Category Archives: Judy

Minnie the Meanie [1989-1990]

We’re heading towards that time of year to be extra-generous to people while spending up large on gifts, holidays and other treats. But here’s a cautionary tale from Judy not to take either one to extremes. The consequences can be just as damaging as for the other extreme that we always hear about at Christmas – Scrooge. As the parents in this story found out, not even a pools win is a limitless amount of money for spending.

Published: Judy #1564 December 30 1989 to #1577 (31 March 1990)

Episodes: 14

Artist: Unknown artist – “Merry”

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Hard Times for Helen

Plot

Minnie Mill and her family live in a shabby house in Badger Street. Then they win £300,000 on the pools.

Unfortunately Mum and Dad let the whole new flush of money go to their heads and turn into super-spendthrifts. They go crazy on buying new things right, left and centre. They treat the money as if it will never cease to end and begin to lose the meaning of its value. For example, when Dad receives a letter saying there’s a back payment from his old company he scorns it because it seems like chickenfeed to what he has now and can’t be bothered collecting it. Minnie is horrified at his attitude, and she collects it herself because someone around here has to be sensible. They give no thought to investment or long-term planning at all, despite the offer – and warning – from the pools representative.

The worst of it is that Mum is a good-natured woman with a heart of gold, so it is an all-too-easy matter for the money to turn her generosity into over-generosity. Dad is just the same. And Minnie is quick to realise why the residents of Badger Street who previously took little notice of them are suddenly crowding around to be nice and friendly – they are out to take advantage of the money and the parents’ generosity. Dad soon has a well-earned reputation for spending and giving away huge handfuls of money as if it were nothing and people say he’ll give away his last penny.

Minnie is also finding that kids are taking advantage of her as well and pretending to be friendly while finding ways to cheat her out of huge sums of money. Several of these tactics are really despicable. For example, one girl, Gladdie, appears to be genuine, so Minnie trusts her with £600 to pay her mother’s rent with. When she discovers the money has in fact gone into Gladdie’s bank account, she orders her to pay the money to charity – or else. Another girl, Ida, cons Minnie out of money that was supposed to go on replenishing her grandmother’s empty coal cellar. When Minnie finds out, she helps to replenish the cellar secretly. Even a girl who is far richer than Minnie cheats her out of money.

Minnie reckons she has no friends anymore; the ones she had have joined the bullies who shout “Minnie the Meanie!” at her. Only one girl, Rosie, seems to be a friend. But by now Minnie has been so badly burned she just can’t trust anyone.

Because of all this cadging and cheating, Minnie becomes afraid to display her generosity openly and with the gay abandon that the parents do. She resorts to doing it in secret, and where she sees it is going to a genuine cause, such as replenishing the grandmother’s coal supply or getting treatment for a sick dog.

Minnie also starts saving any money she can get her hands on (including Dad’s unwanted back payment) into the account her parents gave her. This is because she realises their money will run out because of their careless spending, and a reserve will be required for when this happens.

This and not displaying her generosity openly give the impression that she is turning into a miser, a reputation she believes she must cultivate in order to protect her parents’ money as best she can. The people of Badger Street start to bully and jeer at her, calling her “Minnie the Meanie!” in the street. This causes misunderstandings with her parents, who think she is turning into a miser too. So they don’t listen when she tries to tell them that people are taking advantage of them. They just brush it off because they have lots of money anyway, so what’s the big deal?

At first the parents dismiss warning signs that they are spending too much. Dad laughs and says there’s still plenty left. They buy over a house next door (and make an overinflated offer for it!) so they can add it to their own and develop their residence in accordance with how they are rising up the social scale. Once the redevelopment is complete, Mum throws out the furnishings they only just bought when the money first arrived and buys whole new ones!

Ironically, the parents don’t even approve of Minnie saving money instead of spending it as they do and think it’s just more of her miserliness. This attitude gets really bizarre. For example, when they find out what Minnie did with the back payment, what angers them is that she saved the money instead of spending it! They are far less bothered about her taking the money herself.

Minnie’s saving causes other problems too. For example, she goes on a shopping spree, and then returns the gifts for money, which gets banked. Nasty Ella Stevens finds out and starts blackmailing her. To get Ella off her back, Minnie tells the folks herself. She then teaches Ella a lesson by compelling her to donate £20 to the Youth Club Roof Fund.

One day Dad comes in looking awfully worried. He does not say what is wrong, but Minnie guesses that Dad is paying more heed to warning signals that the money is running out. Indeed, he now becomes more wary about spending money. Strangely, Dad would still much rather have Minnie spending than saving, which she steps up of course. Meanwhile, Mum pays no attention and continues with heedless spending.

Dad getting worried about the spending prompts nasty gossip from the neighbours that the parents are getting as mean as Minnie. Despite Minnie’s protests not to give in to such bullying, Mum tries to stop the gossip by lavishing even more generosity on them.

One of the worst cases of this is when Mum takes the residents of Badger Street on an outing that includes a funfair and an expensive lunch. Dad joins in Minnie’s protests that they are spending far more than necessary on the trip, what with buying snacks for the residents on top of the lunch and giving them all spending money at the fair. Mum just tells him that he’s getting as bad as Minnie and he gives in to keep the peace. Minnie secretly cancels the lunch and temporarily hides Dad’s wallet so he can’t treat the residents elsewhere, hoping their reaction will make the parents see sense. Their reaction is to accuse the parents of pulling cheap tricks despite the other treats they provided, stalk off to find a cuppa without including the Mills, and they show they care more about a free lunch than Dad getting his wallet nicked. Dad is outraged and disgusted at this, while Mum does not open her eyes at all. However, Minnie has new hope that Dad is beginning to see things her way.

Indeed, Dad starts quarrelling with Mum over her overspending while she says he’s just a big meanie like Minnie. Minnie cannot reason with her either. Dad groans when the latest bank statement arrives, and Minnie can guess why.

Finally, the inevitable happens because of Mum’s overspending. But by the time she learns this, it’s too late – her latest spending spree has run up a total of £29,500 in bills to pay! So they are not only stony broke but also in huge debt, and there are angry creditors on the doorstep too.

Minnie managed to save enough to clear the debts, and there is even a bit left over. The parents now understand why Minnie was saving so hard. So the next time the bullies call Minnie a meanie, Mum gives them a real piece of her mind and tells them what Minnie did for them. After this they apologise to Minnie, admit they were just jealous and how horrible they were, and they also guess who the secret beneficiary was. Minnie gets her friends back and forgives their conduct. The other Badger Street residents rally around to help out once the word spreads (with a few gloating exceptions).

The parents have to find a new way to make ends meet. At Minnie’s suggestion, they use the two cars they have now and the remaining money to start a taxi business.

Thoughts

This story is so realistic because it draws on so many real-life stories that we hear about. People who go from rags to riches, only to end up in rags again. People who win vast fortunes – only to lose the lot within a few years because they handled the money badly, as the Mill parents did. People who come into a huge amount of money get taken advantage of by cadgers and false friends. Which is precisely the reason why some people who win the lotto prefer to stay quiet about it. Over-generous people losing huge amounts of money because they can’t stop giving – sometimes even when they can’t even afford to give – and cadgers taking advantage of them as well. People who found that huge wins turned sour for them and prove the old adage that money is not everything. All of it is revolving around in this story.

Through Minnie’s eyes, we see an exploration of greed and how it brings out the worst in people, even in people Minnie thought were her friends. Minnie always sees vultures swooping in on what the parents have to give away and cadgers dropping in to take advantage with sob stories and such. She also sees jealousy in people when they’re not grasping, such as nasty gossips. Jealousy is clearly behind all their nastiness towards Minnie as they were whispering she was turning into a miser well before she started on her so-called miserly conduct. At the party to celebrate the win they are gossiping that she is a miser just because she doesn’t look so happy; in fact it’s because she already suspects their cadging.

While the residents of Badger Street say Mrs Mill has a heart of gold, they do not reciprocate it in any way or show any gratitude for the things the Mill parents do for them. They don’t even give the Mill family a cup of flour when they ask for one or offer to help out when Dad loses his wallet. All they do is take, take, take from the Mill family now that they’re in the money, and they don’t give anything in return. They have a nerve calling Minnie a meanie when they are so mean themselves towards the Mill family and don’t show them any generosity. It’s not until the very end that they rediscover their kindness and give something back to the Mill family.

The story also comments on how a huge supply of money can get people to take things for granted. Dad laughs off the back payment because it looks nothing compared to his win. Mum throws out brand-new and expensive furnishings and thinks nothing of the expense of buying new ones. An expensive trolley goes when the vultures swoop on the old furnishings, but Mum dismisses it as no big deal (Dad is more horrified). Mum thinks little of a woman cadging off her because she’s got so much money anyway. The parents would never have thought that way in the days when they lived in shabby accommodation and Mum had to be a careful housekeeper because they did not have much money. Minnie never goes that way at all and is appalled at her parents’ attitude.

This story is no exception to girls’ serials where the protagonist has far more brains, common sense and perception than her parents. While the parents are so blithe to the cadging or shrug it off, Minnie can see right through it. Minnie gets victimised by the cadging too, but at least she rumbles the cadgers and does something about it wherever she can. Also, Minnie never catches the “buying disease” as her parents do and goes crazy on spending, so she is quick to realise where it is all going to lead. She is the only one to take active steps to prepare for that eventuality. Dad eventually heeds the warning signals about the impending doom, but he does not really do anything about it. He does worry and quarrels with his wife about overspending, but he does not actually tell the family what is going on or show them the bank statements. Nor did he put any remaining money into a reserve, as Minnie did.

Minnie is more assertive than many protagonists. So many of them, such as Helen Shaw from “Hard Times for Helen”, just suffer in silence and don’t speak out (until the end). But Minnie is not afraid to speak up. She constantly speaks parents about the cadging, even if they don’t listen. At times she even talks back at the cadgers and bullies.

And of course it’s all thanks to the protagonist that things do not turn out so badly for the parents in the end. If it had not been for Minnie, their stupidity, lack of foresight and heedless spending would have ruined them entirely and they would ended up even worse off than when they were to begin with. As it is, Minnie’s money and brains and Mum’s not-too-bad idea of buying a second car enable them to begin on a new business venture that keeps them from going right back to square one or even worse.

It’s a relief all around when the money goes, because it brought only trouble. But then, much of that was due to the parents handling the money badly and not heeding the advice of the pools representative. If the Mill parents get another chance at the pools, they will no doubt try to use the money more wisely.

Teacher’s Pet [1990]

  • Teacher’s Pet –  Judy: #1574 (10 March 1990) – #1583 (12 May 1990)
  • Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)

Plot

Anna Norman gets on well in school until the arrival of a new teacher Miss Johnstone. Her new form teacher, starts favouring her immediately, earning Anna the name of “Teacher’s Pet” from her classmates. Even when Anna tries to get in trouble it makes things worse, such as when she is late to class she expects to be punished, like her other classmates were, but “Stoney” Johnstone just lets her away with it, and everyone else just thinks Anna’s taking advantage. When it comes time to elect a form captain Johnstone makes it clear that she thinks Anna has the right qualities for the job and commiserates with her when she lose out to Lucy. No amount of objections from Anna can convince her friends that she never wanted to be captain. It continues to get worse, on a museum trip, Johnstone implies that Anna told tales on Lucy and Anna rues the day the teacher took a liking to her. One good thing comes out of the trip is that her old friend Ros has gotten suspicious of Johnstone’s motives and points out to Anna that everything she does gets her in trouble and perhaps Johnstone doesn’t favour her at all!

Anna puts this theory test by speaking in slang to Johnstone when no one else is around, and gets a more typical “Stoney” response, but in class when she does it, Johnstone suggests she’d be perfect for reading the lead Pygmalion. She enlists Ros’s help to find out why Johnstone is doing this, Ros agrees to help but doesn’t want to get too involved for fear of losing friends. So in secret Ros and Anna start investigating Miss Johnstone, they find out where she lives and theorize that Anna may look like a sister that she dislikes. That theory is soon disproved as Johnstone is an only child. While Stoney is away for the weekend they do more snooping where she lives and gets talking to a neighbour of hers. Seeing a letter in a book she lent the neghbour, they think they have a new clue. It involves the local dramatics society and they think Stoney is upset because she lost out to a younger actress similar to Anna that also has the same name. Again this theory quickly goes nowhere, as the letter actually was Mrs Greys’, the neighbour.

Johnstone assigns Anna to the school disco committee, despite Lucy volunteering, not winning Anna any favours from the others. The theme is to be the 60s, so Anna asks to borrow some of her Dad’s records, but he won’t let his precious collection out of the house, her mom says he had them even before they met (some foreshadowing here!). Then while setting up for the disco, Anna gets in Stoney’s bad books temporarily for playing “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. Stoney ends up scratching the record in her hurry to turn it off. Wayne, the owner of the record, blames Anna for putting it on. Ros thinks they finally have a clue to Stoney’s past and they must find out why she hates that song so much.

Things look up for Anna, when Ros introduces her to her cousin Tom and they hit it off, but of course Stoney tries to cause problems. Anna then tells her mom that she she is having problems with Miss Johnstone praising her all the time, so her mom says she will have a word with her on parents night. But on the night Johnstone leaves suddenly with a headache before meeting the Normans. Ros who has smoothed things with Tom, reckons that Stoney had a broken romance, and wanted to break Anna and Tom up, though it doesn’t explain why she’s targeting Anna specifically. She soon finds out the reason why, when they get a chance to look in Johnstone’s flat while Mrs Grey is looking after her cat. Anna finds a picture of young Johnstone with a man whose face is crossed out, but she recognises the car in the background. A visit to her grandmother and looking through old photo albums, confirms her suspicions, the man in the photo was her dad! Mr Norman had never made the connection with the name but he was once engaged to Jean Johnstone but broke it off because of her jealousy and moodiness. They contact the headmistress and Johnstone doesn’t even deny it when confronted, she is happy she took her revenge. Learning the truth her classmates are sorry for how they treated Anna, she forgives them easily as she doesn’t want to end up like Stoney holding a grudge for years.

Thoughts

This is an interesting hate campaign story, there are several things that make it stand out from similar stories. Firstly that it is an adult campaigning against the protagonist rather than a peer. Miss Johnstone is in a position of power, she abuses this terribly and has no regrets that she punishes an innocent girl for the perceived wrong doings of her father. She also doesn’t regret ruining her own career because of this. Even without her revenge plan, Miss Johnstone isn’t a nice person, she soon earns her nickname “Stoney” with her tough discipline and hard attitude. We later learn it is not just being dumped that has turned her into this bitter person (although it certainly doesn’t help!) as even as a younger woman Johnstone was prone to jealousy and moodiness. Seems Mr Norman had a lucky escape!

Another thing that makes it stand out, is that it is not clear that there is a hate campaign against Anna to begin with. Other stories have had the “friend” of the protagonist turn out to be their secret enemy, but here because of Miss Johnstone’s strategy it’s not clear there is a hate campaign. Certainly it is a devious scheme, by praising and acting like she thinks Anna is great, she causes trouble without suspicion. It is nearly half ways through the story before her motives are actually questioned. Some of the girls thoughts on why Johnstone is after Anna are a stretch (such as looking like a hated sister) but they don’t have a lot to go on, so they have to think of some reason. Anna was lucky to find the photo and recognise the car and end Johnstone’s revenge. I like that Anna’s parents are supportive too, because often adults in these stories can be dismissive, especially considering Anna’s complaints are “Johnstone’s too nice to her”! While her mother doesn’t think it can be that bad, she does say she will talk to Johnstone and when they find out who she really is, they go straight to the Headmistress.

Anna’s friends are a bit quick to judge her, even Ros at first when she agrees to help, she doesn’t stand up for her in public. This might be excused if she didn’t want to put Johnstone onto their investigation but she also says she doesn’t want to get involved and lose her friends. Although as Ros becomes more convinced of Johnstone’s motives, she does become more active in supporting Anna, even introducing her to Tom, her cousin. I’m sure Anna, as a nice person, would have forgiven all her friends anyway, but it’s good to see it tie in with Johnstone, as she doesn’t want to become a bitter, unforgiving person like her. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The Runaway Rodgers

Plot

The four Rogers children, whose parents  disappeared on a trip abroad, ran away from a children’s home to their Aunt Margedd’s cottage in North Wales —only to find the place empty and deserted. Ben and Danny Rogers followed a shepherd boy into the mountains at night and were led to Aunt Margedd, living in a ruined chapel. But when Ben and Twm, the shepherd, boy, returned to the cottage for Agnes and Connie, they found it burning fiercely.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Runaway Rodgers – Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

Flower-Power Fay

Plot

Fay Bell discovered that she had a strange effect on plants, so that they grew stronger and more beautiful for her than for anyone else in her town. With news of her gardening talent getting around, the Bells’ jealous neighbours, the Braggs, couldn’t resist a chance of trying to score over Fay.

Notes

Appeared

  • Flower-Power Fay – Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

Sally the Survivor

Plot

Thirteen year old Sally Hall, was forced to flee during the surprise German invasion of neutral Holland, during the Second  World War. On her way to freedom, Sally collected two young companions – Tommy, a young baby, and Bobby Gordon. The three were trying to make for Belgium.

 

Notes

Appeared

  • Sally the Survivor– Judy: circa #567 (21 November 1970) – (?)

Nightmares [1993]

  • Nightmares – Judy PSL: #360 [1993]
  • Art: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Sally Laing is in charge of driving a group of girls from the Kentwood Youth club to Summer Camp. Bad weather forces Sally to pull over, which reminds one of the girls, Penny, of a nightmare she had of being stuck on a motorway. In the dream,  she was in car with her dad and a horrible truck driver keeps boxing them in so they can’t get to the slip road. When they do get off the motorway, they are led back onto it again and then it changes into a roundabout with no exits and  suddenly changes into a merry-go-round that kept going faster until Penny woke up. While the girls are amused by the story, Sally is worried about the weather and decides to try and find somewhere to stay for the night. They get to a B&B, Hadley Hall, but the owner, Mrs Keeting, seems reluctant to let them stay. She says the sign is an old one but agrees to let them stay one night. Penny gets a shock when a member of staff, George, comes to take care of their luggage, as he looks exactly like the man from her nightmare!

The girls try to make the best of things, while eating Pauline is reminded of a nightmare she had. She goes to a dentist, a strange looking woman,  who pokes and prods until Pauline runs away from her. But the next day Pauline discovers she has fangs, so she has to return to dentist to get them fixed. Like Penny, Pauline gets a shock when the woman clearing the table is the same as the dentist. Mrs Keeting takes them to their room, which has no furniture, so they are forced to sleep on the floor with blankets. Again a girl is reminded of a nightmare. Jenny dreamt of a similar room, where one of the walls revealed the message “Prepare to Meet Thy Doom” and then the walls started to close in on her. The girls are now getting edgy, and pealing off some of the wallpaper reveals the same message as from Jenny’s dream. Sally asks whoever wrote the message to own up, but they all deny writing it.

Even when they try to sleep, it doesn’t stop the girls talking of nightmares. Another story has a girl camping, when she gets flooded and has to cling onto a tree trunk. Two witches appear beside her on other trunks, until she falls down a waterfall into a whirlpool. Suddenly water starts pouring on the girl’s head. Sally being sensible, just says a slate must have come loose, and she will get some dry blankets from Mrs Keeting. But even Sally is unsettled when she finds their door is locked. She is not in the mood when Wendy starts telling the story of her dream of being in a locked room. In the dream she found a trapdoor that had a spiral staircase, she went down for ages only to find another trapdoor leading back to the original room. Once again real life imitates the dream, as they find a trapdoor. Wendy goes to investigate but trips and Sally has to go after her. When they make their back to the trapdoor, Mrs Keeting has closed it as she is not happy with them poking around. She does let them out but Sally has had enough, she tells the girls they are leaving straight away, but when they get outside the minibus is gone and the staff deny seeing it.

Sally tries to call for police but dial is stuck, this again triggers another memory of a nightmare. A girl shrinks and has difficulty phoning for help. In reality they find the phone won’t work because the line is cut. With little choice they are lead back to their room again.  With the door locked Sally thinks the only way to go find minibus is to climb down the ivy. One of the girls protests as she had a nightmare about ivy attacking her, still Sally persists. She is part of the way down when Mrs Keeting and the others see her. She cuts the ivy, causing Sally to fall and brings her back to the room. Penny notices that the key is still in the lock and figure they can knock it onto a piece of paper. The old newspaper they are going to use has the headline that Hadley Hall was destroyed in a fire and even more odd the paper is dated for the next day, Friday the 13th! Freda tells of a dream where she dropped her key and fell down a hole with a bunch of keys, she frantically looked for the right key when a beast started chasing her.

They do manage to get out of the room and house but find themselves in a maze, they get lost and Mrs Keeting finds them. Soon they are back to where they started in the room again. As the storm worsens a nearby tree is struck by lightning and falls onto the house, setting it on fire. Sally and the girls make it to the roof to escape but are one again confronted by Mrs Keeting. Her and Sally fight and they both fall into the flames. It is at that moment Penny wakes up Sally. They are still in the bus, Sally fell asleep soon after they pulled over. As the storm has cleared they can sett off again and Sally tells them about her dream on the way. As they pass a sign for Hadley Hall, Penny asks what the name of the house was in her dream. Sally can’t remember and says it doesn’t matter anyway as nightmares have nothing to do with reality. As she drives on we see Mrs Keeting by the sign.

Thoughts

This is spooky and tense story. I like the dream narrative, and how on reflection, it becomes more obvious its a dream near the end, with archetypes such as sudden transitions and impossible occurrences, such as suddenly finding themselves in a maze or Mrs Keetings sudden appearance on the roof or even one of the girls picking this time to want to tell a nightmare story!  Still it doesn’t make it too obvious that it’s not reality until the end, so it could be believed it is just a very creepy house with maybe something supernatural going on. With all the stories of the girls dreams, it is like there are multiple mini scary stories, which brings more variety and makes satisfying reading. Most of these short nightmares would be scary on their own but to then have it tie into what’s going on around them adds another layer of creepiness.

Oliver Passingham drew a lot of supernatural and eerie stories (he was a regular artist on Skeleton Corner) and his style is suited here. With the nightmares he gets a chance to bring even more supernatural elements such as the witches and the beast, and even in “reality” he makes things eerie. Mrs Keeting is a good villain, and the final confrontation with her is quite exciting, as we wonder if the girls will be able to escape. Even though it all turns out to be a dream, the final panel with Mrs Keeting, makes things a bit more ambiguous, and makes us wonder if there was some sort of prophecy to Sally’s dream. Maybe Hadley Hall is destined to burn down, or the dream serves as a warning to stay away from the house and Mrs Keeting.

It is a story that uses it premise of nightmares well and  takes its time to build to the twist in the end. Although on reflection, knowing that after Penny tells her story in the minisbus, everything else is a dream, it does mean Sally’s nightmare was quite elaborate including nightmares within a nightmare!

 

Tug of Love Toni / Toni’s Troubles

Plot

Toni Cole’s mother walked out on the family two years before because she was mixed up. She returns for a second chance, but Toni has not forgiven her and tries to drive her away with nastiness. However, when Toni finally succeeds in getting rid of her mother, she suddenly realises how wrong she was.

Notes

  • Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)

Appeared

  • Tug of Love Toni – Judy: #1548 (9 September 1989) – #1559 (25 November 1989)
  • Reprinted as Toni’s Troubles – M&J:  #240 (16 December 1995) – #251 (2 March 1996)

 

Was My Mother a Witch? [1979]

 

Published: Judy Picture Story Library #190

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Halloween is in the offing, which makes it fitting to focus on some more of the spooky publications from DCT.

Plot

The year is 1656. Anne is the adopted daughter of Pastor Septimus Bartholomew. Anne has always been happy there, but then small disquieting things begin to happen. Her father gets oddly upset when Anne jokingly calls one of her siblings “my little imp”, and also when she speaks endearments to a kitten.

These seem such trivial things, but they foreshadow something more worrying when Anne pays a visit to Pendleton, the village of her birth. An old woman (who looks like a witch herself!) tells Anne that her mother was a witch. As she is approaching thirteen, her own powers of witchcraft will soon awaken too, and she would have a Devil’s mark on her body. Following this, Anne begins to doubt herself. She wonders if she has inherited witchcraft from her mother, and whether a mark on her arm is the Devil’s mark like the old woman said.

Mary, the servant woman, tells Anne it’s all superstitious nonsense, and that mark on her arm is not a devil’s mark but a scar from a rose thorn. All the same, Anne has horrible nightmares of being a witch’s child that night and is still full of self-doubts.

Soon after, Anne is given a place as a seamstress to a grand lady, Mistress Latimer at Pendleton Hall – which is in the very village where her alleged witch mother lived. The sewing goes very well, but Anne is still troubled by the story about her mother and the doubts about herself. She grows even more fearful she is a witch when the household dog, Toby, reacts very badly to her for no apparent reason.

Unwisely, Anne tells people in the household that she wonders if she is a witch because of the allegations against her mother. Though Emmie the housekeeper is sensible about it, she does tell Anne that her grandmother was feared because was said to have powers to foretell the future. She also says plague killed the mother and her family, and Anne was the only survivor. However, the ensuing gossip spread by others has Lady Latimer telling Anne to leave the hall the next day.

That night Anne slips out to the ruins of the cottage where her mother once lived. She examines an old cauldron Emmie said was there, but there is nothing untoward or sinister about it.

On the way back Anne rescues the dog Toby from a trap set by the manservant of the hall. Emmie tells Anne that her act of kindness is proof she is not a witch, and gives logical explanations for Toby’s initial hostility towards her. Anne’s mind is now put to rest, but she is so glad when her family summon her home.

Thoughts

The story definitely means well in its message that the old belief in witchcraft was a product of ignorance and superstition. From the sound of it, Anne’s mother was a victim of it rather than being any practitioner of black magic, presumably because her own mother had what would now be called psychic powers. Anne was very fortunate that she experienced little more than self-doubt and some gossip. There have been so many other girls in girls’ comics who suffered full persecution that started with such rumours, such as Ellie Ross in Bunty’s “Witch!” Nor did Anne have any weird experiences that could suggest genuine powers of some sort as her counterparts in stories like “Witch!” did.

As this is a story set in the age of witchcraft persecution itself, it feels so pat and unrealistic that Anne got through it so unscathed and with such little trouble. The 17th century people in the story are not reacting to these rumours of witchcraft with the fear and hysteria that they should have. It is acknowledged that even the 17th century would have had its share of sceptics, who come across so exemplary in the forms of Mary and Emmie. But the others in the story who believe it more are not really reacting as dangerously as they should have been. In those days, once that sort of rumour got going, Anne would have found herself persecuted on all sides from witch-hunting mobs and such. Nor would she have been able to cast off the accusation of witchcraft as glibly as she did. Once the label of witchcraft stuck in those times, it was there to stay. Even if anyone was acquitted of witchcraft in those times, the accusation still cast a long shadow over their lives.

Although the story is well meaning in its intentions and the artwork works well, particularly in the spooky night scenes, the plot feels weak and unconvincing. Also, there is little drama or excitement in the story, while the potential was there to use the 17th century fear of witchcraft and its life-threatening ramifications for Anne to make it a far more intense and thrilling story.

Twin Trouble [1985]

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

Episodes: 10

Reprints: None known

Artist: Paddy Brennan

Writer: Unknown

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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.