The 2001 annual, would be the last Bunty book to come out when the weekly comic was still running. The cover is nice in its simplicity (even though I do prefer the hand drawn covers more) and I like the coloured flowers that brightens up the background. Inside there is a nice variety of stories, features and it is all in colour. There are 12 picture stories with regular characters, such as The Comp, The Four Marys and Girls Talking appearing. There is also 2 text stories and 4 photo stories. Due to getting in contact with some creators through this site, I’m actually able to credit a lot of stories in this annual which is a very nice bonus.(For just a list of contents click here)
The Comp (Pages: 13-17 & 83-87 )
- Artist: Peter Wilkes
Roz has a crush on a new sixth former, Greg, who is handsome and drives a flashy car. Amy’s not impressed with him though, he’s moved in near her and has a new girlfriend every week and drives recklessly. That doesn’t put Roz off though and she is happy to accept a date with him. She knows her father won’t approve so she gets her friends to cover for her. They agree at first but soon get annoyed at having to lie to the Cummings, especially when Roz hasn’t even warned them when she’s using them as cover. Roz finally wises up when Greg is speeding and won’t slow down. She demands to be let out of the car. Meanwhile a little bit away Claire is crossing the street and is knocked down by a familiar looking speeding car…
This is where the story splits, to build up some suspense the next part is later in the book. Roz comes across Claire being taken away in the ambulance and Nikki explains what happen. Roz is upset as she suspects Greg may be responsible. She doesn’t want to tell anyone her suspicions in case she is wrong and everyone else assumes Roz was with Greg at the time, so it couldn’t be him. When Roz hears Greg’s car is in the garage for some repairs, she breaks down and tells Laura, Hayley and Becky about her suspicions. With their support, she goes to police station, but it turns out the hit and run driver has turned himself in and it’s not Greg! Although Roz feels a bit bad about jumping to conclusions, she doesn’t regret breaking up with him, he wasn’t nice and she thinks if he continues the way he does one day he will have an accident. It ends with the girls visiting Claire in hospital.
Lonely This Christmas (Pages: 21-25)
- Writer: Maureen Hartley
- Artist: Guy Peeters
Tessa Jones is feeling she will have a lonely holiday, as her family have just moved house. Then the old owners cat, Sheba, keeps showing up at the door. Although they return her, she comes back and then Tessa discovers she has had kittens. The families agree to keep Sheba until the kittens are big enough and not only that Tessa will be allowed to keep two of the kittens. They advertise homes for the other kittens and she meets some girls who invite her to Youth Club party, so it turns out not to be such a lonely Christmas after all. It’s a nice, simple story with some good art.
Girl Zone – Bunty- a Girl Like You (Pages: 26-27 & 88-89)
- Artist: Andy Tew
Strangely, this is just called Girl Zone but it is a Bunty strip, I don’t know if this is just an occurrence in this annual or is the strip had also been renamed in the weekly comics. It is the usual fun for a Bunty strip anyway, in the first story it’s time for a new tree, Bunty convinces her mom to buy a real one, but then she can’t bear to see it cut down so they end up buying another artificial one instead.
In the second story Bunty decides to make her own crackers they are successful but she discovers they are not so fun when you know what all the gifts and jokes are!
The Four Marys (Pages: 31-35)
- Artist: Jim Eldridge
No Bunty annual would be the same without at least one Four Marys story, in this book there are two stories. In this first story on their way to Elmbury, the four Marys see puppies for sale and they see a man refuse to sell a puppy to a woman who he doesn’t believe will look after it. The woman is not too happy and pays Mabel to buy it instead. Mabel hides the puppy in St Elmos and the Marys find out about it and who she intends to give it to. They raise money to pay Mabel off and give the puppy to deserving girl whose dog had died.
Penny’s Place (Pages: 37-43)
- Artist: Guy Peeters
An old friend of Penny’s is staying with her during the holidays. Lucy soon starts causing problems with Penny’s other friends. Donna is a little put out by being ignored and this gets worse when her dog, gets blamed for Lucy’s dog taking steak. Lucy continues to isolate Penny’s friends by using Pete and trying to start a fight between Gemma and Sita. Penny begins to realise what a troublemaker she is. After Mrs Jordan says Lucy’s dog can’t stay anymore, Lucy decides to stay with her aunt. Which makes for a happier Christmas for everyone.
Bugsy (Pages: 52-53)
Bugsy takes his niece Bugella to see Santa Bug, but Santa doesn’t arrive. After investigation Bugsy finds Santa Bug’s sleigh is stuck. Using his plane he is able to deliver Santa Bug to the department store.
Girls Talking (Pages: 56 & 79)
Two short strips, consisting of 1 small picture and a a big picture that takes up the full page, I like this layout and they were fun quick jokes. In the first strip Liz emails Lucy with news and it is revealed they are sitting right next to each other. In the second strip Lucy wraps present and then realises the box doesn’t contain the present.
Squeakie (Pages: 57-63)
- Writer: Maureen Hartley
Alice Scott is delighted to get a Squeakie toy for Christmas (This toy appears to be based on Furby, which was first released in 1998 and even today still a popular toy). Squeakie can repeat back what Alice ays, but then trouble starts, as it begins to say back private thoughts she had too, such as spoiling her gran’s surprise party and insulting her friend’s taste in music. At first Alice thinks that she may have accidentally said those things aloud but when it keeps happening she gets creeped out and decides to get rid of it. She takes it to a shop and gets an exchange after been told that it was a prototype that shouldn’t have been sold. Alice is relieved but is still going to be cautious about her new Squeakie and not teach it to talk. After Alice leaves the room, the last panel shows the new Squeakie is even worse as he declares he will make her last Squeakie look like a pussycat! I’ve seen similar stories, often with ventriloquist dummy, using the furby like toy is a nice update and of course the foreboding creepy ending works well, just when the protagonist thinks she’s solved her problem!
Space Cadet (Pages: 67-74)
- Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)
Fiona Miller is annoyed by her younger sister Debbie, who is a sci-fi enthusiast. Debbie is particularly obsessed by a video game Space Cadet. But when Debbie starts acting nice and considerate, Fiona begins to suspect something is wrong. Then she sees Debbie with a green face talking to an alien n the tv screen, she tries to tell her parents but of course they don’t believe her. She figures out that this new “Debbie” has just replaced her sister and the real Debbie must be held someplace. It’s up to Fiona to rescue her sister, so she follows the alien to it’s ship. With the help of her hockey stick Fiona is able to free her sister and they both escape the ship.
This is my favourite art/colouring in the book. It is very vibrant colours but fits nicely not overpowering the details of the art. There is also some more interesting layout of the panels. The story is fun too, I am always a sucker for sci-fi stories anyway!
Selfish Sarah (Pages: 99-103)
- Writer: Anne Bulcraig
- Artist: Eduardo Feito
There’s already been discussion on this story as it first appeared under the name Green Fingers in the Mandy Picture Story Library Scream! The story has been redrawn here by Eduardo Feito (rather than original artist Carlos Freixas) this may be so it would fit better with the annual format more than the smaller sized picture library. There is some slight changes to the dialogue too but this is less noticeable.
The story is about a girl Sarah Peters, who is very selfish and never helps anyone if it won’t benefit her. When she learns a Green Issue project for school has a cash prize, she becomes interested in a plant that has leaves shaped like hearts and cute animals, as she believes that it will help her win. After the owner spends some time with Sarah, she decides she can’t give her a cutting as she isn’t suitable. Sarah later sneaks over and takes a cutting anyway. Soon after the cutting begins to change shapes, into toads and witches, reflecting the kind of person Sarah is. The plant’s owner knows she took a cutting and warns her to bring it back before it’s too late. But of course Sarah doesn’t listen, and when she goes home she finds the plant has grown rapidly taking over her bedroom and it grabs her, leaving her screaming for help.
I do prefer the original art, but it is interesting to see another interpretation. I like Eduardo Feito’s art in general and the end panel with the hand like plants reaching for Sarah is very effective. I think the bigger problem is the colouring swallows up some details, like the leave shapes, that would be more clearer in black and white. The story is still a solid, scary story with the bad girl getting fitting punishment, so I can see why it would be chosen for reprint.
The Four Marys (Pages: 107-111)
- Artist: Jim Eldridge
The second Four Marys story also has a plot revolving around animals. This time Josie another student at St. Elmos tends to pick up animals that need helping. First she is hiding a hedgehog and nursing it back to health after it was hit by a car and later an owl. With the Marys help they get permission to set up an animal hospital in the basement. Mabel and Veronica aren’t happy of course, as they think the basement would make a great den where they could play loud music. The snobs try to sabotage the project by sending a letter to the school governor that animals were being kept in poor conditions and then messing up the hospital. Luckily the Marys overhear and catch them in the act. They make them clean up the mess they made and the visit by the governor goes well.
I usually find it hard to say much about the Four Marys, as a lot of times the stories are fairly standard for them. Not bad, just a bit repetitive. It is nice to see some more diversity in this story with Josie.
Lost in the Snow (Pages: 115-120)
- Writer: Maureen Hartley
- Artist: Peter Wilkes
Jade is disappointed that because of heavy snow, it looks like her grandparents won’t make it for Christmas. Later Jade is disturbed by a dog barking, he seems to want her to follow him. Jade and her father go to investigate and the dog leads them to a car stuck in the snowdrift. They find a family nearby looking for help, but then the dog disappears and they say that they don’t own a dog. They end up having a good Christmas with their unexpected guests, but Jade still wonders where the dog came from. After inquiring to some neighbours, they say there are many black and white collies around the nearby farms. One boy jokes it could have been Bruce, a local tale of a dog who saved his master from a fire and died years ago but always turns up to help people in trouble. Later Jade sees a dog up on the hill, but when she goes to look he is gone and the are no paw-prints in the snow…
A nice little ghost mystery with some good art. I like the contrast of the bright, warm colours when they are inside and the colder colours out in the snow.