Tag Archives: PSL

Ride Into Danger [1983]

  • Ride Into Danger and other gripping stories – Bunty PSL: #243 [1983]

Plot

This book consists of 4 short stories, while not officially tied together, I would say there is a common theme of bravery in each story

Ride Into Danger

Kelly Johnson is out riding with her horse King, during stormy weather. She dismounts to try and navigate him along a narrow path, but suddenly it gives way and King falls down the steep incline into the bank below. Kelly manages to grab onto a root to stop herself falling in with him and she sees King is temporarily stopped from being swept away by a fallen tree. She will need to act quickly to help get him out, and she is hopeful when it turns out a surly neighbour Jim Selby, is nearby.  But when she asks for help, he tells her that he doesn’t have a rope and turns away. Kelly naturally is upset but she gathers herself and has an idea. She orders Selby to follow her lead and surprisingly he does They manage to dislodge some stones into the river making a temporary dam, so Kelly can wade in and fetch King. When she asks Jim what made him change his mind and help, he tells her he admired her pluck.

Night of Fear

Susan Martin is woken by storm. Her father, a police doctor, has to go out on an emergency call, leaving Susan in charge of her young sister, Althea. She has not settled back to bed yet when she sees a car crash just outside the house, and she goes to see if she can help. One of the men is unconscious in the car but his friend says it is best not to move him an asks to use her phone.  Susan agrees but she begins to suspect that all is not right. When he rings a friend rather than ambulance, she knows he is not to be trusted, but Althea has come downstair and she has to make sure she is safe.  He tells Susan to get any money they have in the house while Althea will stay with him. While getting the housekeeping money, Susan seea her dad arriving home, so she flicks on and off the kitchen lights to warn him, then  she locks the front house door. When she gives the man the money and he leaves room. she blocks the room  so he will be trapped on the hallway. The police who have arrived with Dr Martin arrest him It seems the call Dr Martin was called out to was a jewellery robbery and the police were following the car. The Sergeant  tells Susan she could think of police force as possible career, due to her quick thinking.

The Courage of Candy

Candy Scott’s mother was always fussing over her as she assumed she was delicate. She would give Candy medicine “just in case”, insist on her wearing a sun hat and says she shouldn’t run about too much. While they had a temporary house guest, a dog, Terry, Candy was enjoying some freedom, when she took him out for walks. On one of these occasions, Candy is enjoying having a lie down in the park, but she falls asleep and Terry is missing when she wakes up. Early the next morning Candy leaves home determined to find him. After a big trek she finds Terry being  being pushed into dog fighting for a gang of boys entertainment. Candy saves Terry and sprays the gang with water. After her adventure she returns home deciding she is no longer going to go along with mothers over protectiveness. A month later their relationship has much improved, and Candy has more freedom.

Bad News for Nancy

Sixteen year old, Nancy Clements, was minding her parents shop and her siblings, while her parents were away on holiday. Then she hears news on the radio that  her parents’ plane was missing and may have crashed. While her Aunt Mary is also helping out at the shop while they are away, Nancy begins to think of the future if her parents are dead. Her Aunt Mary would not be able to help out permanently and her youngest brother Alec, is only five so she would have to stay with him until he grows up. While she keeps the news from Alec, she does tell her other 2 siblings. Her other siblings also put on brave and practical faces, saying they will help around the house. Then their Dad rings! The plane only had a small crash with no major injuries. Nancy is so happy, she also thinks after a day like this,  in the future she’d be able to cope with anything.

Thoughts

Considering that these small booklets were only 64 pages and usually just had 2 panels per page, splitting that into 4 stories really means they have to get to point quickly and still tell an interesting story. There were many picture story library that had this short story format, and despite the limited space they usually were successful in telling a good story. A bit more unusual for this book, is the theme isn’t very apparent and the title comes from the first story rather than an anthology name to encompass all stories (unlike something like Scream! or Dolwyn’s Dolls). With only the small sub title “and other gripping stories” it doesn’t hint at what else to expect. At first glance of the cover, I thought they may all be horse stories, then when the second story also involved storm, I thought it might be the common thread  but after reading all four stories it does seem like “bravery” is the thing tying the stories together. Which can appear in different ways, whether it is bravery and quick thinking in perilous situations like Kelly and Susan, standing up for yourself like Candy or bravery in the face of terrible news like Nancy.

I think the stories worked pretty well, if I was to pick on the weakest it would probably be The Courage of Candy. It’s not a bad story but could have been expanded, to see more of Candy’s mother’s fussing and would have liked to see Candy’s actual confrontation with her at the end, instead it has one panel of Candy outside the house ready to talk to her mother and the next panel is one month later. There can be a reliance of “tell not show” in some of the stories but with limited space this is expected to a degree. Bad News for Nancy is quite dialogue/thought heavy but works for the story as Nancy tries to figure out what to do and still shows the weight of the news in her expressions. Night of Fear wraps up quite quickly but does what it needs to do.  Ride Into Danger has the most interesting visuals with the storm and horse in danger, so it is good choice to start of the book. It’s a quick, fun, read and I think the two strongest stories start and finish the book.

I Wish…

  • I Wish…. – Mandy PSL:  #194  (1994)

Plot

I wish 1Helen West is an optimistic kind girl who likes to help people. She is well known around her village as she helps out at youth club and does a paper round. At the end of her paper round she reads to an old lady Mrs Stone, as well as doing small jobs for her. When Mrs Stone asks her if she could have anything in the world what would she want, Helen again shows how appreciative she is of her life, she wants for nothing – she has loving parents, a good home and friends.  The one thing she does say is that she would like to make people’s wishes come true but she knows that’s a silly dream. Not long after this conversation Mrs Stone dies and surprises Helen by leaving her nearly half million pounds that will be distributed to those of Helen’s choosing anonymously through a solicitor, Mr Benson. She wanted to make Helen’s dream of being a fairy godmother come true.

The first wish to grant is clear to Helen, when the struggling youth club’s roof collapses. Helen not only pays for repairs but also buys new equipment for the club. But she is a bit worried that the “mystery benefactor”  catches the attention of local reporter Danny Lions. She continues doing her good work getting young Kevin Jones a mountain bike for his birthday, pensioners food parcels and paying for a girl Jenny  to go for life saving operation in America.  Then one of her wishes backfires as Kevin is knocked down by a car. Mrs Jones is upset, she knew he was too young for bike, and Helen feels terrible as she never thought that Mrs Jones had safety reasons for not getting Kevin a bike, it wasn’t just about money.

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Meanwhile Danny is  still persistent with his investigation. Due to his meddling the newspaper, hints that Major Vincent may be benefactor, as his granddaughter is a youth club member. This causes more drama as undeserving people try to wheedle money off the Major.  At this point Helen hears of genuine case when she gets talking to Tom Grayson’s mother. Tom had an accident and lost his job but when she sends a cheque his pride won’t allow him to take the money, and he is ashamed to think that his mother went begging even though she denies it. His refusal to accept help also upsets his wife and Helen is upset that another one of her “wishes” has caused more problems.

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Even when things go right like when Helen replaces a wedding dress that was burnt in a fire,  there are still others that aren’t happy as they  think it’s a frivolous expense.   Danny begins to get suspicious of Helen, after reporting on a 100 year old woman wanting to fly, and seeing Helen waving the woman off after the mystery benefactor has paid for flights. Yet another donation doesn’t go as planned when helping church repairs fund reach its target, the vicar is disappointed because the point was to bring community together. By now she is having doubts about whether to continue her work Mr Benson convinces her to give it another shot. Helen brings a family home from Australia for parents anniversary, only the other siblings are not so happy to see people they perceive to have abandoned their family turn up out of the blue. This is final straw for Helen and she decides to donate the rest of the money to set up a talking books library. Danny Lions is there to hear this reveal and unmasks her but other than some surprised people this doesn’t have a negative impact on Helen and she is relieved to no longer be “fairy godmother”.

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Thoughts

With the best of intentions, Helen sets out to help people, but unfortunately she doesn’t always put thought into the consequences. It is understandable as a 15 year old girl would not have the experience of an adult, so she wouldn’t think of safety concerns for a child on a bike or that a proud man may find charity insulting. Although somethings do go wrong, it’s not to diminish the things that go right, and all in all i think she does more good than bad.

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The biggest difficult for Helen is having such responsibility put upon her with little support.  She only has Mr Benson to confide in and at the same time she has added pressure of trying to keep her donations secret from a nosy reporter. Surprising that there isn’t much consequences for being revealed as the benefactor, perhaps because at that stage, Helen doesn’t have more money to give away, so won’t be pestered by people. Other than the youth club, we don’t see the reaction of people she helped, once the secret’s out. It would be safe to assume most would be grateful, or understanding if things didn’t turn out great.

There’s a nice build up to the story, it’s established what kind of person Helen is, it shows donations working out for the better before some turn out bad. We also have Danny snooping around and Helen trying to keep her secret to add more tension to the plot. It’s interesting that at the start of the story Mrs Stone tells Helen “Your kindness is worth all the money in the world”. This does prove to be the case, Helen is a good person, she doesn’t need money herself to make her happy and she discovers money may help  others but doesn’t solve all problems either.

The Millpark Mystery! \ Help….

  • M240_millpark_mysteryThe Millpark Mystery! – Mandy PSL: #240 (1996)
  • Artist: Carlos Freixas

Plot

Three friends Ruth, Anne and Teri are starting a new school after their old school closes down. They are a bit nervous about their first day and it does not start out well. They have a run in with a group of troublemakers, led by a girl named Mel.  They don’t make a good impression with the other students either or with one of the teachers, Mrs. Stead.  The only highlight of their first day is for Anne who is a computer fanatic, she is happy to see that Millpark has better computer facilities than their old school. The girls think they will get in more trouble when another teacher catches them in the computer room. They are pleasantly surprised when Miss. Brown is friendly with them, she is a French teacher and while she says she doesn’t know much about computers but she does encourage Anne’s interest.

The next day they run into the two girls Mel and Patti, but are surprised when some other girls come to their defence. Even Mrs Stead turns out to be more friendly, she was just stressed the first day. They still think Miss Brown is the nicest teacher and are surprised to hear that no other students or teachers seem to like her. They see a different side to Miss Brown when she sticks up for Mel’s gang over their new friends and later they see her giving money to Mel. They follow Miss Brown and see her going for French lessons. They decide they have to solve this mystery. Miss Brown seeing them nosing around, tells them she’s not really a teacher but a policewoman, undercover.

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Although she doesn’t tell them what she’s investigating the girl’s suspect it has something to do with Mel. Later Anne meets Mel at computer shop and gets talking to her, she tells her that Miss Brown buys her games, one is particularly difficult where you play a hacker. When they are at the school and see police talking about fraud, they see Miss Brown is ready to make a run for it and a phone call proves she is not actually a policewoman. The girls get Mel and her gang to delay Miss Brown while they get the police. Realising Miss Brown was going to let Mel take the fall for the money fraud, Mel is grateful to the girls. The girls are glad to settle into Millpark, although Anne has been put off computers knowing that she must have been  Miss Brown’s second choice to use her computer skills.

Help….

  • B347_helpHelp… – Bunty PSL: #347 (1992)
  • Artist: Eduardo Feito

Plot

Leon a computer whizz, has gone missing. While everyone believes he ran off due to school pressure, his brother Rick thinks that something has happened to him. He confides in Kim of his theory and later in computer studies she believes him. when she sees a message from Leon on her computer screen, it says “Help my name is Leon I am being held prisoner”.  Unfortunately instead of taking the time to read the rest of the message, she runs to show Rick the message but it has disappeared by the time they comes back. Neither her friend Zoe nor teacher Mr. King believe it was there. Kim and Rick have a lead as they know the message came from a striped disk.  Having met the delivery guy earlier, they track him down, and find out that there was 6 disks altogether, 3 were delivered to the school, another 2 to a scientist and the last one to a hospital.

Both Kim and Rick work together to try and find the disks. They find the second disk at the school but it is blank. They track down the scientist, but he wiped the disks as he thought the message was just some game. Kim is reluctant to go to the hospital as her mother works there. Also she worries that Rick’s interest in her is only because he wants her to help him. When she finds his notebook, she finds out a bit more about Rick’s relationship with his brother. He was jealous of Leon and he hopes he can find him and put things right between them. He also mentions how he feels about Kim and wishes they could go out under normal circumstances.  This is enough to convince Kim to sneak around the hospital.

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They find the message from Leon and discover Mr. King is involved with the kidnappers who want Leon to crack a bank code. Before they can read the message further they have to hide from a woman coming into the room. She accidentally spills coffee onto the disk ruining it. Rick and Kim are caught and Kim gets in trouble with her mother. They are taken to see the headmaster, coincidentally at the same time his secretary is about to use the last disk. Seeing the message, Leon is rescued, Mr King is arrested and of course Kim and Rick don’t get into any trouble now the full story is known.

Thoughts

These two short stories have some similarities as they are both set around school and have computer related mysteries. Both seem to have the theme that if a teacher takes an interest in your computer skills you should not trust them! Also both the antagonists are also using computers to try and hack banks.

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In The Millpark Mystery the jumping point for the mystery is Miss Brown’s behaviour and the computer references are more in the background. Early on there is a newspaper headline about money being wrongly transferred into someone’s account. Both Mel and Anne are computer geeks and of course Miss Brown takes quite an interest in the girls computers skills. Miss Brown seems to have a better plan in place than Mr. King. She has a good cover in pretending to be clueless about computers, and has already got Mel set up to be the fall girl. When the girls start investigating her, she is quick to come up with the story of being an undercover police woman.

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Meanwhile Help… jumps straight into the mystery with Leon missing and Kim and Rick having to try and track down the disks with his message. Unlike Miss Brown,  he has no pretence of being nice, Mr King’s nickname is Cannibal King and he looks very shady from the start.  I’m not sure what his plan with Leon was after he got the bank code, presumably he would have him killed as he could identify him, or maybe once he had the money he figured he could skip the country, still it’s not as neat as Miss Brown’s plan.

In Millpark, I like Anne’s attempt to connect with Mel over their common interest, even after the girls think Miss Brown is investigating her. She thinks someone that likes computers can’t be all bad! The girl’s are all very active in trying to discover what is Miss Brown’s story.  Meanwhile Kim’s motives for trying to track down the disks are a bit more blurry. Understandably she’s a bit cautious about wanting to find the hospital disks as she doesn’t want to get into trouble. But a lot of her motive seems to be about Rick rather than helping Leon.  She is worried that Rick is only using her to help find his brother and that he doesn’t really like her as a girlfriend. Once she reads his notepad she is happy to go to the hospital.  It seems a bit self centred, shouldn’t she want to help someone who’s been kidnapped regardless of Rick’s feelings for her!

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I suppose it is a typical teenage reaction (although it is under unusual circumstances). Another teenage response from Kim is she doesn’t tell her parents about the disks so when she gets caught sneaking around the hospital of course she gets in trouble. It’s funny that once the truth comes out, the mother is like if she told her the story from the beginning then she would have gone and gotten the hospital disk for Kim herself! Maybe she should have given her parents more credit!

Both stories are nice little mystery/ adventure stories. The art is fine in both, but I do like Feito’s extra work put into the backgrounds. Of the two stories, I think, Miss Brown makes the better more craftier antagonist. As for the protagonists I think the Millpark girls also win due to Kim being more concerned about her potential romance than Leon. That said I do like Rick, he obviously feels guilty about being jealous and not supportive of his brother. It’s nice that they have a good talk (although it’s off-panel) after Leon is rescued. I also liked the plot of them trying to track down the disks. The story does play up the romance angle, which isn’t bad, it just sometimes makes Kim look like she should get some priorities straight.  I prefer the ending of Help… with her and Rick together rather than Millpark’s  oddly anti-computer message.

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Codey

  • Codey – Bunty Picture Story Library #343 (1991)

Plot

B343_codeyAmy inherits her Great Uncle Harry’s ventriloquist dummy, which surprises her as she didn’t know him that well. What surprises her more though, is when Codey (the dummy) starts talking to her. He gets her in trouble when people think she is throwing her voice, saying nasty things. He wants to make it big, but Amy tries to refuse. He  threatens her family, so she has to go along with things.

She unsuccessfully tries to get rid of him a few times, which doesn’t make Codey to happy. It seems he is getting stronger, and has the power to get inside her head and make her say things like she was the Dummy!  At a show, she runs into an old man, Mr Morton, who claims Harry stole Codey from him years ago. Codey says horrible things to Morton and the old man collapses. Later Amy goes to visit Mr Morton in hospital, she talks to his daughter who tells her that Codey is a jinx and she should get rid of him. Amy decides to donate him to a museum, but Codey doesn’t want that. Amy puts him down stairs so she won’t have to listen to him all night. The living room catches on fire that night. Luckily Amy and her family escape but Codey is burnt up.

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Thoughts

Evil dolls/ventriloquist dummies another common theme for these comics. As I’ve mentioned before, the picture story libraries were more limited in what they could compared to ongoing weekly issues . So a story like Charlie Chatterbox, had more depth to his character and the story had more of a build up to his motivations. Codey is simply evil and there is a lot of unanswered questions in the story.

It is unclear why Uncle Harry left the dummy to Amy in the first place, although it could be because he was still under the influence of  Codey. How Codey could not only talk but also make Amy say things and influence her dreams is a mystery. The idea of a dummy making words coming out of someone else, is interesting but it is only used once, so it’s hardly developed. It seems to be a  just a throwaway power for the convenience of one scene.

The parents are a bit pushy, they do relent in the end when Amy says she doesn’t want to do ventriloquism anymore, but first they just sign her up for talent contests and don’t even listen to her. So Amy has a hard time, with being scared by Codey and pushed by her parents. She does try to stand up for herself at times and she is concerned about keeping her family safe, but a lot of time she just seems helpless.

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Codey’s motives just seem to be to get famous, but he doesn’t help himself by being rude and sometimes nasty to  everyone including the agents that are there to help him. There is no potential nice side to him. He is just nasty and evil. His act usually involves him being cruel. He doesn’t want to end up in a museum, but you’d think if he was that powerful he could find some way around it, he sat up in Harry’s attic for so long, you’d thing he had patience. Somehow he throws himself on to the electric fire, so he can avoid going to museum and probably hopes to take whole family with him.

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I quite like the cover art, it is not crowded and looks interesting, the dummy looks mean and creepy. The art inside isn’t bad but again, I think “Charlie Chatterbox” made better use of shadows and angles to make a dummy seem bigger and more threatening.  Codey is a menacing character and the story isn’t bad but it is a story that has been done better before.

Hope Street

  • B403_hope_streetHope Street – Bunty PSL: #403  (1995)
  • Artist: ?

Plot

In 1898, Dr Benjamin Osborne is dying and his family gather around him. They include his wife, his brother, his son and 2 daughters.  He is pleased with his son’s career as a ship’s doctor and  that he has lived to see his daughter Caroline qualify to become a doctor, but he worries he will not be able to guide Hannah his youngest daughter. She promises to keep up the family tradition and study medicine.

Caroline is in for a difficult time with her chosen profession, as after her father dies she does not get support from  her uncle or mother. Hubert does not hire her on at the family practice as he believes it is not suitable job for a woman, Her mother agrees with him, especially as she thinks her husband was sent to an early grave because of his career. Caroline doesn’t have any better luck outside her family either. She gets rejected by all the jobs she applies for. One of the maids, Dolly points out there is plenty of work at a poorer end of town, even if they can’t pay much. Caroline takes her advice and buys a warehouse on Hope Street to set up a clinic.

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After a slow start, Caroline and Hannah are soon kept busy with patients. They get a visit from Edgar, the doctor that Herbert has hired and he seems taken with Caroline. When Mrs. Osborne finds out about the clinic she and Caroline fight leading to Caroline moving out. Hannah and Caroline blame Edgar for their mother finding out, but it is actually a servant who accidentally let it slip. Hannah helps out secretly at the clinic but it is clear that Caroline, who is now living at the clinic, is overworked. When Edgar helps out with a factory owner problem, Caroline starts to soften up to him and accepts his help  at the clinic.

Hannah comes up with a plan to reconcile her mother and Caroline, by tricking them into meeting up. On the way to the meeting there is an explosion in the underground, Caroline rushes to help and included in the crash is Mrs. Osborne. Other than a sprained ankle, she is fine and is also very proud of Caroline’s achievements after this incident. Caroline is considered a heroine, and Mrs. Osborne supports the clinic. She is also delighted to see it named for Benjamin.

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Thoughts

For the historic context; the 1800s was a time when women began to study as doctors. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first female doctor to qualify in  the UK, though she obtained her medical degree in Paris after getting refused in England, she then set up medical school for women and continued to campaign for women doctors,  in 1876 an act was passed that allowed women to enter the medical profession. So historically it is accurate that Caroline could become a doctor but as it was just 20 years after this act it is expected that there was still prejudice against women doctors.

Even though she is met with obstacles in pursuing her career, she seems to set up her own clinic with  ease. Presumably Caroline was left money by her father after his death but not only is able to buy the warehouse quite quickly, she also converts it into a clinic and maintains medical supplies. The poorer people pay with what they can, (sometimes they even pay with food) so she most have a good source of money backing her up. Though they do end up looking for contributions to help the clinic by end of the book.

The uncle seems like he could be villainous,  he has a bit of a sinister look about him in the first panel, but he’s actually not very antagonistic. Other than refusing Caroline a place in the family practice he hardly appears in the story.  As a contrast the young Edgar, is more open minded about women doctors, he is shown as very compassionate and is admiring of Caroline. After so much rejection and discrimination, Caroline is very slow to trust him.

Caroline is a commendable strong character. She is hard working, caring and stands up for what she believes in. Of course these characteristics can lead to her flaws; as being stubborn and slow to accept help and admit weakness. So she is a well rounded character. She is not the main character though as the story is told mostly from the point of view of the younger sister Hannah. She gets to strike the balance of both worlds. She helps at the clinic, she has the ambition to follow this career path and she clearly admires Caroline. At the same time she sees her struggle, she is more willing to encourage Edgar to help. She can see her mother’s reasoning of it being hard work and also sees that Caroline and her mother are both similar in their stubbornness.

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It’s an interesting story, good characters, while a main plot is a woman struggling to find acceptance in a male dominated profession, it is also focused on the family drama along with it. There are some dramatic moments, like the train crash, and the confrontation at the factory to keep it more exciting. The art is good throughout, I particularly like the detail that went into the crash scene.

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Silent Illness (A Four Marys Story)

  • Silent Illness – Bunty (PSL): #439 (1997)B439_silent_illness
  • Artist: Jim Eldridge

Plot

A Four Marys story where Cotty catches a viral infection which causes her to lose her hearing. Her parents want to send her away to a special school to cope, but with the Marys support, Cotty convinces them that she can stay on at St. Elmos. The girls start to study sign language, Cotty learns to lip read, the school changes the tv to have subtitles and Creef makes sure to write things on the board. Mabel and Veronica are also eager to help out as they feel responsible as Veronica purposely sneezed on Cotty. They are unconvinced when the Marys tell them its completely unrelated. Even though the snobs are being friendly and trying to help, they end up causing more trouble for Cotty. Veronica tunes Cotty’s violin before a concert causing great embarrassment to Cotty, who can’t hear its out of tune. They also annoy Cotty to an extent, that she insists she can go meet the others on her own. This is bad luck as a fire drill goes off while she is on her own.

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Of course Cotty’s parents arrive and are not happy; if it was a real fire Cotty could have been killed. So Cotty has to leave. The new girl that takes her place is Mary Smith, and though its not the same as old times, the girls do get along well with Smithy and they start their usual adventures, rescuing puppies and fundraising.  Just when things seem to be settling in Smithy’s father gets a job in Australia and she has to move. The Marys are disappointed and worried about who her replacement will be. They are surprised to find Cotty back. Turns out the deafness was just temporary. The snobs are dismissive of her taking advantage, so back to their old ways and everything is back to normal.

Thoughts

This is one of the many PSL books the Marys were featured in. There was about 15 of these PSL stories. This was also a book with a Four Marys symbol, that was used before but not regularly, the last 3 Four Marys PSL books all had this symbol.

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Interestingly Cotty nearly leaves St. Elmos for a music academy in another story in the weekly issues. She is also replaced by a girl called Mary but she isn’t as nice as Smithy is in this story. In fact she becomes friends with the snobs. It could have been interesting to see one of the Marys replaced permanently, though shocking as well! Smithy doesn’t get much time for characterisation but appears to fit in well with the group

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Cotty seems to pick up lip reading quickly which can’t  be that easy. Also  lip reading is made harder that phonemes can often be visually the same. Adjusting to a new disability would take more time than depicted in this story, but it is nice to see the effort the girls and the school make, to help with the adjustment. The snobs trying to be nice is amusing, they are even happy when Smithy joins up. It’s a story that concentrates a lot on the girls friendships, and even if the snobs make things difficult, there is no antagonist here. Strangely, even though it is Cotty that is having to adapt to her new life, the story is shown more from the other Marys perspective. There is the time where Cotty decides she has enough of Mabel and Veronica and goes to practice music on her own, but other than that it’s mainly the other girls  making the effort to ensure Cotty is settling back in and then getting used to Cotty being gone.  Of course, everything is back to the status quo by the end of the story.

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Time-Witch

  • J322_Time_witchTime-Witch – Judy PSL: #322 (1989)
  • Artist: ?

Plot

Becky and her friend go to a fair, where they decide to get their palms read for fun. Becky is surprised when the palm reader tells her she has the same markings as her daughter Tania, who is a Time-Witch. She explains that Time-Witches have the rare ability to travel through time, Tania used mirrors to travel through time but she was inexperienced and got lost somewhere in time. Becky feels sorry for the woman but doesn’t believe her story, when she looks through mirrors all she can see is her reflection.

It turns out Becky has a different way of travelling when she finds her self being pulled into  her TV. She meets Tania, but Tania is being chased by an evil witch Enzida. Enzida does not have the same power as Becky and Tania, she has to use stolen spells to travel. Enzida catches up with the girls and uses a spell to separate them and send them to another time. Becky finds herself in an ancient Arabian Bazaar, there she helps the daughter of a Sultan escape the Black League. She catches up to Tania again but again they get sent away to England around the 13th century. There Becky is captured by the Baron’s soldiers for trespassing, Tania is rescued by a boy just before her capture. Luckily for Becky before she is thrown in the dungeons she is recognised by the steward’s daughter, Giselle, and saved. Giselle has a carpet that her father brought back from the crusades, it depicts Becky saving the Sultanate.

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Together they track down a wise woman and also meet up with Tania, again. They defeat Enzida and together the 2 girls have enough power to get home.

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Thoughts

Another time travel story, but with a bit of a difference.  I like the idea that Becky herself is a time traveller. Often girls would just stumble on to a doorway/ painting / mirror etc. and wind up in the past. The idea that time-witches are rare and they travel in different ways is interesting as well.  A fun set up in the first page, has Becky complaining about the TV not showing the scheduled programme, not knowing that she’s actually seeing a portal to the past.

Throughout the book the art is good at depicting the different eras.  I also  particularly like Enzida as the villian she looks ordinary yet creepy at the same time. Another highlight is the transition in travelling between times and when Becky is first transported into the TV.

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A lot of the time Becky ends up looking for Tania, so they can get home,  though it doesn’t come across as just being self serving. It seems she really wants to help this girl and that they become close very quickly. This seems to stem from the beginning, when Tania’s mother talks about her daughter and shows her a picture,  Becky sympathise with the woman missing her daughter (even if she doesn’t believe the time travel stuff). So when she meets Tania there is already a good connection built between them. Tania seems to be constantly getting caught by Enzida so it is nice to see her be the one to steal her scroll away in the end.

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Becky gets to have adventures outside of trying to get home, showing  her compassionate nature and quick thinking when she helps the sultanate and her friend hide in a carpet. The friend’s father is a carpet maker and its quite coincidental that Becky’s adventure in Arabia, helps her later in the book but I actually quite like the tie in.

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There is a build up when the wise woman  (good witch) battles off Enzida’s spells, Becky faces fierce winds in trying to get to the woman and Tania,  and inside the cabin they face fires and ice coldness. Despite this in the end it seems Enzida is defeated quite easily while the wise woman fights and distracts her Tania just runs up grabs the scroll. Still  its a small complaint, as it is an accomplishment to set Becky up as a time witch, travel to three different time periods. and have a fight with the evil witch in such a small book and it does well.

It’s in the Book!

  • It’s in the Book! – Bunty PSL: #336 (1991)
  • Artist:  J. Badesa

Plot

Sally Barton is a bookworm but her parents believe she should be out meeting new people and getting fresh air, so they sign her up for an adventure holiday on an American island. There are 7 girls signed up and their holiday leader is Miss Tuffnell. For no sensible reason (other than to serve the plot), Miss Tuffnell sails on in a powerboat leaving the girls by themselves following  in a motor boat. Fog splits the girls up from Miss Tuffnell and the end up drifting of course and landing on an uninhabited island. Janice a regular holiday adventurer and a bossy girl decides to take charge but it is Sally with all her book knowledge that is the better equipped to handle the situation.

After Janice leads them to the other side of the island where there is little food and only cliffs, Janice overhears Sally telling Liz they would be better off on the beach where they can fish and have better chance of being seen. Janice decides to present this idea to the rest of the girls as if it was hers. On their way back they run into a swamp with a crocodile but luckily get safely back to the beach. Janice does not like that Sally is taking control of things. While looking for firewood Janice sees she is being watched by some unidentified animal and runs back to camp. The situation starts taking its toll on her, Janice seems defeated and stops giving the orders. Sally and Liz discover Janice’s mysterious animal was a lost dog. The dog comes in handy when a storm washes away their supplies and he finds them again.  Also he leads his owners back to help the girls. Sally and the girls get home safely and promise to stay friends and keep in contact.

Thoughts

This isn’t the most original story, a bunch of people being stranded on an island has been told often enough, but it is still a good adventure story. Visually the island is interesting and well represented, from the swamps and dense forests to the open beaches and cliffs. There are no mysterious smoke monsters, just the normal hazards of islands like animals, storms and  poisonous food. While the girls do not crash on the island the boat does get swept away onto the rocks, which serves putting them in a difficult situation without dealing with injuries on top of it.

There are 7 characters and while visually distinctive most of them don’t have a lot to do. Of course the focus is on both Sally and Janice. Liz as Sally’s close friend gets to be supportive of her and put down Janice when needed. One other girl Eunice seems to have the trait of making things worse by scaring the other girls.

The other girls seem to be there just to complain or switch allegiances from Janice and Sally and follow who ever is favourable at the moment, like sheep. It is a short book so I supose can’t expect everyone to form distinct personalities. Both Janice and Sally get time to develop. Janice actually gets the most development. She goes from being bossy, arrogant and jealous to scared and unsure. She gets back to taking charge again but it is more driven by fear after the dog runs off and she forms a group to follow him. While bossy and jealous she is never shown to be nasty and softens up a lot by the end. Sally throughout maintains her practical and level headed attitude. She does gain friends that will take some of her time from reading and she is happier about the holiday than she was in the beginning but overall she stays the same. It is nice to see the bookworm triumph!

I do find Sally’s parents attitude quite funny. When they send her on holiday, I get that they want to her to socialise and exercise and such, but you wouldn’t think having a daughter that likes to read would be such a problem.

I don’t think reading too much is something that needs to be cured, it’s not something I want to be cured of anyway!

 

“Nobody Knows My Face!”

  • “Nobody Knows My Face!” – Mandy PSL: #143 (1990)
  • Artist:  J. Badesa.

Plot

Millie Mason is a budding actress with dreams of becoming a star. It seems she’s on her way to fame when she gets spotted by an agent, Eddie Tanner. Unfortunately every role she gets cast in she ends up in a costume, mask or in the shadows, so nobody sees what she looks like. Her agent  also thinks keeping the mystery of what she looks like will make her an even bigger star, with a big reveal.  Millie finally gets sick of being unknown and threatens to quit if  she can’t appear as herself., for her next interview. Eddie agrees and Millie is delighted. Only on the day of the big reveal she ends up getting mumps and is all bandaged up anyway!

Thoughts

Firstly, yes that is Dennis the Menace on the cover. Of course Mandy and Beano were both published by D.C. Thomson, it was quite common for the comics the reference another comic, sometimes characters would even be seen reading the comic they were part of! ! In this instance Millie’s first job is appearing as Dennis the Menace for a grand opening.

Millie then  gets her big TV break, doing a series of commercials. As Jane the Germ Killer, she gets interviews and fame and when her contract is finished in a year there will be a big reveal of who she is.  Apperently Jane the Germ Killer is a big hit.  I know some advertisements have been a staring path for big careers (like Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio) but I don’t remember them getting TV interviews for just staring in the ad! Then during a public appearance as Jane, Millie is kidnapped.  The kidnappers threaten to publicly unmask her if they don’t get paid. At first Millie is scared but she also thinks of the benefits i.e. that people will finally know who she is! She is disappointed to find out it is all a big publicity stunt by the agency.  Apparently they  didn’t tell her about the stunt because  they wanted her reactions to be realistic. Which is bad enough  but once they got her to the safe house, that may have been a good time to explain everything. But no, instead they tie her up and leave her wondering what is going to happen until some nice agency guy decides to turn up later. It just makes an unethical situation even worse

 

Even Millie sees how terribly wrong this is and wants out. She lets them know they can’t sue her for breaking her contract without her letting everyone know about the publicity stunt. The agency agrees but only on the condition that she never reveals she played the character. They are going to replace her with another actress and pretend she was always the one. Yep thats showbiz for you!

So Millie’s back to square one, and she can’t even use her television experience on her resume. She does gets another chance when she stars in a TV mini series. Unfortunetely her face is hidden in shadows. This trend of masks and shadows continues, until she decides she has had enough and quits. Eddie convinces her to come back to the business after he gets his writer friend to write a script based on the idea of “The Girl with a Thousand Faces”. Using a similar idea to the Jane the germ killer ad campaign, they are also going to build up the idea of the mystery girl but this time he promises she will get her big reveal at the end.

Really I couldn’t see this concept work today, people would track down Millie Mason no bother, on IMDB/Wikipedia or some social networking site.  Actually I find it difficult to believe even in pre-web/social networking  days, that not one reporter didn’t track her down! Eventually Millie gets her big moment to finally show her face….only to end up in hospital with the mumps.

This story has some unrealistic setups, particularly the kidnapping plot, but the story isn’t one to take it too seriously either. Millie could have come off as a very unlikeable character,  a girl that seems to be in the acting business not for the roles but to become famous. Yes she does come across a fame hungry at times but as its played mostly for laughs, she isn’t a terrible character. You don’t wish for her downfall. You sympathise with her frustration, but can also see the humour in the situation.  The big joke of all this build up only for her to be covered in bandages for her unveiling, is played with a kind of; roll of  the eyes “typical”  rather than as a devastating blow.

The Door to Yesterday

  • The Door to Yesterday – Mandy PSL: #40 (1981)
  • Reprinted –  Mandy PSL:  #207 (1994)
  • Artist: David Matysiak

Plot

Sally Dean is staying with her aunt for the holidays. Aunt Mabel is a housekeeper to a scientist Mr. Winslow. Sally follows Mr. Winslow through a door in his attic and finds herself lost and alone in London in 1851. For weeks she tries to track down Mr. Winslow, finally grabbing his attention at a local music hall. Mr. Winslow gets her back to the present where no time has passed.

Thoughts

Firstly the artwork is great, I’m pretty sure its by David Matysiak, but if I’m wrong feel free to correct me.  The Victorian era is really captured in the clothes, streets and overall look. The grimy streets, overcrowded halls and in contrast the grand houses and the wonder of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Everything is wonderfully visualised. The characters are all expressive, Sally is a character that is shown to adapt to her situation but  her dejection when she thinks her only way home is blown up also is clearly illustrated.  Matysiak can switch between an everyday scene to an atmosphere of fear and creepiness brilliantly.

He’s definitely a favourite artist of mine.

The story itself is interesting. Mr. Winslow doesn’t come off as some crackpot scientist but is instead portrayed as a gentleman. In the middle of the night Sally notices him dressed up  in Victorian clothing going into the attic she follows him and is surprised to find herself out onto a foggy street. When the door shuts behind her she decides she best catch up to him but finds herself lost in the fog. Getting tired she falls asleep in a doorway. She is taken in by the people of the house. She decides its best not to tell them the truth particulaly when they enquire about her “strange” clothes. Instead she says she is an orphan and she came to London to look for a friend.

Sally is a great resourceful character, she first decides its best not to draw too much attention to herself by wearing the clothes that were lent to her. In the meantime she also goes about trying to track Mr. Winslow down. She hands in  some  of her coins to the local newspaper hoping to attract Mr. Winslow’s attention, unfortunately Winslow assumes they are coins he dropped and explains it a way to the newspaper without coming in contact with Sally. She manages to track him down to the hotel he was staying at but he has already moved on. Undeterred though she offers her services as a receptionist at the hotel so she sorts out a place to stay and money.

She continues to show her good detective skills in trying  to track Mr. Winslow down, she gets close to him at an exhibition but loses him in the crowd. She does manage to find her way back to the door she came through but is distressed when she arrives just as it is scheduled to be destroyed.

Despite this blow she doesn’t give up hope that Mr. Winslow may still be able to help.. She finally meets him at a Music Hall but they are seperated when a fight breaks out. She tries other music halls, during a talent competition hour, she has the idea to offer her talents as a maths wiz with her handy calculator. She gets the approval of the the audience but most importantly Mr. Winslow sees her and is able to meet up with her after the show.

Just when things are looking to be resolved, another obstacle is placed in front of them when a policeman arrests Mr. Winslow for his part in the fight at the other music hall. Sally isn’t going to let another thing get in her way of getting home, when she is so close. So she takes matters  into her own hands.

Finally Mr. Winslow gets Sally back home through another door, it turns out he has many ways to get back home (that’s convenient!). Sally arrives back at the time she left.

Sally  is an admirable character she is adaptable, smart and not afraid to get into a confrontation when needed. She is also shown to be kind and helpful to people, particularly those who helped her. She is at the same time – brave and stands up to people when needed.  She reprimands a man for not listening to a singer and throwing rubbish at her.

Mr. Winslow is a gentleman and shows his enthusiasm for science without looking like a mad scientist. The supporting characters for the little they are shown still get show their traits clearly. Miss Peacock an earlier character is shown to be disapproving and uptight, Mrs Brown who gives Sally a job at the hotel is kindly and shows concern for Sally.

The story itself takes the advantage of time being fluid. It establishes Mr. Winslow and Sally interacting early on before quickly moving into the main time travelling plot. It takes its time setting Sally up in this Victorian era, she is trapped for weeks, so the time period is able to be explored. The time period itself is just the backdrop for the detective side of the story as Sally searches for Mr. Winslow and a way back home. So there is a lot going on to squeeze into 64 pages and I think the pacing is done well.