- Who is Judy Parker? – Mandy #1 (21 January 1967) – #8 (11 March 1967)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #323 (24 March 1973) – #330 (12 May 1973)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #664 (6 October 1979) – #671 (24 November 1979)
- Reprinted – Mandy: #1117 (11 June 1988) – #1124 (30 July 1988)
- Reprinted (as Mandy Classic) – M&J: #65 (8 August 1992) – #72 (26 September 1992)
In a Victorian orphanage, The Towers, life isn’t easy for Judy Parker and the other orphans. They are treated harshly by Miss Miriam Kent , the matron. Judy being the eldest tries to look after the younger children, keeping their spirits up, finding extra food for them when needed – even if she goes with out. Miss Kent overhears Judy singing a song to the children. When they ask her how she knows it, Judy can only remember it being sung by a beautiful lady with a heart shaped locket. This gets Miss Kent curious so she investigates Judy’s old records in the attic and finds something interesting. Later when Judy brings her tea Miss Kent is jumpy and Judy notices her own name on one of the documents. After this Miss Kent writes to her niece asking her to come to the orphanage at once.
The niece, Freda, arrives and her aunt gives her instructions to find out what Judy remembers without arousing any suspicion. Judy soon finds out that Freda is as unpleasant as her aunt. Despite her aunt’s warnings Freda does let something slip as she tells Judy she will never see the Tall Trees. Miss Kent arrives and sends Judy away to look after Maisie one of the kids who has cut her hand. Judy wonders what the Tall Trees mean and what Miss Kent and her niece are plotting. Judy uses the first opportunity to search for the documents she saw in Miss Kent’s office, unfortunately she can’t find them and then discovers she is locked in the office. When Miss Kent finds her she is surprised when Freda lies to gets her out of trouble. Freda confides to her aunt that she plans to befriend Judy so she can get information from her. Later she puts her plan into action and begins a conversation with Judy leading to her asking about what she remembers of her home. Judy answers some questions but she doesn’t trust Freda. Freda comes up with a new plan dressing in white and singing Judy’s song, she jolts Judy into remembering the Lady in white was her mother.
Finding a handkerchief with an “F” on it, she realizes who was behind the lady. The trick has caused more memories to come back as when outside with the kids she remembers Tall Trees was the name of her childhood home. Freda is caught spying on them and Judy confronts her. Freda steps back and falls into the river. Despite her threats to ruin her life, Judy still jumps in to save her. Freda struggles so much, she nearly pulls them both under, so Judy has to knock her out, they are helped out of the water by the groundsman Mr Wilkins. Back at The Towers Freda tells her aunt Judy tried to kill her, Mr Wilkins is too afraid to speak up for Judy.
Miss Kent tells Freda what she learned from her trip to London, Judy has no relatives and the lawyer is a fool. The two begin to put their plan into action. Sending Judy to collect firewood, they hide Maisie in the attic. They then trick Judy into looking for her in the boat house. Waiting for her there is Mr. Wilkins. He grabs her and bundles her off to another island and leaves her there. She comes across a cottage, but instead of finding help, it turns out the old woman, Mrs Crabb, is working with Miss Kent was expecting her. When Mrs Crabb injures herself, Judy has to do the cooking. She finds a photo in the larder of herself as young girl along with her parents. She tries to get friendly with Mrs Crabb, who tells her she traveled a lot when she worked for a singer. Mr. Wilkins arrives with a food delivery and Crabb sends Judy outside to chop wood. Maisie appears having sneaked onto the boat, she tells Judy that there are people visiting from London and Freda is pretending that she is Judy Parker.
While Mr Wilkins heads backs to the mainland, while Maisie hides away in the cottage. Later she realizes she left a candle lighting in The Towers, looking across to the mainland they see the building on fire. Knowing Miss Kent won’t care about saving the children, Judy begs Mrs Crabb to let her off the island. Mrs Crabb believes Judy is a troubled girl who tried to kill Miss Kent’s niece, but with her song and a birthmark she proves that she is the true Judy Parker, daughter of the old woman’s employer. Mrs Crabb shows her an old boat she can use, Judy makes it part way across the rough water before the boat capsizes. She manages to swim to shore and coming to The Towers she is sees most of the children have made it out, but three are still trapped inside. Judy rushes in and saves them, outside she tells the constable on the scene, of Miss Kents lies and that Mrs Crabb will collaborate her story. It turns out she is to inherit a large house and sum of money, which Miss Kent and her niece were going to falsely claim. With her inheritance she turns Tall Trees into a new orphanage.
This appeared in the first Mandy issue, it must have been well received and considered a popular story as it was reprinted 4 times. The Victorian setting also helps as it makes it more timeless, if it had a contemporary setting at the time it would date it more. Another advantage it is a short serial at only 8 episodes. This works well for the story as the mystery doesn’t seem dragged out, and for the most part there is a satisfactory conclusion with an exciting climax to the story. The only thing I found lacking is an explanation of why Mrs Crabb was helping Miss Kent. It seems to be thrown in as an afterthought that she thinks Judy actually tried to kill Freda as an explanation to why she’d keep Judy prisoner. Also quite the coincidence that it seems the only person with a connection with Judy’s past ended up living on an island near her. Mr Wilkins fear for his family is better set up so to explain why he goes along with Miss Kent.
As cruel orphanage supervisors go, Miss Kent is actually not the worse, although that’s not saying much. She is still nasty character and certainly neglectful and uncaring of her charges but other stories such as The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie, had even harsher characters. I like the wordplay that Miss Kent’s orphanage The Towers invokes an image of prison and stone, while the new orphanage Tall Trees creates an image of freedom and nature.
The art is really nice everyone has distinct looks and the panels aren’t too cluttered but still fill enough so it’s not plan. In the M&J reprint some of the pages are colored, this can be a difficult thing to do right but the colorist has chosen a fairly subdued palette and it is carefully and well done.