- Simon – Mandy: #705 (19 July 1980) – #713 (13 September 1980)
Tania Grant is a good sister to her 3 year old brother Simon, she is always happy to play with him and take him places. One night Tania wakes up to her brother screaming, she runs into his room and comforts him. He tells her he had a bad dream about funny looking bad people. The next day Simon acts vicious at the duck pond, attacking the ducks, which surprises Tania as it is unlike him. The next minute Simon seems fine, but then later Simon has another tantrum and destroys his teddy. The last panel has strange looking creatures looking on at the events and they declare “It is beginning”.
Simon continues to throw tantrums and wreck things. Sometimes Tania gets the blame for things, like when Simon smashes puppets and Tania is caught holding them after taking them from him. Her parents don’t believe something is wrong with Simon assuming it to be just accidents or Simon just being badly behaved. Meanwhile the last panel of each issue shows the aliens watching their plan come together. It seems that the word “love” is the trigger to turn Simon into a slit eyed scowling monster and his actions continue to get Tania into trouble. Her parents begin to believe something is wrong with Tania for trying to blame “innocent” Simon for the trouble happening.
After a talk Tania decides to stay quiet about her suspicions that something is wrong with Simon. Her parents think Tania’s behaviour is because she was resenting having so much responsibility for Simon and jealousy over the attention he gets. When things seem to have settled down and going well, they get Tania a rabbit, feeling it might help if she has something special of her own. A song on the radio triggers Simon’s change and Tania is just in time to stop Simon from killing her rabbit.
Simon gets increasingly more dangerous, he pushes Tania in front of car, and tries to kill his mother with a knife while she sleeps. After Tania’s accident she figures out the word “love” is is the trigger to Simon’s change. After catching him trying to kill their mother she decides she has to figure out what to do, and she doesn’t trust Simon to leave him alone with their parents. She takes him on a picnic and tries to communicate with whoever is controlling him. She accidentally slips up when she asks them to let go of her brother because she loves him. Simon tries to push her off a cliff but slips himself. Tania hesitates for a moment before pulls him up. Finally the aliens begin to communicate to her through Simon. Her strange and illogical actions have caused them to rethink their plans. Their plan was to use young children whose minds are easy to control to kill off all the adults on Earth, so their overcrowded planet could expand to Earth. Simon was the first test subject for the plan, they are impressed by Tania’s intelligence and her love for her brother (although they can’t understand such emotions), because of this they have decided to look for another suitable planet. They leave with Simon remembering nothing. Tania tests Simon to check if the aliens were lying, and she is happy that the word “love” has no effect on him and they are free now.
An alien invasion using young children, this story may have been influenced by “The Frightening Fours” which appeared in Judy the previous year. “The Frightening Fours” is the superior story but this story has its good moments too. It has some very creepy and tense moments, such as when Simon enters his parents room with knife. The build up of his increasing violence is also well done.
It’s also a very creepy alien design, while a lot of the time in these type stories the aliens aren’t revealed until the last issue or late into the story, having them appear on the last panel of every issue, monitoring events and commenting on their mysterious plan is very effective. The only issue that the aliens get more panel time is in the last issue when they reveal their plan. Here’s where the story falls down a bit, there are some serious flaws in the aliens plans. Why did they specifically pick “love” as a trigger word, that seems random. How practical is it to get toddlers to kill ALL the adults in the world, they really couldn’t come up with a better plan than that? Even if that did succeed, were they going to come down and kill all the children afterwards or raise them in this new world? Also they give up very easily on the invasion because of an emotion they think is illogical and that they don’t understand.
Another problem is the parents. Of course the parents have to be oblivious to Simon’s actions in order for the story to work and have Tania facing more obstacles. This is a problem in many stories where someone causes trouble for the protagonist and the parents are either oblivious or easily blame the protagonists, which make them seem like bad parents. Tania has been a good and helpful daughter, yet they quickly believe that Simon, a 3 year old, would never break anything or do anything wrong, of course Tania must be lying! Even when they do find Simon acting bad, Tania still gets the blame, when Mrs. Grant finds Simon destroying his teddy she blames Tania for not stopping him. They seem to have conflicting reasons why they think Tania is blaming Simon for things, either jealousy over the Grants spending too much time with Simon or giving too much responsibility to Tania to look after Simon. Considering how much time Tania is spending with Simon and that she was the first into his room to comfort him after his nightmare, I don’t see how they could jump to thinking Tania is jealous.
The relationship between Tania and Simon is good. Tania’s confusion over Simon’s behaviour, yet still wanting to look after him, shows the strong bond they have. The finale on the cliff is quite tense, Simon tries to kill her for the second time, but she feels terrible about her slight hesitation to save him. After it just makes her more determined to free him from the mind control. A few missteps like the defeat of the aliens, means this isn’t the best alien invasion story but it had enough good moments to make me want to find out how it would all end.