This was the last Judy annual published. By this time the Judy comic had merged with Mandy to become M&J. The Mandy annuals continued until 2007 and I think the character of Judy did appear in some of the later Mandy annuals, but this was the last of a solo Judy title.
While Bunty and Mandy annuals declined in quality in their last years I think this Judy annual finished up on a good note. There are 21 picture stories, 3 prose stories and 6 features. There are favourite characters like Bobby Dazzler and Wee Slavey along with complete new stories. (For just a list of contents click here)
Home for Christmas (Pages: 4-11)
The first story as you can guess from the title is Christmas themed. When I was younger I quite liked having some Christmas themed stories in these annuals. As traditionally I used to get these annuals as a Christmas present, having these type of stories was nice to keep in the festive mood. Some annuals seemed to avoid being tied to Christmas, if you look at the Judy 1984 annual, none of the stories are set at Christmas and even the cover looks more Summer like than Winter like.
So this story is a nice family Christmas story. Wendy is the youngest sibling in the family, her older brother Kevin and her sister Gilly have both moved out into the working world. Wendy and her parents are looking forward to having the family all back together for Christmas, so they are disappointed when they get a letter from Kevin saying he won’t make it home as he is shipping off to Canada.
The mum reminisces about how she always knew the three of them would make something of themselves, they used to make their own way home from school letting themselves in with the key hidden under the garden gnome. Obviously this memory is significant to the story later on, with short stories like this subtlety wasn’t always an option. There is more bad news, when Gilly phones to say she has to do a photo shoot and won’t make it for Christmas either.
Wendy tries to make the best of things by decorating the house, but when she goes to get the decorations out of the attic she is knocked of the ladder and ends up in hospital. She is told she will have to stay in hospital over Christmas. The Dad decides he’ll take the Mum out for dinner Christmas Eve to cheer her up. Wendy is delighted when she is released from hospital early. She gets a lift home forgetting her parents won’t be there. Luckily the hidden key is still under the gnome and she enters only to find that Kevin has made it home for Christmas after all.
The parents are on their way home when they hear on the radio that Gilly has been in a car accident and wandered off. They are delighted to find Wendy and Kevin at home but are worried about Gilly. She manages to find her way home as well. Turns out her shoot was cancelled. The father wonders how they all got in with the key because they usually bolt the door from the inside these days. Turns out the mother unbolted the door just in the hope that the children would come home.
I really like the art and the inking. The colouring is quite muted when things look bad and then changes to nice and bright without being too overwhelming when things turn out well. Its just a nice family Christmas story to read.
Junior Nanny (Pages: 14-16)
Junior Nanny never seemed like the most interesting concept, a young nanny solving the problems of children no older than 5, but somehow I always liked the strip. The kids were genuinely cute and often sympathetic and Chris Johnson was kind but also practical and resourceful.
Here she tries to help new arrival Jonathan who is shy and cries during snowball fights. When another kid Alan tease him for this Chris explains that he gets upset easily because his parents are in hospital. Alan being a good kid at heart takes it on himself to look after Jonathan. But this means he ends up missing out on stuff he likes to do because Jonathan doesn’t like it. To solve this Chris enlists Jonathan to make a special present for Alan. Its a fort for his toy soldiers. After helping make this Jonathan is keen for everyone to play together with Alan’s new fort.
Pepper the Pony (Pages: 17/111)
Pepper the pony is a humour strip that ran in Judy. The first strip in this annual, involves Lucinda calling Pepper lazy, so he decides to run off. Remembering the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat making a fortune in London, he goes to look for puss. After spending all night looking for him he ends up needing a rest. Lucinda berates him in the morning again for being lazy while Puss is already up and washing himself.
The second strip has Pepper being scared by stories of witches and ghosts. He gets particularly scared when he sees the shadow of a witch in the stables. It turns out to be Lucinda dressed up for a costume party.
Wedding Belle (Pages: 18-22)
Artist: Ana Rodriguez
Belle is a girl who hires out her services as a flower girl/bridesmaid at weddings. It is quite a successful endeavor, although I could never understand why people would want a stranger as part of their wedding! I can imagine looking at the photos would be like; there’s the bride, groom, best man and some girl we hired!
Belle’s neighbour Liza isn’t having a lot of luck in the romance department. Belle observes this is because Liza is a bit over eager and ends up scaring guys off. Belle meanwhile is bridesmaid at a wedding of someone she knows. Valerie runs a dating agency, but her and her husband are moving away after the wedding so the agency will have to close down as she couldn’t find anyone to take it over. Belle thinks Liza would be perfect for the job. Apparently she is very good because just a few weeks into the job already one couple she introduced are engaged.
People seem to move fast in this town! The job also helps Liza out because she has been so busy she hasn’t had time to chase guys around. Dan from the downstairs office, finds this busy Liza, that hasn’t time to talk to him attractive, so he asks her out..in a somewhat abrupt manner.
But Liza seems charmed enough so happy ending for her.
The Honourable S.J. (Pages: 26-32)
Artist: Paddy Brennan
Nasty blackmailer Sarah Jane is up to her usual tricks. When Ann tries to stop her stealing from caravans they are both sent to an under-privileged children’s home for a bit of community service. Soon S.J. has all the children and staff charmed. Ann keeps her eye on S.J. and discovers her plot to steal a silver rose bowl heirloom. She manages to stop her and also records the encounter. At a disco for the children Ann plays the recording, exposing S.J. Ann volunteers to stay on for the rest of the Summer even though her name is cleared and S.J. gets sent away.
“You’re Just Jealous!” (Pages: 33-38)
Artist: Edmond Ripol
This is a story of friendship versus boyfriend. When Lucy falls sick her best friend Amy is pretty bored until she meets Chris. So when Lucy gets better, she isn’t too happy to find out that Amy has a boyfriend now. She is especially upset to find out Amy and Chris went to a film that they were planning to see together.
She is feeling pretty blue about it… I don’t know where that colouring in that panel came out of but I still think the art looks good throughout the story. So Lucy see Chris hanging around with another girl and tells Amy straight away. Amy presumes she is just being jealous, so they fall out. Amy does try to make things up but Lucy won’t hear of it. Lucy later gets to prove her point when she sees the girl Chris was hanging around with. Only to discover that the girl, Laura, is his sister. Amy realises Lucy made a genuine mistake and they end up going on a double date with one of Chris’s friends.
I like the friendship angle of this story, Lucy feeling threatened by her friend’s new boyfriend is a reasonable reaction and she does try to be happy for her at first too. I also like that Amy doesn’t hold a grudge against Lucy, she puts their friendship as a high priority even with new relationship. It seems like a pretty solid message.
The Boys From Beyond (Pages 39-46)
Artist: Guy Peeters
This is a Skeleton Corner story, a regular feature in Judy. They were basically spooky stories introduced by a skeleton. Here two sisters, Tanya and Fay, are getting ready to attend a Halloween party at their father’s hotel. Before the party, Tanya is disappointed when her favourite metal band Darkest Night, skip their appearance on a TV show. They attend the party but it is a further disappointment, as it all old people attending. They then meet a boy, Luke, their own age who is dressed up in old fashioned clothes. They go for a walk together and come across a farmhouse, that is supposed to be empty, has lights on. Tanya is delighted to find inside is Darkest Night rehearsing. Luke apparently is not a metal fan and runs away from the noise. Fay follows him and Tanya is left to talk with the band.
They explain that they picked this place to play because their next album Boy from Beyond is about a young ghost from the area. Tanya figures Luke is a ghost and that now he’s alone with her sister. The lead singer reassures her that even if Luke is a ghost he won’t hurt her ghosts just appear and vanish again. Tanya finds Luke and Fay and discovers he is pale and sensitive to noise because he recently had an accident but he is not a ghost. She re-enters the farmhouse only to find the band doing a montage of their cover art.
I really liked this story. I am a fan of skeleton corner and spooky, twist stories in general. I also really liked that Tanya’s favourite band was a heavy metal band. It was really refreshing to see a girl not into the usual boybands, or pop charts stuff for a change. It was closer to my taste in music, so I found her a more relatable character.
Bobby Dazzler (Pages: 50-58)
Bobby Dazzler, the only girl at a boys boarding school, has trouble getting on the football team. The boys think they will be laughed at if they have a girl in the team for their next match. She appeals to the coach who decides letting her be their sub will please her, but he has no plans of playing her. On the day of the match the other team’s star player, Barry, is just a sub for a day, so Bobby ends up flirting with him. Mike and Don are a bit distracted by Barry chatting up Bobby. When it comes to half time they blame each other for how badly the match is going. Don pushes Mike injuring him so the coach benches Don and has to replace Mike in goal with Bobby.
Bobby is less impressed with Barry when he comes onto play and takes advantage of their earlier talk aiming for her weak spot. Luckily Bobby manages to save it. Then Mike feeling better comes back to play goalie, and Bobby goes back on the field. She manages to score the equaliser and win man of the match. I liked that Bobby can show her feminine side by flirting but still be as good as the boys in whatever situation she is in.