Category Archives: Suzy

The Mascot

Plot

Alison Johnson was delighted when she was given a toy panda as a gift, but she had begun to feel that there was something odd about it. It was having strange effect on people. Now a strange woman who called herself  “The Spirit of Revenge” was making Alison attack her sister, Stephanie, at home.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Mascot – Suzy: #171 (14 December 1985) – #178 (1 February 1986)

Behind Closed Doors

  • Behind Closed Doors – Suzy:  #174 (4 January 1986) – #176 (18 January 1986)

Plot

When her parents had to go away on business, Becky Smart was sent to stay with her aunt and uncle at Hawthorn Hall. When she arrives, her aunt and uncle’s foster daughter, Sara, tells Becky she can’t see them as they are ill and confined to bed. Becky suspects Sara is lying and tries to investigate. Sara tries to put Becky off, she tells her although Aunt Margaret can’t have visitors, she is well enough to look out the window. Becky watches the window of her Aunt’s window and does see a figure in it, but by staying and watching Becky notices the figure doesn’t move. She is now convinced Sara has been lying to her and set up a model of her aunt to stop her digging further.

She goes to find Sara and catches her in tears, talking to herself, Sara says she wishes she could tell Becky the truth but she would get in so much trouble. Becky locks her in the room so she can investigate unhampered. Becky gets in to her relatives locked bedroom, her suspicions are confirmed that the figure was just a dummy, but she doesn’t find her aunt and uncle and sees their bed has not been slept in. She goes back to confront Sara and get the truth. Sara confesses that Becky’s relatives had to go away on a science expedition and they had got Mrs Peebles to look after her while they were gone, but Mrs Peebles never arrived because she was in a car accident. Sara was afraid to tell anyone in case she was taken back to the children’s home. She had hopes that she would be adopted and was worried the welfare people would object if they found out she was left alone.

Becky is sympathetic after hearing Sara’s story and wants to help. She arranges it so her cousin Jan will stay with them at Becky’s house until her parents return. Although there wasn’t anything sinister happening at Hawthorn Hall, Becky is glad to be leaving it and can’t help but still be unnerved by the place.

Thoughts

This only has a brief summary as I don’t have all three episodes, but enough to cover the main plot and ending. Suzy had a lot of short serials, that were only 3 issues long. Sometimes this worked well, as it didn’t drag on the plot needlessly. Suzy also had quite a lot of photo stories, there were some that were more experimental mixing art and photos (such as “The Ninth Nightmare”), this story was more standard. Still it had a nice mystery and some nice angles and made the house look big and impressive.

The Search for Sister Sarah

Plot

Orphan Jane Ackroyd seemed destined to end up in a workhouse, until she discovered she had a sister, Sarah who had run off to join the circus many years before. Sarah had built up a reputation as a juggler and somehow Sarah’s old doll had the special ability of giving Jane glimpses of Sarah.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Search for Sister Sarah – Suzy: #214 (11 October 1986) – #222 (6 December 1986)

No Dogs Allowed [1986]

Plot

When Colonel Voler banned dogs from Britain in the 1990s, Meg Brown set out with her dog Floss and her three pups to join her father, a wanted resistance worker in Portsmouth. She was pursued by security officer Gritten who hoped to trace her father and destroy the dogs.

Notes

Appeared

  • No Dogs Allowed – Suzy: #213 (4 October 1986) – #222 (6 December 1986)

Force of Evil [1985-1986]

Published: Suzy #170 (7 December 1985) – #181 (22 February 1986)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Andy Tew

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for help with episodes and scans

Plot

It is (at the time of publication) the future year of 1990. Britain has been invaded by the dictatorial Sin-Pact forces. There is some hint that they may not occupy the whole of Britain (we later learn the British government is still around somewhere, though underground). Perhaps the country is divided into an occupied zone and a free zone, as France was during World War II. Or maybe they do occupy the whole of Britain; the British Government has gone underground. In any case their invasion has been so recent they are still setting up their occupancy; for example, they are still building their watch towers.

Not surprisingly, the story gives no details on exactly who the Sin-Pact invaders are, where they come from, or what their political and religious dogmas are. They have an Asian look, but their “S” emblem is clearly English. There is no mention of a leader or founder of Sin-Pact. Just how or why they invaded Britain is not discussed either, and there is no mention of international intervention. Nor does the story explain just what “Sin-Pact” means (but we can imagine the jokes about it!).

But there is no mistaking that their oppression is evil and making life increasingly harsh and cruel for the people they have invaded. At home, Carol and Joe Peel’s mother has to cook meals over a meagre fire because the power has been cut. Severe food rationing is in, and later we learn the British diet is deteriorating because the Sin-Pacters are keeping certain foods, such as milk, for themselves. Curfews are introduced, and even the slightest hint of resistance against the Sin-Pacters is met with severe punishment. For example, a prefect named Howard Preston at school is arrested for burning a Sin-Pact flag, which is punishable by death. Megaphones broadcasting Sin-Pact announcements are everywhere. The letter “S”, the Sin-Pact equivalent of the Nazi swastika, becomes the most hated letter in Britain, and it is popular for collaborators to be daubed and sprayed with the letter “S”.

Emotional and psychological effects of the oppression take hold. People grow frightened, paranoid, and suspicious of anyone suspected of collaborating or spying. Hatred takes its grip and people begin to lose their reason. And this is precisely what Carol is finding out. Her father, Paul Peel, went missing the day the Sin-Pacters invaded and everyone is whispering that he has turned traitor, though there is not a shred of evidence of that (yet). Carol finds everyone is shunning her because they suspect she is a collaborator too. The kids at school whisper their fathers are joining the Resistance and don’t want Carol to overhear.

It looks like everyone’s suspicions are confirmed when Peel appears on the big screen broadcasting Sin-Pact announcements, including lists of upcoming executions and Sin-Pact rules that are updated daily. The rules begin with: “Rule One – Sin-Pact soldiers are to be afforded utmost respect. This means attacks on their persons are punishable by death. Rule 2 – Sin-Pact property is also to be respected. Theft of weapons, transport and supplies will merit the same punishment.”

Carol can’t believe her father is a traitor. She thinks he must be being forced to make those broadcasts or something, perhaps under threat of what could happen to his family. She is determined to prove her father is innocent of treason. Standing behind Carol all the way is their dog Col.

But of course everyone else thinks otherwise. Once the father starts his broadcasts, the Peels are faced with full-scale hatred and harrassent, which begins with a brick being thrown through their window. When the Sin-Pact soldiers arrive to query the vandalism, Carol covers up for the neighbours, but they don’t appreciate it one bit. They want the Peels out, especially when they hear the Sin-Pact soldiers saying the Peels are to be highly respected. As the neighbours dare not attack the Peels directly now, they hit back in more subtle ways, such as giving them food rations that are unfit to eat. And when Preston is arrested for the Sin-Pact flag burning, his family declare revenge against the Peels if he is executed.

Mum sends younger brother Joe to Gran’s farm, but she sends him home with food. They wonder if Gran has disowned them, but then Gran had always hated her son-in-law. The marriage went ahead over her dead body, and when she appears later in the story she comes across as one nasty old bat.

Despite what is happening to them, Carol won’t have a bar of the Sin-Pact soldiers and remains loyal to Britain. For example, when the Sin-Pact soldiers give them better food rations, Carol refuses it, saying they must not use enemy food. The mother says it won’t do any good to starve themseves, and has accepted everything the Sin-Pacters have given the family because they are the family of the honourable Paul Peel. This illustrates the difficult position of principle versus survival, an all-too-common situation in wartime.

The Peels hear about possible retaliation from the Preston family. Mum uses a special phone the Sin-Pacters have given her in order to talk to Officer 98z about this (he has occupied prison cells behind him marked “death row”). He arranges for them to be given false identity papers and relocated to a new town.

Carol finds the address of the ration warehouse on the box of rations and heads out to find it in the hope of tracking down her father. Col comes with her. On the way she sees her father broadcast another announcement that all builders must give priority to Sin Pact projects and miners must mine coal for export to the Sin-Pact stockpiles. When Carol crosses into Sin-Pact territory she sees watch towers being built and comments, “They seem determined to turn every British town into a prison camp.”

Then Carol runs into the Resistance and tells their leader she is looking for Sin-Pact HQ to free her father. But when the leader finds a photograph of the hated Peel on her (very bad mistake, Carol!) and she says it’s her father, the Resistance tie her up. She manages to free herself.

The Sin-Pact men arrive. The Resistance try to pass themeselves off as farm workers. The Sin Pact men say they don’t need farmers, which sounds pretty odd as they surely need farmers for food production. Most likely it is just their excuse for sending them to Furze Common Warehouse. They capture Carol too and bring her along.

On the way the truck has a road accident occurs, which enables the Resistance to escape. Carol stays on in the hope of finding her father, but it has the Resistance becoming even more convinced she is a spy.

At the warehouse Col is taken to patrol with soldiers; a soldier says dogs are not for friendship but to enforce discipline. A Trustee i.e., a prisoner who reports misbehaviour in exchange for lighter work, and doesn’t look a nice type either, takes Carol to the barracks. A prisoner pushes a large box on the Trustee from above, which hurts her leg. Carol realises she will be next for an ‘accident’ if anyone at the warehouse finds out who her father is. She steals an opportunity to smuggle herself to Sin-Pact HQ in a food truck, but Col unwittingly spoils her escape when he joins her in the truck, so the Sin-Pact men find them.

However, the Sin-Pact men recognise Carol, for they have been on the lookout for Paul Peel’s daughter. They send her to rejoin her family at Gran’s farm. Gran has always branded Dad a bad lot; Mum had to defy her in order to marry him and Gran clearly still resents that. She is also angry at how Sin-Pact is taking the produce she makes for themselves. Gran starts taking it all out on her relatives, especially Carol, who still protests her father is innocent of treason.

Then there is a broadcast from Dad announcing the latest lineup of people who have been executed. Among them is Howard Preston. Joe throws a welly at the TV screen because he is so disgusted at how Dad is smiling as he reads out the death list and says he never wants to have anything to do with his father again.

Gran sees kids stealing her crops and chases them off. The kids call her a meanie who can’t begrudge a few carrots and turnips to the starving. As they take off, they call Gran a “mean old witch” (we certainly agree) and say they will burn an effigy of her alongside the one of the “Sin-Pact guy” they are going to burn that night.

That night Carol discovers the effigy of the “Sin-Pact guy” means her father, and realises what will happen to her family if these hate-crazed people find out they are related to him. Gran is not concerned at seeing Dad being burned in effigy, but takes umbrage at the sight of her own effigy joining him in the fire. She blames Carol, saying it’s her fault for running away, and calls Carol a spy that Sin-Pact planted on her. Gran now makes Carol take her meals outside, and Mum does not stand up to Gran.

Being forced to eat outside makes Carol vulnerable to more harassment from the villagers. They call her an informer, daub “S” on her clothes and equipment, and then throw her into a trench and open the sluice gates on her. Carol is in real trouble because she cannot swim.

Then a mysterious figure appears and helps Carol out with a rope. He disappears before she can get a good look at him. He leaves a note telling her to leave the area immediately and don’t stop to say goodbye at the farm. Carol decides to have another crack at finding Sin-Pact HQ. Mum and Joe join in; the stranger had left a note explaining the attempt on Carol’s life. Mum apologises for not standing up to Gran.

They all set off, stopping at a diner for food. However, the Sin-Pact men arrive, looking for travel papers. The waitress offers to help them to hide in the kitchen, but betrays them and locks them in. They smash a window to make it look like they have escaped while in fact they are hiding in the disused frying cabinets.

The Sin-Pact men fall for the ruse. But the Peels have to double back through the café to collect Col, which means they could be spotted again. They hide under the Sin-Pact lorries, and hear a broadcast recalling the lorries to Sin-Pact HQ. The lorries go north, so the Peels head in that direction too. The waitress is not rewarded for betraying the Peels.

However, the Peels have to walk there, and it begins to tell on their feet and shoes. They bump into a girl who says Sin-Pact is requisitioning her ponies for transport, but she suspects it’s for food. The Peels offer to help – and getting themselves some transport – by taking the ponies away before Sin-Pact does. Assuming the Peels are from the Resistance, the girl agrees.

As the Peels ride along, Carol discovers she is the only one left in the family who believes her father is not a traitor and there must be a good reason for his conduct. Even Mum has come to think he is the traitor everyone says he is.

Then, while watering the ponies, Carol and her family bump into the Resistance leader. The Resistance leader now thinks Carol is not a spy, just a loyal, misguided daughter who genuinely believes her father is innocent, though he does not. They set off for Sin-Pact HQ with ammunition stolen from them. However, a signal had been put in the ammunition pack, at Peel’s suggestion, which gets them discovered and captured. All members of the Resistance are being rounded up and put in a shed at Sin-Pact Headquarters. Peel does not even seem to recognise his own son, and for the first time, Carol begins to wonder if her father is a traitor after all. It looks like Col the dog is turning traitor too, because he jumped into the staff car with Peel, looking so happy. Or is the dog the only one left who does not believe Peel is a traitor?

On Peel’s orders, the Sin-Pact men direct the prisoners to put on protective suits to test their efficiency. The prisoners think the suits are defective and it’s a ruse to kill them all. But as soon as the prisoners don the suits, the Sin-Pact soldiers are surprised to see the gas flooding in ahead of schedule and they are all knocked out.

From a loudspeaker in a helicopter, Paul Peel speaks: He is really a British agent working undercover as a traitor and collaborator. His infamous broadcasts were in fact coded messages. The gas will keep the Sin-Pact soldiers unconscious for 15 minutes, during which time the Resistance are to tie them up, commandeer their vehicles, and load the vehicles with as many weapons as possible. They are to rendezvous with units at secret checkpoints waiting for those lorries and weapons. Clearing out Sin-Pact is not expected to be too difficult because the Sin-Pact leaders have now been captured. So Carol’s belief that her father is innocent of treason has finally been vindicated!

When Dad lands, he is demanding explanations as to why his family is present; he had expected them to stay out of trouble after the way he had to rescue Carol from the trench. Carol explains that she could not believe he was a traitor and was trying to prove it. Dad appreciates the family loyalty and apologises for what he had to put them through as part of his cover. They are quite understanding and are so glad to be together again.

Thoughts

If this story had appeared in one of DCT’s more common titles like Bunty or Mandy, or been reprinted in Bunty (the title Suzy merged into), there is little doubt it would still stick with people and be well remembered. Instead, it has fallen into obscurity because it appeared in a less-known title that is very hard to find these days. Hopefully this story will now receive more well-deserved recognition. It’s not just because it’s such strong stuff from beginning to end. It’s also because there arguably has never been anything quite like it in girls’ comics before. I certainly haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere, anyway.

There have been zillions of stories where the protagonist has to pretend to be a collaborator who’s in with the bad guys in order to be the secret helper, and in so doing suffer the hatred of the very people she is trying to help in secret. “Catch the Cat!”, “Detestable Della” and “Hateful Hattie” are some of the better-known of these stories. However, the reader usually knows that the supposed antagonist of the story is in fact the secret protagonist and is with her all the way. But not in this case. Paul Peel as the secret helper working undercover as a collaborator is not revealed until the end. Until then, the story is taken from the viewpoint of the people who assume he (or she) is the hated collaborator and do not know that he/she is in fact the secret helper.

There have been other stories where the secret helper is not the protagonist but the apparent flunky of the main villain, such as Jo the Clown in Tammy’s “Circus of the Damned”. At first the flunky has the protagonist fooled, but gradually clues emerge that has the protagonist suspect the truth. But that does not happen in this case either. No clues are forthcoming that hint Paul Peel may in fact be a secret helper; all the way until the end he looks a traitor.

“Force of Evil” also draws on the formula of a father being wrongly accused and the daughter setting out to prove his innocence while he’s in prison or on the run. Except that this case we don’t even know if the father is innocent but he sure is acting like he’s guilty!

“Force of Evil” uses all these basic formulas, but is so unique in turning them completely inside out in the way it does. The story keeps the reader guessing right up to the end as to where Paul Peel’s loyalties actually lie and why he is working with Sin-Pact. Is he a genuine traitor or is there a good reason for his actions, as Carol hopes and believes? We have no clues to help us, only Carol’s loyalty and faith against all the evidence that looks so black against him. Her mother and brother hope that, but eventually they get worn down and come to belive he must be a traitor. And when it looks like Peel has betrayed his own family, Carol finally begins to wonder if she has been a victim of false hopes after all.

The story very cleverly has Carol never guessing that her father might actually be working undercover. If that had happened it would have given the whole game away for the reader. Instead, she always assumes her father is doing it under duress, but her father’s such a good actor that even Carol herself begins to doubt that towards the end. Thank goodness she didn’t need to wait too long to get her answer!

It is also unusual that the main figurehead of the villainy is the one who is the secret hero. Paul Peel may be a ‘flunky’ for Sin-Pact, but they are such colourless and indistinct villains that none of them can be called a main villain. The only one out of Sin-Pact who gets any distinction as a main villain is Paul Peel himself, until he is revealed as a pretend villain.

The Sin-Pact villains would be developed more if Carol had been conducting a one-girl war of resistance against them as the protagonists do in stories like “Catch the Cat!” and “Wendy at War”. But although Carol remains staunchly opposed to them, her fight is not with them. Her goal is to prove her father’s innocence, and this pits her against the the face of public hatred. And it is for this reason that the people who hate Carol’s father or assume Carol is a collaborator emerge as far more powerful and dangerous villains than the Sin Pact men. They also more distinct characters, particularly the horrible Gran, who is far more rounded than any of the Sin-Pact men. We are not at all sorry to see Gran burned in effigy, even if we’re still not sure about the effigy of Paul Peel.

The story does not shy away from the grimness of war and callousness of enemy occupation, and people’s psychological and emotional reactions to them. As they say, it is bringing out the best in people and the worst in others. Even supposedly decent people are reverting to a more animal level as starvation, desperation, hatred and trauma take hold. Others are using it to unleash axes to grind; Gran, for example, is clearly using the whole situation to vent long-standing hatreds towards her son-in-law and make excuses for carrying out the nasty behaviour that is clearly her nature.

It makes no bones about the horrors of lynch mob behaviour towards even suspected collaborators, which makes it an even darker wartime story. It also shows that different reactions to war and occupation can divide households. Carol, for example, refuses to have anything to do with receiving enemy supplies but her mother thinks there is little choice but to do so. The debate over whether or not the father is a traitor also has the family quarrelling. All the same, the mother and brother tag along with Carol to find Sin-Pact HQ, even if they don’t believe the father is innocent as Carol does.

While other people have reverted to more bestial behaviour, Carol is one who never loses her courage, principles and compassion, not even in the face of all the horrible treatment she gets on all sides. She takes time out to help others despite her own problems, such as the girl who is about to lose her ponies to Sin-Pact. She has far more backbone than her mother, who does not stand up for things she believes in as much as Carol does. She does not even stand up to her mother for her horrible treatment of Carol. This may be rooted in Mrs Peel’s upbringing; from the looks of it she grew up under the thumb of a domineering mother and it was not until she married that she began to think for herself. But even as an adult, it looks like Mrs Peel still has problems exerting her will and being assertive when needed. No wonder Gran hates her son-in-law. We can just see the look on her face when he receives his knighthood and OBEs (those are coming, surely?) and being honoured as the man who saved Britain by making himself the most hated man in Britain!

Blackmailed! [1987]

Published: Suzy 236 (March 14 1987) – 249 (June 13 1987)

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell (unconfirmed)

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with the episodes

Plot

Anne Smith’s father had taken a job that turned out to be a terrible mistake for the entire family. The company has been exposed as fraudulent one that swindled pensioners, and the swindlers have disappeared with the money. Mr Smith knew nothing about the fraud and took the job in good faith. Although nothing has been proven against him, the press reports associate him with the crimes. Consequently everyone in town has turned against the Smiths and all the girls at school are bullying Anne over it.

So the Smiths change their names to Brown and Anne changes her name to Lorna. They move to Kelbury, a town over 300 miles away, and Mr Brown’s new moustache is really effective at disassociating him from the press photos.

The family settle very happily into their new life and Lorna is enjoying her new school. But they can never fully escape the fear that the past will catch up one way or other.

It happens when Janet Dawson, a horrible girl from Lorna’s old school, transfers to her new one and is placed in her class. Janet’s parents couldn’t control her and sent her to live with her aunt in the hope that a fresh start would turn her around. Some hopes! Once Janet recognises “Lorna” as Anne Smith she starts to blackmail her. Initially Lorna tries to stand up to Janet, but gives in when Janet flourishes a copy of the newspaper with the headline “Pensioners Robbed Of Savings” and a photograph of Lorna’s father, and says: “So you’re not taking me seriously, eh? Maybe this will change your mind!”

Janet uses the blackmail to have Lorna take the blame for all the sneaky things she does so everyone will think she has become a sweet, reformed person, while Lorna is made to look increasingly untrustworthy and troublesome in the eyes of her classmates, school staff and, eventually, her parents. For example, Janet blackmails Lorna into buying a magazine that is so expensive that it leaves her with insufficient money for a present for a hospitalised classmate. Janet astonishes and impresses the class by offering to pay on Lorna’s behalf. Later, Lorna has to turn a blind eye to Janet stealing from the tuck shop and ends looking unreliable when the teacher finds the stock sold isn’t adding up with the day’s sales. On another occasion, Janet blackmails Lorna out of the money she earned from a babysitting job. When Lorna’s mother insists that Lorna give Janet half of the babysitting fee, Janet makes it look like she being absolutely gracious because she refuses to take the half (as she already has it all!). Janet certainly has people fooled in this way. For example, during tea at Janet’s aunt’s place, the aunt says she is so pleased with Janet’s behaviour these days after the Dawson parents sent her over for being such a problem child at home.

Janet’s blackmail also makes Lorna increasingly unpopular in class. For example, she blackmails Lorna to lend her PE blouse although if anyone is without kit, the whole class will end up doing maths instead. Eventually the whole class turns against Lorna because of Janet.

Janet also starts wangling her way into Lorna’s home, on pretext of being invited to tea, in order to exert more blackmail. Janet drops hints that she has recognised Lorna’s father. She blackmails Lorna into handing over her prized belongings. Among them is a Sunday School prize book that has Lorna’s real name in it – and which Janet can use for more blackmail. She tells Lorna that she is going to sell it at the school book fair; Lorna ends up having to give Janet £5 to give the book back. Janet blackmails Lorna out of chocolate, cassettes and clothes. She copies Lorna’s answers in a school exam and claims it was Lorna who was copying. This has Lorna’s parents convinced that Lorna is turning into a delinquent and Lorna won’t tell them what’s going on.

Janet’s blackmail now has Lorna looking a thief. Janet blackmails her way into a weekend trip with Lorna’s family. She blackmails Lorna into shoplifting a necklace. When Lorna puts it back, the manager thinks she was trying to steal it, but fortunately he does not press charges. But Lorna isn’t so lucky at a schoolfriend’s party. Janet blackmails her into stealing a moneybox, and if caught she must take the blame. The schoolfriend catches Lorna in the act and throws her out. When Lorna’s parents hear about the incident they check Lorna’s bank account and discover there is nothing left (all gone on Janet’s blackmail of course). They stop Lorna’s pocket money, so now Janet can’t blackmail Lorna out of that.

Lorna decides things can’t get any worse, so when Janet tries to blackmail her again she just tells her to get lost. But Lorna soon finds that things can indeed get worse – Janet vandalises the cloakroom and frames her for it. Lorna is suspended. Lorna’s mother demands to know why she is acting in this way and Lorna won’t tell her the truth.

Then the police arrive and say they have caught the swindlers, who made a full confession that clears Lorna’s father. It will be all over the newspapers the following day. Now Lorna is free of Janet’s blackmail she can explain everything when she and her mother go to see the headmistress. Janet is expelled, and while she leaves, she tells her classmates: “I had a good run before I was expelled. And I took you other mugs in, didn’t I? You thought I was really nice.” The classmates realise Lorna was being blackmailed and become friends with her again. The story does not say whether or not Lorna changes her name back to Anne.

Thoughts

The story comes from a long line of blackmail serials where a girl gets blackmailed because of a family secret. Most often it is an unjustified disgrace that always gets cleared up by the end of the story, which is the case here. Other means of blackmail have included jobs, false information, and incriminating diaries.

The concept of a nasty girl who pretends to be a reformed character or pulls some other sort of deception in order to continue her dirty ways in secret is not new either. Stories that have used this include The Quiet One from M&J and RoseMary from Nikki. But here it is combined with the blackmail theme in which the problem girl orchestrates her evil ways through the girl she is blackmailing and using her as the scapegoat for when things go wrong. In this way she can continue her nasty ways while presenting a reformed face to her aunt and parents without fear of being caught out. She isn’t just using the blackmail for the usual demands (money, favours, cheating etc), though she does that too, of course. And what enables Janet’s blackmail to continue in this way is Lorna not telling her parents what is going on. Instead, she just suffers in silence and takes the blame for all the things Janet is responsible for. And when Lorna finally stands up to Janet (or Janet realises she can’t get anything more out of the blackmail), she sets out to destroy Lorna altogether. Again, not an uncommon thing with spiteful girls in girls’ serials.

Part of the blackmail can be attributed to the miscalculation on the part of the Dawson parents. As they could not control their daughter they mistakenly hoped a new start might be the answer and sent Janet to her aunt’s. Of course they wouldn’t have known about a potential blackmail victim being there for Janet to take advantage of. But did it not occur to them that Janet might simply transfer her nasty behaviour to Kelbury? Clearly, what they should have done was send their uncontrollable daughter to a special school or similar institution for problem children before setting her out on any fresh starts.

Another source of blame is how the papers treated Mr Smith in the first place and turning the whole town against him and his family. Nothing had been proven against Mr Smith. No charges had been laid against him. As far as we can tell, the police aren’t bothering with Mr Smith and are trying to find the swindlers who vanished with the money. In law, Mr Smith is still innocent. So why has The Daily Times got Mr Smith’s photo plastered all over the front page like he was the mastermind of the swindle, and blackening his name and reputation when there was no proof against him? Why isn’t it the faces of those swindlers who have skedaddled with all the money and are now fugitives that must be found? Are the press making a scapegoat out of Mr Smith or something? Or is it guilt by association? Certainly, once Mr Smith was cleared he would have a case for a lawsuit against The Daily Times.

The Strange Tale of Sara’s Snap Encounter

  • The Strange Tale of Sara’s Snap Encounter – Suzy: #179 (8 February 1986) – #181 (22 February 1986)
  • Artist: David Matysiak

Plot

Sara Greaves usually gets her own way, so when staying at her Gran’s cottage, she doesn’t listen to her, when her gran tells her to stay out of the loft as it’s dusty and full of rubbish. As soon as her gran is preoccupied, Sara goes up to the attic to explore, she finds a stuffed parrot, doll house and a dusty box containing strange old snap cards. Suddenly she finds herself whisked away to the sinister land of the snap cards. She is greeted by the parrot from the attic, who introduces herself as Emily. She tells her she is a spoilt girl and forces her into playing a strange game of snap. The characters from the cards are now real people and Sara must find the matching pair if she is ever to return to her own world. Sara of course thinks this is ridiculous and wonders if it is some elaborate joke on her. She goes to a house to ask for help but is surprised when the person that answers is indeed one of the characters from the card. She then runs into the ‘beggar boy’ another snap character who tricks her into helping him steal, by getting her to distract a man. When the man attracts attention of constable, Sara doesn’t like her chances of her innocence in the crime being believed. So she makes a run for it.

She comes by a snake charmer, when she overhears him talking about “what a pair we make” she thinks she has found the pair she needs, but he was just talking to his snake and Sara startles them allowing snake to slip away. She still need to hide from the constables and ends up in a play when the actors assumes she is the actress they were looking for. The dress her up and put her on stage despite her protests. Of course she doesn’t know the lines, so the actors are not happy when their dramatic play turns into a comedy! Then a fire breaks out, the snake reappears when a fireman mistakes him for a hose and Sara manages to slip away from the madness. She sees Emily and chases after her,  when she tries to follow her into a castle she is stopped by a guard. Private Goodbody takes his job seriously, and won’t listen to why she wants to get into the castle, he even raises his rifle to her. Luckily he is stopped by Corporal McGlenn, who is nicer and keeps offering Sara sweets. He tells her he saw a bird fly down by the river. So she goes to try and find her there.

Sara is thoroughly fed up with the place and how no one listens to what she says. Another character, Sailor Sam, turns up and tells her maybe the characters are a bit like her doing their own thing and not taking notice of what people say. Sara admits that she has been awful at times but if she could get back home she could begin to change. Sam agrees to help her find Emily and the row down the river in his boat.  Suddenly the weather changes and everything starts freezing over. Sara notices a skater is about to skate into a part of the water that hasn’t frozen over yet. She manages to stop him just in time. Then his twin brother arrives, thanking Sara for saving his life. She has found the matching pair and Emily appears happy that she also thought of someone else’s welfare before her own. She is returned home a changed girl. Her gran find her in the attic and tells her that the cards belonged to her mother’s sister Emily, a sickly child who died when she was young. Sara apologises to her gran for disobeying her, telling her she won’t do it again.

Thoughts

Matysiak drew a number of short 3 episode stories for Suzy, usually with a fantasy or even creepy element, which certainly is suited to his style of art. It is an interesting world, it has a Wonderland vibe with strange, weird characters and little logic. Sara being the only one that is trying to be reasonable. While it is fun, there is a lot going on for such a short story, other Matysiak short stories like The Wrong Day or Brides of the Forest are more effective as their concepts are kept simpler. Here I feel it really could have used more episodes. Firstly to explore more this strange fantasy world. Secondly to show Sara’s selfishness and lesson learned, we are just told about how she is used to getting her own way but we don’t get to see it a lot. Thirdly it could have delved and hinted more on Emily’s past, earlier on, the revelation that Emily was her Gran’s aunt comes suddenly. I feel it was unnecessary, particularly as it hasn’t time to be developed, they could have left things simpler and left it one of those mysterious unexplained things, that someone wanted to teach Sara a lesson.

When Vera Vanished…

  • When Vera Vanished… – Suzy: #232 (14 February 1987) – #238 (28 March 1987)

Plot

Sally Carson and three other girls are all in the finals for an under fourteen intelligence competition. The final competition is taking place in the remote Kellbeggan Study Centre. Sally meets the other competitors on the train to Kellbeggan, while two of the girls, Penny and Clare,  are friendly and excited about the trip, the other girl, Vera Pashal, is nervous and seems to be paranoid about being followed. When the girls get to Kellbeggan, they go to the local castle for a tour. When they sign the visitors book, suspiciously the guide gives a different pen to Vera, saying the other one has just run out of ink. Then, when they go into the dungeon, the lights go out and when they come back on Vera has disappeared! Penny and Clare think maybe she just slipped out the door, when the guide opened it, but then the guide denies that there was ever a fourth girl with them. Sally wants them to split up and search the castle but the guide says he is closing and hasn’t time to run after girls with wild imaginations. Sally thinks to check the visitors book to prove Vera was here, but is surprised to find her name isn’t there. Seeing no other choice they decide to head back to the study centre and alert Doctor Campion, who is running the competition.

But when they get back to the centre Dr Campion also denies Vera’s existence. Furthermore, checking their room, there is now only 3 beds and Vera’s suitcase is gone. Penny and Clare began to wonder, what reason would the nice Dr Campion have to lie to them and if they did imagine Vera. Sally points out the dents in the carpet, that show there was a fourth bed and the handkerchief that Vera gave her as proof of her being a real person. The girls sneak down to use the telephone to call for help, but find it locked. Dr Campion appears telling them it is only used for emergencies ad also gives them a warning not to meddle in things that don’t concern them. The next day is the girl’s first test to show their leadership qualities. Sally gets distracted from the test when she sees a groundskeeper, at first she thinks he may be able to help but then when she examines what he was burning, it appears to have been Vera’s suitcase.

Clare and Penny pass the test but Sally receives no points. Even though they are rivals Penny advises Sally to forget about Vera, at least until after the contest as there is nothing they can do anyway. But Sally is not giving up on Vera and continues to look for clues. She finds the castle now has a sign saying that it is private property, convincing her that Vera must be held there. For the next test, the girls are to get to the top of a hill and get a photo of a rock formation known as “the dragon’s chimney” and they will be timed on how long it takes. This time Sally does well on the test, as she actually takes time to look at map and find a footpath, while the others tackle the hill head on. When at the top Sally also realises they have a good view of the castle, she  sees two figures struggling nearby and she is sure one of them is Vera, she takes photos planning to enlarge them later.  When she does this she sees it is in fact Vera but when she gets back from fetching Penny and Clare, she finds the photos have been exposed and ruined. The girls are sick of Sally going on about Vera, but they at least now admit that she existed, but still say there must be a reasonable explanation for her disappearance like she was taken ill. Sally finds more clues as she discovers a pen of Dr Campion’s has disappearing ink, which she figures was used when Vera signed the visitors book. She also finds a newspaper saying that Vera is a diplomat’s daughter, which could be a reason why she might be kidnapped.

The next test is an assault course at Kellbeggan Barracks, Sally uses this as an opportunity to slip a message to a Major. Unfortunately, he mistakes her giving him the paper as something he can clean his pipe with and  with Dr Campion keeping a close eye Sally, she is unable to make another attempt. Still determined as ever Sally does track down Vera, locked in the castle, but she will need help to free her. Meanwhile Clare and Penny have been in the library, looking at a book about the castle. After reading about secret passages in the castle, they wonder if Sally was onto something, so when she arrives looking for help they go with her. Together the manage to free Vera, but have to hide from Dr Campoion and the others who are looking for them. Vera says she was held ransom because she is the daughter of a diplomat, but Sally still  has some questions, as she wonders why  her father would not send guards with her if he was worried about kidnap plot. Then more surprising is Vera reals herself to Dr. Campion! It turns out the kidnapping was faked and that was the real Intelligence test. Vera, Dr Campion and the staff were all in on the test leaving clues and seeing if the girls would pick up on them and how they would react. Sally is the clear winner!

Thoughts

This is the first long post on this blog for a Suzy serial. Suzy ran for 249 issues from 1982 to 1987, which was quite a good run, but for some reason this comic is a lot rarer to find than others. A reason for this may be that compared to other girls DCT titles, it could be considered more like a magazine than a comic. It had glossy paper, was more feature heavy and (at least in the start) was focused more on photo stories than picture ones. It was certainly not a title I was familiar with, but having read some issues now, I think there are some good stories people are missing out on.

I quite like this story, it has a nice mystery with a good twist that Vera wasn’t actually kidnapped. Being only seven issues, the pace keeps things moving along nicely and with the competition and Sally searching for clues, there’s a lot going on to keep it interesting. The remote location also helps keeps things tense, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone for Sally to turn to for help, especially as the adults around her all seem to be in on the plot. Of course she is right that everyone is conspiring together, just not for the reason she thinks! It is certainly an interesting test, though not one you would be able to get away with these days, as you wouldn’t be able to justify putting teenagers under such a physiological ordeal!

I do wonder how Clare and Penny made it to the finals, as they certainly don’t seem too bright at times! They actually question if all three of them somehow hallucinated Vera, just because some “trustworthy” adults told them there was no other girl. Although this could be explained away as them just wanting to turn a blind eye to the strange occurrences, so it doesn’t get in the way of the competition, as later they do admit Vera existed. Still it is only when they find about the secret passages in the book they are reading that they actually take Sally seriously. Clare and Penny seem to be more selfishly concerned with the competition but they do come through in the end, helping Sally free Vera. They also show, that they at least want to win the competition fairly, advising Sally to forget about kidnap plots and not mess up her chances at winning. Sally is clearly deserving of her win, as she shows intelligence even in the fake tests, like studying the map before tackling the hill and of course more importantly finding the clues that lead her to Vera, which also shows her other worthy traits, compassion, perseverance and selflessness.