Tag Archives: Athletics

Zara Phantom of the Track

Plot

Arnfield Junior atheletics club had a mysterious new member, a young girl called Zara Farr. The girls nicknamed her the phantom because of her white tracksuit and her silent powerful style of running. One of the members Maureen Clark was certain there was a mystery surrounding Zara and was determined to find out the truth.

Notes

  • Art: Mario Capaldi?

Appeared

  • Zara Phantom of the Track – Suzy: #55 (24 September 1983) – #64 (26 November 1983)

Wynne Against the School [1978]

  • Wynne Against the School –  Emma:  #30 (16 September 1978)  – #43 (16 December 1978)
  • Art: Carlos Freixas

Plot

Wynne Taylor is a promising track star, and when her family move to a new town she is approached by a top athletics club, the Harriers, to join. She promises to run in their next relay meeting, not knowing how many problems it will cause her in the future! Everyone in her new school become very unwelcoming when Wynne says she can’t run for the school at the meeting, as she has already promised the Harriers. Worse luck is that the Miss Baker who is in charge of athletics, is also her form teacher  and she starts to give Wynne a hard time in class . She tells Wynne, her work isn’t up to standard and calls her impudent when Wynne tries to defend herself. At the meeting Wynne wins for the Harriers against her new school, to the calls of “Traitor!”.

Despite saying she wants to run with the school when she’s not with the Harriers, nobody thinks this is good enough compromise. When Wynne tries to use school equipment, the girls, led by sports captain Wanda, pick on her and throw her uniform in the shower, she then gets extra work from Miss Baker for not being in proper uniform. Only one girl, Annie, tries to help Wynne out, but she gets her bike wheel stolen for her efforts. Wynne helps her find it, and promises not to tell anyone she helped so Annie doesn’t get hassled more . This gets her in trouble when she’s late for school athletic training, Miss Baker tells her not to bother to change. Tired of being pushed around, she runs in her uniform and still beats everyone, making her as unpopular as ever. The girls don’t even want Wynne representing the school at county level.

Despite efforts by the other girls, Annie continues to be friendly in secret with Wynne. She is still a timid girl, so when Wynne and Annie both get chance at scholarship to another school, Wynne fluffs her chance so that Annie can escape this bullies. This does mean Wynne that not only has to stay at Brainton Academy, but also loses her only friend at the school. She does briefly find friendship elsewhere with John Talbot, who also goes for morning runs to train for Rugby. A local newspaper takes a photo of the two of them together and quote Wynne out of context. This of course riles the girls up again, and Wanda ruins Wynne’s new friendship, by pretending to be Wynne on the phone. She tells John she hasn’t time to waste on stupid kids when he asks “Wynne” for some tickets to her next competition. Wanda meanwhile supplies the tickets and succeeds in turning John against Wynne.

Wanda’s hate campaign against Wynne starts to get more personal, as she is jealous of all the attention she gets. She starts trying to get Wynne in more serious trouble, like  when they visit a  school in France, she tries to set Wynne up as vandalising the school with graffiti. Luckily Wynne while up early for morning run, is able to repair the damage before anyone sees. More trouble follows when the local newspaper runs the story about Wynne’s treatment at the school, Miss Baker wants Wynne to show that everyone is really friendly but Wynne isn’t interested. The reporters get a picture that looks like Wanda attacking Wynne and then Wynne gets suspended while the head hopes the bad publicity dies down and she can investigate further! Knowing the school wants to keep the story quiet, Wanda again impersonates Wynne on the phone  telling  the local newspaper about the suspension and that Wynne is being victimised. Wynne is able to deny she made the call as she has an alibi.

With the story still out there, people are sympathetic to Wynne and start to send her gifts. Seeing this as an opportunity to stir more trouble, Wanda gets Wynne disqualified from a race as she claims she is not an amateur. Wynne’s parents have had enough of the way she’s being treated, and Mr Taylor says he will ask for another transfer, Wynne’s happiness is most important. Wanda not knowing of this latest development, is still out to get Wynne. Having stolen her pendant, she vandalises a classroom leaving the pendant there as evidence. Wynne out for her early run, notices lights on in school and goes to investigate. She catches Wanda burning  the head’s papers but it goes out of control. Wynne ends up saving Wanda and putting fire out, as a policeman arrives. When the head visits Wanda in hospital, she tries to blame Wynne at first, but then breaks down and confesses. Things happen quickly and the Taylors move away. At her first race in her new home, her old schoolmates and and teachers come to apologise and cheer her on. Wynne wins setting a new record and feeling accepted at last.

Thoughts

Firstly this has a very pun-tastic title,  I do like wordplay in titles! Carlos Freixas art is top notch as always and the story is engaging. While at the start, the campaign against Wynne is by whole school, by the end it focuses more on Wanda’s jealousy. While Wanda’s actions become more extreme, I feel she ends up becoming a sort of scapegoat for the rest of the school, who have all acted terrible too. The school show up at Wynne’s race in her new home, and tell her Wanda has made a full confession and they have come to apologise, which implies it was all Wanda’s doing that turned the school against her! While some of the girls follow the lead of Wanda, really it’s the adults that should have known better. It’s  some of their actions that influence the students.

Miss Baker clearly sets things up against Wynne, even coming down on her school work. As the girl’s coach she is held in high regard. She does still care about school reputation, so while simultaneously being hard on Wynne, she lets the French School fuss over Wynne rather than Wanda, as she wants their school to give a good impression.  It’s actions like these that fuel Wanda’s spite of Wynne. Miss Baker also tells Wynne to come back  and show the news reporters how friendly everyone is, when Wynne doesn’t listen, Wanda tries to pull her back, clearly following Miss Baker’s lead. It’s no wonder Wanda acts as she does, she may have her own jealousy issues, but is not helped by her her coach being antagonistic with Wynne (when it suits her!) and Wanda’s position of school captain being undermined. The headmistress is no better suspending Wynne while she investigates the whole story. You’d think punishment would be doled out after an investigation not before! Also odd that Wynne’s parents aren’t called in to discuss the matter. Even though Wynne isn’t seeking sympathy, it’s no wonder people reading the newspaper story side with her and really the school should be trying to put things right, rather than making things worse suspending Wynne.

While the Taylors don’t appear much, it is nice to see that they are supportive of their daughter. While Wynne doesn’t want her dad to set back his career, he puts her happiness first  (though luckily a similar position elsewhere is available). Wynne is very strong willed, despite all the obstacles, she doesn’t let that interfere with her running. She doesn’t take the easy way out and shows her loyalty numerous times. She doesn’t back out of running with the Harriers, she helps her friend Annie out of the school as she knows she is strong enough to deal with the bullies and despite the hard times she doesn’t go around bad mouthing the school and is opposed to the newspaper story (despite it being pretty accurate!). While the Taylors do end up moving away, it is good to see she does get acceptance from her old school at last, though I still feel they could have shown more contriteness. Wynne has shown that she that would succeed with or without their approval anyway.

 

Unfair to Favourites (1985)

Judy Picture Library 271

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

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

Plot

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

Favourites

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

Favourites 2

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

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

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

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

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

Favourites 3

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

Favourites 4

Thoughts

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

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

Favourites 5

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

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

 

 

Run, Rana, Run!

Plot

Rana Mogambu is a brilliant athlete from Bokana. She is sent to be educated at Lingon Girls’ School. Shari, an elder from Rana’s village, accompanies her to monitor her athletics training. He also has strange powers, which he uses to help Rana win races.

Notes

Appeared

  • Run, Rana, Run! – Bunty: circa #877 (2 November 1974) -(?)

Billie

Plot:

Billie Brewster lived with her Aunt Cora in Paradise Flats, Wolverley. Aged thirteen, Billie was fanatically keen on athletics, particularly running. But her running had landed her in trouble with the School Attendance Officer and with the Wolverley Education Council.

Tough girl Billie returned in several sequels (with a new artist) including when she runs away from Paradise House, a home for girls. She is trying to track down Mr Watt, the father of one of the girls in the home.

Billie2

(Billie Olympics Here She Comes- 1976, Art: Andrew Wilson)

Billie

(Billie at Paradise House – 1980)

Notes:

  • Art: Andrew Wilson (Billie Olympics Here She Comes)
  • The three sequels were drawn by the same unknown artist

Appeared:

  • Billie – Olympics Here She Comes – Mandy:  #493 (26 Jun 1976) – #505 (18 Sep 1976)
  • Billie – Mandy: #569 (10 December 1977) – #578 (11 February 1978)
  • Billie – Mandy: #643 (12 May 1979) – #653 (21 July 1979)
  • Billie at Paradise House –  Mandy:  #722 (15 November 1980) – 738 (7 March 1981)

 

Janet and Her Travellin’ Javelin

Plot:

Janet Malcolm is a natural javelin thrower and her talent is spotted. But Janet’s severe grandfather does not approve of her pursuing athletics because he believes a girl’s place is in the home. When it gets to the point where the grandfather threatens to throw Janet out, she leaves home to travel to White City to compete.

Janet 1

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Janet and Her Travellin’ Javelin –  Debbie: #78 (10 August 1974) – #85 (28 Sep. 1974)

Little Grasshopper

Plot:

Liz Watson’s father is bone idle, so he never helps at home or takes a job. As a result, she gets lumbered with all the work around the house and taking jobs to raise money. Liz discovers she is a natural athlete and starts training, but having to train on top of all the work she has to do because of her lazy father is taking its toll. Even when Mr Watson is finally compelled to take a job, Liz still has to help him.

Grasshopper

Notes:

Artist: Rodney Sutton

Appeared:

  • Little Grasshopper – Judy:  #1060 (03 May 1980) – #1074  (09 August 1980)