Tag Archives: Problem parents

The Chosen One (1985)

the-chosen-one-cover

Published: Bunty Picture Library #263

Reprinted: Bunty Picture Story Library #394

Note: Not to be confused with “The Chosen One”, Bunty Picture Library #97, 1971

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); José Ariza (story)

Plot

At school, Claudia Green is a talented singer who enters the school’s Martha Blair Music Scholarship. There is a bust of Martha Blair at school. Claudia feels its eyes are watching everyone and it sends chills along her spine. When alive, Martha Blair chose the winner herself, and the winner would be known as “The Chosen One”. The school music teacher thinks it sounds romantic. But when you think about it, it could also sound creepy…

Claudia wins the scholarship, and the prize includes free music lessons and a mini-bust of Martha Blair. But something odd happens when Claudia is near the main bust afterwards. She can’t seem to move and the bust seems to say, “Remember, Claudia, that you are the Chosen One! You must prove yourself to be worthy of this award! You must not abuse your talents!”

Claudia is not sure if it is her imagination or what. Whatever it is, though, it has reckoned without Claudia’s mother.

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Mrs Green has changed for the worse since her husband died. Money worries have made her selfish and she always seems to be in a surly mood and not thinking about Claudia. She does not appreciate the small kindnesses Claudia tries to do for her in attempts to make her feel better. And as for when Mum hears Claudia won the scholarship, all she says is: “Free music lessons? Is that all they gave you for a prize? Free music lessons aren’t going to put food on our table, are they?” Sounds like a prime candidate for reckless greed if the opportunity arises.

Sure enough, Mrs Green starts abusing Claudia’s singing as a means to make money. At first this is by entering a talent contest, and then it is contract with a Mike Slade to turn Claudia into a pop star. Claudia does not want to be a pop star, but Mum has no regard for her wishes or feelings whatsoever and puts emotional blackmail on her: “How can you be so selfish, Claudia? All these years I’ve struggled to give you a decent chance in life and this is how you repay me!”

Claudia dislikes Mr Slade from the first. She thinks he is a horrible man, and soon realises he is a greedy man who is only interested in her for as long as she will make him money. Claudia does not like the vulgar way he addresses her and her mother either. Mrs Green does not seem to mind, though. Mr Slade is fanning the flames of her greed as he moulds Claudia into a famous pop star. The more Claudia learns about being a pop star the less she likes it, but all her mother cares about is the money it will make.

It seems Claudia is not the only one who is unhappy about it. From the moment the unwanted pop star career began that mini-bust of Martha Blair starts to warn Claudia, “You are the Chosen One! You must not abuse your talent!”

Not surprising, other weird things start happening. The mini-bust is put on the piano while a teacher is coaching Claudia in being a pop star. Then Claudia feels an odd shiver and the piano lid goes crashing down on the teacher’s fingers for no apparent reason. Unfortunately for Claudia the teacher has told Mr Slade that she has what it takes to be a pop star. Now there is no stopping Mr Slade or Mum in pushing her into being one.

They both show Claudia how ruthless they are when they force her to miss a solo she was set to do for her school concert in order to go for an audition for “Rising Stars”. Mr Slade threatens to wash his hands of Claudia while Mum says a school concert is nothing compared to the chance Claudia will get at the audition. Claudia obeys, but the school finds out about the let-down and Claudia is disgraced there. She is upset, but Mum would not even care.

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Meanwhile, another weird thing happens at the audition. Mum would insist on taking that mini-bust of Martha Blair everywhere and has brought it along. Claudia gets an odd shiver and an entrant who looks a cert to win finds his guitar strings snapping for no apparent reason. So Claudia wins the audition by default, but feels she was somehow responsible for what happened to that entrant.

Back home, when Claudia puts on a record the voice of Martha Blair blares out of the speakers: “You have been warned, Claudia! Stop this foolishness before it is too late!”

At Claudia’s first recording at “Rising Stars” she knows that if she is successful she will be stuck in an unwanted career. But her recording comes to an abrupt end when the lights all explode at once and start a fire. Claudia felt oddly cold again just before it happened. “Rising Stars” will be out of business for weeks, but Mr Slade says he will find another way to bring them money. Claudia realises that he really means get his cut of the money.

The same pattern recurs at an open-air pop concert, and this time a canopy falls down. Worse, the stories of those other accidents catch up and Claudia is turned into the press sensation “Claudia the Jinx”! Mum and Mr Slade are not pleased at Claudia’s new reputation as a jinx but are too greedy to give up on her. Realising Claudia will not get another job because of her jinx reputation, Mr Slade forces her adopt a disguise and a new persona, “Sunny Beamish”, and has her sing for TV commercials. But at a shooting on a boat, Claudia hears Martha Blair’s voice out of nowhere, and of course disaster strikes the boat. Claudia the Jinx is then uncovered and the press make even more sensation out of it.

That night the mini-bust gets worse. It seems to get bigger and bigger, it gives off a strange glow, and it tells Claudia that she has had enough warning. She must now develop her talent in the way expected of the Chosen One – “or perish!” After this, Claudia definitely does not want to go to a pop show Mr Slade has booked for her in Germany (to escape her jinx reputation), but despite her efforts to avoid the flight she ends up on the plane. The plane gets damaged by a storm and has to return to the airport. Compared to Claudia’s premonitions of what was going to happen, it seems she got off lightly there. She is relieved they did not make it to Germany too.

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Nonetheless, Mr Slade isn’t giving up. Now he has Claudia work in a backing group (under another name and disguise). This time the weird pattern strikes the star of the show, who is taken mysteriously ill. Claudia does marvellously as a stand-in. Mr Slade now thinks Claudia has lived down her jinx reputation and it is safe for her to work openly again.

But afterward the mini-bust gets angry again and tells Claudia that disaster will keep striking her for as long as she abuses her talent. This is too much for Claudia, who runs blindly out into the street and is hit by a car.

When Claudia regains consciousness two days later she finds her mother is a changed person and she apologises for her selfish conduct. Mr Slade disappeared after realising Claudia was no longer in a condition to be a money-spinner for him, and Mum is not sorry to see the back of him. So Claudia is now free of her unwanted pop career, but faces a long, difficult road to recovery.

Eventually, Claudia wins a scholarship at the Marston Grange School of Music. Mum gets a housekeeping job there, with a flat to go with the job, so everything is fine for them both now. Claudia goes back to her old school to make peace with the big bust of Martha Blair, though she is no longer sure if the haunting was real or in her imagination. The statue is not telling.

Thoughts

In honour of the upcoming Halloween season, we continue discussion of spooky serials with this entry. And the haunted bust certainly is frightening. It leads off with the face of Martha Blair herself. Even before the haunting starts, the face of that formidable-looking lady would make anyone feel intimidated and even frightened. One can imagine the sort of person Martha Blair was in life. It is understandable that someone’s imagination might run riot if that face made too strong an impression on them, but are we really convinced it was imagination…? It is stretching imagination a bit far to imagine a bust growing larger and giving off a glow, or making threats in an angry voice. To say nothing of a supernatural voice coming out of speakers or out of nowhere on the wind. That is hallucination, not imagination, and there is no evidence of Claudia hallucinating. It is a bit hard to dismiss those weird things as some sort of subconscious reaction to the forced pop music career either. Claudia had her first odd encounter with the bust before Mum had even got started on it.

If it were indeed a real haunting, Martha Blair’s anger would be far more justifiable if Claudia really was abusing her talent for selfish or unsuitable ends. But Claudia is not abusing her talent – her talent is being abused, in the name of profit, and one of those abusers is her own mother. So it is quite unfair for Martha Blair to be haunting, jinxing and threatening Claudia in this way on top of poor Claudia being emotionally blackmailed into a career she does not want, just to satisfy her mother’s greed. If anything, Martha Blair should be haunting that selfish mother.

We get our first glimpse of how selfish the mother has become when Claudia comes home late from school. Mum grouses at Claudia for being kept waiting for her supper, which she expects Claudia to do. Why can’t the mother do the supper herself? She is quite capable. Is she going through some sort of depression over her husband’s death and stress over money? Or is she lumbering Claudia with all the housework or something? When Claudia wins the scholarship, Mum snaps at how it won’t bring in any money instead of being delighted and congratulating Claudia. She moans about money all the time, but we don’t see her raising any by working until the end of the story.

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Mum’s selfishness and fixation with money worries makes her easy prey for a money-grubber like Mike Slade. There is no evidence that Mr Slade is downright crooked as some music managers are in girls’ serials, but greed is written all over him. He does not care about the person he makes a star out of, only the money he will make out of that person. Claudia can see it and what sort of man Mr Slade is, However, Mum is too blinded by her own greed to see it as well and does not realise that Mr Slade is playing on her greed in order to feed his own.

As Mum’s greed grows, she becomes increasingly callous to Claudia. She does not care about what Claudia wants or her feelings, and does not listen to Claudia’s pleadings about them. Whenever Claudia tries to reason with Mum, she uses emotional blackmail, gives Claudia a look she can’t say no to, or just slaps Claudia down to get what she wants out of her. She does not think about Claudia feels over being called “The Jinx Girl” in the press. She just keeps pushing Claudia on into making more money as a pop star and damn her jinx reputation.

The press who brand Claudia a jinx have no regard for her feelings either – or what they will do to her reputation and career. All they care about is making a sensational story out of her. They bulldoze all over her protests that they can’t take her photograph: “Too late, love!”. More greedy people abusing a hapless girl for profit.

Only shock treatment can bring Mum to her senses, and she gets it when Claudia has the accident. Then Mr Slade walks out after he realises Claudia could make no more money for him, which must have opened Mum’s eyes about him.

The artwork from José Ariza makes a superb job of expressing how growing greed is changing Mum for the worse. Her face is getting harder when she speaks to Claudia and there are truly callous expressions on her face in several panels, which are really disturbing.

The protagonist in this story has a hard time on more than one front. First are the greedy mother and manager who exploit Claudia’s talent and ride roughshod over her wishes and feelings. Second is being terrorised by an angry spirit who is persecuting her for a rather unfair reason. The spirit’s wrath causes disaster to strike at every turn, which turns our unfortunate heroine into a tabloid sensation as a jinx on top of everything else! Third is having a terrible road accident that leaves her unable to walk for a long time. By the time Claudia is going for her own audition, she is still using walking aids. One can only hope that by this time the “Claudia the Jinx” moniker has been forgotten, particularly as the cause of it all should be at peace now.

Secret Gymnast (1987)

Secret Gymnast cover 1

Published: Bunty Picture Library #290

Artist: Norman Lee

Note: Not to be confused with the Bunty serial “The Secret Gymnast”

Plot

Fran Farley’s father had died just as he was making a name for himself as a violinist. Fran’s mother wants Fran to follow in her father’s footsteps. She drives Fran very hard while constantly going on about the sacrifices she has made so Fran will follow her father, which include putting her own concert career on hold. Mum even has Fran home-tutored (with an outdated tutor) because it fits in with violin practice better than school, although Fran misses school. Fran is unhappy about it all; she does not live for the violin the way her father did, and she does not feel she has enough talent to be a top violinist. But Mum won’t accept Fran does not have what it takes to follow her father.

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One day at the music shop Fran overhears a woman, Marion Cole, who desperately needs Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for a gymnastics floor exercise, but the shop does not have it. Fran steps in to help it is one of her practice pieces. So Fran brings her violin to the gym to play the piece while Marion records it. Then Fran has a go at gymnastics and discovers she has a real flair and enthusiasm for it. Marion immediately suggests she join the beginners’ class.

Fran joins the class and makes her mark there immediately. But she is finding it very difficult to get a chance to speak to her mother about it, especially as Mum is now driving her extra hard to get her into a music scholarship. So it goes the way of going to the class behind her mother’s back and trying to fit gymnastics around her violin practice. Added to that, Fran finds a girl in her gymnastics class, Sylvia, dislikes her.

Nonetheless, Fran is soon good enough for a gymnastics competition. Her class all win badges and certificates, but they are put out when Fran has them miss the celebrations because she has to dash back home before her mother suspects anything. Back home, Fran hopes to show her mother what she has won. But before she can say anything, Mum says she is going to an audition with Stefan Mayer, a great German violin teacher and an old friend of her father’s. And so it all continues, juggling secret gymnastics around violin practice, which is more demanding than ever.

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At the audition, Fran decides to do her best. Afterwards, Mr Mayer confirms Fran’s suspicions when he tells her, in effect, that he is not seeing her father’s genius in her, only competence. He will take her on, but only for the sake of her father. Mum is overjoyed, although she will be taking on extra work to pay for the new classes. Fran is less than enthusiastic about them.

Meanwhile, secret gymnastics continue. They get more difficult to fit in with violin practice, which are even more intense because of the upcoming Mayer classes. Worse, Sylvia dislikes Fran even more after it becomes evident that Fran is better than her. When Fran gets worried her secret will be discovered at an upcoming gymnastics display, Sylvia gets suspicious and wonders if it is a way to get rid of Fran. Meanwhile, Marion hopes Fran will take part in the display because it could open up an important coaching post for her.

Then Sylvia finds Mrs Farley playing piano at her dance class. In a “casual” conversation, Sylvia’s suspicions are confirmed and Mum finds out Fran is doing gymnastics behind her back. She is horrified because she considers gymnastics as “mindless contortions” that have the potential to damage Fran’s violin arms. She moans about this to Fran when she confronts her, and all the sacrifices she has made so Fran will follow her father. Fran says gymnastics are far more important to her than the violin, which she will never be able to play the way her father could.

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They retire to bed, where Mum finally begins to wonder if Fran does not really have her father’s talent. Meanwhile Fran starts sleepwalking while dreaming about competing for the Olympics, and is using the balustrade on the balcony as a beam. Mum finds her, and is terrified that Fran could fall to her death if she wakes. Fran comes off safely and wakes up. Mum was so impressed with the beautiful movements Fran made that she relents and lets Fran pursue gymnastics.

Within a month, everything has turned out splendidly (except for, presumably, Sylvia). Fran’s gymnastics are in full swing, which Mum now appreciates as an art as well as a sport. Mum has resumed her concert career, Marion gets her post, and Fran qualifies for the junior championships.

Thoughts

This story is one of my personal favourites. The story is solid and shows the writer has done their homework on both music and gymnastics. Of course there has to be a jealous rival in the gymnastics class, but she does not do much beyond telling on Fran to her mother. She pulls no sneaky tricks to sabotage Fran. This is probably because it would not fit into the 64-page booklet; if it was a serial, there would certainly be scope for dirty tricks from the rival. But it makes a nice change not to have it.

The conflict comes from the difficult mother who drives Fran way too hard, is almost absurdly comical in the way she goes on about the sacrifices she has made so Fran will follow her father, and being way too overprotective in keeping Fran fit for violin practice. But Mum’s carrying-on about her sacrifices is selfish and disgusting in the way she uses it for emotional blackmail on Fran. She made them just to get what she wants – see Fran follow her father. It was not for what Fran wanted, and Mum is clearly deluding herself when she thinks Fran is dedicated to the violin. If she took off her rose-tinted glasses she might see that Fran is not showing the same enthusiasm or talent for the violin that her father did – so much so that he would play for six hours without stopping.

Mr Mayer can see it, but it is a pity he does not speak up more about it and perhaps talk some sense into the mother. Instead, he takes Fran just for the sake of her father, though he must know in his heart it will be a waste of time because there is no real genius.

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It is ironic that in gymnastics Fran shows not where her talent lies but also more appreciation for her music as well. Mum moans to Fran that she has lost rhythm in practice while rhythm is no problem for Fran in gymnastics. Mr Mayer tells Fran that she does not make Mozart speak in her violin music; in a floor exercise Fran can really feel Mozart speak in the music.

The sleepwalking resolution feels a bit contrived. On the other hand, the mother did need some shock treatment to snap her out of her selfishness towards Fran, and she gets it when she sees her daughter in danger of falling to her death. It also forces the mother to watch Fran’s gymnastics for the first time and properly judge what she dismissed as “mindless contortions”. And in the end, once Mum has stopped pushing Fran into following her father, everything is so much happier for Mum as well as Fran.

Unfair to Favourites (1985)

Judy Picture Library 271

Published: Judy Picture Library #271.  Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #428

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); Ana Rodriguez (story)

Plot

Jayne and Jean Gentry seem to have everything going for them in the activities they pursue: ballet (Jean), and athletics (Jayne). They are set to go to the top in their various activities and the school even makes allowances for it. But there is one problem – it has bred favouritism among their parents. Dad favours Jayne because she pursues sport, Mum favours Jean because she does the same with ballet, and neither parent pays much attention to the other girl. The root of the favouritism is that each parent only cares about one activity, which they once pursued themselves and are pursuing again through their respective daughter. Neither is willing to be more generous to the other activity; Mum does not care for athletics (“athletics don’t do anything for me”) and Dad is the same about ballet (“ballet nonsense”). Both say they don’t understand the other activity but neither makes an effort to understand it more.

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Each parent thinks that the other is too single-minded about the activity they do care about while deriding the other activity unfairly. Neither parent comes to the other activity to lend support to their other daughter. For example, Mum is annoyed that Dad doesn’t come to see Jayne perform on stage because he cares more about an athletics convention. Dad is likewise annoyed at Mum for not coming to watch and support Jean perform at an athletics event because she took Jayne to watch the Royal Ballet Company. This is not the case with the sisters themselves, who make the time to watch the other and give moral support.

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Jayne and Jean decide enough is enough and they need to find a way to change their parents. They start with trying to win something in the other activity, with the other’s help. But they forget that there is a reason that one pursues ballet/athletics and the other not – one has the aptitude for it, and the other not. And they soon find that out the hard way. When Jean tries cross-country running with Jayne’s help, she ends up in such a state that she is not fit for ballet class. When Jayne tries ballet with Jean’s help, she ends up with a foot injury that leaves her unfit for a sports event. In both cases the parents blow up, each blaming the other girl and the other parent unfairly. Each parent ends up quarrelling with the other about how they go over the top with the activity they favour, play favourites with their pet daughter, and don’t pay any attention to the other daughter. When Jayne, Jean and their dog Timmy return home wet after unwittingly using a leaky boat, Mum unfairly blames Jayne, thinking she encouraged Jean again, and this leads to a similar row between the parents. Mum and Dad can see it in each other all right – but they can’t see it in themselves, which is what they must do if things are to change.

Jean and Jayne then try to talk to their parents about how they carry on in playing favourites. But both take offence, saying they can’t help not liking ballet/athletics. The girls realise how set the parents are in their ways and it is going to be very difficult to change them.

The stress of the failure takes its toll on the girls, and they lose form at ballet/athletics. Their teachers recommend a break, so the parents stop making their daughters spend so much time at their various activities.

During the break, Jean and Jayne try something else. Jayne has a go at Jean’s other activity, which is skating. But the coach says that although Jayne is good, she is not good enough to make competition standard like her sister. When Jean tries Jayne’s other activity by making a bid for the school swimming trials, she fails because of the same thing – good but not good enough.

Then, after the swimming trials, Jayne grumbles at how fed up they are, and still wondering how to change their parents. A schoolteacher, Miss Maybrick, overhears and asks what is wrong. The girls explain the problem, and Miss Maybrick comes up with an idea – an activity that combines athletic and artistic ability.

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So for the next few weeks, the parents are disappointed to hear that the girls are on strike over ballet/athletics because of a school project that they are very secretive about. When the time comes, the school invites the parents to a gymnastics competition, which Jayne and Jean have been giving up everything else to train for. And it is here that both parents watch their daughters together; Dad sees Jean in action for the first time and Mum watches Jayne for the first time. When Mum watches Jayne’s floor exercises, she sees and appreciates the artistic side while Dad grasps the athletic part. When Jean goes on the bars, Dad is impressed at what she can do there, and Mum says it’s due to ballet, which has given her grace and strong muscles. Before long, both parents are cheering their daughters on. They are thrilled to see them win medals, and finally wake up to their earlier mistakes. Afterwards, they take Jayne and Jean out to a celebratory dinner. The girls know that they are both favourites with their parents now.

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Thoughts

 The premise is a refreshing one – two sisters who are the best of friends but suffer because each parent takes favourites over one child while ignoring the other, just because they are not a fan of the activity the other child pursues. It makes a change having two protagonists suffer in this way. Usually it is just one, who is overshadowed and put down because her sibling(s) excel at their various activities and make Mum and Dad proud while she doesn’t seem to shine at anything.

The portrayal of the parents is rooted in realism and real life, which makes their characterisation so effective. They are not intentionally neglectful or mean; it is just that they are both so single-minded about the activity they are interested in and the girl who pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in life. They are also narrow-minded about the other activity. Both parents make disparaging comments about the other activity, neither will give it more of a chance, or at least try to tolerate it enough to come and watch their daughter. They are too wrapped up in the activity they are interested in.

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The resolution is realistic and also refreshing. The girls confide in someone (which does not often happen in girls’ comics) who comes up with an idea that could be the answer. The girls can’t believe they didn’t think of it themselves.

The teacher and the headmistress are so wonderful in the way they bend over backwards to help the girls with their problem: excusing the girls lessons to train for it, and helping to keep it a carefully guarded secret until the parents are actually watching the event as they don’t know how the parents will take it if they had prior knowledge of it. The girls come away with a whole new appreciation for teachers, as do we. Sometimes teachers are not the idiots or meanies that they are in other stories. Sometimes they are the ones with the brains and wisdom to put everything right.

 

 

Carrie’s Choice

Plot

Carrie’s parents are always arguing over nothing. To solve the problem they divide the family home, with Dad and oldest daughter Sheila living downstairs and Mum and younger sister Sarah upstairs. Carrie refuses to take sides, so she moves to the landing room, which is halfway between the two floors.

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Notes

Appeared

  • Carrie’s Choice –  Bunty:  #2024 (26 October 1996) – #2033 (28 December 1996)

Mum Knows Best!

Plot

Jasmine Pearce and her twin sister Janey were born with a rare disease. Janey did not survive, but Jasmine is now completely healthy. However, the experience has made Jasmine’s parents far too over-protective of her, and this is causing problems for Jasmine at her new school.

Notes

  • Artist: Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)

Appeared

  • Mum Knows Best! –  Bunty:  (?) –  #1912 (3 September 1994)

Princess of the Pops

Plot

Princess Helen of Lichenberg loves pop music. But her father, King Gustave, does not, and has forbidden her to listen to it. Little does he know that Helen has now become a pop star herself, under the masked guise of M’Lady of Mystery, and she is even performing under his very nose in her pop star identity.

Notes

Appeared

  • Princess of the Pops–  Bunty: circa #931 (15 November 1975) – (?)

A Racehorse of Her Own

Plot

Shirley Wilson raises Hope, a young racehorse abandoned at birth by her wealthy father. She has to pay for all the expenses as her father believes in working hard for money, so she takes a job with a rag-and-bone man. When Dad demands Hope back later on, she refuses. He agrees to let her keep Hope on condition she still pay for expenses, which are even more costly now.

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Notes

  • Artist: Dudley Wynne

Appeared

  • A Racehorse of Her Own – Bunty: #876 (26 October 1974) – #895 (8 March 1975)
  • Reprinted – Lucky Charm #11 (1981)

Stella at Stage School

Plot

Stella May wins a scholarship to Madam Spencer’s Stage School. But her father does not approve or understand Stella’s acting and thinks it is detrimental to her education, which he drives her too hard at. He keeps threatening to withdraw Stella from the school if she fails her schoolwork.

Notes

  • Artist: Andy Tew

Appeared

  • Stella at Stage School –  Bunty: circa #877 (2 November 1974) – (?)