Tag Archives: Photostory

Hot Gossip! [1997]

Published: Bunty: #2062 (19 July 1997) – #2067 (23 August 1997)

Episodes: 6

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Everyone thinks the Mount Comp School Magazine is boring. Then the ALTERNATIVE School Mag appears, but its origins and producer are a complete mystery. It is not distributed; it just pops up stuck into lockers, on classroom desks and the like. It is definitely more exciting than the official school magazine, but for the wrong reasons. It is filled with salacious gossip and poison pen lies about school staff and pupils. Its venom is particularly directed at a pupil called Ali; it accuses her of stealing boyfriends and two-timing, and always promises even more about Ali in the next issue. It isn’t even a proper magazine either; it looks like someone has just been typing it up as a document on a computer and printing off multiple copies.

Ali is naturally upset by it all and becomes the focus of a lot of sympathy and attention. Her best friend Sonia is her main pillar of strength. Ali thinks the first issue ruined her chances of getting together with Ben because it accused her of stealing the boyfriend of a hospitalised girl.

The headmaster finds out about ALTERNATIVE and issues a stern warning to desist. But ALTERNATIVE continues to appear. Ali tells Sonia not to report its reappearance to the headmaster because some pupils like the ALTERNATIVE mag and she doesn’t want to spoil it for them.

One issue of ALTERNATIVE asked if Ali would even dare to go to the disco. Sonia encourages her to go and not let the nastiness get to her. But all eyes are on Ali when she arrives. Ben asks Ali to dance, and one girl, Mel, teases Ali about all the gossip this will provide for the next issue. Sonia tells Ali that Mel is just jealous because she fancied Ben too.

Sonia tells Ali it’s time they did some detective work to track down the miscreant. Ali’s brother Simon joins them, and so does Ben. Ali is upset because the last issue said they had conducted an interview with Ben who claimed everything ALTERNATIVE had printed about Ali is true. Ben rubbishes such claims and says Ali should know better than to believe them. Later, Sonia comments how closer Ben and Ali have become since ALTERNATIVE started.

Sonia’s suspicions fall on Emma, who is the biggest gossip in the school. Sonia watches Emma and finds she is going into a lot of shops asking about paper, and she is clearly holding a copy of ALTERNATIVE while doing so. As they continue to watch Emma, Sonia gets the impression that Emma is keeping a close eye on Ali. Emma overhears them and tells them that she is conducting her own investigation into ALTERNATIVE too, and is making inquiries to track down the paper supplier.

Simon finds the paper for ALTERNATIVE is being taken out of the paper supply for the official school magazine. Someone is using the computer that produces the official magazine to produce ALTERNATIVE too. But they have to run it off quickly, which means it is printed in the draft form that the official one has before it moves onto its final print. So the obvious course of action is to watch the computer room, particularly during lunchtimes, late afternoons and such, which are the most likely times when the culprit produces ALTERNATIVE.

Sonia still suspects Emma, so she is very suspicious during one lunch break to see Emma gulp down her lunch quickly and then take off. Sonia trails Emma and Ben joins her. Emma does head for the computer room, but tells Sonia and Ben that it’s not for the reason they think. Emma opens the door – and they catch Ali at the computer, typing up ALTERNATIVE.

Emma explains that she had begun to suspect Ali once she realised that Ali was the one who was getting something out of it – lots of attention. Ali shamefully admits it, saying it was to get Ben to notice her and she was fed up with everyone ignoring her. Ben says he fancied Ali well before ALTERNATIVE started and was thinking of asking her out. But after how she used them all, forget it. Sonia is also furious at being used this way and how Ali was capable of allowing her to make a fool of herself by wrongly accusing Emma.

Other pupils crowd around to find out what’s going on. When they hear, one girl sarcastically says it’s a pity there won’t be any more issues because this would have been the best story yet. Emma says Ali’s getting plenty of attention now, but Ben says it’s not the type she wanted.

Thoughts

There is nothing new in what Ali does. Girls’ comics have a long history of girls faking harassment and writing poison pen slander in order to get attention, friends, or just to be nasty. Bunty’s Letters of Hate is one example. But doing it through printing a magazine that’s an entire smear piece and distributing it around the school is taking it on a whole new level. Turning the poison pen against school staff as well as pupils is taking it on a whole new level as well. Surely no other poison pen writer in girls’ comics went as far as to attack school staff!

Ali’s poison penning also runs the serious risk of backfiring, as evidenced by some pupils enjoying it and even being nasty to Ali about it. The slanderous stuff about Ali being a two-timer and boyfriend stealer could have backfired as well and driven Ben off instead of drawing him to her. Did Ali never think that some people might actually believe the stuff she’s putting out and give her a hard time over it? Looks like not, just as she never thought how she is just taking advantage of her best friend Sonia and using the wrong means to catch Ben – until it’s too late, of course. Ben must be speaking what Ali has realised too late that she has gotten herself the wrong sort of attention.

Evidently Ali never thought of the old adage “quit while you’re ahead” either. She does not even stop when the headmaster issues his warning, probably because she thought nobody would ever suspect her. Ali does not even quit when the watch on the computer room starts, which would make it even more difficult to type up ALTERNATIVE.

Hindsight tells us what a clever manipulator Ali is in getting her own way. For example, her hurt remarks that Ben has been interviewed for ALTERNATIVE is evidently a cunning ploy to keep him close to her. So too is her way of talking Sonia into not to talking to the headmaster about the resurgence of ALTERNATIVE. Poor, duped Sonia even thinks Ali is doing it for selfless reasons and commends her for it!

It is quite surprising that the person who gets on the right track and solves the mystery is a most unlikely one – the biggest gossip in the school. We would think it more likely that a gossip like Emma would be among those who eat up ALTERNATIVE and its contents. Perhaps Emma started her detective work because someone else also accused her of putting out ALTERNATIVE and she was trying to clear her name. Or maybe even the school gossip had her limits. As it is, it is a real twist to have the school gossip in the role of the heroine rather than the more usual role of the one to cause trouble with gossip.

 

The Strange Story of the Demon’s Cradle [1985]

Plot

A demon is chasing Jenny Jenkins because it wants the cradle artefact she possesses, which would enable it to conquer the world. She is trying to get to consecrated ground to bury the cradle, which would put it out of reach of the demon.

Notes

  • Photo story
  • The Demon is drawn rather than a photo, it looks to be David Matysiak work

Appeared

  • The Strange Story of the Demon’s Cradle – Suzy:  #160 (28 Sep 1985) – #166 (9 Nov 1985)

 

Sharing with Sonia (1997)

Sharing with Sonia logo

Published: Bunty: #2046 (29 March 1997) – #2057 (14 June 1997)

Photo story

Plot

Kelly Warner is staying with her Aunt Sarah while her parents are abroad, and is looking forward to lots of treats and being spoiled rotten at her kind aunt’s. But then cousin Sonia comes to stay too because her mother is ill. Kelly does not want to share Aunt Sarah and her treats with Sonia, so she starts playing dirty tricks to get rid of Sonia while pretending to be friendly.

Sonia 4

Both girls are temporary pupils at their new school, and the tricks Kelly pulls on Sonia soon give Sonia a reputation at school. The other girls turn against Sonia as they think she is trouble and even accuse her of faking everything in order to get attention. Sonia is readily upset at all the tricks (a nasty note Kelly plants calling her a wimp is unfortunately not too far wrong) and realises she has an enemy, but has no idea who what with all the girls being strangers and turning against her because of her ‘reputation’. It is an easy matter for Kelly to put the blame for a trick on one girl or other so Sonia accuses the unfortunate girl, which further reinforces her bad reputation. Kelly also takes steps to make Aunt Sarah also think Sonia is trouble, so to cut her off from any help there. But Kelly realises that Sonia’s reputation is beginning to have the girls avoiding her too, and says she has to be loyal to her cousin. Nonetheless, the girls say everything was fine until those two arrived and they aren’t very friendly with Kelly either.

Sonia 1

Then someone begins to pull tricks on Kelly, starting with a nasty note in her schoolbag. Kelly wonders if her plan has backfired and one of the girls is playing tricks on her now. Kelly still pulls her own tricks on Sonia, but notices that Sonia is not getting as wound up over them as she was before.

Finally, Kelly ruins the cakes Sonia made in domestic science by putting salt and pepper in them. But then Kelly finds her own cakes have been ruined in the same manner. Sonia then reveals that she had been playing those tricks on Kelly. She had found Kelly out somehow and has been fighting fire with fire!

Sonia then takes her leave; she is free to go home as her mother has recovered. But before Sonia goes, she gives Kelly a warning that has her full of dread. Sonia’s family are moving into the area where Kelly lives soon. So if she ends up at the same school as Kelly….

 Thoughts

It has been done a kazillion times in girls’ comics and would continue in girls’ comics – a spiteful girl plots to get rid of a foster sister/cousin because she is jealous or does not want to share. But what is unique is how the story is resolved. This is the only time I have ever seen this type of story end where the victim turns the tables on the troublemaker with her own tricks. Usually, in cases where the victim realises what the troublemaker is up to (which does not always happen because it’s resolved another way), she makes moves to catch the troublemaker out, not give her a taste of her own medicine. But this is precisely what happens here. The twist raises the eyebrows of anyone who is familiar with the “spiteful stepsister/cousin” story, because it is definitely not what usually happens with this type of premise. If there are other “spiteful stepsister/cousin” stories that were resolved in this manner, I sure would like to know about them!

Sonia 3

The buildup of the tricks at school is well constructed. Both girls are strangers at the school (another odd step – usually it is just the victim who is the newcomer at school in this type of story), so it is easy for Kelly to make everyone a potential suspect in Sonia’s eyes. It is also easier for Kelly to foist the blame for the tricks on other girls who have been unfriendly one way or other. Kelly even pulls tricks to hit back at them at times when they are unfriendly (such as not inviting Kelly to a party) through Sonia. However, the disadvantage of Kelly being a stranger at the school too is that she does not have existing friends or a solid good reputation to keep her protected from a reputation as the “friend” of the girl who has a reputation as a troublemaker. Kelly has unwittingly cut herself off from making friends at her temporary school, and even after Sonia leaves she will most certainly have a hard time making friends.

Sonia 2

Some explanation on how Sonia rumbled Kelly would have been in order. It is, after all, what any reader would love to know. And surely Kelly herself would have been anxious to know it too. But she doesn’t even ask, and the lack of explanation on how Sonia found Kelly out is a bit annoying and feels like something is lacking there in the resolution. The only hint of how it could have happened is Sonia noticing how pale Kelly looks after the girls say they know who is responsible – only for them to say it is Sonia herself. If that was where it happened, it is taking an enormous stretch of perception for Sonia to start suspecting Kelly there. Perhaps there was something else that made Sonia suspicious and Kelly looking pale merely confirmed it.

The warning that Kelly may not have seen the last of Sonia or her revenge also adds to Kelly’s punishment. Even if Sonia does not end up at the same school as Kelly, Kelly is left sweating and beginning to regret what she did because of what may follow because of it. Staying at Aunt Sarah’s won’t be so enjoyable now.