Category Archives: Judy

Rosie at Thorndale Hall [1983]

Thorndale Hall cover

Published: Judy Picture Library #240 [1983]

Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #400 [1993]

Artist: David Matysiak

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Rosie Cooper is not a popular girl at Meadowdale Hall School. She is an extremely gifted girl who excels at everything, but she is spoiled and selfish and never helps anyone or shares her skills. Even the staff find her unbearable, but don’t speak out because her father is the chairman of the board of governors and her family have old ties with the school. For this reason the staff give her favourable treatment and bend a lot of rules for her.

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Then prefect Kay Easton decides enough is enough. She orders Rosie to clean out a lumber room and won’t have any of Rosie’s threats of what she could do because her father’s position. Rosie realises she has met her match in Kay and grudgingly starts cleaning.

While cleaning the room, Rosie stumbles across a picture of what looks like the school in its early days, but under a different name: Thorndale Hall. Rosie gets a strange feeling the picture means something to her, and it’s creepy.

It’s creepy all right: next moment the picture vanishes, and everything starts spinning and dissolving. When it stops, Rosie finds the school has changed and so have her clothes: “what coarse old rubbish”. A fearsome-looking Victorian woman named Mrs Grimm (the Thorndale headmistress) appears and demands to know why Rosie hasn’t scrubbed the floor. Rosie’s arrogance resurfaces, making her usual threats about her father being the chairman of the governors. Thinking Rosie has lost her mind or something, Grimm and her assistant, Trimlett, inform her that she is an orphan who is boarding at Thorndale Hall, all paid by her “scapegrace [wayward] guardian”. Grimm and Trimlett make it very clear that they are capable of handling Rosie with extreme cruelty; Trimlett has already broken one girl’s arm. Later we learn Trimlett’s punishments killed another girl. Cowed and bewildered, Rosie is forced to scrub the floor, realising she has somehow gone back in time to Thorndale Hall, which is clearly run on the lines of Wackford Squeers.

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In the dining hall Rosie is introduced to another cruel assistant, Mr Bludge, who wants her to help with very substandard and meagre portions for the pupils. It is here that Rosie begins to find that she is no longer quite so good at everything. She clumsily breaks the jar of dripping and in punishment is given just dry bread. One girl, Lucy Dawlish, takes pity on her, and Rosie makes a friend for the first time in this story.

That night Rosie tries to run away, but finds there is a guard dog, which raises the alarm. Bludge almost catches her, but Lucy creates a diversion by screaming and feigning night horrors. This enables Rosie to slip back without being caught, but the cruel staff say Lucy’s nightmares are due to too much food and don’t let her have any breakfast. (Any excuse to make them go short, obviously.) Rosie tries to slip Lucy her own food, but Trimlett catches her.

Pupils are forced to do all the work around the school. There are lessons, but Rosie is in for a shocking surprise in class – she is no longer able to read! Grimm calls her a “useless slut”, but instead of teaching Rosie to read she puts Rosie back to more menial work, saying that’s all she’s good for. (Another excuse for more slave labour, obviously.)

Rosie still wants to escape, and realises the first step is to make friends with the guard dog. So she takes scraps from the larder to feed to the dog. Lucy envies the dog for getting more food than they do, but it does the trick: in a matter of days the dog no longer barks at Rosie.

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However, when Rosie gets too close to a room with blacked-out windows while window cleaning, Bludge acts like this has spooked him and he rants at her. This arouses Rosie’s suspicions. She gets even more suspicious when she finds the door to the grimy window room is always locked. Grimm and Trimlett also go into a rant when they catch Rosie at the door, which makes her even more suspicious. The cruel staff are getting suspicious of Rosie and are watching her closely.

Rosie and Lucy now try their escape. As they do so, they are surprised to see a horse trap arrive with two men, who carry a box into the school. The dog does not bark at them, so it must know them. The girls take advantage of the men leaving the gate unlocked to make their escape.

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They find a Peeler, but he does not believe their story and brings them back to Thorndale Hall. He tells the staff that he will call back to check in a week or so, which makes the staff too scared to punish the girls. Instead they tread a cautious line of better treatment for the girls (such as more food for the pupils) until they are sure things are safe again. But Rosie senses they are in danger because the staff suspect they saw the men and there are signs the staff are wary, such as the dog being moved closer to the grimy windowed room. Rosie keeps watch for the men and sees them creeping around the room with the box, and then somehow reappear without it. She realises there must be a secret entrance that is concealed by greenery.

Rosie does not realise the men saw her spying. When the staff hear about it, they decide to advance their plans to do away with Rosie and Lucy. Rosie is listening at the door (and narrowly escapes being caught doing so) and realises they must escape. But in view of what happened before, they must go with some form of evidence so the Peelers will listen this time.

So Rosie heads to the secret room for some. When she pulls back the greenery she finds a small hidden door and a silver medallion. Hearing footsteps, Rosie hides with the medallion in time – but not in time to put the greenery back. Bludge sees it has been moved and is now alerted, which means Rosie and Lucy have to make an instant escape. They do so, but Grimm sends Bludge and Trimlett out to find and silence them, or it will be Newgate Prison for all of them.

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Trimlett and Bludge do catch up with the girls, but the Peelers catch them red-handed and arrest them. The Peelers explain they half-believed the girls because it tied in with other things they had observed, such as the two men, but they had to wait until they had checked things out.

At the school, the Peelers force Grimm to open the door to the secret room, which reveals a counterfeiting operation that forges coins with stolen silver. Grimm feigns innocence, but she goes wild when Rosie furiously counters with the truth. Grimm locks the Peelers in the room and then goes after Rosie with a poker. She is almost upon Rosie, but then everything starts spinning and dissolving again…

Rosie now finds herself back in her own time, and in her own clothes. Kay gives Rosie full marks for her excellent cleanup of the lumber room (how did it get cleaned up?). Rosie wonders if it was a dream, but when she checks the school records it corroborates everything she experienced at Thorndale Hall. The school was exposed, Grimm was imprisoned for theft and forgery, and her school closed down. Thorndale was exposed by…Rosie Cooper.

Rosie is at a loss to explain it. Was it a dream or what? But everyone is surprised and delighted at how Rosie has suddenly become a kind, friendly and helpful girl at the school. Rosie is now making friends and becoming popular.

Thoughts

This story could still stand on its own if it was just a straight out period piece of Rosie being a 19th century girl being put through the experiences of Thorndale Hall, bringing it down, and going on to become one of the founders of its more savoury successor, Meadowdale. After all, there must be some connection between Rosie Cooper exposing Thorndale Hall and the Coopers having long-standing connections with Meadowdale. However, that aspect is never explained. Instead we’ve got the added dimensions of a spoiled 20th century girl who needs a lesson and gets it at 19th century Thorndale, and a time travel element that nobody can understand or explain. This makes the story even more exciting, intriguing and mysterious than if it was just a group slave story set in a cruel and secretly criminal 19th century school.

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We have to wonder if the time travel creates some sort of paradox. Is 20th century Rosie the same Rosie who exposed Thorndale Hall in the past and (presumably) established her own ancestral connections to Meadowdale? Or is it some weird combination between 20th century Rosie and 19th century Rosie (as implied by retaining her 20th century memories yet becoming unable to read)? Or was 20th century Rosie somehow reliving the experiences of 19th century Rosie while still retaining a portion of her own consciousness? Or was it some supernatural power reaching out to punish Rosie for her arrogance? It is stretching credibility to say the whole thing was in Rosie’s imagination.

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The villains are predictably cruel Victorian people who run their school in a Squeersian style manner. But it’s not just to take advantage of girls for profit. The villains also using the school as a front for a secret counterfeiting ring. It would be interesting to know if they set up the school that way in the first place and they were criminals to begin with. We get a hint that this may be so when Grimm’s lessons suggest she does not care all that much about educating the girls. One-eyed Bludge does not give the impression he is the teaching sort either.

Matysiak’s artwork makes the villains really terrifying and the stuff of nightmares. For example, the close-up of the two mystery men (above) still keeps their faces indistinct. Their faces are rendered in an impressionist manner that makes them even more frightening than if their faces were shown clearly. In another panel (below), Grimm is made even more alarming by a stripe of dark highlighting that goes right down from her forehead to her collarbone.

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The artwork is a perfect fit for rendering this intriguing and powerful story. Matysiak’s artwork is brilliantly atmospheric in conveying the grimness of the school and its Victorian setting, the evil of the school staff, the covert operations at the school that provide the mystery that must be unravelled, and the supernatural time travel elements of the story. It’s done through ingenious applications of inking rather than linework or hatching. It produces real beauties, such as in the two panels mentioned above.

 

The Boy Next Door [1989]

  • The Boy Next Door –  Judy: #1528 (22 April 1989) – #1537 (24 June 1989)
  • Artist: John Armstrong

Plot

Charlene Hodge is thrilled when the boy she has a crush on,  Marcus Dolby, asks her out, but then he goes away to France on an exchange school visit, and Charlene is left waiting anxiously for his return. Meanwhile, Dave Webb, the class wimp,  moves into the house next door to Charlene. She isn’t too happy about this, but when she hears Dave’s older brother mocking him, she invites Dave to her party, in order to shut him up. Afterwards she worries what she will do if Dave actually shows up and how it will look to her friends. Luckily Dave doesn’t appear, as he knows she only invited him to make him look better in front of his brother. He also says he knows no girl would be interested in him, Charlene says he shouldn’t be so wet and actually try to ask a girl out. He invites her to go bird watching with him and after some hesitation Charlene agrees, figuring no one will see them that early in the morning. She is surprised to find she enjoys herself spending time with Dave. So she realises he is not so bad and she decides to try and find him a girlfriend.

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This doesn’t prove to be an easy task, especially as at first she still doesn’t want to appear too friendly with Dave in case she gets teased. Also she’s worried in case Marcus finds out and gets the wrong idea. After deciding to help Dave it seems she becomes more aware of how unfair people treat Dave. While it doesn’t seem like she was maliciously involved with teasing before hand, it didn’t seem to occur to her before how much Dave is bullied. Mr Dimchurch, one of the teachers is particularly harsh on him and certainly these days no teacher would get away with what he says and putting Dave down in front of the whole class. Charlene at first thinks if she can get Dimchurch to treat Dave with more respect, others will follow suit. Her efforts don’t go well as Dave’s clumsiness just make things worse. Hearing the rest of the class teasing him, Charlene thinks she is no better than the others, as even though she is not taking part in the teasing, she is ashamed to be seen with Dave. It is after this she becomes more active and open in her friendship with Dave

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Charlene talks to her friend, Jane,  about why no-one gives Dave a chance, saying it’s what’s inside that matters not appearances. Jane points out that Charlene wouldn’t have taken a second look at Marcus if he wasn’t so good looking, so Charlene tries to smarten Dave.  She encourages him to buy new clothes but then feels terrible when she finds out he sold his computer games cheaply in order to get a new shirt (that gets messed up when he trips while bird watching). Clearly Charlene’s opinion of him matters to Dave and he makes conscious effort to return her friendship. When some boys snatches Charlene’s postcard from Marcus, Dave actually steps in to try and get it back for her, while he doesn’t stand up for himself, he clearly likes Charlene, so he doesn’t want to see her bullied. This is an important step for him as it may lead him to talk up against his own bullies too.

All the while, Charlene is on the look out for a girlfriend for Dave, she thinks she finds a good match with Hayley who is also a bird lover, but again a boat ride ends in disaster. She also returns home and finds out Marcus rang, but her dad said she was out with the boy next door. She again worries what Marcus must think, but she decides that as long as Dave has a girlfriend by time Marcus is back, then Marcus will see there’s nothing to worry about. So her next plan to find Dave a girlfriend is to get Dave to join the choir, as there is a shortage. While Dave’s not a singer, he does have a talent for whistling, so she convinces Dimchurch to add in his whistling for a song. She also sees this as an opportunity to build bridges between him and his family. But on the night of the concert  it is another disaster – because of time restraints the song is cut and Dave trips getting off the stage.

Boy next door4Again after this incident, Charlene is the only one that cares about how Dave is afterwards. Later she enlists Dave’s help to rescue a girl’s pet bird and it appears she has finally found a potential girlfriend for him as the grateful girl likes him, but she hasn’t taken into consideration that Dave only fancies one girl now…

Dave then buys her tickets for open air concert she was interested in, even though it’s not really his scene. Before Charlene can answer  Marcus arrives, home earlier than expected. While Dave admits his feelings for her, he wants her to be happy and gives her and Marcus the tickets. At the concert Charlene tries to put Dave out of her mind and enjoy her time with Marcus. Then when he asks her to get her a burger, she returns to hear him saying how Dave was no competition and she is like all the other girls that will come running when he snaps his fingers. Charlene wonders what she saw in such a big head and let’s him know what she thinks of him by pushing his burger into his face. She then goes to apologise to Dave and see if he will give her a chance as she now knows who she would like to be her boyfriend.

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Thoughts

As a romance story this is well done as we see Charlene and Dave build up a friendship before they begin dating. What makes it more interesting is the theme of bullying throughout. While the story is told from Charlene’s point of view, it is interesting to see t Dave undergoes the trials that are usually reserved for the main protagonist. He deals with bullies and bully teachers, a lack of confidence and clumsiness. While Charlene gets a little teasing for hanging around with Dave and trying to help him – it is nowhere near the amount of bullying that Dave has to face daily. It’s no wonder he has little confidence, as not only do his peers tease him, his whole family are down on him too, until Charlene comes along there seems to be no one that believes in his potential. Charlene also realises while she isn’t active in the bullying, she also doesn’t do anything to help Dave. After this realisation, she makes a conscious effort to help him and openly be his friend and try to get others to respect him too. Having an ally also helps Dave try new things too and stand up to bullies (even if it’s on Charlene’s behalf rather than his own).

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It is easy to see why Dave falls for Charlene, as she is the only person that has tried to help him and is actually nice to him. He does seem to appreciate her for herself as well and while he has hopes that they might start dating,  he is smart enough to figure out she is trying to get him a different girlfriend.  As for Charlene early on she sees Dave’s  good qualities, when she actually spends time with him. While at first she is still nervous about being seen with him, around other people, she does become more active in helping him. While her plan is to get Dave a girlfriend, she does suspect that it is her she likes, but she figures he’ll forget about her once he has a new girlfriend. Although she does make an attempt to “improve” Dave getting him to buy better clothes, etc she doesn’t disparage his actual interests and does try to find him a girlfriend with similar interests. Equally Dave makes an effort with what he knows Charlene enjoys by buying her concert tickets when it’s not really his thing.

While Charlene is worried that Marcus will get the wrong idea about her and Dave, it doesn’t occur to her that he thinks so little of Dave, that he believes there’s no competition. This again shows Charlene’s good character and that she values Dave as a person. Although she initially was attracted to Marcus because of his looks, finding out what he is really like brings home the truth to  her that appearances don’t matter and also liking Dave as a person she also sees him as more attractive on the outside by the end.  John Armstrong does good job with the distinguished characters from Marcus’s smug looks and Dave’s clumsiness (without Dave becoming cartoonish). The story is well paced, both Charlene and Dave are likeable characters and it has some good lessons about bullying and perceived attractiveness.

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Where Have All the Children Gone? [1985] / Where are the Children? [1996]

Where are the Children cover

Published: as Where Have All the Children Gone? Judy Picture Library #272

Reprinted: as Where are the Children? Mandy Picture Library #243

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

In Victorian times, Flossie Ford is a poor slum girl that has made good and now runs her own florist shop in Cheapwell. The gentry are among her clients, including prim Miss Courtney and her bookworm brother Algernon Courtney. Flossie is particularly known for her buttonhole flowers. Still, Flossie has not forgotten her origins or her family, and can revert to Cockney, which she had to take special lessons to overcome.

Street children start disappearing from Cheapwell. Homeless, uncared-for waifs are the targets, but one exception is Flossie’s cousin Frankie Ludd, so it is personal for her and her Aunt Ada. Superintendent Spenser of the police recruits Flossie’s help because she can operate as both a Cockney in the slums and a respectable florist among the smart society; the police suspect someone in the smart society is behind the disappearances.

As the latter Flossie notices something odd when she arranges the flowers for Miss Courtney’s dinner party: one of their guests, Mr Warby-Bellowes is “one of their kings of industry”. Flossie is a bit surprised at this because Warby-Bellowes does not seem to be the sort who would appeal to the Courtneys, but she thinks nothing of it.

As the former, Flossie picks up a clue from the mudlarks that Frankie was buying a pie at Beck’s Wharf before he disappeared. At Beck’s Wharf, Flossie learns an old woman named Ma Jiggs bought the pie for Frankie, and she is now buying another pie for another waif. When Flossie asks Jiggs about Frankie, Jiggs denies all knowledge of him and says she just buys pies for waifs out of charity. However, Flossie senses Jiggs is mealy-mouthed and false, and therefore the sort who could lure children away with seeming kindness. But there is as yet no proof of this, and all Flossie can do is tell Spenser about Jiggs.

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Next day Flossie is arranging flowers for a wedding at the home of another client, Mrs Leighton, where she sees Warby-Bellowes again. A maid named Carrie tries to tell Flossie she just found out something about Cheapwell while she was home in Blackscar, a town a long way from Cheapwell. But before Carrie can say more, Mrs Leighton expresses disapproval at her maid wasting time talking to tradespeople. Later, Warby-Bellowes visits the florist shop and also asks Flossie what Carrie was trying to tell her. Flossie finds this suspicious and says they were just talking about the wedding.

At the police station Flossie finds the police are questioning Jiggs, who denies any connection with the missing children and stands up to interrogation. They are forced to release her, but both they and Flossie are suspicious of her. Then Carrie stumbles into the station, all beaten up. Carrie falls into a coma and can’t be questioned, but Flossie reports what passed between them.

A week later, Flossie goes back to Beck’s Wharf in Cockney disguise, where she finds Jiggs is no longer buying pies for the waifs. Jiggs tells Flossie she lost a good job because of her. Flossie retorts what good job that could be. Yes, what could it be – luring children off, maybe? Flossie reports this to Spenser.

At the hospital Carrie regains consciousness but is too scared to tell Flossie and the police anything. The police think the kidnappers may lie low after the scare they had, but they are wrong. The disappearances merely shift to a new section of Cheapwell, Nine Arches, and friends of the disappeared children insist they must have been kidnapped. By now the disappearances are sending waves of fear and paranoia through the street waifs and the slum dwellers of Cheapwell.

Flossie hits on a plan to flush out the kidnappers. She sets herself up as a target at Nine Arches, along with her cousin Alfie and friend Bert, and the police will be shadowing them. The kidnappers take the bait. A man named Wilkes (evidently Ma Jiggs’ replacement) approaches them. Wilkes is dressed more respectably than Ma Jiggs but looks sinister and evil, and is soon tempting them away with promises of food and warm clothing at a shelter full of “sad little souls” like themselves. They allow Wilkes to lure them away and to a closed wagon, where he locks them in and says they are going to be put to work. Flossie peeks out through the cracks in the wagon and is stunned to learn that Wilkes is in the pay of none other than the prim Miss Courtney! Presumably Algernon is involved too.

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The wagon takes them to (surprise, surprise!) Blackscar. They are put to work as (presumably unpaid) slave labour in a factory under a cruel overseer. They find Frankie, who has been badly beaten for trying to escape. They can’t escape without Spenser’s help, but he has lost the wagon and the trail. Fortunately the police pick up the wagon again and track it and Wilkes down to Warby-Bellowes. They overhear Wilkes telling Warby-Bellowes that the consignment was delivered safely (Spenser realises what this must mean) and more is promised. Spenser tackles Warby-Bellowes, who denies all knowledge about missing children. Spenser tells Warby-Bellowes he wants to pay a visit to his factories in the morning.

When the overseer is informed of this he hides the children. But Flossie leaves her calling card for the police – a buttonhole flower she put on the overseer. Spenser spots the clue immediately, orders an immediate search of the factory, and finds the kidnapped children.

The racket is exposed and stopped. The horror makes shock waves in the press, with photographs of the three racketeers on the front page. To reduce the chances of a repeat, Aunt Ada offers a home for homeless waifs. Flossie finds her shop is now even more popular and people keep asking her to tell the story over and over.

Thoughts

The racket is not unlike the one in Girl 2’s “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory”, in which a racket targets and kidnaps runaways and uses them as slave labour in a dress factory. The ways in which the children are kidnapped in both stories is very similar (lured away by false charity before being thrown into a vehicle and carted off to the slave factory) although one is set in Victorian times and the other in modern times.

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Unlike Nightmare Factory, this story is not told from the point of view of the abducted children and their struggle to survive, escape and expose the racket. It is told from the point of view of the people who are trying to find them. This gives the slave story the perspective of a detective story and a mystery that needs to be unravelled and a different take on the group slave story formula, which makes a nice change.

Again unlike Nightmare Factory, the abductees are lucky that the disappearances are noticed as soon as they start and alert people. The racketeers clearly played on the notion that nobody cared about homeless waifs, so nobody would even notice they were gone. If Wilkes has anything to go by, they may even have justified their actions in their own minds with the excuse they were doing the waifs and society a favour by clearing them off the streets and giving them employment. Of course the real reason is greed and making handsome profits by using slave labour instead of paid (if cheap) help. But they made the mistake of taking children who were not homeless waifs, such as Frankie Ludd, which did get noticed and raised the alarm. (This mistake is similar to the one the racketeers in Nightmare Factory eventually make.) The racketeers also made the mistake of assuming nobody would care about the waifs. There were people who did, including Flossie and the police.

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Flossie would make the old tried-and-true serial of a poor girl who rises above her poverty to become a great success through her talent for floristry if DCT had gone down that avenue with her. Instead, they give her the perfect vantage point to turn detective on behalf of the police in tracking down the disappeared children. Flossie has the best of both worlds for the job, with her slum origins that enable her to investigate the slums and her floristry reputation and connections to high society that enable her to investigate the gentry. She picks up clues at both ends, without which the police would never have cracked the case. And Flossie did it so well that none of the racketeers realised the florist and the slum girl were one and the same. The flowers do their part as well. Arranging them gives Flossie access to the homes of the gentry to do investigating, and Flossie’s trademark buttonhole flowers enable her to leave a call for help on the cruel overseer without making him suspicious.

Unfortunately the Courtney racketeers put on such convincing shows of respectability that Flossie did not suspect them. Flossie was completely fooled by Miss Courtney’s conduct of being a prim old maid who was so absorbed with her house, while her brother Algernon never seemed to do anything other than read books. Flossie thought Miss Courtney had probably never even heard of homeless waifs, much less know anything about the missing ones. When Flossie finds Miss Courtney out, she learns the hard way that appearances can be so deceiving. Fortunately Warby-Bellowes was not as clever as the Courtneys and made mistakes that made Flossie suspicious.

If Flossie had been a serial, there was scope to use her in more detective stories on behalf of the police, using her slum background to move among the slum areas, her floristry to probe the gentry, and leave flower trails for the police to follow. But she was a picture story library, which have few sequels.

Little Dolly Demon (1981)

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Published: Judy Picture Story Library #220

Artist: Unknown

Plot

Alison Kirby and Denise Vale are best friends. Right now they are in a bit of trouble with their teacher over an essay on why they like where they live, which in their case is Halbury Tower apartment block. Although Alison is having trouble putting it to paper for the essay, she does like to live at Halbury Tower. It’s not grotty as some apartment blocks are, there’s no vandalism, the lifts always work (makes a change!), the caretaker Mr Teal is nice and cheerful, and the tenants are always friendly to each other.

But all that is about to change with the arrival of Little Dolly Demon!

LDD’s arrival certainly lacks for nothing that night. There’s a violent storm, and Alison is surprised to see a ball of light in the sky. There’s a clap of thunder, and Alison thinks she heard something crash on the roof. That something is LDD, landing on the roof in a flash of light, and it can move on its own.

Next morning Alison and Denise are on the roof and find LDD. They are surprised to find the doll bone dry despite all the rain and take it in, thinking it must be lost. As they do so, the cat ring on Alison’s finger (a present her dad picked up in Malta) starts to burn hot and Alison can’t take it off. They leave LDD in Denise’s room, and once LDD is alone it gets to work with Denise’s satchel and the exercise book Alison left in it. Then, Alison is surprised to see Denise acting as though she is hypnotised (by LDD of course), but the pain from the ring forces her back. Under LDD’s influence, Denise throws Alison’s exercise book down the rubbish chute. Later, Denise finds her exercise book has gone too. As a result, they get into trouble with teacher and have their first-ever row. Later the caretaker finds Alison’s now-ruined exercise book in the garbage and then Denise finds her room has been mysteriously vandalised and her own exercise book ripped to shreds. Of course it’s LDD’s handiwork, but Mum blames Denise.

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Later, Denise gives LDD to Mr Teal, and then his cupboard suddenly falls into chaos without explanation. Later, a ball is thrown through his window – from the inside – but Mr Teal becomes uncharacteristically bad tempered and he wrongly blames some boys who were playing a ball game. He doesn’t listen to the girls when they try to defend the boys either. Then he finds his own flat is flooded.

Alison and Denise have noticed that the trouble seemed to start when the doll arrived. Alison’s ring tingles again and it seems to be drawing her attention. Following its lead, she discovers the doll walking on its own and there are lightning bolts of some sort coming from its eyes. LDD runs after Alison and soon has her trapped. When she tries to use the lift, the doll uses its powers to sabotage it – which also traps Mr Teal in the lift! He is rescued, but the lift is now out of order for the first time ever.

Everyone blames Alison for putting it out of action. Their committee is lodging complaints against her and for the inconvenience the out-of-order lift is causing. The formerly friendly apartment block is now becoming increasingly acrimonious and everyone is at each other’s throats.

At school things are not much better. Teacher is getting fed up with the girls not producing the essays she set (because of LDD’s interference) and is constantly punishing them.

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The doll has disappeared, but soon the girls see it on the roof again. It throws a ball down, which smashes a car windscreen below. Mr Teal blames the girls as they were the nearest to the car, and the tenants join in as they all think the worst of her now, despite pleas from the boys that the ball came from the roof. The girls head for the roof after LDD, which has been committing more vandalism on the roof. Unfortunately it gets away. Mr Teal and the tenants blame the girls for the vandalism, and they even call the police over the matter. This leads to a tenants’ meeting, which is very stormy. The policeman has to urge everyone to keep calm and there is no real evidence against anyone, and he personally believes the girls’ claims of innocence. The rancour at Halbury Tower is now so bad the policeman comments that he is so glad he does not live there.

Meanwhile, a little girl at the apartment block picks up LDD. The girls see her with it and try to take it away. LDD strikes with more powers, which eventually ends up with the tenants irrationally blaming Denise and Alison for a washing machine going haywire (LDD again) and accusing them of bullying kiddies. Now they are even more hostile towards the girls.

Alison has now realised her ring is acting as some kind of LDD detector and protector, and the girls use it to go in search of LDD. Sensing Alison’s approach, LDD starts a fire and uses its powers to make sure the fire spreads quickly. Denise and Alison help people evacuate, but they themselves get trapped on the roof. In the distance they can see LDD dancing and cackling, and using its powers to turn the flames into an inferno and directing them wherever it pleases. In the smoke, they see LDD’s face and realise it does not intend them to escape.

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But then LDD gets squashed flat under the wheels of a reversing fire engine and is destroyed. Without LDD, the flames die down and the fire is soon under control. The girls are rescued, and are hailed as heroines for their work in evacuating others. Later they find an imprint in the street where LDD was crushed and realise what happened.

Two months later repairs are finished at Halbury Tower, and the tenants are back to their old friendly selves. The acrimony and nastiness disappeared with the destruction of LDD, and the girls are resigned to never unravelling the mystery of LDD. Alison still has to write her essay on why she likes living in an apartment block (two months on and she still hasn’t written it?!). The girls reiterate how they like living in an apartment block.

Thoughts

It is October and Halloween time, so it is fitting to focus on some of the spooky, scary stories from girls’ comics this month. I think you will agree they don’t come much more scary than Little Dolly Demon. The cover itself says it all in just how terrifying LDD is. That expression of LDD on the cover breaks the fourth wall, for it seems to be staring right at the reader, which makes it even more unnerving. For those who think LDD was inspired by Chucky, the answer is no. LDD precedes Chucky by seven years, which means LDD is original and ahead of its time.

It is not just the powers of LDD – walking on its own, laughing, shooting rays out of its eyes, and possessing the ability to manipulate things, people, and even fire – that make it so frightening. It is also LDD’s very appearance, particularly its hairstyle and the expressions on its face when its malignance manifests. And it is all brilliantly rendered by the artwork. The artist is not known, but has a style that is a perfect match to terror and spookiness and has been seen elsewhere in spooky stories, such as Mandy’s “Teddy”.

Adding to the terror is the total mystery on the origins of LDD or why it acts in the way it does. LDD could have been possessed by an evil spirit. Perhaps LDD was the product of black magic. LDD could even have been some sort of demon in the form of a doll. Or perhaps there was some other reason. But there is no way of knowing. LDD does not actually speak either, which means the doll itself never offers any explanation. It just pops out of nowhere in a violent thunderstorm – probably created by more of its powers – and gets to work. It probably makes a regular habit of travelling from place to place, spreading mayhem and discord wherever it goes. Except that in this case LDD met its match in the girls who were armed with a protective ring. Like LDD, the reasons how or why the ring acted in the way it did are left a mystery, which further adds to the paranormal effect of the story. Hollywood could easily make a movie with LDD.

little-dolly-demon-2

There is also an insidious element to LDD that adds to its creepiness. The girls note that its very size, which is small, enables it to escape and hide very easily. And being a doll, LDD can just sit and pose as an ordinary doll, where an unsuspecting child could pick it up and lavish love on its, not realising the danger. And this is precisely what happens with the little girl who picks up LDD.

Further adding to the creepiness and mystery of LDD is that it has no known name, unlike most evil dolls/puppets in girls’ serials. It is not given one either, except at one point where the girls nickname it “Kookie” before they realise the threat. But the nickname does not stick. It is just “the doll”.

The story takes the opportunity to comment on the merits of living in an apartment block – provided it is a nice apartment block where the tenants are friendly, the lifts work, and everything goes smoothly. There are other apartment blocks that aren’t. In some girls’ comics stories there are even apartment blocks that possess terrifying secrets/powers of their own, such as “The Sentinels” from Misty. This particular apartment block degenerates into one of the grotty apartment blocks once LDD arrives. Sometimes things do go wrong just when everything seems perfect, even without an evil doll to cause it all. The girls emerge even more appreciative of living in an apartment block once the baleful influence of LDD is lifted from it.

 

 

Fear from the Past (1979)

Fear from the Past cover

Published: Judy Picture Library #192

Artists: Ian Kennedy? (cover); unknown (story)

Plot

June Mason and her father are on holiday in Germany and enjoying a Rhine steamer cruise. Then, one night an unknown man seizes June and throws her overboard. As he does so, June notices a scar on his right wrist.

A woman named Hanna Schmidt rescues June. The attack remains unsolved and of course June has been traumatised. In gratitude to Hanna, the Masons grant her request to stay with them for a few days, at their fine home near Dover.

All seems well until June is surprised to see Hanna out walking on the estate in the dead of night. But Parker the gamekeeper mistakenly fires a warning shot at Hanna because he mistook her for a poacher. Hanna’s story is that she could not sleep because of a romantic conflict of interest: she has fallen in love with an Englishman named Roger Mills while already loving another man in Germany. She asks the Masons if she can invite Roger over. June and her father think it is an awkward situation, but as they are grateful to Hanna, they agree to her request, but Roger must stay in the village.

Fear from the Past 2

As Hanna sets off to post her reply to Roger, Parker suddenly gets shot. Apparently his gun went off, and the injury is serious. When Roger arrives, he is allowed to take over Parker’s job and lodge temporarily because he has gardening experience.

Then June notices a scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it as the one she saw on the assailant who threw her off the steamer. Soon June is drawing the right conclusions: Roger and Hanna are carrying out some sort of criminal plot. Roger threw her into the river for Hanna to “rescue” so Hanna would gain the Masons’ confidence and access to their property. Roger deliberately shot Parker so as to get his job and access to the Masons’ estate. June decides against telling her father for now in case he does not believe her, but is going to watch Hanna and Roger very closely.

June steals an opportunity to sneak into the gardener’s lodge and search Roger’s belongings in search of clues. She finds a rough map of their property that looks very aged and faded. On the map are the words “next to the elm” and “summerhouse” in German. She realises Hanna and Roger are after something hidden in the grounds. Her guess is confirmed when she finds Roger digging near the roots of an elm, and knows it is not because of rotting roots as Roger claims.

June goes to tell her father – only to find a note that he has gone to Manchester on urgent business. But in fact Roger has drawn Mr Mason away with a phony call.

Fear from the Past 4

Worse, Hanna saw June snooping in the lodge. When she tells Roger, they realise they must act fast. The trouble is, Roger has discovered the summerhouse has been moved since the map was drawn. This has left them with dozens of elms to check now and created an unforeseen delay when they had anticipated only a short time was required. They decide to work through the night, when June is asleep.

However, June is not asleep; she is keeping watch and sees Hanna sneak off into the woods. She follows, but Roger catches her. They leave June tied up, gagged and locked up in the gardener’s lodge, and they return to work. They intend to vanish for good once they find what they are looking for.

But Hanna and Roger have made two mistakes. First, they neglected to bind June’s legs, so she can still use them. Second, they did not see the dog-flap in the lodge. So, though still bound, June manages to escape. She flags down a lorry, and once the truckers see her bound and gagged they untie her and then come with her to stop the plotters. They arrive in time to see Roger and Hanna unearth what they have been looking for: a cache of valuables buried under an elm. The truckers seize the criminals and June calls the police.

The whole story comes out under police interrogation. Hanna’s father had been a WW2 pilot who looted a stately French home when the liberation of Paris started. He fled across the Channel in his plane, but was shot down and also wounded. Despite his injury, he managed to parachute into the grounds with the loot, bury it under the elm, and draw the rough map of its location. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a British POW camp. His wounds prevented him from returning to retrieve the treasure, so he entrusted the job to Hanna.

Fear from the Past 5

Parker pulls through and is expected to make a complete recovery. Hanna is handed over to the German authorities while the British police charge Roger. The French government sends a letter of deep gratitude for the return of the valuables, particularly for the part June played. June then tells Dad she fancies their next holiday to be in Switzerland. Dad jokes they will have to make sure nobody pushes her off a mountain.

Thoughts

This is a very straightforward mystery story. It gets off to a very catchy start when a shadowy assailant attacks June on the steamer and throws her into the Rhine. Being pushed overboard would a terrifying, traumatic experience for anyone. The artwork makes the attack even more frightening with its use of black-and-white used in silhouette. The assailant and his motives are completely unknown. It can only look like attempted murder. Readers would very likely be set off in the direction of why anyone would want to kill June.

When June goes home she thinks she is safe, but the reader knows better; there wouldn’t be any point to the story otherwise. The attacker is sure to strike again, and the reader reads on in suspense to see when and how he will return. We wonder if he will strike at Hanna as well when she tags along with the Masons. Things get even tenser when the two shooting incidents occur, though they seem to be mishaps and nothing to do with the assailant.

Fear from the Past 3

When June sees the scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it, she exhibits impressive powers of observation and deduction. Despite the shock, she had managed to notice the scar on her assailant’s wrist and remembered it. And once she sees it again, it only takes her a few minutes to work out the truth. She also shows tremendous courage in snooping into Roger’s belongings and realising she has to stand on her own when her father is called away on a phony call. She also shows resourcefulness and quick thinking when the crooks tie her up in the lodge. They think they have her secured, but she escapes quickly due to her superior knowledge of the lodge and their forgetting to tie her feet.

Roger and Hanna do have to be admired for their craftiness. The Masons realise the criminals must have spent months watching them in order to know about their Rhine cruise and put their scheme together. Their plan to gain access to the Masons’ property to start their search was extremely cunning. But things can go wrong with even the best-laid plans; in this case, the relocation of the summerhouse causing an unexpected delay and giving June more time to work out what is going on. And criminals have to make mistakes at some point. This happens when they try to secure June, but make the two mistakes noted above. Mr Mason also believes that attacking June outright on the steamer was another mistake and gave them away. It certainly did when June saw the scar during the attack. And suppose someone had witnessed the attack and caught Roger? They would have been far more clever to stage an accident for June on the steamer and make it look like an accident.

Fear from the Past 1

There are two quibbles with this story. The first is the title, which does not sound very descriptive of the story. “Fear from the Past” sounds like the protagonist has to overcome some fear in her past or something. Couldn’t they have found a better title, and one that summed up the cover (showing the attack on the steamer) more appropriately? The second is the second panel on page 51, where June escapes through the dog-flap. A speech balloon is used for June here, but it shouldn’t be because June is gagged. It should be a thought balloon. This is clear sloppiness on the part of the letterer and editor.

Still, this is an engrossing story. The early attack on the steamer makes it even more gripping, particularly as the attacker and his motives remain unknown. The plotting is well paced and tight, and there is no meandering into red herrings. The use of black inking and the contrast of white space add to the atmosphere and tension of the story, and also to the night scenes, when a lot of the plot developments occur. There are plenty of panels where the artwork is simply sumptuous, such as the one where June falls into the Rhine. We can see that the artist would be brilliant at a ballet or gymnastics story.

The Taming of the Honourable Angelina / Miss High and Mighty

  • The Taming of the Honourable Angelina  Judy: #526 (7 February 1970) –  #536 (18 April 1970)
  • Reprinted – Judy: #998 (24 February 1979) – #1008 (05 May 1979)
  • Reprinted as Miss High and Mighty Judy: #1584 (19 May 1990)  – #1594 (28 July 1990)

Plot

Lost in bad winter weather on the remote Welsh mountains, the  Honourable Angelina Frensham is taken in and given shelter by young Marion Benson and her two brothers, John and Tim,  at the Mountain Retreat, a pony farm. Angelina, a rich and spoilt girl, is not happy to be forced to stay at a farm with so few comforts and even refuses to do the smallest things to help out and pay back the Benson’s kindness. When she gets up in the morning she still expects her breakfast to be brought to her. Marion is quick to shoot her down, she and her brothers,  were working for hours before Angelina got up and she would have to feed herself. The Bensons have a lot of hard work ahead of them as it looks like they will be snowed in for weeks, the last thing they need is to have to look after a spoilt girl too. But Angelina does not see it that way. She can’t understand why they slave away for their ponies and she believes she is smarter then them and is determined not to become as pitiful as them!

Hearing on the radio that there is a search party for her, she decides to light the hay-rick on fire to attract the attention of a passing plane. The Bensons quickly put out the flames, they can’t believe she’d be so selfish  as to burn their pony’s feed on the gamble of being spotted. Angelina hates them for ruining her chance  of going home, but Marion’s through being o kind. She is not cruel enough to kick her out, but she does take her bedroom back, as she had let Angelina sleep there the first night, she can now sleep on chair in the kitchen.

honourable angelina 1

Angelina continues to be stubborn, selfish and destructive. She threatens them, that her influential father will destroy their farm when she gets back and she  breaks the radio in frustration when she thinks its not working, even though it just needed new batteries. She also tries to ride one of the ponies but in such weather it would be dangerous and the Bensons stop her. She slips as she storms away, and stubbornly refuse to move, complaining of hurt foot. While Marion nearly relents to help her, John convinces her to stay strong that Angelina needs a lesson, sure enough she soon comes hobbling inside. She still hasn’t learnt much though as she hoards food after hearing it will have to be rationed. Figuring she’s hidden food somewhere, Marion locks her in the bedroom while they search for the food. They don’t realise how much damage Angelina can cause, as she breaks a window to escape, cutting herself in the process and allowing precious heat to escape. The Bensons are worried of the danger she places them in but of course Angelina only thinks they are being unnecessarily cruel to her.

honourable angelina

Marion sees the first glimmer of hope that Angelina isn’t all bad, when she attempts to run away. A foal gets out and follows her, Angelina can’t let it die in the snow so she brings it back. She doe catch a chill from being out in the snow, while Marion softens up, John still takes a hard view of her. He is proved right, as Angelina pretends to still be ill when she’s recovered to get out of chores, and breaks their only thermometer so she’s not discovered. Her actions have consequences again as she plays music and dances around, while the others are out working and her shawl catches fire. Luckily John and Tim, hearing the music had come to investigate and save her rolling her in the snow. Later when Angelina questions why Marion is keeping the burnt shawl, she explains that it is one of the last keepsakes she has left of her mother. Angelina is sorry and opens up to Marion about her own dead mother. She develops another fever but this time after she recovers, she does turn over a new leaf and wants to show her gratitude and help.

It turns out though that Angelina’s “help” is worse than her laziness! Not being used to chores, everything she tries ends up doubling Marion’s work as she tries to fix her mistakes. The Benson’s don’t openly criticize her efforts but she does overhear them, and now she cares what they think, she feels foolish and useless. She does manage to help get one of the Pony’s to take his medicine, using a trick she’d seen her groomsman do. This helps regain her confidence.

honourable angelina 2

After this Angelina becomes a lot happier at Mountain Retreat, and actually has decided to stay even after the snow clears. Of course she doesn’t tell the Bensons instead she schemes in her own Angelina way! With the snow clearing, the Bensons now have access to public telephone. Angelina rings her father and tells him she’s safe but in Birmingham, sending him on a wild goose chase. She later cuts the phone line so no one will be able to ring her father. Not considering it’s the only phone for those around her and she is horrified when an elderly neighbour falls ill and a doctor can’t be phoned for. To make amends she rides to the doctor’s house in the bad weather. Seeing the error of her ways, she rings her father and tells him where she really is, then returns to the Bensons and confesses to them. They treat her kindly, as they have come to appreciate the changes in her and will even miss her when she’s gone. When Marion hurts her hand Angelina cares for her and does the work around the house while waiting for her father to arrive. She is upset when her father doesn’t come himself but instead sends the chauffeur to collect her, passing on the message that he will get lawyers to sort out the phone box damage. She refuses to go though, until her father collects her himself and she will face up to the consequences of her actions herself.

honourable angelina 3

Her father does show up and is surprised to see his daughter working hard.  Marion and Angela think that will be angry at seeing his daughter doing some lowly jobs but it turns out he is glad to see Angelina happy. It turns out he didn’t come to collect her initially himself as he believed she wouldn’t care either way. Both have them had been mistaken in how each other felt. Angelina is now happier to go home with her father, but on the car ride home, Lord Frensham can see, she would be a lot happier staying with the Bensons. He tells her to go back to them and if they agree, he will buy her partnership in the pony farm. The Bensons happily welcome Angelina back.

Thoughts

This is a good redemption story, even when Angelina has changed for the better, it shows that it is not always that simple to leave your bad traits behind. When she cuts the phone line in order to get what she wants, it shows her thoughtlessness and selfish nature is still there. But that just makes her human, she makes mistakes but she tries to fix them and faces up to the consequences.

At first she can be a frustrating character to read, she is self-centered and believes that she is being wronged. She sees the Bensons as being cruel and harsh for no reason, she doesn’t see how her actions endanger them. The Benson’s sympathies soon wear out and they know they have to be hard on her and you can see their frustrations with Angelina. But they also see the good in her. Throughout we slowly see what has made Angelina the way she is, losing her mother at a young age, having a father that works all the time and just buys her what she wants. She was surrounded by people doing work for her but didn’t have any real friends. Interesting it seems bad communication has led to the deterioration of her and her father’s relationship, both believe the other doesn’t care. It’s clear Lord Frensham, is not a snob, he doesn’t look down on the Bensons and he only wants to see his daughter happy. It is a pity that he didn’t open up to his daughter before, as he could have passed good values on to her instead of assuming she only wanted material things.

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While Angelina at first thinks the Bensons are foolish working so hard for so little, she soon begins to admire them. I wonder if part of her resentment was that her father works so much that he seemed to have little time for her. The difference is the Bensons work together and Angelina learns the satisfaction of a job well done and true friendship. The Benson’s are kind people but they certainly won’t be taken advantage of. Marion is the first to soften to her and see her good qualities, but in the end they all grow to like and respect her. When she leaves with her father Marion believes Angelina’s promises of visits will soon be forgotten as life goes on. She is happy to be proved wrong when Angelina comes back. Angelina has given something to them too, she brought excitement into their life, friendship, she eventually helps with the running of her farm and sharing of knowledge. For Marion in particular she brings female companionship.

honourable angelina 5

 

Big Aggie

Plot

The Hamilton sisters were both members of the Balfour Athletics Team, but Jean, a sprinter, was  an athletics enthusiast, whereas Agnes, known to everyone at Balfour’s Construction Company as “Big Aggie,” had only two enthusiasms—eating and sleeping! But Aggie was a natural athlete, a brilliant heavy events specialist. So Mr Robert Balfour, boss of the construction company, insisted on Big Aggie working at athletics.

big aggie

Notes

Appeared

  • Big Aggie – Judy: circa #526 (7 Feb 1970) – (?)

Bella Belong-No-Place

Plot 

In America sometime in the 19th century, Bella Whitehorn was stolen as a baby by a tribe and raised as one of their own. She was given the name Bright Gift. When she turns 12, her father chief of the tribe gives her back to her family to prevent a war.

bella belong no where

Notes

Appeared

  • Bella Belong-No-Place – Judy: #550 (25 July 1970) – (?)

Unfair to Favourites (1985)

Judy Picture Library 271

Published: Judy Picture Library #271.  Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #428

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); Ana Rodriguez (story)

Plot

Jayne and Jean Gentry seem to have everything going for them in the activities they pursue: ballet (Jean), and athletics (Jayne). They are set to go to the top in their various activities and the school even makes allowances for it. But there is one problem – it has bred favouritism among their parents. Dad favours Jayne because she pursues sport, Mum favours Jean because she does the same with ballet, and neither parent pays much attention to the other girl. The root of the favouritism is that each parent only cares about one activity, which they once pursued themselves and are pursuing again through their respective daughter. Neither is willing to be more generous to the other activity; Mum does not care for athletics (“athletics don’t do anything for me”) and Dad is the same about ballet (“ballet nonsense”). Both say they don’t understand the other activity but neither makes an effort to understand it more.

Favourites

Each parent thinks that the other is too single-minded about the activity they do care about while deriding the other activity unfairly. Neither parent comes to the other activity to lend support to their other daughter. For example, Mum is annoyed that Dad doesn’t come to see Jayne perform on stage because he cares more about an athletics convention. Dad is likewise annoyed at Mum for not coming to watch and support Jean perform at an athletics event because she took Jayne to watch the Royal Ballet Company. This is not the case with the sisters themselves, who make the time to watch the other and give moral support.

Favourites 2

Jayne and Jean decide enough is enough and they need to find a way to change their parents. They start with trying to win something in the other activity, with the other’s help. But they forget that there is a reason that one pursues ballet/athletics and the other not – one has the aptitude for it, and the other not. And they soon find that out the hard way. When Jean tries cross-country running with Jayne’s help, she ends up in such a state that she is not fit for ballet class. When Jayne tries ballet with Jean’s help, she ends up with a foot injury that leaves her unfit for a sports event. In both cases the parents blow up, each blaming the other girl and the other parent unfairly. Each parent ends up quarrelling with the other about how they go over the top with the activity they favour, play favourites with their pet daughter, and don’t pay any attention to the other daughter. When Jayne, Jean and their dog Timmy return home wet after unwittingly using a leaky boat, Mum unfairly blames Jayne, thinking she encouraged Jean again, and this leads to a similar row between the parents. Mum and Dad can see it in each other all right – but they can’t see it in themselves, which is what they must do if things are to change.

Jean and Jayne then try to talk to their parents about how they carry on in playing favourites. But both take offence, saying they can’t help not liking ballet/athletics. The girls realise how set the parents are in their ways and it is going to be very difficult to change them.

The stress of the failure takes its toll on the girls, and they lose form at ballet/athletics. Their teachers recommend a break, so the parents stop making their daughters spend so much time at their various activities.

During the break, Jean and Jayne try something else. Jayne has a go at Jean’s other activity, which is skating. But the coach says that although Jayne is good, she is not good enough to make competition standard like her sister. When Jean tries Jayne’s other activity by making a bid for the school swimming trials, she fails because of the same thing – good but not good enough.

Then, after the swimming trials, Jayne grumbles at how fed up they are, and still wondering how to change their parents. A schoolteacher, Miss Maybrick, overhears and asks what is wrong. The girls explain the problem, and Miss Maybrick comes up with an idea – an activity that combines athletic and artistic ability.

Favourites 3

So for the next few weeks, the parents are disappointed to hear that the girls are on strike over ballet/athletics because of a school project that they are very secretive about. When the time comes, the school invites the parents to a gymnastics competition, which Jayne and Jean have been giving up everything else to train for. And it is here that both parents watch their daughters together; Dad sees Jean in action for the first time and Mum watches Jayne for the first time. When Mum watches Jayne’s floor exercises, she sees and appreciates the artistic side while Dad grasps the athletic part. When Jean goes on the bars, Dad is impressed at what she can do there, and Mum says it’s due to ballet, which has given her grace and strong muscles. Before long, both parents are cheering their daughters on. They are thrilled to see them win medals, and finally wake up to their earlier mistakes. Afterwards, they take Jayne and Jean out to a celebratory dinner. The girls know that they are both favourites with their parents now.

Favourites 4

Thoughts

 The premise is a refreshing one – two sisters who are the best of friends but suffer because each parent takes favourites over one child while ignoring the other, just because they are not a fan of the activity the other child pursues. It makes a change having two protagonists suffer in this way. Usually it is just one, who is overshadowed and put down because her sibling(s) excel at their various activities and make Mum and Dad proud while she doesn’t seem to shine at anything.

The portrayal of the parents is rooted in realism and real life, which makes their characterisation so effective. They are not intentionally neglectful or mean; it is just that they are both so single-minded about the activity they are interested in and the girl who pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in life. They are also narrow-minded about the other activity. Both parents make disparaging comments about the other activity, neither will give it more of a chance, or at least try to tolerate it enough to come and watch their daughter. They are too wrapped up in the activity they are interested in.

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The resolution is realistic and also refreshing. The girls confide in someone (which does not often happen in girls’ comics) who comes up with an idea that could be the answer. The girls can’t believe they didn’t think of it themselves.

The teacher and the headmistress are so wonderful in the way they bend over backwards to help the girls with their problem: excusing the girls lessons to train for it, and helping to keep it a carefully guarded secret until the parents are actually watching the event as they don’t know how the parents will take it if they had prior knowledge of it. The girls come away with a whole new appreciation for teachers, as do we. Sometimes teachers are not the idiots or meanies that they are in other stories. Sometimes they are the ones with the brains and wisdom to put everything right.