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Teacher’s Pet [1990]

  • Teacher’s Pet –  Judy: #1574 (10 March 1990) – #1583 (12 May 1990)
  • Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)

Plot

Anna Norman gets on well in school until the arrival of a new teacher Miss Johnstone. Her new form teacher, starts favouring her immediately, earning Anna the name of “Teacher’s Pet” from her classmates. Even when Anna tries to get in trouble it makes things worse, such as when she is late to class she expects to be punished, like her other classmates were, but “Stoney” Johnstone just lets her away with it, and everyone else just thinks Anna’s taking advantage. When it comes time to elect a form captain Johnstone makes it clear that she thinks Anna has the right qualities for the job and commiserates with her when she lose out to Lucy. No amount of objections from Anna can convince her friends that she never wanted to be captain. It continues to get worse, on a museum trip, Johnstone implies that Anna told tales on Lucy and Anna rues the day the teacher took a liking to her. One good thing comes out of the trip is that her old friend Ros has gotten suspicious of Johnstone’s motives and points out to Anna that everything she does gets her in trouble and perhaps Johnstone doesn’t favour her at all!

Anna puts this theory test by speaking in slang to Johnstone when no one else is around, and gets a more typical “Stoney” response, but in class when she does it, Johnstone suggests she’d be perfect for reading the lead Pygmalion. She enlists Ros’s help to find out why Johnstone is doing this, Ros agrees to help but doesn’t want to get too involved for fear of losing friends. So in secret Ros and Anna start investigating Miss Johnstone, they find out where she lives and theorize that Anna may look like a sister that she dislikes. That theory is soon disproved as Johnstone is an only child. While Stoney is away for the weekend they do more snooping where she lives and gets talking to a neighbour of hers. Seeing a letter in a book she lent the neghbour, they think they have a new clue. It involves the local dramatics society and they think Stoney is upset because she lost out to a younger actress similar to Anna that also has the same name. Again this theory quickly goes nowhere, as the letter actually was Mrs Greys’, the neighbour.

Johnstone assigns Anna to the school disco committee, despite Lucy volunteering, not winning Anna any favours from the others. The theme is to be the 60s, so Anna asks to borrow some of her Dad’s records, but he won’t let his precious collection out of the house, her mom says he had them even before they met (some foreshadowing here!). Then while setting up for the disco, Anna gets in Stoney’s bad books temporarily for playing “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. Stoney ends up scratching the record in her hurry to turn it off. Wayne, the owner of the record, blames Anna for putting it on. Ros thinks they finally have a clue to Stoney’s past and they must find out why she hates that song so much.

Things look up for Anna, when Ros introduces her to her cousin Tom and they hit it off, but of course Stoney tries to cause problems. Anna then tells her mom that she she is having problems with Miss Johnstone praising her all the time, so her mom says she will have a word with her on parents night. But on the night Johnstone leaves suddenly with a headache before meeting the Normans. Ros who has smoothed things with Tom, reckons that Stoney had a broken romance, and wanted to break Anna and Tom up, though it doesn’t explain why she’s targeting Anna specifically. She soon finds out the reason why, when they get a chance to look in Johnstone’s flat while Mrs Grey is looking after her cat. Anna finds a picture of young Johnstone with a man whose face is crossed out, but she recognises the car in the background. A visit to her grandmother and looking through old photo albums, confirms her suspicions, the man in the photo was her dad! Mr Norman had never made the connection with the name but he was once engaged to Jean Johnstone but broke it off because of her jealousy and moodiness. They contact the headmistress and Johnstone doesn’t even deny it when confronted, she is happy she took her revenge. Learning the truth her classmates are sorry for how they treated Anna, she forgives them easily as she doesn’t want to end up like Stoney holding a grudge for years.

Thoughts

This is an interesting hate campaign story, there are several things that make it stand out from similar stories. Firstly that it is an adult campaigning against the protagonist rather than a peer. Miss Johnstone is in a position of power, she abuses this terribly and has no regrets that she punishes an innocent girl for the perceived wrong doings of her father. She also doesn’t regret ruining her own career because of this. Even without her revenge plan, Miss Johnstone isn’t a nice person, she soon earns her nickname “Stoney” with her tough discipline and hard attitude. We later learn it is not just being dumped that has turned her into this bitter person (although it certainly doesn’t help!) as even as a younger woman Johnstone was prone to jealousy and moodiness. Seems Mr Norman had a lucky escape!

Another thing that makes it stand out, is that it is not clear that there is a hate campaign against Anna to begin with. Other stories have had the “friend” of the protagonist turn out to be their secret enemy, but here because of Miss Johnstone’s strategy it’s not clear there is a hate campaign. Certainly it is a devious scheme, by praising and acting like she thinks Anna is great, she causes trouble without suspicion. It is nearly half ways through the story before her motives are actually questioned. Some of the girls thoughts on why Johnstone is after Anna are a stretch (such as looking like a hated sister) but they don’t have a lot to go on, so they have to think of some reason. Anna was lucky to find the photo and recognise the car and end Johnstone’s revenge. I like that Anna’s parents are supportive too, because often adults in these stories can be dismissive, especially considering Anna’s complaints are “Johnstone’s too nice to her”! While her mother doesn’t think it can be that bad, she does say she will talk to Johnstone and when they find out who she really is, they go straight to the Headmistress.

Anna’s friends are a bit quick to judge her, even Ros at first when she agrees to help, she doesn’t stand up for her in public. This might be excused if she didn’t want to put Johnstone onto their investigation but she also says she doesn’t want to get involved and lose her friends. Although as Ros becomes more convinced of Johnstone’s motives, she does become more active in supporting Anna, even introducing her to Tom, her cousin. I’m sure Anna, as a nice person, would have forgiven all her friends anyway, but it’s good to see it tie in with Johnstone, as she doesn’t want to become a bitter, unforgiving person like her. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The Runaway Rodgers

Plot

The four Rogers children, whose parents  disappeared on a trip abroad, ran away from a children’s home to their Aunt Margedd’s cottage in North Wales —only to find the place empty and deserted. Ben and Danny Rogers followed a shepherd boy into the mountains at night and were led to Aunt Margedd, living in a ruined chapel. But when Ben and Twm, the shepherd, boy, returned to the cottage for Agnes and Connie, they found it burning fiercely.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Runaway Rodgers – Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

Flower-Power Fay

Plot

Fay Bell discovered that she had a strange effect on plants, so that they grew stronger and more beautiful for her than for anyone else in her town. With news of her gardening talent getting around, the Bells’ jealous neighbours, the Braggs, couldn’t resist a chance of trying to score over Fay.

Notes

Appeared

  • Flower-Power Fay – Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

Sally the Survivor

Plot

Thirteen year old Sally Hall, was forced to flee during the surprise German invasion of neutral Holland, during the Second  World War. On her way to freedom, Sally collected two young companions – Tommy, a young baby, and Bobby Gordon. The three were trying to make for Belgium.

 

Notes

Appeared

  • Sally the Survivor– Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

The Book of Shocks and Shivers [1982]

  • The Book of Shocks and Shivers – Debbie PSL: #49 [1982]

Plot

Patsy Wood has talented siblings, so at times she feels quite ordinary beside them and wishes that she was good at something too. Despite her siblings or classmates winning prizes, she is not jealous and shows her good nature by genuinely being pleased for them and she shows her thoughtfulness when she finds a spectacles case and returns them to it’s owner. It is this act of helpfulness that actually leads to a lot of trouble for Patsy! The owner is a strange woman and Patsy finds the cottage she lives in quite creepy. Still not wanting to be rude, when the woman says she will grant her wishes, she does make a wish – that she could be different. The old woman woman sends Patsy on her way with a children’s picture book.

Patsy soon forgets all about the encounter and doesn’t notice when she knocks the book off her shelf, before going to school the next morning. At school, Patsy begins bragging about her sister and her dad’s new car. Her friends are also not happy with Patsy, when they miss their bus, waiting for Patsy to finish tidying her appearance. Then later at youth club netball game Patsy makes nasty comments about the other team’s appearance. At home Patsy wonders what made her act in such a way. She then notices the picture book on the floor, open on a page with a picture of a peacock. She finds it strange that she was acting proud and vain like a peacock, but thinks it’s silly to think there’s a connection. The next day, Patsy’s sister, Lorna, is looking through the book and leaves it open on an owl page. Meanwhile Patsy surprises herself by remembering all the answers for a history test, unfortunately it surprises her teacher too, who thinks she cheated! As she’s never been in trouble before the headmistress takes her word, but expects  this better standard of work across all her subjects if this is the result of her making an effort. Later on a charity walk, the mist starts coming down and Patsy thinks they should turn back. She can’t persuade anyone else to come with her and while she is safe, she later finds out she missed out on a lot of fun. The others sheltered at farmers house, helped the police find missing children and completed their charity goal. It is after this that Patsy finds the book opened on the owl. So the next day she decides to try opening up to a page herself.

She chooses a bee as she thinks being “busy as a bee” can’t cause much trouble. But she is wrong as she insults a friend by not stopping to chat and a big tidy spree means she misses out on a picnic, she also gets in trouble with her mom for not helping her sister. She decides to return the book, but the cottage has disappeared! She wonders if the old woman was a witch, because she can’t think of any other explanation. Not able to return the book, she hides it under her bed instead. Things are going better now that she’s back to normal, she’s even nominated for class service award because of her cheerfulness and helpfulness. But at home Mom is tidying Patsy’s room and comes across the book, she puts it back on the shelf, but it falls open on a picture of a mule. Straight away Patsy refuses to help a new girl out and stubbornly takes her time in changing room after a prefect tells her to hurry up, causing her to miss her bus. She gets the next bus but her English teacher sees her refuse to give up her seat for an old lady. Her teacher will no longer recommend her for the award, meaning she will lose out because of the book again.

Patsy tries to get rid of the book throwing it in the bin, but it falls out when the bin collectors come around, opening on a picture of a fox. Patsy soon finds herself slyly getting out of class by feigning sickness and getting a girl in trouble for making a joke about her. She finds the book by the house and once again tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the river, while out with her family but her Lorna, finds it. Her brother teases her about it looking at a page of two crossed stick, this makes her bad tempered, she even insists she will walk home. She throws the book in a bin on the way home. Again the book returns to her as it has magically got her name and address written inside it. She tries to hide it in the wardrobe, but of course it doesn’t stay hidden long. This does work out better than some of the previous pages, as she becomes as courageous as a lion. She speaks up to tough teacher and rescues a cat from a tree. She goes on to rescue a girl from a mine shaft, she gets unwanted attention from reporters because of this. Even if it did good, Patsy doesn’t want to be turned into something she’s not. Looking through the book she comes up with the idea to stick her own picture on a blank page. That day Patsy is happy to be herself and she returns home to find the book has disappeared, the spell has been broken.

Thoughts

Another supernatural story to finish out this Halloween month. While I like the title, it doesn’t seem to fit with the actual content, I can maybe see the shocks but not too sure where the shivers come into it. To me “shocks and shivers” implies more creepiness/ spookiness, but it is an interesting title, maybe one they didn’t want to pass up. While the book causes problems, both it and the witch aren’t evil and malicious, it is Patsy’s own wish that is the start of the problem. We don’t find much out about the mysterious witch, or why her cottage disappeared, did she really want to grant Patsy’s wish or did she want to teach her a lesson? In any case it does teach Patsy to be happy with herself as the book only disappears after she accepts that. While most pages cause trouble, we can see how others may work out if one was inclined to be different, such as the lion. So it is good that Patsy sees she has good qualities herself and doesn’t need to be top of the class or a hero.

The way the book works is interesting using common idioms to model her behavior. Most of the time the reader sees the picture first and can guess how Patsy will act i.e the fox means she will be “sly as a fox”.  A similar story “The Many Faces of Moppet” has a girl rescue a doll and finds herself acting accordingly to whatever expression the doll makes. In that case it is not something she wished for, and there doesn’t appear to be magic involved, but it does cause just as much problems as Patsy’s book. Patsy makes for a likeable protagonist, even when she wishes she could be as good at something like others, there is never jealousy of the people. Ironically her chance to win something due to her own good qualities is lost because of the book, Patsy hadn’t considered that being helpful and nice were special qualities themselves. I like the resolution of the story with Patsy using her own picture, like many cursed objects, the book cannot simply be gotten rid off to break the spell.

 

Alison Christie – DCT Writer

Alison Christie (now Alison Fitt) got her start in comics as a junior sub editor on Bunty at the age of 16. She went on to write for DCT comics Mandy, Tracy and others including nursery titles, Pepper Street, Bimbo and Twinkle and she also worked on Hi! Magazine as well as IPC titles, Tammy and Jinty. She already did an interview on the Jinty resources site which you can find here, but she also kindly gave me more details about her time at DCT as well as the stories she wrote for it.  A list of stories she wrote can be found on the next page.

Quick Link: Story list 

Memories of working in DC Thomsons:

All the comics were dreamed up and written on the second floor of that big red building in Meadowside, Dundee. There was a long corridor with offices on both sides, marked Dandy Room, or  Beezer  Room, etc- or the one I was placed in, The Bunty Room. DCT was male orientated. All men worked on these comics, including the girls’ ones! So I was one of the first females to  be given a job on Bunty.

My first task was opening the bundles of mail from readers. Many contained photos of school badges, as Bunty had a weekly feature of them on the back page. I also got to sub scripts that came in from free-lance writers. Imagine!( I thought in later years when I was sending scripts down to IPC that there might be some junior journalist subbing mine.)  I was also sent on errands- often to the Art department, with artwork needing attention. I hated going there. The artists sat in long rows facing the door, and ogled any female that ventured in. For a young girl like me, it was highly embarrassing.  Finally, having come up the best idea for a new serial, I was given the chance to write my first picture story, Queen of the Gypsies.

(Bunty: Queen of the Gypsies)

They were good times, though. The Bunty room looked out on the Howff, Dundee’s ancient grave yard. On hot summer days, us girls would scoff our sandwiches there while sunbathing amongst the grave-stones. On Fridays we received our pay-contained in secretive brown packets brought round on a tray and dished out by Jimmy from the general office below. No being paid through the bank in those days.

I was eventually moved from Bunty onto a new nursery comic called Bimbo, which ran for a while then was replaced by Little Star and Twinkle. Little Star soon folded, but Twinkle kept going.  By that time, we had moved to the eighth floor of the new courier building. I wrote Nurse Nancy storylines, and Baby Crocket, plus other features.

I left DCThomsons in 1968 and went free-lance. Still wrote for Twinkle, then started writing picture stories for DCs girls comics – Mandy, later Tracy, a few for Debbie and Nikki. At the same time I began writing picture story serials for IPC down in London. It was a great way to make a living from home, as I had three young children. It was the hey-day of British girls comics, so there were plenty of them to contribute to. But over the years, many of them folded and there weren’t so many left to write for. Though in the early nineties, DC   Thomson brought out Pepper Street a bright comic for little ones – followed by HI! a really good magazine for slightly older girls, with photo stories and fashion, etc. Neither ran for very long, but I wrote for both of them while they lasted.

Favourite age group to write for and favourite stories:

I much preferred writing for the girls comics as opposed to the nursery ones. I could get into the characters and think out what they would do or think and develop the storyline about them. Usually weepy emotional stories, though not all.

I liked all my stories  but  Room in your heart for two  and The Cloud on Sunshine cottage in Tracy and Patsy will take my place  and Emma’s Umbrella in Mandy, I particularly liked.

(Mandy – “Patsy Will Take My Place!”)

 

Rebellion – Scream! Misty Special … and More!

Just a little over a year there was great excitement when Rebellion acquired Egmont/IPC’s classic archives. There was speculation on potential reprints, possible new stories and products, many hoping that their favourite characters would get a revival. Has Rebellion lived up to that promise so far? I would say a definite yes.

On the girl’s comic side of things, soon after the acquirement, they released the first Misty book, reprinting Moonchild and The Four Faces of Eve. While there were some minor quibbles, like Moonchild being reprinted from an annual, rather than the original issues, and some were not keen on the new Misty logo (although everyone was happy to see Shirley Bellwood’s gorgeous artwork of Misty), overall it seemed to be well received. So it is no surprise to see that a second volume, reprinting popular story The Sentinels and End of the Line, is on it’s way. Showing that they are willing to listen to feedback, this cover has the original Misty logo back in it’s proper place. Another example of them listening to people’s views has been shown with the Scream! Misty cover controversy. Many people including Pat Mills, were not happy to see the Misty logo, reduced to the side and obscured by a selfie stick. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that they released a variant cover by Fabry, which reverses the logos. This is the comic that I got, and while the prominent Misty logo is a bonus, I just prefer the cover –  the style, the  trick or treaters, and the horrors behind Misty and Ghastly. That’s not to say the other cover is bad, in fact I was tempted to get both versions, and I think there will be other people who will do that, which should give the special an extra sales boost. The sales of this special should be interesting to follow, as this is new material and if it does well, it could open the door to a more regular thing. Although Keith Richardson (editor of the Treasury line) doubts there will ever be another weekly anthology comic like 2000AD, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for mini series, regular specials or perhaps if it does really well, maybe even a monthly series would be possible.

The Scream! Misty special has a lot of good content and should hopefully reach a new audience, who should then be interested in picking up related content, (i.e. The Dracula File, Monster and Misty books), something which of course they advertise in this comic. The thing I was most excited to see was the sequel to The Sentinels (no coincidence that this popular story was chosen to get a sequel, just before it’s reprint came out). It was strange to see a new art style  and the present day setting, with mobiles and such (reminding me that the original is nearly 40 years old now!) but it still captures the essence of the original and it is quite exciting to see new interpretations of characters and stories. It’s good at showing how these stories can be updated to appeal to a newer generation. The Return of the Sentinels (by Berry, Willsher and Parkhouse) follows a new character Jennifer, as she finds the portal to the Nazi world, and we see how things have changed and developed there too. We see the Nazi symbols and the world have evolved and their main targets for persecution are fitting for these times. It would be interesting to see this new version and new characters developed more, an ongoing or mini series, could even get a chance to tell us what happened to the Richards family (and their alternate counterparts). But for the limited space of 7 pages they make a compelling read, and it’s only flaw really is wanting to see more (and maybe have some questions answered). Willsher’s art is great too, things like Jennifer’s brother building tower blocks out of Lego, the abandoned Sentinel and updated parallel world are all visually interesting.

The other Misty story,  Fate of the Fairy Hunter, is fitting of the short stories Misty used to do and the rest of the issue is also solid stuff. I hadn’t read any of Scream! before, but I am certainly interested in checking out the reprints now (Volume 1 of “The 13th Floor” is promised in 2018). The 13th Floor was the most popular story of Scream! and it is easy to see why, it is an interesting concept, with sci-fi and fantastical elements and the unsettling Max at the centre of it. Again with all these stories, they have done good at modernising it, acknowledging time has passed and at the same time keeping it accessible to new readers. Another highlight is Death-Man: The Gathering in which many other familiar characters make an appearance. Nicely rounding out the comic are The Dracula File and The Return of Black Max: Blood Moon (originally a Thunder strip) which are also fun reads. The book is well produced and I appreciate additions such as the glossary of characters that appear in Death-Man and the welcome/contents page at the beginning. It should be a satisfying read for both new readers and fans of the original comics.

While I have a special interest in “girls” comics, I should note that of course girls can read any comics, even those not directly marketed at them. Rebellion have been good at releasing a variety of stuff for their Treasury line that has a wide appeal, including Hookjaw, Faceache, One-Eyed Jack, The Leopard from Lime Street and Marney the Fox. The latter two books I have already purchased.  I had read some of The Leopard from Lime Street in Buster years ago, but at that time I wasn’t familiar with Spiderman comics, so it wasn’t until I got the new book, that I realised how much the story draws on that. Still it somehow remains fresh and its differences help shape the character of Billy Farmer in another way (such as instead of having a supportive uncle to live up to like Peter Parker has, Billy has a thugish uncle to overcome) and the art is great throughout. Marney the Fox is a comic strip I hadn’t read before but it was a compelling read, that kept me turning the pages so I could find out what happens to Marney, helped also by the gorgeous art by Stokes. Stories centering on the trials of a wildlife protagonist are an enduring genre, such as books like Watership Down, Run with the Wind and Tarka the Otter, I think Marney the Fox would be a good addition to the collection of fans of those books. Again I feel Rebellion are being smart by not reprinting everything in the same model. While all the comics they’ve come out with are well produced, Marney the Fox is particularly attractive as it is presented in a lovely hardback. With it being a complete story and gorgeous art it is sure to appeal to people who may not be familiar with the comics.

It is quite an impressive collection that Rebellion has already built, in not that much time and there is still so much potential for more growth. I am happy with what we have gotten so far and I am looking forward to what the next few years brings.

Nightmares [1993]

  • Nightmares – Judy PSL: #360 [1993]
  • Art: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Sally Laing is in charge of driving a group of girls from the Kentwood Youth club to Summer Camp. Bad weather forces Sally to pull over, which reminds one of the girls, Penny, of a nightmare she had of being stuck on a motorway. In the dream,  she was in car with her dad and a horrible truck driver keeps boxing them in so they can’t get to the slip road. When they do get off the motorway, they are led back onto it again and then it changes into a roundabout with no exits and  suddenly changes into a merry-go-round that kept going faster until Penny woke up. While the girls are amused by the story, Sally is worried about the weather and decides to try and find somewhere to stay for the night. They get to a B&B, Hadley Hall, but the owner, Mrs Keeting, seems reluctant to let them stay. She says the sign is an old one but agrees to let them stay one night. Penny gets a shock when a member of staff, George, comes to take care of their luggage, as he looks exactly like the man from her nightmare!

The girls try to make the best of things, while eating Pauline is reminded of a nightmare she had. She goes to a dentist, a strange looking woman,  who pokes and prods until Pauline runs away from her. But the next day Pauline discovers she has fangs, so she has to return to dentist to get them fixed. Like Penny, Pauline gets a shock when the woman clearing the table is the same as the dentist. Mrs Keeting takes them to their room, which has no furniture, so they are forced to sleep on the floor with blankets. Again a girl is reminded of a nightmare. Jenny dreamt of a similar room, where one of the walls revealed the message “Prepare to Meet Thy Doom” and then the walls started to close in on her. The girls are now getting edgy, and pealing off some of the wallpaper reveals the same message as from Jenny’s dream. Sally asks whoever wrote the message to own up, but they all deny writing it.

Even when they try to sleep, it doesn’t stop the girls talking of nightmares. Another story has a girl camping, when she gets flooded and has to cling onto a tree trunk. Two witches appear beside her on other trunks, until she falls down a waterfall into a whirlpool. Suddenly water starts pouring on the girl’s head. Sally being sensible, just says a slate must have come loose, and she will get some dry blankets from Mrs Keeting. But even Sally is unsettled when she finds their door is locked. She is not in the mood when Wendy starts telling the story of her dream of being in a locked room. In the dream she found a trapdoor that had a spiral staircase, she went down for ages only to find another trapdoor leading back to the original room. Once again real life imitates the dream, as they find a trapdoor. Wendy goes to investigate but trips and Sally has to go after her. When they make their back to the trapdoor, Mrs Keeting has closed it as she is not happy with them poking around. She does let them out but Sally has had enough, she tells the girls they are leaving straight away, but when they get outside the minibus is gone and the staff deny seeing it.

Sally tries to call for police but dial is stuck, this again triggers another memory of a nightmare. A girl shrinks and has difficulty phoning for help. In reality they find the phone won’t work because the line is cut. With little choice they are lead back to their room again.  With the door locked Sally thinks the only way to go find minibus is to climb down the ivy. One of the girls protests as she had a nightmare about ivy attacking her, still Sally persists. She is part of the way down when Mrs Keeting and the others see her. She cuts the ivy, causing Sally to fall and brings her back to the room. Penny notices that the key is still in the lock and figure they can knock it onto a piece of paper. The old newspaper they are going to use has the headline that Hadley Hall was destroyed in a fire and even more odd the paper is dated for the next day, Friday the 13th! Freda tells of a dream where she dropped her key and fell down a hole with a bunch of keys, she frantically looked for the right key when a beast started chasing her.

They do manage to get out of the room and house but find themselves in a maze, they get lost and Mrs Keeting finds them. Soon they are back to where they started in the room again. As the storm worsens a nearby tree is struck by lightning and falls onto the house, setting it on fire. Sally and the girls make it to the roof to escape but are one again confronted by Mrs Keeting. Her and Sally fight and they both fall into the flames. It is at that moment Penny wakes up Sally. They are still in the bus, Sally fell asleep soon after they pulled over. As the storm has cleared they can sett off again and Sally tells them about her dream on the way. As they pass a sign for Hadley Hall, Penny asks what the name of the house was in her dream. Sally can’t remember and says it doesn’t matter anyway as nightmares have nothing to do with reality. As she drives on we see Mrs Keeting by the sign.

Thoughts

This is spooky and tense story. I like the dream narrative, and how on reflection, it becomes more obvious its a dream near the end, with archetypes such as sudden transitions and impossible occurrences, such as suddenly finding themselves in a maze or Mrs Keetings sudden appearance on the roof or even one of the girls picking this time to want to tell a nightmare story!  Still it doesn’t make it too obvious that it’s not reality until the end, so it could be believed it is just a very creepy house with maybe something supernatural going on. With all the stories of the girls dreams, it is like there are multiple mini scary stories, which brings more variety and makes satisfying reading. Most of these short nightmares would be scary on their own but to then have it tie into what’s going on around them adds another layer of creepiness.

Oliver Passingham drew a lot of supernatural and eerie stories (he was a regular artist on Skeleton Corner) and his style is suited here. With the nightmares he gets a chance to bring even more supernatural elements such as the witches and the beast, and even in “reality” he makes things eerie. Mrs Keeting is a good villain, and the final confrontation with her is quite exciting, as we wonder if the girls will be able to escape. Even though it all turns out to be a dream, the final panel with Mrs Keeting, makes things a bit more ambiguous, and makes us wonder if there was some sort of prophecy to Sally’s dream. Maybe Hadley Hall is destined to burn down, or the dream serves as a warning to stay away from the house and Mrs Keeting.

It is a story that uses it premise of nightmares well and  takes its time to build to the twist in the end. Although on reflection, knowing that after Penny tells her story in the minisbus, everything else is a dream, it does mean Sally’s nightmare was quite elaborate including nightmares within a nightmare!

 

Vengeance of Vampirene [1977]

  • Vengeance of Vampirene – Spellbound:  #57 (22 October 1977) – #65 (17 December 1977)
  • Art: Adolfo Usero

Plot

Irene is the princess of the small Balkan kingdom, Geldania, which is ruled by her kindly father Prince Stephen. The princess has been attending a boarding school in Switzerland, since her mother’s death. She excels at sports at the school and her classmates are also impressed that her despite her status she is not snobby. This life is to become disrupted, when her uncle, Count Zukor, decides to overthrow Stephen. He plans to capture Irene in order to keep his brother quiet, but Irene escapes, she makes her way home and seeks out her old nurse, Magda for help. Irene gets into the castle and with a bracelet that maps all the hidden passages, she attempts to find her father. Unfortunately she makes a noise that attracts the attention of Zukor’s men. It is then Irene first dons the appearance of a Vampire, playing up the superstitions of the country. She has to make a leap from the tower into the water below, but luckily escapes and this gives her the idea to continue to use the myths of vampires to help her father.

She prepares a new plan to get to her father. First Magda and other loyalists use a kite, shaped like a large bat, to distract the guards. It works and Irene in her vampire costume, manages to get into the castle and through the passageways to her father. He asks her to get a message to one of his supporters, Anton Tesla. Later Irene is at her hideout in the Vampire Tower, a place where no people like to venture as they are scared and superstitious. She has a problem leaving as there are still guards nearby. She initially planned to get to Tesla in her peasant disguise, but now will have to become Vampirene again. She distracts the sentries by hitting their coffee pot into the fire. Then with the fire out and in her costume she makes her way past them as a shadowy vampire shape. Using her mountaineering skills she climbs a sheer mountain to avoid Zukor’s soldiers. She reaches the loyalists and tells Anton Tesla that he must lead an uprising.

That night as snow falls, they find out an armed convey is on the way. A plan is formed to seize the guns. Vampirene sets off on skis, doing a jump over the convey. But it seems her plan is failing as they are not stopping. She makes a second appearance giving the men an opportunity to shoot at her, she’s cleverly fixed her cloak up and stayed hidden so she is in no danger of getting shot. This gives the others a chance to ambush the trucks. Anton is relieved to see Vampirene ski away.

Irene returns to Magda and while playing the part of her niece in the village, she sees a dog attacks a young soldier. Despite being an enemy Irene helps him. That night they fly the bat kite high, while Irene skates across the now frozen lake. Count Zukor has his suspicions about the legendary Vampire and decides he can use his prisoner as bait. Irene arrives at the castle but is surprised to find her father has been moved. When she is searching for him, she comes across a guard, luckily for her it is the same one she helped earlier. He says he will help her, and they use secret passages to get to her father. They manage to free her father and they stay hidden in tunnels  when alarm is raised. She then sends her father on to the rebels but she stays on to spy on her uncle.

Nikki, the guard, makes his way back to the others, but as he can’t account for his whereabouts at the time Stephen was freed, he is captured. They will torture him for information unless Irene can free him. She creates a diversion with a fire, unlocks the door and they escape into secret passage. Zukor is enraged and thinks there must be a secret way into the castle. Irene and Nikki are laying low in the passages, but Zukor is intent on searching every inch of castle until he finds the passages and they are forced to flee. They make it to the Vampire Tower, where they think they will be safe, but Zukor insists it be searched despite guards reluctance, he has no time for superstitions. Irene releases her cape from the top of the tower as a distraction. They get to Zukor’s snowmobile and escape towards the loyalists. They don’t make it all the way as the vehicle runs out of petrol, and they are forced to take refuge in a cave. Zukor wants them alive, so he can find out Prince Stephen’s whereabouts. One of the guards foolishly lets off a warning shot, causing an avalanche. While Irene and Nikki are safe in the cave, it ends up being a great way for loyalists to capture Zukor’s men, and then they rescue Irene and Nikki. Prince Stephen declares this day of victory will always be a public holiday and Vampirene can be put to rest.

Thoughts

Keeping with the Halloween spirit, I thought this would be a fitting story to look at. While the protagonist is not actually a Vampire, just  playing on superstition, it is something that is more rare to see in these comics. The preferred supernatural beings were witches and ghosts, there are a few stories with vampires and some references may have been made to them (such as Nightmare Academy, Worlds Apart and Dracula’s Daughter) but it was less common. I really like Irene’s vampire costume, it goes for a classical Dracula look but also plays off the bat elements. She uses a second version  of the costume, which is more of a bodysuit which is more practical for what she has to do physically. I quite like that she has two versions, the one that plays on the myths and she takes off a layer and has the bodysuit which gives her a more bat-like appearance and more maneuverability. This story also has one of my favourite covers, done by Norman Lee,  the grey/purple and green used for Vampirene, and her posture makes her an imposing figure.  The cover immediately captures attention. This is also one of my favourite story titles, the alliteration, the merging of Irene’s name with Vampire, the foreboding threat of vengeance!

The art by Usero is great too, as well as Irene’s costumes I like Count Zukor being made distinct with his facial scars. He also handles the action scenes well. They do well at establishing Princess Irene as a top sportsperson, taking a little time at her boarding school, before jumping into the main plot. The change in weather also makes sure she can show off her varied skills (such as her swimming and diving, then when the lake freezes over she can show  off her skating). She could stand proudly beside other costumed heroes like the Cat from Catch the Cat or Bike Rider. She is clever, brave and resourceful and has some uncommon skills such as marksmanship and judo as well as being achieved in a lot of winter sports. Although there are times when it seems obvious that she is not supernatural (I do wonder how the guards don’t see her skis when she jumps!), it is interesting how she plays on the people’s fears and superstitions, to keep them at bay. It is also nicely played that she acts as a distraction while the loyalists can take advantage of that. There are some coincidences, like that she happens to help Nikki, the one nice guard, who in turn is the one who finds her in the castle. But the story is still exciting and appealing and one of Spellbound’s best. Which again highlights that it is a pity that Spellbound didn’t last longer, as it was printing some interesting and different stories.

 

 

Travellers in Time [1992]

    • Travellers in Time  Bunty: #1777 (01 February 1992) – #1788 (18 April 1992)
    • [Thanks to “Phoenix” for supplying the ending of the story]

Plot

Clarissa is a well-off, high society girl who is visiting London for the first time. She gets into trouble when she tries to help out a waif, by the name of Beth. Running away from a constable they escape into a tunnel only to find themselves in the underground railway in modern London. They are both out of their depths, but they each add something to the alliance, Clarissa being educated reads newspaper to find out when they are, she also tries to get money from the bank as she assumes her ancestral family will still be wealthy, though she is not successful. Beth is more street smart than Clarissa and adds her usefulness that way, acting as a protector, she also recognizes the buildings as London but she is more wary of going to authorities for help and she doesn’t think they’d be believed. When they tell a sympathetic taxi-driver of their plight, she of course doesn’t believe them, but later she does help them get jobs in a cafe. Still adjusting to this time, after being paid £5 they think they’ve enough to live on for weeks. They soon find out while trying to get to Clarissa’s home in the country their “gold” coins don’t take them too far!

They do manage to get a drive part of the ways, to Kale, and having left their cafe job, they must find a new way to make money. In a shop, Clarissa sees a book with a painting  of her mother painted by her father. Later Beth gives away the cough medicine that Clarissa had bought for her mother, to a busker. Clarissa is angry about this until Beth points out that the picture they saw was from after they left, so her mother must have got better. Beth’s good deed helps them out when they try to earn money singing on the street, as the busker accompanies them on guitar. They get more money when they end up being  extras in a TV show from their time period. The director is impressed with their Victorian accents and mannerisms. Beth decides she will  take the director’s advice to become an actress as she decides she has nothing to go back for, instead she can have a life in this time. So the girls split up, they soon miss each other and Beth realises not being able to read or change her accent hampers her chances to be an actress.

Beth finds Clarissa again, who is glad, as she was missing her, particularly as Beth wasn’t around to help with some rough youths that stole her money. The gang return, but Beth and Clarissa escape by mixing in with a catering crew that are wearing similar uniforms. They end up at an auction, where Clarissa sees what she thinks is a family heirloom, a candlestick, being sold. They follow the man who bought it and grab it back. It’s only on closer inspection that she realises her mistake, but the candlestick is then stolen from them before they can return it. By coincidence while looking for Sidworth Manor, they meet a potential ally in Caroline but she is friend’s with the candlestick buyer, so when he shows up they run away again.

They do find a hopeful lead, when a professor giving a talk about time-travel, suggests the best hope for time travellers to return to their time would be by going somewhere familiar. They run into Caroline again and when they find the stolen candlestick, they also find a picture of Beth painted by Clarissa’s father. They conclude this is proof that they must find their way back. It seems the reason they haven’t been able to find Sidworth Manor was because it was turned into an art school. While Caroline doesn’t believe their story she does drive them to the school.When they arrive at the Manor, they end up in the cellars where Clarissa finds one of her old dolls. They see light ahead and follow it until they find themselves back in their own time. They are in what will become the new London Underground railway and are chided by a workman for going into the tunnels. When they emerge, they get some very strange looks as they are still in their modern short outfits. Clarissa’s father has been looking for them and when he finds them he covers them in his cape to protect their modesty. It seems while they were having their adventures, only a few hours had passed in their own time. When things have settled, Beth is given a home by Clarissa’s family and the father is talking about about turning Sidworth Manor into an Art School. His wife doesn’t think he will go through with it but Clarissa tells her mother that she would not be surprised if he did.

Thoughts

I like this time travel, fish out of water, mismatched buddies story. Time travel stories are fun, often they involve a girl getting sent back in time, but here it is two Victorian girls are sent to the modern times. Because it’s not just just two misplaced time travellers  but also mismatched friends, this adds another interesting element. The characters are very likeable as they are resourceful and in finding themselves in this strange setting with only each other to rely on, a friendship and understanding of each other soon develop. Initially they both make remarks on each other because of their respective backgrounds, like Clarissa remarking on Beth not being able to read or Beth bringing Clarissa down a peg when her family’s high standing doesn’t help them at the bank. Soon they do begin to appreciate each other and miss each other when they part ways. It’s also nice that both of them contribute something in handling their situation. Clarissa has good education but isn’t afraid to work hard to earn their money and Beth proves though she hasn’t schooling she is quite good at reasoning things out, such as when she figures Clarissa’s mother recovered from her illness.

Although they are eager to get back to their own time and sometimes they become distressed at the thought of being stuck (Clarissa in particular), it is mostly quite lighthearted. There is some nice snappy dialogue and the adjustments to modern world can lead to funny situations. The art by “Merry” is good, and does well in capturing Clarissa’s upper class and Beth’s lower class impressions, making them distinct, even when the majority of the story they are dressed the same. The girls do adapt surprisingly quick to their situation, when they get the job at the cafe, they just accept their uniforms (despite being considered immodest in their time) and even Clarissa who would not be used to such work, mucks in straight away to earn her keep. While they accept somethings readily, they are surprised by other things, such as the cost of living. When they buy some crisps, they believe the vendor is cheating them by not giving them change. Clarissa begins to believe everyone is a rogue in the city, when they buy other things, so it takes a little while to realise, everything is just more expensive. Things move along quite quickly as the girls try to make their way to Sidworth Manor, they don’t stay in one place too long, then in the penultimate episode seeing the picture of Beth, we know they do make it home, but we don’t know how they do it. It is nice to see that Beth and Clarissa continue their friendship, even when they return home and Beth who thought she didn’t have much to return to, is offered a home.