Tag Archives: Mystery story

Ashamed of Her Sister [1983]

 Published: Debbie PSL #70

Reprinted: Bunty PSL #420 as “She’s Guilty!”

Artist: Cover Dudley Wynne?; story unknown

Plot

Sixth former Carole Trent is school captain at Redways Boarding School, and her younger sister Julie is third former there. Carole Trent has always been popular, and has won several trophies for the school. But Carole’s popularity takes a dip when she gives some girls who were overzealous about cheering about their latest trophy 100 lines each for bad behaviour. Even Julie cops the lines and the girls, especially Cindy Barker, are furious with Carole. Later, Carole expresses disapproval at Julie being with Cindy’s crowd because they are such a bunch of troublemakers.

During the night someone breaks into the trophy cabinet and steals the trophies. The police find a pair of broken scissors and conclude the thief used them to break into the cabinet. That evening, Julie is puzzled to see Carole leaving the school grounds with a bag. Carole heads to an alley called Skinner’s Walk, because someone told her on the phone that the trophies will be there. She finds them, but as she leaves the alley the police catch her and don’t believe her story as to how she got them. In their view it looks like Carole stole them and now she is under a black cloud at school. She can’t actually be taken away from the school as the police have put her into the school’s care. So she is being kept under confinement in the sick bay while the investigation is underway. When word spreads, all the girls turn against Carole, especially the ones who are angry at those lines from her.

In sick bay, Carole tells Julie she received a phone call telling her where to pick up the trophies. The story was that the thief wanted to give the trophies back quietly. Carole foolishly agreed to collect the trophies without telling anyone. It is now clear that the whole thing was a setup and she walked straight into it. Julie resolves to find out who is behind it – but to have a better chance of doing so, she must pretend she’s turned against Carole over the whole business. Carole’s friend Jane Lytton, who seems to be the only friend Carole has left, is appalled at Julie’s sudden vociferousness in the way she has turned on her sister. This includes Julie joining demonstrations to get Carole expelled, which Jane furiously breaks up.

When the girls hear about the broken scissors they go to check Carole’s scissors. The scissors are missing, and a search fails to find them. Jane interrupts the search and tells them to clear off. Suspecting Cindy is behind everything and the scissors might be hers, Julie drops a hint that has the girls producing their scissors in order to see if one is missing. All the girls’ scissors are accounted for.

Then the detective searches Carole’s room himself and finds the broken scissors. Carole admits they are hers, but says they disappeared two days ago and were not broken then. Nobody seems to find it odd that the broken scissors somehow shifted from the scene of the crime to Carole’s room, especially as they should be in a police evidence bag. And why did the girls not find the broken scissors themselves when they searched the room earlier? Nonetheless, the evidence seems to be piling up against Carole.

Jane expresses fury at Julie over the way she is treating her sister. Her rage leads to odd comments about her being an orphan and the family history she has been doing. When Julie gets curious about the project, she seems to strike a nerve – Jane snaps at her and gives her 500 lines for impudence. Even more strangely, Jane tells Julie that Carole believes someone planted the scissors in her room, and accuses Julie of doing it! When Julie denies it, Jane says it must have been one of the girls. At this remark, Julie realises one of the girls could indeed have planted the scissors while pretending to help with the search. But if so, it could have been any of them.

Julie softens her pretence a bit to try a different tactic. She tells the girls Carole claims that someone framed her. If that is true, then the real culprit would have been missing from school that evening. As planned, this has all the girls accounting for their whereabouts at that time. Everyone seems to have an alibi, but Sarah says something odd – she went to see Jane about lines, but was kept waiting for one-and-a-half hours because Jane was not around. (In other words, Jane has no alibi for that time and was missing when she shouldn’t have been…?) Sarah then explodes with fury and turns on Julie, says Julie was trying to catch her out for something she didn’t do, and she’s as bad as her sister, etc, etc. Just then, Jane breaks them up.

Julie tells Carole that all her suspects are in the clear because they have alibis for that time (except Jane, maybe?), but then gets another lead. Carole has orange paint on her shoes that must have come from her trip to Skinner’s Walk. Realising the culprit might have gotten the same paint on herself as well, Julie heads to Skinner’s Walk. She finds the paint, now dried. Carole’s footprint is there, and there is a smeary mark beneath it, which Julie deduces was made by the enemy.

The next call is to check everyone’s shoes for the orange paint, but Julie finds none. Then, when Julie checks Cindy’s holdall to see if it has the paint on it, the girls catch her and chase her lynch-mob style, accusing her of stealing and then (correctly) snooping because she thinks they set her sister up. Julie takes refuge in Jane’s study, where she declares she thinks she can prove who stole the trophies. Jane keeps the girls out and asks Julie to explain.

All of a sudden, Julie accuses Jane of being the culprit. She planted the scissors in Carole’s room for the police to find after kicking the girls out. The reason Sarah had to wait one-and-a-half hours for Jane that night was because Jane was out stealing the trophies, making the phone call to Carole, and setting up the trap at Skinner’s Walk. Her proof? She saw Jane’s holdall on her desk – and it has the orange paint on it!

At this, Jane suddenly goes berserk. She attacks Julie and yells that her family has hurt her and killed her mother. Hearing the commotion, the girls, Carole and two other sixth formers burst in and demand to know what’s going on. Jane directs them to her family school project. The Brent family of Dingham Hall wrongly accused Jane’s mother, who was one of their servants, of stealing silver candlesticks. The real thief confessed in the end, but it came too late for Jane’s mother; she had died of a broken heart in prison. Jane’s frameup of Carole had been her revenge against the Brent family. Carole then informs Jane she overlooked one thing with her project – there were two Brent families living in Dingham. Theirs had no connection to Dingham Hall and had nothing to do with Jane’s mother.

The authorities decide Jane needs more help than punishment. So they take no action, although Jane has to leave the school. Carole forgives her too. Carole is now more popular than ever and so grateful to Julie for what she did.

Thoughts

This is a solid detective story, and the cover Julie has to undergo is a heartbreaking one – pretending she has turned on her own sister and giving the impression of family disloyalty. She even has to join protest demonstrations to get Carole expelled to make it even more convincing. It must be even worse than for protagonists like Marie Bonnet “The Cat” who have to pretend to side with the enemy in order to be a secret helper. In contrast, Jane appears to be the only one who is loyal to Carole and be the real brick that stands by the protagonist while everyone else goes against her, no matter what. Friends like these have appeared in so many girls’ stories, such as Beth Parker in Bunty’s “Move over Maria”. Only in this case it is not for real – it turns out to be a case of it being the person you least suspect. It was so fortunate that neither Julie or Carole took Jane into their confidence about what they were planning although they still thought Jane was Carole’s friend.

The red herrings established at the beginning of the story are well done. It’s only natural Julie’s suspicions fall on Cindy and her gang as their grudge against Carole began only hours before the affair began, and they have a reputation for causing trouble. And who else could it be? Nobody else is known to hate Carole for any reason. The real clues are done in a more deft, subtle manner that you don’t quite pick up on until Julie suddenly accuses Jane, right out of the blue. If the story had been in colour you would have known it was Jane if you could see the actual orange on her holdall, but you can’t with the black and white print.

The frameup itself is quite clever. The only thing that does not fit is how Jane managed to plant the scissors when the police found them at the scene of the crime and therefore should be in an evidence bag. It would have made more sense for the police to find the piece that broke off the scissors at the scene of the crime, and then the broken scissors the piece came from be found in Carole’s study.

The story of Jane’s mother being a servant who is wrongly accused of stealing candlesticks sounds more like something that would happen in Victorian times than say, the 1970s or so, considering the time the story is set in. Sure, we don’t know the full circumstances of how the mother came to be wrongly accused of stealing the candlesticks or what the evidence was against her. But it would have sounded more credible to have the false charge happen to an ancestor of Jane’s and the tragedy still deeply affecting Jane’s family.

Jane falls into the trap that so many revenge seekers in girls’ comics fall into – they find out that they did not have their facts straight, the person they were targeting was entirely innocent, and their revenge was all for nothing. In Jane’s case it is even more tragic because she was once a genuine friend for Carole before her mistaken assumptions about the Brent family turned her into a very disturbed girl who blames them for her mother’s death and wants to give them a taste of their own medicine with wrongful accusations. The tragedy is ameliorated somewhat by the view the authorities and Carole take about Jane, but Jane now has to live with a guilt complex and feeling a complete idiot.

No Love for Laura [1978]

Plot

Nurse Anne Howard gets a job caring for Laura Trenent, who has been blinded in the accident that killed her parents. But Anne soon finds that Laura’s guardians, Mr and Mrs Willis, only pretend to care for Laura when in fact they don’t care for her at all. They take advantage of her blindness to make her life a misery and keep her a virtual prisoner. The Willises dismiss Anne once they realise Anne will take sides with Laura, but Anne is still determined to help Laura and find out why the Willises are treating her this way, as she senses there is a mystery behind it that needs to be solved. Investigation soon points to cheques that Laura always has to sign for the Willises and the terms of Mr Trenent’s will.

Notes

  • Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Appeared

  • No Love for Laura – Debbie: #281 (1 July 1978) – (?)

The Secret of Fear Island [1977]

Plot

Lynn Palmer is left alone on a Pacific island when the inhabitants evacuate because of an imminent volcanic eruption. Then she discovers it was just a trick engineered by six criminals, and she has constant scrapes with them as she tries to find out what they are up to. Once Lynn discovers that whatever they are after is submerged in a lake, she dives in to investigate. She discovers the wreck of an aircraft, but one of the criminals prevents her from investigating further. She tries to use the men’s radio to get help, but they capture her (again).

Notes

Appeared

  • The Secret of Fear Island – Debbie: circa #240 (17 September 1977) – (?)

 

Lonely Lucy [1976]

Published: Spellbound: #01 (25 Sep. 1976) – #10 (27 Nov. 1976)

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jordi Franch

Plot

The splash page of the first episode of this story immediately establishes that it is set in the days of highwaymen. It’s also set in the days of lingering witch superstitions, as our protagonist Lucy Pilgrim is to find out.

Lucy’s mother has just died and her cruel aunt and uncle have a bombshell for her: her mother adopted her as a baby after she was found abandoned, and her real parents are unknown. Aunt and Uncle don’t want Lucy and are taking her to an orphanage. At least they allow her to retain her bracelet, which has strange marks her adoptive mother never explained. It brings Lucy comfort, and we can guess it’s the key to finding her true parents.

On the way to the orphanage their coach is held up by a highwayman, Gentleman John. When John see how the cruel relatives are making Lucy sit outside the coach with the driver in drenching rain and without any rain protection, he is appalled at their treatment of her. He forces them at gunpoint to take Lucy’s place and has Lucy take their place in the coach. John also reacts oddly to Lucy’s bracelet. He allows her to keep it, saying “Where you’re going ‘tis best kept hidden” and wishes her luck.

The orphanage is just as cruel as Lucy’s aunt and uncle. Even the other children in the orphanage pick on her once they see she comes from a higher-class background, with some kinder exceptions. Their bullying grows worse when they see Lucy is left-handed. They call it the mark of evil and brand Lucy a witch. When Lucy faints from her ill-treatment, the staff throw water over her and throw her out on the street for a while, anticipating she will come crawling to be let back in.

Instead, Lucy runs away and bumps into Gentleman John again. John and his horse Midnight got shot in a clash with some soldiers. Lucy, who has been taught nursing by her adoptive mother, tends to both of them. John is outraged to hear what people are calling her because she’s left-handed, but unfortunately for Lucy that’s not the end of it. John also needs food, and the only way Lucy can get it is…to go back to the orphanage. She also finds they’re looking for her as the Governors are coming. She pretends to have fallen ill from the way they treated her earlier, which gets her special treatment and good feeding – with a bit of blackmail she applies on them while the Governors are around. Once they’re gone, Matron has Lucy sleep in the outhouse as punishment for the trouble she caused.

At least the outhouse makes it easier for Lucy to slip back to John. John is recovering, but Midnight is suffering from infection and needs special care. Lucy insists on using the orphanage as the place to get food and supplies from despite its cruelties, as she refuses to use John’s dubious highwayman contacts on principle.

But when the resident black cat seems to protect Lucy from the children’s bullying and becomes friendly with her, her witchy reputation escalates to the point where the children actually believe she’s a witch and become really frightened of her. Matron decides Lucy has to go. She has Lucy boarded out to another position – and pocketing her wages – so she will make a profit into the bargain.

Trust Matron to have Lucy boarded out to a coal mine, with all its horrors, dangers and dreadful working conditions. And again rumours spread that Lucy is a witch once her fellow workers see she is left handed. At least Lucy is not far from John and can slip away to tend to Midnight, who is on the mend. She stays on at the coal mine because she fears running away will lead her pursuers to John. But she gets into big trouble when she speaks out at the colliery owner, Mr Tranter, when his nasty daughter insults her. Tranter orders that Lucy be roundly beaten in front of everyone, much to the delight of his daughter – and then straight back to work without any medical treatment. Not one of the workers offers Lucy any sympathy because of her left hand, and she’s on the brink of collapse.

But one of John’s men has seen everything and makes a full report to him. John retaliates by holding up the Tranters. But instead of robbing them he deprives them of their coach so they have to make a very long walk, and warns them to repent how they mistreated the “left-handed lass”.

Repent? If they had any brains they would realise there was a link between Lucy and the highwayman and have her arrested. Instead, when word gets back to the mine, the idiots actually think Lucy used witchcraft to summon Gentlemen John! Well, at least their fear prompts them to release her from the mine (so that’s the end of Matron’s profit there) and she is free to nurse Midnight. However, she begins to wonder if John actually knows something about her past because of the way he reacted to the bracelet when they first met. And now there’s no sign of him.

So Lucy goes in search of John, and fortunately Midnight is now well enough for Lucy to ride her. Unfortunately the constables spot her riding John’s horse, so now she is wanted as his accomplice. She traces John to a derelict inn, and is horrified to see he is in league with some cut throats. They are planning a big gold bullion robbery, which John is going along with rather reluctantly as he does not like their talk of murder. They just say so what? They will be hanged anyway. John says he won’t help them without Midnight, so for this reason Lucy decides not to reveal herself or Midnight to him. She heads out to Hartford Hall, where John said he was hanging around, but hears some talk that suggests Hartford Hall has a sinister reputation.

Then gypsies steal Midnight and threaten to put a curse on Lucy when she tracks them down. She decides to use her left-handed reputation to her advantage and claims she has her own powers with it. When she puts on a witchcraft act with their fierce dogs they fall for it and return Midnight. But as they do so, they say that’s no wonder she has such powers above the ordinary with that bracelet of hers. But they refuse to elaborate and tell her to get the hell out.

As Lucy nears Hartford Hall she hears more sinister rumours about it: it has been taken over by “nameless forces” ever since a tragedy occurred there. She reckons John started those rumours to scare people away from the place. At Hartford Hall she finds John, and tells him what she overheard, and tries to talk him out of it. Instead, he holds her prisoner and leaves her in the care of Nursie Kate.

When Kate sees Lucy is left-handed she says someone very dear to her and John was too. She also says John is a Robin Hood type – he steals only ill-gotten wealth and does not keep it for himself. Lucy tries to escape from the hall and warn someone about John’s plot, only to fall into a deep pool of water and John finds her. He pulls her out and takes her back to Kate for nursing. Kate also reacts strangely to the sight of Lucy’s bracelet.

Lucy falls asleep and dreams of a woman, and she calls her “mother”. Lucy explores the hall and finds a portrait of the woman. The woman in the portrait is left-handed and wears the bracelet, and Lucy realises the woman must be her mother. She then overhears a conversation between John and Kate and learns that John is her father! Her mother had been a gypsy, and her tribe never forgave her for marrying the non-Romany John. When the mother died giving birth to Lucy, John could not bear to set eyes on his infant daughter. So Kate handed her over to the gypsies, who must have abandoned her.

Lucy tries to escape again and give warning, but gets into trouble when she tries to climb a ledge. John saves her. He says he turned to being a highwayman because he was “crazed” by his wife’s death. He knew from the first who Lucy was, but her disapproval of him being a highwayman prevented him from revealing himself to her. He agrees to give up being a highwayman if Lucy will live as his daughter, and she says she knew he was not a highwayman at heart.

Thoughts

The splash panel of the highwayman in the first episode would immediately have anyone hooked into this story. There is something so romantic about the highwayman (though I’m sure the reality must have been very different), and possible spooky connotations as the highwayman is often associated with ghosts and hauntings. The story has a lot to keep the reader engaged. It’s a tight, engrossing plot with a heroine who not only suffers cruelty but also superstitious prejudice, a mystery to be solved, fugitive elements, exploitation, dastardly plots, and an animal to be nursed back to health. The heroine is determined to keep up her nursing of Gentlemen John and his horse even when she is collapsing from a hard day’s work at the mine or enduring the severities of the orphanage. But will she be cut down by a witch-hunting mob or something the way they think about her being left-handed?

The scary thing is, this story is not far wrong in the superstitious prejudice Lucy encounters because she is left-handed. In earlier centuries, being left-handed really could get you accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Lucy also has other skills that could also get her accused of witchcraft, such as her skills with nursing and herbal remedies, the way she handles the gypsies’ dogs, and how the black cat at the orphanage befriends her. It is fortunate for Lucy that she was born too late to become a victim of the witch persecutions themselves or be charged with witchcraft, but the witch superstitions still linger among the lower and less educated classes. And they are enough to make Lucy’s life an additional misery to what she suffers at the orphanage and the coal mine. If not for those superstitions regarding her left hand Lucy would have some helpers and friends among her fellow victims at those places. Ironically, that same reputation also helps Lucy to get out of those same situations by making her oppressors too frightened of her to bother her much further.

From the moment we meet Gentleman John and the kindness he shows Lucy we know he is not a bad sort, even if he is a highwayman. He’s the hero in the story while everyone else Lucy meets (the aunt and uncle, the orphanage staff and children, the coal mine people, the gypsies and the cut throats) is villainous, and he dishes out comeuppances to several of them. We have to wonder why he is a highwayman at all and what made him one when he clearly has no criminal mind. It isn’t hard to guess that it’s something to do with Lucy’s the bracelet from the way he reacts to it, and unlocking the mystery of the bracelet will also unlock the mystery of the highwayman. Like Lucy, we want him to give up being a highwayman, especially when he starts plotting something downright criminal with the evil conspirators. It is at this point we begin to despair of him, and even more so when it looks like he will proceed with the plan when Lucy catches up with him. It becomes even more imperative to unlock that mystery.

It’s certainly a bombshell when Gentleman John is revealed to be Lucy’s father, and he rejected her as a baby because of a bad reaction to his wife’s death. However, this being the reason for him becoming a highwayman sounds less plausible if he using it as a form of crusade, to get ill-gotten gains off unsavoury types. Some other explanation would have worked better, such as him being cheated and robbed by an unscrupulous type who got away with it. But it’s a relief all around when Lucy finally succeeds in getting her father to stop being a highwayman. Let us hope the law does not catch up with him all the same.

 

Was My Mother a Witch? [1979]

 

Published: Judy Picture Story Library #190

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Halloween is in the offing, which makes it fitting to focus on some more of the spooky publications from DCT.

Plot

The year is 1656. Anne is the adopted daughter of Pastor Septimus Bartholomew. Anne has always been happy there, but then small disquieting things begin to happen. Her father gets oddly upset when Anne jokingly calls one of her siblings “my little imp”, and also when she speaks endearments to a kitten.

These seem such trivial things, but they foreshadow something more worrying when Anne pays a visit to Pendleton, the village of her birth. An old woman (who looks like a witch herself!) tells Anne that her mother was a witch. As she is approaching thirteen, her own powers of witchcraft will soon awaken too, and she would have a Devil’s mark on her body. Following this, Anne begins to doubt herself. She wonders if she has inherited witchcraft from her mother, and whether a mark on her arm is the Devil’s mark like the old woman said.

Mary, the servant woman, tells Anne it’s all superstitious nonsense, and that mark on her arm is not a devil’s mark but a scar from a rose thorn. All the same, Anne has horrible nightmares of being a witch’s child that night and is still full of self-doubts.

Soon after, Anne is given a place as a seamstress to a grand lady, Mistress Latimer at Pendleton Hall – which is in the very village where her alleged witch mother lived. The sewing goes very well, but Anne is still troubled by the story about her mother and the doubts about herself. She grows even more fearful she is a witch when the household dog, Toby, reacts very badly to her for no apparent reason.

Unwisely, Anne tells people in the household that she wonders if she is a witch because of the allegations against her mother. Though Emmie the housekeeper is sensible about it, she does tell Anne that her grandmother was feared because was said to have powers to foretell the future. She also says plague killed the mother and her family, and Anne was the only survivor. However, the ensuing gossip spread by others has Lady Latimer telling Anne to leave the hall the next day.

That night Anne slips out to the ruins of the cottage where her mother once lived. She examines an old cauldron Emmie said was there, but there is nothing untoward or sinister about it.

On the way back Anne rescues the dog Toby from a trap set by the manservant of the hall. Emmie tells Anne that her act of kindness is proof she is not a witch, and gives logical explanations for Toby’s initial hostility towards her. Anne’s mind is now put to rest, but she is so glad when her family summon her home.

Thoughts

The story definitely means well in its message that the old belief in witchcraft was a product of ignorance and superstition. From the sound of it, Anne’s mother was a victim of it rather than being any practitioner of black magic, presumably because her own mother had what would now be called psychic powers. Anne was very fortunate that she experienced little more than self-doubt and some gossip. There have been so many other girls in girls’ comics who suffered full persecution that started with such rumours, such as Ellie Ross in Bunty’s “Witch!” Nor did Anne have any weird experiences that could suggest genuine powers of some sort as her counterparts in stories like “Witch!” did.

As this is a story set in the age of witchcraft persecution itself, it feels so pat and unrealistic that Anne got through it so unscathed and with such little trouble. The 17th century people in the story are not reacting to these rumours of witchcraft with the fear and hysteria that they should have. It is acknowledged that even the 17th century would have had its share of sceptics, who come across so exemplary in the forms of Mary and Emmie. But the others in the story who believe it more are not really reacting as dangerously as they should have been. In those days, once that sort of rumour got going, Anne would have found herself persecuted on all sides from witch-hunting mobs and such. Nor would she have been able to cast off the accusation of witchcraft as glibly as she did. Once the label of witchcraft stuck in those times, it was there to stay. Even if anyone was acquitted of witchcraft in those times, the accusation still cast a long shadow over their lives.

Although the story is well meaning in its intentions and the artwork works well, particularly in the spooky night scenes, the plot feels weak and unconvincing. Also, there is little drama or excitement in the story, while the potential was there to use the 17th century fear of witchcraft and its life-threatening ramifications for Anne to make it a far more intense and thrilling story.

Just One Leading Lady! [1982]

Published: Debbie #501 (18 September 1982) – #505 (16 October 1982)

Episodes: 5

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin and Phoenix for scans

Plot

Cathy Collins wants to play the lead in Dormy Drama Club’s next production. Two other girls, Sonya and Gail, are her rivals for it. Cathy’s friend, backstage girl Connie, keeps telling Cathy stories about a ghost haunting the theatre. The ghost is said to be of an actress who was so jealous of her rivals that she killed them. Cathy rubbishes such stories, but it’s not long before she sees the ghost in her nightmares. It does not help that the production they are putting on is a spooky one either.

It becomes apparent that someone is out to eliminate the rivals for the leading role, but it’s clearly no ghost. It’s a flesh-and-blood person whose maxim is that there’s only room for “just one leading lady!”, hence the title of the story.

Strike one comes when Sonya falls off the stage and claims she was pushed. The others accuse Cathy of pushing Sonya to get the leading role. Connie is the only one to stay friendly with her.

After accusing Cathy too, Gail storms off into a dressing room. The troublemaker strikes again by locking Gail in the dressing room overnight to make her ill from the freezing temperatures in there.

When this trick is discovered, everyone believes Cathy did it to get rid of both rivals. Mrs Shaw the drama club teacher tells Cathy to leave the club, pending investigation. Cathy’s protests of innocence are futile.

However, Cathy loves the theatre too much to just walk away, so she quietly watches the production from a distance. Mrs Shaw tries out various girls for the lead, none of whom are suitable. Cathy is surprised to see Connie try out for it too; she always thought Connie was happy being the backstage girl. Mrs Shaw gives Connie a minor role, saying she does not have enough experience for the lead. Cathy secretly sympathises, recalling her own experience of having to build up for a long time in the club before being allowed any major roles.

Afterwards Cathy overhears Connie practising all the lines for the lead. Connie sees her and asks her what she thought. When Cathy tries to say, in a very tactful manner, that it was wooden, Connie goes off into a big brag that she is a better actress than Cathy and the other rivals. Moreover, she gloats, she was the one who hurt Sonya and Gail and she was trying to wind Cathy up with phony stories about the ghost. She was out to get rid of all three rivals so she could grab the lead from backstage. Connie says it’s no use Cathy telling anyone because they won’t believe her. But Connie has miscalculated: Graham the SFX guy has not only overheard but also recorded everything!

A few days later, Connie has left the club permanently, everything is patched up, and Mrs Shaw is trying to work out who will play the lead. It’s not shown who gets it in the end, but Cathy doesn’t mind. She knows she will be a leading lady someday.

Thoughts

This is clearly a whodunit story, despite all the attempts of the antagonist to turn it into a ghost story. We can see that is no ghostly hand locking the dressing room door on Gail; it’s someone who is trying to take advantage of that rumour. And it is obvious from Cathy’s thought balloons that she is not guilty. Readers must have concluded that it is a third party in the group who is out for the role, and some may even have suspected it was Connie.

When Connie reveals her guilt to Cathy, readers were probably shaking their heads and thinking “poor fool”. Connie was so naïve and deluded that she could just leap into a starring role from backstage, and by playing dirty tricks instead of speaking out that she wanted to act too. The reality, which Cathy knew all too well, was that one had to build up experience on smaller roles before attempting a big one. Connie got a taste of that when Mrs Shaw said she did not have enough experience for the lead and gave her a minor role. So Connie hurt two girls and discredited a third for nothing. Yet she still has the delusion that she can play the lead far better than the other three girls.

Perversely, although Connie’s acting of the role was wooden, Cathy realises that in “a horrible way” Connie is indeed a much better actress – in the way she had fooled everyone into thinking she was content being a backstage girl when in fact she was using it as a springboard to grab the lead. To say nothing of fooling Cathy into thinking that she was her one and only friend. So did Connie have a talent for acting after all, which could have led her into starring roles with proper training and experience? Maybe it would have if she’d gone about things the right way, but she ruined whatever chance she had with nasty tricks.

Donna’s Double

Plot

Sophie Benson and Donna West are best friends. When Donna moves away, she loses touch with Sophie with no explanation. Then Sophie and her family move. At her new school, Sophie encounters Wendy Smith, whom she soon realises is really Donna. But Donna is acting very strangely – she is behaving in a timid, frightened manner and does not acknowledge Sophie. When Sophie tackles Donna, she admits she is Donna but begs Sophie to keep calling her Wendy. Sophie agrees, but is determined to find out what is going on.

donna'sdouble

Notes

  • Artist: Eduardo Feito

Appeared

  • Donna’s Double –  Bunty: #2168  (31 July 1999) – #2175 (18 September 1999)

No Joy for Jenny / “Is Bob My Brother?”

Plot:

Jenny Selby (Ruth in the reprint) is overjoyed when her brother John (Bob in the reprint) returns after being considered lost on a climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Then she begins to suspect the man is an impostor who is after the money John/Bob is set to inherit on his 21st birthday. When her suspicions become apparent, the man sends her away to boarding school. Jenny/Ruth returns secretly and, with the help of her dog Dirk, finds a sick man in a dingy room whom she is sure is her real brother. But the man does not claim to be John/Bob or recognise Jenny/Ruth.

Bob

Notes:

  • Artist: Julio Vivas (Also referenced elsewhere as Julian)
  • The story first appeared in Emma with the title “No Joy for Jenny” later it was reprinted with both Jenny and her brother renamed and a new title “Is Bob My Brother?”.

Appeared:

  • No Joy for Jenny – Emma: #56 (17 March 1979) – #65 (19 May 1979)
  • Reprinted as “Is Bob My Brother?” –  Mandy: #927 (20 Oct. 1984) – #936 (22 Dec. 1984)

 

Who is ‘J’?

Plot

Vicky Brown’s sister Mary is emotionally upset by someone with the initial ‘J’, and then has an road accident that leaves her comatose. Vicky turns detective to track down ‘J’, believing ‘J’ to be responsible for Mary’s accident. But this has her hurting a lot of innocent people whose names begin with J because she has wrongly assumed they are ‘J’.

J

Notes

  • Artist: Barrie Mitchell? (unconfirmed)

Appeared

  • Who is ‘J’? –  Mandy: #919 (25 August 1984) – #932 (24 November 1984)