Category Archives: M&J

Lady Sarah’s Secret

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

The Girl in the Mask / The Mask

Plot

After Dorinda Lacey’s parents die, she is taken in by her wealthy Aunt Clara. Aunt Clara tells Dorinda she is frightfully ugly. So Dorinda has to wear a mask at all times and every mirror in the house save the one in Aunt Clara’s room is removed.

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Notes

  • Artist: Claude Berridge

Appeared

  • The Girl in the Mask:  Mandy: #875 (10 October 1983) – #890 (4 February 1984)
  • Reprinted as The Mask – M&J: #58 (20 June 1992) – #73 (3 October 1992)

 

Sally’s Secret [1993]

  • Sally’s Secret –  M&J:  #112 (3 July 1993) – #119 (21 August 1993)
  • Artist: Bert Hill

Plot

Linda Brown’s family move to a new estate and she is happy when the family next door has a girl her age. Linda becomes quick friends with Sally Smart, but there is something mysterious about her new friend. Sally’s father is not around, but she says he will join them soon, and then they will be moving on, in the meantime she says they can be friends. Sally is very evasive of any questions about her father and other strange things like saying there’s no point in them installing a phone and that her dad won’t write or call.

When they go to see a film together, there is a scene where the father walks out on the family. Later Linda asks if that’s what happened with Sally’s family and she gets upset. She knows her parents still love each other and really want to be together, even if they cant do that right now.  The girls make up after their fight and Linda though still curious about what the mystery with Mr Smart is, she is a lot more cautious about asking questions.

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More strange things happen, such as Sally’s aunt comes to visit the house, but Sally avoids her and the aunt just lets herself into the house. Later they go back to the house and find, Sally’s aunt has cleared the food out and unplugged the fridge! When the girls start at school, Linda overhears Mrs Smart saying if Sally had played things her way she wouldn’t have to go to school. In art class the teacher has bunch of old newspapers from around the country, Sally is surprised to see something in a newspaper from her old home town. Linda hopes she can read the paper but Sally throws it into a fire, so she can only read part of the headline “Ex-Shaftsbury Man in..”. Again Linda wonders what Mr Smart is involved in. She thinks he may be criminal on the run after seeing news report, but then she sees photos of Mr Smart and he is not either of the men she saw on tv.

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There are other strange things about Sally, like when a teacher talks to Sally about future careers and later Sally says she won’t be working any job when she’s older. Linda wonders how that would be possible, as they don’t seem so rich that she could afford not to work. When they come across a trapped dog and go to rescue it, the dog keeps barking at Sally. At first she thinks it’s  odd as dogs usually like her, then she realises what the problem is but doesn’t elaborate on what that is to Linda.  Afterwards a local reporter wants to do an article about the rescue for the paper, but Sally says she’s too shy. Knowing how outgoing she is, Linda knows this is a lie, but the reporter takes a photo anyway (not very ethical of him!). Linda goes to persuade him not to run the article but it turns out something was wrong with the photo as Sally doesn’t show up in it.

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When the class go on a school trip, Sally notices people from her old school there, she asks Linda to cover for her and she sneaks away, so she won’t have to meet any of them. Later Linda goes to Sally’s house and overhears Mrs Smart telling Sally things are getting too complicated and they may have to go with out her father. Linda is sorry to lose her friend, but Sally is a lot happier when she hears their father will be able to join them after all. The next day Linda says her goodbyes, then a few days later, she sees the Smarts house up for sale. Linda gets talking to the estate agent, who tells her the sad story behind the house, a family just bought the house when the mother and daughter were killed in a car accident in Spain. The father was left in a coma but had recently died, so his sister was putting the house on the market. Linda is shocked it turns out Mr Smart wasn’t the strange one, it was Sally and Mrs Smart who were unusual, as they were ghosts!

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Thoughts

This is a nice little mystery story with solid art by Bert Hill as always. Actually M&J seemed to be quite fond of the mysterious new neigbours storylines (such as Strange Neighbours and Strangers). The ending was unexpected, although the hints were there throughout the story if you took notice, such as Sally saying she won’t have a job in the future and she won’t be able to stay in contact after they leave. Of course this is more obvious once you know the twist. Some of the phrasing also takes on new meaning when the ending is known such as “moving on”, which often is associated with death and grief. There are other times when Sally says things like “we all have sadness in our lives” which has a heavier meaning and makes the ending seem a bit tragic, as Sally is a likable character. Sally is a good friend to Linda, is shown to be generous and ironically for a ghost is full of life! She has a daredevil attitude, and encourages Linda to be more adventurous.

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It’s in the penultimate episode that the potential supernatural element was more apparent, when the dog didn’t like Sally and when she didn’t show up in photo. I like that Linda’s focus (and therefore also the readers) is that there something mysterious about the Mr Smart and how she keeps trying to think of reasons why he isn’t around and why he can’t contact them. I would have thought maybe prison or some witness protection thing first, as I was not thinking of more bizarre reasons.

It does raise some questions such as how were they able to eat and interact with things as ghosts, and how was Sally enrolled in the school, without them knowing about the accident. Also after the Smarts leave, there must have been some fallout, as Sally would disappear and surely others must find out about her, she interacted with so many people, how would they react on finding out ghosts exist, would the reporter do a story on it? Still other than  those questions, it is well paced and like I said the hints were there without being too obvious, so the twist doesn’t come out of no where, but is still effective.

Malice in Wonderland

  • Malice In Wonderland–  M&J: #01 (18 May 1991) – #08 (06 July 1991)
  • Artist: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Becky Shaw lives in seaside town, Seahaven, when Summer ends the town grows quiet as all the holidaymakers going home. One of the big attractions of the town is the amusement park Wonderland, run by Mrs Jolly. Becky and her friends see Mrs Jolly going around town trying to get the last few tourists to come visit Wonderland. Mrs Jolly has her dog Bones do tricks to attract customers and she isn’t happy when Becky’s dog, Poppy starts copying Bones old to do better than him. She can’t seem nasty in front of other people but soon she gets Becky on her own and offers to buy Poppy or even swap her own dog for him. Of course Becky isn’t having it, but then Mrs Jolly startles Poppy and she runs into Wonderland. Mrs Jolly tells Becky she better find her fast as Wonderland is closing in half hour and won’t open again until next year.

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Becky is forced to leave when Wonderland closes but she goes back the next day and manages to get in. She is surprised that all the lights are on and the rides are operational. She finds Poppy but Mrs Jolly has gotten there first, Mrs Jolly says she will make a bargain with Becky – if she successfully goes on all her amusements she will get Poppy back. Becky doesn’t take her on up on this bargain, instead grabbing Poppy she escapes but is suddenly surrounded by fog, she thinks she makes it home only to discover it’s a model of her house and she is still in Wonderland. Becky has no choice but to except the challenge. Helping to keep Becky there are Mrs Jolly’s strange children, who all wear stripy scarves.

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First Becky is led down a hall of mirrors and is scared by distorted image of herself. The image also scares Fey one of the young Jolly children,  Mrs Jolly comforts her daughter and tells her things are not always as the seem in Wonderland. Becky uses this advice when playing a game of getting prize from animatronic cat that is now more vicious. She discovers everything in Wonderland is now more dangerous and realistic looking than when the amusements were opened for the summer. Another example of this is the Little Red Riding Hood amusement where she has to avoid the wolves, which are lot scarier now. She gets through, and Mrs Jolly congratulates Becky for passing one test, then her daughter Tarith corrects her reminding her Becky has passed two tests now. Becky thinks she may have an ally in Tarith, but she notices strangely that Mrs Jolly seems to be scared of her daughter and she begins to wonder who is really in charge.

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Tarith seems friendly begins to quiz Becky about her life, but then Becky finds what ever she tells Tarith makes her forget those memories. The memory stealing seems to be connected to a song on jukebox. At the same time Becky still has to go through the challenges the Jollys’ set her. She is led back to the hall of mirrors, she fails at the task, to escape within a set time. Then Tarith appears to help, Becky is startled to see her reflection has Tarith’s face and she has Beckys. She suspects Tarith’s claims that she will help her to escape, actually means Tarith will take her place and Becky will be left trapped. Not seeing any other choice for the moment, she agrees to take Tarith to her house. Again fog appears and Becky knows they haven’t escaped and are back in the model of her house. Becky things back to Mrs Jolly saying things aren’t what they seem, she stands up to Tarith saying everything is an illusion. She walks pass the Jollys saying they aren’t really. A ghostly Tarith comes after her, reaching for her… at that point a hand wakes her up. It’s her mom, it ha all been a dream. Becky fell asleep after playing Jolly Families card game. Becky is worried when she there is no Tarith card, she wonders if she was possibly real, but then Poppy appears chewing a card, which is the Tarith card. Becky is relieved the nightmare is over.

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Thoughts

From the story title the ending shouldn’t be such a surprise that it’s all a dream. The story does have a sort of surreal feeling about it, knowing it’s a dream, it makes sense – rules change,  Becky goes home only to actually find she’s still in Wonderland, Jollys popping up sudenly in the fog and the changing villains. The art by Oliver Passingham fits this well, as he has drawn a lot of creepy stories and he captures the changing nature of wonderland well. All the characters are very distinctive, Mrs Jolly looks like the villain with some exaggerated features she is like a caricature, meanwhile Tarith the real villain, looks pretty but he captures intensity with her eyes and creepy sequences like the hall of mirrors.

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The shift from Mrs Jolly to Tarith as villain is nicely done.  Mrs Jolly at first shown to be nasty and scary, is shown to be more sympathetic as story goes on, she cares for her children, as shown when she comforts Fey and is scared of Tarith. Tarith when introduced as a possible ally to Becky, also has some sympathetic characteristics as it seems she just wants to escape like Becky, of course the problem is what she is willing to do to achieve that goal – taking over Becky’s life! The ending with it all being a dream would have been more intriguing if they left it with the Tarith card missing. This could leave the reader wondering if Tarith was some supernatural being trying to get at Becky through her dreams. Instead the story was all wrapped up with happy ending, which I’m sure readers were relieved to see!

It’s a short story, only 8 issues, and because of it all being a dream the ending can seem a bit abrupt but it still works well. It would have been interesting to see Becky trying more of the twisted amusements, I was reminded of Goosebumps book “One Day in Horrorland” where kids were trapped in a twisted theme park, although that book came out after this story. So it is a popular  concept that has popped up in other places!

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Happiness House (1994)

Happiness House logo

Published: M&J #182 (5 November 1994) – #186 (3 December 1994)

Artist: Norman Lee

Writer: Maureen Hartley

Plot

Over the holidays, Laura Willoughby and her family move into Lower End Cottage, where Dad plans to set up a nursery business after losing his job. The cottage is a rundown place, and the villagers soon reveal that it has a reputation for being jinxed. People don’t live there long because they have nothing but bad luck in it. The Willoughbys find themselves avoided by a lot of villagers for this reason.

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Soon the cottage’s reputation for being jinxed becomes manifest – the family have nothing but disaster there, something always goes wrong with everything they do, the cottage seems to hate them at every turn, and they suffer injuries from a lot of accidents. Laura also notices there is something weird about the garden too: no insects buzzing, no birds singing, and no flowers blooming. There is also a dirty pond in the garden (note this).

Then Laura finds an old sign that says the cottage used to be called “Happiness House”. She deduces the problem is that the cottage is unhappy for some reason. As Laura loves the cottage despite everything, she sets out to find out why it is unhappy and if anything can be done to make it happy again.

Enquiries with a more helpful villager, Mrs Broadley, reveal that a little girl named Bessie Sawyer had an accident at the cottage years ago, and there is an old song about it:

Bessie Sawyer, Bessie Sawyer, fell into the muddy water.

Bessie Sawyer’s queen today, now poor Bessie’s gone away.

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Laura tracks down Bessie’s grave. Most of the inscription has worn away, but what remains reveals that Bessie died 1 May 1865 at the age of seven (the same age as Laura’s sister Jenny). Laura then borrows a diary kept by the vicar of the period. It reveals that when Bessie was christened in March 1858, her parents were overjoyed because they had despaired of ever having children. At this point the cottage was still called Lower End Cottage, and Laura construes that they changed its name to Happiness House because they were so happy to have a child at long last. Next, Laura revisits the dirty pond, and recalling the “muddy water” bit from the rhyme, deduces that it must be the spot where the accident struck seven years later.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family have become fed up of all the bad luck at the cottage and are preparing to move out. As they pack up, Jenny finds an old doll, which Laura retains in case it has some bearing on the Bessie mystery.

At the library, Laura finds the final clue in a display of photographs of village life in the 19th century. Among them is a photograph of May Day celebrations in 1865, and the May Queen is a little girl who wears the same costume as the doll.

Putting all the pieces together, Laura surmises that Bessie was crowned Queen of the May in 1865, and her mother dressed up the doll in the same May Queen costume. But on the same day, Bessie somehow fell into the pond and drowned. The tragedy shattered the happiness of Happiness House and cast a pall over the place that still lingers.

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Not knowing what else to do to put things right, Laura cleans up the doll and takes it to Bessie’s grave. It does the trick: when Laura returns, birds are singing and flowers are blooming in the garden, and the cottage itself looks happier. Within days the family (who know nothing about Bessie or Laura’s investigation) have noticed they seem happier in the cottage and they are having no more bad luck. They decide to give the cottage another chance, while Laura puts the “Happiness House” sign back up.

Thoughts

Stories on jinxed houses that cause trouble for whoever lives there because there is something wrong with the place that needs to be put right (or the house just gets destroyed) have appeared before. But I have seen the premise used more for complete stories in annuals, such as “House of Secrets” in Jinty annual 1978, than for serials. The serial itself could fit into an annual as it is only five episodes long. The short length works well, and enables the mystery to be unravelled in record time without unnecessary padding added to drag it out and prolong the family’s suffering in the place.

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The story is one of my personal M&J favourites. The story is straightforward and engaging. The tragedy of Bessie is certain to bring a tear to the eye, and we also feel for the family as nothing but disaster strikes them. The discovery of the Happiness House sign shows that the cottage is not downright evil; it is acting more like a human being who is unhappy and takes it out on others by dragging them down to the same level of unhappiness. We do notice that the bad luck does not seem to strike Laura herself. Perhaps the house senses that she is trying to help and is leaving her alone? The artwork of Norman Lee also adds to the story. Lee was a popular artist, and his style works well with the rural setting of the story and hints of the period aspects.

Deceived! (1995)

Deceived logo

Published: M&J #233 (28 October 1995) – #240 (16 December 1995)

Artist: J. Badesa

Plot

Amy Davis and Diane Carlton are best friends. Amy has a boyfriend called Gary. Diane has always fancied Gary too because she thinks he looks really nice. One day Amy and her family go away for a while because grandmother is ill. Amy asks Diane to deliver a message that she cannot meet Gary for their date that night because of this. Diane goes to tell Gary, while wishing it was a date with him instead. But it’s a dream come true for Diane when Gary offers to take her to the disco in Amy’s place, so as not to waste the tickets. Afterwards, she takes Gary for a treat in return.

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Okay, so that’s innocent and reasonable enough – but then it leads to things that aren’t. Now Gary tells Diane he has gotten to like her and wants to go out with her properly. Diane is horrified because he is currently Amy’s boyfriend, and she does not want to hurt her best friend. But Gary gets around her with that nice smile of his, which she can’t say “no” to. She agrees to it, so long as Amy never gets hurt. Gary says Amy won’t get hurt because he will not dump her so he can go out with Diane freely; rather, he will carry on with Amy to keep her happy. In other words, he will two-time Amy by going out with her best friend behind her back. Diane knows it’s wrong, but she can’t help herself because “Gary’s just so nice!” (hmm, would a really nice boy suggest a thing like that?).

So while Amy is away, Diane goes out with Gary. Predictably, she gets herself more and more entangled in a horrible two-timing trap and webs of deceit and dishonesty towards her best friend. She cannot escape her guilty conscience, and there are constant reminders about the wrongs of what she is doing. For example, Diane finds an old toy that was a present from Amy for her 10th birthday, and it was at that time that they swore to remain best friends forever. This makes Diane feel so guilty that she stands Gary up. Diane’s sister Marcie also gives her a hard time when she finds out (their parents don’t know).

And of course there is the constant fear of being found out; she knows Amy would never forgive her. Marcie knows and makes her disapproval clear, but she does not sneak. However, Diane has several close calls when seen with Gary, but fortunately for her she can explain them away.

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However, stopping it is not easy. Several times Diane resolves to stop seeing Gary because it isn’t right while he is Amy’s boyfriend. But Gary always sweet talks her into continuing. Or something else occurs that stops Diane from speaking to Gary. Eventually, Gary suggests another way out of the mess: he will dump Amy and then he and Diane go out freely once Amy gets over it.

Then Amy returns early, and all of a sudden Gary says he cannot dump her. Amy is grieving because her grandmother died, and Diane assumes this is the reason Gary refused to dump Amy.

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Amy goes away again, for the funeral. Diane resolves that this time she will not go out with Gary until he has finished with Amy. But Gary works his way around Diane again; she agrees to go out with him while Amy is absent, and he will finish with Amy upon her return so they can date freely.

However, while Diane is at Gary’s house, Amy phones him. Gary gets rid of her quickly, but Diane gets pangs of guilt and leaves, and decides not to go out with him again while Amy is away. But then Amy phones Diane, saying she suspects that Gary is two-timing her after she phoned him earlier. She asks Diane to keep an eye on Gary. So Diane decides she might as well carry on with Gary after all. She also informs Gary of what Amy suspects and instructed her to do.

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Gary now dumps Amy. She is devastated of course, and she suspects it is because he is seeing another girl. Gary is now a free man, but Diane tells him to allow some time before they start dating freely. But she can’t resist phoning him, and he agrees to meet her in the coffee bar after seeing his mates.

Next day, Amy tells Diane that she saw Gary with another girl last night. Thinking Amy means her and Gary, Diane panics and blurts out an apology over what she did – which reveals her transgression! But it was not Diane that Amy saw with Gary – it was Tracey in the bowling alley, when Gary was seeing his ‘mates’. Diane now realises Gary has two-timed her as well!

But this does not make Amy forgive Diane. No, they are not “in the same boat” – Diane (and Tracey) had only been deceived by Gary; she, Amy, had been deceived by them both. Ah, so Diane could not help herself because Gary was so nice? It doesn’t sound like she tried. Diane loses her best friend forever, and knows she only has herself to blame.

Thoughts

There must have been a lot of readers wincing when they read this story; so many of them would have encountered a similar situation one way or other, or read about one in an agony aunt column or real-life story in a teen magazine. I myself once read a real-life story in a magazine where the correspondent did exactly the same thing as Diane and ended up the same way. Readers must have been screaming at Diane not to date her best friend’s boyfriend and, once things got sticky for Diane, to get the hell out of there before it’s too late. No doubt they would have followed the story in the hope that Diane would see the light and stop what she is doing in the nick of time.

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From the start there are warning signs about Gary. To begin with, asking Diane to go out with him while he is already going out with her best friend is despicable. He does not express any guilt over it either, nor does he respect Diane’s bad feelings about going through with it. That nice smile and smooth talk of his that keep getting around Diane are ominous signs of a master manipulator. Diane thinks he is so nice, but does not stop to think that a really nice boy would never do a thing like that to his girlfriend. It does not help that she has always fancied Gary herself; no doubt it would have been a factor in her not trying hard enough to say no to Gary. It is no surprise at all that Gary two-times Diane as well; all the red flags have been there that Gary is a creep and a love rat in the making. He probably makes a regular habit of stringing several girls along at once.

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The ending is strong and realistic. There are no deux ex machina resolutions that extricate Diane from the whole ghastly mess she has gotten herself into without losing Amy’s friendship and give her a happy ending to her story. It could have ended with Diane finding out about the two-timing herself, chucking Gary, and she carries on with Amy. It could have ended with Diane finally putting her foot down with Gary. Or it could have ended with Diane falling for another boy and dumping Gary to go out with him instead. But it does nothing of the sort.

Diane does not get away with it, nor does she receive the glib forgiveness that so many serials have ended with. Nor does she get out of the situation with her friend never finding out and they carry on being best friends. No, the friend finds out and is so hurt and betrayed that she never wants to see her again – just as it would have been (and is) in real life. This is what makes the story so effective, and a sterling warning to any readers who might be tempted to go out with their best friend’s boyfriend.

Magic Wishes

  • Magic Wishes –  M&J:  #119 (21 August 1993) – #128 (23 October 1993)
  • Artist: Wilf Street

Plot

While at a fairground, Beth Robinson  visits a cave, where she finds a bottle and releases a trapped sorceress. The Sorceress gives her 10 bottles as a reward. She tells her she might find happiness with all of them or she might not, but when she opens one bottle on that day she will be happy. Each bottle has it’s own note which hints at what it will do, but  Beth soon finds out the results don’t work out as she assumes they will! She tries out the first potion which tells her nasty people will take a splash. She uses it on her mean sister and friend to each them a lesson for calling her names. After taking a rowing boat out, she is the one that ends up in the water, while the girls are rescued by some boys and take a different kind of splash on a water ride.

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The next bottle she tries isn’t any better. Trying to get a boyfriend, she follows the instructions to get  her crush, Dave, to ask her out but he instead asks her if she would like to go out with his friend, William, whom she can’t stand. Other attempts with trying to get a boyfriend don’t work out either such as when she makes Simon a slave for a day. Unfortunately it’s just before a family trip. While he is away he phones and makes all sorts of promises to her but when he comes back he has forgotten all he said. Another time she gets her new date to stick to her, but after finding out more about him, she is happy when the note actually means they get stuck to a bench.

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She hopes to get to the top of the class with another potion instead it causes an explosion and she ends up top of the class cleaning the ingredients off the ceiling. Another bottle her sister gets to first and it makes her hair look great, so Beth thinks this one will work great and she even enters a beauty contest. But then when sun comes out it goes frizzy and orange and she has to runaway from her angry sister. Another bottle promises fame and fortune, assuming it means she will win the school raffle she spends all her money on tickets, only to win a board game “Fame and fortune”

The last bottle she opens promises people will crowd around her. They do, but it’s not about popularity, they think she has written nasty notes about people. Beth goes home annoyed but things start to look up as it turns out her father has got a promotion which means an increase in pocket money.  Then she is asked about Simon, who realizes what a good sport she was about his brush off. Finally her friends come to apologize as they find out someone else stole Beth’s notepaper to write nasty notes. So it works out that Beth has found happiness but again the interpretation of the Sorceress  words are not as she expected.

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Thoughts

This is a fun story, it is drawn by an unknown artist, but an easily recognizable style. The artist is most known for lighthearted stories and as is the case here it suits to capture the humour of the situation. I like also that  there is a consistent set up at the start of each episode, there is a panel dedicated to Beth picking a bottle and  a panel of the bottle and its label. This nicely establishes what the episode is focusing on, and gives a reader a chance to wonder what the message actually means.

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The bottles have a sort of curse about them, twisting the meaning of what they say they will do in ways Beth or the reader doesn’t expect . This kind  of “monkeys paw” type story is often played for horror (like in Misty’s The Evil Djinn) but here none of the consequences are that that terrible, even if it does cause problems for the protagonist.

In some cases it seems Beth causes the outcomes by trying to make her own interpretations of the inscriptions come true. When she believes her sister will take a splash – she takes her out on the boat,  when she thinks a raffle will lead to fame and fortune – she buys lots of tickets, and when she is trying to get Dave to drink a potion – she comes across as showing an interest in his friend.

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To keep things interesting the way each of the bottles are used is different as well. It’s not just a case of Beth drinking the potion, there are cases where she is trying to get the object of her affection to drink the potion, or using it as a shampoo. It’s these little touches that makes the episodes less repetitive. Its a good ending where actually none of what is in the bottles gives her happiness. It again fits with the running theme that the Sorceress words are not what they seem Also you may not rely on wishes and magic solutions but you can still find happiness anyway.

 

 

Lucky

Plot:

Adventures of Lucky the cat, as told by Lucky himself.

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Lucky  (Art: Wilf Street)

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Lucky:  #703  – #712 (Art: José Casanovas)

Notes

  • Artist: Wilf Street
  • Artist: José Casanovas [Lucky  – Mandy: #703 (05 Jul. 1980) – #712 (06 Sep. 1980)]

Appeared:

  • Lucky –  Mandy: #624 (30 December 1978) – #632 (24 February 1979)
  • Lucky (2) – Mandy: #703 (05 Jul. 1980) – #712 (06 Sep. 1980)
  • Lucky (reprint?) – M&J: #13 (10 Aug. 1991) – #20 (28 Sep 1991)
  • Lucky (reprint?) – M&J: #66 (15 Aug. 1992) -#73 (03 Oct. 1992)

Other Appearances

  • Lucky – Mandy Annual 2002

 

Wee Slavey

  • Wee Slavey – First appearance: Judy: #249 (17 October 1964)

Plot

In Victorian times, Nellie Perks works as a maid servant for the Shelby Smythes. The family consists of;  William, Amelia, their daughters Alice and Flora, and their young son Algy. A lot of stories set in this time period would be a set up for a hard life and tragedy, and certainly the title suggests a life of drudgery but this is presented in a humorous way. Nellie has to work hard, but she is shown to be smart and loyal and the family appreciate her (even if they don’t like to admit it!). There were some ongoing story arcs but most of  the plots were standalone. There were common themes that appeared regularly;

An idea by the family ends up being more hard work for Nellie.

Often this idea would be presented to Nellie as something to make her work easier or seen as a treat!  Such as when Flora and Alice decide to go on a picnic and bring Nellie along. They tell her how nice it must be for her to get out of the house and have an easy time in the country. But as Nellie ends up carrying a heavy picnic basket, getting stuck in mud and rained on it’s not such a nice treat for her! She does get breakfast in bed after catching a chill, which she appreciates much more. Another time the girls get a new wardrobe and they give Nellie their old one – on the condition she gets it to her room herself. It turns out the wardrobe is too big for her little room and gets stuck in the door, so she ends up having to chop through it, to escape from her room. When Amelia Shelby Smythe insists on getting a new invention vacuum cleaner to help Nellie with her work, she expects it will speed things up for her, but it’s so heavy it takes twice the time for Nellie to get her work done. Luckily a missing piece of jewellery and Nellie’s quick thinking gets rid of the machine. Even when the family decide to do good and work for charity, it is Nellie and Cook that end up doing all the hard work!

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Nellie stops a thief!

Nellie is responsible for catching many crooks. Often she outsmarts the crook although sometimes it is just by luck, such as when Cook reads Nellie’s tea leaves and they say she will be swept off her feet by a tall dark stranger; it turns out Nellie stumbles upon a burglar, which is not what she was expecting the reading meant! A different time two thieves use a fake invitation by Arthur Conan Doyle to sneak into the house, it’s Nellie’s detective skills that notice a gong moved in the hallway and figures out where a thief is hiding waiting for everyone to go to sleep. [Note: the reference to Conan Doyle would place the time period somewhere between 1887 -1901]. Another event has Nellie stopping thieves using bowls and is delighted to be invited to play bowls with an upper class family in thanks. Although that does put the women Shelby Smythes noses out of joint! The biggest crook Nellie helps stop is William Shelby Smythe’s business partner Mortimor who absconded with the business funds. This is a long running plot with the Shelby Smythes losing all their money and Nellie staying on as their only servant, which shows her loyalty. At first the story arc, shows the family having difficulty but when Mortimor is spotted it is Nellie that helps capture him. She goes as far to jump on the back of his carriage and she figures out where he hid the money.

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The family tries to move up in society

The family often try to better themselves and get themselves in higher social circles. This does not always work out the way they expect and they are often surprised when it’s Nellie that ends up on top!   When the women decide to host a party in aid of  charity, it doesn’t turn out as they hope, as the priest misunderstands their intentions and invites poor people to the house, instead of the money raising ball they had in mind. In another story William is pleased when he becomes knighted  in part because of Nellie’s loyalty. Although the family are surprised to see Nellie beside Queen Victoria during the knighthood (due to good timing with smelling salts before the ceremony). Another long running story has the family move to the country when the inherit Oakley estate. It doesn’t work out quite as they hope as the estate is in need of a lot of repairs. After their time in the country they return to London for the social season, but they are not happy that everyone seems to have forgotten them, but know Nellie well! Although they are still sure to remind Nellie of her place when they get the chance. They are not happy when Cousin Gerald seems to have written a love letter  to Nellie, thinking she’s getting ideas above her station, although it just turns out Gerald is just a song writer.  Snobbery gets Nellie into trouble when she saves a girl’s life but a series of misunderstandings lead to the girl’s family being insulted and the Shelby Smythe’s thinking Nellie was trying to pass herself off as one of the family. Luckily a respectable doctor who had seen what had happened gets her out of trouble again!

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Nellie is the family confidant

Nellie shows her loyalty to the family time and time again, and often she is the person the family turn to for help or to confide in. Most commonly with the girls or William, Amelia is better at keeping a distance. Several times Alice and Flora’s potential love interest have to be hidden with Nellie’s help, as their parents don’t approve. Another time Nellie helps Flora get back her diary after William accidentally picked up. Being closer to age it makes sense that the young ladies of the house would turn to Nellie for help when they are in need. An even stronger friendship seems to be between William and Nellie. Quite a few times Nellie saves William money from some of the ladies high ideas, like redecorating or she helps by getting rid of someone/something he doesn’t like (in one instance an annoying parrot). He often shows his appreciation by giving her a bit of extra money, or even paying for her photo to be taken.  When he has to make a big speech it is Nellie that he confides his fears to. William even crosses some normal social boundaries like when learning to dance he chooses her as a dance partner!

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Nellie gets into trouble or solves a problem

Nellie can find herself in difficult situations, sometimes she makes mistakes which get her into trouble, but either by luck or quick thinking it is okay by the end. Such as Nellie been having the job to clean the attic but ends up losing track of time and having fun exploring. This get her into trouble with Amelia, but William, Flora and Alice are delighted in rediscovering their old things and gets Nellie off the hook. At least two different occasions she has trouble with an  organ grinder monkey. She solves other animal mischief when cook is told to get rid of her chickens for causing trouble. Nellie buys rotting eggs in order to persuade the family they are better to have fresh eggs than rely on the shop.

Nellie experiences a harder life

Although life isn’t always the easiest working for the Shelby Smythes, Nellie could have it a lot worse. There are times when Nellie gets to see this other side. When on holiday Nellie takes the time to help a girl who works in a corrupt factory. A long running story has Nellie go to work for the Kedges temporarily while the Shelby Smythes are away. Hartley Kedge and his sister Maria, are a tough and sour pair who mistreat their young ward, Arthur. Nellie uncovers the Kedge’s plot to try and get Arthur’s inheritance. Luckily she is able to help Arthur. Another long running plot set in the early days of Nellie, which shows she didn’t have the best time before coming to work for the Shelby Smythes. When Nellie’s gran dies, her Aunt Ada takes over the house and sends Nellie to the workhouse. She has several run ins with the matron, who is quick to hit, keeps the best food for herself and runs cons. Nellie crosses path with the Shelby Smythes when they come to the workhouse as charitable ladies, but an assault and mix up leaves them working in the workhouse while Nellie tracks down William to help them. On route  she (again) saves the house from a robber who was working with the maid. After William comes to get his family the matron gets removed and Nellie is hired by the family. Which may be a big reason why she is so loyal to the family.

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Thoughts

Clearly this was a popular story first appearing in 1964. In the late 80s the story got a new artist and regularly appeared right up to the last issue of Judy in 1991. The stories were reprinted as a Judy classic in M&J and also regularly appeared in Annuals and Picture Story Library Books. It’s easy to see why – this was a fun, smart character with interesting supporting characters and while there was some common plots that appeared, there was still enough variety to keep the stories engaging. I actually started making notes to write this post ages, but then I got busy and didn’t have enough time to dedicate to what I knew would be a big post. But I definitely enjoyed rereading these stories and noticing things that would have passed over my head when I was younger, such as literature references and the suffragette movement.

Nellie, is a character that you want to succeed, she is smart, resourceful, loyal, hard working and has a sense of fun.  All the family are distinct characters; William is an upstanding honest man, who in one long plot runs as a parliamentary candidate. He is more frugal than his family and less prone to the bright ideas that make more work for Nellie.  Amelia is the most distant, as we see the family mostly through Nellie’s eyes. Amelia is most often giving instructions to Nellie and is more conscious of class barriers, although she does appreciate Nellie’s hard work and trusts her. The sisters are quite similar and are usually seen together, but there are some differences. Alice the blonde older sister is a bit harsher than Flora, particularly to her sister. Alice points out Flora’s lack of croquet skills and when they overhear some ladies comment on Flora’s plumpness, Alice keeps teasing her about it. Although in that instance Alice gets her comeuppance as it turns out the ladies who commented had got their names mixed up. Flora is also quicker to fall in love and have romantic ideas. Lastly there is young Algy who is usually away at school but when he’s home can cause mischief for Nellie and she ends up running after him a lot. There is no maliciousness in his actions though and he likes Nellie. When Nellie gets the blame for damp sheets, Algy owns up that he had accidentally splashed them.

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The other character we see most in the household is Cook. In early stories there were more servants, but Cook is the only person who really develops (Benson the butler appears for a bit). In the first episode none of the family appear, Cook is more stern than later appearances, although not as harsh as the housekeeper! Cook and Nellie often conspire together, but Cook is also well aware of their place and is quick to remind Nellie. She is also very protective of Nellie and they both help each other out.

Like I mentioned previously there are references to famous books and literary figures in the story. Nellie is shown to read The Man in the Iron Mask, she also reads Hamlet after accidentally getting locked in a shop, and shows her good memory by being able to quote it afterward! There is reference to Arthur Conan Doyle and the family go to hear a reading by Charles Dickens. The latter proves very beneficial for Nellie, as the family feel guilty for refusing Nellie some extra money, even though she has no idea why the change of heart she is grateful for it! [Note:  Nellie gets £5 a year and home and food, afterwards they add an extra shilling a week]

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There are some mixed feminist messages in the text. For the most part, Alice and Flora are somewhat oblivious to women’s movements, when suffragettes are rallying around during William’s election run, the ladies don’t have much time for them, but as they are often seen to be feather-headed, I would say this gives more weight to the cause. But mostly the suffragettes are painted as overly aggressive. This is shown particularly when Cousin Ada comes to stay. Her pushy ways, are seen to be a nuisance and Nellie finds an idea to quieten her when Tom the coachman needs help with his baby and Ada can prove that there are jobs women are better at. Still that may be more fitting reaction in the time it’s set in and having a resourceful young female who is often shown to be cleverer than her upper class counterparts, is still an inspiring character to have.

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One of Wee Slavey’s strengths was it’s great humour not just in situations but in the dialogue and expressions. Both artists did a great job at capturing the era and there is some very pretty settings and clothes drawn, but I have to give preference to the original artist who captured some great humorous expressions and moments. Such as Flora taking a “quiet” stroll soon after being called plump, so much is captured in two panels, from Alice’s smug look in the background to Flora’s look of determination and Nellie’s realisation!

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With interesting characters, humour, varied plots and great art work it’s no surprise Wee Slavey stuck around so long and became a well loved favourite.