Tag Archives: Bert Hill

Judy 1992

This was the second to last Judy annual published, and is filled with an impressive 25 picture stories/humour strips, 2 text stories, 2 poems and 2 features. The cover is winter themed  whit Judy makinf a snowman. Inside it has the opening splash page of Judy & Co. at Summer Fayre and  the last pages has them at the Winter Fayre in the same composition, I like those bookend type pictures. This book also has a table contents. There are a nice variety of stories; a good lot of humour, spooky, drama and a bit of Christmas magic. Plenty of  regulars make and appearance such as Junior Nanny, The Honourable S.J, Wee Slavey and Bobby Dazzler make an appearance. There are 5 specifically Christmas themed stories, and others that seem to be set around winter. (For just a list of contents go to the next page)

Picture Stories

A Christmas Wish   (Pages: 4-11)

Art: Guy Peeters

Starting things off on a Christmas note, this is the story of Jenny who lives with her invalid mother in small flat, in a poor part of town. Jenny tries to stay positive for her mother’s sake, especially as this may be her late Christmas. She tells her they will have nice Christmas goodies as she goes out shopping, while in reality her savings don’t stretch to much. She picks up a small turkey, bruised apples and a few cheap flowers for her mom. Returning home she trips in the doorway and is helped by a girl. The girl then asks a favour  to help her and her friends deliver toys to children’s hospital. Jenny although anxious to get back to her mom, is happy to help a good cause. Afterwards as she is returning home, the driver who is dressed as Santa, asks her what her Christmas wish is. Jenny says she would like a beautiful view for her Mom on Christmas, as she is confined to the flat.

The next moment Jenny wakes up in hallway, she thinks she must have been knocked out when she fell and it was all a dream. When she picks up her shopping she is surprised by a change, everything she bought seems to be fresher and bigger. When she goes to her Mom Christmas morning and opens the curtains, they see it has been snowing and it makes the usual dull view look beautiful, delighting Jenny and her mom. It’s a nice story with a bit of Christmas magic to get readers into spirit of things.

What is a…Mum?/ Dad? / Brother? /Sister?  (Pages: 10 / 48 / 81 / 113)

These fun little strips consist of one page (7 panels) and start with “a mum is someone who…” and then gives 6 panels of more annoying habits of the family member, before the last panel showing a good quality.

“Don’t Touch My Hair!” (Pages: 14-15)

Liz Croft is delighted when she gets picked to  act for a shampoo commercial, but this fame quickly goes to her head. She becomes more boastful, but a worse trait is she becomes over cautious about minding her hair. Because she doesn’t want it damaged, she makes excuses to miss a swimming competition, backs out of helping at a friends BBQ, she spends some of her moms money on expensive shampoo and attacks a girl who catches her hair in door as a joke. The evening the ad is meant to air, she invites some people to watch but is in for a shock when her part get cut. She is upset about this, and even more upset realising what how foolish she has been, she decides to cut her hair and hopes to make up for her past actions.

It’s a good lesson learned for Liz  (and for the readers) about priorities and not to get swept out by looks or fame. It has also some really nice art.

Wee Slavey (Pages: 17-21)

At the Shelby-Smythe house, William’s nephew, Nigel, is visiting.  Nellie is quite fond of the charming and pleasant man, but William is not impressed with his career aspirations. Nigel is hoping William can help with his acting career, but William refuses. As Nigel leaves, he tells Nellie his only hope is to get in contact with a long absent Aunt Clarissa. Then coincidentally a few days later Clarissa arrives! Nellie hopes to get a message to Nigel but is caught and reprimanded by Lady Amelia. Clarissa hearing this thinks she could do with a servant if they are not happy with Nellie. Of course the Shelby-Smythes can’t be without Nellie, so end up giving her wage increase much to her surprise. Meanwhile Clarissa is talking abut how well Nigel is doing and William thinks maybe they should invest in him after all. Later at Christmas dinner, Nellie accidentally knocks into Clarissa and her wig falls off revealing “Clarissa” to  actually be Nigel! He assures the family he was about to reveal himself anyway, and he just wanted to prove his acting talent. William angry at being made a fool, wants him out of the house. Nellie can’t help but giggle at Nigel in the dress and soon the whole family see the funny side and Christmas is saved!

While this is set at Christmas, it’s not very prominent in the storyline, other than the dinner and the importance of family. There are other more Christmas themed Wee Slavey stories that come to mind first, so it was only on a re-read I realised this was set at Christmas! Wee Slavey can always be relied on to be good fun and Nellie usually comes up on top.

Pepper the Pony (Pages: 22 / 112)

In this long standing humour strip of Lucinda and her pony Pepper, they manage to get the upper hand in the two stories presented here. In the first strip, Lucinda’s cousin Basil arrives showing off his 4 wheel drive car boasting about how much better it is than a horse. But Lucinda outsmarts him by challenging him to race, which she wins as when they come to a wall of course Pepper can jump while Basil is left stuck in the car.

In the second strip another arrogant person, Sheila, looks down on Pepper for not being as groomed as her horse. Lucinda does spruce Pepper up, but Sheila still makes nasty comments. She gets her comeuppance when she jumps into muddy water with her horse and there the ones that look unkempt.

The Badge (Pages: 23-27)

Julie is delighted when Johnny gives her his Fleece Club Badge, as it’s a sign that they are a serious couple. But even so, Julie can’t help but feel insecure, especially When Johnny is talking to friendly and pretty girl Wendy. Her and Johnny have a fight about this, and soon after, when she is out, he collects his badge back from her mom. Then she sees Wendy with a badge and she looks guilty. Julie is terribly upset until Johnny turns up for disco. He had taken badge to make it into a pendant for her. She realises how silly she was, Johnny’s been quiet because of exams and Wendy looked guilty because she is nice person and had heard they quarreled about her. She finds out from Johnny that Wendy is now going out with another Fleece Club member. She feels happy and content now.

There isn’t a lot of romance themed stories in this book, this story while not a favourite is still fine. Julie’s insecurities seem relatable, and I’m glad that Wendy wasn’t some antagonistic girl trying to steal her boyfriend, she is just a genuinely nice person.

Judy & Co. (Pages: 28 / 58)

Art: Norman Lee

Our title character gets two strips on this book. In the first Judy prepares herself, making sure she’s comfortable and won’t be disturbed so she can read her favourite magazine “Judy”. Always a little strange when characters in these books reference the book they are fictional characters in, but it is a regular occurrence! (it’s also acts as advertisement so readers know they should pick up weekly issues).

In the second story, it’s a more straight forward humour set up. Judy tries to sled into boy to get their attention, but they jump out of the way except one…. a snowman.

Cinderella Jones (Pages: 29-32)

Art: Oliver Passingham

At Happyholme they are celebrating Mr Jones 50th birthday and mention how Agnes 50th birthday will be soon after that. Cindy goes to give Agne’s Aunt Flossie cake and she goes to take her photo, but Flossie tells her she already has lots of photos and encourages Cindy to look through them. When Agnes hears Flossie still has a photo of her entry to a beauty contest when she was 18, she gets very snappy, tells Cindy to get on with housework and for the rest of the day she is in a bad mood. Agnes decides it’s time for a clear out and makes a big bonfire, getting Cindy and Mr Jones to do most of the work. Agnes brings out more bags to bur,n but Cindy notices they are Flossie’s photos, she finds the one stepmother doesn’t want her to see and she sees why she wants it burns. Agnes chases her around, she makes promises of more money and help for Cindy. The photo shows that Agnes has been lying about her age shes 55 not 50. Mr Jones wonders whats going on but Cindy says its just her and Stepmothers secret and burns the photo. Agnes praises Cindy and then gets Isobelle and Sarah to get up off sun loungers and help.

Another on of my favourite characters, I like that despite everything Agnes and Cindy do have a good relationship, and Passingham dos great job at the comedic expressions. It is one of those stories where Cindy often breaks the fourth wall, addressing the reader directly, which is fun and gets reader more invested with the character.

My Sister’s Keeper (Pages: 33-37)

Alison Fry lives with her parents writers of child psychology (what an oddly specific job, for something that barely comes into play). She is happy when they decide to foster a girl the same age as her, Glenda. Not much is known about her, she had turned up nearly a year ago with no family. Alison tries to be welcoming, when she enquires about a box she has, Glenda is very possessive of it and asks Alison to never open it. One day Alison finds her in the woods one day talking to someone but she can’t make out who. Glenda says it was her sister, Serena, an air hostess. When she voices her concerns to her parents, they tell her orphans often invent siblings when they are lonely and she just needs time to adjust (presumably their psychology knowledge coming in useful!). Glenda still goes off on her own a lot and talks about her sister to other classmates, making things awkward for Alison.

Glenda tells Alison her, that Serena is taking her to Tunisia for a week and then when Alison can’t go to school because of cold, they are very worried when Glenda doesn’t return. They go to talk to her form teacher who says her sister collected her. Alison gets the idea to look in Glenda’s box for a clue. In it she finds a newspaper clipping dated exactly a year ago with story of air stewardess saving passengers in a flight to Tunisia but herself and sister Glenda were killed. Spooky stories where it turns out the person was a ghost all along was quite popular in annuals, presumably as the reveal was a good way to end the story and fitted well into the short story format.

Candy’s Crowd (Pages: 40-47)

Art: Eduardo Feito

Candy and her friends Ann, Patti and Di are all going on a skiing trip with the school. Ann is upset that her dad may get new job and she will have to leave Fullwood and her friends. Mr Potter, one of the teachers that is meant to be organising the trip is very scatterbrained, so he muddles things up such as what rooms everyone is in and nearly taking Bernice’s mom’s bag. Bernice is a pain and know it all so Candy’s not too upset when she hurts her leg, while showing off. Meanwhile Patti’s getting to know some boys and Ann finds out her father got the job, so girls want to try and make this the best holiday. On the last night they have disco and fancy dress competition. After return home, Patti is going to miss Alan, the boy she met, but she gets over it when she hears about new neighbour. Meanwhile Ann hadn’t heard the whole story about her Dad’s new job, it turns out he isn’t taking job as his current job has given him a promotion, so Candy’s crowd get to stay together.

Candy’s Crowd was Judy’s soap story for a while but not as well known as other similar stories like The Comp or Penny’s Place. Still it is fine story and also notable for Eduardo Feito’s art.

Linda’s Lesson (Pages: 52-57)

In 1890 Linda Robertson starts her first day  as a maid in the Cobden house. Linda’s mother thinks she doesn’t know what hard work is, and that is why she has been sent here, but Linda thinks it’ll be easy. She soon finds that her mother was right, not only is she worked off her feet, the butler Mr Bennet slaps her for impertinence and cook gives her a small grisly piece of meat for dinner. Linda says some odd things and she gets another slap for asking what coal is. She tells another maid Daisy about her mom and that she is going to contact her saying she’s learned her lesson. She goes upstairs and pulls out a computer. It turns out Linda’s from 200 years in the future, she returns and tells her mom she wont ever complain of chores again. Especially as it’s so easy in 21st century as we see her command robot to do all tidying. (Yes she really had little to complain about!)

The Girl with the Golden Smile (Pages: 59-63)

Art: Bert Hill

Anna Marshall  is a trainee at Westerby’s department store, meaning she moves around all the departments in the store. One day in the china and gift department Anna learns about their wedding list service that the store runs, where people can leave a list of gifts they would like and wedding guests can come and pick an item off it. One such customer that is using the wedding list, is a young bride, Bridget. When Bridget’s great grandmother arrives to look at the list, Anna notices she seems troubled. Then Anna notices the problem, all the items are very expensive, and  the old lady is feeling deflated. But Anna comes up with perfect solution, a crystal vase, they come in all sorts of sizes including miniature  and that can fit in the old lady’s budget.

A few weeks later Anna is in the bakery department and delivers a wedding cake to Bridget, there is one problem for Bridget as she’s not happy with the plastic decoration. Again Anna has a helpful suggestion, then the way out she bumps into the great grandmother who has come to see the wedding gifts displayed. She thinks Bridget is ashamed of her small gift, but it turns out it is now in pride in place on top of the cake (thanks to Anna’s suggestion). She is so happy that it will even be in the wedding photos, Anna thinks today the grandmother has the golden smile.

Bridget seems to be a bit thoughtless, from the little we see, I think her wedding preparations might take a toll on the people around her! It is a very sweet story though, because you do feel for the great-grandmother, who is put in an awkward position thinking she can’t afford anything, so it is nice to see how everything works out and she gets a boast of pride at her present being so important.

Big ‘n’ Bertha (Pages: 64)

Anther humour strip, here Dad tricks Big and Bertha into falling into pond as he takes their photo, by asking them to take a step back. But they get their own back by making him back into wet cement when he takes another photo.

The Honourable S.J. (Pages: 65-80)

This is set during S.J and Ann’s time at Millford. It is Christmas and S.J still has all the girls fooled that she is nice person, only Ann knows better. She wants Ann to convince the girls to buy her a porcelain horse for Christmas, but she is too late to persuade them and they buy her a big box of chocolates. S.J. is not going to let it go that easy so she steals the chocolates and then makes sure Ann will get the class to get the right gift to replace them. She also steals £10 from a student’s Christmas card, then lends her £10 saying she can pay back next term, making her look very generous.

Ann is then invited to the Christmas Ball at Moorfield Hall by the Headgirl. She thinks S.J will be mad and stop her, but she says she will be home in the Cheetwell Hall playing Santa for children of  a local orphange. Then Ann hears her scheming on phone with her chauffeur, Wilson, telling him to wait for her at side gate of Moorfield Hall and she will be in her Santa outfit. Ann at first thinks S.J. is out to spoil things for but  then she realises S.J. being more devious than that and is after the jewellery that Lady Moorfield gives out every year. By coincidence at the party, Ann sees S.J. dressed as fairy attack the Moorfield Santa, when she confronts S.J. she locks her in a cloakroom. Luckily there’s another way out, but she isn’t in time to catch S.J.. Ann thinks S.J. has won again, as without any other witnesses, no one will believe her. S.J makes appearance at the Cheetwell party giving gifts to orphans will look good for her in the paper though she really wants to get away and check out her goodies. Ann after returning from the party hears the news of the theft, and she is delighted to find out that this year Lady Moorfield sold her jewellery to help carious charity and each box tells what charity it has gone to. While Ann happily takes in this news, S.J. is discovering this herself as she opens up the boxes, it’s not fair, she thinks!

It’s quite a long story at 16 pages, and anyone that wasn’t familiar with S.J. certainly gets to know what kind of person she is. The actual main plot of the Christmas ball doesn’t get going until later in the story, so we get to see S.J.’s other devious scheming beforehand. It is very satisfying end to see that things don’t work out for S.J and her expression at finding this out is very well conveyed.

Who’s Spoiling Things for Lucy? (Pages: 82-89)

Lucy feels lucky to be at the Lamona ballet school, as she only got her place because she first reserve. One of the other girls Jane makes some nasty comments about her, and doubts her abilities. Luckily she gets friendly with a girl Karen, who sticks up for her. Then things start going wrong for Lucy like her hair-tie and shoe going missing or her music sheet being changed. Lucy and Karen suspect Jane, but she always seems one step ahead even when they try to keep things safe. Things get so bad that Lucy will have to leave the school unless she can prove herself in one last performance. On the day of the performance Karen’s friend Jackie visits her. It seems they both got into the school, but when Jackie’s father got a job in America she had to give up her place, when the job fell through it was too late for Jackie to get back in. Karen is surprised to hear Jackie is no longer upset about this, after reading Karen’s letters she realised all the hard work involved and only wants dancing as a hobby.

Of course it is then revealed that it was Karen playing the tricks on Lucy, but knowing Jackie no longer wants a place, she rushes to get Lucy’s dress from where she hid it, but it is gone. She is confronted by Jane who has figured everything out, she promises not to tell Lucy though. Then Lucy arrives her dance has gone well and she is being kept at school. While Jane won’t say her enemy is, she tells her Karen will explain everything!

With other similar stories it’s not a surprise that the secret enemy is actually the supposed friend. Karen’s motivations are to help another friend but getting someone dismissed from school is a terrible thing and its hard to imagine Lucy being too forgiving! We don’t know what the consequences are as the story ends before that, but Jane making Karen own up herself rather than telling on her is a good start.

The Frog Prince (Pages: 92-95)

Art: Wilf Street

Lady Eleanor is beautiful but vain and cold-hearted. She has many suitors because of her beauty, but she won’t settle for anything less than a prince and others she scares away with her demands. When her father asks her to distribute gold to poor children in the village instead she gives it an old lady (whom she had just insulted) when she says she will marry a prince. She tells her to go to an enchanted pool at midnight on the last day of the year where she will see a frog with a crown. He is an enchanted prince and one kiss from her will complete the spell. She does as she says, but he doesn’t change, he tells her he is already prince of the pool so why would he change instead she changes into a frog to become his princess!

Junior Nanny (Pages: 97-101)

Art: Oliver Passingham

At the residential nursery, all the kids have been irritable and fighting after a bout of heavy colds. Chris Johnson and the other nurses, think a trip to Santa might cheer them up. But then while queuing one of the children, Lucy, says she wishes she had a mummy to bring her to Santa, and that subdues everyone. The next day Chris meets some women from the old folks home and they talk about how nice it would be to have a visit from the children. Chris isn’t sure that the children will bring much joy, with the way they’ve been feeling. Then she comes up with idea and enlists Matron’s help to make an announcement that Santa has sent urgent message.  He needs help from the children as the old folks have asked for a visit as a Christmas gift. Chris tells them to be his little helpers they need to practice being cheery. So on Christmas Eve after a successful visit the children through acting happy become happy and decide they want to adopt the old people as their grandparents. Chris is relieved to see lots of smiles Christmas day.

A nice Christmas story and reminder of how it can be tough for those without families so nice to see everyone come together and have a happy ending.

It Never Rains But it Pours (Pages: 105-111)

Art: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)

Raye doesn’t like to see her quiet cousin Amy do better than her, so when Amy get a date with Peter, a jealous Raye tries to sabotage it. She convinces Amy to take Peter to the disco on their date, as she knows that’s not his scene.  Then when she comes across a rainmaker pendant at a stall, it seems like an extra way to make the date go wrong. The rainmaker appears to be a genuine article so when Raye lends it to Amy, her and Peter  get soaked on the way to the disco and have miserable time. The next day Amy, is returning pendant to Raye when it starts raining again. Peter happens to be out fishing and tells her to take cover under her umbrella. The get on better this time as they have time to actually talk to each other, then Amy accidentally drops pendant into river. Amy apologies to Raye about pendant but tells her it seemed to have brought  her luck, bringing her and Peter together.

Another nasty character out to spoil things while pretending to be nice, surprisingly the magical element of her scheme isn’t questioned much, but I suppose the main thing is it doesn’t work like she planned.

Bobby Dazzler (Pages: 114-117)

After a talk to the school by Sir Jacob Lang , owner of local woods,  Bobby has her eyes peeled for poachers. Unfortunately her suspicions prove false, as Mike and Don confront bird watchers and friends of  the forest society on her urging. After all those false starts, they reproach Bobby for being so suspicious, so when they happily help some men out carrying their bags, she tries to see it as positive. But then of course it turns out the men were the poachers and disappear quickly leaving Mike and Don to be caught by Sir Jacob. It’s an amusing (if standard) Bobby Dazzler story.

The Power of the Song (Pages: 118-125)

Art: Guy Peeters

While walking through a subway on the way to school, friends, Faye and Kelly, hear a busker singing. For Kelly the lyrics seem empowering “Dream the word and you can say it. Dream the deed and you can do it”  but Faye finds it unsettling. Later at school Kelly is upset when another girl Trish gets the part of Rapunzal in a play. Faye tries to cheer her up by saying its just because she looks the part with her long hair. Kelly says she has a mind to cut it off. Faye assumes she’ll calm down but is shocked when she actually does it, people say things they don’t mean all the time. Kelly tells her it’s because people don’t usually have the nerve but hearing the buskers song has given her the nerve. And she’s not the only one, soon more and more people get in trouble, one girl cuts her cheating boyfriends brakes, people are fighting and the school is getting wrecked. Faye talks to the busker but he says he doesn’t have any powers, and he isn’t putting bad ideas in her friends heads they were already there. Faye uses his song against him, telling him she wants him to go away, which he does. Things return to normal for a while but then she sees in magazine that the busker is to get his own countrywide tv show!

What if we actually always did what we said we’d do, especially in anger, is a scary thought! Faye and others feel guilt for not stopping their friends actions, because they dismiss it as throwaway words and in ordinary circumstances they’d be right. While the busker says the ideas were in the people’s heads already, we don’t see any one do positive things, so it does seem to be only the bad ideas he encourages, and he appears to get some enjoyment out of it. We don’t know where he came from, but the ending means he won’t be gotten rid of so easily!

Text Stories

Wedding Belle   (Pages: 49-51)

Belle Love is a bridesmaid for hire, she gets a job with Carol who has had to move her wedding forward as her and her husband to be are moving abroad due to job opportunity. But moving the wedding to Christmas Eve has brought some problems. Firstly Carol’s Spring dress isn’t ideal for the weather and it’s too late for alterations, luckily Belle comes up with solution to make winter capes made from new velvet curtains her mother has decided she doesn’t want. But then Carol is disappointed so many people can’t make the wedding as she always dreamed of getting married in a full church (Like The Girl with the Golden Smile story seems another Bride that has not thought of other people’s circumstances in the wedding plan). There are two invitations leftover and Carol says Belle can use them though it won’t make a big difference. Carol is surprised on the wedding day that Belle has managed to fill the church for her. She had sent the two invitations to an old folks home and children’s home and is Carol is delighted.

I Hate My Gran!   (Pages: 102-104)

When Gina’s sister Rosie moves out Gina is upset at first as they were very close, then she cheers herself up by thinking she can have Rosie’s bright big bedroom. Her parents soon put stop to that plan, when they tell her they’ve invited Gran to stay. Not only losing out on the room, Gina finds her Gran living with her causes other annoyances, such as not being able to play her records so loud, her gran always asking her to run errands and she not feeling comfortable inviting friends around. Another blow comes when she gets a chance to go to a disco but her parents have no money to give her for a new outfit as the spent so much on Gran’s new room. A little while later Gran calls Gina into her room, she had made her a stunning outfit for the disco that she had copied from magazine. She tells her it is to make up for the room and a thanks for all the errands she runs. Gina suddenly sees things from her Gran’s perspective, it must be awful to give up her independence and leave her home and being so old that running to post office is a big job and she realises she hasn’t been very welcoming. She thanks Gran for the dress and then she stays asking her if she wants to play cards. Thinking about the times her and Rosie played cards, she now thinks Gran could take Rosie’s place as a special friend.

It’s a nice story and we can see why Gina would be frustrated by the changes but glad to see her understand how much more difficult it is for her Gran and that it’s start of building a good relationship between them.

Features

There are just a couple of features in this annual; how to make a Dressing Table Tidy (Page: 16), Part Time / Yummy!  (Pages: 38-39) which have some tips on how to hold party, what games to play, decorations and music and some recipes that you could use for the party.

Then there are two poems Quite Contrary (Pages: 90-91) which is a poem about everything being topsy turvy such as dogs taking their owners on walks and ducks feeding humans and Anticipation (Page: 96)which is about a dog waiting to be taken for a walk.

Final Thoughts

This is another annual that I first read when I was younger (and re-read many a time), so have a certain attachment to it. I’m also a big fan of most of the Judy regular characters so always good to have more stories of them. Some of my favourite stories here are; Cinderella Jones, Cinderella is a story that has been told and reimagined many times but this is one of my favourite versions, the comedic characters (captured brilliantly by Passingham) and family dynamics are always fun. The Girl with the Golden Smile and I Hate My Gran!, I like for similar reasons as the older person gets recognition, the difficulties of growing old acknowledged and happy ending thanks in part for younger women seeing things from their perspective. Maybe I’m getting more sentimental as I grow older, they were both sweet stories I thought. On the other side of things Power of the Song is an unsettling, well done story with decent art by Peeters and a more subdued colouring that’s fitting. Other honourable mentions go to The Honourable S.J. in particular for that last page where S.J. realises her scheme has gone wrong A Christmas Wish which is nice story for the holidays and What is a… which are fun little strips (when I was younger I did compare it to my own family members to see what held true!)

My least favourite is probably It Never Rains but it Pours, not a terrible story but there are more interesting stories in the book and though other stories have similar tropes (i.e. the false friend), this didn’t capture anything extra for me. The Badge was lower down on my list initially too, but has actually grown on me over time. I did enjoy re-reading all the stories here even those I wouldn’t consider my favouites and as always there’s lots of great art to look at as well.

 

Sally’s Secret [1993]

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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Thoughts

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

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

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

Hard Times for Helen (1984-85)

Logo Hard Times for Helen

Artist: Bert Hill

Published: Judy: #1302 (22 December 1984) to #1312 (2 March 1985)

Plot

Helen Shaw’s widowed mother is awarded the Superworker Award for her charity work and becomes a local celebrity. But from the moment Mum wins the award, nothing seems to go right for Helen. Her life changes for the worse, both at home and at school, not least of which is because she becomes “the girl who suffers from being compared to Mum”.

First, being Superworker means increased workloads on Mrs Shaw, which leave her constantly overworked, exhausted, and having no time for other things, such as household chores or devoting time to Helen. Also, Helen finds herself constantly lumbered with the things her mother hasn’t time for (chores, housework, errands, meal preparation, shopping, favours etc), or can’t do because she has been called away to some other task. This begins to interfere with schoolwork, social life, friends, and even makes Helen frequently late for school. Mum takes it for granted that Helen will help out all the time, and never stops think that Helen has other commitments or may not be able to help. For example, she tries to force Helen to miss a rehearsal to help her out, although Helen is playing the lead. As a result, the teacher kicks Helen out of the production (and Helen arrives home too late to help her mother in any case).

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Helen is also feeling neglected and lonely because her mother is scarcely home, and even when she is, she has no time for Helen. Helen had begun to feel this way even before charity-busy Mum became Superworker, but following Superworker it becomes a whole lot worse. Mum is frequently overtired, still encumbered with heavy workloads that she expects Helen to help out with, and dashing out yet again to help someone else. Worse, a lot of the work comes from people who take advantage of Mum’s kindness and never refusing anyone’s request (in other words, unable to say “no”).

Finances also suffer because Mum is becoming over-generous. But she does nothing to curb her over-generosity, although she is keeps saying that she is terribly short of money and she must know the reason for it. Sometimes Helen even goes hungry because Mum is too busy to remember to replenish the larder and doesn’t leave money for it.

And there is a jinx that seems to dog Helen at every turn. It lands her in constant trouble with Mum and giving other people false impressions that she is jealous, lazy, badly behaved, and “not at all like her mother”. Sometimes it’s not able to help because other things get in the way, like people popping in with more favours to dump on Helen when she has other work to do already. Or it’s not able to get other things done, such as homework, because Mum lumbers her with other things to do. Other times, things just seem to go wrong whenever Helen tries to help out her mother. Helen frequently thinks that everything has gone wrong since her mother won the award and wishes she had never won it. Meanwhile, the constant trouble has Mum thinking her daughter is being “awkward” and unhelpful, and their relationship deteriorates.

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To make things even worse for Helen, everyone, from strangers in the street to the next-door neighbour, always compares her unfavourably and unfairly with her mother with the relentless criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” or variations thereof. By far the worst culprits are the staff at Helen’s school, with headmistress Miss Pringle being the leader of the pack. Some of the criticisms arise from misunderstandings and affected schoolwork caused by Superworker (for example, Helen being frequently late for school because of the jobs she gets lumbered with in the mornings). But in other cases Miss Pringle and the teachers seem to pounce on even the slightest thing to attack Helen with the criticism. Often these are things that have little to do with Helen’s mother or Superworker. Their conduct becomes more and more like bullying. Examples include:

  • (Helen is eating in the street) “I don’t care much for finding one of my pupils in the street like this! Really, Helen, you’re a disgrace to your mother!”
  • (Helen fails to deliver a message in time) “You stupid girl. You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen is distracted with worry while teacher is setting homework) “You’re not making a note of the homework I’m setting! Perhaps you have no intention of doing it? Really, Helen! You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen says she was trying to help her mother) “Your mother couldn’t possibly need help from you! You’ll never be like her!”
  • (Helen asks to be excused from a swimming match to look after her mother) “Helen objecting to something again, is she? It’s all she does. She’s not hardworking like her mother.”
  • (Ignoring that Helen would have homework to do, and she never asked Helen to help in the first place) “Your mother’s giving up this evening to help my dramatic society, Helen. I suppose it would be too much to expect you’d be helping?” At this, Helen realises she cannot win with Miss Pringle.

And on top of the constant criticism there is the notion that Helen is jealous of her mother. This starts as a nasty rumour among Helen’s classmates, but soon spreads and is taken on board by the harsh school staff. And when Miss Pringle misinforms Mum about it and Helen’s so-called bad behaviour, Mum thinks it is the reason for Helen being so “awkward” and their strained relationship is poisoned further.

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Finally, when Mum wrongly blames Helen for a disturbance that wrecks a public demonstration, Helen reaches her limit. She snaps at Mum that she is fed up of everyone saying “You’re not at all like your mother!”. It doesn’t do Helen any good though – Mum still thinks Helen is behaving badly and just says it’s her own fault. But Helen’s outburst indicates that this is the penultimate episode and the final episode will be next.

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Sure enough, in the next episode everything comes to a head. Mum has gone to help Miss Pringle at her drama society. But while Mum is out, the electricity is cut off because she had neglected the bill too. This leaves Helen in a quandary over how to complete her homework, and is so distracted that she stumbles into the road and gets hit by a car. While in a semi-conscious state, she starts rambling about all the problems Superworker has caused for her. The medical personnel are listening and then have a word with Mum. Mum apologises to Helen and promises that things will now be different. She also informs Helen that at the drama society meeting she wised up to Miss Pringle’s conduct.

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Thoughts

This story certainly belongs in the long-established formula of the “jinxed girl” – where events always seem to conspire against the protagonist and everything goes wrong in every episode for her. So at the end of each episode she always ends up in deep trouble and people think she’s jealous, spiteful or whatever, and she becomes more and more unpopular. The formula makes for a story that is more episodic in structure than having a single story arc and the advantage is that it can be spun out as long as necessary. The disadvantage is a risk of stretching credibility too far and readers may begin to think, “Oh come on, nobody can be that unlucky!”

However, Helen suffers a lot more than many protagonists who just have things that keep going wrong for them. She is suffering from bullying too, mostly from people who keep comparing her to her mother and putting her down with unfair and unwarranted criticisms. The conduct of Miss Pringle fits exactly into the bully who uses unreasonable criticism to bully someone: constant put-downs and sarcasms, often using a supposed kernel of truth to justify their comments; making big mountains out of molehills in criticizing even trivial things; blowing things all out of proportion; and there is no pleasing or reasoning with Miss Pringle, regardless of what Helen does. And it’s not just Miss Pringle but all the teachers. Helen can’t seem to be in class for five minutes without some teacher humiliating her in front of the classmates with the criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” Helen hears it so much that she feels like screaming.

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No doubt this conduct from the teachers would have fuelled the bullying from Helen’s own classmates, who started the rumour that she was jealous of her mother. It began with their misreading Helen’s unhappy expressions, but there must have been some schoolgirl cattiness as well. Perhaps they were the jealous ones and projecting their jealousy onto Helen.

Protagonists who suffer because their parents are too busy/famous to pay them serious attention is a well-established formula in girls’ comics too. But in this case it’s even more heart-breaking in that the misery comes from charity, of all things. This is because of Mrs. Shaw’s personality as much as the demands of Superworker itself. She is always ready to help and never refuses anyone – but the flip side of that is that she cannot say “no”. So in addition to all the increasing demands of Superworker, Mum gets more and more people who take advantage of her: food, money, free favours, or using her as a dumping ground. All too often we have seen this type of thing in real life: good-natured people who are too nice for their own good, get lumbered and taken advantage of, and don’t stand up for themselves and say “no”.

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Mum in turn starts taking Helen for granted. She uses Helen as a dumping ground for things she hasn’t time for, or expects her to help all the time and doesn’t stop to think that sometimes Helen may not be able to help. Never once does she say, “All right, I’ll get someone else to help.” To others, she never says things like “Sorry, I’ve got too much to do right now, please ask someone else” or “Sorry, I can’t loan you any money, I need my money for other things.” And so she leaves herself open for people to walk all over her. And there certainly never is “I’m giving up Superworker – it’s too much for me and I’m turning into a nervous wreck,” although it is so hectic that it constantly wears Mum out with exhaustion. More than once we see her collapsed in a chair or laid up in bed because of it.

This story certainly is a cut above an average “jinxed girl” story because it draws so much on real life: Bully teachers who constantly put pupils down with nasty, uncalled-for remarks. People who use criticism to bully others. People who can’t say “no” and get turned into doormats because they are not assertive enough. People who overwork themselves, causing their family to suffer as well as themselves. Nasty schoolkids who bully others, very likely because they are jealous. Parents who get so busy with new commitments that they lose sight of other things in life that matter too, including their family. People who take others for granted and make selfish demands on them – even ones who do not see themselves as selfish.

It’s all brought to life with the artwork of Bert Hill. Hill has a very clean style that can produce a lot of panels on one page without it looking cluttered. His style has become linked with several Judy classics, including “The Fish Twins” and “The Girl with the Golden Smile”. Just one thing about the artwork – why does Mrs Shaw’s hair suddenly switch from blond to dark in the final episode, with no explanation possible?

And there is one thing about the story that is really puzzling: throughout the course of this entire story, we never see the Superworker Award itself. What the heck does it look like? Is it a trophy? Is it a medal? Or is it something else? We never know because it never appears. Not once are we shown Mrs Shaw with it, nor does she ever show it to Helen.

Marigold and the Three Bears

Plot

Marigold Shaw has lived in a Children’s Home until she is offered a foster home after she saves the daughter from an accident. Marigold is very happy until she wins three teddy bears at a fair. She soon finds that anything that happens to one of the teddy bears happens to the corresponding member of the household.

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Notes

  • Artist: Bert Hill

Appeared

  • Marigold and the Three Bears –  Mandy: #1139 (12 November 1988) – (?)

 

Deadline for Cora

Plot

Cora Blackett’s father, editor of the  ” Western Sun ” in America in 1880, had been kidnapped by tycoon Harley Barnwell, who wanted to silence the newspaper’s campaign to stop Moonridge Forest from being felled. But Cora took over the paper herself with the help of her Indian friend, Red Flower, and Tom, the printer. Cora organised a torchlight protest ride—but an angry Mr Buckley, the paper’s New York owner, turned up.

deadline-for-cora

Notes

  • Art: Bert Hill

Appeared

  • Deadline for Cora –  Judy:  #1216 (30 April 1983) – #1222 (11 June 1983)

Break-Up! [1989]

Plot

Beverley Brunton was not only top of her class and good at sports, but she was also very popular with her classmates. Only one girl didn’t like Bev -Hazel Thomson. When Hazel overhears that Bev’s parents are splitting up, she takes joy in telling Bev and she implies that neither of her parents want her.

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Notes

  • Art: Bert Hill

Appeared

  • Break-Up! –  Judy: #1529 (29 April 1989) – #1537 (24 June 1989)
  • Reprinted – M&J: #263 (25 May 1996) – #271 (20 July 1996)

Zodiac

Plot:

Complete stories, each representing a sign of the zodiac.

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22nd May – 21st June, Geminis are lively and intelligent, but sometimes inclined to be in two minds about things.

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Notes:

  • Art: Bert Hill

Appeared:

  • Zodiac –  Judy: circa  #1272 (26 May 1984) – (?)

Lonely Lotty

Plot:

Lotty Laing, a boarder at Abbeyfield School, was very shy, but, when she tried to make friends, she couldn’t help seeming snooty and conceited,so nobody liked her. Then she was falsely accused of stealing and ” put on trial ” for the rest of the term. Brenda Brown and her friend,Sharon O’Hara,were determined to make Lotty’s life miserable. Their latest plot had ruined Lotty’s midnight feast.

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Notes:

  • Art: Bert Hill

Appeared:

  • Lonely Lotty –  Judy:  circa  #1192 (13 November 1982) – (?)