- Bobby Dazzler – First Appearance: Judy: #263 (23 January 1965)
- Art: Georgio Lettari
Roberta Dazzler, known as Bobby to her friends, is the only girl at Westbury Boarding School for Boys. This situation comes about because her mother is the matron at the school. Mike Norton and the other third formers claim that boys are superior to girls, but Bobby usually proves them wrong. Mike is Bobby’s main antagonist, friend and potential love interest. Usually the plot involves the boys wanting to keep Bobby, in her place, giving her a hard time, or telling her she can’t do something because she is a girl. Bobby turns around and outsmarts them. The boys don’t like to admit she is just as good at things as they are, perhaps they are a bit intimidated by her which is why they keep trying to bring her down. Despite the antagonism, Bobby is good friends with the boys and she often helps them out of difficult situations too.
In one episode Bobby spots the boys doing their air cadet training. They are looking at model planes and Bobby teases them for playing with toys. Mike tells her that it is serious work, identifying types of planes like the Spitfire he’s holding. Bobby quickly corrects him saying he certainly needs the practice as it’s actually a Hurricane. After this Mike reminds her cadets is just for boys and she can’t stay. When the boys go to visit a R.A.F. training facility Bobby sneaks in with them, in a spare uniform. She soon impresses the officer showing them around, with her knowledge. Mike and the boys try to delay her from keeping up with the group which ends up in her saving a plane from going on fire. When the officer compliments her, Mike says she’s learned a lot from the boys!
When the boys get Bobby a doll and pram for her birthday, she isn’t amused but it comes in useful later when she rescues the boys football from an aggressive dog by speeding by on the pram. Once the boys try to use Bobby’s fear of spiders to keep her away from certain places, Mike gets his comeuppance when he passes out at the dentist due to a fear of needles. With all these trick it’s no surprise that Bobby welcomes a potential amalgamation with a girl’s school, that is until she meets the girls and finds them a snobby bunch that disparage the quality of Westbury. Then Bobby leads the charge against the Amalgamation and after the head teacher of the girl’s school sees what kind of rough girl Bobby is, she decides to keep the schools separate.
Mike Norton can be bigheaded and likes to take credit for Bobby achievements, but Bobby’s always there to bring him down to reality. In one instance he’s ego becomes even worse after he gets paid to do some modelling, the other boys and Bobby come together to make a plan to get the old Mike back. Another instance of Mike’s ego getting in the way is when the school is entered into a table tennis competition with the local youth club. Mike the boys don’t want to be humiliated by having a girl playing for the school, despite Bobby being their best player. They lock her in a shed but are in for a surprise when the youth club turns out to be a mixed club and their best player, Diana easily beats Mike. Bobby having escaped from the shed manages to arrive for the final match and win for the school.
Bobby’s isn’t always the only girl in the school, some girls temporarily join like Cynthia the headmaster’s niece and Bobby’s cousin Mariana. Both girls play up on the boys pretending to be delicate, and manipulating the boys into doing what they want. With the help of Bobby both time the girls true nature is exposed to the boys, which make them appreciate Bobby more (although they may not say it in the most complimentary way!).
While usually stories were standalone there was sometime continuing plots, like when Mike thinks he will have to leave the school as his parents no longer can afford it. Mike has a few schemes to try and win some money but in the end Bobby convinces him his best chance is a scholarship and she helps him swot for it. He just misses out coming second, but it turns out his parents just wanted him to improve his grades and work hard, so they lied about not having the money to scare him!
In the 70s there was a bit of a change in the regular plot, while the boys were still quick to say what they thought girls should do, there was a more potential romance storyline. When new student Don Carter joins, him and Mike end up competing for Bobby’s attention, but Bobby just wants to be friends with both of them. Bobby’s looks change around this time too, the freckles are sometimes absent and her hair becomes long and straight. Bobby is still the same character, outsmarting the boys and putting them into their place when she needs to.
Bobby is a good role model, she is a feminist character, she’s a lot of fun, smart and determined. She is quick to put the boys in their place, and proves that she can do whatever the boys can, she’s all for equal opportunities. At the same time she doesn’t ignore her “feminine” attributes she also enjoys cooking, clothes and so on, and sometimes shows the boys the benefits of having an interest in such things (like when her hair pins are used to fix a car). Sometimes the feminist message may be a bit mixed, like when she let’s Mike take credit for things, but this may be just because she is being a good friend, rather than it being her not wanting to show up a boy. She has been shown to be very compassionate and caring and a good friend. Which is why she helps them out of tricky situations. The same is for the boys, although they give her a hard time, they do admire her and stick up for her.
In the early strips Bobby looked very tomboyish and the boys and her were more friendly rivals. Later issues Bobby starts to become more traditionally pretty with longer straight hair and her freckles seem to come and go. This is the stage when the boys become rivals for Bobby’s affection, seeing her as a potential girlfriend. Even with a change in looks her character remains the same and she can still get the better of the boys. The change does come on gradually with her hair getting longer, which is quite a natural thing as well as a friendship maybe changing into something more Artistically I do prefer her earlier look, it is more distinctive I think.
While there are distinctive other students they rarely get named except for Mike and later Don and Freddy. Mike Norton is quite a flawed character he’s egotistical, takes credit for Bobby’s achievements and never seems to learn his lesson that he can’t outsmart Bobby. Later when he sees Bobby as more than a friend, he also shows a jealous streak. Still he’s not without he’s good qualities he takes pride in the school, is good fun, and shows loyalty and protectiveness to his friends.
Bobby Dazzler was a fun read and a popular character, the story ran for a long time and appeared in a lot of annuals. It also was the cover story for the longest time, first appearing on the cover of issue #432 (20 April 1968) until #809 (12 July 1975). I don’t have all those issues so there may have been times a different story appeared on the cover but the majority were Bobby Dazzler covers, which must have meant she was a strong selling point for Judy.