When Joanne Mellors started at St Mary’s new school, weird things began to happen. She kept hearing the ghostly sound of children singing and had come face to face with a girl from the past called Johanna.
Art: George Martin
Ring-a-Ring O’ Roses – Tracy: #201 (6 August 1983) – #204 (27 August 1983)
Appeared: Debbie: #273 (6 May 1978) – #284 (22 July 1978) (Spellbound section)
Artist: George Martin
Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with episodes
Patti Parker is a promising tennis player but doesn’t have killer instinct. She can’t bear the thought of people losing to her, so she deliberately lets them win. Everyone at her club knows this, and they tell her it’s annoying.
Isadora Glenn sees this, and immediately decides Patti as the one she is looking for. She is the half-sister of Sylvia Radford, the most famous British tennis player who died in strange circumstances. She tricks Patti into her house and then gives her Sylvia’s racquet to replace the one she “accidentally” broke. As Patti takes the racquet, a strange spell comes over her. She comes over all dizzy and passes out. A woman’s voice tells Patti that when she feels the strength of Sylvia’s will upon her she will surrender herself…Sylvia’s hand will be on that racquet, giving Patti strength and determination…and through her Sylvia will play again…
So the power of the racquet is going to teach Patti to stop being so lenient and cultivate a competitive streak if she is to be the best she can be, and deliberately letting people win really is not really doing them good? Not on your life.
From the outset it is obvious that the power is evil, though its full power is not apparent at first. Its true power takes over gradually and intensifies over time, as does the manipulation and control of Isadora Glenn. It’s almost hypnotic, the way Isadora talks Patti into doing whatever she wants when Patti is having qualms of conscience at being obsessed with tennis to the point of hurting everything and everyone else, or being put off tennis because of it. When Patti neglects her grandmother’s funeral (and the Glenn influence was responsible for the grandmother’s death) her relatives are furious. Isadora seizes her chance to have Patti move in with her altogether, where Patti will be totally under her power.
The end result is, whenever Patti plays with the racquet, she does turn into a world-class champion, playing the way Sylvia played. But she’s also behaving the way Sylvia did on the tennis court, which would make John McEnroe look like a mild-mannered gentleman: a bullying, bad-tempered, vicious tennis player who is capable of anything against those who interfere with her on the tennis court.
This makes Patti a lot of enemies, and a very bad reputation. People say she is acting just like Sylvia Radford. Patti is very frightened and confused; she can’t understand what’s going on, especially as she’s not like that all the time. This is, of course, because when she’s not holding the racquet she is her normal kind self, but once she picks it up again she is back to the abusive Radford conduct. It’s hard convincing others that it’s something she doesn’t mean or understand, and she comes across like Jekyll and Hyde to them. It’s something the English selectors are very nervous about, and they decline to choose Patti to represent England.
Meanwhile Patti’s coach, Jane Marsh, has spotted a sly, evil look in Isadora’s eyes after Patti’s Radford conduct ruins a famous tennis player and she runs off in tears. Jean now realises she must investigate Isadora to find out what’s going on.
Another player, Rita Evans, asks Patti to be her doubles player in Bermuda. Isadora allows it, hoping it will change the selectors’ minds, as Rita is ranked number two. But Isadora still wants Patti to be chosen as a singles player, so she has Patti damage Rita’s hand so she will go to the finals as a singles player.
At the same match Jane learns something from a reporter. Isadora had dabbled in voodoo, which caused a scandal for her respectable family. She and Sylvia had to leave the district in disgrace and they set out for England. As we see more of Isadora’s thought bubbles we learn this was why Sylvia behaved so badly too, and Isadora is using both Sylvia and Patti as extensions of herself on the tennis court. She, not them, is the true badass tennis player.
Jane consults a voodooist, who knew Isadora from childhood. The voodooist says Isadora has possessed Patti and will eventually drive her to destruction. Patti will lose all will of her own until she resorts to self-destruction (we presume that means suicide) to escape from Isadora’s power. Jane realises this must be the way Sylvia went.
Jane became separated from Patti when her car went mysteriously out of control. Only Patti’s action saved her from death, but Jane was hospitalised while Patti went to play eliminating matches in Rome. By the time Jane catches up with Patti she sees things are worse than ever. She tries to pull Patti away, tell her what’s going on, and says she’s taking Patti back to England. Isadora has tried to poison Patti against Jane, saying Jane is just jealous. But as that didn’t work, at customs Isadora pulls another trick – framing Jane for smuggling undeclared goods. Jane is arrested while Isadora conveys Patti to Wimbledon for the finals.
Patti is now deeply frightened at her inexplicable conduct and hurting people without understanding why, and thinks there is some dark side taking over, but doesn’t realise what. As usual, it doesn’t take much for Isadora to smooth over those fears and drive her on relentlessly, but Jane realises that Patti could crack under it all.
Back in jail, Jane gets a reporter friend, Ruth, interested in her story, and Ruth helps her make bail. Isadora finds this out and spirits Patti away into hiding, and Jane can’t find her. She has little choice but to jump bail in order to get to Patti at Wimbledon. When the bail jump is discovered the police head out to Wimbledon in pursuit of Jane.
At Wimbledon, the evil racquet is having Patti put on her worst unsporting performance yet; it’s almost hysterical, and the commentator is having a ball describing the antics of the “vicious-tempered killer of the courts”. However, Patti’s rival is unimpressed and says she won’t be intimidated.
Jane finally clicks about the racquet. During the match she switches it with another while Patti isn’t looking and destroys it. Isadora sees the switch but can’t do anything about it. Her urging at Patti to win the match in Sylvia’s name is useless too. Without the racquet, Patti no longer behaves like Sylvia. The trouble is, she can’t play like Sylvia either. She is back to her own tennis level, which is nowhere near Wimbledon standard. She is soundly beaten and loses the championship Isadora wanted her to win in Sylvia’s name.
In the changing room Isadora rages at Jane about foiling her, and how Patti will be “nothing” instead of a world champion. Jane confronts her over how she drove Sylvia to her death, the way she almost did Patti. Isadora admits to framing Jane at customs but now wishes she had killed her instead. She also says she was behind the car crash in Bermuda, and will now use even more voodoo to have her revenge on both Jane and Patti. However, Isadora does not realise that she has walked into a trap set by Jane. As planned, the police and Ruth overhear everything. The police take Isadora in, setting the stage for clearing Jane. Ruth is delighted at the scoop.
Not surprisingly, Patti wants to quit tennis after this. However, Jane persuades her otherwise, saying she has what it takes to become a champion in her own right. And she will help Patti to get there.
A number of tennis stories about bad-tempered/ badly behaved tennis players have appeared in girls’ comics, and it looks like John McEnroe was an influence. Among them were “Pat the Brat” (Bunty), and “Cross on Court”, “Backhand Billie” and “Double – Or Nothing!”, all from Tammy. But this one turns it into an evil influence story, which was unusual for a sports serial.
Unlike other protagonists in the stories mentioned above the bad behaviour is no fault of the girl’s own. She can’t understand it, is increasingly frightened of it, and as it intensifies she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Unlike many protagonists under an evil influence she does not catch on, try to get help, or try to break away from it, despite Jane’s efforts. But from what the voodooist said, Patti really can’t escape from the power on her own. The power will just intensify until suicide is the only escape. She remains under the dominance of Isadora. It takes another person to make all the proactive moves to break her free. For this reason Patti does not grow all that much and the story does not develop her character that much. Other heroines grow in courage, strength and whole new ways of life by breaking free of the evil influence controlling them, but not Patti. We also expect Patti to be less of a softie and have more steel in playing tennis by the end of the story, but we don’t see that either. Instead, she’s all set to quit and it takes Jane’s coaxing to get her to carry on.
It’s Jane the coach who does the growing and the character development, and all makes all the proactive moves to bring the story to its resolution. She is the one who catches on to what is going on, but she isn’t really able to break Patti free of it despite her efforts. So we have to ask: who is the true heroine of this story? Patti is the titular heroine and none of the action would take place without her. But it’s Jane who does everything in the heroine role, and she is a far stronger and more developed character than Patti. She is the active heroine while Patti is a passive one, who takes little action to help herself out of her predicament, but that’s because she hasn’t got the power to do so.
Isadora Glenn is one of the most creepy, sinister, and terrifying villains ever to appear in Debbie. Her appearance and the way the inking conveys it has her giving the reader a feeling she’s a witch. As it turns out, that’s not wrong, because she’s a voodooist, and she’s using voodoo to turn Patti and Sylvia into vicious extensions of herself on the tennis court. She has no regard whatsoever as to what this will do to Patti in the end though she must be aware of it. She has no remorse about what it did to her own half-sister. Instead, she wants her sister and her champion tennis playing to rise again through Patti. Ironically, in a perverse way Isadora does intend it to be for Patti’s own good and make her a champion from “nothing”. Isadora is also extremely clever in the way she lures Patti into her power and gradually builds it until Patti is completely under her control, with only flashes of terror, conscience and desire to break free, which Isadora is very slick at stifling. Isadora is also capable of murder, and doing it through voodoo makes her even more terrifying. We have to wonder if even a police cell will keep our heroines safe from this woman and her black magic.
It is a very clever story setup in having the power over Patti gradually build up over time until she’s acting like a raving loony on the tennis court instead of having her change all at once. It makes the story even more creepy and frightening, having us not see all at once exactly what Patti is turning into with that evil racquet. Clearly, Isadora’s power needs to build strength and the victim’s will to gradually weaken for Patti (or Sylvia) to completely turn into the tennis court terror. And when the voodoo elements are introduced, the story becomes even more exciting and intense. Oooh…voodoo!
This story was in the Spellbound section of the Debbie & Spellbound merger. It may have originally been written for Spellbound. If so, it would have been one of Spellbound’s very best.
Nancy Nixon saves her skating rival, Rona Ashton, from drowning. However, when Nancy loses her memory of the rescue, Rona takes advantage by claiming she had rescued Nancy, and gets her banned from the local ice rink. At the frozen pond at Manor House, a girl named Marion promises to coach Nancy for the upcoming Silver Blades championship, but Nancy soon finds there is a real mystery about Marion. Sabotage strikes as well, and Nancy suspects Rona.
When Vera Vanished… – Suzy: #232 (14 February 1987) – #238 (28 March 1987)
Art: George Martin
Sally Carson and three other girls are all in the finals for an under fourteen intelligence competition. The final competition is taking place in the remote Kellbeggan Study Centre. Sally meets the other competitors on the train to Kellbeggan, while two of the girls, Penny and Clare, are friendly and excited about the trip, the other girl, Vera Pashal, is nervous and seems to be paranoid about being followed. When the girls get to Kellbeggan, they go to the local castle for a tour. When they sign the visitors book, suspiciously the guide gives a different pen to Vera, saying the other one has just run out of ink. Then, when they go into the dungeon, the lights go out and when they come back on Vera has disappeared! Penny and Clare think maybe she just slipped out the door, when the guide opened it, but then the guide denies that there was ever a fourth girl with them. Sally wants them to split up and search the castle but the guide says he is closing and hasn’t time to run after girls with wild imaginations. Sally thinks to check the visitors book to prove Vera was here, but is surprised to find her name isn’t there. Seeing no other choice they decide to head back to the study centre and alert Doctor Campion, who is running the competition.
But when they get back to the centre Dr Campion also denies Vera’s existence. Furthermore, checking their room, there is now only 3 beds and Vera’s suitcase is gone. Penny and Clare began to wonder, what reason would the nice Dr Campion have to lie to them and if they did imagine Vera. Sally points out the dents in the carpet, that show there was a fourth bed and the handkerchief that Vera gave her as proof of her being a real person. The girls sneak down to use the telephone to call for help, but find it locked. Dr Campion appears telling them it is only used for emergencies ad also gives them a warning not to meddle in things that don’t concern them. The next day is the girl’s first test to show their leadership qualities. Sally gets distracted from the test when she sees a groundskeeper, at first she thinks he may be able to help but then when she examines what he was burning, it appears to have been Vera’s suitcase.
Clare and Penny pass the test but Sally receives no points. Even though they are rivals Penny advises Sally to forget about Vera, at least until after the contest as there is nothing they can do anyway. But Sally is not giving up on Vera and continues to look for clues. She finds the castle now has a sign saying that it is private property, convincing her that Vera must be held there. For the next test, the girls are to get to the top of a hill and get a photo of a rock formation known as “the dragon’s chimney” and they will be timed on how long it takes. This time Sally does well on the test, as she actually takes time to look at map and find a footpath, while the others tackle the hill head on. When at the top Sally also realises they have a good view of the castle, she sees two figures struggling nearby and she is sure one of them is Vera, she takes photos planning to enlarge them later. When she does this she sees it is in fact Vera but when she gets back from fetching Penny and Clare, she finds the photos have been exposed and ruined. The girls are sick of Sally going on about Vera, but they at least now admit that she existed, but still say there must be a reasonable explanation for her disappearance like she was taken ill. Sally finds more clues as she discovers a pen of Dr Campion’s has disappearing ink, which she figures was used when Vera signed the visitors book. She also finds a newspaper saying that Vera is a diplomat’s daughter, which could be a reason why she might be kidnapped.
The next test is an assault course at Kellbeggan Barracks, Sally uses this as an opportunity to slip a message to a Major. Unfortunately, he mistakes her giving him the paper as something he can clean his pipe with and with Dr Campion keeping a close eye Sally, she is unable to make another attempt. Still determined as ever Sally does track down Vera, locked in the castle, but she will need help to free her. Meanwhile Clare and Penny have been in the library, looking at a book about the castle. After reading about secret passages in the castle, they wonder if Sally was onto something, so when she arrives looking for help they go with her. Together the manage to free Vera, but have to hide from Dr Campoion and the others who are looking for them. Vera says she was held ransom because she is the daughter of a diplomat, but Sally still has some questions, as she wonders why her father would not send guards with her if he was worried about kidnap plot. Then more surprising is Vera reveals herself to Dr. Campion! It turns out the kidnapping was faked and that was the real Intelligence test. Vera, Dr Campion and the staff were all in on the test leaving clues and seeing if the girls would pick up on them and how they would react. Sally is the clear winner!
This is the first long post on this blog for a Suzy serial. Suzy ran for 249 issues from 1982 to 1987, which was quite a good run, but for some reason this comic is a lot rarer to find than others. A reason for this may be that compared to other girls DCT titles, it could be considered more like a magazine than a comic. It had glossy paper, was more feature heavy and (at least in the start) was focused more on photo stories than picture ones. It was certainly not a title I was familiar with, but having read some issues now, I think there are some good stories people are missing out on.
I quite like this story, it has a nice mystery with a good twist that Vera wasn’t actually kidnapped. Being only seven issues, the pace keeps things moving along nicely and with the competition and Sally searching for clues, there’s a lot going on to keep it interesting. The remote location also helps keeps things tense, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone for Sally to turn to for help, especially as the adults around her all seem to be in on the plot. Of course she is right that everyone is conspiring together, just not for the reason she thinks! It is certainly an interesting test, though not one you would be able to get away with these days, as you wouldn’t be able to justify putting teenagers under such a psychological ordeal!
I do wonder how Clare and Penny made it to the finals, as they certainly don’t seem too bright at times! They actually question if all three of them somehow hallucinated Vera, just because some “trustworthy” adults told them there was no other girl. Although this could be explained away as them just wanting to turn a blind eye to the strange occurrences, so it doesn’t get in the way of the competition, as later they do admit Vera existed. Still it is only when they find about the secret passages in the book they are reading that they actually take Sally seriously. Clare and Penny seem to be more selfishly concerned with the competition but they do come through in the end, helping Sally free Vera. They also show, that they at least want to win the competition fairly, advising Sally to forget about kidnap plots and not mess up her chances at winning. Sally is clearly deserving of her win, as she shows intelligence even in the fake tests, like studying the map before tackling the hill and of course more importantly finding the clues that lead her to Vera, which also shows her other worthy traits, compassion, perseverance and selflessness.
When Petra Smith joins Clandon Comprehensive, Terry Bull finds there is a real mystery about her. She is too perfect at everything, is oddly clueless about human nature, and her house is devoid of real human habitation, including parents.
Eventually Terry discovers Petra is from a dying planet. Her people sent her to Earth to see if it would make a suitable home for them. But after finding out – the hard way – that her people have no natural immunity to the common cold, Petra will be reporting to them that it is not.
Artist: George Martin
Petra the Perfect Stranger – Tracy: #48 (30 August 1980) – #54 (11 October 1980)
Lindsey Lowe and her widowed mother move to Melfort Manor, where Mrs Lowe is housekeeper to the Meredith family. The daughter Susannah gets jealous when Lindsey outshines her at gymnastics. Susannah and Lindsey learn that in feudal times, the Lowes were serfs to the Merediths. Pretending to be friendly, Susannah gives Lindsey a ring of slavery that the Merediths forced the Lowes to wear when they were serfs to them. Her plan is that the ring will make Lindsey her slave.
Artist: George Martin
Serf to Susannah – Debbie: circa #334 (7 July 1979) – (?)
Each week Madame Marlova tells a tale from the world of ballet. Many of them are stories of inspiration and courage for aspiring ballerinas in Madame Marlova’s class while others teach morals, such as leaving nothing to chance because chance can be risky. Some have a more unusual take, such as one story about dancing marathons in the days of the Great Depression.
In a sequel The Dancing Days of Lisa Marlova, Madame Marlova has retired and settles down to writing her memoirs. Now the story of how she became a top ballerina is told in full.
Each of the Madame Marlova Remembers stories had individual titles
For a list of stories go to next page
Madame Marlova Remembers was drawn by George Martin
The Dancing Days of Lisa Marlova was drawn by Tom Hurst
December 1941 in Malaya and the Japanese invasion had forced the evacuation of many kids to Singapore. But then the train Jenny Thomas was on was bombed she found herself in charge of a handful of survivors.
Artist: George Martin
The Kids of Camp Courage – Suzy: #134 (30 March 1985) – #145 (15 June 1985)