All posts by mistyfan

They’re No Match for Mo! (1977-78)

 

Plot

Mo Miles, the daughter of a rag-and-bone man, is an ace tennis player. She is invited to join a posh tennis club after finding a valuable ring lost by a club member. Nonetheless, she and her father meet constant discrimination from the snobby club members, even when she starts winning tournaments for them. However, Mo can prove she is a match for all opposition, both on and off the tennis court.

Notes

  • Artist: Colin Merrett
  • Translated into Dutch as “Geen Partij voor Patty” (No Match for Patty), Debbie Parade Album #27.
  • Reprinted as “Nellie Never-Give-In”, Lucky Charm #12.

Appeared

  • They’re No Match for Mo! – Bunty: #1031 (15 October 1977) – #1050 (25 February 25 1978)

The King’s Cossack (1992)

Published: Commando #2583

Artist: Janek Matysiak

Writer: Unknown

I have come into another Commando drawn by Janek Matysiak, the son of popular DCT artist David Matysiak. It comes with both a gorgeous Matysiak Jnr cover and interior Matysiak Jnr artwork, which seems to be rare thing for Matysiak Jnr in Commando, who most often drew just Commando covers. So we get the best of both worlds here. Strangely, the issue is another omission from the wiki entry that is supposed to list all Commandos with Janek Matysiak as creator.

Plot

By World War II, most British cavalry regiments have gone over from horse power to machine power, but not everyone is happy with such newfangled developments. Among them is Major “Galloping Jack” Faraday, who would have a horse over a tank any day and still wears spurs with his uniform. Faraday’s constant companion is Trooper Tom Tuttle, although he does not share Faraday’s enthusiasm for horses. He’s a mechanics man, and his idea of riding is motorbikes. They are an odd couple for sure.

The Depot Commander doesn’t like Faraday and is always coming up with ways to get rid of him. Anything with a horse in it is guaranteed to do the trick, but right now the only thing available is an assignment to deliver old A-Nine tanks to Russia. Faraday accepts it all the same, as he can speak some Russian. He takes Tom along because his mechanics expertise will help with the tanks.

In Russia, the A-9s are loaded onto a train at Murmansk for delivery. But in transit, they have to be offloaded prematurely because the Russians require them for immediate action at a newly opened front. While Faraday and Tom are waiting for their return train, a freight train pulls up with a Cossack regiment aboard, who are bound for the front. Five of their horses have fallen ill and the Cossacks are all set to euthanise them, but horse-loving Faraday intervenes. He diagnoses their condition as colic, which is treatable. He waives the return train in order to take care of the sick horses, using the waiting room at the train station as their stall, and using all manner of bribery and bullying to get everything needed to treat them. The Cossacks head to the front on their remaining horses.

Once the horses have recovered, Tom and Faraday start their journey to return them to the front. It’s Tom’s first time in the saddle, and he struggles with it at first, but he begins to learn the basics of old-fashioned cavalry riding from Faraday. Their old A-9s and then horse carts give them tracks to follow to the front, but it’s a hard journey, and there is the problem of how to get back home once they deliver the horses. Faraday discovers the horses are “gun shy” i.e. they take fright at the sound of gunfire, something they must get used to in combat. He starts giving them training to cure them of that.

They are spotted by a Russian unit, led by Sergeant Afonka, who are hauling machine guns on horse carts to Major Taras Grischuk’s squadron at the front. Afonka, who is unfamiliar with British uniforms (and apparently, German ones too), mistakes them for Germans and opens fire. This spooks the horses as they are still gun-shy. Fortunately, the misunderstanding is quickly cleared up.

Afonka has lost one of his cart horses, so Faraday lends him one of their horses for the job, and the two parties combine forces. But when they meet up with Grischuk, he suspects the British soldiers are German spies. Then they are all attacked by German planes. Tom saves the day with his mechanics expertise, which enables him to wield one of the machine guns at the planes. After that they are welcome in Grischuk’s Cossack unit, and Grischuk insists Faraday call him by his friendly title of Taras Ivanovich.

The Cossacks move on next day and come across an enemy advance of foot soldiers. They charge, with Faraday far more experienced than Tom in horse cavalry charges. Tom is still not the best of cavalry horsemen and falls off his horse, but carries on in the fight with his gun. Meanwhile, Taras is impressed at Faraday’s prowess in the saddle. Their attack is a success and they capture a lot of arms and equipment that will prove useful later on.

Taras has been wounded and stubbornly carrying on without seeking medical assistance. Worse, another enemy advance is coming, and this time it is more than a match for the Cossacks because it is a tank unit. Taras sacrifices himself to buy time for his troops to get away by setting himself up as a decoy for the tank units.

The Cossacks are all for a revenge charge, but Faraday has a better idea. Using his mechanics expertise, Tom uses the mines they took from the first enemy column and then deploy their machine guns to attract the Germans’ attention and lure them into a trap – a minefield all set for them. After the trap is sprung and proves another success, they clean things up, including the unexploded mines.

Afterwards they go back for Taras’ body. Surprisingly, Taras is still alive – just – and with his dying breath he adopts Faraday into his family. For this reason the Cossacks choose Faraday as Taras’ successor to lead them and give him Taras’ sabre. Faraday is stunned at such an honour, which must make him a “King’s Cossack”.

Faraday sets his squadron to work in harassing enemy supply lines, with the captured explosives and Tom’s expertise, which are followed by Cossack horse charges. They carry out many such attacks and capture a lot of vital supplies, including feed for the horses. Fortunately for them, Blitzkrieg was not mechanised at the rear end, which still deployed horses and infantry, making it the most vulnerable point in Blitzkrieg for counterattack. The Germans turn the tide a little with occasional Luftwaffe strikes and, when winter comes, German ski patrols. The machine guns bring down those patrols.

But Faraday is still clad in British uniform, which looks a bit odd in a Cossack unit and makes him conspicuous. There are going to be questions when the Brigadier pays a visit to the unit. The Cossacks hastily disguise Faraday as a Cossack, but he insists on retaining his monocle (Cossacks don’t wear them, surely?) and still has a British accent. The Brigadier is told that Faraday is Taras’ brother and his accent is due to a broken jaw from childhood, but they’re left feeling the Brigadier is suspicious. Besides, the Brigadier said he received reports about the successes of the Cossack unit, but surely the reports also mentioned that the leader was in British uniform?

The Brigadier informs them that the Germans are rushing headlong to reach the railway, and they are detailed to support a tank regiment in bringing down those Germans. Along the way they come across the last of the old A-9s and bring it along for its last fight. Faraday suggests a strategy his unit knows very well: set up a trap of explosives, in this case a frozen lake, and use themselves as bait to lure the Germans into it and send them to a freezing death beneath the ice. The plan works, though Faraday has taken a bullet in the arm from it.

The Brigadier presents Faraday with the Order of the Red Banner and has a message for the “English Major”. Yes, he saw through it, and Faraday has lost his fake Cossack moustache anyway. Also, the British are asking about their two missing men. So Faraday and Tom are under marching orders – or rather, flying orders – to go home, and their plane is waiting. They leave with great respect from the Brigadier and cheers for “Galloping Jack” from the Cossacks.

But Faraday and Tom are not home for long, as the Depot Commander is always eager to get rid of Faraday. When Faraday recovers from his bullet wound, he assigns him to a horse-and-mule transport unit in Burma. Faraday volunteers Tom as one of his team. “Here we go again…” thinks Tom. Those assignments never give poor Tom the chance for well-deserved disembarkation.

Thoughts

This Commando came out the year after another Matysiak Jnr Commando, “Traitor’s War”, and one can see how his artwork has advanced between the two issues. The linework is cleaner, sharper and neater, and there is more attention to fine details, while in “Traitor’s War” some details look like they could have been handled with more care.

Horse stories are always popular with girls comics readers, so the story should give girls comics readers some appeal as well as boys. It gives the reader a taste of the world of the war horse, which makes a change from stories about ponies and show-jumping. And the glimpse we see informs us that the world of the war horse can be a tough one.

For one thing, there are the conditions the war horses face, which in warfare can be hellish, such as trekking across harsh terrain, being at the mercy of the weather, and there is the worry of running out of horse fodder, which may not always be easy to resupply in wartime. Not to mention the horrors and terrors of battle itself. By instinct they rear and bolt at the sound of gunfire, yet have to “stand like a rock” when a gun goes off right at their ears. “I’m blooming sure I wouldn’t!” thinks Tom, who must have felt great pangs of sympathy for the horses he has to help cure of gun-shyness. They are also at the mercy of their masters, and not all masters would be like “Galloping Jack”. This is illustrated in the scene where the Cossacks, out of ignorance and probably haste to get to the front, decide to shoot the sick horses, and they would have been if Faraday had not been there. Thank goodness there were no scenes of outright cruelty to the horses, which must have been an occupational hazard of the war horse as well.

The story makes a change from the more usual Commando formula of hero vs villain, which climaxes in a final confrontation where the villain gets killed off (blown up, shot, nasty accident or whatever) or captured. Instead, it’s more of a character development story, plus it features the journey story (always popular in girls comics) and action and adventure for the boys. Using the odd couple scenario also adds humour to the story. Tom and Faraday are an odd couple over machines and old-fashioned horses, but events prove that together they make quite a team, with their opposing intererests complementing each other and both proving invaluable to the cossack unit.

Faraday is somewhat pompous and obtuse – for example, he seems totally oblivious to the fact that his depot commander, “an old enemy”, dislikes him. And he refuses to remove his monocle when he dons Cossack disguise although wearing it could mar his disguise: “Certainly not. A chap has to keep up certain standards.” And his love of horses goes a bit overboard sometimes. But for the same reasons he’s also a funny character and gets many of the best lines that make the reader laugh.

Tom is more the sympathetic character of the odd couple. Although he’s Faraday’s constant companion, he seems to be a long-suffering one and never gets the chance for disembarkation because he always gets roped into those damn assignments with Faraday. He suffers even more in learning to ride a horse and the ins and outs of cavalry, and by the time it’s time for the cavalry charge, he hasn’t fully mastered it. He finds operating something mechanical, such as the machine guns or setting mines, a welcome relief from riding a horse. It’s not clear just how experienced he has become as a horseman or whether horses have grown on him by the time he leaves the Cossacks, but he must have emerged appreciating horses a lot more.

Both their interests prove invaluable in making the traditionalist and somewhat backward Cossack unit a more formidable fighting force than it would have been otherwise, what with Tom’s expertise in mechanics, explosives and modern warfare technology and Faraday’s experience with German forces as well as horses. The Cossacks start off not knowing a thing about German uniforms and call tanks “iron carts”, and emerge much more strategic and clued-up about how modern warfare works. Let us hope that they can now get along fine without Faraday and Tom. It must have been quite a wrench for them to leave the Cossacks. They were well settled in by the time they were discovered, and readers must have been hoping and wondering if they would stay. Sadly, their orders were to go home, and orders were orders.

The Comp: Bunty PSL #348 (1992)

Published: Bunty PSL #348

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Special thanks to Goof for scans

Plot

Grim Gertie is hospitalised, bringing in a substitute teacher, Mrs Whitely. Laura Brady isn’t off to a good start with Whitely when she rushes to registration, which causes her to collide with Whitely and tread on her toes. “Trust me – I just crashed into Gertie’s stand-in!” But the real bad start comes when Whitely discovers Laura’s name during registration. All of a sudden she is looking daggers at Laura, seems to have a sudden thing about Laura being a problem pupil or something, and says, “I shall remember you, Laura Brady.”

From then on, it’s bully teacher time for Laura. Whitely constantly singles Laura out for unwarranted and unfair punishment, even for things that are totally untrue, and detentions are a particular punishment. It starts with her giving Laura detention for homework with four wrong answers, sloppiness and scribbles. Now that’s bizarre to say the least. Okay, so Laura did the homework while being engrossed with a Tom Cruise movie on television, but it looks like everyone else did too. Her mother, who checked her homework, can vouch it was tidy and scribble-free, so what’s Whitely talking about? Later, Laura finds out others did even worse than her on the homework assignment and didn’t get detention – so why did she get it?

At any rate, as Laura is soon to discover, it makes no difference to Whitely as to whether her schoolwork is the best or not.

At first Laura’s classmates think she is just imagining things about Whitely, but they change their minds as it grows more obvious. On one occasion Whitely pounces on Laura for trying to ping a paper pellet at Hodge; Hodge says it was his fault for pinging it first, but Mrs Whitely refuses to listen and punishes Laura with a stinging 500 lines. On another, she punishes Laura for talking in class; her friends admit they talking too, but Whitely doesn’t listen to them.

Whitely also refuses to hear Laura’s pleas that these constant detentions are causing her to miss out on vital hockey practice and matches, which incurs the displeasure of Miss Bliss (“The Blizzard”) against her. As a result, Laura eventually loses her place in the hockey team.

The class reckon it must be Whitely’s trodden toes. Their only advice to Laura is to ignore it, but that’s easier said than done. As Gertie will not be fit to return for a while yet, Laura fears her bully teacher ordeal looks set for the long haul. She has not spoken to her parents about it, not even when Mum asks at one point why she’s crying.

Meanwhile, the class visit Gertie in hospital and discover the maternity wing badly needs funds or face closure. They decide to pitch in, and settle on a Fun Day to raise funds. They need approval from their form teacher before approaching the Head. But when Laura suggests it to Whitely, she won’t listen: “Don’t bother me with your ridiculous notions, Laura Brady!” Then Laura discovers that a few minutes earlier, Whitely thought it was a great idea when Hayley and Roz suggested it, and told them to go straight to the Head for permission. This makes her even more convinced Whitely hates her.

The Head agrees to the Fun Day, sets the date for the last day of half term, and he must approve of the events being held. This could be problematic, as Hodge has scripted a parody of Redvale, “Riotvale Comp”, with parodies of the school staff. Laura is in the role of the Grim Gertie parody, “Miss Gruesome”.

Although Hodge tries to keep this school parody hidden from the Head, he inevitably finds out. Surprisingly, Hodge comes back with the news that the Head gave his approval to stage Riotvale, with “one or two tiny conditions”, such as a couple of small changes to the script. Hmm, is there a hint of something else here? Anyway, rehearsals for Riotvale continue. For Laura they are a welcome relief from her growing miseries with Whitely, and despite them, she is coming along well in the role.

But then Whitely goes too far. She forces Laura to do a homework assignment twice, saying the first was sloppy while Laura had taken care she would have no cause for complaint, plus having to do those 500 lines as well. Then she springs a surprise test on the class over the material. Laura is determined to score well, and ought to after running through the material twice. But when she does, Whitely hauls her before the Head with claims she saw Laura cheating in the test, but as there is no way these accusations can be true, Whitely can only be lying. The Head sends a letter to Laura’s parents, and there’s more detention for her. It’s getting too much for Laura, and she decides to drop out of Riotvale.

When the letter arrives, Laura reaches breaking point and finally tells her parents her teacher hates her. But they don’t believe it: “Now, that’s silly, dear. Why should she?” At this, Laura runs out of the house, still yelling that Whitely hates her and shouting at her parents for not listening to her. She then decides to run away, unable to take any more of Whitely. By now she has realised there has to be far more to this than trodden toes but can’t think what.

In class, Whitely notices Laura’s absence, but only says “perhaps we’ll have some peace and quiet for a change”, which further convinces the class that Whitely is gunning for her. She isn’t even asking questions about Laura’s absence.

Laura left the house in such a state that she forgot her schoolbag, which brings Mum up to the school. From there, she discovers discovers Laura is missing and reports it to the Head, who calls the police.

Mum asks to speak with Whitely. When she sees her, she now believes Laura, for she has recognised Whitely as Susan Stigmore, a nasty piece of work who used to be an old enemy of Laura’s aunt at school. When Mum confronts Whitely about this, her malice spills over and she expresses venomous comments about Laura and her aunt. She then realises her mistake in doing this right in front of the Head, but it’s too late – she’s been caught out. He sacks her and writes a report that will make sure she never finds another teaching job.

Laura is soon picked up, and everything is sorted out. When the other teachers hear about Whitely’s conduct, the Blizzard reinstates Laura on the hockey team. And Laura is back in Riotvale.

Two weeks later, it’s Fun Day, and Gertie is back. Riotvale is a thundering success. But then Hodge tells the gang what he had not told them before (aha!). The Head had granted permission to stage Riotvale on the condition that the school staff have their own sling-a-sponge event afterwards – with the Riotvale cast as targets. And boy, are the staff loving it! Revenge at last for all those things they put up with in class.

However, the Riotvale cast get revenge on Hodge with another fundraising idea: 10p to help throw him into the school fountain. And so he is, much to his chagrin. Ah well, it’s all in good fun and fundraising for Fun Day.

Thoughts

This is a PSL to be read over and over. There’s so much in it for readers to enjoy, and it is a well-constructed story that interweaves two contrasting elements with each other: the bully teacher and the Fun Day. Fun Day delivers the ever-popular charity cause theme, a brazen school parody that’s a welcome change from tired old fund-raising events, and heaps of fun on the big day that will finish half term with a bang. Providing contrast is the ever-popular bully teacher theme, with the drama, emotion, misery, and bullying that grows worse and worse until it becomes too unbearable. Added to it is the mystery element – what is Whitely’s problem with Laura?

There isn’t a DCT regular strip (The Four Marys, Penny’s Place, etc) that hasn’t had a bully teacher at some point, but it’s never a regular member of staff – it’s a new/substitute teacher. Whitely belongs to this long-standing tradition, as she does to the long-standing tradition of new/substitute teachers frequently spelling trouble of some sort in girls’ comics.

Bullying a pupil because of a long-standing grudge against a family member is a common theme. “Teacher’s Pet” (Judy) is another example of this. It also has the added tension of mystery to the story – why does the teacher hate the girl? And girls just love mystery in comics. And because the pupil doesn’t understand the teacher’s motives in bullying her, she may start wondering if she’s the one at fault.

The story was ingenious in throwing in the little mishap Laura had with Whitely right at the start, as misdirection for why Whitely hated Laura. If Laura (or reader) had looked more carefully at Whitely’s initial reactions to her, she might have realised it was something about her name that set Whitely off. Whitely changing her name through marriage was also a clever means in keeping her motives concealed and making them harder to figure out. If she’d come to the school as Miss Stigmore, it might have set off a few alarm bells with Laura’s family or laid some clues for Laura to pursue.

It’s no surprise to hear Whitely was a bully in her youth. It’s not clear if she was a bully teacher before Redvale or if Laura just brought out the worst in her because she was related to her old enemy. But, as it is obvious Whitely never learned her lesson about bullying, she was set to be a bully in adulthood. A teaching career would put her on course as a bully teacher who could bully other pupils, and ones who reminded her of Laura’s aunt would be particularly vulnerable. So we can all say thank goodness she was out of the teaching profession in the end. Her bully streak made her totally unfit for it.

But it’s not all depressing bully teacher time. The Fun Day thread is a total delight and a welcome light relief and contrast to the bully teacher situation. It’s all in a good cause, and Riotvale puts it above a whole new level. Without it, the Fun Day plot line would not have been nearly so much rollickin’ good fun for the reader. When the Head added the condition to performing it, we can just imagine his reasoning for it: “If you’re having your piece of fun with us, it’s only fair we have ours with you, eh?” Well, yes, he’s right – it’s fair exchange, and we have to laugh at the added twist it gives. Setting Fun Day at the end of the half term finishes off the half term in grand style, and the added punishment of Hodge gives Fun Day an even higher and more satisfactory note to end the story on.

Traitor’s War (1991)

Published: Commando #2472 (1991), reprinted Commando #4085 (2008)

Artists: Janek Matysiak (story); Ron Brown (cover)

Writer: Alan Hemus

Many names of the artists in girls’ comics are now very familiar to us, such as John Armstrong, Mario Capaldi, Douglas Perry, Veronica Weir, Maria Dembilio and Norman Lee. But what about their offspring? How many of their children have followed them into the comics industry, and what samples of their work might be around? Here is one sample, which is drawn by Janek Matysiak, the son of popular DCT artist David Matysiak.

Plot

In the Savoy Alps, 1943, Andre Huot has lived peacefully as a shepherd after losing his father Henri in the Battle of France. Then his Uncle Humbert, a small-time crook, arrives to rope him into joining “the gang”. No, not gangsters, he says (well, not gangsters of that variety, anyway). He means the Milice, also known as the Militia, the (hated) French anti-Resistance paramilitary organisation with a reputation to rival the Gestapo. It’s all in a good cause, he tells Andre: “we are the law…the noble service that keeps peace in France”. And to show he means business in having Andre join the Milice, Humbert casually shoots Andre’s beloved old dog dead, saying it would have been left to starve: “I did it purely out of kindness”. Of course, he just considered the dog a liability that would have no place in Andre’s Milice career.

Andre is soon picking up Milice training and impresses their lieutenant, Bernard Aubray. But despite the indoctrination from Uncle Humbert and his Milice training, he isn’t developing a genuine belief or loyalty in the Milice because he has no loyalty in serving the Germans as they do. Moreover, he came in from a sheltered, quiet country life. This made him a bit green and naive, and therefore hardly one for committing atrocities. So he soon has doubts about what he is doing, which causes increasing confusion about which side to be on.

It starts when Andre meets the Gestapo man the Milice serves: Doctor Gert Sigmund, known to them as “Herr Doktor”. Herr Doktor is, of course, one very nasty Nazi, and the Milice fear him as much as they respect him. When Andre protests to his uncle about serving Germans, the reply is that the Germans are the bosses now, and serving them is the way to keep you out of trouble.

Andre grows ever more troubled at the brutality of Herr Doktor’s Milice operations. He is dragged into watching acts of torture, roundups, and slaughter of fellow Frenchmen in retaliation for acts of sabotage and being forced to kill some people himself. He is revulsed to see his uncle torture an elderly man (watch this space) for information about a sabotaged train. Uncle Humbert reassures Andre it’s all a necessity to keep the peace, but that doesn’t help Andre’s conscience or clear up his confusion. And Andre is soon finding other reasons not to enjoy life in the Milice. He has noticed how his fellow Frenchmen hate the Milice, and for this reason none of them go outside their HQ alone. He feels an outcast among his own people and a virtual prisoner at Milice HQ. Even so, he doesn’t seem to realise what he is in the eyes of his fellow countrymen – a traitor.

But that changes one spring day in 1944. Andre is part of a raid on a house in Burgundy to bring down four Maquis (French Resistance) members. One Maquis man survives, Diderot (probably an alias or code name, as his name is later revealed as Marcel Blum). He got shot in the leg and finds himself facing Andre. He says, “Militia, eh? A traitor who serves the Boches.” Because of his injury, Diderot is taken to hospital for treatment before being turned over to the Gestapo.

Being called a traitor is the turning point for Andre. Though still a bit confused about which side to take, he decides to rescue Diderot, and takes advantage of his guard duty at the hospital to do so. There are problems in gaining Diderot’s trust, even when Andre allows Diderot the use of his gun. When Andre shoots down pursuing Germans during the getaway (in a car with the licence plate JANEK1), Diderot finally believes him and directs him to a safe house, where they part ways. Diderot rejoins the Resistance and Andre takes off quick, not wanting the Resistance to see his Milice uniform; at least he is now clear he does not want to take the Milice side anymore. After a change of clothes, he is heading home to his shepherd’s hut.

But shortly before he gets there, he sees German soldiers opening fire on a British unit (Birdy (Sergeant), Whacker (Corporal) and Eustace (Private)) who drove up from the Mediterranean. His confusion finally clears up about which side to be on, and he joins in to help the British against the ambush, forming an inseparable foursome with them. And so he joins the unit known as the Kitehawks, an unusual unit consisting of British soldiers and Maquis men. The latter Andre had been trained to regard as terrorist-saboteurs during his time in the Milice, but now he is accepted as one of them. The Kitehawks take their name from their leader, Captain Jim Hawkes. They accept the story Andre gives, but he has kept the Milice part secret. If they find out, it’s the firing squad for him.

Andre becomes part of Dog Section, the S.A.S. section of the Kitehawks, and his knowledge of the region makes him a useful guide in their sabotage missions against the Germans. They make rapid progress in the region, and when D-Day comes, they enter the south of France on Operation Anvil (later Dragoon) to liberate France from the south, making more and more progress in liberating the country. Andre, who had joined the Kitehawks with no rank, is promoted to Private, but then gets wounded and put in military hospital. And the more the Kitehawks penetrate France, the more the risk grows that Andre’s Milice past will catch up one way or other…

And then, while Andre is still recovering in military hospital, it finally happens. How exactly it happened is not explained, but in comes the old man tortured over the sabotaged train incident. He identifies Andre as one of Aubray’s unit, adding that Aubray has now been hanged for his crimes.

Andre is court-martialled and sentenced to death in a drumhead trial that has little regard for his good record in the Kitekawks: “Too many of your kind turned their coats when it became obvious their German friends were losing the war”, ignoring that Andre joined the Kitehawks before D-Day. It’s a French military court, and the French didn’t have much mercy for collaborators when France was liberated from the Nazis. Fortunately, Diderot/Blum happens to be there for another hearing, and gives evidence that Andre went against the Milice and saved him from the Gestapo. The court agrees to reverse the verdict and release Andre.

Andre, still recovering from his injury, is given a month’s sick leave. He heads back to his shepherd’s hut – only to find Uncle Humbert, Herr Doktor and a Gestapo goon named Bloch have taken refuge there as fugitives from justice and planning to flee over the Alps. When the Nazis see him in British uniform, they turn on Humbert. Humbert tries his usual ploy of talking his way out of it, but Herr Doktor orders Bloch to shoot Andre. Humbert tries to intervene, which causes him to take the bullet instead. It also gives Andre the chance to draw his concealed weapon, enabling him to kill both Nazis. He burns down the cabin along with the corpses of the Nazis and buries Uncle Humbert next to the very dog he killed. He then departs, vowing never to return, and hands in Herr Doktor’s ill-gotten gains along the way.

Thoughts

We begin with the Matysiak Jr artwork, as this was the reason for the entry. Matysiak Jr’s website shows that military history and Commando are a huge part of his portfolio. The illustrations of his war scenes on his site at https://janekmatysiak.carbonmade.com are utterly breathtaking and make your mouth water so much you could laminate them and put them on your wall.

A large proportion of Matysiak Jr artwork in Commando are covers, and examples include “The Fighting Sappers” #4691, “Night and Fog” #4464, and “Desert Heroes” #4697. Given how beautiful his digital/painted war scenes are, it’s no wonder he was a popular choice for Commando covers. A site of Commando listings where Matysiak Jr is listed as a creator can be found at https://commandocomics.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Janek_Matysiak. Oddly, “Traitor’s War” is absent from the list. Perhaps it was an oversight, but there are always updates.

Viewing interior Matysiak Jr artwork in Commando gives a different perspective of his style, as it appears in black and white instead of the colour and paintwork of the Commando covers. So the pencils, pens and inkwork can be seen more clearly. They render war, amiability and brutality with refined lines and elegant cross-hatching, which does not make it look heavy or rushed. The artwork really gives the impression that time and care were taken in rendering each line. The style is one that can bring off so many different sides to the story: the sinister Nazis, the gentle demeanour of Andre, more hardened commanders, the loud, brash Uncle Humbert, the battle and sabotage scenes, the time period, and the background scenes in which the various parts of action take place, from the Savoy Alps to the train tracks where enemy trains get blown up.

Now, we move on to the story and the character development. First, the villains.

Herr Doktor is pretty standard Commando fare of being one sinister, cruel and totally irredeemable Nazi. But he gets little development and far less part in the plot than Nazi nasties usually do in Commando. He isn’t playing the role of the main antagonist who drives the story all the way to the final panels, which is what Commando villains usually do. Neither is Aubray. Although the old man calls Aubray “the accursed Aubray”, he remains a minor villain who appears even more briefly than Herr Doktor.

By far the best villain is Uncle Humbert. He gets the most development and substance, is a more rounded villain, and he is far more of a plot driver than the Nazis. After all, if not for Uncle Humbert, none of the action would have taken place. Besides, it is obvious Andre would never have gone to war without a push of some sort. Despite his father being killed in the war and now old enough to fight, he just spends his days as a shepherd. Uncle Humbert, in spite of himself, gave Andre that push.

From the moment Humbert appears, he grabs your attention, and he stands out in all the panels he appears in. One of his greatest strengths as a villain is that he’s smooth talker and has a knack for talking his way out of trouble or, as in the case of Andre, talking someone into something. And it’s easy to understand his motives. Having always been a crook, he went into the Milice because it enabled him to what he would do in the world of crime and gangsters, but without fear of the law, because it’s all within the jackboot law of occupied France. Also, in Humbert’s view (or what he says), it’s all righteous: “we are the law…the noble service that keeps peace in France”. Plus there are a lot of perks in being Milice, such as getting the best of everything from the Germans, including non-rationed food and living in style with flash cars and such.

Humbert has the distinction of being the only villain to redeem himself, with his action to save Andre from the Nazis. It is not clear if he meant to sacrifice himself by taking the bullet or just got in the way of it while trying to intervene, but he is still the only villain in the story to die an honourable death. He has earned a measure of respect from the reader and pity from Andre, who decides he was “foolish and greedy” rather than evil (though the people who suffered under him and Aubray’s unit might have different views!). Andre burying his Uncle next to the dog he killed was even a gesture to keep him company.

The theme of a good man who is initially on the German side but changes sides because of Nazi atrocities has been done elsewhere in Commando, such as “Snowbound“, Commando #5517. But because the villains take a bit of a back seat in the plot, it’s less of a hero vs villain and more the journey of Andre Huot, both in terms of his career in soldiering and his character development.

Andre’s growth starts with him being a simple, sheltered country youth who’s never been so far from his Alpine home before. So he’s not difficult to be led on, and Humbert takes advantage of that. And Andre does go along with Humbert, despite knowing his uncle is a crook and witnessing the shocking fate of his dog. Of course, if Andre had refused his uncle’s offer, he could have used force – he has the gun, after all. Also, arriving in town’s a real culture shock for the country boy. So he’s a bit bewildered, which makes him even easier to indoctrinate.

At first glance, there’s plenty to impress Andre in joining the Milice: the rich, non-rationed food of the best kind, the smart blue uniform that looks so intriguing, the smooth talk, the praise for good work, the weapons training, and the programming that the Milice is “the noble service that keeps peace in France” and the people they hunt are dangerous terrorists who must be crushed to keep that peace. Uncle Humbert would be great at running a cult, and Andre would be easy prey for it.

As Andre is still too easy to be led on, he’s not breaking away so readily as other Germans in Commando stories have against the brutalities of the Nazis. The indoctrination vs his horror at the atrocities and the red flags that being in the Milice is leading him down the wrong path can only cause confusion in his mind. The shock of discovering how the other side sees him – a traitor – must have reminded him that his father fought the Germans, not helped them as his uncle says they should do. At any rate, by now all Andre can really think is that he wishes his uncle had stayed away. Even when he makes the decision to help Diderot escape, he’s still not sure in his mind that he’s doing the right thing. It’s his heart he’s following, which must be the only thing he can follow at this point.

Even after Andre doesn’t want to be part of the Milice anymore and now regards that intriguing blue uniform as “traitor’s clothing”, he’s still got that confusion in his mind. And when he joins the Maquis section in the Kitehawks, he’s still affected by Milice indoctrination (looking on the Maquis as terrorist-saboteurs). This must have taken a little while to overcome, but finding himself much happier and productive in the Maquis than the Milice would have helped considerably. And so would the very core of Andre Huot – a good-natured man of integrity. This remains intact throughout the story and could not be destroyed or corrupted. It prevented Andre from actually succumbing to the wrong side and helped him to turn to the right side before he paid the price for being on the wrong side – and nearly did.

Loser Lou (1981) and “I’ll Make You a Winner” (1983)

Published: Loser Lou – Bunty PSL #214; “I’ll Make You a Winner” – Bunty #240 (sequel)

Artist: John McNamara

These two PSLs starring Lou Lambert are being looked at together in a joint entry.

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for scans of the second PSL.

Plot – Loser Lou

Lou Lambert and her family are spending a holiday at the Summerton Sports Centre because they are sports fiends and champions: Dad (golf), Mum (swimming), Lynn (athletics), Larry (martial arts), and Lou…“the world’s worst at sports and games”, and the kids back home call her “Loser Lou”. But Lou’s a Lambert, her family says, and Lamberts are winners. They tell her she’ll find a sport she’s good at. In the Lambert family, says Dad, “there are no such words as ’I can’t.’ We add two letters of the alphabet to them, and say, ‘I can try!’” So, although it looks like Lou may have skipped the Lambert sports gene, she has to keep trying.

Lou tries basketball, but she can’t match the players’ speed, and then she trips over her shoelace, sending players and the hoop crashing. Lynn advises her to look at a sport that’s more suited for her build (hmmm…considering her build, that could be tricky). Lou tries orienteering, but she gets horribly lost, not to mention getting a horrible blister on her foot. Next, Lou looks at a power-assisted sport. Deciding the motorised water sports are a bit beyond her, she tries cycling although she was never much good at it when she was younger. She soon finds she has not improved much since then, and then she lands herself in a cycling race. To cap it all, a newspaper flies in her face, sending her through someone’s picnic and then into the river.

Lou’s brother Larry tells her “winning is all in the mind! If you think you’re going to lose, you will lose – but if you’re sure you’re going to win, you will win!” Impressed, Lou works on boosting her confidence. She tries tennis next, but she’s barely got started when she challenges an opponent – without realising she’s Wimbledon standard! Lou comes a cropper over the tennis net and has to report to first aid.

Following this, Lou becomes disheartened, but her father, disappointed at her attitude, encourages her to try again. Lou tries archery, and she’s really smitten by the instructor – what a hunk! But her crush on the instructor is proving a distraction. In her drive to impress she pulls the bow too hard, and her arrow goes wild. While dodging it, the instructor hurts his leg, and now archery’s off at Summerton.

The Lamberts are now over halfway through their stay at Summerton. There will be a Grand Gala Display on the final day, and so far, nothing for Lou to show there.

Then, while watching Lynn practise athletics, Lou meets Monica. After hearing Lou’s story, Monica tells her that she failed at those sports because she was on her own when she tried them. What she needs, says Monica, is a sport where she will have the support of a friend. So she pursuades Lynn to try riding: “A girl’s best friend is her pony!”

Lynn is apprehensive, but is surprised to find herself a natural in the saddle and not messing things up at all. Before long, Lou’s family are astonished to see the strides Lou is making at jumping. Monica is going to enter Lou in the jumping competition on Gala Day. It looks like Lou has found her sport at last. Surely nothing can go wrong now.

But of course something can…

Lou doesn’t realise Monica has a grudge against her sister Lynn because Lynn’s superiority at the high jump had her scratch from the Gala Day high jump event. Her revenge is to make Lou foul up at the jumping event by switching her mount, Good Boy, with his evil twin, Bad Lad. She takes further measures to put Bad Lad in a nasty mood for the event, one of which Lou unwittingly foils.

Bad Lad’s threatening to throw Lou when the event begins, but Monica is astonished when Lou not only stays in the saddle but completes clear rounds as well while other riders score faults. Afterwards, Lou says she was too scared to even move and kept her eyes shut – WTF you ask? Yes, it is a puzzle, but the fact remains that Lou did win. So she is among the other Lamberts to receive trophies at the prize-giving and can say she’s a winner at last.

Plot – “I’ll Make You a Winner”

Back home, everyone is surprised at this sports trophy Loser Lou has brought back from Summerton. Lou’s confidence is so high, she’s joined the civic sports club. Only Corinne Fox guesses the trophy was a fluke. Figuring Lou’s as much a duffer as ever at sport, Corinne and her father, who’s on the committee at the club, plot to take advantage of this to get the sports club closed down so he can build a bingo hall on the site.

Fox starts by getting Lou the assistant secretary job at the club, where she’ll be in charge of all the fixtures. The plan is to mislead her on a few details on the events she’s arranging, and for good measure, Corinne throws in some dirty tricks as well.

Their first trick has Lou select a darts team for an event that’s in fact a brain of sports competition. But they didn’t count on Lou knowing so many answers to the sports questions that get asked. Yep, Lou may not be sporty, but she knows heaps about sport thanks to her sporty family. She gives her team so much confidence that they answer brilliantly too, and they win the trophy hands down. To make Fox even more furious, they also impressed the mayoress, who was presenting the trophy, when he was trying to convince her and the council otherwise to get the club closed down.

Next, Corinne tricks Lou into challenging the top-class white water club, without realising they are top windsurfers and it’s a championship event, and nobody in the club is qualified in that sport. But when the Foxes read the paper of the event, they discover Lou has done it again. The weather turned in her favour by turning bad, cancelling the event. What’s more, the lifesaver Lou included on her team saved one of the windsurfers who got caught in the bad weather, which is even more good publicity for the club. Foiled again, Fox!

Lou makes bookings for club members at an activity weekend, but again the Foxes mess up her bookings. Instead of sports activities they find themselves on furniture crafts courses. However, this works out in their favour; the club’s furniture and sports equipment were badly in need of repairs, and now they have the know-how to do some DIY jobs on them.

Lou books a gym display club open day, but bad luck strikes when she puts a bad crick in her back while shifting equipment. The Foxes try to mess up the open day by inviting army gymnasts as guests, but when the guys break equipment because they’re too heavy for it, they offer replacements, so the club gets the new equipment it badly needs.

Deciding the club needs funds, Lou decides on a sponsored canoe race against Chatterton College. Again the Foxes mislead her on just what the Chatterton competition will be like, and they are another lot of Olympic-build powerdrivers all set to outmatch Lou’s team. Corinne throws in a few extra dirty tricks, including putting up a number of misleading signs, to make sure Lou’s team fail. Without realising it, Lou stops her team from falling for any of those signs (she didn’t want them to leave her in the middle of nowhere by following them, as her back was playing up). And within the finishing line, the Chatterton team hit something. Their canoes go down, and Lou’s team wins.

Fox arranges for a football medical expert to sort out Lou’s back, who then introduces her to stage one of a fitness programme the footballers have been using. Lou starts teaching it to the club members in the style that has become her signature since joining: typical Loser Lou bungling, yet things always work out somehow. But what Lou doesn’t realise is that stage two of the fitness programme is at an R.A.F. airfield – and its programme includes parachute jumping practice! If the members don’t participate, says Mr Fox, the mayor and council, who are watching, might close down their hall and turn it into a bingo hall. But neither they nor the footballers are willing to jump, and the spectators are getting impatient.

Lou has arrived late, so she doesn’t know any of this as she handed an automatic-opening parachute kit and told to join the others at the Jumping Tower. The bumbling Lou blunders right through the jumping hole, becoming the first jumper and satisfying the restless crowd. Encouraged by Lou’s (accidental) example, her team follows suit. And so Lou’s civic club wins again.

Impressed that Lou has done what the footballers wouldn’t, the Mayor refuses Fox permission to replace the sports hall with a bingo hall. Instead, he’s giving the members a grant to expand their activities.

All Corinne and her father can do now is give up. “All our plans have failed – because of that Lou Lambert! Somehow, she always lands on her feet!”

Ah, so that explains Lou’s victory over Monica’s sabotage at Summerton.

Thoughts

Lou Lambert comes from a long line of protagonists in girls’ comics who try to prove themselves, but they only seem good for failure and be a walking disaster area at everything they try. As with Lou, their failures can be played for laughs. Or it can be for a sadder purpose, with their being the constant target of bullying and ridicule, along with harsh treatment from their own families for failure, such as in Make Headlines, Hannah! (Tammy) and Tears of a Clown (Jinty). Of course they eventually strike gold and find something they excel at, but the road to success is very bumpy. Added to that, there’s often a schemer at work trying to sabotage them.

Lou is so blessed in having a family who are supportive and encourage her to keep trying. The more usual pattern is for the family to treat the protagonist harshly and write her off as hopeless and good for nothing. Worse, it’s often the family that produces the spiteful schemer out to sabotage them (sisters, cousins). Of course, much the Lamberts’ encouragement comes from belief in the family name (Lamberts are winners) and the family motto, so they won’t hear of her quitting.

Lou’s family could do more to help her, such as helping her with her choices and offering a bit of coaching, but they’re probably too absorbed in their own sports. Lou’s left on her own on what sports to try out at Summerton.

Monica is correct about Lou failing at the various sports because she tried them on her own. In fact, Lou’s pattern was to jump straight into them them without any help, training or coaching (apart from the archery). Moreover, they were all sports she had not tried before, and when she tried them on her own, she did so at the deep end, not the beginner level.

It’s jarring when Monica, the helper, suddenly switches to spiteful schemer out to undermine Lou. It also defeats the whole purpose of the PSL, which was, after all, Lou finding a sports talent of her own and proving it could make her a winner. Instead, you’re left feeling Lou won the trophy by fluke or luck rather than talent. Though she still earned the trophy, considering the stunt Monica pulled on her, we’re left with feeling she has still not really proven talent. It proves Corinna’s point that the win was a fluke. It would have been better for Lou to have won the cup through her own skill and growing confidence, and proven beyond doubt that she had a sports talent.

So, when readers who remember Lou start reading her sequel, they will be wondering if Lou really does prove talent this time. From the cover, one would say not, so why is Lou saying, “I’ll make you a winner”?

Lou certainly has gained confidence by winning the trophy, but is confidence enough? It is disappointing that she is not keeping up the horse riding, the one sport she finally hit her stride on. Instead, she’s pursuing the sports centre and the sports there (table tennis, darts, fitness programmes) in pretty much the same manner she did at the failed sports at Summerton.

The irony is, although Lou’s still bumbling, this time she’s achieving more success through it and it’s helping her to save the day – without even realising what happened in the first place. And Lou’s real talent has surfaced: the talent of always landing on her feet, like a cat with nine lives. This was hinted at with her victory at Summerton, but now it’s confirmed beyond doubt in her sequel.

Such things have been seen before, such as “Simple Simona” (Tammy) – a dopey girl who is perpetually targeted by spiteful schemers, but her blundering ways always foil them in great comic style, without her even realising what happened. But here, Lou’s blundering has the unexpected bonus of things nobody would have thought possible with her before. She has not only become more confident but has also become a confidence booster, inspiring confidence, inspiration and success in others.

Lou may not be winning sports trophies, but she is proving herself a winner in other ways and making whole new strides with success in sport that nobody ever expected – herself included. As Corinne says, “The civic sports club was only half alive before she turned up and my dad had almost persuaded the council to close it down.” Now Lou is not only saving the club (without realising it) but giving it a whole new lease of life as well. She is surprising everyone – even the Foxes – in being able to tackle things far better than expected, such as selecting the darts team. Lou is also handling the sports fixtures far better than expected, and if not for the sneaky Foxes messing things up, she’d be doing a brilliant job of it. And she is doing a most enthusiastic, passionate job of improving the club and its members, and helping them to grow even more than before.

The irony is, it started with Mr Fox giving her the assistant secretary job in the hope it would help him close the club. Instead, it does the opposite. Moreover, rather than falling flat on her face in her new job, it gives her another boost of confidence and whole new windows in achieving success, including new-found skills in management, leadership, and inspiring others. Even without becoming a sports champion and winning trophies like the rest of her family, she is making her mark on the club and the world of sport. The club would not be the same without her, and readers are left satisfied that Loser Lou will get along just fine now.

They All Hate Hetty! (1975)

Published: Bunty PSL #146

Artists: Cover – Jack Martin; story – Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Goof for making the entry possible with scans.

Plot

Hester “Hetty” Mellish and her parents have only just moved to the isolated village of Widdivale when Dad is hospitalised in a road accident and Mum has to go to lodgings to be near him. Hetty is left in charge of a neighbour, Mrs Jones.

Hetty is curious to track down her great-grandmother, a Mrs Turvy who lived in Cubby’s Cottage in Widdivale. When Hetty finds Cubby’s Cottage, it is a rundown, neglected place, and then a couple of children suddenly run away in terror when they see her there. Tracking them down to sort things out, Hetty finds their mother, Mrs Preston, acting equally hostile and scared at her poking around Cubby’s Cottage. Mrs Preston warns Hetty to stay away from there and then slams the door in her face.

Next stop is the churchyard, where Hetty hopes to find her great-grandmother’s grave. She eventually finds it behind an overgrown bush, and the headstone bears the name Hester Turvy, the same first name as hers. But Hetty is astonished that the headstone is so neglected and kept behind the overgrown bush while every other headstone is kept immaculate – as if someone wanted it out of sight and mind. She tries to clean up the grave.

While she does, Sam Wiles, the man in charge of the graves, turns up. When he hears Hester Turvy was her great-grandmother, shares the same first name, and even looks like her, he suddenly goes scared and crazy and goes off spreading wild tales that Hetty is descended from Hester Turvy the village witch, come back to plague the village. Witch beliefs still persist in the village, and great-grandmother Turvy was believed to be a witch. From what Hetty and Mrs Jones can gather, it was all rumour mongering that arose because she lived alone, looked rather formidable, and, as the story later reveals, had a recipe book, which must have sparked tales of “a spell book”.

The whole village turns against Hetty, now believed to be a witch like her great-grandmother. When Hetty comes, people flee in terror, jeer and throw stones, or slam their doors shut. Wiles is spearheading the campaign to drive her out. He takes to the soapbox on a tree stump in the village square rabble-rousing the villagers, fanning the flames against Hetty, and urging people to burn down Cubby’s Cottage, saying it must be the source of her power. He even pays off Freddy and his friend Tom to spy on Hetty for any “witch” activity.

Mrs Jones remains Hetty’s only friend and staunchly stands up for her against Wiles, the persecution, and the crazy stories that get going. She knows how those villagers are so easily infected by gossip as they don’t have much else to occupy their minds with.

As is usual with these types of stories, strange things seem to happen and attract themselves to Hetty. The villagers start to imagine things that started when Hetty arrived. Good deeds Hetty tries to do to prove she’s all right just go wrong and look like more witchcraft. All of them inflame hatred against Hetty. There are rational explanations, and Mrs Jones helps Hetty to scotch a number of them, but it can’t really stop the persecution or Sam Wiles and his hate mongering.

Among them, Hetty tries to clean up the cottage and makes a makeshift broom for the job, but when the villagers see the broom, it sparks rumours it’s a witch’s broomstick. She acquires a cat, Tinker, who got left behind when his previous owner moved. Although the villagers know Tinker, they scream he’s the witch’s cat as he’s black, and throw stones at him. The frightened cat takes refuge in Cubby’s Cottage. While looking for Tinker in the cottage, Hetty finds great-grandmother’s old recipe book and tries a recipe for cowslip tea. She does not realise Wiles and his spies are watching her, and Wiles orders them to watch Hetty and that “spell book” very closely. The boys steal the cowslip tea, and Tom dares Freddy to drink it. Soon after, Freddy grows ill and his mother accuses Hetty of poisoning him with her witch’s brew. However, when Mrs Jones and Hetty investigate, they find Freddy is merely sick from eating too many sweets, which he admits were bought with the money Wiles gave him for information received.

The village fete comes up, and Mrs Jones is sure it will distract the villagers from Hetty. Hetty decides to contribute a doll in the hopes it will help the villagers to see she’s okay. No such luck.

When Hetty tries to be friendly and smiling to the villagers, crazy old Wiles starts the rumour that the “witch-girl” will harm Mrs Jones, the way Hester Turvy used to harm “innocent folk”. Oh, no, we can guess what happens next…

Sure enough, Mrs Jones soon has an accident and is sent to hospital. Hetty is blamed when the villagers see the doll – the doll’s dress is made from the same material as Mrs Jones’ and a needle is stuck where Mrs Jones got injured. It looks like Wiles’ “prediction” that Hetty would harm Mrs Jones by witchcraft has come true. At any rate, Hetty has lost her only friend and now faces the villagers’ hostility alone. She decides to stick things out so as not to worry her parents.

When Hetty donates the doll to the fete, the villagers refuse to touch it. Then a violent storm strikes, and the villagers blame Hetty although the weather forecast had warned about sudden storms. Wiles renews the call to burn down Cubby’s Cottage. Back home, there’s a note on the gate: “Get Out, Witch!”

Next day, Hetty decides to do just that. She packs a suitcase and strikes out for her mother’s lodgings, to tell her what’s been going on. But then, something tells her to go back to Cubby’s Cottage.

At Cubby’s Cottage, Hetty finds Freddy and Tom have been at it again. They tried to burn down Cubby’s Cottage for a lark, but it backfired on them when the fire got out of control. The cottage is going up like a torch, and Freddy is trapped in there. Hetty braves the flames to rescue him, but is soon in danger of becoming trapped herself. Then great-grandmother’s ghost appears and helps them both to safety.

After this, the villagers decide the great-grandmother wasn’t a witch after all and stop their persecution of Hetty. Weeks later, after Dad has recovered, the villagers want to make it up to Hetty, and they start by cleaning up great-grandmother’s grave. As Hetty and her mother inspect their work, great-grandmother’s ghost is doing the same and smiling.

Thoughts

Lingering witch beliefs in British villages have inspired numerous girls’ serials with the “descended from the village witch” formula. Other stories to use it include “Bad-Luck Barbara” (Mandy) and “Witch!” (Bunty). The formula is used to make a statement about the stupidities of witch beliefs, superstition and mass hysteria, and that 20th century people ought to be living in the 20th century, not the 16th century. And of course, illustrate how idiotic gossip and rumour-mongering can get as rapidly and dangerously out of control as the fire in the story.

The story is a little different from the formula its counterparts usually take, which makes it more interesting and novel. Usually there is an ambivalence about the things that happen, leaving readers to wonder if there really is something weird going on and the girl really is developing strange powers, or if it’s all coincidence, rational explanations, law of attraction or whatever. Here, the strange things all have rational explanations. In the end, it turns out there really is a supernatural force after all (something these types of stories usually hint at but keep ambiguous) – great-grandmother’s ghost, but it turns out to be benign and had nothing to do with the goings on the villagers blamed on Hetty. Also, instead of being a pervasive influence throughout the story, which is the more usual pattern, it only appears at the climax. It doesn’t even manifest during Hetty’s earlier visits to Cubby’s Cottage.

The story is also different in having males as the main persecutors. More often, they are female and don’t seem to be in it for much more than bullying, though personal gain can be linked to it. But it is logical to have ringleader as an older man, perhaps old enough to remember great-grandmother when she was alive, and his occupation (sexton) ties in well with how the whole thing starts. Being a man, and a respected one as the village sexton, would give him a whole lot more authority and power as a rabble-rouser against Hetty. Having the two boys as the main antagonists in the persecution and Wiles’ flunkies also makes sense. By nature they are scamps, and it’s obvious they get into all sorts of mischief. Persecuting a “witch” is the perfect excuse to cause mischief and worse with impunity, plus there’s money in it. After nearly getting themselves killed by their own mischief, maybe they will think twice about pranks and dares in future.

There is always a single person in these types of stories who serves as the girl’s only friend and sticks up for her against the persecutors (the girl’s parents are always useless for one reason or other). Usually it’s another girl who’s new to the village and therefore does not think the way the superstitious village idiots do. But this case, the story takes the unusual step of making her an adult who’s lived there for a long time, knows those gossiping, small-minded villagers all too well, and has friends among them. An adult is much more effective as an ally than a mere girl. An adult, and certainly one like Mrs Jones, is much more capable of standing up to those village idiots and trying to talk sense into them, or at least try to make them shut up.

As is common with similar stories DCT has produced, the protagonist eventually loses her only supporter, making her position even more precarious. And no matter how she tries to ride the storm, the situation inevitably reaches crisis point. If not for the supernatural intervention, Hetty and her parents would have been forced to leave the village altogether, which happened in “Witch!”

The ending – the persecution ending with the girl proving her goodness by saving lives and being accepted as a heroine – has been seen before in these types of stories. It usually comes off as pat and unrealistic because in real life, once witch believers think someone’s a witch, the label sticks and cannot be unstuck. But here we have a supernatural element taking a hand, and when there is one, we know things will be all right, which makes the ending more acceptable. And, unlike similar stories, we get to see the original “witch” finally happy and able to rest in peace after being persecuted in both life and death, which makes it even more satisfying.

Miss Popularity (1993)

Plot

Fiona Taylor wins a Miss Popularity contest sponsored by a perfume company, to promote a new teen perfume named Popularity. However, an unknown enemy starts causing trouble for Fiona at the functions she attends and even turns her friends against her. Fiona suspects Amanda Brown, who was upset at losing the contest, but finds Amanda isn’t around when some of the damage occurs.

Notes

  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • Miss Popularity – Bunty #1858 (21 August 1993) – #1871 (20 November 1993)

Belinda’s Bonnets (1974)

Plot

Belinda Boyd’s father is the curator of a small museum and is given some hats for his collection of period costumes. Whenever Belinda puts one on her head she is transported back in time, getting into trouble each time she does so.  Removing the hat gets her back to the present.

Notes

  • Artist: Geoff Jones? Rodney Sutton?
  • No episode #873
  • Translated into Dutch as “De tijdhoeden” (The Time Hats) in Dutch Tina (Oberon, 1972 series) #31/1975 until 50/1975, but not in all issues in between.

Appeared

  • Belinda’s Bonnets  – Bunty: #868 (31 August 1974) to #875 (19 October 1974)

Necklace of the Sun (1981-82)

Plot

At Stonehenge, 2,000 BC, Mora is chosen as high priestess and set to wear the Necklace of the Sun. However, the daughter of the last high priestess gets jealous and summons OTYS, mistress of murder (who appears as a black cat) to kill Mora before she puts on the Necklace of the Sun. To save her, the gods help Mora escape to 1982, where she keeps trying to find the necklace and escape from OTYS. After eventually finding the necklace she dons it and heads back to her own time to become high priestess. OTYS’s punishment is is to be meek and gentle.

Notes

Appeared

  • Necklace of the Sun – Bunty: #1250 (December 26, 1981) to #1267 (April 24, 1982)

 

Sally on the Spot (1969-1970)

Plot

“Sally Jones was a girl who liked to know what was going on. Her curiosity often landed her right on the spot where interesting events were taking place.”

Notes

  • Artist: George Parlett

Appeared

  • Sally on the Spot: Bunty #624 (December 27 1969) – #635 (March 14 1970).

Other Appearances

  • Bunty summer special 1970
  • Bunty annual 1971
  • Bunty annual 1973
  • Bunty annual 1974
  • Bunty annual 1975