Category Archives: Diana

Paula and the Wasps of Terror / Paula [1966]

  • Paula and the Wasps of Terror –  Diana: #187 (17 September 1966) – #196 (19 November 1966)
  • Reprinted as Paula   Spellbound:  #22 (19 February 1977) – #31 (23 April 1977)

Plot

Paula Spencer is a brilliant young violinist, whose career is derailed after an accident. After her first big concert, while driving home, the car suddenly starts to fill with wasps. Her father, Sir William Spencer, a high court judge, loses control of the car and they crash. Paula’s music instructor is killed in the crash and her father is left badly injured. Paula injures her hand, and her father worries he has ruined her career. In order to help her father, she is determined to play violin again, but the injury to her hand isn’t the biggest obstacle she has to overcome, it’s her new fear of wasps  (spheksophobia). What she doesn’t know is her new teacher Mahsud Krishnan is using this fear against her as he has a vendetta against Sir William.

Krishnan sprays flowers near Paula with a powder that attracts wasps, and places a wasp in her violin case. When Paula can’t go on playing for her father because of the wasp, he relapses due to worry of her ruined career. Paula’s fear gets so great, she does not want to leave her house, she practices her violin in a boarded room, which does seem to help with her progress. This does not make Krishnan happy though, he suggests she makes a recording for her father, only for a wasp to appear in the middle of the recording. He plays an edited version to Sir William making it sound like Paula hates the violin and can’t have it near her. This causes Sir William to have another relapse. Paula does find an ally when she is assigned a young physiotherapist, Hilary Dewar, to help with her recovery. Not only does Hilary help with  Paula’s hand, she also wants to help her overcome her fear of wasps and is the first to suspect someone is working against Paula.

Hilary finds out Paula’s violin has golden acacia scent on it which attracts wasps, and she also listens to the tampered recording, so now they know someone is out to get Sir William. For first time Paula is able to play for her father without problems and Sir William shows signs of improvement. Paula’s confidence grows especially after Hilary gives her a wasp repellent spray, but again it is tampered with and ends up attracting wasps while she plays for her father and she ends up with several stings on her hand. Later at home, Hilary convinces Paula the spray is safe, but when she uses it to kill a wasp, she accidentally gets spray in Krishnan’s eyes. He is angry thinking he is blinded, and his motivation for being against the Spencers is first hinted at, as he says “first my brother and now me – thanks, to the Spencers!” (Really at this stage, Hilary who overhears this remark should be able to figure out who is behind these attacks!). There is no permanent damage to his eyes and so he is able to play his next trick, sneaking a queen wasp into Paula’s violin case. Hilary drives them into a lake to escape the wasps.

The hospital is to have a concert, and not only is Paula going to play violin at it, she also gets Krishnan to teach her to play the sitar after hearing him play. The Indian music is not the pleasant surprise for Sir William that Paula had planned and then wasps attack and Paula does not want to play her violin piece. Krishnan convinces Sir William that Hilary is at fault for letting Paula play tennis, interrupting her studies, so he tells Hilary she must leave. This leaves Paula alone and vulnerable, to Krishnan’s schemes. Luckily Hilary still wants to look out for Paula, so she stays close by, keeping a watch on the house. This is very fortunate when Paula’s is chased from the house by a swarm of wasps, Hilary rescues her and takes her to stay in a yacht. She is going to keep her safe until they find out who is trying to harm her. Hilary asks Paula, why her father would be sad when hearing Indian music, she guesses it may have reminded him of her mother who was killed in Delhi. Meanwhile Krishnan is still working against the Spencers, telling Sir William, that Paula is missing feared drowned! This causes him to collapse and doctor’s fear he won’t recover.

Paula is contacted and is able to play the violin over the phone, rousing Sir William from unconsciousness. A week later, Paula is asked to appear on a televised concert with Krishnan conducting. Things start off well until she is attacked by a wasp again and runs off stage. Hilary talks to her and points out someone is using her to harm her father. Paula covers herself in wasp repellent and returns, concentrating only on making her father well again. As the camera’s were able to cover up Paula running off stage, Sir William is indeed happy to see Paula do so well. Meanwhile Hilary has continued with her investigation. She has found out that Mahsud Krishnan’s brother, Akbar, tried to assassinate Sir William but shot Mrs Spencer instead and was sentenced to life in prison. Krishnan’s tries one last attempt to get at Paula, by handing her flowers with 3 queen wasps. Hilary knocks the flowers out of his hands and also knocks the vial containing the wasp attraction liquid that Krishnan had been using. It splashes over him and he is attacked by a swarm of wasps. He makes it to water, but is taken to hospital to be treated for bad stings and shock. With their enemy now revealed, even more good news follows, as Sir William is well enough to return home. Paula also has overcome her fear of wasps with the defeat of Krishnan, and they can all enjoy her playing “The Wasps” by Vaughn Williams.

Thoughts

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, Spellbound gained a lot from the Diana comic, including some reprints and I can see how this would be a choice for a reprint.  Krishnan is quite devious, and while the reader knows he is behind the attacks, his motivations are still a mystery that needs to be solved. What makes this story stick in my mind more, is the wasps, as who wouldn’t be unsettled by the thought of being attacked by a swarm of wasps! I find it little odd that Spellbound shortened the title of this story to the plainer “Paula” considering “the Wasps of Terror” would be fitting with the comic’s themes and would evoke a certain image in readers mind. The art itself does portray the wasps as terrifying, as Paula so desperately tries to escape them.

The art, the wasps as a threat, Paula’s fear, Sir William’s life in jeopardy, Krishnan’s schemes and mystery of why he is doing this, all work well for the story. What doesn’t work so well, is that the characters can be quite frustrating at times! Firstly, Sir William being so devastated by possibly ruining his daughter’s career, while understandable to a degree, it seems like an over reaction that any falter by Paula and he’s convinced her violin days are over. Also though he is in a weak state, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s explained she has developed fear of wasps that is what is stopping her playing, not her hand (or if they have explained, he hasn’t listened). Secondly, is how slow people are to suspect Krishnan! Quite early on (in episode 4) Hilary suspects someone is out to get Sir William through Paula, while she eventually figures out who’s responsible and why, it seems to take a long time to get there. You would think it would have to be someone close to Paula to be able to spray her items with the scent that attracts wasps and with the tampered recording that Krishnan gave to Sir William, he should be a suspect. But even after Krishnan’s mention of his brother and implication of Spencers wronging him, he is continually allowed to teach Paula and play at concerts with her. Possibly as we don’t know all of Hilary’s thoughts, she may have been doing more secret investigations into him but couldn’t do anything against him until she had solid evidence, but if this is the case it doesn’t come across well in the story.

Another observation I had was the Spencers are a wealthy white family and to have an Indian as a villain, at a time when colonization of India hadn’t long ended, stands out to me. As these comics in general had a majority of white protagonists, it’s a shame that when other people were represented it was often in the role of a villain. There is an Indian doctor that appears in one episode, that lends Paula a sitar, but has no role other than that. Aside from that I am curious about Krishnan’s brother, while we know  that he is what motivates Krishnan’s act of vengeance, we don’t know why he tried to shoot Sir William in the first place. While that may be a question that would have been too much to get into for a short story aimed at young girls, it is still interesting to muse about such things when reading it today.

I think the strongest part of the story is Paula’s fear of wasps, which comes from a traumatic experience, and while Krishnan had nothing to do with that, he does use it to his advantage greatly afterwards. He does get a taste of his own medicine as he is attacked by wasps and left in shock. We don’t learn what happens to him after that, but I do wonder if he develops a fear of wasps as a suitable punishment! Paula’s fear is perhaps a bit quickly overcome in the end, but knowing that most of the wasp attacks were because of another person’s actions, it would make sense that when that person is gone, to feel less threatened.

The Spaceship in Our Kitchen

Plot

A band of aliens, the Jinjees, take up residence in the kitchen of the Hugget family while their spaceship recharges. It is plugged into the kitchen light flex for the very purpose. The Jinjees threaten to “supercallifrate” the Huggets if they tell anyone, but also make themselves helpful to the Huggets. They cook them meals, make them cups of tea, fetch their slippers, etc.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Spaceship in Our Kitchen – Diana: circa #332 (19 April 1969) – (?)

The Pink Peril [1965]

Plot

Britain is invaded by the Starpeople and their giant pink butterflies, dubbed “Pinkies”. They change the winter season to a tropical climate, which causes the flora and fauna to grow at astonishing speed. The Pinkies emit a spray that renders people unconscious. Mandy Muir, her cousin Joan, Professor Trymer and writer Andrew Wilson become immune to the spray after one exposure. While Mandy is separated from the others, the Starpeople try to assure her they mean no harm, but she does not believe them.

(The Pink Peril – Diana 1965)

A remake of this story was published in Debbie with art by Norman Lee and some character name changes. Britain is invaded by the Starpeople and their giant pink butterflies, dubbed “Pinkies”, who change Britain’s autumn season to a tropical climate. Mandy Traynor and her family are the only ones who seem to be immune to the effects of the Pinkies, which emit a sleep-inducing spray. Then the Traynors meet soldiers, who mean to destroy the Starpeople and their Pinkies.

(The Pink Peril – Debbie 1978, Art: Norman Lee)

Notes

  • The story originally appeared in Diana, then a remake of the story was published in Debbie in 1978, with Norman Lee as the artist.

Appeared

  • The Pink Peril – Diana #140 (23 October 1965) – (?)
  • Reprinted [with new art] – Debbie: #289 (26 August 1978)  – #296 (14 October 1978)

 

Diana Annual 1966

Picture Stories

  • The White Stag (Pages: 7-12)
  • The World Beyond (Pages: 20-25)
  • Wendy Who? (Pages: 27-31)
  • The Poor Miller’s Boys (Pages: 49-52)
  • The Spells of Pauline (Pages: 53-56)
  • Jane – Model Miss (Pages: 57-61)
  • Mystery with Anita (Pages: 70-74)
  • Handy Mandy and Pal Val (Pages: 82-86)
  • The Eileen Joyce Story (Pages: 94-96)
  • Nursing with Norma (Pages: 107-108)

Text Stories

  • Humphrey the Story of a Donkey (Pages: 38-39)
  • Learn a Lesson From – A Pony Called Fizzle (Pages: 44-45)
  • The Lucky Lollipops (Pages: 87-90)
  • The Gondoliers (Pages: 92-93)
  • After the Long Sleep (Pages: 98-99)
  • A Million to One (Pages: 103-106)
  • The Small Men (Pages: 120-121)

Features

  • Capital Cities from the Air (Pages: 2-3,126-127)
  • Diana for Girls (Pages: 4-5)
  • Sport (Pages: 6-7)
  • Ups and Downs (Pages: 13)
  • Olympiad (Pages: 14-15)
  • Looking for a New Sport? Y’Ought to try a Yacht (Pages: 16)
  • Many Hands (Pages: 17)
  • Puzzles (Pages: 18-19)
  • Looking Forward (Pages: 26)
  • Sally the Laugh of the Ballet (Pages: 32)
  • London Dance Theatre (Pages: 33)
  • Underwater Ballet (Pages: 34-35)
  • Ballet Rambert (Pages: 36)
  • Pony Parade (Pages: 37)
  • A Horse – About the House (Pages: 40-41)
  • Pony Care (Pages: 42-43)
  • Pony Puzzle Time (Pages: 46)
  • Witches at War (Pages: 47)
  • Be My Ghost (Pages: 48)
  • Wedding Belles (Pages: 62)
  • Camera Cat (Pages: 63)
  • Hits and Misses 1900-1965 (Pages: 64)
  • Film Fashions (Pages: 65)
  • Mad-Caps (Pages: 66)
  • Going Places, Helping People (Pages: 67)
  • Big Dusty (Pages: 68-69)
  • Survival Course (Pages: 75)
  • Bali (Pages: 76)
  • Pretty as a Picture in a Cosy Polo Collar (Pages: 77)
  • Let’s Make a Picture (Pages: 78-79)
  • Cupboard Care (Pages: 80)
  • Handy Mandy’s Star Tip (Pages: 81)
  • The Language of Music (Pages: 91)
  • Home Sweet Home (Pages: 97)
  • Animal Antics (Pages: 100-101)
  • On Guard! (Pages: 102)
  • Smart Girls! (Pages: 109)
  • Home Nurse (Pages: 110)
  • The Teeny-Weeny Ones (Pages: 111)
  • Dogs’ Tales (Pages: 112)
  • Dog Stars (Pages: 113)
  • Good Show! (Pages: 114-115)
  • Pixie Goes to School (Pages: 116)
  • Pictures in the Sky (Pages: 117)
  • The Quest for the Golden Fleece (Pages: 118-119)
  • What Others Believe (Pages: 122-125)

(Click on thumbnails for bigger pictures)

Diana Annual 1982

Picture Stories

  • The Joker (Pages: 7-12)
  • Anna’s Story (Pages: 21-29/ 117-124)
  • Smith V Smythe (Pages: 33-42)
  • A Man in Black Story: In an English Country Garden… (Pages: 49-59)
  • Black Wedding Day (Pages: 66-73)
  • Village of Fear (Pages: 85-96)
  • When the Snow Lay Deep… (Pages: 97-104)

Text Stories

  • The Twelve Dolls of Christmas (Pages: 30-32)
  • Becky’s Night Visitor (Pages: 112-113)

Features

  • Olivia Newton John (Page: 6)
  • The Fangtastic Five (Page: 13)
  • Golden Greats – Elvis (Page: 14)
  • Star of the Sawdust Ring (Pages: 15-19)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Visit? (Page: 20)
  • Fact File: Bjorn Borg (Pages: 32)
  • Ello…’Ello…’Ello… (Pages: 43-45)
  • Your Personality Perfume (Pages: 46-47)
  • Golden Greats – Cliff (Pages: 48)
  • A Dream Come Through (Pages: 60-63)
  • Meet Richard O’Sullivan (Pages: 64-65)
  • Style and Smile (Pages: 74-75)
  • Golden Greats – The Beatles (Pages: 76)
  • Ask a Silly Question (Pages: 77)
  • Fact File Trevor Eve (Pages: 77-78)
  • Fancy Dressers (Pages: 79)
  • Can You Believe Your Eyes? (Pages: 80-81)
  • Quik – Quiz (Pages: 82-83)
  • Golden Greats – The Osmonds (Pages: 84)
  •  Your Days are Numbered! (Pages: 109-111)
  • Bewitchin’  in the Kitchen (Pages: 114-115)
  • Golden Greats – The Bee Gees (Pages: 116)
  • Abba (Pages: 125)

Diana 1969

Comic Annuals were a very popular present at Christmas, which is why I like to take look at an annual around this time of year. Usually the books would have some Christmas reference, but not always, as I assume it would appeal better for re-reading if it wasn’t just set all about the holiday. This annual has 2 stories that are set at Christmas time, Mandy the Thirteenth and Life with Miss Peake – Ugh!

Diana is one of the comics that I only have a few issues of, but it’s influence carried on in other comics, particularly Spellbound and Debbie. This annual is full of stories and features that would appeal to many. I like that the Diana covers for the annuals consistently (bar one) used a black background, which makes it distinctive from other annuals. After 1975, the covers depicted a photo girl but before that it was always a hand-drawn blonde girl which contrasted well with the dark background. (For just a list of contents go to the next page)

Picture Stories

The Girls from N.O.O.D.L.E.S  (Pages: 6-11)

Gail Price and Nicola Main are agents for N.O.O.D.L.E.S. (National Orgainisation for Order Discipline and Law Enforcement in Schools). At their secret headquarters, Miss Z, informs them about top athletes who have disappeared from their schools and tells of a lead about where they might be. One of the missing girls was found wandering around near Ben Vornich, Scotland, talking of gold. Gail and Nicola, parachute in to investigate Firtree College. On their way they see some of the missing girls  being led into a cave by armed men, but when they go to get a closer look, the cave entrance seems to have vanished.

They continue their investigation at Firtree College, but the schoolgirls there, appear happy and healthy. Then a bedraggled girl runs towards them trying to escape guards, they help her escape and she shows them where the other missing girls are hidden. Gail and Nicole are carrying super vitamins, that will help the girls recover their strength and together they overpower the guards and confront the person behind the scheme. It seems the respected headmistress, is actually Karl Minden, top criminal and an expert at disguise. He was using Firtree as a cover and recruited strong girls to mine gold for him in a hidden cave. After showing the girls the secret panel to the cave he tries to escape, but Nicola shoots down an icicle onto his head.  The real headmistress is recovered (off-panel) and the girls can be returned to their proper schools.

Mary Brown’s Schooldays (Pages: 12-17)

Mary Brown a scholarship girl at St Winifred’s, is surprised when Miss Cragg , an old teacher returns to the school. She had earned the nickname, Craggy Monster by treating the class like they were army recruits, but now is acting very friendly. Unfortunately she has gone to other extreme, now treating them like young primary kids. This annoys the girls so much that they make plans to make the “monster” come back, including bringing toys to classroom, flying Cragg’s  flag on the chimney and ambushing her while she’s out on a walk. Only the last plan works, but not in the way they expected! Unfortunately for them the army is doing exercises in the moor at same time, and there are tanks heading straight for the girls, until Cragg yells out orders to divert the tanks. Afterwards, Miss Cragg leaves the school again, and Mary and the others feel guilty. A few weeks later Mary’s happy to see Miss Cragg, lecturing about the Army at a careers lecture, and she hopes she has now found the ideal job.

How Kathy Tricked a Ghost   (Pages: 33-36)

This is a story from Diana’s resident spooky storyteller, The Man in Black. Kathy Martin arrives at Hogarth Hall for a holiday with her foster parents. Hogarth Hall is maintained by her great aunt Agatha and there is one room Agatha tells Kathy not to go near. But her curiosity piqued she does visit it and sees a picture of a sad girl beside a creepy woman. That night Kathy is visited by the ghost of the girl. She asks her to play with her the next day, but when she goes to where she says, the door leads nowhere and she nearly falls to her death. Agatha explains the spirit of the girl will roam until she finds someone to take her place. Once again the ghost tries to get Kathy to meet her at a dangerous place. Kathy gives her another chance not believing she could be evil, but after another attempt on her life, she comes up with a plan to defeat the ghost. She agrees to meet the ghost by the cliff the next day. After she seemingly falls off the cliff, it is revealed that the ghost is actually the cruel governess seeking revenge on the Martins after her dismissal. Now her spirit is free and she will no longer haunt the hall. She will never know that it was actually just a dummy that fell off the cliff, not Kathy, and the portrait now holds only a smiling girl.

Mandy the Thirteenth (Pages: 39-43, 46)

Mandy Martin is the 13th child of a large family and always seems to have bad luck. Her horoscope for the day tells her “Her lucky number is 3, lucky colour is orange, a good day for money matters and watch out for an unexpected trip”. Her lucky number 3 doesn’t seem to work out as she gets injured helping a mother with triplets, and takes a dip in the pond trying to rescue a 3rd duckling. Things seem to brighten up as she asked to model an orange dress and gets 10 shilling note as payment. But then it gets blown away. Someone does pick it up at Santa’s grotto and in her rush to claim it she trips over some oranges and pulls down Santa’s beard. She recognises  him as a pickpocket and gets rewarded from the store for unmasking him.

Emergency Nurse Gwen   (Pages: 49-54)

In this bizarre story, Gwen gets a mysterious call, and when she goes to answer it, she is taken on a helicopter, (voluntarily) drugged and dropped in a strange place. She is then attacked by a metal monster but is relieved to find some airman, though their aircraft looks more like a spaceship. When one of the men starts freaking out, Gwen sedates him, averting a crisis. She finally gets an explanation, with the advancement of space travel and hopes to colonise planets,  it was all a test to see how a medical professional would act on a space colony, it seems Gwen would be an ideal candidate whenever such a thing happens.

Mascot of the Ballet (Pages: 62-67)

This story is narrated by Pelly the cat. His owner is Anice who is part of a ballet company and they have made him their mascot. Lucky for them, as Pelly raises the alarm when the hotel they are staying  at goes on fire. The Laird of Strathbey offers to put the company up in his ancestral home for the meantime, but Pelly gets a bad feeling about the Laird. Strange things do happen as valuable items go missing, one of which is found in Anice’s bag! The police are informed and Anice is under suspicion. Then Pelly follows the Laird and finds out he is an imposter when he sees the real Laird tied up in a cave. With the help of wildcat and gamekeeper, Pelly manages to get the real Laird free. It seems the Laird’s twin brother was setting things up to pay off his debts by stealing from the house and have ballet company take the fall. He also set the fire in the hotel so he could have the ballet company stay. Quite the elaborate plot!

The Mermaids   (Pages: 76-80)

The Mermaids, a team of synchronized swimmers, taught by Dot Cameron, are chosen to be the carnival queen’s attendants. Then the carnival queen Joyce goes missing. Their search for her is of no avail until Joyce’s dog shows up. Leading the team to an old wreck, they find Joyce unconscious after she had tripped while exploring. The Mermaids rouse her and are able to swim her to safety on a makeshift raft. The publicity ensures the festival is a great success.

Wedding Belle  (Pages: 81-86)

Belle Richards enjoys going to weddings, which is lucky for a disorganized couple. She sorts out their problems – acting as an usher, finding a last minute organist and even fetching the groom who was sitting at the wrong church! The Mother of the Bride is surprised she is not family or friend, she just came to watch. She invites Belle to the reception as a thank you for her help (and just in case other problems arise!).

Ingrid at Push-Button Academy (Pages: 89-94)

Ingrid Bergan attends the progressive school Push Button Academy built by her father, a professor.  The Professor enters the school  into a competition for the most attractive school. Ironically when showing off a replica of the magnetic pole, it seems it is too attractive as the magnetism pulls the belongings of the inspectors to the pole. The inspectors leave not happy with these events. While trying to readjust it so the magnetism isn’t so strong, Ingrid becomes temporarily magnetized in the process. So now all metal things fly to her. This works to her advantage, when it helps her stop a thief in the hotel the inspectors are staying at. So the inspectors give the school another chance.

Jane Model Miss (Pages: 98-103)

Business is slow for Jane Morgan, so she accepts a sudden offer by an American, Mr Glanville, to design and model swimsuits from his fabrics and as part of the deal she must teach is daughter April to be a model. But it seems April is awkward and clumsy. Mr Glanville still wants her to model but even he;s not keen for her to model his swimsuits and asks Jane to keep her away. Jane does this by locking her in a cupboard but April breaks out and slips into the pool. Luckily she is elegant in the water, impressing the potential clients and so she becomes their action model.

Starr of Wonderland (Pages: 105-110)

While auditioning for a new King Arthur for Wonderland, Diana Starr has her work cut out or her when two feuding fathers try out. Their daughters, Wendy and Sue, are good friends and are tired of their dad’s fighting. They are both are up to tricks to undermine each other’s audition such as Mr Marshall loosening Excalibur so Mr Booth falls over when he gives it a big tug. Then Mr Marshall accidentally sets a fire in a tower putting their daughters at risk. They have to work together to save them, after which they put their feud behind them. As for the part of King Arthur, Diana says they can each take the part every other day while the other plays Sir Lancelot.

Sadie Macbeth (Pages: 114-119)

Sadie Macbeth’s class are visiting the McPorridge castle on a school trip, but are disappointed when the grouchy Hamish McPorridge says the castle is closed for the afternoon. Sadie summons her three witch friends, Prue, Vinny and Cassie to help. Unfortunately while casting a spell, Vinny thoughts wander to the famous Macbeth, who stayed in the castle, which brings forth him and Lady Macbeth. The two Macbeths chase Hamish from the castle and the witches have a hard time getting rid of them as their spells  don’t work out as they want them too. Finally after turning some bagpipes into a giant octopus then into a balloon, they are whisked away and the grateful Hamish gives the class a tour.

Lorna at Court  (Pages: 122-125)

Lorna Butterwick has won a trip to Paris by entering a historical essay contest. After eating some cheese sandwiches her mother gave her, she falls asleep. She finds herself in the Palace of Tuileries in 1791, witnessing Marie Antoinette’s attempts to escape with her family, Lorna admires her brave actions, though she ends up back in her own time before she sees the royals final fate. Still she is able to write an article about Marie Antoinette’s heroic attempts to save her family, for her school magazine

Text Stories

Life With Miss Peake – Ugh!  (Pages: 37-38)

A girl dreads her new assignment from her horrible sewing mistress, Miss Peake. The class are to make their own fancy dress costume for a Christmas party.  She puts it off until the last minute and then finds out that her mom has given away her material! With little options left, she rents a costume, but is found out when she wears the top inside out ad the shop’s tag is clear for everyone to see. As she is sorry and it is Christmas she gets off with a light punishment.

Nothing But the Best- for Cousin Gertrude (Pages: 47-48)

Elizabeth and her friend Felicity prepare for the arrival of Cousin Gertrude, how they assume as well travelleved person will be used to the best. Everything’s a disaster, but when Gertude arrives she soon puts things right and proves not to be as uptight as they were expecting.

The Loneliness of Being Sandra  (Pages: 87-88)

Sandra joins her aunt at a skiing holiday but finds it lonely as the others people her age don’t seem too friendly. When her aunt suggest she might have been showing off too much with her skiing skills,  Sandra begins to pretends to not be as great a skier as she actually is. This works but then has to reveal her secret when the weather turns on a trip and she has to go get help, luckily her new friends have already accepted her at this stage, and are impressed by her heroics.

The Girl With the Magic Touch   (Pages: 95-96)

Rosemary isn’t too happy when her family move into an old Victorian house so they have space for her Gran to live with them. This is made worse when her friend Betty gets her room turned into a modern den, while Rosemary is still stuck sharing a room with her sister. She also finds Gran critical but does take her suggestion of checking out the attic as potential room of her her own. After finding old chest, with diary she decides to decorate in Victorian style and does most of the work herself. She ends up bonding with Gran when she helps with the curtains and understands the importance of having a place of your own doesn’t change when older.

Features

Diana was a book that was known for it’s informative features, the early issues of the weekly comic had a “Getting-to-Know” section, that told facts in an interesting and often story-like manner. There are many interesting features, some more simply straightforward facts, others told in a a more story-like manner, as well as popular creative and quiz features.

There are two story – type features in this annual, The Village That Died  (Page: 55),  which tells the story of Eyam village where in the 17th century most people died of the plague after receiving parcel from London. The other story feature I go into more detail below –

On Holiday With – Claudia/ Eleanor/  Anne/ Lucy  (Pages: 18-23)

Four different girls, from different time periods share what their holidays were like. This was good way to relate to the readers of the same age.  Firstly there is Claudia a Roman girl of the 2nd century tells of a holiday to her uncle’s in Roman Briton, where she had family feasts (though the children were expected to stay quiet), played ball games with her cousins, watched chariot races, shopped in the Forum and relaxed in the public baths.

Eleanor, from the 14th century, along with her hooded hawk, Visits the shrine of St Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. She travels with a group of pilgrims, along the way seeing entertainment of jugglers and dancing bears. At Canterbury, she is blessed by bishop and buys a puppet from a toymaker.

Anne, from the 16th century, visits her uncle in London, which is quite a change from her country life. She gets to see one of Shakespeare’s new plays, ride on a boat in the river Thames and see Queen Elizabeth as she leaves London for the Summer.

Lucy, from the days of Queen Anne of the 18th century, visits friends in the country, accompanied by her maid. Outside they played battledore and shuttlecock, if it rained they played the spinet and at night looked at the stars. A travelling artist does her portrait which will be a keepsake for the holiday.

 

Other Features:

Informative Pieces:

  • Festivals and Fun  (Pages: 25-31)
    • Information about different festivals/ carnivals, including; St Lucia’s Day – Sweden, Battle of Flowers – Jersey, Carnival of Nice – France  and many others
  • Tales of the Trees  (Pages: 56-61)
    • The Elder – The Fairy Tale Tree
    • The Hawthorn – The Omen Tree
    • The Apple – The Tree of Good Health
    • The Peach – The Tree of Eastern Legend
    • The Oak – Samson of the Forest
    • The Birch – The Witching Tree
  • Dances of the World  (Pages: 72-75)
    • Different dances from Golden Greece, Merrie England and France
  • The Wonderland of Dolls  (Pages: 111-113)
    • Split into the subheadings of; The Toys that Saved a Village, Dance Little Doll, and Dolls at War
  • Fairies in Ballet  (Pages: 120-121)
    • Photos and captions of fairy characters in the Ballet such as Titania, Lilac Fairy and Carabosse

There also two poems with accompanying photos

  • Join the Crew  (Page: 24)
  • Hooray for Holidays  (Page: 32)

Finally  there are the more participatory/ creative activities

  • Secrets of the Palm  (Pages: 44-45) [A guide to reading palms]
  • Ballet Quiz  (Pages: 68-71)
  • Knit this Super Smarty Top/ Hairstyles for the Modern Miss  (Page: 97)
  • A Sweater and Hat to Knit for Snow Time  (Page: 104)

 

Final Thoughts

As this isn’t a book I grow up with, but got later, it doesn’t evoke the same nostalgia as other books, so it’s somewhat of a mixed bag for me. Majority of the artwork is impressive as is the colouring (Jane Model Miss is a stand out for me), there are some good stories, but others I found had convoluted plots or were just unappealing to me. Although I would say at least none of the stories are boring!

Stories that had some of the more ridiculous plots, in the case of complicated villain plans we have The Girls from NOODLES and Mascot of the Ballet.  I’m more forgiving of NOODLES as it’s more in keeping with the spy antics and I have a soft spot for stories that take inspiration from The Man from U.NC.L.E. / James Bond, so I do actually like that story. Mascot on the other hand the villains plan to to burn down hotel so he can get a ballet troop to stay in the house, frame them for stealing  and presumably kill his brother, so he can pay off debts in London, seems extreme! Of course having such elaborate schemes is nothing new for these books, but sometimes it works better than others.

The story I had the most problems with was Emergency Nurse Gwen. While it may have had a more “grounded” explanation, for  the “alien monster” the whole set up seems surreal. I feel this may work with a different type of story but is not suited for this character.  For example there have been stories where nurse is put in a bizarre situation like “Pam on the Purple Planet” which is fine because that is the set up of the story, but Emergency Nurse Gwen I’d expect a story more in keeping with the problem solving character who may have have found herself in some unusual situations but more down to earth. The biggest issue I have is her reaction to the situation first the people won’t tell her where they are taking her   and then she is persuaded to be drugged! That would trigger so many warnings these days and the entire experiment is unethical, the dumped her in this situation video taped her reactions without any explanation. Then she is perfectly fine with that when they finally do explain, I really think this story wouldn’t pass today!

It’s not all negative though, there are many stories I liked. I thought Life with Miss Peake -Ugh! was amusingly written and I liked Wedding Belle, it is simple premise yet moved along quickly as Belle diverts one disaster or another at the wedding. Mandy the Thirteenth is also a fun read, and while it’s not the focus of the plot it’s nice to have the festive setting. One odd thing about that story is the last page of the story is preceded by a feature about palm reading. While longer stories are sometimes split up in annuals, it’s quite unusual to just separate one page.

Throughout the book the art, and colours when used are top quality. The feature On Holiday with…  has lovely art making every time period distinctive. Jane Model Miss has my favourite art in the book, I enjoyed the story, though the characters can come off a bit mean-spirited for not giving April a chance because she  is clumsy, as she seems perfectly nice otherwise. I’m glad that things work out for her! I also enjoyed Starr of Wonderland but because it only shows Mr Marshall’s tricks (coupled with him starting the fire)and just tells us of Booth’s tricks, it makes things uneven and Marshall comes off less sympathetic. How Kathy Tricked a Ghost is a fine addition to the spooky stories, which usually work well in annuals as they add variety and often work best in the short form. Again there are some questionable plot points, but it is fine.

So despite some criticism still enjoyable read, I would think if I had read this when I was younger I’d be less critical, with the nostalgia goggles on! Still I always find to read any comic annual at this time of year does get me in festive mood!

 

The Strange Ones [1964]

  • The Strange Ones – Diana: #61 (18 April 1964) – #72 (04 July 1964)
  • Reprinted – Spellbound: #23 (26 February 1977) – #34 (14 May 1977)

Plot

The Harleminster Ballet School is located in a quiet, rural area of England and everything is peaceful until the sudden arrival of three mysterious girls. The girls surprise the headmistress by already being in school uniform, the school does happen to have three vacancies but it is a most unusual way of joining. Another surprise is, despite the looking identical, they say they are not related and introduce themselves as Jean Smith, Mary Jones and Ann Brown. The headmistress takes them to meet the other girls in their class. On questioning it seems they never danced before and say they wouldn’t know their previous school. The other girls find them weird and creepy. Ursula is to take them to their dorm and it is there the girls first show their unusual powers. Mary starts having fun with a plant, it suddenly grows and attacks Ursula.

Luckily she is stopped by the arrival of the headmistress and other girls. But when the headmistress confronts them, she is stopped in the middle of her speech and then collapses to the floor.  The Strange Ones have used their powers to make her blind. It is clear now that they are dangerous people. They will not say what they want with the school, but they can undo what they have done if they wish, but no one must attempt escape or try to contact anyone. The school is the carry on as normal per the Strange Ones commands and the girls despite no ballet experience make remarkable progress. The other girls in the school are naturally terrified of them. While talking with a teacher, Miss Lennox, they make a plan to contact the police, unfortunately not knowing that telepathy is another of the Strange Ones powers.

Miss Lennox tries to leave and contact the polices but the Strange Ones attack her with a plant. It completely envelops her and when the leaves fall away she looks like one of the Strange Ones. According to the Strange Ones is just in appearance and the unconscious Miss Lennox is taken to bed. The girls in the dance class are upset by these events, but they must continue to follow the Strange Ones demands that the class must go on. One girl wonders why ballet is so important to them. Later the Strange Ones are shown around the grounds. They come to a churchyard where famous ballerina Juliana Tanfield is buried there, using their powers again an apparition of Juliana appears and dances.

The Strange Ones are not pleased to see an arrival (a delivery man)  at the school, but they turn it to their advantage. They give the man super strength and command him to guard the school. Of course when the delivery man doesn’t return this attracts the attention of the police. When they come to the school to investigate, they are chased away by the man and they go to get reinforcements. The Strange Ones are confident in their powers, so they are not worried about this.  When the army arrive the Strange Ones have set rods around the school which the army cannot pass. Meanwhile the girls have come up with a plan, after talking to the Strange Ones partially in Latin, they discover dead languages mean nothing to them, therefore they can use it to shield their thoughts. But the Strange Ones won’t be defeated so easily, they force one of the girls, Maria Blake, to tell them what language they are using. They also allow Maria to escape as the figure they can use her to set a trap.

Four other girls have used an old tunnel to try and contact the army, not knowing that the Strange Ones have now learned Latin and are aware of their movements. When they emerge from the tunnels, they are shocked to find they look like The Strange Ones. The army are about to arrest them, despite their protests, until Maria Blake sticks up for them as there are four of  them they must be telling the truth. Unfortunately, once the army have let down their guard the Strange Ones take over the girls, making them attack. Then leaving the army unconscious they head for the town, to also attack them.

Maria  seeing everything, follows the girls into the town where they wreck havoc. She notices that the girls stick together and following that hunch, she manages to separate one from the others and all four collapse. She then goes back to the school with this knowledge. While dancing, Maria partners with a Strange One, while repeating a multiplication table in her head she maneuvers the girl out the door and locks her out. She tells the others to grab the other Strange Ones and with them now powerless they demand an explanation.Having no other choice they tell the class they come from the planet Talmar which is at war with another planet, Kotil over possession of a third planet, Gald. The opposing planets had agreed to fight a “war in the arts” the winner getting Gald. The Strange Ones had been sent to learn ballet for this war.  They agree to reverse what they have done and leave peacefully once the three are together again. They keep their promise but leave with the ominous words “someday our planet may need earth – then we will return”.

Thoughts

This is possibly influenced by the 1957 novel “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham. It’s popular film adaption “Village of the Damned” came out just a few years prior to this story and I can see some similarities. Both take place in an isolated British town, feature strange children, who look alike with their platinum blonde hair and have incredible mental powers and an unknown agenda. The Cuckoos/Strange Ones, always stay in a group, act in a very cold, matter of fact way showing little emotion and unnerve those around them.  It is not the only time The Midwich Cuckoos would influence a comic book, in Grant Morrison’s X-Men run he introduced “The Stepford Cuckoos” a group of five telepathic girls. Perhaps, Morrison was even familiar with “The Strange Ones”.

      (Village of the Damned – Image Source)                    (Stepford Cuckoos in New X-Men #137)

Although the story had 12 episodes it is actually quite short as there was only 1 page per episode. As the events are meant to take place over a short period of time this works to it’s advantage. Things move along quickly, after the first episode the Strange Ones pretense of being “normal” students is dropped. Once they reveal their powers, they are not referred to by their “names” just as the Strange Ones. While we see reactions of the schoolgirls and them trying to come up with plans, there isn’t really a protagonist against the girls until Maria, who isn’t named until over half ways through the story. This works fine as it keeps the focus on the Strange Ones. There is great imagery throughout, capturing the eeriness and formidable powers of the girls.  There is also good use of colour such as the yellow in the panel below, I particularly like the panels where the girls use their powers from a distance. I only have the Spellbound version but I would guess the original in Diana would have been even more impressive with it’s glossy paper. It is understandable why the school girls find them creepy and are frightened.

 

The ending leaves a lot of questions, I am curious about these warring planets and is the prize, Gald, an occupied planet that they will overthrow?  I would also like to see how this “war of the arts” went, who won, wheter the winning planet would want to expand the number of planets they own and is Earth in danger? Especially with the Strange Ones parting words, which could be seen as a warning or possibly they may need help against a bigger threat! The Strange Ones are true to their word reversing what they have done so maybe Kotil is that bigger threat! I think the mysterious ending  works in keeping in tone with story.

 

The Black Nightingale [1973]

Plot

In Nazi-occupied Rotterdam in 1941, former ice-skating champion Linda Konig works in a German-occupied hospital during the day. But by night she is a resistance fighter against the Nazis known as “The Black Nightingale”, and she uses her ice-skating skills for fast navigation of the frozen Rotterdam canals to help the Dutch.

Black Nightingale

Notes

Appeared

  • The Black Nightingale Diana #526 (17 March 1973) – #540 (23 June 1973)

 

Plain Jane [1971]

Plot

Plain Jane Rose enters for a competition which has as its first prize; a holiday in Hawaii. That would be just right for Jane’s widowed mother who works very hard, pandering to the needs of her three other beautiful, but lazy, daughters.

plain jane

Notes

  • Art: Jesus Redondo

Appeared

  • Plain Jane – Diana: circa #450 (2 October 1971) – (?)
  • Reprinted – Emma:  #56 (17 March 1979) – #67 (2 June 1979)