Tag Archives: Debbie Picture Story Library

The £100,000 Headache [1980]

Published: Debbie Picture Library #33

Artist: Ian Kennedy (cover); J Badesa (story)

Plot

Sandra Painter’s family are not rich; her bicycle, for example, is getting ancient. But she’s got lots of friends and happy with her lot. Then Dad tells her and her brother Billy that they’ve won £100,000 on the pools. Sandra and Billy are all set to shout it to the world when Dad stops them. He’s heard stories on how the lotto curse has ruined lives and is not going to have that happen to him. So they’re going to keep their win a secret. They are not going to get carried away with flash cars, posh houses and such. The new things and renovations they will get will be done discreetly and the story will be that they have had a bit of luck, and they’ll show that having money makes no difference at all.

But as they soon discover, it does make a difference. The neighbours and kids at school can’t help but notice things the renovations being done professionally instead of Mr Painter doing it himself, which they think is strange. And it’s showing the rest of the neighbourhood up too. The kids at school see Sandra’s got flash new clothes and bicycle and we can sense jealousy in the way they comment on it. The worst is Edna Egon, who is constantly making nasty remarks about it and Sandra.

The new dudes are making Sandra a standout in school, but it’s proving awkward and causing embarrassments. For example, the teachers keep picking out Sandra for answering questions or running unwelcome errands because they are now noticing her too much. Sandra has to lock her new bicycle whereas she didn’t need to with the old one because it was not worth stealing. Then she loses the key and has to borrow a hacksaw! She comments that such things would never have happened with her old bicycle. On top of that, it causes her to mess up the errand teach lumbered her with, and when she gets home she messes up her new clothes on the paint being used for the redecorating. Dad comments that she wouldn’t have been so careless in the old days. Sandra finds she is beginning to miss things from the old days and she preferred some of the old things to everything they have bought anew.

Dad is encountering the same problems as Sandra; he says he is not going to darts club because everyone is getting wary of him. Later on in the story Billy says it’s just the same for him: everyone is picking on him. Sandra suggests they try sharing their good fortune, but in ways without hurting people’s pride.

They start with Dad offering his friend George Clark a lift in his new car. Sandra tries treating everyone at the canteen, but they accuse her of trying to buy popularity and will pay for themselves, thank you very much. Then Dad presents two new athletics trophies to the school. But Dad forgot that athletics are Sandra’s forte and it would be conflict of interest if she wins the trophy. Moreover, people remark that the competitors will let Sandra win because her dad donated the trophy. Sandra tries deliberately losing, and let her friend Wendy (George Clark’s daughter) win, but everyone realises what she did. Wendy is furious with Sandra for what she thought was favours, as it was not an honest win for her. Meanwhile, Dad messes things up even more when he generously has the Clarks’ car taken away for repairs at his expense – without consulting them first. The Clarks are furious, not only because they are proud but also because they thought their car had been stolen. After this, Sandra finds none of her friends are speaking to her at the leisure centre.

Dad miscalculates yet again when he sees Sandra standing miserably outside a ballet shop and assumes she wants ballet lessons. So without consulting her, he gets her expensive ballet gear and lessons at the more posh part of town. In fact, Sandra hates ballet, proves completely hopeless at it at her first lesson, and the other ballet students are a snobbish lot who won’t have anything to do with her. On top of that, her new bicycle got stolen while she was having the lesson.

The whole family is finding that everything has been going wrong since they won the money. It’s spilling out into frayed nerves and constant rows, which they never had before they won the money. For example, Dad unfairly accuses Sandra of letting the money go to her head and being careless over the bike theft. He’s a fine one to talk about being careless – he was saying this instead of watching his driving, and his new car hits a gatepost! Sandra has had enough of her classmates making such nasty remarks about her turning into Miss Posh, especially Edna, and lashes out at them. Billy is in a bad temper because everyone is picking on him, and when he’s in a bad mood he does something stupid. In this case it’s flying his new motor plane in the school playing fields out of hours. Sandra knows this could lead to trouble. She realises that giving the motor plane to Billy was another of Dad’s bad moves, which was compounded by Dad being too busy to teach Billy how to use it properly. Sure enough, Billy can’t control the plane properly and it smashes into a neighbour’s greenhouse. The neighbour is furious and the school janitor says they are in big trouble for trespass and damage. Now their parents are even worse, and there will be the headmistress to face next morning.

Next day, Billy runs away because of what happened. Sandra goes in search of him. Her classmates stop making their unkind remarks when they hear Billy’s missing. Even Edna changes her attitude. They promise to help if they can. Sandra decides the places to check are Billy’s favourite haunts. She soon locates him, and when they get home they find his disappearance has helped to patch things up with the people the Painters fell out with.

Dad comes home and says he has lost the money. He made a stupid investment with it – “didn’t take proper advice” – with a dodgy firm, who have now disappeared and being hunted by the police. However, Sandra and Billy cheer and tell Dad that losing the money was the cleverest thing he ever did with it. The Painters are now pretty much back to the way they were and glad for it. Their friends are back and now everyone knows the whole story.

 

Thoughts

When Dad wins the fortune he comes across as a whole lot more sensible than the Mill parents in Judy’s Minnie the Meanie, who lost the whole fortune they won on the pools because they did everything wrong: they broadcast the news of their good fortune to everyone in town, which made them prey to vultures out to take advantage; they did not save, invest or put any of the money where it would generate further income for them; worst of all, they just wouldn’t stop spending the money, despite danger signals that it was running out because of this.

Dad has clearly learned from stories like these and he tries to do everything right. But we know from the title of the story that things are not going to work out that way. Dad’s decisions on what to do with the money prove to be ill-conceived because he is not thinking things through or checking them out properly, and everything he does with the money blows up in his face one way or other. He turns out to be as incapable of handling a vast sum of money as the Mill parents.

Although the Painters are sensible enough not to flaunt the money and throw it around like confetti as the Mill parents do, they soon find out they are mistaken in believing money makes no difference. The overhaul they make to their entire household makes them stand apart too much from their less-wealthy neighbours. Instead of being just one of the gang as they were before, they look too far above themselves for their friends and neighbours to take. And of course people get jealous and resentful. The Painters try to win them over with generosity and sharing their good fortune with them. But rather than people getting greedy and taking advantage, as they do in Minnie the Meanie, it all just goes wrong all the time. In the end, the best thing for the Painters to do with the money was lose it altogether, and give the old adage “money does not buy happiness” a whole new appreciation.

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.

The Green Lady (1986)

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Published: Debbie Picture Story Library #102

Artists: Cover – uncertain; story – Terry Aspin

Plot

Lucy Lang seems all set to spend her summer holiday at Sheringdale, her boarding school, when a letter arrives from rich Great Aunt Alicia inviting her to spend the holiday at her place, Random House. Great-Aunt is also inviting Lucy’s cousin Cheryl, whose mother (Aunt Jean) is ill in hospital.

When Lucy meets Cheryl at the railway station, Cheryl is rude and cold towards her. Lucy is also surprised to find Cheryl has dark hair instead of blonde, which she thought Cheryl had. Cheryl says she had a change of hair colour, but is soon behaving in other ways that are not so easily explained. She tells Lucy she does not care for her. Even more strangely, Cheryl says she has the perfect way to make sure Lucy stays quiet if she finds out things. And right from the start, Cheryl pulls nasty tricks on Lucy and tells lies about her to completely discredit and blacken Lucy in the eyes of Great-Aunt. One trick is telling Great-Aunt completely false story that Lucy deliberately tried to pull her under when they swim in a lake. Cheryl acts in other odd ways too: she does not recognise her mother’s Christian name; she behaves as if she is a non-swimmer and afraid of water when Aunt Jean said she was a keen swimmer; and she tells Great-Aunt that Lucy has a teacher called Miss Dean, but Lucy has never had a teacher by that name.

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Eventually, Lucy tells Cheryl she has had enough of her, the fraud! The girl replies she is not Cheryl at all. Some friends of hers have kidnapped the real Cheryl, and Lucy had better stay quiet or Cheryl will suffer. When Lucy discovers the imposter is interested in the valuables of the house, she concludes that theft is the motive for the kidnapping.

The imposter tells Great-Aunt she is going to send Aunt Jean a get-well card. Guessing the imposter is planning to relay a message to her accomplices, Lucy follows her and sees her slip a message into the collar of a dog, which then goes in response to someone’s signal. Lucy tries to follow the dog but loses it, and the search makes her late back. The imposter then returns in tears and gives Great-Aunt a phony line about Lucy deliberately losing her in the woods. As a punishment, Great-Aunt locks Lucy in her room.

Lucy creeps up the drainpipe to do some investigating. In the attic, she comes across information about the family’s most valuable heirloom, a miniature called “The Green Lady”. Lucy concludes this is what the imposter is after. But as she climbs back down, the imposter takes photographs of her, and tells Lucy that she is going to use it as “evidence” that Lucy stole the heirloom.

However, the imposter’s threat gives Lucy the idea of travelling to Cheryl’s house to find evidence that the girl is an imposter. Facilitated by a newly arrived gift of a bicycle from her father, she does so. Upon arrival, Lucy sees a woman who is ostensibly going in to clean the house. But when Lucy enters the house afterwards, she finds the house is a tip.

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Then Lucy finds the real Cheryl bound and gagged. As she unties Cheryl, Cheryl explains that a neighbour volunteered to help out with the housework when her mother took ill.  But when the neighbour found out how rich Great-Aunt was, she hatched the scheme of sending her daughter in, posing as Cheryl, to steal the heirloom. Helping the scheme along were big brother Len and his dog Bonzo to carry messages.

The neighbour and Len then corner the girls. The girls put up a fight and scream for help. While they do so, Great-Aunt arrives with the imposter, who tells her relatives that the game is up: Great-Aunt (who got suspicious of her) caught her red-handed and extracted a full confession. The plotters give up the fight and are handed over to the police. Great-Aunt tells Cheryl that her mother has recovered enough to have visitors, and she apologises to Lucy. When Lucy and Cheryl see the miniature, they marvel at how such a tiny thing could have caused so much trouble.

Thoughts

When we see the tricks Cheryl is playing on Lucy, the story seems set up to be another one about a scheming cousin who tries to push out another one. Only the cover saying that a girl’s life is in danger because of a miniature painting suggests it is something bigger than that. And there are odd things about Cheryl that hint she is not just out to cause trouble for Lucy. So it is not too much of a surprise when the imposter reveals herself to Lucy, though it makes a nice change from the spiteful cousin formula. The girl isn’t pulling these tricks because she’s spiteful – it’s all part of a bigger design to commit a crime.

Once it is revealed that a plot to commit a crime is at the centre of the trouble, the story gets really tense and exciting. Lucy knows a crime is planned but doesn’t know just what the criminals are after. She can’t speak out because Great-Aunt has been tricked into thinking badly of her, and the imposter has blackmailed her into staying quiet. She’s all on her own, and she has to figure out the crime while being under a cloud and then being confined to her room. And she is desperately worried about the real Cheryl, who has been kidnapped and being held somewhere, and it sounds like her life is in serious danger. When Lucy sets off on her own, the drama intensifies as we wait anxiously to see what Lucy will find at the other end, including what dangers that might await her. And what will happen when the imposter finds Lucy has gone? She is bound to guess where Lucy is headed and why. It will certainly scare the criminals into stepping up their game or worse, and the imposter making a grab for the miniature points to that.

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The criminals certainly are clever, even if their scheme depends too much on neither Great-Aunt nor Lucy not knowing Cheryl by sight. The imposter bears no resemblance to the real Cheryl and isn’t wearing a disguise, so the plotters must have put some interrogation on Cheryl in order to know they would get away with just planting a strange girl at Great-Aunt’s. The imposter does not put much effort into fooling Lucy – she goes for those nasty tricks instead to discredit her while working her way in with Great-Aunt to get close to the valuables. The tricks certainly look clever. Great-Aunt says afterwards that the girl was not that clever and it was gullibility on her part when she should have seen straight through the girl. Still, it is easy to say that in hindsight. And in the end, Great-Aunt shows perceptiveness in how she finally got suspicious of the girl: the girl refuses to go see her mother when news comes that the mother is well enough for visitors. Great-Aunt was expecting Cheryl to be eager to see her mother, so the refusal made her suspicious at last.

The artwork of the popular Terry Aspin (known for Bunty’s “Maisie Mercury” and “School’s Out!”) lends itself well to the story. However, we are a bit puzzled at the bejewelled hand making a grab for the miniature on the cover. Neither the imposter nor her mother would be wearing such expensive ladies’ jewellery, so whose hand is it? It’s probably just artistic licence for dramatic effect, and perhaps the jewels do make it more effective.