Tag Archives: Blackmail

The Secret Servant: A Four Marys Story [1993]

Published: Bunty Picture Library #365

Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Simpy’s father opens a supermarket, Simco’s Supermarket, and its business is soon booming to soaring levels. But he only took a lease on the building. The freehold has been taken over by Lentham Holdings, which is run by – yes, Mabel Lentham’s father. Now Lentham is applying for planning permission to turn the building into flats. If this goes ahead Mr Simpson will be forced to close. This would bankrupt him as he has sunk everything into the supermarket.

Foolishly, Simpy hopes that if she sucks up to Mabel, such as buying her the birthday present she wanted and allowing her and Veronica on the gymnastics team although they aren’t much good at gymnastics but not yelling at Mabel when she makes a mess of things, Mabel will save her father. But once Mabel finds out the reason why Simpy is suddenly crawling to her (by prying into Simpy’s mail), she sets out to take full advantage of Simpy. She and Veronica have Simpy wait on them hand and foot and do all their dirty work, including prep. They waste no opportunities in bullying Simpy, such as making her do chores twice, in revenge for all the times the Four Marys have scored over them. Of course Mabel has no intention of saving Mr Simpson and is stringing Simpy along with false promises that she will speak to her father about it, but always seems to forget. Although Simpy does not trust Mabel, she still continues to slave for the snobs and hope Mabel will keep her end of the deal.

Of course the other Marys soon notice what’s going on between Simpy and the snobs. They get suspicious and start to investigate. Fieldy spies on the snobs’ study and sees how Simpy is waiting on the snobs while they bully her. They realise the snobs must have some kind of hold on Simpy. But they hit a dead end as to what it could be, and they decide against tackling Simpy outright.

Then, during a parents’ visiting day, Cotty accidentally overhears Simpy’s parents talking about their supermarket being in trouble. The Marys wonder if there is some connection with Simpy slaving for the snobs. On a free afternoon they head down to Simco’s Supermarket to investigate this angle.

Simco’s Supermarket is located in an arcade, which the Marys discover has been recently taken over by Mabel’s father. They soon learn that Lentham is forcing all the shops in the arcade out of business with exorbitant rents while terminating their leases. He is applying for planning permission to turn the arcade into flats so as to make a profit. It is later revealed that the flats project is intended to pay off loans. Lentham also plans to use the money for a world cruise family holiday, which Mabel is really looking forward to. The Marys draw all the right conclusions, including the one that Mabel will not really help Simpy save her father.

Then, a remark from Cotty about it being “such a lovely old arcade” gives Raddy an idea on how to solve the problem. She contacts her father, who works on a heritage committee that saves old buildings with historical value. The committee manages to get Lentham’s application for planning permission blocked. Now the flats plan is stymied, Lentham cannot afford to hold on to the arcade and is forced to sell at a rock bottom price. Mr Simpson is doing so well from the supermarket, he can afford to buy the freehold, become his own landlord, and save his business.

The Four Marys inform the snobs of this and punish them by tipping rubbish all over their study for them to clean up. Mabel is punished even more when she receives a call from her father that the world cruise holiday is off because the flats plan has failed. The Marys are delighted to hear this and treat Simpy to a celebratory tea.

Thoughts

Using false promises to help a loved one in order to blackmail a mug into doing what you want has been used in many DCT stories, such as “Meg and the Magic Robot” (Tracy) and “April Fool” (Mandy). However, it’s unusual in that it is the victim, Simpy who instigated her very own blackmail by sucking up to the snobs in the first place in the foolish hope they would save her father. Blackmailing Simpy wasn’t the snobs’ idea; they just take advantage once they realise why Simpy is being ‘nice’ to them all of a sudden. If it had been the snobs who had concocted the blackmail we would have been more sympathetic to Simpy. But really, Simpy brought the whole thing on herself. Honestly, she should have known better after the long time she had known those snobs, and how much they despise her for being a scholarship girl. Even when Simpy finds she doesn’t trust Mabel because Mabel is ‘forgetting’ her promises, she still doesn’t suspect the snobs are just taking advantage of her. She carries on regardless, hoping it will be worth it if it saves her father. Perhaps Simpy wasn’t thinking clearly because she was so worried about her parents and desperation overrode her rationality.

Ironically, slaving to the snobs does help save Simpy’s father, but not in the way she expected. It’s because it prompted the other Marys to make their inquiry at the arcade itself and, once they saw it personally, realise the heritage value that could save it. It is less likely this would have occurred if Simpy had just confided in the Marys.

I’ll Get Rid of Rona! (1980)

I'll Get Rid of Rona logo

Published: Tracy: #43 (26 July 1980) to #53 (04 October 1980)

Artist: Unknown

Plot

Two years previously Orphan Rona Parrish had been very happy at Sunnyhills Children’s Home until she was wrongly convicted of theft (the exact circumstances of which are not discussed). Since then, she had been forced to move from children’s home to children’s home and from school to school as the stigma follows her around and people provoke her into “rebellious behaviour” when they bully her over her record. Currently these are the girls at her latest school. They call her a borstal brat, accuse her of stealing their belongings and such, and provoke her into lashing out at them. The lashing out keeps getting Rona  into trouble with the school authorities. The matron of Rona’s current home knows what is going on, but her advice to try to ignore the teasing is not very helpful.

Rona 1

When the girls’ bullying gets Rona suspended, Matron and a social worker named Miss Gregory come up with the idea of fostering Rona out to the Marchant family, in the hope that a fresh start in a locality where nobody knows her past will help. Rona jumps at it. The Marchant parents are very understanding about Rona’s past and agree not to tell their daughter Gwen or even the staff at the new school about it. When Rona arrives, she gets the immediate impression she will be happy at the Marchants’ home.

But already forces are working against Rona. Gwen seems friendly enough to Rona, but in secret she resents having a “strange brat” for a sister. And when she snoops into a confidential letter from Miss Gregory and discovers Rona’s secret, she decides it’s the limit. She sets out to get rid of Rona, figuring that Rona’s record will make it easier.

At home Gwen pulls discreet but dirty tricks to give her parents the impression that Rona is careless, untrustworthy and things always seem to get lost or stolen around her. She also gets Rona into trouble in public incidents, such as hooliganism and stealing on a paper round. At school, where Gwen has to say that Rona is her cousin from Canada, Gwen pilfers items from classmates with the intention of putting the blame on Rona when she is ready. This soon has everyone on the alert for a thief at school. Gwen is pleased to hear the other girls whispering that they suspect Rona is the thief and not Gwen’s cousin from Canada either. When Mrs Marchant hears about the thieving at school she also begins to suspect Rona, much to Gwen’s delight.

Rona 2

Things get worse for Rona when Peggy Malone joins the school. She is a delinquent and a troublemaker, and everyone soon realises she is a girl to avoid. Peggy also knows Rona’s secret because they were at the same remand home together while Rona was awaiting trial. Peggy starts blackmailing Rona, forcing her to do her homework, buy her cigarettes, do after-school work for her and be her “friend”, which makes Rona unpopular with the other girls. Gwen discovers that Peggy has a hold over Rona and decides to enlist Peggy’s help in getting rid of her.

So through Peggy, Gwen tricks Rona into selling Peggy’s aunt’s jewels and make it look like she stole them. Peggy had agreed to Gwen’s plan in anticipation that she would get money from the sale. But the jeweller gets suspicious and calls the police. The police and Miss Gregory are called in. Rona realises too late that Peggy tricked her while the police think that Rona and Peggy are in it together. However, Gwen’s plan has misfired a bit as she thought the jeweller would call her parents instead of the police, and as there has been no sale she has no money to pay Peggy with. So Gwen gives Peggy her Post Office savings instead, on condition that Peggy disappears without telling on her. The police find out about Peggy running off, which does make her look guilty, and Peggy can’t be questioned over the matter. Things now look even blacker for Rona.

Rona 5

Gwen has been keeping the items she stole from school in her Box of Secrets. She gloats over them, thinking she won’t have a foster sister much longer. But the police start a search for the stolen items at the Marchants’ home before Gwen realised what they were looking for. This means she did not get the chance to plant them on Rona; they are still in the Box of Secrets. The police find the box and insist on taking a look inside. Gwen tries to stop them by throwing the key out the window, but Dad gets his toolbox to force it open (can’t the police pick the lock?). They find not only the stolen items but also Gwen’s diary – which has all the details of her scheming against Rona and consorting with Peggy.

Rona panel 3

The subsequent fates of Peggy and Gwen are not recorded. Presumably they include expulsion and criminal charges.

The Marchants hope Rona will still stay with them, but she declines because she would never be able to forget what Gwen did. So Gwen does succeed in getting rid of Rona, who goes to stay with Miss Gregory while a new start is worked out. Then a letter arrives from Sunnyhills, which says Rona’s name has been cleared as another girl has confessed to the crime she was convicted of (rather belated, as it is two years after the event). Rona is free to return to Sunnyhills, and is thrilled to do so. When she arrives she gets a huge welcome from all the other children in the home.

Thoughts

Stories of spiteful girls who play dirty tricks to get rid of a foster girl/cousin because they are jealous, resentful or don’t want to share have been churned out in quantity at DCT. Examples include “The Dark Secret of Blind Bettina/The Lying Eyes of Linda Lee” (Mandy), “What Lila Wants…” (M&J) and “Sharing with Sonia” (Bunty).

It is unusual, though, to combine the “spiteful foster sister/cousin” premise with the blackmailer premise. Rona has not just one but two enemies working against her – one to get rid of her and one to blackmail her. And then they combine forces against her! Having both a schemer and a blackmailer against Rona puts her through far more than what a protagonist would usually go through with either premise. Added to that, Rona has had a hard time for two years, what with being wrongly convicted and then being bullied over it, which nearly gets her unfairly expelled at her old school – more injustice! Throwing the wrongful conviction premise into the mix as well certainly makes the story a far more gripping one than it would be if it was just a routine “spiteful stepsister/cousin” story.

Rona

The matron and the headmistress at Rona’s old locality must take some of the blame Rona’s “rebellious” behaviour for handling the situation badly and not taking action to stop the bullying that provokes it. Matron knows about it, but just gives Rona unhelpful advice. She does not speak up for Rona at the school and tell the headmistress to sort out the bullies. But at least the decision to get Rona away from it all in foster care was an inspired one, and would have worked out brilliantly if it hadn’t been for Gwen and Peggy. It is a bit strange that Rona stands up to the bullies at school (albeit in an aggressive manner that gets her into constant trouble) but does not stand up to Peggy at all. When Rona is caught with the jewels, she does not even try to explain about the blackmail to Miss Gregory, who knows what Peggy is like because she is on her case files.

The Marchant parents must take some of the blame for Gwen’s resentment of Rona. The fact that Gwen felt they foisted Rona onto her does suggest they did not consult Gwen or consider her feelings as much as they could have. And having Gwen tell everyone at school that Rona is her cousin from Canada is totally unfair, because that is asking both her and Rona to live a lie. And how long would it be before someone sees through that lie anyway? Surely it would have been quite sufficient and honest enough to just say that Rona is a foster sister.

Rona 6

But the fact remains that Gwen was not only spiteful but hypocritical too. She secretly riles against having a “thief” for a foster sister, yet she becomes a thief herself in her scheming against Rona, consorts with a criminal, and has no compunction or guilt about it. When she is caught out, she merely looks furious. There are no tears or shame at all. So it is not surprising and completely realistic that Rona chooses not to stay after she discovers Gwen’s plotting. So many “spiteful stepsister/cousin” stories have ended with the troublemaker being glibly forgiven and becoming best friends with the girl she tried to get rid of (e.g. Mandy’s “That Bad Bettina!”). Still, those were cases where the troublemaker did repent, whereas Gwen did not.

The sudden confession from the true thief at the end comes across as a bit contrived and too convenient. It has been two years since the crime and the thief did nothing to clear Rona in all that time – but now, all of a sudden, she does. Still, we must have a happy ending all round.

 

Changing Places

  • Changing Places–  Bunty:  #1806 (22 August 1992) – #1820 (28 November 1992)
  • Reprinted: Bunty #2210 (20 May 2000) – #2224 (26 August 2000)

Plot

Lady Anne Bannerman meets Anne Brown on the train to her new boarding school. The two hit it off so when Brown suggests that for a laugh they could switch places for a little bit as they have similar names Bannerman agrees. Soon Bannerman isn’t happy when she hears Brown getting people to call her Lady Anne. She confronts Brown telling her its time to reveal the truth but Brown is not going to switch back as she knows Bannerman’s secret.  Anne’s brother was fired on accusations of being a thief and her family paid off employees to keep it hidden. So Bannerman is blackmailed into keeping quiet.

changing places 2

Not only does Brown use the Lady title to her benefit, she also makes Bannermans life difficult, she makes her give her all her money, copies her work and she doesn’t want her having any friends. She isn’t happy when Bannerman becomes friendly with scholarship girl Eileen. She forces Bannerman to blow her off. Of course all the girls think Bannerman is a snob trying to stay close with a “Lady”.   Other than two girls Lucille and Myrna, everyone is fed up of “Lady Anne’s” boasting

Other than dealing with Brown’s nastiness, Bannerman has to figure out  how to stop people finding out the truth when problems arise. Such as when her Great-Aunt decides to visit, she has to meet her outside the school, or when Anne Brown’s parents visit and she has to hide in the bushes until Brown comes back. Another close encounter is on a school trip when Bannerman runs into old classmates. She introduces them to Anne Brown so when classmates see Brown waving them off as well as Bannerman they just think Bannerman is sucking up except for Eileen who is suspicious. She is not ready to give up on Bannerman as she finds her quite the different person on the hockey field and thinks there is something up with Brown and Bannermans friendship. Brown decides Eileen is getting too close and frames her for stealing a bracelet so she gets suspended.

changing places 3

Even when Bannerman gets a chance to go home she doesn’t get a break as Brown forces her to invite her along. Although her parents aren’t fooled by Brown’s compliments and wonder why their Anne is friends with her. Things get worse for Bannerman as she is sent to coventry . Meanwhile Brown isn’t happy when during a charity run Lucille and Myrna tells a photographer from the local newspaper that Brown is a lady. Bannerman tells her not to worry nobody will know her locally. It seems she’s wrong as a friend of Jamie, her brother sees the paper and sends a clipping to him. Jamie arrives in time to overhear Brown trying to blackmail his sister into stealing things.  They’ve attracted a crowd from the school so Brown spitefully tells them that Jamie is a thief, but he corrects her as he was cleared of all charges that morning. Brown is expelled and Anne is able to tell the head about Eileen being set up and let’s Lucille and Myrna she isn’t interested and having people like them as friends.

changing places 1

Thoughts

A common trope of a girl being blackmailed in order to protect their family,   The Honourable S.J., Sandra’s Sad Secret, Be Nice to Nancy and others follow this theme. There are a few differences in this story though. Anne Brown is similar to S.J. in personality but she is not a wealthy person using her influential powers to get her on way and take advantage of those with less than her. Instead it is the person with money, Anne Bannerman that is trying to protect her family. Another difference is that they’ve switched identities so not only does Bannerman have to do what Brown says she can’t even be herself. Being tricked into being someone else has appeared elsewhere often more in a historical context such as The Imposter. Still a combination of things make this story work well even if it’s not doing a lot of new things.

Obviously Brown hasn’t thought of a long term plan or problems that arise from being someone else. In one instance a teacher finds their work is copied off each other, Brown tells Bannerman she can take the blame, but she points out that will go on Brown’s report card. So Bannerman is able to come on up on top in that instance. Bannerman does try to look out for other pupils such as when flowers are going to be presented to a duchess, she lies to Brown saying she knows her and that Brown will have to hide while a young pupil gets to give the flowers to her instead.

changing places 4

Bannerman’s parents seem like nice people so it’s surprising that Anne didn’t confide in them but considering how they handled Jamie’s accusations maybe they wouldn’t have been the best! I can understand they felt they were helping covering up for Jamie and didn’t want to risk the family reputation but it made him look guilty and like they didn’t trust him.

It’s quite lengthy at 15 episodes, and can be formulaic in that a situation comes up where the girl’s true identity may be discovered, Bannerman is reminded of her family problems and Brown gets money/work from Bannerman. But it’s nicely done, the art is good, everyone having distinct looks and it is well paced.

The Nine Lives of Kitty Foster

  • The Nine Lives of Kitty Foster – Spellbound: #61 (19 Nov 1977) – #69 (14 Jan 1978)
  • Art: Carlos Freixas

Plot

In a small town in Mid West America, people gather to watch daredevil motorcycle stunt rider Damon Demon. Among the crowd is Sue Graines a reporter who wants to get a story on Damon. He isn’t too pleased when she says she would like to talk to his assistant too and quickly gets rid of her. The reason for this is his assistant, Kitty Foster, is actually the stunt rider, she performs the stunts then hides while Damon drives out afterwards to take all the glory. Sue is still eager to get a story tries to talk to Kitty, but she is even less welcoming than Damon was. The pair move on with Damon Demon wanting to try out new more dangerous stunts to draw a crowd. Sue wants to investigate further because she is suspicious that they are hiding secrets.

nine lives of kitty foster 1

Not only does Kitty perform all the stunts, but she also does all the work in the background too. He is clearly blackmailing her, but what secrets he holds over her is not clear. In the caravan, Kitty cries herself to sleep, under a photo of her parents, wishing they were still alive. The newest stunt Damon wants  Kitty to try is driving through a van at exactly the right spot. During the stunt, a dog runs out and Kitty is injured but manages to keep their secret. Damon keeps increasing the risks for more spectacular stunts, he wants the next stunt to involve fire. Kitty has enough and tries to run away but Damon catches her. Sue finds Kitty practicing stunts and she tells Sue that Damon was just teaching her, but Sue isn’t convinced. Damon then draws media attention by saying he will jump a narrow part of the grand canyon.

Meanwhile Sue has been continuing to investigate, discovering that Damon is actually Ken Grabe who used to be a mechanic for the Fosters. He robbed a bank and was injured in a van accident that killed Kitty’s parents. His alibi was he was fixing the brakes at the time of the robbery. He actually was uninjured in the accident but hurt himself when he climbed back down the rocks after hiding the loot. He then fixed the brakes securing his alibi. He told Kitty, her father was the thief and that he was injured because of her father. So Kitty has been helping him out of guilt and wanting to keep her father’s secret. At the same time she is terrified by the new stunt she is meant to do, even with the parachute she knows she could get caught on the rocks. Just before the big event Sue tells her the truth about Ken and her parents. When Damon Demon tells her to get out there and do the stunt she tells him he no longer has any hold over her and to do the stunt himself.  He does just that driving off angrily and not even taking the safety precautions like the parachute and ends up falling to his death. Kitty is upset but Sue encourages her to start a new life and she can stay with her during school holidays.

nine lives of Kitty 3

Thoughts

There are familiar themes  in this story, a girl being blackmailed and exploited in order to keep a criminal secret and pretending to be someone else for entertainment purposes (i.e. The Double Life of Dolly Brown). Unlike Dolly Brown this is in modern setting and there is no amnesia plot. Kitty Foster is also engaging in a very dangerous, life threatening activity. Damon Demon makes her think that the accident that scarred his face and injured his leg was her father’s fault, and that her father was a criminal but risking your life to keep family honour seems senseless.  It could have been more interesting if her father was partner in crime with Ken and Kitty learned she was not responsible for her family’s mistakes, but there is a tendency for morals to be more black and white in these stories.

nine lives of kitty 4

I like the title of the story obviously the name Kitty being a play on cat and the nine lives is appropriate as the stunts get more dangerous and she even ends up injuring herself a few times, even catching on fire! There is a sense of danger as she drives through fire tunnels and even over an open cage of lions, the reader is unsure if the next stunt could seriously injure her or worse. The art by Carlos Freixas captures these stunts brilliantly. It’s an interesting choice having a girl doing such a sport that may be more associated a man, and motorcycle stunts isn’t something we see in these comics usually so that makes it stand out from other stories. The only other example I can think of is Bunty’s “Bike Rider” but in that series the bike itself was a computerised super bike. In both of those stories onlookers assume it is a male doing the tricks!

As readers we want to see Kitty escape this hard life, and the uncaring, shady Damon Demon. We also root for Sue in her investigation, as she hunts down clues and pieces things together. The stunts, the risk, the mystery, Sue’s search for the truth all keep the story interesting and I even liked some parts of the reveal  but the only letdown like I mentioned before is Kitty paying off a family debt as motivation for risking her life is weak,  but Damon Demon’s grim ending does make it a good climax and ends the story on high note.

nine lives of kitty

Debbie’s Diary

Plot

When Debbie King’s family move house, she forgets to take her diary. Debbie is anxious to get her diary back as it contains some compromising entries about pretend dates. Debbie makes friends with Melanie Ward, who has moved into her house, hoping Melanie will help her get her diary back. But when Melanie finds out what Debbie wants, she starts blackmailing her.

debbiediary

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • Debbie’s Diary –  Bunty: – #2079 (15 November 1997) – #2087 (10 January 1998)

Sonia’s Secret

Plot

Sonia Grenville’s father is wrongly struck off the medical register. When Sonia starts at a new school she confides in Rachel Andrews, thinking she can trust her. Too late, Sonia finds out her trust is misplaced – Rachel is a gossip and troublemaker who starts blackmailing Sonia into being her ‘friend’. This makes Sonia unpopular with her classmates.

Notes

  • Artist: Eduardo Feito

Appeared

  • Sonia’s Secret –  Bunty:  circa #1975 (18 November 1995) – (?)

Remember – You’re My Sister!

Plot

Rose Carlton was adopted at the age of four and has a comfortable life with her adopted parents. But Rose wishes she could find her sister, who had gone with relatives when the natural parents died and they could not take Rose as well. When sneaky Iris Smith finds out, she pretends to be that lost sister to take advantage of Rose and the good life she has.

Sister

Notes

  • Artist: Andrew Wilson

Appeared

  • Remember – You’re My Sister! –  Mandy: #982 (9 November 1985) – (?)

 

April Fool

Plot:

April Matthews is being blackmailed into taking second fiddle to Shirley Kingsley and being her slave so Shirley can be the star of the school. The blackmail is that Shirley’s father is threatening to withdraw his loan that the Matthews family need for the treatment to save the sight of April’s sister Tina. The blackmail has April being labelled “April Fool”.

April

Notes:

  • Writer: Maureen Hartley

Appeared:

  • April Fool –  Mandy:  #959 (1 June 1985) – #975 (21 September 1985)

 

The Truth about Sandy Starr

Plot

Stand-in Sandy Starr arranges an “accident” for Dina Dean, the star of a new film. But then Sandy finds her crime is bringing its own punishment. Her accomplice Sibylla starts blackmailing her, she is getting threatening anonymous letters, and then Dina’s brother and mother discover Sandy and Sibylla were responsible for her accident.

Starr

Notes

  • Artist: Julio Bosch?

Appeared

  • The Truth about Sandy Starr –  #700 (14 June 1980) – #711 (30 August 1980)

 

Slave of the Top Twenty

Plot

Andrina Faye is Britain’s top girl pop star and her records all hit the Top Twenty. But this is because Mr Faye is blackmailing Jill Summers into using her voice for the recordings by threatening to get Mr Summers sent to prison for embezzling. Then Jill discovers that Mr Faye framed her father.

Twenty

Notes

  • Artist: Tony Thewenetti

Appeared

  • Slave of the Top Twenty –  Mandy:  #471 (24 Jan. 1976) – #481 (03 Apr. 1976)