Tag Archives: Adventure

Lucky Charm #25: Catch the Cat! [1976]

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Lucky Charm: #25

Reprinted from Bunty serial: Bunty: #926 (11 October 1975) – #955 (1 May 1976)

Artists: Hugh Thornton-Jones (cover); Unknown (story)

Special thanks to “Phoenix” for making this entry possible with photocopies

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Plot (long)

In World War II, the Nazis have just defeated France. Marie Bonnet’s father is mayor of a small French town. Marie’s friends Josee and Burnetta believe the town should do something to resist the Nazis and expect Marie’s mayor father to do something in that regard. However, he believes the Nazis are too strong for that, and submission and obeisance are the only answer if people know what’s good for them. Mum agrees while Marie secretly wants to fight the Nazis, but she has no idea how to go about it.

A scientist friend comes to say goodbye as he has to flee from the Nazis because of his occupation. His daughter Jacqueline leaves Marie a box of her childhood things for safekeeping. Its contents include a prize-winning fancy-dress cat costume and, surprisingly, suction pads. It does not take long for Marie to become really adept with the suction pads.

The Nazis arrive and replace the French flag with the swastika flag on the highest building in town. Dad and Marie greet the new Commandant with a tremendous show of obeisance and servility – much to the disgust of Josee and Burnetta. From then on they call Marie a traitor and are her worst enemies out of all the girls who soon ostracise her at school for her apparent collaboration. They do not realise that Marie has now cemented her plan to resist the Nazis, and those suction pads, cat costume and show of servility are just the thing for it.

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Next day, the Nazis discover that someone has restored the French flag to the flagpole. The only clue is a card the culprit left behind, which is of a black cat. The Commandant realises there is a new resistance fighter on the block who calls himself “The Cat”. Apart from the gender, the Commandant is absolutely right. Marie’s career as The Cat has been born. And although The Cat’s debut deed of defiance can only last until the Commandant puts the swastika flag back, it has caught the attention of the entire town.

The Cat soon shines as the beacon of hope, pride and fighting spirit of the townsfolk against the Nazis. Marie’s show of servility and friendliness to the Nazis, endorsed by her father, is now the perfect cover for throwing off suspicion and to worm information out of the Nazis. But there is a high price to pay for it – Marie becomes shunned and friendless at school for her apparent collaboration. They do not listen to Marie’s excuses that it is foolish to defy the Nazis and they call her a coward while they try to be defiant. Marie can only take solace at the thought that one day the girls will know the truth about her. For now, though, nobody must know for their own protection.

The Nazis lose no time in printing “Wanted” posters of The Cat (how odd that they include a pretty accurate picture when they do not even know what The Cat looks like at this stage) – and ironically give Marie the job of putting them up! But what’s really despicable and so typical of Nazis is that they take a hostage to force The Cat to surrender; the hostage will be executed if The Cat does not surrender by a certain deadline. The Cat rescues the hostage en route to execution and leaves another calling card.

From then on it is a long, extraordinary career of single-handed resistance work in rescuing Allied soldiers and other prisoners, sabotage, foiling Nazi plots to capture her, recovering items the Nazis have stolen, stealing Nazi top secrets, Robin Hood-style thefts of stealing from the Nazis and giving to the townsfolk, constantly dodging bullets, and all with nothing more than a costume, suction pads, incredible gymnastics skills and amazingly sharp wits that always seem to get her out of every scrape. Where possible, The Cat always leaves her calling card so the Commandant knows who to blame. In the first story it is cards with a cat or cat’s paw, sometimes carrying the words “Vive La France!”. In subsequent stories the signature will change to a scrawl of a cat’s face, sometimes accompanied by “Vive La France!” on whatever surface is to hand. This is probably because it is easier to leave a scrawl than print a business card.

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The subsequent escapades of The Cat in the Lucky Charm volume are listed below. (Note that I do not have the original run available for comparison, so there is currently no way to determine if the reprint edited or deleted anything in order to fit into the issue.)

1: The Nazis are forcing the local men to build a factory in the woods, and the location is too deep for Allied bombers to penetrate effectively. The Cat helps the Allies destroy the factory by bringing in some flares stolen from the Nazis’ ammunition stores. She uses them to lighten things up on the tallest tower in the complex so the Allied can see where to hit.

2: Marie has to hide a downed Allied airman and then steals a German truck to drive him to the coast (isn’t she a bit young to be able to drive?) where the Resistance can take him to safety. This causes an awkward moment afterwards when Marie has to explain to the Commandant as to how she came into be in possession of a stolen German truck. The Commandant swallows her cover story (she was bringing back a stolen German truck). But his new aide, Colonel Krantz, is suspicious of her, and Marie realises it when she sees Krantz keeping a close watch on her.

2: The Nazis are forcing the townsfolk to pay exorbitant taxes they cannot afford. The Cat breaks into the bank to get the tax money back for the people and offsets it against the market produce so it can be given away free. She then eliminates the Krantz threat by framing him for the bank robbery. Krantz is arrested while the Commandant cannot understand why the townsfolk are looking so happy.

3: A supply train is due to arrive and the Commandant is press-ganging all the people in town to unload it (except Marie, who is excused to work in his office). The Cat hijacks the train before it arrives (she can drive a train too?) and wrecks it. The Gestapo are called, and they send in a Herr Kranzten (later called Herr Kranz), who immediately seizes on a fatal flaw in The Cat’s costume – it does not cover the hands. So The Cat would have left fingerprints all over the controls. Kranzten then starts fingerprinting everyone in town and makes no exception for Marie. The Cat breaks into the office later and destroys all the fingerprint files taken – and also manages to dump a truckload of sand all over Krantzen while she’s at it!

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Realising The Cat must be a young person, Krantzen has everyone aged 14–30 rounded up, and Marie is among them. They will be fingerprinted again, and the Nazis will take another set of The Cat’s fingerprints from the train to compare with. Marie uses her servility to the Commandant to wangle a release and then heads back to the train to destroy the evidence. Marie decides The Cat will wear gloves from now on – but never does add gloves to her costume. So she continues to leave fingerprints around, which the Nazis never seem to follow up on again.

Krantzen tries another tactic. Recalling The Cat’s recent mission to get a British airman to safety, he rigs up a Gestapo agent, von Gelber, as a phony downed British airman to lead The Cat into a trap. The Cat finds it odd that the airman said he was from a bombing crew while a friendly bargeman, Antoine, says there have been no Allied bombing raids for weeks. However, The Cat unwisely thinks she misunderstood the airman and does not really follow her instincts that something is wrong. So she nearly falls into the trap when Von Gelber pulls a gun on her, but she manages to overpower him and sends them both toppling into the river (a soldier who can’t swim?). She brings him to Antoine for safekeeping. She then leaves a letter for the Commandant that Von Gelber will be returned in exchange for the town having double rations. Both sides of the bargain are met, but The Cat has a hard time getting away after returning Von Gelber (in a rather undignified and terrifying manner) when she slips on the roof tiles and nearly falls to her death.

Krantzen now takes his leave, but before he does he takes the paintings the town is famous for. However, with the help of a loyal Frenchman The Cat intercepts the truck and the paintings are secretly returned to the townsfolk, who hide them until after the war. When the Nazis discover The Cat has foiled their art plundering, Krantzen is stripped of all rank, reduced to Private, and wishes he had never heard of The Cat.

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5: The Cat is returning home after sabotaging a Nazi supply store by leaving a hose to run and flood the place. She sees a man making queries with Josee and Burnetta about The Cat. They tell him to shove off in case he is a spy, but Marie decides to check it out in case the man is genuine. It looks like word about The Cat has reached British intelligence, because Josee and Burnetta tell Marie that the man has a message for The Cat: London will broadcast a secret message for The Cat at 5 o’clock that evening (funny how they despise Marie as a traitor, yet they give her top secret information!). The message is coded, but Marie understands enough to realise she must meet “The Bulldog” – who is the man, of course. The Cat arranges a rendezvous, but when she gets there, she sees the Nazis capture The Bulldog, who also shoot him in the arm. The Cat manages to rescue The Bulldog and they escape on a motorcycle (so The Cat can ride a motorcycle too!).

Unfortunately the Nazis took The Bulldog’s plans of a local Resistance group – and all the names of the resisters are on it! The Bulldog goes to the resisters get his arm seen to while The Cat goes to get the papers back. She succeeds and flees on a horse, but the Nazis telephone for reinforcements. By the time The Cat catches up with The Bulldog, she, The Bulldog and the Resistance group are in danger from enclosing Nazis. The Resistance group do not trust The Cat and The Bulldog can’t vouch for her as he is unconscious. The resisters almost unmask The Cat when the Nazis open fire. This sends the resisters scattering into the woods. The Nazis try to flush them out by setting fire to the wood, but they get away by river barge. En route, The Bulldog regains consciousness and tells The Cat to stockpile as many weapons as she can for the upcoming Allied invasion of France (which indicates about four years have passed since Marie’s career began). The Cat then takes her leave of the resisters and dives into the river.

When The Cat finds a place to strip off her wet cat suit, she hides the cat suit in a bag and piles firewood on top of it. This will lead straight to her next adventure, which starts on the way home.

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6: The Nazis are on high alert following The Cat’s latest adventure with the resisters and they are stopping and checking everyone. When they stop Marie, they confiscate the bag with the firewood put it in an army truck. Marie will be in dead trouble once the Nazis search the bag properly and discover her cat costume. She jumps into the truck, but there is a guard inside who pulls a gun on her. When the truck goes over a bump in the road it gives Marie the chance to jump out, but the Nazis still have the sack and take it to their barracks. Marie manages to break into the barracks and get her costume back, but deems it the narrowest escape The Cat has ever had.

Unfortunately Marie soon discovers it is not the end of the story. At school the Nazis order an identity parade of the girls to pick out the one who broke into the guardhouse. The Nazis misidentify a girl named Yvonne as the culprit and she is arrested for deportation to Germany. The Cat has to rescue Yvonne and, knowing Yvonne cannot return to her parents, get her to her grandmother. The Cat snoops in on the Commandant to get more information on Yvonne’s deportation. She overhears what she needs to know, but then finds there are new searchlights waiting for her and guards are surrounding the place. She has to take a very high dive into a swimming pool to avoid being caught. That narrow escape has The Cat realise the Commandant is getting smarter and she must be more careful with him.

In her civilian identity, The Cat slips aboard the train Yvonne is on. They fake Yvonne jumping off the train to draw the guards out, then The Cat disguises Yvonne and puts her on another carriage, telling her to get off at Lavere station where someone will be waiting for her. Yvonne is surprised to find that person is Marie, and Marie claims to know The Cat when everyone thinks she is a collaborator. Marie ‘fetches’ The Cat to smuggle Yvonne to a sympathiser who will take her to her grandmother’s. When The Cat gets back, she has another narrow escape when the railwayman finds her hidden shopping basket and then her. Being Italian, he is only too happy to turn her over. She manages to escape while the railwayman is distracted by a German guard and jumps a train that is going in the direction she wants. On the way home she discovers the train is carrying food parcels for the German garrison. She loosens the retaining pins so the parcels will tumble out for the French to retrieve, and they are most grateful to The Cat.

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7: From this latest escapade, the Nazis know The Cat has lost a shopping basket, so they put out the alert for anyone who tries to buy one. They soon hear that only one such purchase has been made – by the Bonnets. The Commandant orders a search of the Bonnet house despite their apparent collaboration as he believes nothing is too impossible for the French. When they arrive, Marie has to hide her Cat disguise, and it goes up in the loft. Unfortunately the Nazis begin to search that too! Marie pulls the rug out from under them and then directs them to a ladder downstairs. Foolishly, they both go downstairs, leaving Marie unguarded. She now shifts the costume to her bedroom as the Nazis have already searched there. The Nazis turn up empty and decide it was a false alarm. Boy, oh boy – that was the closest the Commandant has come yet to unmasking The Cat. He later apologises to Marie for the search and gives her chocolate to make amends. What a hoot!

8: That same evening, a friend named Madame Foulard is worried because her daughter Carrie is ill. She needs medicine, but the Nazis won’t release any from their stores. So it’s another mission for The Cat. She breaks into the town hospital, which is under German guard. She grabs as many medicines as she can as she does not know which one is the right one. During the getaway she cuts her hand on a grate, and the Nazis discover this when they see the blood left behind. The alert goes out to bring in anyone with a bandaged hand. The doctor picks out the correct medicine and Carrie is soon on the road to recovery. The doctor also treats The Cat’s hand. But the doctor realises the Nazis may be onto this, so he gives out the order for everyone in town to bandage their hands – too many people for the Nazis to check. Some days later the bandages are off, except for Marie’s. Josee and Burnetta scorn Marie for still having her hand bandaged like that, not realising that they bandaged their own hands for her.

Thoughts

The 1975–6 “Catch the Cat” story was one of the most popular and enduring serials ever to appear in Bunty. The Cat is still one of the best-remembered heroines in girls’ comics. The original Cat story spawned two follow-up serials, one Bunty PSL, Catch the Cat appearances in four Bunty annuals, and was of course reprinted in Lucky Charm #25.

All three Cat serials ended on open endings to leave scope for more sequels. This meant the day Marie dreamed of where she would reveal the truth and the bullies who called her a traitor would be silenced never came. Which is rather sad, really. It would have made for some very thrilling panels to see the town liberated, The Cat coming down to cheering crowds and pulling her mask off in front of them and the captured Commandant – and then watch everyone’s jaw hit the ground! The third Cat story had a slightly more definite ending, where Marie is forced to fake the death of The Cat when the Commandant executes a manhunt for The Cat that tears up the whole town. Marie swears The Cat will return. Unfortunately this would reveal to the Nazis that The Cat is not dead after all, which makes things a bit awkward. Maybe Marie should find a new costumed identity. In any case, that is where the regular story of The Cat ends in Bunty.

There are so many reasons why The Cat is so popular. The first is that she is one of the most proactive heroines ever in girls’ comics. That incredible gymnastics ability and suction pads that have her scaling buildings, leaping onto trucks, diving into rivers, getting over fences and so many other feats of agility seem to be almost superhuman. Plus there are those amazing wits of hers. She always comes up with a plan, and whenever she is cornered she always has something up her sleeve to get her out of trouble. Sometimes this stretches the boundaries of credibility, such as The Cat being able to operate trucks, motorbikes and trains at her age. But on the whole it is exciting and admirable. Even Josee and Burnetta say The Cat is too smart to be caught by the Nazis. Indeed, it would take a Nazi of extreme wit and cunning to match The Cat, and the Commandant definitely is not it. He is not stupid or incompetent, but he is not shrewd enough to ever get the better of The Cat and he has been completely duped by Marie’s servility to ever suspect her. Which is course one of the reasons why The Cat never gets caught.

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Furthermore, the things Marie gets up to against the Nazis are more typical of boys’ comics or Commandos: blowing things up, sabotage, breaking into military complexes, hijacking, robbery, kidnapping, framing enemies to dispose of them and other things that girls are not normally expected to do, especially in the pre-feminist 1940s. Girls must have loved to see action like that in Bunty, which made a change from the more typical stories about ill-used heroines. The writer must have had a lot of experience in writing war stories in the industry. There would be some appeal to boys here as well, what with the heroine being a girl of action and the story having a war setting. Mind you, it cannot be said how many boys actually read The Cat.

And who doesn’t love a good story where Nazis get their comeuppance? Though there never is a defining moment showing the Nazis being pushed out of France, readers smile and cheer again and again as The Cat strikes yet another one over Hitler. Readers love it when the Nazis are left looking sour and furious, and they often wind up in the most embarrassing and undignified situations because of The Cat.

Also, Marie is a sympathetic heroine because what she has to endure as part of her cover: being bullied and ostracised by girls who think she is a collaborator. Marie consoles herself with thoughts that one day they will know the truth, and it would be dangerous for them to know the truth now. But she can’t help but feel lonely and miserable and having no-one who understands. Except for us readers, of course.

For all their bullying, Josee and Burnetta play an odd role in helping The Cat. They despise Marie, yet they always supply her with information, such as telling her London is going to broadcast a coded message for The Cat. Oh really, girls – did nobody ever tell you that loose lips sink ships? And if you think Marie is a traitor, she is the last person you should tell!

It is very odd that everyone always addresses The Cat as a “he”. It may be 1940s sexism, but nobody ever seems to realise The Cat is female, not even people who are in close proximity to The Cat. Whatever the reason, it must also help Marie to preserve her secret. Nobody ever discovers the secret of The Cat and she never gets caught. Of course there are moments when the Nazis come close, but a cat has nine lives after all.

 

List of Appearances:

  • Catch the Cat! –  Bunty:   #926 (11 October 1975) – #955 (1 May 1976)
    • Reprinted – Lucky Charm #25
  • Catch the Cat!  – Bunty:   #1148 (12 January 1980) – #1164 (03 May 1980)
    • [Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones]
  • Catch the Cat! –  Bunty:   #1491 (09 August 1986) – #1501 (18 October 1986)
    • [Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones]

Other Appearances:

  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1979
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1980
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1981
  • Catch the Cat! – Bunty Annual 1982

 

The Shop at Shudder Corner (1983)

Shudder Corner cover

Debbie Picture Library: #64

Published: 1983

Artist: Norman Lee

Plot

Jean Marsh and Sheila Hawkins are best friends. Sheila’s uncle runs an antique shop at Shudder Corner, and they earn extra pocket money from cleaning the antiques.

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One day Sheila loses a lens from her torch in the shop and quickly finds a replacement on the floor. She does not realise the lens has a strange, mystical design.

Edited to add: the origin of the lens is slightly different from the original. In the original version, the girls found the lens beside a lightning-struck bush.

But the girls soon find that the lens turns the torch into a time travel device. Whenever it shines on an object that has a strange history attached to it (and in an antique shop, they are surrounded by such objects), the torch transports them to that moment in the past, where they become part of that particular chain of events. They have to stay for the duration, because the torch will not allow them to return – by being switched on again – until the adventure runs its course. Afterwards, Jean’s uncle (who is unaware of the time travel adventures) provides them with context on the object and their adventure.

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Jean is always telling Sheila not to use the torch in the shop in case it shines on something with a history. But of course Sheila always ends up turning the torch on for some reason or other. And then they are off again…

In this story, the girls go on three time travel trips with the torch:

Trip 1: The Danson dog collar

In the 19th century, Sheila and Jean meet Bettina Danson. She is running away because her guardian, Sir Charles Danson, is out to kill her and claim her inheritance. There is a legend in the Danson family about a demon dog known as the Hound of the Dansons. Sir Charles capitalises on the legend to unleash a vicious dog (who is wearing the collar) on Bettina as a fake ghost dog to kill her. The dog and Sir Charles trap Bettina and the girls at the edge of a quarry, but then they find a ledge and start climbing down it. Sheila blinds the dog with the torch, and it gets such a fright that it knocks Sir Charles over and he falls to his death in the quarry.

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Back in the present, Uncle tells the girls that the dog collar belonged to the Danson family. There is some tale about a ghost hound and a wicked guardian who was out to inherit a fortune by killing the rightful heir. But “something went wrong” and he “came to a sticky end”. The girls know what went wrong but can’t tell him.

Trip 2: The rose goblet

Sheila shines the torch on a crystal goblet with a rose motif. They are transported to an 18th century manor called Rose Manor, and roses are everywhere: the garden, the hedges, and even the stonework. But then an unpleasant servant takes them for gypsies and seizes them. The master, Squire Allwood, is just as surly and thinks they are gypsy kids who belong to “Mad Meg”. He is about to lock them in the cellar and send for the magistrate when Mad Meg shows up. The squire had driven the gypsies off and Mad Meg takes revenge by cursing Rose Manor with – roses. Immediately the roses start growing and spreading at terrifying rates that threaten to overwhelm the manor. People start fleeing, but Sheila and Jean are trapped in the manor with the roses threatening to smother them. They escape via a secret passage, but outside the nasty squire is about to recapture them. However, the torch comes back on and they return to the present.

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Uncle tells them the goblet came from an 18th century manor that became overwhelmed with roses; it was the gypsies’ revenge when the squire upset them. Ironically, the site where the manor once stood is now part of a famous rose nursery.

Trip 3: The horse brass

Sheila and Jean are working in the antique shop while pondering over a challenging homework assignment on chimney sweep boys. Jean’s notes go under a chest of drawers, and when Sheila pulls out the torch for them, the light shines on an old horse brass that got lost there.

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The girls arrive at a canal at a time when horses pulled narrow boats. The women of the narrow boat are cordial and offer them some food. The girls offer to sell some pegs in return, and the women suggest the big houses. On the way they encounter a climbing boy and his cruel master. The girls overhear the sweep telling the boy to help him and a man named Hobbs steal from the big house, or else. The girls report back to the women, who say the crooks are taking advantage of the boy being small and nimble to break into the house. They hatch a plan to foil them.

So, when the crooks head to the house that night, the girls distract them, rescue the boy and bring him to the narrow boat. But then the crooks seize the girls and force them to help with the robbery in the boy’s place. The girls strike back by throwing the bags of loot downstairs to knock the crooks down, but it rouses the household. The crooks are captured, and claim the girls are their accomplices. The girls are climbing their way down the wall, but the owner sees them and says the magistrate will decide their fate. Fortunately the torch comes back on and everyone below is stunned to see them just disappear.

Back in the present, Uncle is very pleased that the girls have found his missing horse brass, and they will be rewarded. He tells them it comes from a narrow boat, whose master used to be a climbing boy. “By some miracle he bettered himself” and became “quite famous”. The girls realise that the climbing boy stayed with the narrow boat women and “made good”. And their encounter with a real climbing boy helps their homework assignment so much that the teacher is impressed with the end result.

Thoughts

“The Shop at Shudder Corner” was originally a serial in Spellbound. When Spellbound merged with Debbie, Shudder Corner only lasted a few episodes, which is a bit surprising. However, Shudder Corner later resurfaced in the Debbie Picture Libraries and also scored an appearance in the 1984 Debbie annual.

The picture library completely restarts Shudder Corner at the beginning. The origin of the time travel torch is shown to the reader, rather than its powers being briefly explained with a text box before girls plunge into their latest adventure. This is an excellent move that quickly brings readers up to speed with the concept, and those who are not familiar with the original can just enjoy the time travel adventures in the picture library without even knowing its Spellbound origins. The altered origin is also more effective than the original, because it is much simpler, straightforward, and tying the lens directly with the shop makes more sense.

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Storytelling about objects is not new. M&J’s “Jade Jenkins’ Stall” and “The Button Box” from Tammy both starred narrators who would tell the stories behind various objects, such as the items on Jade’s stall or the buttons in Bev’s box. But instead of narration, we see the story itself as the protagonists not only relive it but also become part of it, shaping the events themselves and the history of the object. This approach turns the concept into an adventure strip that makes it even more exciting. It also avoids the moralising and condescending tones that can permeate the narrative versions of “objects with a history” stories.

Time travelling to the moment in an object’s past is not a new concept. For example, Debbie had “Polly’s Patches”. Polly time travels to a period in the past in accordance with whichever patch she rubs on her trousers, which comes from that period. But while Polly is more of a lightweight story aimed at fun, Shudder Corner is a darker take on the concept, beginning with the shop itself. Its Tudor architecture makes it look creepy with the right atmosphere, and the name of the corner it stands on – Shudder Corner – makes it even more spine chilling.

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When you enter the shop, a lot of those objects – such as a stuffed raven in a cage or a necklace in a goblet – can make the ambiance even creepier, especially when you enter the shop while it is dark. This is not surprising for a story that began in Spellbound, and it also gives Shudder Corner a bit more of an edge as a time travel story. The artwork of Norman Lee also lends itself brilliantly to the spooky vibes and the period settings the girls end up in. Lee has long experience in drawing both supernatural and period stories, so he is a sensible choice to draw Shudder Corner.

The girls always end up in trouble and even risk their lives in whatever period they land in. The torch always rescues them when it’s time to go home – but not before then. Until then, they are in constant danger while they relive the history of the object. It is a shame that Shudder Corner was not carried much further in Debbie.

 

 

Dangerous Days for the Tiny Taylors

  • Dangerous Days for the Tiny Taylors – Spellbound #22 (19 Feb. 1977) – #34 (14 May 1977)
  • Artist: Jesus Redondo

Plot

The Taylors consisting of parents, daughters; Jane and Jennie and dog, Mickey are on holidays on the deserted (fictitious) Scottish island named Mulholm. They only just get out of their boat when they are sprayed by water and find themselves shrunk except for Mickey. The family seem to take it in their stride, reasoning they just need to get to the cottage to phone for help. Only Jennie complains and she has already been established as a complainer. The Taylors come to their first problem when they arrive at the cottage and realise that they are way too small to get in. Luckily they are adventurous and resourceful and Jane suggests they try the window. Her father climbs up to the window sill and breaks the glass with a pebble. The rest of the family climb up and they try to phone for help but their voices aren’t loud enough to be heard by the operator.

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Jane trips and falls off the table, luckily she is uninjured, but unknown to the family the beady eyes of a mouse is watching. The family join Jane on the floor and are attacked by the mouse. Mr Taylor scares it away, but now the situation is beginning to hit the family and they get weary. They figure that the island was once used for secret experiments and they must find out what cause the shrinking in order to cure it. After some adventures in getting food, they go and explore the island. Micky is still out there normal sized and Jane tries to use him as a horse. They find a a fenced off area. The family get through and find spilled canisters in the water, around these are small birds which prove the contamination is coming from there. They make it to a lab where they are attacked but are saved by a now tiny Mickey. In the lab they look at notes that don’t make sense. Mickey drinks from a puddle and grows back to normal size. The family don’t know which puddle he drank from as two bottles have spilled and dead mouse nearby indicates one is poison. Not being able to risk it  they decide they need to get back to mainland and find scientists for help.

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They encounter more problems such as Jeannie getting trapped in a box and Mr Taylor then gets the idea to cut a hole with razor blade to free her. Continuing to be practical they manage to get to the boat and together they are able to steer and direct it. The boat crashes on some rocks but luckily they are unharmed and manage to make it onto the shore. When seagulls attack they are saved by Mickey their protector. They come across some campers but they run away from the tiny “space people”. They figure they can at least shelter in the tent for the night but disaster as gas falls over and Taylors find themselves fleeing from grass fire. Jane falls into a hole and they take the choice to bury down with her, rather than leave her. After a crew comes to clear up the fire, Mickey gets taken in by someone.

They have no more luck in  getting help at the village as a paper boy also thinks they are space invaders. An old lady, Mrs Green, helps them but she thinks they are fairy folk and is expecting them to grant her a wish.  Jeannie spots an old purse that has fallen down the back of a cupboard and gets it for her, in order to play along. They ask her to hide them in a basket and take them to the police station but she brings them to a fairy ring instead.

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Eventually the family manage to get to London and hide out in a toy shop and they have a more comfortable night since their adventures begun, by using doll house to sleep and even getting a change of clothes. The woman that owns the shop faints the next morning at the sight of the dolls coming to life, her daughter chases them away. All this running makes them hungry so the Taylors make their way to a supermarket for food. Jane  gets knocked into an empty carton and nearly gets thrown away. The rest of the family manage to  get to the intercom to stop Jane being tossed into rubbish. They finally get the help they needed as the manager gets them to a  specialist, who is able to return them to normal size in a short time. While they recover in hospital they are even reunited with Micky.

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Thoughts

Shrinking was a popular plot device, from girls in stories like Pinkie, Tiny Tammy, Four Tasks for Tiny Tessa, Microgirl, and also popular subsection of this was specifically shrinking mothers, The Incredible Adventures of Mini-Mum, Mary’s Mini Mum, and simply called Mini-Mum! It was rare to get whole family shrunk together (it did happen in Microgirl, but it was more focused on the girl going on adventure to save her family, rather than the whole family working together).  Of course this is not just common in comics but in other media it was popular to have tiny people using their wits to get around the normal sized world – like The Borrowers (I know no shrinking involved here, but similar situations arise), Honey I Shrunk the Kids and even most recently Antman. But it is still a fun dynamic to play with. It is interesting to have the whole family working together, and it is fun to see them being inventive with how to cope with their size, which is also well captured by Redondo. It must be enjoyable to play around with size and some interesting angles.

One problem I found was Mr Taylor is very dominant, I would like to have seen the females taking the initiative more. The adventure takes precedence so characters don’t get a whole lot of development. The girls are pretty interchangeable,(also not helped in that they look so alike), at first Jeannie is more likely to complain, Jane more quick with ideas but both girls are likely to find themselves in trouble. Mrs Taylor is protective of her family but really gets very little panel time. It is also a bit strange how well the Taylors take in their new situation, no breakdowns or flipping out.

tiny taylors 5

Other people have a bigger reaction, although it is funny to think how terrified some people get of tiny people. The ending leaves some questions, we never find out why there were people making shrinking chemicals on  the island and who they were and if the island was cleaned up after this incident. Curing the Taylors doesn’t take a lot of effort, it only takes a week to get them back to normal size. It doesn’t say how the specialist did this, if he looked at the notes from the island or contacted the experimenters. It also doesn’t say what he is a specialist of, it seems unlikely that it would be a top specialist for this very specific incident! I suppose the point of the story is not to worry about the why, but enjoy the fun adventure and the journey.

Tiny Taylors 6

Peril on Paradise Island

Plot:

Kay and Marion Digby along with Jean Ritchie, a friend, had set sail to an uncharted area of the Caribbean Sea in search of their father Professor Digby, who was unaccountably missing. After being caught in a tornado, the girls found them-selves on a strange exotic floating island of weeds and flowers.

peril on paradise island

Notes:

  • Art: Jordi Franch

Appeared:

  • Peril on Paradise Island – Spellbound: #61 (19 Nov. 1977) – #69 (14 Jan. 1978)

The Shop at Shudder Corner

Plot:

Sheila Hawkins and Jean Marsh helped in an antique shop called The Shop at Shudder Corner, run by Jean’s uncle. When Sheila replaced a broken lens in her torch with a mysterious piece of glass, she found that when she shone it on certain antique curios, she and Jean were transported back in time . . .

shop at shudder corner

Notes:

  • Art: Norman Lee
  • Art: David Matysiak (Debbie Annual 1984)

Appeared:

  • The Shop at Shudder Corner – Spellbound: #14 (25 Dec. 1976) – #21 (12 Feb. 1977)
  • The Shop at Shudder Corner – Spellbound: #32 (30 April 1977) – #39 (18 June 1977)
  • The Shop at Shudder Corner – Spellbound: #53 (24 September 1977)
  • The Shop at Shudder Corner – Debbie:  #372 (29 March 1980) – #374 (12  April 1980)

Other Appearances:

  • The Shop at Shudder Corner – Debbie Annual 1984

A Bed Called Fred [1969-1970]

Plot:

Under the terms of Uncle Hubert’s will, the relative who pushes his bed all the way from John O’Groats to Land’s End will receive his inheritance. His niece, Katie Fraser, takes the job on, but it has to be done manually (fortunately the bed has castors) because no removal firms are permitted. Along the way the bed acquires the name “Fred”, from the boards that get attached to it when a mechanic motorises it.

Notes:

Appeared:

  • A Bed Called Fred – Bunty: #615 (Oct. 25 1969) – #640 (Apr. 18 1970)

Goldie and the Three Bears

Plot

When three live bears attached themselves to Goldie Lock, it began an adventure which landed Goldie and her friend, Pat Howard on the island of Sawaki. The Sawakians had a colony of these sacred bears. They believed that as long as the bears lived, valuable osmium mines would continue. But their enemies, the Katolians, made a surprise attack and killed all the bears except Goldie’s three, whom she and her friend managed to hide. Losing heart, the superstitious Sawakians surrendered. Goldie was convinced that if they knew that some of the sacred bears were saved, the Sawakians would rise up again. But first a safer hiding place had to be found for the bears.

goldie three bears

Notes

Appeared

  • Goldie and the Three Bears – Mandy:  circa #246 (02 October 1971) – (?)

 

Fay Fearless

Plot:

Fay Fearless works as an agent for SOS, the code name for a secret Government organisation run by Arthur King, the millionaire owner of Paragon Stores.

Faye

Notes:

  • Artist: Robert MacGillivray

Appeared:

  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #369  (9 February 1974) – (?)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #384  (25 May 1974) – #389 (29 June 1974)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #396  (17 August 1974) – #402 (28 September 1974)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  circa #417 (11 January 1975) – (?)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #500  (14 August 1976)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #570  (17 December 1977) – #573 (07 January 1978)
  • Fay Fearless  –  Mandy:  #587  (15 April 1978)

Other Appearances:

  •  Fay Fearless – Mandy Annual 1976

Angie

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

Plot

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

angie_1

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

angie 2

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

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

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

angie_3

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

angie_5

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

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

A New Home for Harvey

Plot:

The adventures of a dog named Harvey. In the first story, A New Home for Harvey, after being abandoned, Harvey finds a new home with Pat and her family but then they have to move to an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets. The family try and find a new home but Harvey is determined to stay with Pat

In A Holiday for Harvey, him and Pat go to work at Sandhill Holiday Camp and Lucy the owner’s grandchild get’s quite attached to Harvey.

In Harvey’s Hotel – Harvey and his owner Pat are helping Pat’s sister Sara and her husband Greg at the hotel they run.

In Harvey – Go Home!, Harvey needs to find his way home and gets in many adventures on the way.

harvey go home

Notes:

Appeared:

  • A New Home for Harvey – Tracy: #01 (06 October 1979) – (?)
  • A Holiday for Harvey – Tracy: circa #104 (26 September 1981) – (?)
  • Harvey’s Hotel – Tracy:   #151 (21 August 1982) -(?)
  • Harvey – Go Home! – Tracy: circa #255 (18 August 1984) – (?)
  • Harvey – Go Home!  –  Judy and Tracy: #1306 (19 January 1985) – (?)