distrustful and seemingly deaf making communication difficult. Miss Angel always comes up with a scheme to help the children. Also Angel helps them in practical ways, teaching them skills they can use to work and earn money after she is gone. As time goes on Angel gets weaker and knows her time is short.
One day Miss Angel and the kids come across the Hamiltons, as Angel hides Julia Hamilton encourages her husband to buy flowers from Alfie as she remembers Angela being an advocate for such children. When Alfie tells them of Miss Angel and her work she tells him to send her to their home to get spare blankets and warm clothes for the Winter. Angel knows the children will need such things but wonders how to get them without revealing she is alive. A child gives her the idea to cover herself in spots so she can cover up and say she has a rash. After this Angel continues her work helping not only those in the stable but others in the street too. One day she helps a drunk man, who turns out to be a doctor who turned his back on medicine after a mistake led the death of a patient. Angel helps him sober up and after convincing him to return to medicine, she has found a helpful ally.
Coming to the end of her time, Angel visits her old home one last time. Concerned Alfie follows her and gets her back to stablehouse after she collapses. When Dr Shaw exams her he understands her condition and breaks the news to Annie and Alfie that she will not live long. Alfie thinks if they had money for medicine she would live longer, so he goes to the house he saw Angel visit. He tells the Hamiltons of Miss Angel and how he thinks she is their daughter. The Hamiltons are surprised but come to the stable house and are reunited with Angela. They stay by her side for 3 days until Angela passes away. Before she goes her parents tell her that along with Dr. Shaw, they are going to continue her good work. After the funeral the Hamiltons give over their house for as a home for Angel’s waifs and erect a statue in memory of Miss Angel.
I can see why this is a popular story the art is beautiful and the story is well told. It doesn’t shy away from the tragedy, of the situation, Angel gets progressively sicker and weaker as time goes on and there is no miracle cure found in the end. While each issue tends to focus on a ‘waif of the week’ that Angel can help, it doesn’t come across as repetitive. One reason is we can see the passage of time, while earlier stories sees her help fight of thugs, later stories see her struggle to carry a basket. Often the person she is helping also ties in with her situation, such as when a previously well off boy, Phillip, who has fallen on hard times comes to the stables, the others give him a hard time. Angel knows she has not much time left and comes up with a scheme to get Phillip accepted as she knows the children will have to rely on each other when she is gone. Another good episode is when she sees her parents, it is hard for her not to go to them, but in the end she knows she is happy with her new family.
Perhaps one problem is the character can be a bit too noble and self sacrificing, in fact a lot of the people she takes in or befriends are a little too good and conscientious. Her parents are equally good people although at least they show some flaw as in the beginning they do not think to concern themselves with lower classes. Angel’s only flaw appears to be her illness, otherwise she is a good, unselfish person who is also shown to be smart, talented and can easily pick up a scrub brush or wash clothes despite never having needed to before. While it may make her character unbelievable to be so good, these saintly qualities of Miss Angel do fit in with the religious undertones of the story. Often characters thank God or ask God to give them strength, one character swears on a bible in front of Angel to prove that she will less reckless with money. Just before Angel dies she hears the laughter of children and a light shines down on her implying an ascension into heaven. Also the statue erected in the honour and her nickname of Miss Angel all point to her heavenly and saintly attributes.
The character proved to be so popular that even her death didn’t stop new stories coming out about her. She returned twice in the Diary of Angel where her diary (that was kept in a museum) would be read by a girl and was full of untold stories that happened in the last year of her life, she also appeared in several annuals. There were many other stories about champions of the poor, Angel was not even the first. The Children’s Champion (Bunty) appeared in 1974 and had a wealthy girl, Hester, leaves her home to help the poor on the London streets. The difference here is she leaves her home because her parents disapprove of her work and actually disown her. Although they do come around in the end. Another Haven of Hope (Bunty again) appeared in 1979, had Hilary turn over her house to the poor after her parents die. Unlike her other wealthy counterparts, while good hearted, she could also a bit too trusting and naive, falling for the schemes of a young boy working for the Beadle. While these stories were popular they don’t seem to have made the impact that Angel did. Maybe readers preferred more tragedy in their stories and coupled with Dudley Wynne’s art, is why Angel became more popular and well remembered.
List of Appearances:
- Angel – Mandy : #529 (05 March 1977) – #548 (16 July 1977)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #923 (22 September 1984) – #942 (02 February 1985)
- Reprinted- Mandy : #1250 (29 December 1990) – #1269 (11 May 1991)
- Reprinted – Lucky Charm #7 (1980)
- Angel Diary– Mandy: circa #782 (16 January 1982) – (?)
- The Diary of Angel– M&J: #01 (18 May 1991) – #15 (24 August 1991)
- Angel – Mandy Annual 1979
- Angel – Mandy Annual 1984
- Angel – Mandy Annual 1986
- Angel – Mandy Annual 1994
- Angel – Bunty Picture Story Library #355