Category Archives: Emma

Emma Comic [1978-1979]

For something a bit different I thought it would interesting to look at a comic as a whole.

Emma was a short-lived D.C. Thomson comic running for only 81 issues, published from 25 February 1978 to 8 September 1979. It was the second shortest run of the 11 DCT girls comic titles (Spellbound was the shortest at 69 issues, ending just before Emma launched). It is interesting that both Emma and Spellbound, didn’t last very long as these two titles were more experimental than DCT’s usual format. A month after Emma ended, a new title arrived, Tracy, which was more similar to Bunty, Judy etc. and that lasted 277 issues. So could it have been that people liked to stick with the familiar, or was there another reason this comic didn’t last?

A note on what other DC Thomson girls comics were running at this time. Long running Bunty, Judy and Mandy comics were still going strong and Debbie seemed to be doing well since launching a few years prior in 1973. So that was 4 other DCT comics that children could choose from and they most likely had their loyal long term readers, added to that you had popular IPC comics like Tammy, Jinty and Misty also competing, making it that much harder to get a piece of the market. By the late 70s the “golden age” of comics was over and there was starting to be a decline in readerships, one theory being there was so much other entertainment to also compete with. Although to contradict that theory, one just has to look at something like 2000AD which also launched in the late 1970s and is still going strong celebrating 40 years of publishing, which goes to show if the quality, the right marketing and commitment is there, it is possible to last in the comic market.

While Emma had a variety of stories, it also leaned more on magazine elements, such as interviews, fact files, pop news etc. Perhaps it was conceived to be a stepping stone for those girls who were beginning to show more interest in magazines like Jackie, but still liked more picture stories too. If this was the case, maybe the paper quality was a factor in it not being as successful as other more glossy story/magazine publications like Diana and Suzy. The set up of Emma was that the title character was a reporter, so every issue she would interview someone (these included the Muppets, Abba and more) and throughout the issue she would also  have other features such as reports on popular trends (like the majorettes in issue 1), or “What’s in a Name?” (looking at names meanings and famous people with that name). The character of Emma also had her own story, where she usually ended up solving a problem while filming a report for her TV show. More notable was the Emma’s Mag which took up the 4 middle pages of the comic and again had a variety of features, focusing on famous people, hair tips, Kid Jenson’s LP section and more. This mag is one of the things that survived the merger with Judy and became a prominent feature of it.

In the first issue we are told Emma has another meaning too. Emma is an acronym for Excitement, Mystery, Marvelous Free Gifts, Action. Looking at the first issue, we’ll see how much that holds true! Of course the obligatory free gift is there, the first gift is an Initial Brooch, gifts from other issues include a bag, bangles and supercomb. There are 7 stories in the first issue. The Emma Report in which Emma goes diving for sunken treasure for a report and nearly gets lost (one of the weaker serials in my opinion and maybe a downfall for the comic as Emma was really being pushed as the representative of the comic). Sue Spiker  a tough foster home child with a talent for volleyball, Sue was one of the comics long running characters, she returned in 2 sequels, one of which was in Judy after the comics merged. Similarly Jodie and the Otter about a swimming champion who makes friends with an otter after she has to bail out of a plane over the Canadian Wilderness, also had 2 sequels. Angie which I’ve already talked about here, is about a nurse who gets kidnapped by bank robbers along with her young sister, with art by Ian Kennedy. Lynne Against Lareno, art by Norman Lee, where Lynne travels to a small town on the Mexican border to visit a friend, only to be told her friend died, but Lynne suspects something else is going on. Disco Talk a one page text story that shows conversations between two friends, Jill and Carol, at a disco. Blue Eyes, where Belinda’s earnings for acting goes to her apparently sick cousin, but then she begins to have sight problems. There are also two short humour strips; TV Mad about a girl Madeline who is obsessed with television and Tessa a girl who won’t get off the phone. The majority of the stories are 3 pages, exceptions being The Emma Report and Lynne Against Lareno which are 4 pages. There is a good variety in the stories, both in plot and locations. I do think the stories cover the excitement, mystery, action, the art is good throughout, as is the layout, title headings and lettering, so it was quite a strong start to the comic.

While there are some familiar concepts with the stories in Emma there was also less common things, such as volleyball as the sport in Sue Spiker (rather than the more common sports like athletics or hockey) and the use of varied locations. This trend continued in new stories too. Skate-Cat Kate a girl with a talent with skateboarding who has to contend with her brother’s jealousy. Viva Marisa! a young girl who becomes part of Revolution to overthrow a dictator in  South America, with art by Jesús Redondo. Yang Ling a historical story where a young Chinese girl wants to be taught the ancient art of self-defence and is eventually chosen to escort a girl from China to America. Molly and her Millettes, a young teacher tries to encourage a class that everyone thinks is hopeless by forming them into a Majorette troupe.

 

When the comics gets into its #20s is it weakest point in my opinion. Jodie and the Otter and Sue Spiker both finish in issue #19 and Viva Marisa! in issue #21. For a while there is only 5 stories, (except for the sporadic appearance of Kay Rules…Ok?). The line up during this time is The Emma Report, The Rebel, Yang Ling, Make Me a Champion! and Janie Jungle Nurse. This line up doesn’t last too long as issue #30 has all new stronger set of stories; Holly of Hazard Unit, Little Nipper, Wynne Against the School, Teech n’ Me, Nola Girl from Nowhere and the return of Jodie and the Otter. In issue #32 Beware of Beryl also joins the line-up. This is the only time there is a big change of line-up with all new stories, it also becomes standard to have at least 7 stories running at a time.

 

We start to see some more reprints in later issues, The Secret Life of Dana, Plain Jane, The Rebel and Belinda Born to Skate all appeared previously in other comics. In the case of Belinda Born to Skate it first appeared in Judy as “Vicky on Skates” but here it has new art by Carlos Freixas. Of course the reverse is also true, where stories that appeared in Emma were later reprinted in other comics, such as No Joy for Jenny, Red Fur and Lady Sarah’s Secret. The stories in the last issue are Kitty and the Crooked Myles, The White Mouse, Carrie – and the Conroy Curse, Lucy and Lightning, Nobody’s Child and the first part of another Jodie and the Otter sequel which will continue in Judy after the merger. Stunt Girl and Belinda Born to Skate finished in the penultimate issue. So overall I think Emma had some good stories and some interesting features, but ultimately it didn’t seem to capture attention of readers. With a new comic Tracy also in the works at the time, the publishers must have decided it was best to end Emma before that launched, particularly with so many other competing comics. Also it could have been some of the initial contributors to Emma could now have been working on the new comic. Of course I can only speculate to the reasons why Emma finished up, I don’t have the sales figures for the comic or the knowledge of what was going on in the DCT at the time, but having read some stories about the end of other publications, I’d say a combination of the reasons I mentioned is likely. [I’ve looked briefly at the DCT mergers already in another post, it can be found here]

For some further analysis, focusing on the serials that appeared in Emma, I’ve done a breakdown of the type of stories.  To keep it simple I’ve kept it to 10 broad categories (with a longer running publication, there would certainly be more categories) these are  what I see to be the main element of the story and I’ve been subjective in where I’ve placed stories, as some could certainly fit into several categories and others aren’t necessarily an exact fit.  So this isn’t a perfect method but should give a rough idea of what you could expect to read in Emma.  The comic had 44 stories, (although 2 stories spawned sequels, so if those were included separately, the number would rise to 46). As for the length of the serials, the average and mode for story length is 12 episodes. The shortest story was Stunt Girl at 5 episodes, possibly cut short due to Emma’s looming merger with Judy. The longest was The Emma Report  at 29 episodes (that’s a continuous run, not including returning one shots and such), which makes sense as she was the title character and the comic was pushing her as a selling point. The story/character that appears most, including sequels, is Sue Spiker with 39 episodes (and she would go on to have a further 12 episodes in Judy), she was an appealing character, with good artwork and it made sense that she also got a sequel in Judy after the merger.

Here are the categories I’ve chosen, listed by most popular. Go to next page to see which stories I put in each category

  1. Adventure [8 Stories – 18%]
  2. Sport & Dance [8 stories – 18%]
  3. Family [5 Stories – 11%]
  4. Animal [4 stories – 9%]
  5. Career [4 Stories – 9%]
  6. Science Fiction [4 stories – 9%]
  7. Friendships [3 stories – 7%] (this includes false friendships too)
  8. Historical [3 stories – 7%] (stories set before World War II)
  9. Mystery [3 stories – 7%]
  10. Supernatural [2 stories – 5%]

Adventure and Sport & Dance are on top at 8 stories each, but I have to point out that a lot of stories had adventure/action elements, such as stories I’ve categorized under career and historical often had the protagonist in risky situations. Interesting to note popular story elements like the Cinderella story or jealous rival are not common here, this may be another reason, the comic didn’t last.  While the majority of the stories, as to be expected, are set in Britain with white protagonists there are stories that go against this standard.  Other than Britain places where stories were set: Africa (1), America (5*), Belgium (1), Canada (1), China (1*), South America (3*) and Space/Off planet (2). The numbers with asterisks are to note a story may be counted twice due to it starting in one place but then spending a significant amount of time elsewhere, for example in A Girl Called Sam, Sam travels from America to South America, 9 issues into the story. Protagonists that were not British were: American (1), Belgian (1), Canadian (1), Chinese (1), Puerto Rican (1), (unspecified) South American (1). Most characters are either in school or appear to be school age, of the protagonists that do have jobs, being a nurse is the most popular with 5 main characters having that job. Having a job in the entertainment industry is also popular, with 4 characters being involved in that.  Also while IPC is often acknowledged for it’s use of working class heroes, it doesn’t mean DCT was without them, Sue Spiker, the Millettes from Molly and the Millettes, Lucy of Lucy and Lightning are some examples here.

 

For a short lived comic it had many good qualities. The stories were varied, (though I would say adventure/action was a big element), there was also some quality art work, known artists included Norman Lee, Ian Kennedy, Jesús Redondo, Hugo D’Adderio and Carlos Freixas. The idea to have a character to do interviews tying in the features to story side of the magazine was a good idea, although like I mentioned I personally think The Emma Report was one of the weaker stories (although the art was lovely). The overall aesthetic was very pleasing, such as the lettering and title headings for the stories were nicely done. It may not have left as big an impression as other comics, but it is worth a look.

Lady Sarah’s Secret

    • Lady Sarah’s Secret – Emma:  #61 (21 April 1979) – #69 (16 June 1979)
    • Reprinted – Judy: #1500 (8 October 1988) – #1508 (10 December 1988)
    • Reprinted (as Judy classic) – M&J: #308 (4th May 1997) – #315 (May 24 1997) [last issue has 2 installments]
    • Artist: Hugo D’Adderio

Plot

In 1840, Lady Sarah Cragston is out riding when she nearly runs down a girl. She is surprised to find out the girl has runaway from the local orphanage which her father is governor of. Sarah doesn’t listen to the girl’s claims of mistreatment, believing her to be an ungrateful wretch and takes her back to the orphanage. She does however become suspicious when the Bonneys that run the place, are keen to get rid of her. She insists on looking around and is appalled by the conditions. Later she tries to tell her father about what she saw and at first she thinks he shares her outrage but he is only upset that she went to orphanage and forbids her from going there again. Later while talking to a maid, Sarah learns that the orphanage used to be a mansion called Fell Grange, until the daughter of the house, Elizabeth Sturgesse, was tragically killed while out riding. There is a legend that Elizabeth’s spirit appeared  to help those in need  and she became known as “The Dark Lady of Haunted Hill”. Lady Sarah decides it is time for the Dark Lady to reappear and  finds old riding gear and dark wig to become the part.

Lady Sarah’s first act is to free the runaway she met earlier, who had since been beaten and locked in the cellar. She first runs into the Bonneys, Mr Bonney is terrified of the ghost but Mrs bonny shows less fear and has to be dragged inside by her husband. The girl, Ellen Rumble, is very grateful and even more so when Sarah arranges it so she can hire her as personal servant.  Ellen makes a good ally as she can tell Sarah about the inner workings of the orphanage. She helps Sarah when she does some investigative work to see where Mrs bonny gets the food for the orphanage, she obviously buys the good stuff for herself and the orphans get the cheap, poor quality stuff. Sarah buys supplies for the orphans and sets out a feast for them. Then in the guise of the Dark Lady, she warns the Bonneys to start feeding them properly.

At this point Mrs Bonney’s original confidence of ghosts not being able to harm them, seems to be waning. The Bonneys even foolishly put bars on the cellar door to keep the ghost off. Of course while that would be no use against a ghost, it does pose a problem for Sarah, as she now needs to find another way to access the orphanage. Ellen does know of one  successful runaway who said she had aunt in Crampton. Sarah manages to track her down and find out about a secret passage. Then using a potion that was given to her father by a sea captain, she is able to temporarily paralyze the Bonneys in order to stop them abusing cripples. These things further convince the Bonneys that she is a supernatural being with powers.

Next Sarah finds out that the money her father provides for a doctor, actually goes to a charlatan doctor who gives the sick children coloured water, so him and the Bonneys make a tidy profit by not giving proper medicine. Sarah and Ellen go searching for a legitimate doctor to treat a very sick girl. They find a doctor name Sturgesse and this seems like a good omen so Sarah hires him. The Bonneys are surprised by Dr. Sturgesse’s visit and by his name. Adding to their stress further is when asked who sent him, the doctor points to Sarah who is watching close by dressed as the Dark Lady.

When a letter arrives from the Bonneys to her father, saying the price of coal has increased, Sarah is suspicious of a scam. She is proved right when visiting the orphanage she hears the Bonneys plan to forge bills. While returning home, her father sees her near the orphanage and is very angry, he doesn’t want her anywhere near the orphans in case she catches something. While she says she will stay away, that night she is back again as the Dark Lady to see if she can find out what the Bonneys are doing with the money they keep. She finds Mr Bonny hosting a card game and she takes a risk haunting them. While she does startle the men, one of them knocks over a lamp and starts a fire. While they are putting out the fire, Sarah escapes, but one on of the men, Harry, hears her coughing and therefore believes there is no ghost. Harry visits Lord Cragston the next day to talk about the occurrences at the orphanage. Sarah whose throat is still irritated by the smoke can’t stop herself coughing, which leads Harry to accuse her of being the ghost. Lord Cragston doesn’t believe such things and kicks him out but he is concerned by Sarah’s coughing and sends her to an aunt to recover. This is a further worry for Sarah as this will mean the Bonneys will not believe in the ghost now, but Ellen keeps up the legend as she sneaks out and plays the Dark Lady in her stead.

While out riding Sarah sees the parish clerk beating on a young girl while bringing her to orphanage, that night worried about this outspoken new girl Sarah sneaks into the orphanage to check on her, but Ellen has a sense of foreboding. That night the Bonneys have visitors who are concerned about the “hauntings” – the parish clerk and Mr Calver, the justice of peace. Ellen goes to warn Sarah about the arrivals, but the secret panel to the passage closes and they are forced to hide. While they do manage to slip out, Sarah accidentally leaves a riding glove behind. The Justice of Peace sees the girls riding off in the distance, he suspects there is no ghost and wants to investigate the orphanage further. Meanwhile Mr Bonney has found the riding glove and also now knows there is no ghost and that it is Lady Sarah that has been behind everything. He goes to Lord Cragston with this news, who is troubled by this, but still doesn’t believe Sarah that anything wrong with the Bonneys. He is forced to listen with the sudden arrival of Mr Calver with Mr Holmes, a government inspector of children’s work conditions. They want Sarah to testify against the Bonneys. At the inquiry Ellen also testifies but the other orphans are too scared to. One exception is Crissy, the outspoken girl, who shows the beatings on her back. Lord Cragston, apologizes for being unaware of what Bonneys were doing and promises to get suitable replacements. A few weeks later with the kindly Jacksons in charge, Sarah can put away her Dark Lady costume.

Thoughts

When we first meet Lady Sarah she is not too concerned for the orphans, going so far as to bring back the runaway to orphanage by tying a rope around her waist and calling her an “ungrateful little wretch”. It is likely that this initial attitude is influenced by her father.  He doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of the orphans seeing them as brats, of little use and potentially infectious rather than what they actually are – children. We are not told how Sarah’s mother died but it may be a factor in Lord Cragston’s fear for his daughter’s safety and that she may catch some illness from being near the orphans. He doesn’t seem to be intentionally cruel, as he does believe the orphans are being provided for and that the “good” Bonneys are training the brats to be useful to society. But his claims of ignorance of the Bonneys wrong doings, isn’t good enough when his own daughter has told him of their cruelty and he doesn’t bother to investigate further.

Like I said Sarah seems to have a similar attitude to her father, until she sees the actual living conditions of the orphans and is horrified. It is fitting then, that the first person she helps is that same runaway she brought back. In quite a contrast to their first meeting, after her rescue of Ellen, Sarah attends to her injuries, no longer feeling above those poorer than her. In return for this kindness Ellen becomes a loyal companion to Sarah. In other stories such as “The Seeker” or “The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie”, the protagonists pretend to be mean spirited in real life to keep their secret, so it makes a difference here that Sarah speaks up for the orphans even when she’s not in costume and also that she has an ally to confide in.

Using the legend of the ghost, is also an interesting angle. Through her father’s local history books, Sarah learns about deeds that  the “Dark Lady” supposedly did, which she uses to help her own cause. It would seems most people are familiar with the legend, but whether those events were real, exaggerated or perhaps someone playing at the ghost, like Sarah did, we never know for sure. It could be interesting if different people use the guise of the Dark Lady whenever she is needed. While many people fear her, Mrs Bonney initially shows her toughness, not fearing the ghost, it certainly seems to be her that’s in charge, as Mr Bonney fears his wife’s wrath as well as the ghost.

The art is gorgeous and very detailed, I particularly like the details in the clothes. Also the use of the shadows and perspective when Sarah is doing her haunting, makes her a very intimidating presence. While a lot of the panels are standard size, when given more room with wider panel D’Adderio takes advantage doing some lovely work as demonstrated in the opening panel.  It is another strong story from the short lived Emma comic and with the classic artwork and captivating story, it’s no surprise that this was reprinted in Judy and as a Judy classic in M&J.

The Double Life of Dana / The Secret Life of Dana

  • The Double Life of Dana– Mandy: #306 (25 Nov. 1972) – #317 (10 Feb. 1972)
  • Reprinted as The Secret Life of Dana – Emma: #49 (27 Jan. 1979) – #60 (14 Apr. 1979)
  • Artist: Claude Berridge

Plot

Dana Fenton, an orphan, has always dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Even now that she has left the orphanage she grew up in and has gotten a decent job and comfortable lodgings, it is not enough to satisfy her. So when she sees that there are auditions for a scholarship with a Ballet Company and a maid’s job in a prestigious ballet school, she takes the leap to follow her dream. She quits her job and applies for the in-house maid job, in the hopes that while she could never afford to go to school there, she may be able to learn by watching. Madame Rochelle proves to be a tough employer, meaning Dana will certainly be working hard to earn her place. At the same time she has to try and find time to go to Belmont Company audition. She arrives at the audition, but seeing Madame there with two pupils, she is afraid she will lose her job, so she dons a wig and makeup and gives the fake name ‘Ann Smith’ in order to keep her secret. The judges see potential in her and she gets in to the next round along with the two pupils from the ballet school, Janice and Ella.

secret life dana1Dana’s double life makes things difficult at time, such as Madame telling Dana to wait by the phone so she can tell everyone the results of the next audition. Of course as Dana is also meant to attend the audition she has to figure out how to do both things! She manages to attend the audition then rushes to pay phone outside and calls Madam pretending to have misunderstood the instructions. She then has to rush back to the school, and actually lets air out of Madame’s tyres so she will beat them back.

Also making life difficult for Dana, are her two rivals, Janice and Ella, who are snobbish and like to make more work for Dana. When Madame entrusts Dana to take the girls to next audition (which is a stroke of luck for Dana as she wondered how she was going to get to someplace so far away), the girls don’t listen to Dana and call her skivvy expecting her to be their personal maid. Luckily Miss Norris and old friend of Madame’s has also been sent to check on the girls and she helps Dana keep them in line. They still continue to cause more trouble,  back at the school making muddy prints over the floor Dana just cleans, they turn even more against Dana when Madame sticks up for her and make them re-clean the floor! Then later at an audition, they leave room a mess and carelessly leave clothes near an electric fire. Dana  in her ‘Ann Smith’ disguise finds the dressing room on fire and helps put it out, before having to run off before her identity is discovered. Janice and Ella blame Dana for the fire and their clothes getting destroyed. They decide to return the favour by destroying her clothes. So her ballet costume isn’t discovered, she has to chase them out of her room, which causes more trouble with Madame. While Madame doesn’t blame her for fire, she does think she should have been attending her duties more carefully, she also is suspicious of the girls being in Dana’s room but does tell Dana any more trouble and she’ll be dismissed.

secret life dana2

Due to the fire, the audition has been rescheduled and Madame offers the school as a new venue. Dana has to be extra careful not to be discovered and uses a traditional mask to hide her face completely. More questions are being asked about, who this mysterious Ann Smith is! While Madame doesn’t suspect Dana, Janice and Ella are beginning to wonder if she and Ann are the same person. Ella even opens a trapdoor at an audition in the hopes of not letting Ann slip away, she doesn’t seem concerned that she could have caused her some serious injury, if not for Dana/Ann’s quick reflexes allowing her to leap out of the way in time. Her secret is discovered by an unlikely person Myra Dean, a famous dancer, who is now blind. When she visits the school, Dana helps her twice, one time as ‘Ann’ and Miss Dean recognises her work-rough hands. Although she hints to Madame, that Ann and Dana maybe the same person, Madame dismisses the thought and Myra doesn’t try to persuade her, instead she becomes Dana’s ally.

secret life dana3

A  mistake signing a girl’s autograph book, leads Janice and Ella to also discover Dana’s secret.  At the last audition, using Dana’s friendship with Miss Dean against her, the girls send Dana to the wrong place. She only just makes it to the right place at the end, with no chance to change into Ann Smith. Myra Dean confirms her identity and Dana is allowed to dance, even though she doesn’t have time to even change into ballet clothes. Dana wins the scholarship and Madame Rochelle is shocked to find her own maid is Ann Smith. Seeing her dance she knows Dana deserves to win and she will also being having words with Janice and Ella about their involvement in the audition mix-up. Dana is delighted she can now pursue her dream and no longer lead a double life.

Thoughts

Dana while she certainly hasn’t the easiest time, it’s not as hard as other characters in similar positions, leading double life (such as “Ballerina on a String”). She is actually a very upbeat person and she is in charge of her own choices, as she is not forced to do the things she does. She left comfortable lodgings and a shop job, to work at the school, because she wants to follow her dream.

Madame Rochelle has a reputation as a slave-driver and none of  her other maids stayed very long. She certainly works Dana hard but she is not cruel and does treat her fairly. She even puts her trust in Dana to chaperone the other girls. When she knows of the tricks the girls play, she assesses situation and doesn’t automatically favour her students over her employee, as seen when she makes Janice and Ella clean the muddy prints and not taking their side when she finds Dana yelling at them as they were in Dana’s room.

secret life dana4

While she does treat her with some respect, at the same time she does not see Dana’s potential, viewing her only as maid. This bias blinds her to the clues in front of her, such as finding Ann Smith looks familiar, nearly catching a girl practicing late at night to audition music (and it not being Janice or Ella), she doesn’t even question that the mysterious Ann Smith gets a letter to the school and ignores the hint her old friend Myra Dean gives.

secret life of dana

So while the work is hard the main difficulties Dana has, is keeping her identity hidden while getting to auditions and the bigger problem of the spiteful girls. Of the two girls, Ella is more dangerous than Janice, she is the leader of the two and the most suspicious. She also opens the trapdoor on Dana and while she passes it off as an accident, she should really have more repercussions. She is not happy to be shown up by Ann Smith, and even less happy when she finds out that Ann is actually the ‘skivvy’ Dana. Even without Dana in the competition, Ella’s thoughts are shown to be quite big-headed, she expects to win over her supposed friend Janice too.

While Dana has joined the school to learn of ballet, we don’t really see much time focused on seeing how she benefits from this and how she improves. Instead most episodes are dedicated to her trying to attend an audition and keep her secret. Although as she keeps getting through to the next stage her “unpolished potential” must be getting better. The competition for the scholarship isn’t very clear, there’s seems to be a lot of auditions happening but it’s not clear how many stages there are and how many people auditioning. In the first stage the 3 girls get through, but as we never really get to see other competitors this leads to the impression that there are only three in the running all the time! In the last audition there appears to be five competing but again wonder how many auditioned initially in the first stage and how wide an area did the competitors come from? Still other than the questions of how the competition is ran, the story keeps a nice pace and the main characters are each distinctive both in personality and design. The art throughout is very nice and expressive. Berridge seems to be quite a varied artist, doing many different type of stories, I’m not aware of any other ballet story that he’s done, but he does a good job here.

secret life dana5

 

Janie Jungle Nurse

  • Janie Jungle Nurse –  Emma: #24 (05 August 1978) – #29 (09 September 1978)

Plot

Jane Morrison is a newly qualified nurse and is set to join her Uncle Harry’s practice located in the African bush. When she arrives it is not quite what she expected, instead of a fine clinic, Harry runs his practice from a leaky old boat “The Flying Queen” and accepts whatever payment  he can including chickens! It seems Janie read more into his letters  then was actually there. The only staff he has is a young girl Kari, who would like to be a nurse and her parents. Janie wants to go home the next day but as there are no buses she is stuck for the meantime. When a fire breaks out a nearby village, Janie saves a young child and Harry is impressed by her work and quick thinking. Janie is still ready to leave as soon as possible. Her plans are blocked when Harry falls ill and despite her best efforts, he passes away after making her promise to carry on his work.

janie-jungle-nurse_1

With the help of Kari, Janie sets out to live up to her promise. She feels she has to earn the villagers trust and prove to them (and herself) that she can take Harry’s place. So when there is a mad bull on the loose, Janie tackles the problem herself by spearing it with a sleeping dose. The next episode is even more dramatic as a helicopter lands and men grab Janie and Kari. They tell her they are freedom fighters and they need medical treatment for a hostage as he is no good to them dead. He then threatens her, if the hostage dies then she will die too. The hostage is the son of British Consulate, and Janie quickly comes up with a plan. She says she needs a particular medicine which she uses an opportunity to slip out a secret message. When the group are distracted by arrival of government helicopters, Janie takes out their guard with chloroform and uses his gun to hold off the others. As thanks, for saving his son’s life the Consulate sends Janie a load of medical supplies.

janie-jungle-nurse_3

Next a couple, Mr and Mrs Farr arrive claiming Harry had invited them to spend some time on The Flying Queen. Janie agrees to host them but think there is something off about them. When a local tribe offer to share a feast she is not happy to hear they are eating elephant meat, but they claim they didn’t kill it, they found it dead without tusks. Everyone starts feeling drowsy and on the way back to the boat, Mrs Farr falls into the water. Janie fights off her own drowsiness to jump in at save her, under the water she also see the tusks tied under the boat. She confronts Mr Farr, and gets him to confess to what drug he shot the elephant with (which was still in the meat they ate), Soon after the district officer takes the Farrs away.

Janie’s not the only one that can be quick thinking. Kari proves her worth when they need money for oranges, (for patients lacking vitamin C), Kari shows Janie how to barter and exchange things at the market. When thieves run by, Kari trips them with a spear she just got and then pins thief with spear when he grabs Janie. The next episode sees more thieves as Janie is picking up medical supplies at the supply post. Janie tries to stop the men and in the struggle some bottles get broken. When they go to leave in their  truck, Janie still won’t give up smashing a glass bottle in front of the tyres. They then say they will use her boat to carry the supplies. Then one of the men comes out in red spots, Janie says he is highly contagious and deadly and both men need injections immediately. Obviously not the smartest of men they agree to this and Janie sends them to sleep. It was just an allergic reaction to the smashed bottles earlier but Janie has used it to her advantage. This is the last episode but still left the possibility of further adventures as Janie says life as a Jungle nurse is never boring!

janie-jungle-nurse_4

Thoughts

This is quite a short story and the pacing isn’t great it feels rushed in places. Considering that issue #30 of Emma introduced 6 new stories, it seems likely that there was pressure to shorten the story, to make way for these new stories. The new line up was a stronger set of stories and included a new nurse story Holly of Hazard Unit that ran for 19 issues.

The premise of Janie Jungle Nurse, seems solid enough the character of Janie is not happy to find that the great clinic she imagined is actually an old boat and she wants to leave as soon as she can. In the first episode she comes across as a bit bratty and as she is stuck there for the time being it would be a good point to let the character grow and slowly overcome her reluctance. Instead it’s very jarring to start the next episode with Uncle Harry on his death bed, with no build up to an illness and Janie promising to continue his work.  She does briefly mention she would rather go back to England but won’t break her promise. But then the rest of the episodes she’s fully involved in helping and wanting to prove herself, a complete turnaround.

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Also quite underdeveloped is some other characters, Kari’s parents, usually just hang around in the background, her mother is never even named and doesn’t even get a line to speak. Her father does a bit better, he is named as Zake but only gets some input in episode 2. It would also have been nice to see Janie help more with Kari’s nursing ambitions, but this isn’t mentioned after the first episode again. Overall there isn’t much time spent on actual nursing, as the focus is usually  on more extreme situations, namely defeating kidnappers, thieves and poachers!

Of course there is no rule that says the story should  focus on her profession more, it works fine as a more action orientated story. The artwork certainly helps capture the action scenes and interesting surroundings. Each episode was quite action packed and Janie is very proactive  and capable. There is a lot to admire about Janie and she is very brave and adept at action. Actually a lot of the Emma stories had capable fighters as protagonists, whether it be because of the situation they found themselves in (e.g. Angie) or because they trained themselves (e.g. Yang Ling). The ending does seem to leave it open for a return of more adventures, if it was popular enough. But being so short it didn’t seem to catch the same attention that other stories did and as well there were more deserving stories that I would pick first for follow ups. Of course the Emma comic itself was also short lived, lessening the chance of Janie to return.

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The White Mouse (1979)

The White Mouse logo

Published: Emma #67 (02 June 1979) – #81 (08 September 1979) – final issue

Artist: José Ariza

Plot

Louise Colbert is a nurse in Verville in Nazi-occupied Belgium during World War II. She is known as a timid, gentle, unassuming person. One night an Allied pilot is shot down. In hospital, a patient named Mr LeBlanc confides in Louise that he is hiding the wanted airman in his old theatre. She must inform a Mr Gabin about this, and that the airman is to be taken to a pickup point that night. But both Gabin (had to evade arrest by the Nazis) and LeBlanc (died later) become unable to help the airman, so it falls to Louise. She makes her way to the theatre, but finds the Nazis have caught the airman. Louise heads to the props room, where she dons a white mouse mask and uses a prop rifle to help the airman get away from the Nazis and to his rendezvous to be picked up.

The White Mouse panel 1

And so Louise’s career as “the daring White Mouse” is born. Word soon spreads about this new resister. A lot of people, such as fellow nurses at the hospital, laugh at the idea that the White Mouse could be Louise because she is so timid. It doesn’t take long for the White Mouse to become so famous that other European countries, including Nazi Germany itself, hear about her; she gets plenty of comment from overseas agents and one defecting German saying so. The White Mouse is soon the bane of Colonel Koenig of the Gestapo and his henchman, Major Lutz. But like everyone else, Koenig and Lutz assume Louise is too timid to have any connection to the White Mouse.

White Mouse cases often start at the hospital where Louise works. Louise encounters more patients who have connections to the Resistance one way or another, and it is a simple matter to put on her mask and get them to confide in her as the White Mouse. Other times it is someone she meets while out cycling, such as a defecting German, downed Allied airmen, or Resistance fighters. After that she takes up their cases, which include rescuing their relatives from the Nazis, retrieving items they stole from the Nazis, getting people on the underground railroads to safe countries and other emergencies.

the white mouse

Koenig sets several traps for the White Mouse, of course. In one episode, he rigs up a German as a downed Allied airman for the White Mouse for help. But the White Mouse gets suspicious, simply on finding that his rifle is cold and therefore could not have opened fire on Germans only moments before, as he claimed. She goes along with him until she is ready to turn him over to the Resistance.

Ironically, in one episode Koenig actually does capture the White Mouse – in her civilian identity – without realising it. It takes a bit of luck and ingenuity for Louise to get rid of her White Mouse mask before the Gestapo search her and find it, and they soon release her. Presumably she got another mask from the old theatre, for the theatre does reappear in the strip to get disguises for the people she is helping.

The White Mouse panel 2

The White Mouse carries on until the last issue of Emma. Sadly, she does not make it into the merger. The final episode is a regular White Mouse episode, where she comes to the aid of Belgian resistance fighters and a British radio operator, who have been surprised by German forces. After seeing them all to safety, Jacques the leader thanks the White Mouse for the service she has done for them, which they can never repay. The war still rages, so the career of the White Mouse continues.

Thoughts

Curiously, there was a real-life WW2 SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent and resistance fighter called The White Mouse. Her name was Nancy Wake and she made it all the way to Number 1 on the Gestapo’s Most Wanted List. Unlike her Emma counterpart, the real White Mouse did not wear a mouse mask or adopt the moniker as a code name; the Gestapo dubbed her the White Mouse because of her ability to elude them.

The shyness of Louise Colbert could be described as a Clark Kent personality – except that unlike Superman she did not develop it as a cover for her secret identity. Rather, this is her own personality; Louise starts out as a nurse who is known for her shyness. However, Louise does not show her shyness much, either before or after she becomes the White Mouse; it’s only through the comments of other people that we know it at all. She comes across more as an ordinary nurse, no different from any other.

The White Mouse panel 3

Shyness does not make Louise a coward, though; even before she dons the mouse mask she does not hesitate to go to the rescue of her first case at the old theatre when his initial helpers become unavailable. The moment he is caught by the Germans, she has no qualms about going to the rescue and thinks fast as to how to do it. In that split second Louise demonstrates not only courage but also instant powers of resourcefulness, quick wits and fast thinking in getting out of sticky situations. She also has amazing powers of observation that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. For example, she is tipped off to the phoney British airman Koenig set up for her by the mere fact of discovering his rifle was cold.

Luck also plays its role in the success of the White Mouse. For example, on her debut night, she is stopped by German soldiers as she drives the British airman to safety. But they are so startled by the mouse mask that they flee in fright. Silly boys! That mouse mask sure does create a lot of humorous moments, especially from an artistic point of view; for example, when it is drawn at an upwards angle.

White Mouse OuBaPo original text.jpg

It is ironic that everyone assumes Louise is too timid to be the White Mouse. Does nobody remember that mice are associated with timidity? They probably equate shyness with cowardice, as one hot-headed resister does in one episode. So much the better for keeping the identity of the White Mouse secret.

No Joy for Jenny / “Is Bob My Brother?”

Plot:

Jenny Selby (Ruth in the reprint) is overjoyed when her brother John (Bob in the reprint) returns after being considered lost on a climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Then she begins to suspect the man is an impostor who is after the money John/Bob is set to inherit on his 21st birthday. When her suspicions become apparent, the man sends her away to boarding school. Jenny/Ruth returns secretly and, with the help of her dog Dirk, finds a sick man in a dingy room whom she is sure is her real brother. But the man does not claim to be John/Bob or recognise Jenny/Ruth.

Bob

Notes:

  • Artist: Julio Vivas (Also referenced elsewhere as Julian)
  • The story first appeared in Emma with the title “No Joy for Jenny” later it was reprinted with both Jenny and her brother renamed and a new title “Is Bob My Brother?”.

Appeared:

  • No Joy for Jenny – Emma: #56 (17 March 1979) – #65 (19 May 1979)
  • Reprinted as “Is Bob My Brother?” –  Mandy: #927 (20 Oct. 1984) – #936 (22 Dec. 1984)

 

Angie

  • Angie –  Emma: #01 (26 February 1978) – #09 (29 April 1978)
  • Art: Ian Kennedy

Plot

Angie Martin, a district nurse sets out in the morning to visit patients. She intends to drop her younger sister, Sally, to school along the way. Unknown to her, not too far away, a bullion robbery is taking place as 3 armed men take on a security van. One of the security men goes to raise the alarm and a robber (Lonny) threatens him with a gun. Another robber (Jimmy) intervenes, but gets shot himself. The three men escape but Jimmy needs medical attention. They spot Angie and take her and Sally so she can fix Jimmy up.  They hear on the radio that the police now know Lonny’s name due to Jimmy’s slip up, so they dump their van, and hide out in an empty cottage.  Angie starts to think about how her and her sister can escape, she slips tablets into the men’s tea, but luck isn’t on her side as Lonny spills his drink and she has no more tablets to use. When Jimmy and Vic pass out, Lonny figures she is involved and ties her up.

angie_1

Angie takes advantage of every opportunity she has to escape. Lonny is clearly the leader of the gang and is more wary of keeping an eye on Angie. He catches her trying to phone for help and locks her and Sally in the attic nursery. Angie finds a balloon and felt tip pens and uses them to get a message outside. The balloon is found by some kids who give it to the police.  Unfortunately before they get to the cottage,  the arrival of tourists at the cottage has made the gang go on the run again. When the police get to cottage they free the tourists and are soon in pursuit of the gang.

angie 2

The cops surround them at a filling station but Lonny threatens Angie and Sally’s lives, so they are able to hijack the police helicopter. Sergeant Smith manages to slip a transmitter to Angie before they get on the helicopter. They plan to fly to France but a storm forces them to land on a ship. They smash all communication devices on the ship, but the captain has a plan – when it gets dark he will turn them around so they get dropped off at Dorset, rather than France. When they land one sailor tries to get gun off Jimmy, but is knocked out by Vic, Angie attends to him. The gang believe they are in France and don’t know that the captain of the ship has managed to contact the police on the helicopter radio.

While Lonny and Vic go to look for transport, Jimmy is told to keep Angie and Sally in a cave, out of sight. As they are so exhausted all three of them fall asleep and they wake up to find the tide has come in and they are trapped. Sally manages to slip out a hole to go for help, only to run into Vic and Lonny. Angie and Jimmy will have to swim for it but Jimmy can’t with his injured arm. Angie swims Jimmy to safety, and he makes note that she has saved his life again.

His gratitude to Angie is seen when after another escape attempt Vic strikes Angie, Jimmy is quick to defend her. The gang figure they are not in France when police catch up with them, but they have stolen a tank and smash up the police car. They hide out in a forest where Vic accidentally starts a fire, Jimmy helps Angie and Sally onto the tank but falls off himself.  Angie is the only one concerned enough to go back and help him. The gang attempt to cross a foot bridge with the tank because they won’t leave the gold behind, the bridge collapses leaving them all in the water. Angie and Sally manage to escape and take a boat but the gang pursue them. Both Vic and Lonny take aim to shoot Angie but Jimmy stops them, jerking the steering wheel. Vic shoves Jimmy out of the boat. They catch up on Angie and grab her, leaving Sally on the boat headed for a weir. Lonny and Vic plan to use Angie as a hostage to get back their gold, that has been found by the police. Meanwhile Jimmy having gotten out of the water sees Sally in trouble and saves her. Knowing she needs to get to a hospital he brings her to the police station and hands himself in.

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With Angie as their hostage, Lonny and Vic get the police to hand over the gold and their uniforms.  Soon after when Angie escapes she doesn’t just run, after all they’ve done to her she is not going to let them get away. Using a crane she catches their boat and the police arrive to arrest them. She meets up with her parents and goes to see Sally in hospital.  They discuss Jimmy’s fate, it turns out he will be let off light due to his good actions and turning himself in and Mr Martin will even give him a job when he gets out of jail.

Thoughts

This is a good action story, the pace doesn’t let up and Ian Kennedy does a great job at showing the action scenes. Like the above car chase shows, Kennedy uses a variety of angles to keep the action interesting and fast paced. Whatever the location, from water to forest, he does a superb job of capturing the place.

The fast pace of the story is set up effectively in the first issue when the time is tracked throughout; 8.35 Angie leaves her house, 8.47 the robbery takes place, 12.30 Mrs Martin is worried and 8.00pm Angie tied up and can’t believe only 12 hours have passed since she got up in the morning. After the first issue the tracking of time stops, but the story doesn’t slow down. Sometimes it seems a bit ridiculous when the gang manage to hijack 2 cars, a helicopter, a ship, a boat and a tank! But really you aren’t given much time to dwell on it.

Angie is clearly a resourceful and determined character. When ever she sees an opportunity to escape, she jumps on it. She smartly hides the tracker she gets from the police in Sally’s bandage. She is also quick thinking in stopping the gang from escaping at the end. Not only is she tough she shows her high morals and why she makes a good nurse when she not only helps the people the gang hurt, but also goes out of her way to save Jimmy several times.

angie_5

The gang are easy to characterise, Vic is the tough and mean leader, Lonny is a bit dimmer but equally nasty, while right away Jimmy proves himself to be the most sympathetic of the gang, and shows he has a conscience. Even before Angie earned his gratitude he is shown to be against anyone getting hurt. The only reason he got shot was because he wanted to protect the security guard from Vic. In the end he could have just left Sally at the door of the police station but he does the right thing and hands himself in. Also very charitable of Mr Martin to give him a job, considering he was involved in a kidnap even if he did save his daughter’s life. We don’t get a lot of background on the gang, so we don’t know how Jimmy got involved with Vic and Lonny in the first place, whether he previously had a criminal record or just fell in with a bad crowd, or was really needing the money. Still it’s nice to hear that he will be given a second chance after he gets out and we hope he’ll use the opportunity wisely.

The Emma comic didn’t last too long, which is a pity because I think it had some strong stories (like this one) and had a fresh take on some of the usual formulas.

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)

Pam on the Purple Planet

Plot

Nurse Pam Massey is transported, car and all, to the distant Purple Planet in outer space, where a mysterious illness threatens to wipe out the Volentian population. The sickness turns out to be whooping cough! Pam agrees to cross to the uninhabited side of the planet to find a cure. She is accompanied by a six-legged dog called Zeta and a Davit, a flying machine controlled by the Volentians.

pam of purple planet

Notes

Appeared

  • Pam on the Purple Planet – #55 (10 March 1979) – #66 (26 May 1979)

House of Fear

Plot

Rich young heiress Diane Revell,  is terrified by the strange things which happen in her home, Dagwick House, at nights. Her guardians, Aunt Grace and Uncle Ramon, believe she is only having nightmares and the local doctor is treating her for that. Then Diane befriends runaway orphan Janice Maltby, who promises to help Diane uncover the truth. Jan hides in a secret room behind Diane’s bedroom wall.

house of fear

Notes

Appeared

  • House of Fear – #45 (30 December 1978)  -#55 (10 March 1979)