All posts by mistyfan

Dina’s Desperate Days [1973]

Plot

Swimming coach Mary Driver, obsessed with training a champion, blackmails Dina Taylor into a merciless swimming regime to turn her into that champion. Things take an unexpected twist when Dina’s art teacher Mr Wright becomes a more kind-hearted second coach to help Dina with her butterfly stroke, and Driver is forced to agree to it.

Notes

  • Artist: Peter Kay

Appeared

  • Dina’s Desperate Days Debbie: #12 (5 May 1973) – #31 (15 September 1973)

Nagoma – the Reluctant Witch-Doctor [1973]

Plot

Nagoma Kintanga is a new pupil at Quentin College. Nagoma’s classmates think she is the daughter of a witch-doctor and expect her to be able to work magic. When Nagoma fails to convince them she is nothing of the sort, she gets a spell book to see if it can either help her to meet their demands for magic or convince them that she can’t do magic. But things don’t seem to go right either way.

Notes

Appeared

  • Nagoma – the Reluctant Witch-DoctorDebbie: #19 (23 June 1973) – #32 (22 September 1973)
  • Nagoma – the Reluctant Witch-Doctor – Debbie: #40 (17 November 1973),  #41 (24 November 1973)

Marcia – Mystery Skater [1973]

Plot

Amy Woodley becomes convinced a brilliant skater named Katina is in fact her sister Marcia. But Katina does not even recognise Amy as her sister. And who is that mysterious woman in black who is always veiled and trying to stop Amy from finding out the truth, even to the point of framing her for theft? It becomes apparent that the woman in black has some sort of evil influence over Marcia, and Katina’s skating, while brilliant, has an oddly mechanical look.

Notes

Appeared

  • Marcia – Mystery Skater Debbie: #17 (9 June 1973) – #35 (13 October 1973)

Look after Lorna! [1973]

Plot

Meryl Mertz and her friend Heidi are looking after an abandoned baby. The baby turns out to be Princess Lorna, heir to the throne of Livonia, and soldiers and bounty hunters are looking for her everywhere. So in addition to the demands of baby care they have to constantly hide her and rescue her from constant dangers.

Notes

  • Artist: John Woods

Appeared

  • Look after Lorna! – Debbie: #11 (28 April 1973) – #30 (8 September 1973)

 

Sweet Sue [1973]

Plot

Sue Dawson goes into her Aunt Maud’s confectionery business, which really starts booming after Sue discovers Old Mother Mabel’s Sweetmeats recipe book. Their sweet shop starts undercutting the business of the unpleasant Mr Hale, so he tries to buy the recipes. When he gets a refusal he shows he is capable of getting them by underhand means. But he has reckoned without the ghost of Old Mother Mabel, who returns from beyond the grave to help Sue and her aunt.

Notes

  • Artist: Mike White

Appeared

  • Sweet Sue Debbie: #20 (30 June 1973) – #31 (15 September 1973)

“I’ll Never Forgive You!” [1989]

Published: Bunty #1652 (09 September 1989) – #1661 (11 November 1989)

Episodes: 10

Artist: Douglas Perry

Reprints: None known

Plot

Carol Hastings is a difficult girl and getting into wild company that  her parents don’t approve of. When they remonstrate with her one more time, she reacts against it by running away, thinking she’s unloved and unwanted. Eventually Carol gets fed up and decides to return home, but it’s too late. While out looking for her, Mum ran out into the road without looking, got run over, and is now seriously injured.

Dad takes this very badly and blames Carol for it. He says he will never forgive her, especially when it looks like Mum could become wheelchair-bound. Their relationship becomes extremely embittered. Dad lashes out at Carol at every turn. He never wastes an opportunity to say he blames her and will never forgive her, tells everyone in town it’s all her fault, and won’t even let Carol visit her mother in hospital.

Carol blames herself too and has a terrible guilt trip. Also, the shock has sobered her up and she resolves become more responsible and sensible. She does whatever she can think of to help her father (doing housework, cooking, helping to get his new business going etc) in order to try to mend her relationship with him. But none of it makes any impression on him and he remains entrenched in his acrimony towards her. It does not help that sometimes things go wrong, such as Carol’s old crowd turning up at the worst time and getting Dad angry as he always disapproved of them.

Aunt Sally does not blame Carol for the accident and tries to help the situation. She tells Carol that when Dad was her age he ran away from home twice and was soon returned home, no harm done, which helps Carol to feel less guilty. However, reminding Dad of those incidents does not improve his attitude towards Carol.

What Mum thinks of where the blame lies for her accident is not known. Dad won’t let Carol see her, and when Carol finally gets the chance she is too ashamed to go.

Eventually Carol gets fed up with her embittered father and her efforts to reconcile going nowhere with him, and she turns to an act of rebellion. She and two friends go into town and cause trouble in a boutique. However, when the matter is reported to the headmistress they have to confess and take the punishment, which makes Dad even angrier. This time Carol lashes back at him, telling him how she’s tried so hard to prove to him that she’s improved, but all he does is hate her. She then locks herself in her room and him out, unable to take any more.

This has Dad wake up to how harsh he’s been and he goes to Mum for advice on how to put things right. As luck would have it, Carol’s birthday is imminent. So at Mum’s suggestion they throw a surprise party for her to patch things up, with Mum returning home for it. Dad tells Carol that from now on they will work things out together.

Thoughts

This is definitely one of the best emotional stories Bunty has ever published, but sadly not well remembered. It has intense moral lessons about the need for compassion and empathy rather than condemnation, and not let bitterness and hatred run away with you when someone makes a mistake that they already regret themselves, especially when it is a member of your own family. For if you do, you will only make that situation even worse, for both yourself and them and everyone else around you, when what’s really needed is working through the situation and trying to heal. There are so many situations in real life (as I have read in magazines) that parallel with Carol’s. A loved one just won’t respond to you, talk to you or show they still love you after some incident makes them fall out with you, no matter what you try to make things better or how much time passes. If only they would, as Mr Hastings did in the end, things would be so much better all around.

The story also turns several conventions in girls’ comics on their heads, which makes it an even more interesting and unconventional story that’s a bit different and refreshing. The first is the redemption theme. Carol starts off as a difficult, thoughtless girl who is asking for something serious to happen to make her a more thoughtful, mature girl. Usually this happens towards the middle or end of the story, but here it is right at the beginning, when the shock of Mum’s accident has Carol realise that she needs to be more responsible and sensible. She really tries, but it just goes nowhere with her embittered father. She gets frustrated and gives it up as hopeless. But instead of resorting to desperate measures as some protagonists have done, she vents her frustration with a stupid act and shouting back at her estranged father, which is a brilliant touch of realism. Ironically, this becomes the turning point in resolving the story.

The second is the protagonist running away from home. When a story uses this device, it usually comes at the climax of the story, when the protagonist has been pushed too far. But here it comes at the beginning of the story, and it drives the plot for the rest of the story instead of being the turning point in resolving it.

The third is the guilt trip theme and someone blaming the protagonist for some unfortunate incident. Often this is resolved with the person either finding out they were mistaken in blaming the protagonist or the protagonist redeems herself in some way, but neither of these things happen in this case.

Lastly, there is the resolution of the story. For once it does not come with the protagonist being pushed too far, running off, and have the people who drove her off realise what they have done. Nor does it occur with the protagonist getting knocked down by a car. Instead, it is resolved with a reconciliatory act on behalf of the father, once Carol’s anger has him realise what his bitterness has done.

Is Carol really to blame for her mother’s accident? It’s probably a matter of how you look at it. Carol did not do it directly or intentionally of course, and there was no way she would have known that running away would lead to it. Besides, as Aunt Sally says, running away or even contemplating it is something kids do frequently, and Dad is guilty of it himself. Directly, it was because Mum was not looking when she crossed the road, but that was because she was distraught, and Carol did trigger in motion the events that led to it. Dad blames Carol, Carol blames herself, Aunt Sally does not blame Carol at all, and what Mum thinks is not recorded, but when she reappears in the story it looks like she holds no grudges. Is it really Carol’s fault through what lawyers call causation, or was it just one of those things and extremely rotten luck?

One thing is certain: it does more harm than good to harbour hatred over the incident, and forgiveness and serious counselling are far better for everyone concerned.

Jill’s Jumping Jack [1985]

Published: Debbie Picture Story Library #85

Artist: David Matysiak

Plot

Jill Watson has always wanted a pony but her farmer father can’t afford one. Jill’s solution: ride a cow named Jack instead. This draws the scorn of two riders, neighbour Eunice Bowman and her snobby friend Amanda Price. They scare Jack into a gallop, which makes him jump a hedge and Jill to fall off. Realising things have gotten out of hand there, they manage to catch the bolting cow, but Jill is furious with them.

When Dad discovers Jill had an accident with Jack he is adamant that Jack has to go, and he will be sold at market. He won’t listen to Jill’s protests that it wasn’t Jack’s fault.

Jill takes Jack out for one last ride and discovers Eunice and Amanda have set up jumps on Long Meadow. She tells the cheeky things to stop trespassing and clear off her father’s property, but Eunice and Amanda say not to be so sure about that.

It’s not long before Jill finds out what they mean: Mr Bowman has found a document that enables him to challenge the Watsons’ ownership of Long Meadow at the Little Chiddington Point-to-Point Race. This arrangement was set up generations ago when the same thing caused a neighbour dispute with their ancestors. Dad consults his lawyer, but finds he’s stuck with it. It’s legal: if the Watsons lose Long Meadow at the point-to-point, they will go bankrupt and lose their home. So they have to find a horse for the point-to-point. Eunice will represent the Bowmans at the point-to-point.

Meanwhile, Jack escaped when Dad tried to take him to market and he has not been found. He did a lot of jumping over hedges while getting away. So when Jill eventually finds him, it hits her – use Jack as her mount to win the point-to-point. That way, Dad will change his mind and not get rid of Jack. In the meantime, she keeps Jack hidden in an old shed. She also checks out the point-to-point rules, in case there is a rule against non-horses. Colonel Dempster, who is organising the point-to-point, is quite surprised at Jill’s query, but can find no rule saying outright that the mount has to be a horse: “As far as I can see you can enter the family goat if you like!”

Dad, who knows nothing of what Jill is planning with Jack, has borrowed a horse, Scimitar, for the race, but is not fit enough to ride him. He has to take to his bed after trying, but won’t listen to reason. He continues to train, regardless of his condition. In the end it takes doctor’s orders to put an end to that. Scimitar is too big for Jill to use.

Meanwhile, Jill and Jack begin training in earnest, using the jumps Eunice and Amanda have so kindly set up in Long Meadow. When the two bullies tease her about it, Jack really sends them off. But then they discover where she is hiding Jack and hide her saddle. Jill is forced to ride Jack bareback and the bullies are shocked when she gets badly hurt trying to do so. They send for help anonymously and then guilt has them quietly return the saddle.

But Dad’s view of Jack has not changed and he locks him in the cowshed, ready for sale. Jill, now recovered from her fall, resumes her training with Jack regardless. Jill hauls Dad out of bed to show him what she can do with Jack – tackle the most difficult jump of the point-to-point, Foster’s Dike. Once Dad sees Jack clear the jump that so many horses have shied at, he finally relents, and gives Jack and Jill his blessing for entering the point-to-point. So Jill sends in her entry form. The Colonel is a bit surprised at Jill entering a cow, but hey, it isn’t against the rules, remember?

At first Eunice and Amanda are laughing at Jill entering Jack in the point-to-point. But when they see what serious competition Jack and Jill have become, they decide to pull a dirty trick instead. They leave Jack in Benning’s Pond overnight to make him too ill to enter the event. By the time Jill finds him he has indeed become ill from a bug he caught in the pond, and his condition worsens so much they fear for his life.

The vet isn’t able to do much, but Dad recalls Mr Darbury knows a lot of old-fashioned animal remedies. Fortunately, Mr Darbury has experience with cows catching the same bug in that pond and makes up the remedy he used for them. Jack responds to this treatment. Mr Darbury is confident Jack will recover in time for the point-to-point, and he does.

Eunice and Amanda are surprised and dismayed at Jack and Jill turning up at the point-to-point. Jill has realised they put Jack in the pond, and she tells them it’s revenge time by beating them at the event.

At first Amanda and Eunice get the lead on Jill once the race begins. But Jack soon proves himself a better jumper than their mounts and is catching up. Amanda goes down once Jack catches up with her, much to Jill’s satisfaction. But Jill has to catch up with the others and the only way to do so is tackle Foster’s Dike, the jump that the other point-to-point riders have avoided and gone the long way around. They clear the Dike and get ahead of all the other riders except Eunice. On the final lap Jack and Jill are neck and neck with Eunice, but pull ahead and cross the finishing line first. They have saved their home.

Thoughts

The idea of a show-jumping cow is not as absurd as it might sound. There have in fact been real-life cases of riders training cows as show jumpers. Often this is because, like Jill, their parents can’t or won’t let them have horses. The writer was probably inspired by such cases. Nor was this the first girls’ story to feature a show-jumping cow; Bunty, for example, ran a serial about a show-jumping cow, “Broncho Buttercup”, in 1970.

While Broncho Buttercup was played for laughs, Jill’s Jumping Jack has a more serious mission. He is the only hope the Watsons have of saving their farm. In addition, he has to prove his worth in order to avoid being unjustly put down.

Many of the obstacles Jill and Jack face are pretty routine and have been done before, but they still work and keep up the tension well. Jealous rivals pulling dirty tricks when not heaping scorn on our protagonist. Parents out to get rid of our heroine’s beloved pet after getting angry for the wrong reason. Parent/relative being stubborn about winning for the sake of the family and having a hard time accepting that the spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak. The protagonist having to hide the pet while getting him ready for the big event because she can’t train him openly. The animal falling ill (or disappearing) so close to the event and must recover in the nick of time.

If Jack were a horse the story would be even more routine. It’s him being a cow that makes it more interesting and catches the reader’s eye. In fact, the biggest obstacle and the most novel one of all is Jack proving his show-jumping worth as a cow. Even without the other obstacles thrown at them, Jack would still face ridicule as a show-jumper because he’s a cow and everyone would be laughing at him at the point-to-point. We’re not shown any of that, though, probably because the story can only fit so many panels into its page limit. The only scorn we get to see comes from those two snobs.

The title “Jill’s Jumping Jack” is clearly a play on jumping jacks and Jack and Jill. It may be funny punning, but there is one problem with this. If Jack is a cow, cows are female, and therefore Jack should be a female and have a female name and female pronouns. On the other hand, Jack does not appear to have an udder.

Glenda Greeneyes [1984]

Plot

Glenda Johnson’s cousin Julie comes to stay. However, things keep going wrong around Julie, which gives everyone, even Glenda’s parents, the impression that Glenda is jealous of her. This, combined with Glenda having green eyes, has people calling her “Glenda Greeneyes”. Eventually Glenda gets so fed up with the moniker and unjust accusations of jealousy and spite that she writes to her grandmother for help.

Notes

Drawn by same artist as “I’ll Get Rid of Rona!” from Tracy.

Appeared

  • Glenda Greeneyes Tracy: #228 (February 11 1984) – #237 (April 14 1984)