Tag Archives: mystery

The House of Cats

Plot

Young Caroline was mute since her parents were killed by a highwayman. Then she was taken from the workhouse to work for Miss Abigail in her large gloomy mansion. Caroline discovered the house was also being used as a hideout for highwaymen and also that a girl was being held prisoner somewhere in the building. Some cats which roamed the house were Caroline’s only friends.

Notes

  • For some episodes “the” was dropped from the title making it just “House of Cats”

Appeared

  • The House of Cats – Debbie: #297 (21 October 1978) – #306 (23 December 1978)

Marcia – Mystery Skater [1973]

Plot

Amy Woodley becomes convinced a brilliant skater named Katina is in fact her sister Marcia. But Katina does not even recognise Amy as her sister. And who is that mysterious woman in black who is always veiled and trying to stop Amy from finding out the truth, even to the point of framing her for theft? It becomes apparent that the woman in black has some sort of evil influence over Marcia, and Katina’s skating, while brilliant, has an oddly mechanical look.

Notes

Appeared

  • Marcia – Mystery Skater Debbie: #17 (9 June 1973) – #35 (13 October 1973)

The Babysitter

Plot

While staying with her Aunt, Jill Marley heard a child crying next door, on investigation she finds a young girl, Maise. She stays there until her parents return she then finds out the house has been empty for 5 years, since a bad accident.

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • The Babysitter – Suzy: #78 (3 March 1984) – #79 (10 March 1984)

The Mary Mason Mystery

Plot

Everyone thought that Bethany Blacks best pal Mary Mason was an only child, but Bethany suspects Mary has a twin. Then while visiting Mary’s mum, a scientist, to tell her Mary was in hospital with hurt wrist, she saw two girls identical to the absent Mary.

Notes

  • Photo Story

Appeared

  • The Mary Mason Mystery – Suzy: #74 (4 February 1984) – #78 (3 March 1984)

Zara Phantom of the Track

Plot

Arnfield Junior atheletics club had a mysterious new member, a young girl called Zara Farr. The girls nicknamed her the phantom because of her white tracksuit and her silent powerful style of running. One of the members Maureen Clark was certain there was a mystery surrounding Zara and was determined to find out the truth.

Notes

  • Art: Mario Capaldi?

Appeared

  • Zara Phantom of the Track – Suzy: #55 (24 September 1983) – #64 (26 November 1983)

Terror at Tall Towers

Plot

Melanie Forsyth was the leading soloist at the Sheringly school choir which was competing at the Tall Towers song festival. Melanie was being threatened by a ghostly hooded figure, that called herself Sylvia. Sylvia didn’t want her to sing, and Melanie suspected one of the other girls in the choir was responsible. She seeks help from Mr Armstrong the blind piano tuner to uncover the culprit.

Notes

Appeared

  • Terror at Tall Towers – #45 (16 July 1983) – #50 (20 August 1983)

The Fire Raiser

Plot

Tracy Burton was suspected of having caused a fire at Hollington Comp School, where a teacher, Miss Abbott was killed. Tracy had not spoken since the night of the blaze and her family moved her away. Two years later when the school was nearly rebuilt, Tracy ran away from home. The police feared that she had returned to the school with the intention of setting it on fire.

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • The Fire Raiser – Suzy: #28 (19 March 1983) – #33 (23 April 1983)

The Strange Ones [1964]

  • The Strange Ones – Diana: #61 (18 April 1964) – #72 (04 July 1964)
  • Reprinted – Spellbound: #23 (26 February 1977) – #34 (14 May 1977)

Plot

The Harleminster Ballet School is located in a quiet, rural area of England and everything is peaceful until the sudden arrival of three mysterious girls. The girls surprise the headmistress by already being in school uniform, the school does happen to have three vacancies but it is a most unusual way of joining. Another surprise is, despite the looking identical, they say they are not related and introduce themselves as Jean Smith, Mary Jones and Ann Brown. The headmistress takes them to meet the other girls in their class. On questioning it seems they never danced before and say they wouldn’t know their previous school. The other girls find them weird and creepy. Ursula is to take them to their dorm and it is there the girls first show their unusual powers. Mary starts having fun with a plant, it suddenly grows and attacks Ursula.

Luckily she is stopped by the arrival of the headmistress and other girls. But when the headmistress confronts them, she is stopped in the middle of her speech and then collapses to the floor.  The Strange Ones have used their powers to make her blind. It is clear now that they are dangerous people. They will not say what they want with the school, but they can undo what they have done if they wish, but no one must attempt escape or try to contact anyone. The school is the carry on as normal per the Strange Ones commands and the girls despite no ballet experience make remarkable progress. The other girls in the school are naturally terrified of them. While talking with a teacher, Miss Lennox, they make a plan to contact the police, unfortunately not knowing that telepathy is another of the Strange Ones powers.

Miss Lennox tries to leave and contact the polices but the Strange Ones attack her with a plant. It completely envelops her and when the leaves fall away she looks like one of the Strange Ones. According to the Strange Ones is just in appearance and the unconscious Miss Lennox is taken to bed. The girls in the dance class are upset by these events, but they must continue to follow the Strange Ones demands that the class must go on. One girl wonders why ballet is so important to them. Later the Strange Ones are shown around the grounds. They come to a churchyard where famous ballerina Juliana Tanfield is buried there, using their powers again an apparition of Juliana appears and dances.

The Strange Ones are not pleased to see an arrival (a delivery man)  at the school, but they turn it to their advantage. They give the man super strength and command him to guard the school. Of course when the delivery man doesn’t return this attracts the attention of the police. When they come to the school to investigate, they are chased away by the man and they go to get reinforcements. The Strange Ones are confident in their powers, so they are not worried about this.  When the army arrive the Strange Ones have set rods around the school which the army cannot pass. Meanwhile the girls have come up with a plan, after talking to the Strange Ones partially in Latin, they discover dead languages mean nothing to them, therefore they can use it to shield their thoughts. But the Strange Ones won’t be defeated so easily, they force one of the girls, Maria Blake, to tell them what language they are using. They also allow Maria to escape as the figure they can use her to set a trap.

Four other girls have used an old tunnel to try and contact the army, not knowing that the Strange Ones have now learned Latin and are aware of their movements. When they emerge from the tunnels, they are shocked to find they look like The Strange Ones. The army are about to arrest them, despite their protests, until Maria Blake sticks up for them as there are four of  them they must be telling the truth. Unfortunately, once the army have let down their guard the Strange Ones take over the girls, making them attack. Then leaving the army unconscious they head for the town, to also attack them.

Maria  seeing everything, follows the girls into the town where they wreck havoc. She notices that the girls stick together and following that hunch, she manages to separate one from the others and all four collapse. She then goes back to the school with this knowledge. While dancing, Maria partners with a Strange One, while repeating a multiplication table in her head she maneuvers the girl out the door and locks her out. She tells the others to grab the other Strange Ones and with them now powerless they demand an explanation.Having no other choice they tell the class they come from the planet Talmar which is at war with another planet, Kotil over possession of a third planet, Gald. The opposing planets had agreed to fight a “war in the arts” the winner getting Gald. The Strange Ones had been sent to learn ballet for this war.  They agree to reverse what they have done and leave peacefully once the three are together again. They keep their promise but leave with the ominous words “someday our planet may need earth – then we will return”.

Thoughts

This is possibly influenced by the 1957 novel “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham. It’s popular film adaption “Village of the Damned” came out just a few years prior to this story and I can see some similarities. Both take place in an isolated British town, feature strange children, who look alike with their platinum blonde hair and have incredible mental powers and an unknown agenda. The Cuckoos/Strange Ones, always stay in a group, act in a very cold, matter of fact way showing little emotion and unnerve those around them.  It is not the only time The Midwich Cuckoos would influence a comic book, in Grant Morrison’s X-Men run he introduced “The Stepford Cuckoos” a group of five telepathic girls. Perhaps, Morrison was even familiar with “The Strange Ones”.

      (Village of the Damned – Image Source)                    (Stepford Cuckoos in New X-Men #137)

Although the story had 12 episodes it is actually quite short as there was only 1 page per episode. As the events are meant to take place over a short period of time this works to it’s advantage. Things move along quickly, after the first episode the Strange Ones pretense of being “normal” students is dropped. Once they reveal their powers, they are not referred to by their “names” just as the Strange Ones. While we see reactions of the schoolgirls and them trying to come up with plans, there isn’t really a protagonist against the girls until Maria, who isn’t named until over half ways through the story. This works fine as it keeps the focus on the Strange Ones. There is great imagery throughout, capturing the eeriness and formidable powers of the girls.  There is also good use of colour such as the yellow in the panel below, I particularly like the panels where the girls use their powers from a distance. I only have the Spellbound version but I would guess the original in Diana would have been even more impressive with it’s glossy paper. It is understandable why the school girls find them creepy and are frightened.

 

The ending leaves a lot of questions, I am curious about these warring planets and is the prize, Gald, an occupied planet that they will overthrow?  I would also like to see how this “war of the arts” went, who won, wheter the winning planet would want to expand the number of planets they own and is Earth in danger? Especially with the Strange Ones parting words, which could be seen as a warning or possibly they may need help against a bigger threat! The Strange Ones are true to their word reversing what they have done so maybe Kotil is that bigger threat! I think the mysterious ending  works in keeping in tone with story.

 

Behind Closed Doors [1986]

  • Behind Closed Doors – Suzy:  #174 (4 January 1986) – #176 (18 January 1986)

Plot

When her parents had to go away on business, Becky Smart was sent to stay with her aunt and uncle at Hawthorn Hall. When she arrives, her aunt and uncle’s foster daughter, Sara, tells Becky she can’t see them as they are ill and confined to bed. Becky suspects Sara is lying and tries to investigate. Sara tries to put Becky off, she tells her although Aunt Margaret can’t have visitors, she is well enough to look out the window. Becky watches the window of her Aunt’s window and does see a figure in it, but by staying and watching Becky notices the figure doesn’t move. She is now convinced Sara has been lying to her and set up a model of her aunt to stop her digging further.

She goes to find Sara and catches her in tears, talking to herself, Sara says she wishes she could tell Becky the truth but she would get in so much trouble. Becky locks her in the room so she can investigate unhampered. Becky gets in to her relatives locked bedroom, her suspicions are confirmed that the figure was just a dummy, but she doesn’t find her aunt and uncle and sees their bed has not been slept in. She goes back to confront Sara and get the truth. Sara confesses that Becky’s relatives had to go away on a science expedition and they had got Mrs Peebles to look after her while they were gone, but Mrs Peebles never arrived because she was in a car accident. Sara was afraid to tell anyone in case she was taken back to the children’s home. She had hopes that she would be adopted and was worried the welfare people would object if they found out she was left alone.

Becky is sympathetic after hearing Sara’s story and wants to help. She arranges it so her cousin Jan will stay with them at Becky’s house until her parents return. Although there wasn’t anything sinister happening at Hawthorn Hall, Becky is glad to be leaving it and can’t help but still be unnerved by the place.

Thoughts

This only has a brief summary as I don’t have all three episodes, but enough to cover the main plot and ending. Suzy had a lot of short serials, that were only 3 issues long. Sometimes this worked well, as it didn’t drag on the plot needlessly, other times it could have benefited to have things expanded on. Suzy also had quite a lot of photo stories, it was a glossy magazine so it worked better than photo stories on cheaper paper like in Debbie, but they still had the problem of looking “staged”. There were some more interesting photo stories, that were more experimental mixing art and photos (such as “The Ninth Nightmare”). This story was more of the standard photo story, still it had a nice mystery and some nice angles and made the house look big and impressive. It ends on a bit of an ominous note, I don’t know whether it’s meant to imply that Sara’s not been honest or just that even with the mystery cleared up, there is something creepy about the house. I don’t think such an ending was needed but I suppose it was more intriguing than wrapping everything up neatly!

When Vera Vanished… [1987]

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 psychological ordeal!

I do wonder how Clare and Penny made it to the finals, as they certainly don’t seem too bright at times! They actually question if all three of them somehow hallucinated Vera, just because some “trustworthy” adults told them there was no other girl. Although this could be explained away as them just wanting to turn a blind eye to the strange occurrences, so it doesn’t get in the way of the competition, as later they do admit Vera existed. Still it is only when they find about the secret passages in the book they are reading that they actually take Sally seriously. Clare and Penny seem to be more selfishly concerned with the competition but they do come through in the end, helping Sally free Vera. They also show, that they at least want to win the competition fairly, advising Sally to forget about kidnap plots and not mess up her chances at winning. Sally is clearly deserving of her win, as she shows intelligence even in the fake tests, like studying the map before tackling the hill and of course more importantly finding the clues that lead her to Vera, which also shows her other worthy traits, compassion, perseverance and selflessness.