Tag Archives: David Matysiak

The Strange Tale of Sara’s Snap Encounter

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

Plot

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

The Search for Kitty’s Cat [1984]

Published: Debbie Picture Story Library #71

Artist: David Matysiak

Writer: Unknown

Plot

After nearly two years of saving, Jane Bright finally buys her new bike. Then her younger sister Kitty is involved in a road accident, which causes her beloved cat Cleo to disappear. When Kitty comes home, she reacts badly to Cleo’s disappearance and begins to pine, which makes her fragile condition worsen. This makes it all the more urgent to find Cleo.

The family can’t find Cleo anywhere in the neighbourhood. Inspired by an ad about a lost pet and reward for its return, Jane puts up her own ads for Cleo. As Jane has no money for the reward and does not want to bother her parents about it, she decides to sacrifice her new bike as the reward. This creates an additional difficulty as Kitty is looking forward to riding the new bike when she recovers. Now it has looks like Cleo or the bike.

The ad brings some people over with cats, but not one is Cleo. Among them are two kids who will try an even sneakier trick to get the bike later on. Door-to-door inquiries turn up nothing. Jane finds the police search only for lost dogs, not cats, so no luck at the police station.

The family see a cat food ad with a cat that looks like Cleo, and Kitty says they must have stolen her to make the ad. Inquiries reveal the ad was made three months previously (er, doesn’t that rule out Cleo as the cat?). When Jane checks out the ad agency they scare her off with their snake, a handy method they use to get rid of unwanted guests.

They try a newspaper ad. A reporter turns it into a human issue story of Jane having saved so hard for her new bike and then willing to give it up to find Cleo. It goes out in the newspaper and on the radio to tug at people’s heartstrings.

But while searching for Cleo, Jane’s bike gets stolen. Now she has no reward at all. While the bike is missing, the two aforementioned kids try to con Jane out of the bike by giving her a cat they’ve painted up to look like Cleo. Too bad for them they forgot to let the paint dry first!

Then Jane spots a man she spoke to just before her bike was stolen. She follows him to a scrap yard and finds him with a bike that looks like hers, and he’s about to respray it. Jane calls the police, and they find not only the stolen bike but also other stolen items, including stolen pedigree cats (no Cleo, though). The man is taken into custody and Jane gets her bike back.

When Jane gets home, she discovers Cleo had been under her nose – well, in the airing cupboard – the whole time. Cleo had just gone off to have kittens. Kitty is thrilled and is now on the mend.

Thoughts

This is a solid story that a lot of us who have had to look for lost pets (including me) can relate to. The sense of urgency – that a girl’s life depends on finding the pet – has appeared elsewhere in girls’ comics and has created popular animal stories. It’s also got some dashes of humour, such as the ad agent with the snake and Jane landing in the garden pond while calling Cleo. It also has a pathos that tugs at our heart strings as we read that Jane had slogged and saved for nearly two years to buy her bicycle, yet she’s prepared to give it up because she has nothing else to reward the person who finds Cleo with. We sincerely hope that Jane won’t have to give up the bike and Cleo will just walk in the door or something.

Jane’s self-sacrifice is an emotional contrast to the unscrupulous people who turn up in the story, namely the cheating kids and the thief. Although we see many people moved by the radio broadcast nobody comes forward with real help. Eventually we learn that is because Cleo is still at home, keeping herself in a quiet place while she has her kittens. So it all turns out happily, with the added bonus of joy of the kittens.

It is a bit unbelievable that nobody realised Cleo was pregnant, although she must have been about ready to give birth when she disappeared. It might have been better plotting to just have the cat come back.

Rosie at Thorndale Hall [1983]

Thorndale Hall cover

Published: Judy Picture Library #240 [1983]

Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #400 [1993]

Artist: David Matysiak

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Rosie Cooper is not a popular girl at Meadowdale Hall School. She is an extremely gifted girl who excels at everything, but she is spoiled and selfish and never helps anyone or shares her skills. Even the staff find her unbearable, but don’t speak out because her father is the chairman of the board of governors and her family have old ties with the school. For this reason the staff give her favourable treatment and bend a lot of rules for her.

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Then prefect Kay Easton decides enough is enough. She orders Rosie to clean out a lumber room and won’t have any of Rosie’s threats of what she could do because her father’s position. Rosie realises she has met her match in Kay and grudgingly starts cleaning.

While cleaning the room, Rosie stumbles across a picture of what looks like the school in its early days, but under a different name: Thorndale Hall. Rosie gets a strange feeling the picture means something to her, and it’s creepy.

It’s creepy all right: next moment the picture vanishes, and everything starts spinning and dissolving. When it stops, Rosie finds the school has changed and so have her clothes: “what coarse old rubbish”. A fearsome-looking Victorian woman named Mrs Grimm (the Thorndale headmistress) appears and demands to know why Rosie hasn’t scrubbed the floor. Rosie’s arrogance resurfaces, making her usual threats about her father being the chairman of the governors. Thinking Rosie has lost her mind or something, Grimm and her assistant, Trimlett, inform her that she is an orphan who is boarding at Thorndale Hall, all paid by her “scapegrace [wayward] guardian”. Grimm and Trimlett make it very clear that they are capable of handling Rosie with extreme cruelty; Trimlett has already broken one girl’s arm. Later we learn Trimlett’s punishments killed another girl. Cowed and bewildered, Rosie is forced to scrub the floor, realising she has somehow gone back in time to Thorndale Hall, which is clearly run on the lines of Wackford Squeers.

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In the dining hall Rosie is introduced to another cruel assistant, Mr Bludge, who wants her to help with very substandard and meagre portions for the pupils. It is here that Rosie begins to find that she is no longer quite so good at everything. She clumsily breaks the jar of dripping and in punishment is given just dry bread. One girl, Lucy Dawlish, takes pity on her, and Rosie makes a friend for the first time in this story.

That night Rosie tries to run away, but finds there is a guard dog, which raises the alarm. Bludge almost catches her, but Lucy creates a diversion by screaming and feigning night horrors. This enables Rosie to slip back without being caught, but the cruel staff say Lucy’s nightmares are due to too much food and don’t let her have any breakfast. (Any excuse to make them go short, obviously.) Rosie tries to slip Lucy her own food, but Trimlett catches her.

Pupils are forced to do all the work around the school. There are lessons, but Rosie is in for a shocking surprise in class – she is no longer able to read! Grimm calls her a “useless slut”, but instead of teaching Rosie to read she puts Rosie back to more menial work, saying that’s all she’s good for. (Another excuse for more slave labour, obviously.)

Rosie still wants to escape, and realises the first step is to make friends with the guard dog. So she takes scraps from the larder to feed to the dog. Lucy envies the dog for getting more food than they do, but it does the trick: in a matter of days the dog no longer barks at Rosie.

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However, when Rosie gets too close to a room with blacked-out windows while window cleaning, Bludge acts like this has spooked him and he rants at her. This arouses Rosie’s suspicions. She gets even more suspicious when she finds the door to the grimy window room is always locked. Grimm and Trimlett also go into a rant when they catch Rosie at the door, which makes her even more suspicious. The cruel staff are getting suspicious of Rosie and are watching her closely.

Rosie and Lucy now try their escape. As they do so, they are surprised to see a horse trap arrive with two men, who carry a box into the school. The dog does not bark at them, so it must know them. The girls take advantage of the men leaving the gate unlocked to make their escape.

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They find a Peeler, but he does not believe their story and brings them back to Thorndale Hall. He tells the staff that he will call back to check in a week or so, which makes the staff too scared to punish the girls. Instead they tread a cautious line of better treatment for the girls (such as more food for the pupils) until they are sure things are safe again. But Rosie senses they are in danger because the staff suspect they saw the men and there are signs the staff are wary, such as the dog being moved closer to the grimy windowed room. Rosie keeps watch for the men and sees them creeping around the room with the box, and then somehow reappear without it. She realises there must be a secret entrance that is concealed by greenery.

Rosie does not realise the men saw her spying. When the staff hear about it, they decide to advance their plans to do away with Rosie and Lucy. Rosie is listening at the door (and narrowly escapes being caught doing so) and realises they must escape. But in view of what happened before, they must go with some form of evidence so the Peelers will listen this time.

So Rosie heads to the secret room for some. When she pulls back the greenery she finds a small hidden door and a silver medallion. Hearing footsteps, Rosie hides with the medallion in time – but not in time to put the greenery back. Bludge sees it has been moved and is now alerted, which means Rosie and Lucy have to make an instant escape. They do so, but Grimm sends Bludge and Trimlett out to find and silence them, or it will be Newgate Prison for all of them.

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Trimlett and Bludge do catch up with the girls, but the Peelers catch them red-handed and arrest them. The Peelers explain they half-believed the girls because it tied in with other things they had observed, such as the two men, but they had to wait until they had checked things out.

At the school, the Peelers force Grimm to open the door to the secret room, which reveals a counterfeiting operation that forges coins with stolen silver. Grimm feigns innocence, but she goes wild when Rosie furiously counters with the truth. Grimm locks the Peelers in the room and then goes after Rosie with a poker. She is almost upon Rosie, but then everything starts spinning and dissolving again…

Rosie now finds herself back in her own time, and in her own clothes. Kay gives Rosie full marks for her excellent cleanup of the lumber room (how did it get cleaned up?). Rosie wonders if it was a dream, but when she checks the school records it corroborates everything she experienced at Thorndale Hall. The school was exposed, Grimm was imprisoned for theft and forgery, and her school closed down. Thorndale was exposed by…Rosie Cooper.

Rosie is at a loss to explain it. Was it a dream or what? But everyone is surprised and delighted at how Rosie has suddenly become a kind, friendly and helpful girl at the school. Rosie is now making friends and becoming popular.

Thoughts

This story could still stand on its own if it was just a straight out period piece of Rosie being a 19th century girl being put through the experiences of Thorndale Hall, bringing it down, and going on to become one of the founders of its more savoury successor, Meadowdale. After all, there must be some connection between Rosie Cooper exposing Thorndale Hall and the Coopers having long-standing connections with Meadowdale. However, that aspect is never explained. Instead we’ve got the added dimensions of a spoiled 20th century girl who needs a lesson and gets it at 19th century Thorndale, and a time travel element that nobody can understand or explain. This makes the story even more exciting, intriguing and mysterious than if it was just a group slave story set in a cruel and secretly criminal 19th century school.

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We have to wonder if the time travel creates some sort of paradox. Is 20th century Rosie the same Rosie who exposed Thorndale Hall in the past and (presumably) established her own ancestral connections to Meadowdale? Or is it some weird combination between 20th century Rosie and 19th century Rosie (as implied by retaining her 20th century memories yet becoming unable to read)? Or was 20th century Rosie somehow reliving the experiences of 19th century Rosie while still retaining a portion of her own consciousness? Or was it some supernatural power reaching out to punish Rosie for her arrogance? It is stretching credibility to say the whole thing was in Rosie’s imagination.

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The villains are predictably cruel Victorian people who run their school in a Squeersian style manner. But it’s not just to take advantage of girls for profit. The villains also using the school as a front for a secret counterfeiting ring. It would be interesting to know if they set up the school that way in the first place and they were criminals to begin with. We get a hint that this may be so when Grimm’s lessons suggest she does not care all that much about educating the girls. One-eyed Bludge does not give the impression he is the teaching sort either.

Matysiak’s artwork makes the villains really terrifying and the stuff of nightmares. For example, the close-up of the two mystery men (above) still keeps their faces indistinct. Their faces are rendered in an impressionist manner that makes them even more frightening than if their faces were shown clearly. In another panel (below), Grimm is made even more alarming by a stripe of dark highlighting that goes right down from her forehead to her collarbone.

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The artwork is a perfect fit for rendering this intriguing and powerful story. Matysiak’s artwork is brilliantly atmospheric in conveying the grimness of the school and its Victorian setting, the evil of the school staff, the covert operations at the school that provide the mystery that must be unravelled, and the supernatural time travel elements of the story. It’s done through ingenious applications of inking rather than linework or hatching. It produces real beauties, such as in the two panels mentioned above.

 

Katie Bright Keeping Mum Right! (1987)

katie-bright-cover

Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #286

Artists: David Matysiak (cover); Jaume (Jaime) Rumeu (story)

Plot
In the Bright household Dad is working overtime to save up for a washing machine. Mum decides to set about raising money to buy the family extras. The trouble is, she goes about it the wrong way. Instead of finding something she’s good at and developing it, she embarks on whatever scheme takes her fancy without proper research, thinking it through or considering if it is right for her. As a result Mum lands herself in a lot of scrapes and it’s up to her more sensible daughter Katie to sort them out.

First Mum sets up the garden shed for a mushroom farm. Katie is dubious because Mum has no experience in raising plants, but Mum expects such an abundance of mushrooms that she takes orders from greengrocers in advance. Talk about counting your chickens before they’re hatched: Mum’s mushroom crop is a complete failure, so Katie has to cover the orders with farm-bought mushrooms.

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Soon after, the washing machine finally arrives. Mum seems to be doing more washing than usual. Oh dear, is she taking in laundry for another money-making scheme? That’s what people come to think. Katie and Dad are a bit surprised when people offer them loans because they think the Brights are hard up. No, it turns out Mum was doing the extra laundry as a favour for some neighbours when their laundrette was unavailable.

However, Mum still hasn’t learned her lesson from the mushroom failure. She is now inspired to make and sell machine-knitted woollies, despite Katie’s warnings that such things are made by full-time professionals. She does not heed Katie’s advice to develop dressmaking (which she is brilliant at) as a money-making venture either. Katie can only hope Mum knew what she was doing with the machine-knitting. But of course she didn’t. She ends up giving refunds and gives up the machine knitting promptly.

A luxury lampshade company advertises for at-home people to make up lampshades they are outsourcing. Katie and Dad flash it under Mum’s nose, figuring it is foolproof. However, it is too simple and Mum grows bored with it. When she asks for more interesting work, the company’s response is teddy bear patterned lampshades – and the teddies have been printed upside-down! The Brights are not sorry when the company decides to give up its outsourcing and keep things onsite.

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Next, Mum turns to weeding gardens although she is so clueless about gardening Dad won’t let her work in the garden unsupervised. She figures anyone can weed. She does not understand you have to know the difference between a weed and a plant. So when Katie goes to check on the gardens she finds Mum has pulled out some plants by mistake. She replants them, but it turns out she planted them in the wrong garden because Mum threw them on the wrong compost pile. Fortunately the clients see the funny side, but they will be getting others to do their gardens. Still, one of the clients agrees to let Mum walk her dog instead.

So now it’s dog walking to make money. It seems straightforward this time, but Mum’s big ideas overcomplicate it. She bites off more than she can chew when she takes on other dogs as well and has to walk six at once! Not surprisingly, it’s wearing her out. Then she gets locked in the park because of all those dogs. Katie manages to find her and rouse the Parkie to let her out.

On the way back from this latest scrap they find the school drama club store on fire. Thanks to them the fire is put out in good time, but the costumes for the upcoming school play are ruined. Mums are called upon to make up replacements. Katie thinks this should suit Mum well as she is so good at dressmaking. After some persuasion Mum agrees, if Katie will take over walking the dogs. Then Katie is asked to replace one of the actresses in the play, and soon finds walking six dogs while learning her lines is too much.

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Fortunately Katie finds help in Ted Dawson, the brother of one of her classmates. Ted has no job, so he agrees to take over the dogs and receive the money while Katie learns her lines. Mum has no objections to the arrangement while she works on the costumes, but she will be taking the dogs over again eventually.

Then, just as the play is about to go on, the costumes get stolen. Mum put so much hard work into making them that the theft has her realise how much dressmaking means to her. Fortunately one of the new dogs Ted is walking is an ex-police dog. Ted uses him to sniff out the costumes, which got dumped in the old cottage at the back of the school. The costumes and play are saved.

Ted creates his own business walking dogs and Mum lets him keep walking her dogs. Word gets around about Mum’s work on the costumes and she soon finds herself with orders for more dresses. Now that Mum has finally settled upon a money-making scheme she can do right, Katie no longer needs to keep her right.

Thoughts

We now live in an age where work-from-home businesses have proliferated and work-from-home schemes are all over the Internet. So the concept of work from home in this story feels even more relevant now than it did when it was first published. Its message of exercising caution, proper research and good judgement in whatever you pursue to raise extra money is more acute now too, especially as there are so many scams out there and schemes where you earn very little money for a lot of hard work.

Fortunately Mum does not come up against any scams or underpaid work in this story. It’s just as well, because she is not exercising any serious research or thought into the various money-making schemes she tries out. Indeed, she does not give the impression she is showing much brains at all. It’s Katie who is showing the brains here. She can see the pitfalls Mum is creating for herself with her various schemes (for example, choosing ventures that she has no talent or experience for), which cause embarrassment and make her lose money instead of raising it. Katie can also see where Mum can really make money: dressmaking. It’s not just because Mum has the talent for it but also because there will be a niche for it as there are not many dressmakers in town. Yet Mum just won’t pursue dressmaking as a money-making business as she does not seem to have the interest.

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The story is not all about Mum’s money-making schemes. For example, the extra laundry Mum takes on is a favour, not a money-making scheme. And the focus of the story shifts more to Katie as she tries to walk the dogs while learning her lines. It makes the pace of the story more even, which is good. It also gives more leeway to developing other characters more, such as Ted Dawson.

Some good things do come out of Mum’s disasters. For example, if Mum and the dogs had not got locked in the park, she and Katie would not have seen the fire at school and raised the alarm in time. The damage would have been so much worse. Mum’s dog-walking also leads to the unemployed Ted Dawson to develop his own employment in walking dogs.

All the same, the consequences of Mum’s ill-conceived money-making schemes could have been worse if not for Katie helping to make everything right. It’s a relief all around when Katie no longer needs to keep her Mum right all the time.

 

 

“Ma Budge’s Drudge!” (1987)

Ma Budges Drudge cover

Judy Picture Library: #286

Published: 1987

Artist: David Matysiak

Plot

In World War II, Jill Durrell has just completed training in the Land Army, which consists of girls who work on farms in the place of men who have gone to fight. Now it is time for the girls to be sent on their various farming assignments.

The girls are expected to go where they are sent, but the instructor does not want to give anyone the assignment from Mrs Budge: “Mrs Budge works single-handed on a smallholding with neither electricity nor running water, situated at the back of beyond. She’s a cantankerous, demanding, slave-driver, and no girl has ever stayed there more than a week!” He cannot believe his ears when Jill insists on volunteering for Mrs Budge’s assignment.

Jill arrives exhausted and hungry because Mrs Budge could not be there to meet her at the station at Geronwy Junction. Mrs Budge is not impressed to see the replacement for her farmhand Owen (who is in the catering corps) because Jill looks too small and not strong enough. Jill begs to be given a chance, so Mrs Budge has her prove it by preparing the stall for a newborn calf. Jill is tired and hungry, but completes the job because she is a stubborn girl. Later, she tells Mrs Budge that she won’t leave on the next train leaving Geronwy Junction.

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And Jill doesn’t, despite how tough it is working for Mrs Budge. Mrs Budge is not only the cantankerous slave driver the instructor warned her about, but also insists on doing everything the hard, traditional, old-fashioned way: hand scythes and sickles, hand water pumps, doing laundry in copper boilers, oil lamps, candles etc. “They were good enough for my great grandfather when he bought this farm, and they’re good enough for me, now!” She won’t have a bar of modernisation, modern farming methods, or any other labour saving devices. She won’t even have electricity or running water. She throws a fit when she sees Jill borrowing a combine harvester from a neighbour, Mr Wheldon, and only agrees to let Jill keep her job on condition she complete the haying her way – the old-fashioned way. The same obstinacy also extends to medicine; she doles out her own homemade potions and she won’t call in doctors or vets. On Mr Wheldon’s farm, Mrs Budge has a reputation for running her farm in the “dark ages” because she is too mean and tight-fisted to modernise. Mr Wheldon has his own team of land girls, who call Jill “Ma Budge’s drudge” (hence the title of the story), but they are friendly with her.

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Jill, however, is under the impression that Mrs Budge sticks to the old ways out of pride rather than miserliness – that and just plain stubbornness. Throughout the story, Jill is appalled and exasperated at how stubborn Mrs Budge is, and Jill is pig-headed herself. For example, when Mrs Budge sprains her ankle, she won’t listen to Jill’s urgings to call in a doctor: “Why waste money when a swollen ankle will heal in its own good time?” Nor does she take it easy because of her swollen ankle; she turns to jobs that she can do while sitting down. When fully able-bodied, Mrs Budge works even harder than Jill, and she works Jill far harder than necessary because of her insistence on old-fashioned ways. And Jill notes Mrs Budge never has a word of praise for her; she treats Jill in a grumpy fashion, especially when Jill doesn’t quite come up to the mark at times.

But Jill refuses to leave Mrs Budge, and nobody can understand why. The neighbouring farmer thinks she is a “rum ‘un” for declining his offer to leave the drudgery of Mrs Budge and join his own team. At times, Jill herself is tempted to walk out on Mrs Budge – except for… but she doesn’t reveal what. Even Mrs Budge asks why, and Jill replies: “Some day, I’ll tell you. I-I’m afraid the time hasn’t come yet, though.”

The time comes when two letters arrive. The first, for Mrs Budge, says her old farmhand Owen is being invalidated out of the catering corps. He will now be returning to the farm, so there is no further need for Jill. Jill is dismayed that she is leaving, but the second letter, for her, puts her mind at rest. It says that her father has been released from a Japanese POW camp. Jill then explains to Mrs Budge that when her father was captured, she made a bargain with herself to find the toughest job she could find as a land girl. She believed that if she did not quit, her father would keep fighting to survive as well. “Dad and I are two of a kind, you see. Not very big or very strong, but plenty pig-headed!”

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Mrs Budge finds it a bit of a cheek that Jill used her farm for a substitute prison camp. But she decides to take it in good part because she realises she got the best of the bargain. They hold a celebratory toast together.

Thoughts

It is refreshing to see a World War II story tackle the subject of Land Girls, something that doesn’t get much attention in girls’ comics. More often, their WW2 stories deal with female soldiers, resistance fighters, fugitives, evacuees and war orphans.

The moment we see the cover, we expect to be geared up for a story where a cruel slave driver works a poor hapless Land Girl to the bone. So, along with everyone else, we are taken aback when Jill volunteers for the Budge assignment while already knowing what she is getting into (unlike a lot of unsuspecting heroines who discover too late that they have ended up with an abusive slave driver). And we also have to wonder why Jill won’t quit her job as she learns just how tough and gruelling it is. When we find out why – to parallel with her father’s suffering and struggle for survival in a Japanese prison camp – we have to applaud, but do we laugh or cry about it as well?

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When we see Mrs Budge on the cover, we expect her to be a cruel, slave driving abuser, like countless other villains that have appeared in girls comics, such as Gert and Jed Barlow from Tammy’s “Bella”. So it is a surprise and delight to see that once we (and Jill) get to know Mrs Budge better, we find she is a more complex, layered character who is difficult but not totally unlikeable, and she is not a cardboard villain. There is no denying that she is cantankerous, demanding and slave driving, and she makes it all the harder by clinging to old-fashioned methods and eschewing modernisation. It is easy to see why no Land Girl had stayed with her more than a week until Jill volunteered. We also have to wonder why Owen the farmhand stayed on with her until the catering corps called him up. But she only demands of them the same thing that she does herself, and Jill admits that Mrs Budge works even harder than herself. Mrs Budge makes no allowances for herself either; when she sprains her ankle, she insists on carrying on. And when the accident happens, she insists that Jill do the milking than tend to her: “Leave me be! The milking’s more important than I am!”

The story is also a clash of wills between two people who are both pig-headed; Mrs Budge in her obstinacy about clinging to traditional ways and Jill in her obstinacy to stay, despite how tough it is. It is hard to say who was a match for the other in stubbornness, but we are all rooting for Jill’s stubbornness to win out against Mrs Budge. And it does, because Jill’s tenacity was motivated by love for her father while Mrs Budge’s stubbornness was motivated by pride and extreme conservatism (and perhaps fear of change and new technology).

Drudge 5

There is a dash of eccentricity about Mrs Budge’s obstinacy and stick-in-the mud ways that gives her a touch of humour. For example, she always wears the same raincoat, regardless of the weather. And while she always seems to be a grouch, signs of her having a heart do slip through. One of the most touching is when Mrs Budge tends to Jill when she burns her arm on the steam thresher: “Girl, girl – I wouldn’t have had you hurt, not for all the world.” Jill is really astonished at this tender remark after having endured Mrs Budge’s grumpiness with never a single word of praise. And when Mrs Budge find out why Jill stuck out at her job, she really does show that she is a human being: “Fancy using my farm as a substitute prison camp. There’s cheek for you! Still, I reckon we ought to celebrate – because to my way of thinking, I was the one who got the best of the bargain!” We see that Mrs Budge has come a long way from first dismissing Jill as “a tiddler” and setting her extra-tough tests to drive her off to liking and respecting her, and appreciating Jill’s work on the farm after all. We get the impression that Mrs Budge is really going to miss Jill when she goes.

Callous Cassie

Plot:

Cassie Brown is a teacher at Morley Grange School, which is run by the cruel and hated Miss Pike. Cassie is just as much hated by the pupils and nicknamed “Callous Cassie”. They do not know Cassie is only pretending to be cruel in order to secretly help them against Miss Pike.

Cassie

Notes:

  • Artist: David Matysiak

Appeared:

  • Callous Cassie Nikki:  #14 (25 May 1985) – #27 (24 August 1985).

Flower Story

Plot

Complete stories from the Flower Story Series. Including:

The Lady of the Daisies

Flower: Daisy

The Queen of Belrovia is a harsh ruler and banishes a girl called Delza for making a daisy chain, which the Queen deems a form of idleness. A witch punishes the Queen with a curse that causes nothing but daisies to grow in summer, but even this does not move the Queen to change her mind about Delza. But then the daisies come in useful when enemies invade. They mistake the daisies for snow in summer and retreat, fearing the land is bewitched.  The Queen finally relents and gives Delza the title of Lady of the Daisies.

Daisy 2

Five Flowers for Fleur

Flower: Dandelion. The pansy, rose, orchid (imitation) and unknown tropical flower (possibly stinking corpse lily) that gives off a terrible stench when it opens also feature.

Four princes claim the hand of Princess Fleur. To decide her groom, she tells them to bring a flower they think is worthy of her and she will cherish. All four fail the test because their choices reflect how unsuitable they are. But then there is a surprise fifth gift of flowers for Fleur, from Hugo-of-the-Great-City. Not realising she is a princess, he offers her a bouquet of dandelions, which he says matches her hair. Fleur realises that it is not so much the flower but the thought behind it and comes to cherish the “humble dandelion as a symbol of love and compassion, and virtues of a true and noble prince and worthy lord for his princess.” Hugo and Fleur are married, much to the consternation of the four failed princes.

Fleur

The Legend of the Water Lily

Flower: Water lily

In ancient China, Lily-Blossom and her family are devoted to gardening. Lily’s brother Lin is called up for war. Lily is distraught as she has no idea if Lin will return. She consults a fortune-teller, who says that if her brother will live, she will receive a sign. The sign will be a strange lily, unlike any other, that will bloom in the garden Lin made for her. As time goes by, there is no sign of the strange lily, and the family begins to doubt it will appear. Lily keeps weeping by the pool Lin constructed in the garden. But then she is surprised when something starts growing in the pool. It is the water lily, and it is the strange lily in question. Lily’s parents say the lily is an enchanted flower that grew from the tears Lily shed into the pool. Lin returns a year later and gets married beside a pool full of water lilies.

Water Lily

The Happiness Plant

Flower: unknown, but is dubbed “the Happiness Plant”

In the year 1900, Maggy Mayce becomes intrigued by the devotion Miss Bird gives to her plant, although she does not know its proper name. They strike a friendship, with Maggy calling in on her way to work to see Mrs Bird and her plant. But then Miss Bird’s nephew takes her away and Maggy has no address to follow up. Miss Bird has left Maggy the plant, which Maggy cherishes by the window, as Miss Bird had done. Then Maggy loses her job and cannot find another. She is just about at the end of the line when Miss Bird arrives. She had tracked Maggy down through the plant. Realising Maggy’s plight, Miss Bird offers her a job as a companion, and Maggy is happy to accept. She dubs the unknown plant “the Happiness Plant”.

Happiness Plant

Notes

  • Artist: David Matysiak (The Lady of the Daisies)
  • Artist: Jesus Redondo (Five Flowers for Fleur)
  • Artist: Giorgio Giorgetti (The Legend of the Water Lily)
  • Artist: Terry Aspin (The Flowers of Hope)
  • Artist: Maria Barrera (The Happiness Plant)

Appeared

  • The Lady of the Daisies –  Debbie: #155 (31 January 1975)
  • Five Flowers for Fleur –  Debbie: #156 (07 February 1976)
  • Flowers in the Rain – Debbie: #157 (14 February 1976)
  • Rosemary for Remembrance –  Debbie: #158 (21 February 1976)
  • The Tell-Tale Blossoms – Debbie: #159 (28 February 1976)
  • The Legend of the Water Lily –  Debbie: #161 (13 March 1976)
  • Angie and the Red Rose –  Debbie: #162 (20 March 1976)
  • The Flowers of Hope – Debbie: #163 (27 March 1976)
  • The Mystery of the Vanishing Flowers – Debbie: #166 (3 April 1976)
  • The Happiness Plant – Debbie: #166 (17 April 1976)
  • Who Says Flowers are Useless? – Debbie: #168 (1 May 1976)
  • Lily of the Valley –  Debbie: #183 (14 August 1976)

A Tale From the Toy Museum

Plot:

Tamsin Treco stayed with her grandmother who ran a toy museum in a Cornish fishing village. Tamsin loved to hear the stories behind many of the toys that were on show.

Tale From the Toy Museum

Notes:

  • Art: Douglas Perry
  • Art: David Matysiak (Bunty Annual 1988)
  • The stories had different titles ever week, accompanied by a sub heading “A Tale From the Toy Museum”
  • The first story was called “The Little Drummer Boy”

Appeared:

  • A Tale From the Toy Museum –  Bunty:   #1493 (23 August 1986) – ?

Other Appearances:

  •  The Forbidden Doll – A Tale from the Toy Museum – Bunty Annual 1988
  • A Model Family – A Tale from the Toy Museum – Bunty Annual 1989