All posts by mistyfan

The Girl with the Power [1980]

Published: Tracy #31 (May 3 1980) – #41 (July 12 1980)

Episodes: 11

Artist: Carmona

Writer: Unknown

Reprints: None known

Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with some episodes

Plot

Karen Chandler’s father has been jailed for buying stolen goods and attempted murder of an accomplice, the lorry driver, who is now in a coma. The only real evidence against him was the police finding him standing over the driver with an iron bar in his hand. Since then, Dad’s partners in a restaurant, Sam and Nadine Lee, have been turning Karen into a drudge at the restaurant. They lumber her with so much work she doesn’t even get proper sleep.  In addition to the drudgery, there is also bullying at school where the girls constantly tease Karen over her father’s imprisonment. It is no wonder that Karen’s schoolwork is suffering as well.

Karen’s fortunes change on the day the biology teacher sends her class out to collect specimens for a list of plants. Karen unwittingly trespasses into the Energy Research Unit when she fails to see a “Keep Out” sign. There is an explosion at the laboratory, which has Karen’s head spinning. But she doesn’t realise how much the accident has affected her until that evening when Mrs Lee orders her to bring up a heavy sack of potatoes from the cellar. When Karen wishes she didn’t have to lug that heavy sack up the stairs, the sack suddenly moves all the way up there all by itself! Karen realises the accident at the laboratory has somehow given her telekinesis, the power to move objects by thought.

All of a sudden, life has gotten a whole lot easier. It has to be kept secret though, because Karen does not want those slave-driving Lees to exploit her power if they find out about it. Instead, Karen uses her telekinesis for the purpose of secret survival, revenge, and help.

It all begins later that evening, when Mr Lee orders Karen to clean up the restaurant. He is astonished to find the restaurant looks like it has been cleaned up with super-speed or something (with Karen’s telekinesis of course). This enables Karen to get a proper night’s sleep for a change. From then on, the telekinesis helps Karen to get her work done in record time, much to the bafflement of the Lees. For example, when Karen wants to go to the circus, the Lees give her permission and even pay for her ticket – but on condition she gets all her work done first. Of course they deliberately lay even more work her to stop her going, but Karen gets it all done with her telekinesis. So the Lees have to let her go to the circus.

On another occasion Mr Lees lumbers Karen with the job of stripping off the wallpaper for redecorating – and late at night when Karen needs to be in bed – to save him the expense of having the decorator do it. He doesn’t care about Karen staying up half the night doing it, but of course her telekinesis spares her that. Next day, the decorator collapses because he has been working too hard, so Karen does the job for him telekinetically as he needs the money to take his sick wife on holiday. Mr Lee can’t understand why Karen receives a postcard from the decorator expressing gratitude for her help and saying his wife is getting better.

Naturally, Karen starts using her power to secretly strike back at the girls who have been bullying her about her father’s imprisonment. School bully Lydia Welch eggs them on to start baiting Karen, at which she uses her power to turn the window cleaner’s bucket toppling over them and giving them a soaking. Later Karen rescues a younger pupil from Lydia. After a few days, a teacher tells Karen that her schoolwork has improved tremendously. On a school outing to an open zoo, Lydia keeps making snide remarks about Karen’s father. Karen snaps and tips a drink in Lydia’s lap telekinetically.

Karen starts practising in the woods to test the strength of her power. After a week her power gets strong enough to tear trees down. Unfortunately the tree lands on top of Lydia, so Karen has to go get help for her. Yes, Karen definitely has to be careful how she uses that power as it can backfire!

When Lydia comes out of hospital, she is not grateful for the rescue, and continues to plague Karen. When the Welches invite Karen over for tea in order to say thank you, Lydia does not want them to do so again. So she plants her new watch in Karen’s bag to frame her for stealing. Luckily, Karen finds the watch and uses her telekinesis to send the watch back to Lydia’s room upstairs. It’s a challenge as this is the first time Karen has to move something to a destination that is totally out of her sight and without being able to direct it visually, because she can’t move from her seat. Fortunately it pays off, and Lydia is very surprised to find the watch back in her jewellery box!

Karen’s power scores over Lydia again when a temporary pupil, Mandy Clark, makes a friend for Karen against all the bullying. When Lydia tries to put Mandy out of a talent contest, it’s Karen’s power to the rescue. Karen also confronts Lydia with the evidence she carelessly dropped, and Lydia goes off looking very sour-faced.

Karen’s telekinesis enables her to get secret revenge on other people. For example, she strikes back at two rude customers by removing the meat from their plates, and their argument over it nearly comes to blows.

The power also helps Karen on occasions when she gets into real danger. One night, thieves break in to rob the restaurant, and they tie Karen up when she tries to give the alarm. Karen calls 999 telekinetically, and then hits one thief with sauce and the other with flour, which starts a fight between them. As planned, this delays the thieves long enough for the police to arrive. On the aforementioned visit to the zoo, Karen nearly becomes lunch for an escaped lioness and uses her power to stop the lioness mid-air when she tries to pounce.

Of course circumstances arise for Karen to use her power to secretly help other people, such as the exhausted decorator. And at the aforementioned visit to the circus, naughty boys set fire to the Big Top, and it’s a real blaze. Karen uses her power to help a boy who got trapped in the fire. Unfortunately the child sees Karen’s telekinesis and nearly gives her secret away when the circus folk come to reward her. Fortunately they put it down to the boy’s imagination. Karen gets some reward money and her picture in the paper. The Lees ham it up to the reporter about how they treat Karen like their very own daughter (ha, ha!) as they are capitalising on the publicity this will bring for their restaurant.

Sometimes the Lees’ cruelty just explodes in their faces, and Karen does not even need her power for that. On such an occasion, Mr Lee is trying to impress Alex Egan from The Daily Globe, as a mention in Alex’s “Good Restaurant” column will mean more business (and more work for put-upon Karen). Unfortunately for him, he assumes Alex Egan is a man and therefore focuses all attention on the male diner that night. Moreover, the chef and Mrs Lee are laid up with flu, so service slows right down with only Karen in charge and Mr Lee clearly not bothering to get extra help. But it turns out Alex Egan is a woman. She tells them she did not enjoy her meal due to the slow service, though she understands the pressure the waitress was under. So she will not be mentioning them in her column!

Matters come to a head when the police arrive and say the Lees are to accompany them to the police station; the lorry driver has come out of his coma and provided them with vital information. Mr Lee tries a desperate getaway by taking Karen hostage and holding a knife to her throat. Karen uses her power to slam the car door on his arm so he drops the knife, and then she knocks him out with a heavy box. He is arrested.

Karen is suddenly overcome with dizziness and put to bed. The doctor says she is suffering from exhaustion. When she recovers, she finds her father has returned. It turns out Mr Lee committed the crimes Dad was convicted of. An argument erupted between Mr Lee and the lorry driver who had been supplying him with the stolen goods, which resulted in Mr Lee hitting him with the iron bar. Dad came along at the wrong moment and made the cardinal error of picking up the iron bar. This led the police and then the jury to assume he had committed the assault. However, the lorry driver has come out his coma and told the police the truth.

Karen tries to display her telekinetic power in front of her father, but finds she no longer has it. The power has vanished as suddenly and mysteriously as it came. But then, Karen has her father back and is free of the Lees, so she does not need it anymore.

Thoughts

Here we have a protagonist who has not one but three fronts against her at once. The first is the Cinderella theme, where Karen is made the drudge in the restaurant under the Lees who lumber her with all the work and don’t care about her wellbeing at all. They make the excuse of food and board to not pay Karen a penny, and we get plenty of evidence that they are mean, money-grasping sods before the reveal comes at the end that they are criminals as well, and are responsible for Dad’s wrongful conviction. So Karen has been slaving for the very people who caused all her troubles in the first place. Talk about adding insult to injury!

The second is the unjust conviction theme, where the father is wrongly convicted. This has led to her slaving under the Lees, and Karen has to bear the stigma of a jailbird father as well. She cannot believe her father is guilty, which is the only thing she has to help her bear the stigma. Unlike other stories about wrongly accused fathers, clearing him is not the main thrust of the story, although of course it is the only way to resolve it in the final episode.

The third is the bullying theme, where Karen is the target of bullying and ostracism at school because of her father’s disgrace. She has a particularly spiteful enemy in Lydia Welch, who has no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. Throughout the story, Lydia picks on Karen and just loves to rub it in about her unfortunate father.

So it is only fair that Karen is given a particularly powerful weapon to deal with all three fronts. It’s a nice change for a Cinderella character to be given a secret power to help her cope with all the drudgery and misery instead of the more usual talent that she is determined to keep up amid all the abuse against her. Moreover, it is a power that makes life a whole lot easier for Karen. It helps her to get her monstrous workloads done in record time and enable her to get some space for treats, relaxation, and relief. It also helps her to strike back at the bullies at school and other unsavoury types she encounters, and even secretly help other people.

The means by which Karen gets the power in the first place is a bit unbelievable, as is her losing the power with no explanation whatsoever. It just seems to disappear at the most convenient moment – when it is no longer needed. The origin of the power could have been thought out better so it would be more credible to readers. For example, could some third party have given her the power, such as a stranded alien? Or could they have had Karen hit by, say, a bolt of electricity during the laboratory accident?

The power itself is one we all love – the power of telekinesis. We would all love to have telekinesis. It’s the perfect power for the situations Karen faces, including tackling heavy workloads, and does not get her into too many scrapes when things backfire a bit. It is understandable that Karen wants to keep her power a secret because she is afraid of the Lees exploiting it. She is not Carrie, who uses her power openly to strike back at all the abusers when they push her too far. Karen does use her power to strike back, but unlike Carrie she has to do it discreetly. It is also fortunate for Karen that the Lees never seemed to grow suspicious of how she seemed to get her work done so miraculously and keep a discreet eye on her while she worked.

The way in which the father is cleared comes a bit quick in the last episode, but it does not come across as contrived. The setup for the father’s vindication (the unconscious lorry driver recovering and making a statement) had been there from the beginning. It was just waiting for the go-ahead to be developed in the final episode. Until then, there is no pursuing the avenue of clearing him. Karen does no investigating into that line (too much on her plate as it is, even with the power) and there are no clues to make her or the readers suspect the Lees. It is pretty odd that the Lees did not try to kill the lorry driver in hospital; their attack on Karen at the end suggests they could be capable of it. Perhaps they feared it would arouse suspicion?

The House that Jackie Bought [1980]

Plot

Jackie Stanton wins £2,000 in an essay writing competition, which she uses to buy her family’s council house for them. However, this proves to be a very unwise move because it arouses hostility among the locals. Their antagonism reaches such a pitch that the Stantons become targets of bullying, harassment, physical attacks, and even frame-ups on false charges.

Then a gang of hoodlums start a crime wave of thefts from empty houses, and it looks like they are trying to shift the blame onto the Stantons.

Jackie realises graffiti against her on the school wall was written by a classmate, Steve Bristow. After reexamining all the attacks against her, she realises everything points to the Bristow family. This is further confirmed when Jackie recognises Steve’s writing from a note wrapped around a brick thrown through the Stantons’ window, and she threatens him with the police. He says he was only copying the big boys.

Suspecting her house will be targeted that night, Jackie throws a party for the neighbours that same night, and has a policeman as a special guest – and witness. As predicted, the burglars target the neighbours’ empty houses. Jackie helps the policeman and neighbours to catch the criminals in the act, and they are indeed the Bristows. After this, the antagonism towards the Stantons just disappears.

Notes

Appeared

  • The House that Jackie Bought – Tracy: (?) – #42 (19 July 1980)

 

The Flowers of Gipsy Petal [1980]

Plot

Gipsy Petal finds her grandmother’s box of magic flower essences, complete with a magic mirror that directs her on where to use them. However, applying the flower essences doesn’t seem to go smoothly, and hijinks ensue before something works out one way or other.

Notes

  • No episode in issue #36

Appeared

  • The Flowers of Gipsy Petal – Tracy : #32 (10 May 1980) – #39 (28 June 1980)

 

I’ll Only Walk Alone! [1980]

Plot

Jenny Brent is recovering the use of her legs after a car crash. Then she overhears her father making a phone call to an unknown woman named Daphne that he will join her once Jenny recovers. To keep her father at home, Jenny decides to pretend she is still disabled.

The family find Jenny out when a runaway pram rolls down into the sea and she has to get out of her wheelchair in order to rescue the baby. Dad demands to know how long Jenny has been deceiving her family and why. When Jenny says it was because of Daphne, Dad tells her she jumped to the wrong conclusion; the phone call was about a job offer and Daphne was his employer’s wife.

Notes

  • “The Living Lie of Linda” in Mandy annual 1981 had the same plot.

Appeared

  • I’ll Only Walk Alone! – Tracy: #24 (15 March 1980) – #34 (24 May 1980)

 

Molly Magpie [1980]

Plot

While in hospital, Sandra Dunne befriends a girl who lost her memory after being hit by falling masonry. The Dunnes take the amnesiac girl in and call her Molly. Unfortunately, Molly has a compulsion to steal that she is having difficulty in stopping, and covering up for Molly keeps getting Sandra into trouble.

Notes

  • Artist: Juan Solé

Appeared

  • Molly Magpie – Tracy: #26 (March 29 1980) – #36 (7 June 1980).

 

 

The Traitor’s Daughter [1978]

Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #185

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

The recent “Force of Evil” entry raised the theme of a girl battling to clear her father when he is accused of treason. However, it did so in a manner that was totally atypical from the way the theme was usually used in girls’ comics. This story is an example of one way in which the theme was more commonly followed.

Plot

Fifteen-year-old Trixie Collins is the most popular girl at St Anne’s School (we have a horrible feeling this is about to change). Trixie’s best friends are Hazel Begby and Molly Teal. Of course Trixie does have enemies, and they take the form of the jealous, stuck-up Monica Dalby and Freda Morgan. They wish they could take Trixie down a peg. (And is it our imaginations, or do Freda and Monica bear a striking resemblance to Mabel and Veronica from “The Four Marys”?)

After sports day, Trixie is surprised to find a note in her shoe from Dad, Professor James Collins, a British scientist. He says to meet him at the tennis courts that night, and it’s urgent. This has Trixie very worried and she wonders if something is wrong, seeing as how Dad phoned to say he could not make it to her sports day.

At the tennis courts, Dad says that things are going to happen that are going to make Trixie very unhappy. But she must be brave, trust him, and not be ashamed, whatever happens. Then he departs, without really explaining what is going on.

Next day, the newspapers give Trixie her answer: Dad has been arrested for selling government secrets to a foreign power. Now Trixie is branded “a traitor’s daughter”, and becomes shunned and bullied. Girls are saying she should be expelled. The headmistress Miss Henderson says she will let Anne stay, though she says she will be surprised if Trixie has any friends left. And of course the jealous Monica and Freda finally have their chance to take Trixie down a peg, and set out to milk Trixie’s downfall for all its worth.

Even Molly and Hazel have gone against Trixie – or so it seems. They are just pretending they are in order to protect her from any nasty schemes Monica cooks up. Trixie begins to suspect they are secretly friendly when Molly deliberately hurts herself so Trixie, reduced to reserve on the swimming team, can swim for the school. The school does not cheer for Trixie when she wins, and the rival school can’t understand why.

The bullying gets worse when Dad is found guilty of treason; Trixie finds her room vandalised (as shown on the cover). Then, when there is a television report that Dad has escaped from prison, Trixie can’t take anymore and tries to run away. Molly and Hazel stop her, revealing that they are indeed secretly friendly and feeling guilty about not being more courageous earlier. Trixie pledges to keep their secret and has more strength to endure her ordeal now she knows she has friends.

The police speak to Trixie about her father. She declares that she will do what he says if he contacts her, even if he was guilty, and will not report him. After she goes, the police tell Miss Henderson they can now make their plans accordingly. Soon after, Trixie receives a sealed envelope from Dad saying it is top secret and not to open it. She is to keep it in a safe place, but someone steals it, and Monica was around at the time. Meanwhile, a new porter named Jobling starts work at the school.

That night the thief (kept in shadows) hands over the envelope to her father. When he opens it he finds it is just blank paper: “You silly, little fool, you’ve been tricked.” He tells the thief to try again for the real papers, so the thief searches Trixie’s study again. But the thief gets surprised by Miss Henderson, and has to knock her out with a hockey stick in order to escape. When the police investigate, they find the incriminating hockey stick on Trixie.

In private, Miss Henderson tells Trixie that she does believe Trixie’s protests of innocence. For the moment, though, they have to let the school think otherwise. Miss Henderson tells Trixie that next time she wants something looked after, she is to hand it over for safekeeping in the school safe, and make sure the whole school sees her do it. Trixie ponders as to how Miss Henderson knew about the envelope when she didn’t tell anyone. (Hmm, could Miss Henderson be another secret friend?)

At a hockey match with a rival school (and no cheers for Trixie, even when they win the match), Monica tries to whack the hockey ball at Trixie’s head. However, a quick catch from Jobling saves Trixie from injury. The sports mistress is suspicious of Monica but has no proof, so she can only give Monica a warning. Afterwards, Trixie finds another sealed envelope from Dad, with instructions to hand it over to Miss Henderson and let people know what she has done. To make sure of this, Trixie hands it to Miss Henderson during assembly.

A few days later it is school prize-giving time. Monica and Freda are furious to see that Trixie is being awarded the prize for best scholar. When Monica’s father visits, he asks her about the envelope Trixie was sent, and is infuriated to learn that it was handed over to Miss Henderson for safekeeping, which means it is in her safe. Mr Dalby works in the same department as Trixie’s father and thinks the letter may be a clue as to his whereabouts. They do not realise Jobling is in earshot.

Dalby and Freda’s parents make their way into Miss Henderson’s study, saying they are very displeased that Trixie has been allowed to remain at the school and even threaten to withdraw Freda because of it. Miss Henderson stands her ground on letting Trixie stay. After the prize giving (where nobody applauds except Hazel, Molly and their parents) Dalby tells Monica to get Trixie expelled, for he just has to get his hands on that letter. So Monica sets about planting her medal on Trixie to get her expelled for stealing. She does not realise Jobling is watching her do it while cleaning the windows. But when Jobling reports to Miss Henderson, he says it was Trixie that did it!

Trixie is expelled and Jobling escorts her to the train. As she leaves the school, Miss Henderson hands her the envelope. Monica sees this and reports to her father. Trixie does not realise Jobling has also boarded the train.

On the train, two thugs confront Trixie, claiming to be police officers. That doesn’t work of course, so they try to make a grab for the envelope. But real police officers burst in and arrest them. Dalby, who is also on the train, discovers his men have been captured. He tries a getaway by jumping off the train, but Jobling stops him and soon Dalby is under arrest as well.

Jobling is now revealed to be…yes, Dad in disguise! Dad explains it was all a plan to trap Dalby. Dalby was the real traitor selling government secrets to the enemy. Dad managed to recover some of the documents but nothing could be proven. So he ended up taking the rap. Those envelopes were bait to catch Dalby, and Miss Henderson was part of the plan to catch him (though just how or why she came to be in on it is not explained).

Now Dad has been cleared, Trixie is no longer under a cloud at St Anne’s. A humbled Monica is “banished the school” (they could have phrased that better!).

Thoughts

All right, for this story to make sense, either of two things had to be going on: 1) the whole thing had been a sting operation from start to finish to flush out Dalby. Dad agreed to be falsely convicted and then sprung from prison so he could go undercover to help flush out Dalby, and he had been working with the police and Miss Henderson the whole time. Or 2) Dad’s conviction was genuine. But by the time he escaped (assuming that was not done with connivance), the police had realised they had the wrong man and begun to suspect Dalby. They caught up with Dad and then concocted the sting operation, with help from Miss Henderson.

Either way, Dad was more fortunate to have so many people to help him when he was falsely accused of treason. Usually such Dads have little more than their family to stand by them. If they are forced to go into hiding they pretty much have to rely on themselves and secret contact with their families, as in “That’s My Girl!” from Mandy. We really applaud Miss Henderson, the headmistress who is more helpful than most in girls’ serials, particularly in stories that deal with bullying. There are not many headmistresses in girls’ comics who are willing to take a crack on the head for their pains, so Miss Henderson is definitely one of the best ever in girls’ comics. We also praise Hazel and Molly, who showed that they really were Trixie’s best friends. Though they don’t get the chance to help unmask Dalby or Monica, they help give Trixie the strength to get through her ordeal and not give in, which helps the undercover operation to continue its course.

From the moment we see the cover, we know what the poor girl on the cover will go through in the course of this story. We bleed inside for her already because it looks so horribly ugly and disturbing. The bullying and ostracism that Trixie undergoes is a very sad but realistic reaction to the charges against her father. In real life, when someone is accused of a crime, their whole family can become ostracised and harassed, just because they are related to him/her and have committed no crime themselves. We all cry for Trixie and we agree with her that it is so unfair to be treated so badly as the ‘sins’ of the father fall upon his child, who had nothing to do with the treason. The demands that Trixie be expelled for what her father is accused of are totally unfair as well, as they are not crimes she committed.

It is no surprise that Monica, the girl who hates Trixie the most, turns out to be linked to the man who did the dirty on Trixie and her father. This is a common thing in girls’ serials that deal with false accusations. We can certainly see where Monica got her nasty nature from. She does not seem to be aware that her father is the real traitor; he has led her to believe that the envelopes contain clues to Collins’ whereabouts, not that they contain secret documents. However, the lengths she goes to in order to get the envelopes (kayoing Miss Henderson, framing Trixie for theft) show just what she is capable of. If she had known her father’s true motives, she might have helped him anyway. Hopefully her humbling and the shame of her father going down for treason will deter her from going down any dark paths in future.

Force of Evil [1985-1986]

Published: Suzy #170 (7 December 1985) – #181 (22 February 1986)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Andy Tew

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for help with episodes and scans

Plot

It is (at the time of publication) the future year of 1990. Britain has been invaded by the dictatorial Sin-Pact forces. There is some hint that they may not occupy the whole of Britain (we later learn the British government is still around somewhere, though underground). Perhaps the country is divided into an occupied zone and a free zone, as France was during World War II. Or maybe they do occupy the whole of Britain; the British Government has gone underground. In any case their invasion has been so recent they are still setting up their occupancy; for example, they are still building their watch towers.

Not surprisingly, the story gives no details on exactly who the Sin-Pact invaders are, where they come from, or what their political and religious dogmas are. They have an Asian look, but their “S” emblem is clearly English. There is no mention of a leader or founder of Sin-Pact. Just how or why they invaded Britain is not discussed either, and there is no mention of international intervention. Nor does the story explain just what “Sin-Pact” means (but we can imagine the jokes about it!).

But there is no mistaking that their oppression is evil and making life increasingly harsh and cruel for the people they have invaded. At home, Carol and Joe Peel’s mother has to cook meals over a meagre fire because the power has been cut. Severe food rationing is in, and later we learn the British diet is deteriorating because the Sin-Pacters are keeping certain foods, such as milk, for themselves. Curfews are introduced, and even the slightest hint of resistance against the Sin-Pacters is met with severe punishment. For example, a prefect named Howard Preston at school is arrested for burning a Sin-Pact flag, which is punishable by death. Megaphones broadcasting Sin-Pact announcements are everywhere. The letter “S”, the Sin-Pact equivalent of the Nazi swastika, becomes the most hated letter in Britain, and it is popular for collaborators to be daubed and sprayed with the letter “S”.

Emotional and psychological effects of the oppression take hold. People grow frightened, paranoid, and suspicious of anyone suspected of collaborating or spying. Hatred takes its grip and people begin to lose their reason. And this is precisely what Carol is finding out. Her father, Paul Peel, went missing the day the Sin-Pacters invaded and everyone is whispering that he has turned traitor, though there is not a shred of evidence of that (yet). Carol finds everyone is shunning her because they suspect she is a collaborator too. The kids at school whisper their fathers are joining the Resistance and don’t want Carol to overhear.

It looks like everyone’s suspicions are confirmed when Peel appears on the big screen broadcasting Sin-Pact announcements, including lists of upcoming executions and Sin-Pact rules that are updated daily. The rules begin with: “Rule One – Sin-Pact soldiers are to be afforded utmost respect. This means attacks on their persons are punishable by death. Rule 2 – Sin-Pact property is also to be respected. Theft of weapons, transport and supplies will merit the same punishment.”

Carol can’t believe her father is a traitor. She thinks he must be being forced to make those broadcasts or something, perhaps under threat of what could happen to his family. She is determined to prove her father is innocent of treason. Standing behind Carol all the way is their dog Col.

But of course everyone else thinks otherwise. Once the father starts his broadcasts, the Peels are faced with full-scale hatred and harrassent, which begins with a brick being thrown through their window. When the Sin-Pact soldiers arrive to query the vandalism, Carol covers up for the neighbours, but they don’t appreciate it one bit. They want the Peels out, especially when they hear the Sin-Pact soldiers saying the Peels are to be highly respected. As the neighbours dare not attack the Peels directly now, they hit back in more subtle ways, such as giving them food rations that are unfit to eat. And when Preston is arrested for the Sin-Pact flag burning, his family declare revenge against the Peels if he is executed.

Mum sends younger brother Joe to Gran’s farm, but she sends him home with food. They wonder if Gran has disowned them, but then Gran had always hated her son-in-law. The marriage went ahead over her dead body, and when she appears later in the story she comes across as one nasty old bat.

Despite what is happening to them, Carol won’t have a bar of the Sin-Pact soldiers and remains loyal to Britain. For example, when the Sin-Pact soldiers give them better food rations, Carol refuses it, saying they must not use enemy food. The mother says it won’t do any good to starve themseves, and has accepted everything the Sin-Pacters have given the family because they are the family of the honourable Paul Peel. This illustrates the difficult position of principle versus survival, an all-too-common situation in wartime.

The Peels hear about possible retaliation from the Preston family. Mum uses a special phone the Sin-Pacters have given her in order to talk to Officer 98z about this (he has occupied prison cells behind him marked “death row”). He arranges for them to be given false identity papers and relocated to a new town.

Carol finds the address of the ration warehouse on the box of rations and heads out to find it in the hope of tracking down her father. Col comes with her. On the way she sees her father broadcast another announcement that all builders must give priority to Sin Pact projects and miners must mine coal for export to the Sin-Pact stockpiles. When Carol crosses into Sin-Pact territory she sees watch towers being built and comments, “They seem determined to turn every British town into a prison camp.”

Then Carol runs into the Resistance and tells their leader she is looking for Sin-Pact HQ to free her father. But when the leader finds a photograph of the hated Peel on her (very bad mistake, Carol!) and she says it’s her father, the Resistance tie her up. She manages to free herself.

The Sin-Pact men arrive. The Resistance try to pass themeselves off as farm workers. The Sin Pact men say they don’t need farmers, which sounds pretty odd as they surely need farmers for food production. Most likely it is just their excuse for sending them to Furze Common Warehouse. They capture Carol too and bring her along.

On the way the truck has a road accident occurs, which enables the Resistance to escape. Carol stays on in the hope of finding her father, but it has the Resistance becoming even more convinced she is a spy.

At the warehouse Col is taken to patrol with soldiers; a soldier says dogs are not for friendship but to enforce discipline. A Trustee i.e., a prisoner who reports misbehaviour in exchange for lighter work, and doesn’t look a nice type either, takes Carol to the barracks. A prisoner pushes a large box on the Trustee from above, which hurts her leg. Carol realises she will be next for an ‘accident’ if anyone at the warehouse finds out who her father is. She steals an opportunity to smuggle herself to Sin-Pact HQ in a food truck, but Col unwittingly spoils her escape when he joins her in the truck, so the Sin-Pact men find them.

However, the Sin-Pact men recognise Carol, for they have been on the lookout for Paul Peel’s daughter. They send her to rejoin her family at Gran’s farm. Gran has always branded Dad a bad lot; Mum had to defy her in order to marry him and Gran clearly still resents that. She is also angry at how Sin-Pact is taking the produce she makes for themselves. Gran starts taking it all out on her relatives, especially Carol, who still protests her father is innocent of treason.

Then there is a broadcast from Dad announcing the latest lineup of people who have been executed. Among them is Howard Preston. Joe throws a welly at the TV screen because he is so disgusted at how Dad is smiling as he reads out the death list and says he never wants to have anything to do with his father again.

Gran sees kids stealing her crops and chases them off. The kids call her a meanie who can’t begrudge a few carrots and turnips to the starving. As they take off, they call Gran a “mean old witch” (we certainly agree) and say they will burn an effigy of her alongside the one of the “Sin-Pact guy” they are going to burn that night.

That night Carol discovers the effigy of the “Sin-Pact guy” means her father, and realises what will happen to her family if these hate-crazed people find out they are related to him. Gran is not concerned at seeing Dad being burned in effigy, but takes umbrage at the sight of her own effigy joining him in the fire. She blames Carol, saying it’s her fault for running away, and calls Carol a spy that Sin-Pact planted on her. Gran now makes Carol take her meals outside, and Mum does not stand up to Gran.

Being forced to eat outside makes Carol vulnerable to more harassment from the villagers. They call her an informer, daub “S” on her clothes and equipment, and then throw her into a trench and open the sluice gates on her. Carol is in real trouble because she cannot swim.

Then a mysterious figure appears and helps Carol out with a rope. He disappears before she can get a good look at him. He leaves a note telling her to leave the area immediately and don’t stop to say goodbye at the farm. Carol decides to have another crack at finding Sin-Pact HQ. Mum and Joe join in; the stranger had left a note explaining the attempt on Carol’s life. Mum apologises for not standing up to Gran.

They all set off, stopping at a diner for food. However, the Sin-Pact men arrive, looking for travel papers. The waitress offers to help them to hide in the kitchen, but betrays them and locks them in. They smash a window to make it look like they have escaped while in fact they are hiding in the disused frying cabinets.

The Sin-Pact men fall for the ruse. But the Peels have to double back through the café to collect Col, which means they could be spotted again. They hide under the Sin-Pact lorries, and hear a broadcast recalling the lorries to Sin-Pact HQ. The lorries go north, so the Peels head in that direction too. The waitress is not rewarded for betraying the Peels.

However, the Peels have to walk there, and it begins to tell on their feet and shoes. They bump into a girl who says Sin-Pact is requisitioning her ponies for transport, but she suspects it’s for food. The Peels offer to help – and getting themselves some transport – by taking the ponies away before Sin-Pact does. Assuming the Peels are from the Resistance, the girl agrees.

As the Peels ride along, Carol discovers she is the only one left in the family who believes her father is not a traitor and there must be a good reason for his conduct. Even Mum has come to think he is the traitor everyone says he is.

Then, while watering the ponies, Carol and her family bump into the Resistance leader. The Resistance leader now thinks Carol is not a spy, just a loyal, misguided daughter who genuinely believes her father is innocent, though he does not. They set off for Sin-Pact HQ with ammunition stolen from them. However, a signal had been put in the ammunition pack, at Peel’s suggestion, which gets them discovered and captured. All members of the Resistance are being rounded up and put in a shed at Sin-Pact Headquarters. Peel does not even seem to recognise his own son, and for the first time, Carol begins to wonder if her father is a traitor after all. It looks like Col the dog is turning traitor too, because he jumped into the staff car with Peel, looking so happy. Or is the dog the only one left who does not believe Peel is a traitor?

On Peel’s orders, the Sin-Pact men direct the prisoners to put on protective suits to test their efficiency. The prisoners think the suits are defective and it’s a ruse to kill them all. But as soon as the prisoners don the suits, the Sin-Pact soldiers are surprised to see the gas flooding in ahead of schedule and they are all knocked out.

From a loudspeaker in a helicopter, Paul Peel speaks: He is really a British agent working undercover as a traitor and collaborator. His infamous broadcasts were in fact coded messages. The gas will keep the Sin-Pact soldiers unconscious for 15 minutes, during which time the Resistance are to tie them up, commandeer their vehicles, and load the vehicles with as many weapons as possible. They are to rendezvous with units at secret checkpoints waiting for those lorries and weapons. Clearing out Sin-Pact is not expected to be too difficult because the Sin-Pact leaders have now been captured. So Carol’s belief that her father is innocent of treason has finally been vindicated!

When Dad lands, he is demanding explanations as to why his family is present; he had expected them to stay out of trouble after the way he had to rescue Carol from the trench. Carol explains that she could not believe he was a traitor and was trying to prove it. Dad appreciates the family loyalty and apologises for what he had to put them through as part of his cover. They are quite understanding and are so glad to be together again.

Thoughts

If this story had appeared in one of DCT’s more common titles like Bunty or Mandy, or been reprinted in Bunty (the title Suzy merged into), there is little doubt it would still stick with people and be well remembered. Instead, it has fallen into obscurity because it appeared in a less-known title that is very hard to find these days. Hopefully this story will now receive more well-deserved recognition. It’s not just because it’s such strong stuff from beginning to end. It’s also because there arguably has never been anything quite like it in girls’ comics before. I certainly haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere, anyway.

There have been zillions of stories where the protagonist has to pretend to be a collaborator who’s in with the bad guys in order to be the secret helper, and in so doing suffer the hatred of the very people she is trying to help in secret. “Catch the Cat!”, “Detestable Della” and “Hateful Hattie” are some of the better-known of these stories. However, the reader usually knows that the supposed antagonist of the story is in fact the secret protagonist and is with her all the way. But not in this case. Paul Peel as the secret helper working undercover as a collaborator is not revealed until the end. Until then, the story is taken from the viewpoint of the people who assume he (or she) is the hated collaborator and do not know that he/she is in fact the secret helper.

There have been other stories where the secret helper is not the protagonist but the apparent flunky of the main villain, such as Jo the Clown in Tammy’s “Circus of the Damned”. At first the flunky has the protagonist fooled, but gradually clues emerge that has the protagonist suspect the truth. But that does not happen in this case either. No clues are forthcoming that hint Paul Peel may in fact be a secret helper; all the way until the end he looks a traitor.

“Force of Evil” also draws on the formula of a father being wrongly accused and the daughter setting out to prove his innocence while he’s in prison or on the run. Except that this case we don’t even know if the father is innocent but he sure is acting like he’s guilty!

“Force of Evil” uses all these basic formulas, but is so unique in turning them completely inside out in the way it does. The story keeps the reader guessing right up to the end as to where Paul Peel’s loyalties actually lie and why he is working with Sin-Pact. Is he a genuine traitor or is there a good reason for his actions, as Carol hopes and believes? We have no clues to help us, only Carol’s loyalty and faith against all the evidence that looks so black against him. Her mother and brother hope that, but eventually they get worn down and come to belive he must be a traitor. And when it looks like Peel has betrayed his own family, Carol finally begins to wonder if she has been a victim of false hopes after all.

The story very cleverly has Carol never guessing that her father might actually be working undercover. If that had happened it would have given the whole game away for the reader. Instead, she always assumes her father is doing it under duress, but her father’s such a good actor that even Carol herself begins to doubt that towards the end. Thank goodness she didn’t need to wait too long to get her answer!

It is also unusual that the main figurehead of the villainy is the one who is the secret hero. Paul Peel may be a ‘flunky’ for Sin-Pact, but they are such colourless and indistinct villains that none of them can be called a main villain. The only one out of Sin-Pact who gets any distinction as a main villain is Paul Peel himself, until he is revealed as a pretend villain.

The Sin-Pact villains would be developed more if Carol had been conducting a one-girl war of resistance against them as the protagonists do in stories like “Catch the Cat!” and “Wendy at War”. But although Carol remains staunchly opposed to them, her fight is not with them. Her goal is to prove her father’s innocence, and this pits her against the the face of public hatred. And it is for this reason that the people who hate Carol’s father or assume Carol is a collaborator emerge as far more powerful and dangerous villains than the Sin Pact men. They also more distinct characters, particularly the horrible Gran, who is far more rounded than any of the Sin-Pact men. We are not at all sorry to see Gran burned in effigy, even if we’re still not sure about the effigy of Paul Peel.

The story does not shy away from the grimness of war and callousness of enemy occupation, and people’s psychological and emotional reactions to them. As they say, it is bringing out the best in people and the worst in others. Even supposedly decent people are reverting to a more animal level as starvation, desperation, hatred and trauma take hold. Others are using it to unleash axes to grind; Gran, for example, is clearly using the whole situation to vent long-standing hatreds towards her son-in-law and make excuses for carrying out the nasty behaviour that is clearly her nature.

It makes no bones about the horrors of lynch mob behaviour towards even suspected collaborators, which makes it an even darker wartime story. It also shows that different reactions to war and occupation can divide households. Carol, for example, refuses to have anything to do with receiving enemy supplies but her mother thinks there is little choice but to do so. The debate over whether or not the father is a traitor also has the family quarrelling. All the same, the mother and brother tag along with Carol to find Sin-Pact HQ, even if they don’t believe the father is innocent as Carol does.

While other people have reverted to more bestial behaviour, Carol is one who never loses her courage, principles and compassion, not even in the face of all the horrible treatment she gets on all sides. She takes time out to help others despite her own problems, such as the girl who is about to lose her ponies to Sin-Pact. She has far more backbone than her mother, who does not stand up for things she believes in as much as Carol does. She does not even stand up to her mother for her horrible treatment of Carol. This may be rooted in Mrs Peel’s upbringing; from the looks of it she grew up under the thumb of a domineering mother and it was not until she married that she began to think for herself. But even as an adult, it looks like Mrs Peel still has problems exerting her will and being assertive when needed. No wonder Gran hates her son-in-law. We can just see the look on her face when he receives his knighthood and OBEs (those are coming, surely?) and being honoured as the man who saved Britain by making himself the most hated man in Britain!

Catch The Cat! [1986]

Plot

The costumed French Resistance fighter “The Cat” aka ‘collaborator’ Marie Bonnet returns for her third and final story of her war of resistance against the Nazis. This culminates in Marie being forced to fake the death of The Cat when the Nazis start tearing the town apart to catch The Cat once and for all. The Nazis fall for it and think they are now rid of The Cat, but Marie vows The Cat will come back someday.

Notes

  • Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones

Appeared

  • Catch the Cat – Bunty: #1491 (09 August 1986) – #1501 (18 October 1986)

 

 

Blackmailed! [1987]

Published: Suzy 236 (March 14 1987) – 249 (June 13 1987)

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell (unconfirmed)

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with the episodes

Plot

Anne Smith’s father had taken a job that turned out to be a terrible mistake for the entire family. The company has been exposed as fraudulent one that swindled pensioners, and the swindlers have disappeared with the money. Mr Smith knew nothing about the fraud and took the job in good faith. Although nothing has been proven against him, the press reports associate him with the crimes. Consequently everyone in town has turned against the Smiths and all the girls at school are bullying Anne over it.

So the Smiths change their names to Brown and Anne changes her name to Lorna. They move to Kelbury, a town over 300 miles away, and Mr Brown’s new moustache is really effective at disassociating him from the press photos.

The family settle very happily into their new life and Lorna is enjoying her new school. But they can never fully escape the fear that the past will catch up one way or other.

It happens when Janet Dawson, a horrible girl from Lorna’s old school, transfers to her new one and is placed in her class. Janet’s parents couldn’t control her and sent her to live with her aunt in the hope that a fresh start would turn her around. Some hopes! Once Janet recognises “Lorna” as Anne Smith she starts to blackmail her. Initially Lorna tries to stand up to Janet, but gives in when Janet flourishes a copy of the newspaper with the headline “Pensioners Robbed Of Savings” and a photograph of Lorna’s father, and says: “So you’re not taking me seriously, eh? Maybe this will change your mind!”

Janet uses the blackmail to have Lorna take the blame for all the sneaky things she does so everyone will think she has become a sweet, reformed person, while Lorna is made to look increasingly untrustworthy and troublesome in the eyes of her classmates, school staff and, eventually, her parents. For example, Janet blackmails Lorna into buying a magazine that is so expensive that it leaves her with insufficient money for a present for a hospitalised classmate. Janet astonishes and impresses the class by offering to pay on Lorna’s behalf. Later, Lorna has to turn a blind eye to Janet stealing from the tuck shop and ends looking unreliable when the teacher finds the stock sold isn’t adding up with the day’s sales. On another occasion, Janet blackmails Lorna out of the money she earned from a babysitting job. When Lorna’s mother insists that Lorna give Janet half of the babysitting fee, Janet makes it look like she being absolutely gracious because she refuses to take the half (as she already has it all!). Janet certainly has people fooled in this way. For example, during tea at Janet’s aunt’s place, the aunt says she is so pleased with Janet’s behaviour these days after the Dawson parents sent her over for being such a problem child at home.

Janet’s blackmail also makes Lorna increasingly unpopular in class. For example, she blackmails Lorna to lend her PE blouse although if anyone is without kit, the whole class will end up doing maths instead. Eventually the whole class turns against Lorna because of Janet.

Janet also starts wangling her way into Lorna’s home, on pretext of being invited to tea, in order to exert more blackmail. Janet drops hints that she has recognised Lorna’s father. She blackmails Lorna into handing over her prized belongings. Among them is a Sunday School prize book that has Lorna’s real name in it – and which Janet can use for more blackmail. She tells Lorna that she is going to sell it at the school book fair; Lorna ends up having to give Janet £5 to give the book back. Janet blackmails Lorna out of chocolate, cassettes and clothes. She copies Lorna’s answers in a school exam and claims it was Lorna who was copying. This has Lorna’s parents convinced that Lorna is turning into a delinquent and Lorna won’t tell them what’s going on.

Janet’s blackmail now has Lorna looking a thief. Janet blackmails her way into a weekend trip with Lorna’s family. She blackmails Lorna into shoplifting a necklace. When Lorna puts it back, the manager thinks she was trying to steal it, but fortunately he does not press charges. But Lorna isn’t so lucky at a schoolfriend’s party. Janet blackmails her into stealing a moneybox, and if caught she must take the blame. The schoolfriend catches Lorna in the act and throws her out. When Lorna’s parents hear about the incident they check Lorna’s bank account and discover there is nothing left (all gone on Janet’s blackmail of course). They stop Lorna’s pocket money, so now Janet can’t blackmail Lorna out of that.

Lorna decides things can’t get any worse, so when Janet tries to blackmail her again she just tells her to get lost. But Lorna soon finds that things can indeed get worse – Janet vandalises the cloakroom and frames her for it. Lorna is suspended. Lorna’s mother demands to know why she is acting in this way and Lorna won’t tell her the truth.

Then the police arrive and say they have caught the swindlers, who made a full confession that clears Lorna’s father. It will be all over the newspapers the following day. Now Lorna is free of Janet’s blackmail she can explain everything when she and her mother go to see the headmistress. Janet is expelled, and while she leaves, she tells her classmates: “I had a good run before I was expelled. And I took you other mugs in, didn’t I? You thought I was really nice.” The classmates realise Lorna was being blackmailed and become friends with her again. The story does not say whether or not Lorna changes her name back to Anne.

Thoughts

The story comes from a long line of blackmail serials where a girl gets blackmailed because of a family secret. Most often it is an unjustified disgrace that always gets cleared up by the end of the story, which is the case here. Other means of blackmail have included jobs, false information, and incriminating diaries.

The concept of a nasty girl who pretends to be a reformed character or pulls some other sort of deception in order to continue her dirty ways in secret is not new either. Stories that have used this include The Quiet One from M&J and RoseMary from Nikki. But here it is combined with the blackmail theme in which the problem girl orchestrates her evil ways through the girl she is blackmailing and using her as the scapegoat for when things go wrong. In this way she can continue her nasty ways while presenting a reformed face to her aunt and parents without fear of being caught out. She isn’t just using the blackmail for the usual demands (money, favours, cheating etc), though she does that too, of course. And what enables Janet’s blackmail to continue in this way is Lorna not telling her parents what is going on. Instead, she just suffers in silence and takes the blame for all the things Janet is responsible for. And when Lorna finally stands up to Janet (or Janet realises she can’t get anything more out of the blackmail), she sets out to destroy Lorna altogether. Again, not an uncommon thing with spiteful girls in girls’ serials.

Part of the blackmail can be attributed to the miscalculation on the part of the Dawson parents. As they could not control their daughter they mistakenly hoped a new start might be the answer and sent Janet to her aunt’s. Of course they wouldn’t have known about a potential blackmail victim being there for Janet to take advantage of. But did it not occur to them that Janet might simply transfer her nasty behaviour to Kelbury? Clearly, what they should have done was send their uncontrollable daughter to a special school or similar institution for problem children before setting her out on any fresh starts.

Another source of blame is how the papers treated Mr Smith in the first place and turning the whole town against him and his family. Nothing had been proven against Mr Smith. No charges had been laid against him. As far as we can tell, the police aren’t bothering with Mr Smith and are trying to find the swindlers who vanished with the money. In law, Mr Smith is still innocent. So why has The Daily Times got Mr Smith’s photo plastered all over the front page like he was the mastermind of the swindle, and blackening his name and reputation when there was no proof against him? Why isn’t it the faces of those swindlers who have skedaddled with all the money and are now fugitives that must be found? Are the press making a scapegoat out of Mr Smith or something? Or is it guilt by association? Certainly, once Mr Smith was cleared he would have a case for a lawsuit against The Daily Times.

Twin Trouble [1985]

Published: Judy & Tracy:  #1306 (19 January 1985) – #1315 (23 March 1985)

Episodes: 10

Reprints: None known

Artist: Paddy Brennan

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Lucy and Lynne Linton are twins. Lynne has the edge when it comes to sports and, feeling jealous at this, Lucy demands a cycle race. However, Lucy is so determined to beat Lynne that she cycles too fast, which causes her to have an accident that leaves her confined to a wheelchair. Lucy secretly blames Lynne and sets out to make her life as miserable as possible by playing sneaky tricks to make it look like Lynne is acting spitefully towards her, such as letting the brakes off her wheelchair and leading Mum to think the tumble she takes was due to Lynne’s carelessness.

Then Lucy suddenly realises she can walk again. But when she hears how Lynne has earned a place in the school athletics team, her jealousy over Lynne for being the better one at sports resurfaces. She decides to pretend to be paralysed so as to play on her parents’ sympathy and get anything she wants, and continue secretly cause trouble for Lynne.

Lucy eventually makes a mistake that tips Lynne off as to what she is up to. However, by this time Lucy’s tricks have poisoned Mum, Dad and the schoolmates against Lynne, and they don’t listen when Lucy tries to tell them what is going on. Lucy makes things so bad for Lynne that eventually the parents put Lynne into care as a problem child. The staff don’t believe Lynne either when she tries to tell them the truth about Lucy.

Lucy now looks forward to having the run of the house and being thoroughly spoilt now there is no Lynne. However, she finds she has miscalculated because the parents are thinking more about Lynne than her. She tags along with her parents for a visit to Lynne. They think she is so brave to do so. But Lucy’s real motive is to check to see if Lynne has got through to anyone, and if so, put a stop to that.

At the home a fire breaks out because Lynne’s roommate Ros keeps smoking in violation of the rules. Both Lynne and Ros become trapped in the blaze. Seeing this, Lucy’s conscience is finally aroused over what she has done to Lynne. She leaps out of her wheelchair and goes to the rescue. She succeeds in helping to get them rescued. Of course this shows everyone that Lucy is not paralysed and she has to confess everything. Lynne considers Lucy has made up for everything with her heroic deed and is happy to reconcile with her. Lucy owns up to the classmates while Lynne graciously supports her so the classmates are more willing to bury the past. The parents are impressed at this and relieved there is no more twin trouble.

Thoughts

Spiteful girls who cause trouble for a foster sibling/relative to make them look like they’re the ones who are acting spitefully are nothing new in girls’ comics, especially at DCT. Girls who pretend to be disabled or conduct a vendetta against someone because they (wrongly) blame them for an accident aren’t new either.

But although the formula is far from new, having a girl causing trouble for her own sister to the point where she gets her poor, innocent sister sent away takes it to a particularly despicable level in this one. It could be that Lucy’s spite was the product of shock and facing the horror that she may not walk again. But Lucy loses sympathy there once she regains the use of her legs and is just pretending to be crippled. Once the story take this turn, Lucy’s conduct grows even more appalling because it’s clearly motivated by jealousy and greed as much as misguided revenge. Lucy does not feel any remorse when she gets her own sister sent away as a problem child either, which makes it even more contemptible.

So it would take something monumental to not only bring Lucy to her senses but to redeem herself as well and open the path to reconciliation and forgiveness with Lynne. Saving the lives of Lynne and Ros is just the thing. It is far better than Lucy just being glibly forgiven once she is found out and things carry on as if nothing had happened, which has happened in some stories such as “That Bad Bettina!” from Mandy.

It’s a nice and unexpected twist when Lucy finds out that getting rid of Lynne hasn’t given her the monopoly of the house and parents. The parents are thinking more about Lynne than her, and Lucy’s nose is put out of joint at how things have backfired a bit. Luckily for Lynne this happens in the final episode, so Lucy’s latest annoyance does not lead to more spiteful tricks.