Tag Archives: mystery

When Vera Vanished…

  • When Vera Vanished… – Suzy: #232 (14 February 1987) – #238 (28 March 1987)

Plot

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 reals 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!

Thoughts

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 physiological 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.

Rosetta and the House of Fear

  • Rosetta and the House of Fear – Mandy: #358 (24 November 1973) – #362 (22 December 1973)
  • Artist: Guy Peeters

Plot

Fourteen year old Rosetta was brought up by gypsies and had found work as a maid at the big house, owned by invalid, Mrs Trevelyan. The house was known as ‘The Towers’ and Rosetta felt drawn to it, but also cautious as she also sensed a mystery surrounding the house and it’s occupants. Joe and Emily Briggs and their daughter Molly, were the only other staff that Mrs Trevelyan had and Rosetta suspected they were trying to swindle the woman after hearing them arguing about money.

Rosetta finding a dress laid out for her tries it on, but is distressed when Mrs Trevelyan is taken ill after seeing her in the dress that had belonged to her dead daughter. When she wants to go apologise to her, Mrs Briggs forbids her. Later when she goes to try and talk to her anyway, she sees Emily Briggs coming out of Mrs Trevelyan’s room and locking the door, she assumes this to keep her out. She wonders what she can do about this, as who would believe the word of a gipsy girl. She decides to go to nursery to think, but then wonders how she knew the room was nursery, and inside the nursery more strange occurrences as she seems to know what a doll is named too.

When Rosetta sees Mrs Briggs, slipping something into Mrs Trevelyan’s food, she decides to slip out and ask her gipsy friends for help. She is too late though as the gipsy camp has moved on and Joe Briggs catches her and brings her back to ‘The Towers’. Despite the Briggs keeping a closer eye on Rosetta, she does manage to switch out the sleeping powder that the Briggs are giving Mrs Trevelyan, with a harmless powder. More luck for Rosetta as she meets Mr Price who is buying old paintings from the house. He tells her how the house used to be a happy place but then Miss Selina, her husband and daughter drowned in an accident. The Briggs came to work for the family soon after, but Mr Trevelyan didn’t like them and then he met with a tragic accident too, killed while riding. After hearing this Rosetta wonders are the Briggs capable of murder and if the only thing stopping them killing Mrs Trevelyan too was in case the house was sold by whoever inherited it.

No longer being drugged Mrs Trevelyan is up and about and Joe Briggs is quick to steer  her away from Rosetta. Later Mrs Trevelyan collapses again and Rosetta finds a syringe nearby. The next day, Rosetta is waiting for the injection to wear off so she can talk with Mrs Trevelyan. Molly is hanging around mocking Rosetta’s gipsy heritage, she mentions that she could be a lady if her family could solve a riddle –  “I lie beneath the sun, yet am always in darkness. Time passes over me, yet I never grow old. Where am I?” Rosetta has heard that riddle before and spends the day pondering it. Still her priority is to talk with Mrs Trevelyan so when she sees an opportunity she goes for it, only to be caught by Joe Briggs and thrown in the cellar. In the celler she finds a chest with album in it. She is drawn to a photo of Selina and her family, feeling like she knows them…

The Briggs don’t keep her locked up in the cellar, they plan to work her hard with no food and lock her in her room at night. Rosetta thinks the only way to escape is to solve the riddle. Looking out of her window at night she figures out that the riddle refers to the sundial. She manages to slip away and finds a hidden compartment in the sundial containing Mrs Trevelyan’s will. Unfortunately this was all part of the Briggs plan, to get her to find the will, so they can change it and now having done what they needed from her they plan to get rid of her for good! Luckily her gipsy family arrives in time to stop them. Magda also shows her the pinafore they found her in which has the Trevelyan family symbol on it. Rosetta is Mrs Trevelyan’s granddaughter and now that the Briggs have been exposed, she and her grandmother can start making ‘The Towers’ a happy place to live again.

Thoughts

Here we have some common story elements; scheming characters trying to get inheritance and a girl finding out she is a long lost relative (such as in ‘The Secret of Hardwick Hall’). Considering the potential for playing with and expanding on these elements, the story seems  unusually short at only 5 episodes. For the most part this does help keep the pace quick and still covers all that we need to know. It’s quickly established that the Briggs are shady characters, and becomes apparent that they are keeping Mrs Trevelyan in a state of illness. Meanwhile Rosetta finding she somehow knows things about the house, coupled with the story of the family drowning, it is obvious that she will turn out to be the grandchild. There is a nice touch with the Briggs needing Rosetta to figure out the riddle (although it doesn’t seem they were aware of her connection to the house). It shows their cunning by getting Molly to mention the riddle, then watching Rosetta to see where she goes.

So while the story keeps things interesting and fast moving, the last episode could have been expanded on more, especially as Rosetta escapes the Briggs through a deus ex machina! The gipsies show up to help, not because Rosetta got message to them or some other set up, just Magda’s crystal ball suddenly telling them they needed to return. Then she explains about finding Rosetta half drowned as a child. We don’t get to see Rosetta react to this news or even the reunion with her grandmother as the last 2 panels just cut to a few days later with Rosetta and Mrs Trevelyan waving the gipsies off. While Rosetta showed concern for the old lady throughout the story, because the Briggs tried to keep them apart, we never see a relationship build between them. The ending could have taken the time to establish the connection and end on a more emotional note.

 

The Girl in the Mask / The Mask

Plot

After Dorinda Lacey’s parents die, she is taken in by her wealthy Aunt Clara. Aunt Clara tells Dorinda she is frightfully ugly. So Dorinda has to wear a mask at all times and every mirror in the house save the one in Aunt Clara’s room is removed.

Mask.jpg

Notes

  • Artist: Claude Berridge

Appeared

  • The Girl in the Mask:  Mandy: #875 (10 October 1983) – #890 (4 February 1984)
  • Reprinted as The Mask – M&J: #58 (20 June 1992) – #73 (3 October 1992)

 

Sally’s Secret [1993]

  • Sally’s Secret –  M&J:  #112 (3 July 1993) – #119 (21 August 1993)
  • Artist: Bert Hill

Plot

Linda Brown’s family move to a new estate and she is happy when the family next door has a girl her age. Linda becomes quick friends with Sally Smart, but there is something mysterious about her new friend. Sally’s father is not around, but she says he will join them soon, and then they will be moving on, in the meantime she says they can be friends. Sally is very evasive of any questions about her father and other strange things like saying there’s no point in them installing a phone and that her dad won’t write or call.

When they go to see a film together, there is a scene where the father walks out on the family. Later Linda asks if that’s what happened with Sally’s family and she gets upset. She knows her parents still love each other and really want to be together, even if they cant do that right now.  The girls make up after their fight and Linda though still curious about what the mystery with Mr Smart is, she is a lot more cautious about asking questions.

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More strange things happen, such as Sally’s aunt comes to visit the house, but Sally avoids her and the aunt just lets herself into the house. Later they go back to the house and find, Sally’s aunt has cleared the food out and unplugged the fridge! When the girls start at school, Linda overhears Mrs Smart saying if Sally had played things her way she wouldn’t have to go to school. In art class the teacher has bunch of old newspapers from around the country, Sally is surprised to see something in a newspaper from her old home town. Linda hopes she can read the paper but Sally throws it into a fire, so she can only read part of the headline “Ex-Shaftsbury Man in..”. Again Linda wonders what Mr Smart is involved in. She thinks he may be criminal on the run after seeing news report, but then she sees photos of Mr Smart and he is not either of the men she saw on tv.

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There are other strange things about Sally, like when a teacher talks to Sally about future careers and later Sally says she won’t be working any job when she’s older. Linda wonders how that would be possible, as they don’t seem so rich that she could afford not to work. When they come across a trapped dog and go to rescue it, the dog keeps barking at Sally. At first she thinks it’s  odd as dogs usually like her, then she realises what the problem is but doesn’t elaborate on what that is to Linda.  Afterwards a local reporter wants to do an article about the rescue for the paper, but Sally says she’s too shy. Knowing how outgoing she is, Linda knows this is a lie, but the reporter takes a photo anyway (not very ethical of him!). Linda goes to persuade him not to run the article but it turns out something was wrong with the photo as Sally doesn’t show up in it.

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When the class go on a school trip, Sally notices people from her old school there, she asks Linda to cover for her and she sneaks away, so she won’t have to meet any of them. Later Linda goes to Sally’s house and overhears Mrs Smart telling Sally things are getting too complicated and they may have to go with out her father. Linda is sorry to lose her friend, but Sally is a lot happier when she hears their father will be able to join them after all. The next day Linda says her goodbyes, then a few days later, she sees the Smarts house up for sale. Linda gets talking to the estate agent, who tells her the sad story behind the house, a family just bought the house when the mother and daughter were killed in a car accident in Spain. The father was left in a coma but had recently died, so his sister was putting the house on the market. Linda is shocked it turns out Mr Smart wasn’t the strange one, it was Sally and Mrs Smart who were unusual, as they were ghosts!

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Thoughts

This is a nice little mystery story with solid art by Bert Hill as always. Actually M&J seemed to be quite fond of the mysterious new neigbours storylines (such as Strange Neighbours and Strangers). The ending was unexpected, although the hints were there throughout the story if you took notice, such as Sally saying she won’t have a job in the future and she won’t be able to stay in contact after they leave. Of course this is more obvious once you know the twist. Some of the phrasing also takes on new meaning when the ending is known such as “moving on”, which often is associated with death and grief. There are other times when Sally says things like “we all have sadness in our lives” which has a heavier meaning and makes the ending seem a bit tragic, as Sally is a likable character. Sally is a good friend to Linda, is shown to be generous and ironically for a ghost is full of life! She has a daredevil attitude, and encourages Linda to be more adventurous.

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It’s in the penultimate episode that the potential supernatural element was more apparent, when the dog didn’t like Sally and when she didn’t show up in photo. I like that Linda’s focus (and therefore also the readers) is that there something mysterious about the Mr Smart and how she keeps trying to think of reasons why he isn’t around and why he can’t contact them. I would have thought maybe prison or some witness protection thing first, as I was not thinking of more bizarre reasons.

It does raise some questions such as how were they able to eat and interact with things as ghosts, and how was Sally enrolled in the school, without them knowing about the accident. Also after the Smarts leave, there must have been some fallout, as Sally would disappear and surely others must find out about her, she interacted with so many people, how would they react on finding out ghosts exist, would the reporter do a story on it? Still other than  those questions, it is well paced and like I said the hints were there without being too obvious, so the twist doesn’t come out of no where, but is still effective.

Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve – Review

mistyThere has already been quite a few reviews of this new Rebellion reprint of Misty Stories, which is great to see it’s being well received.  This isn’t the first Rebellion book I have got and I was pleased to see the quality I expected continues for this reprint. It’s glossy paper, well bound (which having had books where the pages fall out the first time you open them is an important factor!) and (for the most part) faithful reprinting of the material.

The two stories chosen are certain to be among favorites. Moonchild – inspired by Stephen King’s Carrie and written by Pat Mills with art by John Armstrong was one of the first stories printed in Misty. It follows Rosemary Black a girl with a crescent moon scar on her forehead who develops strange powers. Her oppressive, abusive mother claims it is wickedness in her, while she also has to deal with nasty bullies in school.  The reprint is taken from the 1983 Misty annual rather than the original issues, but unless you’re familiar with the original it is hardly noticeable and doesn’t take away much from the atmospheric story. John Armstrong’s art is great and certainly I am fan of the bigger splash pages he does. Unfortunately because of the use of thin lines the art appears faded in some places, it may distract a little, but it is a minor quibble and Rebellion have done well in reproducing the story.

moonchild       4-faces

The second story is The Four Faces of Eve written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Brian Delaney, it is a mysterious story about Eve, a girl who has amnesia, but then has nightmares about a girl dying. As she tries to unravel the mystery she also finds she has a connection to two other dead girls too. Although it is a close call, this is my favorite of the two stories, the mystery, the questionable parents, the suspenseful build up and the gorgeous art by Brian Delaney. This reprint is more faithful, including the title and recap box for every episode.

Along with the stories there are two crafty features which are a nice addition, a foreword from Pat Mills and profiles of the creators in the back, including Shirley Bellwood who was responsible for the art of cover girl Misty. Although the book may look thin, there is a lot packed in and all of it is good quality (and certainly it’s no thinner than a lot of other trade-paperbacks). It will entertain fans of old girls comics or people who like a good supernatural story and appreciate fantastic artwork.

[Misty: Featuring Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve. Rebellion Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781781084526]

Read comixminx review focusing on publishing choices here:

Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve (2016)

The Green Lady (1986)

the-green-lady-cover

 

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.

Fear from the Past (1979)

Fear from the Past cover

Published: Judy Picture Library #192

Artists: Ian Kennedy? (cover); unknown (story)

Plot

June Mason and her father are on holiday in Germany and enjoying a Rhine steamer cruise. Then, one night an unknown man seizes June and throws her overboard. As he does so, June notices a scar on his right wrist.

A woman named Hanna Schmidt rescues June. The attack remains unsolved and of course June has been traumatised. In gratitude to Hanna, the Masons grant her request to stay with them for a few days, at their fine home near Dover.

All seems well until June is surprised to see Hanna out walking on the estate in the dead of night. But Parker the gamekeeper mistakenly fires a warning shot at Hanna because he mistook her for a poacher. Hanna’s story is that she could not sleep because of a romantic conflict of interest: she has fallen in love with an Englishman named Roger Mills while already loving another man in Germany. She asks the Masons if she can invite Roger over. June and her father think it is an awkward situation, but as they are grateful to Hanna, they agree to her request, but Roger must stay in the village.

Fear from the Past 2

As Hanna sets off to post her reply to Roger, Parker suddenly gets shot. Apparently his gun went off, and the injury is serious. When Roger arrives, he is allowed to take over Parker’s job and lodge temporarily because he has gardening experience.

Then June notices a scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it as the one she saw on the assailant who threw her off the steamer. Soon June is drawing the right conclusions: Roger and Hanna are carrying out some sort of criminal plot. Roger threw her into the river for Hanna to “rescue” so Hanna would gain the Masons’ confidence and access to their property. Roger deliberately shot Parker so as to get his job and access to the Masons’ estate. June decides against telling her father for now in case he does not believe her, but is going to watch Hanna and Roger very closely.

June steals an opportunity to sneak into the gardener’s lodge and search Roger’s belongings in search of clues. She finds a rough map of their property that looks very aged and faded. On the map are the words “next to the elm” and “summerhouse” in German. She realises Hanna and Roger are after something hidden in the grounds. Her guess is confirmed when she finds Roger digging near the roots of an elm, and knows it is not because of rotting roots as Roger claims.

June goes to tell her father – only to find a note that he has gone to Manchester on urgent business. But in fact Roger has drawn Mr Mason away with a phony call.

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Worse, Hanna saw June snooping in the lodge. When she tells Roger, they realise they must act fast. The trouble is, Roger has discovered the summerhouse has been moved since the map was drawn. This has left them with dozens of elms to check now and created an unforeseen delay when they had anticipated only a short time was required. They decide to work through the night, when June is asleep.

However, June is not asleep; she is keeping watch and sees Hanna sneak off into the woods. She follows, but Roger catches her. They leave June tied up, gagged and locked up in the gardener’s lodge, and they return to work. They intend to vanish for good once they find what they are looking for.

But Hanna and Roger have made two mistakes. First, they neglected to bind June’s legs, so she can still use them. Second, they did not see the dog-flap in the lodge. So, though still bound, June manages to escape. She flags down a lorry, and once the truckers see her bound and gagged they untie her and then come with her to stop the plotters. They arrive in time to see Roger and Hanna unearth what they have been looking for: a cache of valuables buried under an elm. The truckers seize the criminals and June calls the police.

The whole story comes out under police interrogation. Hanna’s father had been a WW2 pilot who looted a stately French home when the liberation of Paris started. He fled across the Channel in his plane, but was shot down and also wounded. Despite his injury, he managed to parachute into the grounds with the loot, bury it under the elm, and draw the rough map of its location. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a British POW camp. His wounds prevented him from returning to retrieve the treasure, so he entrusted the job to Hanna.

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Parker pulls through and is expected to make a complete recovery. Hanna is handed over to the German authorities while the British police charge Roger. The French government sends a letter of deep gratitude for the return of the valuables, particularly for the part June played. June then tells Dad she fancies their next holiday to be in Switzerland. Dad jokes they will have to make sure nobody pushes her off a mountain.

Thoughts

This is a very straightforward mystery story. It gets off to a very catchy start when a shadowy assailant attacks June on the steamer and throws her into the Rhine. Being pushed overboard would a terrifying, traumatic experience for anyone. The artwork makes the attack even more frightening with its use of black-and-white used in silhouette. The assailant and his motives are completely unknown. It can only look like attempted murder. Readers would very likely be set off in the direction of why anyone would want to kill June.

When June goes home she thinks she is safe, but the reader knows better; there wouldn’t be any point to the story otherwise. The attacker is sure to strike again, and the reader reads on in suspense to see when and how he will return. We wonder if he will strike at Hanna as well when she tags along with the Masons. Things get even tenser when the two shooting incidents occur, though they seem to be mishaps and nothing to do with the assailant.

Fear from the Past 3

When June sees the scar on Roger’s wrist and recognises it, she exhibits impressive powers of observation and deduction. Despite the shock, she had managed to notice the scar on her assailant’s wrist and remembered it. And once she sees it again, it only takes her a few minutes to work out the truth. She also shows tremendous courage in snooping into Roger’s belongings and realising she has to stand on her own when her father is called away on a phony call. She also shows resourcefulness and quick thinking when the crooks tie her up in the lodge. They think they have her secured, but she escapes quickly due to her superior knowledge of the lodge and their forgetting to tie her feet.

Roger and Hanna do have to be admired for their craftiness. The Masons realise the criminals must have spent months watching them in order to know about their Rhine cruise and put their scheme together. Their plan to gain access to the Masons’ property to start their search was extremely cunning. But things can go wrong with even the best-laid plans; in this case, the relocation of the summerhouse causing an unexpected delay and giving June more time to work out what is going on. And criminals have to make mistakes at some point. This happens when they try to secure June, but make the two mistakes noted above. Mr Mason also believes that attacking June outright on the steamer was another mistake and gave them away. It certainly did when June saw the scar during the attack. And suppose someone had witnessed the attack and caught Roger? They would have been far more clever to stage an accident for June on the steamer and make it look like an accident.

Fear from the Past 1

There are two quibbles with this story. The first is the title, which does not sound very descriptive of the story. “Fear from the Past” sounds like the protagonist has to overcome some fear in her past or something. Couldn’t they have found a better title, and one that summed up the cover (showing the attack on the steamer) more appropriately? The second is the second panel on page 51, where June escapes through the dog-flap. A speech balloon is used for June here, but it shouldn’t be because June is gagged. It should be a thought balloon. This is clear sloppiness on the part of the letterer and editor.

Still, this is an engrossing story. The early attack on the steamer makes it even more gripping, particularly as the attacker and his motives remain unknown. The plotting is well paced and tight, and there is no meandering into red herrings. The use of black inking and the contrast of white space add to the atmosphere and tension of the story, and also to the night scenes, when a lot of the plot developments occur. There are plenty of panels where the artwork is simply sumptuous, such as the one where June falls into the Rhine. We can see that the artist would be brilliant at a ballet or gymnastics story.

“I Must Find My Mum” / “I’ll Find My Mum”

  • “I Must Find My Mum” – Bunty Picture Story Library #237  (1983)
  • Reprinted as “I’ll Find My Mum” –   Bunty Picture Story Library #402  (1995)
  • Partial reworking of text story Cinderella of the Orphanage
  • Artist:  J. Badesa

Plot

I'll find my mumIn the text story “Cinderella of the Orphanage”  Cindy Winters (renamed Waters in the psl) has grown up in the Oldbank orphanage, she is a kind-hearted and helpful girl and has a close relationship with Mrs Blake the house mother and Harry Winters the handyman who found her on the orphanage doorstep. Cindy Winters is shown to be a problem solver and helper, it is the last episodes of the text series that revolve around Cindy looking for her mother which is the focus of the picture story library book.

Cindy Waters is upset to hear that Mrs Blake is retiring, but then Mrs Blake tells her she would like to legally adopt her. She says it is Cindy’s choice, but first she must be aware of new information has come to light, that may influence her decision.  The matron has a letter that was left with her as a baby, usually such things would be given  to the child they lave the home but they feel she should have all the information now. Back at the home Cindy is given the letter, Cindy’s mother writes that she can’t look after her now but Mary Blake was kind to her once and she knows she will look after her. She also says she will come back one day to claim her. She also enclosed a photo of four girls but they are in costumes with their faces mostly hidden.

i'll find my mum 2

Cindy goes back to Mrs Blake to ask her what she remembers. Mrs Blake worked at a hostel The Footlight Club in London where young actresses would try and make a name for themselves. Unfortunately it was so long ago and so many girls came and went that she can’t remember any names. Cindy is not deterred though, she will be 16 in a month’s time when the summer holidays start and she wants to use that time to try and find her mother. Although Mrs Blake tells Cindy not to get her hopes up too much as the authorities had no luck in finding her mother. But knowing how determined Cindy is, Blake and Matron arrange for her to stay in Mrs Blake’s cousins guesthouse. At the guesthouse Cindy has a roommate Janet Draper, an art student, whom she soon makes friends with.

Cindy starts her investigation the next morning, first she goes to the photographers where the photo was taken, but finds it is now a coffee shop. Next she tries the Footlight Club, she has more luck there, as she is directed to Old Nellie who used to be the wardrobe mistress. Cindy shows Nellie the photo and is surprised to find Nellie has a copy of the photo herself. She was given it by one of the girls’,  Nancy Stevens, although she doesn’t remember the other three girls. Nancy went on to become quite famous and changed her name to Felicity Oldbank. Cindy thinks it can’t be a coincidence that the stage name she chose is the same as the Children’s home. Felicity is appearing in a musical nearby so Cindy has a chance to meet her. Felicity is moved by Cindy’s story but she is not her mother, she was in fact raised in the Oldbank home too, which is why she chose the name. Looking at the photo, she remembers it was taken after an audition. Two girls didn’t get the part but herself and another girl Connie did. Connie settled down and married soon after the play, so Cindy is disappointed that she is unlikely to be her mother. But Felicity tells her not to lose hope as Connie may remember the other two girls in the photo.

i'll find my mum 3

When Cindy meets Connie she is able to give her the names of  the other girls, Clarice Hastings, and Diana Thorpe who sadly died in an aircrash years ago. She has not been in contact with Clarice but she remembers, the photographer was a family friend of Clarice. Before going back to London  Cindy promises to call into Janet’s father who lives close by. Connie knows the Drapers and tells Cindy, about how Janet’s mother was killed in a car crash that also left her father paralyzed. Janet was mostly raised by Miss Barnes, Mr Draper’s nurse. When she visits Mr Draper, Cindy is surprised that a sunny girl like Janet could come from such a miserable place. Mr Draper sounds like a spoilt child and Miss Barnes seems cold and clearly had been crying before she arrived. Just as she is leaving she is surprised as Miss Barnes kisses her on the cheek and says to pass it to Janet.

i'll find my mum 4

The next day in London, Cindy goes to the coffee shop where the photographer studio once was. The owner contacts the lawyer who handled the sale and they are able to track down the Martins. This leads Cindy to Clarice where she explains her story again. She is disappointed that she is not her mother, which only leaves the deceased Diana, but then Clarice tells her that she had seen Diana a couple of years back, very much alive. Cindy tries to go back to Felicity in case Diana is still an actress and she might know her but Felicity has moved on. She seems to be momentarily at a dead end, then Janet receives a letter from Miss Barnes about her father undergoing an operation to help him walk again. Cindy is shocked that the writing is the same as her mother’s letter!

She goes to visit Miss Barnes who embraces Cindy and confesses that she is her mother but she was too afraid and ashamed to say anything last time in case Cindy rejected her. She tells her story; that she had not been on the ill fated flight because she had an accident on the way to the airport. Hurting her leg, she knew she wouldn’t be able to dance again so she decided to train as a nurse. It was then she met Cindy’s father, a medical student and married him. Tragedy struck, as just before Cindy was born he was killed in a car crash. In shock and with little money, Diana had decided to give up Cindy, just while she finished her nursing training, she planned to come back for her when she had more money. Miss Barnes took the job with Mr Draper because of the good money but she did not reckon on how demanding an possessive he was. She felt sorry for him and that she couldn’t leave him.

I'll find my mum 5

Now things have changed with Mr Draper having a successful operation and Janet moving to an art studio back home she finally she feels she can leave. She gets a job at the Oldbank home and her and Cindy move in with Mrs Blake at her insistence.

 

Thoughts

Stories were often reprinted or updated, text stories turned to picture stories, and in a case like this sometimes they were shortened into one complete picture story library book.  Another time I can think of this happening is Bunty story Captain Shirley. In Cinderella of the Orphanage,  like I mentioned it starts with stories about Cindy’s time helping out in the orphanagethe plot of Cindy looking for her mother takes  place in Bunty #167-173 (this is only a small part of the story as Cinderella of the Orphanage started in #157). They do well taking the core mystery as the story  and the picture story library does not feel incomplete for missing out on the rest of the text story.

“I’ll Find My Mum” has an interesting mystery with only a photo as a clue to where her mother might be. Of course typically she ends up tracking the three other women before the final woman being revealed as her mother. It wouldn’t be quite so tense if the first woman she fond was her mother.  Also introducing the plot that Diana is supposedly dead means the readers put their hope on Clarice being the mother if Cindy is going to have a happy ending to her search. It’s a good way of keeping things more emotional and readers invested. Of course the reveal that Miss Barnes is actually Diana is a surprise and quite an unbelievable coincidence that Cindy would find her through room-mating with Janet! Also it’s hard to make Mr Draper sympathetic when he has been so demanding of Miss Barnes.

While most of story makes it in tact from the text, even little things such as Cindy being a nickname, she was actually baptized Angela Mary, there are some changes. A subplot was dropped about Cindy’s money going missing and she suspects Janet. Also when we are first introduced to Janet they have a longer conversation and a description of her includes: “Cindy felt rather as if a charming tornado had swept through the room“. After this Cindy makes a comment about it not going to dull with Janet around, this line is kept in the psl but it fails to fully represent the frenzied nature of the meeting, so that line now seems a bit out of place.

I'll find my mum 6

Cindy is also a little younger in the text story but the major change comes from time period it is set in. The text story was published in 1961, while it doesn’t make a difference to the majority of the story, it does change the details of Diana Thorpe’s past. The ill-fated air-crash that she managed to avoid was actually a for a troupe going to entertain the soldiers. Seeing air raid victims is what influenced her to be a nurse and Cindy’s father actually died just after the war after catching typhus in the East. While it doesn’t change the core of the story it would give more insight to why Diana would have struggled more with a baby and how she could be more vulnerable after such events. Reading the text story adds this nice details but are not necessary to enjoy the picture story library.

cindy

Petra the Perfect Stranger (1980)

Plot

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.

Petra

Notes

Appeared

  • Petra the Perfect Stranger – Tracy #48 (30 August 1980) – ?

30 Days of Destiny

Plot

Angela Dobson, is sent to stay with her with Great-Aunt Geraldine in Madoc Castle near the Cornish coast. Angela seems to have a connection with her ancestor Lady Angelina, a wild young lady who became a highway robber. Somehow Angela has timeslips back to the past that helps her uncover the mystery of Lady Angelina.

Notes

Appeared

  • 30 Days of Destiny – circa #730 (5 Jan 1974) – (?)