- Caught in the Net – M&J: #311 (26 April 1997) – #315 (24 May 1997)
- Artist: John Armstrong
Fiona Lewis was delighted when her uncle Peter gives her a computer for her birthday. When setting up the computer, it asks Fiona to be it’s friend and Fiona agrees, but then things keep going wrong and the computer keeps causing trouble with her other friends. First while playing a game with her friend Shelley, it says Fiona wins although Shelley did better, then the message on screen says “Fiona is clever, Shelley is stupid”. Shelley thinks Fiona programmed the computer to say it, even when she denies it. Shelley still acts off-hand with Fiona, and later the computer asks if she is still her friend, Fiona is glad computers can’t sulk like people do.
When Fiona’s friend Kathy falls ill and has to spend time in the hospital, she rallies everyone in the class to send a card for her birthday. She checks the computer for Kathy’s birthday where she noted it and it says the 9th, but later she discovers Kathy was disappointed not to receive a card from her as her birthday was actually the 8th. As she is let out of hospital before the 9th she never receives the card. Fiona checks the computer and now it says the 8th, and she thinks she misread it. When her young cousin Kevin comes to visit, he is self conscious about his new glasses, Fiona lets him play on computer but it still asks for her, the next day when he is showing some drawings one comes up with “Kevin four eyes” upsetting him greatly.
At school Kathy and Shelley are still not talking to Fiona but when one of her classmates Megan moves close by, Fiona starts to hang out with her. While she is busy with Megan, the computer asks Fiona if they are still friends. Then the computer reveals Megan’s crush on a boy, Mark, in front of group of people, upsetting her, so Fiona loses yet another friend. At least she still has computer but she is beginning to wonder why everytime something has gone wrong the computer is involved. She rationalizes that she can’t blame the computer, it’s just an object, so it must be herself making the mistakes. Another opportunity for a new friend arises, when her and classmate, Diane need to take extra french lessons. She tries to help with a new French Learning CD she got and it keeps saying Diane is wrong, then Fiona tries to get wrong answer and it says she is right. Diane calls her a cheater and liar. This is too many coincidences for Fiona and she now thinks the computer is making her lose her friends on purpose.
Fiona decides to get rid of the computer and she gives it to the boys next door, but it won’t work for them and her mother isn’t happy she gave away her present. She tries to tell the computer she’s not its friend, but it won’t listen. Then she sees a shop that buys and exchanges second hand computers, she manages to exchange it for a similar model so her family won’t notice the difference. She is relieved when she asks her new computer to be her friend it doesn’t recognise the instruction. At school a new girl, Lindy, joins and Fiona and her become friends, safe in knowledge her computer won’t get in the way again. Later she sees her old computer at shop, she tests it out to make sure she is really free of it and is relieved to find the computer has forgotten about her and it has new friend the computer next it.
Computers didn’t show up often as a main plot-point in stories, when they did turn up they tended to be cause of conflict rather than a help! This isn’t the only time an M&J story revolved around computer, there was also Gameplay and it’s sequel and while Fiona’s computer isn’t as evil as Irma it does still cause a lot of problems for her! It’s interesting we aren’t shown any reconciliation with her old friends. It seems the damage the computer has done is lasting, but at least Fiona finds a new friend and is happy to move on from the computer. This is a late John Armstrong work, he did a number of stories for M&J and as always his work is excellent, particularity for character expressions and it has some atmospheric panels.
As #315 is the last issue in M&J, there is a double episode to conclude the story, I wonder if there were any more episodes planned originally, it does seem a little sudden that Fiona wants to get rid of computer but still works fine. I was more of a fan of M&J than Bunty and it was pity it swallowed up by the latter, as even in the last few issues there were some fun stories like this.