Heartache for Hannah [1993]

  • Heartache for Hannah –  M&J:  #116 (10 August 1993) – #127 (16 October 1993)
  • Art: Maria Dembilio


Hannah Littleton gets on great with her young stepmother Jill, and is delighted when she hears she is going to have a baby sibling. But after a difficult labour and the arrival of baby Thomas, things change for Hannah. While she is happy to have her brother, Jill suddenly becomes more distant, telling her to no longer call her mum. At first Jill thinks it because she has her own baby now, but soon she notices Jill doesn’t make any effort with him either. The house is getting messy and Jill doesn’t take care of herself like she used to. Worried that her family may break up, especially after fights between Jill and Dad and comments he makes, Hannah starts trying to cover for Jill.

One such times is before a health visitor arrives for check-up, Hannah comes home on her lunch break to clean the house, and because she is spending her time covering for Jill, this starts to affect other things in Hannah’s life. While her dad is working late a lot, Hannah does the cooking and housework which means she is getting bad marks for her rushed homework and on occasion is late for school. Hannah continues to be dismayed as well at Jill’s attitude towards Thomas like when they are out for a walk and Jill says she doesn’t understand people complimenting Thomas as he’s just another baby. When Hannah attempts to get Jill interested in cooking again by hoping she will join her when she does a big batch cook, her plan seems to work at first and Jill actually perks up and helps, but her mood changes completely when Thomas cries. Every-time Jill seems to get back on track, something happens with Thomas, like when she gets a new dress and he spits up on it, or when she tries to get back to exercise and Tomas keeps her awake all night. Jill says whats point of having nice things or pretending she has time for exercise with a baby around.

While dealing with Jill’s mood swings, and trying to keep things secret Hannah falls out with her best friend because of her unexplained behaviour. At home there are even more arguments when her Dad tells his mother that Jill won’t be going back to work, something Jill never agreed to.  He has old-fashioned ideas that Jill should stay home to look after the baby. Hannah continues to try and make things better and help, but everyone is miserable. Then Jill accidentally leaves Thomas in his pram in the shop while she is carrying the shopping. Once she realises she is panicked and so grateful to get her son back, as she would be devastated if anything bad happened to him. Hannah is relieved to see she does actually love Thomas and after Jill talks to her husband about how she is struggling, they call the health visitor to come talk. While not mentioned by name it’s implied that Jill has been suffering from post-natal depression, and now she can start getting the support she needs. Hannah realises that by covering for Jill, she wasn’t helping as the actual problem wasn’t being addressed. Hannah’s father also apologizes realising how insensitive he was and they actually agree about Jill going back to work when Thomas is a little older, as her career is still important to her. Hannah is happy to see her family back joking together and while it will take time to recover she knows they will be okay.


There’s a lot going on in this story, and while family drama was common in these comics, I haven’t seen this specific topic addressed before. It talks about how difficult Jill’s labour was and while not named it is recognizable that Jill has post natal depression, along with that is the generational gap between her and her husband, and the issues that causes with his ideas of a traditional family. All this of course from the viewpoint of a daughter, who doesn’t understand the best way to help her step-mother is to ask for support else where. The story is well written handles the topics deftly.

Being a mother now my sympathy is with Jill, while I was lucky not to have post-natal depression, it is not always easy to manage being a new mom. Luckily I have a supportive partner, while Hannah’s dad, Michael,was not very understanding  for a lot of the story, like early on commenting that she’s not making an effort with her appearance and such is a bit much, especially when she had such a difficult 12 hour labour. At least Gran seems to be on Jill’s side , pointing out she just had a baby, pity she’s not around more to help out. While he does help out with Thomas which is good (though again it seems doing a nappy change and feed constitutes helping, which Hannah also does), it seems he expects Jill to keep up her appearance and do housework and look after Thomas, with no acknowledgement of what a big lifestyle change has happened. His comments and their fights is also what leads Hannah to try and cover by doing housework, which obviously causes lots of other problems with Hannah’s school and friends.

In the early 90s it was still more common for women to give up their jobs for being stay-at home moms, but in Jill’s case this is not something she wants to do. Even worse Michael doesn’t discuss this properly with Jill and tells his own mother first that Jill won’t return to work. Jill is understandably furious at this, and Michael still won’t negotiate he won’t even consider a creche or a nanny (having him give up his career instead is never even mentioned as an option). He also seems to be expecting her to do as his first wife did, not considering they are different people and that Jill is only 23. Even these days mothers trying to keep their careers and sharing parenting more evenly with partners is a struggle, so it’s interesting that it was being discussed in this story from nearly 30 years ago.

The 20 year age gap between them obviously doesn’t help things either, Jill is only 22 at start of story just after they marry, presumably by the end she must be 23, while people can be in relationships with large age gaps, it’s still a bit concerning that they must have started dating when she was only a few years out of school and there is only 10 years between her and Hannah, and obviously there were some things they didn’t communicate properly (like Jill’s career plans).  Clearly these issues don’t really appear until the baby arrives, at least by the end they seem to be on the road to recovery again, and joking and happy together.

While these days I am quite identify with the character of Jill, of course the main protagonist of the story is Hannah. Having to shoulder so much responsibility at a young age is difficult, and fearing that her family will break up and hearing her parents fight all the time is not a healthy environment to be in. It is quite hurtful for Hannah when Jill tells her not to call her “mom” anymore, as they had previously had such a good relationship. The instinct to cover things up both at home and at school, is a lot of young people’s experience, and we see how this impacts on the other aspects of her life. In this case it is nice things have a happy ending, and it is good that Jill reassures Hannah it wasn’t her fault for trying to hide things she knows she meant well. Going forward they should hopefully all be able to communicate and support each other better. It is one of the stories that really holds up well on a  reread, it is well written and Dembilio’s art is a good choice to capture the family drama.



13 thoughts on “Heartache for Hannah [1993]

  1. The protagonist getting herself into trouble because she’s covering for a family mental problem has been done elsewhere, such as “The Trouble with Mum” from Mandy. It’s good to see this one teach that hiding problems like these is not the way to handle them.

  2. I have this morning completed the list of serials that will head the much longer lists that will appear in my next book, BUNTY AND HER SISTERS. These are they.

    A: ‘Annie- On The Way To Wimbledon’ (SUZY : from issue 32 (16 April 1983)
    B: ‘Blue Eyes’ (EMMA : from issue 1 (25 February 1978)
    C: ‘Call Me Joe’ (SUZY : from issue 82 (31 March 1984)
    D: ‘The Dark Secret Of Grimstone Grange’ (SPELLBOUND : from issue 9 (20 November 1976)
    E: ‘Enemy Of The School’ (NIKKI : from issue 52 (15 February 1986)
    F: ‘Force Of Evil’ (SUZY : from issue 170 (7 December 1985)
    G: ‘The Girls At Swindlem Hall’ (MANDY : from issue 62 (23 March 1968)
    H: ‘Hunt The Tiger’s Eye’ (SUZY : from issue 159 (21 September 1985)
    I: ‘In The Shadow Of Shelley’ (SUZY : from issue 106 (15 September 1984)
    J: ‘Josie THe Gymnast’ (BUNTY : from issue 857 (15 June 1974)
    K: ‘The Kids Of Camp Courage’ (SUZY : from issue 134 (30 March 1985)
    L: ‘The Laughing Cats’ (DIANA : from issue 225 (10 June 1967)
    M: ‘The Menace Of Morgana’ (SUZY : from issue 127 (9 February 1985)
    N: ‘Nobody’s Children’ (SUZY : from issue 176 (18 January 1986)
    O: ‘Odd Girl Out’ (TRACY : from issue 55 (18 October 1980)
    P: ‘The Promise Pandora Made’ (DEBBIE : from issue 121 (7 June 1975)
    Q: ‘The Quest Of Katy Courage’ (SUZY : from issue 1 (11 September 1982)
    R: ‘Run, Rosie, Run!’ (SUZY : from issue 1 (11 September 1982)
    S: ‘Sally And Her Seal’ (BUNTY : from issue 90 (3 October 1959)
    T: ‘Tears In The Darkness’ (SUZY : from issue 148 (6 July 1985)
    U: ‘The Ugly Duckling’ (MANDY : from 610 (23 September 1978)
    V: ‘The Voice From Nowhere’ (DEBBIE from 1 (17 February 1973)
    W: ‘Who Wants To Be Head? (NIKKI from 1 (23 February 1985)
    Y: ‘You Won’t Tame St Tessa’s (DIANA from 506 (28 October 1972)
    Z: ‘Zara – Phantom Of The Track (SUZY from 55 (24 September 1983)

    From tomorrow morning, I will be writing a synopsis for every one of the above titles. However, I will not be posting them on this platform. The information above is merely to whet your appetite for more. That will only be satisfied when ‘BUNTY AND HER SISTERS is published. That should happen by the end of August 2022, but I am currently undecided as to which company I will ask to print and bind the book. Perhaps I will choose DEANPRINT, who printed my last book ‘THIS WAS THE WIZARD’, but I am currently inclined to go closer to home, and offer the job to the ST IVES PRINTING & PUBLISHING COMPANY who in a half-page advert in the HAYLE TIMES, claim that they are specialists in book printing & private publishing, bespoke fine art printing, full design & artwork services, plus Litho and Digital Printing. I do have their telephone number. Watch this space!!

  3. I have spent (wasted?) many hours today counting the number of serials in the eleven story papers for girls published by D C Thomson & Co, in order to assess just how many synopses I can get into B&HS without an overspill into a second volume. As the overall total is 1662, I have two options:-
    1) Eliminate between 25% and 35% of the synopses, and therefore select the 65% or the 75% most interesting.
    2) Allow the overspill, which would mean that B&HS in two volumes would mean a significant price increase, which may well not be acceptable to a majority of would-be purchasers.

    I genuinely don’t know which option to select, so I would really welcome your feedback.

    1. Tricky one, this.

      Option 1: less costly, compacts into one volume. On the other hand, if you eliminate some synopses you think are less interesting, you run the risk of disappointing someone who may have had their favourite story among them or is trying to track down a serial. Also, it would not be a complete list, and fans would want one that is as complete as possible. They might feel a bit cheated if the list is not as complete as it could be.

      Option 2: There is the problem of cost. On the other hand, but it would give readers more complete volumes. Maybe you could have a first volume on the Big 3 at DCT: Mandy, Bunty and Judy. The others could be put into a second volume.

    2. I should say first of all that this is the response of somebody who would not, personally, be put off by the extra cost of two volumes.

      I would definitely say, go for the complete number. As far as I know, this is the first book ever to attempt a really comprehensive listing, with synopses, of the DCT girls’ paper stories. You have invested a lot of time and effort in arriving at a list of all the stories which you feel are worth inclusion. If you were to cut a significant number out of the book for reasons of space, it will inevitably dilute the value of a unique book.

      I therefore think you should include them all. Although this will cause a problem for some prospective buyers, I think that Mistyfan has suggested an excellent way to mitigate this. The principal interest in the DCT girls’ titles seems to be in the big three, especially Bunty, and her suggestion would give purchasers the option of getting all of the selected stories from these three, for the price of one volume. They would have the choice whether or not to pay for the rest, at the same time or later.

      1. I’d like to thank Mistyfan and Goof for taking the trouble to reply to my request for guidance. I have read them several times, and here are my responses.
        1) Re. Mistyfan’s ‘Option 1’
        a) Can I remind her that there will be a subtitle “Their Great Stories” to B&HS. It was therefore never going to be a complete list. Obviously this immediately reduces the number of synopses, and by extension, the number of pages in the book. Given the recent significant rise in the price of paper [between 10% and 12%], which I would have to pay to the printers, I could increase the price of my book, but having set the price at £60 + p&p, I will keep my word, add the extra pages and simply swallow the increased outlay.
        b) If the printer tells me that there is a significant possibility that the extra pages are liable to cause the cover to pull away from the glued edge, I will ask him to use a board cover, which will be stitched on, rather than glued, to the inner pages. This procedure can only be done by a professional binder, and will certainly cost more than a glued version. I will pay the bill whatever it may cost, but the price of the book will still remain £60.

  4. It is a tricky one, especially when you’ve already put so much work into it, I don’t know how easy it would be to change your planned structure.

    Certainly like Goof and Mistyfan and probably the people that visit this site, most would be happy to pay the extra cost of another book for a more complete listing.

    Some more general public with a more passing interest may be more interested in just paying for 1 book, like the Big 3 as Mistyfan has suggested. Another option wold be to split by decades e.g. 50-70s and 80s-00s, if you wanted to keep more variety.

    Of course it may also depend on the extra work and cost for you to complete 2 volumes, but it would be nice to see a complete listing.

    1. I’m quite happy to provide you, Lorraine, with complete listings of all 11 titles with their issue numbers and dates, but without synopses, for every story paper for girls published by D C Thomson & Co. Given the other things that I’m doing in my busy life, it will probably take me about three weeks. If you agree, I’ll post them to your new T….r. G..v. Edinburgh address that you kindly gave me last October.

      1. Thanks Derek that would be most generous of you. No rush at all and obviously with your workload with your book, you will have lots to do, so whenever it is most convenient for you. It seems you have looked into the cost of book and as you are concentrating on the “greatest stories” then 1 volume would certainly be welcome, while it may not include everyone’s favourite considering the stories you’ve already indicated are included it should be an interesting read.
        I’m going to have a few busy weeks as my daughter’s birthday is falling on Easter this year. She will be turning 5 and is very excited to have her first party (as her birthday for the last 2 years fell during some kind of lockdown), so lots to do to prepare!

  5. After much thought I think I think everyone has a good idea with the two volumes. It would affect me a lot as the cost of shipping across the big pond is expensive, but I would like to see a complete listing. However, I don’t know what the general public would prefer as I did not grow up with these. A lot of them may only want one volume. I know you have put a lot of time and effort in this.

  6. Derek, I am more inclined towards Option 2 than 1 as well. That’s four votes in favour of Option 2, plus two suggestions on how to do it, but as it’s your book, it’s ultimately your decision.

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