Tag Archives: Rhoda Miller

The Comp

  • The Comp–  Nikki:  #01 (23 February 1985) – #237 (02 September 1989)
  • Nikki –  Bunty: #1650 (26 August 1989)- #1651 (02 September 1989)
  • Nikki at the Comp – Bunty: #1652 (09 September 1989)
  • The Comp– Bunty : #1653 (16 September 1989) – #2243 (06 January 2001)
  • Writers: Rhoda Miller
  • Main Artists:  Ron Lumsden , Peter Wilkes
  • Occassional Artists: Guy Peeters

Plot

The Comp was a soap story that followed the lives of a group of friends in the 3rd Form at Redvale Comp. The Comp dealt primarily with  friendships, romances, family drama and school. There was a large cast of characters, including the pupils, their families, and teachers. It took some risks too, as main characters actually left and were replaced throughout it’s run. Initially the story was introduced (in Nikki) with Sam Greene starting her first day at the Comp. Her family had just moved back from Germany, and she soon made close friends with Julie, Lisa, Megan and Marilyn.  Although most stories revolved around those five, there were many other characters that also got the spotlight at times, such as punk Sharon, jokster Sprot and studious Tina. There was also a variety of teachers at the Comp, some loved and some feared, with nicknames like Grim Gertie, Mad Maureen and Sooty.

The Comp - 1st panel

In issue #102 of Nikki, Sam and her friends moved up to 4th form and a new cast of characters were introduced as the 3B form. These were Laura Brady and her friends Becky, Hayley and Nadina. The other various characters in the class included Freddy, Hodge, Jayne the Pain, Claire and Amy. When Nadina moved away, a new character Roz was introduced. She was an American that had moved with her Dad to Redvale. Although Sam and her friends had moved on they still occasionally made appearances, although they became less frequent in later years.

When Nikki was merged with Bunty,  The Comp came to Bunty. For two issues before the merger, in Bunty, there was a story called Nikki, this introduced the character of Nikki, and bullies Pippa and Morag. Due to a factory shutting down, the girls’ families had to relocate and they all start at the Comp.   While Bunty showed things from Nikki’s perspective,  in Nikki (the comic) continued with its own story and showed some of the same events from the regular characters perspectives. After Bunty and Nikki merged, the story was called “Nikki at the Comp” for an issue before changing back to just “The Comp”. While some minor characters came and went, the core four (Laura, Hayley, Becky and Roz) stayed the same until the end, and didn’t move up in the school.

The stories were very character focused, sometimes there was a campaign or event that everyone came together on but mostly it just concentrated on a couple of characters at a time. Typically as a soap story there was many varied plots and they would overlap starting and finishing at different time. The last issue ends when Redvale has to close for safety reasons. It is unknown when and if the school will reopen. The pupils are to go to different schools. At first it looks like the Laura, Becky, Hayley and Roz will be split up, but then luckily they are able to work things out and go to same school. Of course Bunty ended a few issues later, so The Comp didn’t return.

the comp the end

Thoughts

The Comp had an impressive run of 830 episodes (between both Nikki and Bunty), as well as regular annual appearances and picture story library books. Being a soap story, there were more continuous stories and story arcs overlapped, rather than something like The Four Marys or Bobby Dazzler which had separate story arcs – that for the most part reset to the status quo at the end. There were also a lot more characters and while it mostly focused on a core four, there were others that had the spotlight over the years.

What’s most interesting is that Nikki decided to change all the established main characters and have a new cast. I wonder what led to this decision. Did they want to just freshen things up, maybe there was a plan to always move characters on after a while, and introduce new people every few years? If that was the original plan did the Bunty merger put a stop to that or were Laura & Co. so popular they decided to keep them? The original cast were popular enough that they printed a special page of reactions to departure, while there were some sad to see them go, it seemed most were willing to give the new cast a chance.

the comp changes

the comp letters

The second cast do have an advantage of being around longer but in someways their development stalled. While things changed around them, they were stuck in the same class. One clear example of this is the twins stepsister Angie. She starts off as a prefect in the Comp, then later she gets engaged, married, has her own twins who become toddlers while Becky and Hayley never move up the school! So it is a strange mix of some things evolving and a sense of the passage of time  but the class never age! I also found some storylines seemed to repeat with different characters, such as the Nikki and Jacki dynamic, being similar to Sam and Sharon or that Laura fancies a neighbour and is upset when he likes Becky, which also happened to Julie and Sam.

Still these things are only obvious when reading the stories in a large block, and most likely wouldn’t be noticed by readers at the time. Another thing I did notice by reading these stories chronologically, is that there is some good continuity. While the odd time a name or appearance may change (like Amy’s surname being Rodgers, Linton and Lister at different times) there was good use of old characters and storylines. When the twins get an inheritance from their Great Aunt Freda, it is actually 43 issues later that the money comes to them. Lorraine Grover an old bully from issue 1 of Nikki, who had been expelled, pops up 10 years later. Some of the original class are named in passing or pop up briefly, such as Mike Morris winning a dance competition 6 years after he had moved into 4th year, or Kath Watkins getting expelled for stealing. Selena Smith who left the school, reappears bumping into Laura & co. and letting them know why her sister “Mad Maureen”, a teacher at the school, is so grumpy. It’s instances like this that makes me think that it must have been the one writer for a long time.

When Nikki merged with Bunty in 1989, I liked the way the merger was handled for The Comp. Bunty originally had its own school drama School’s Out that ended a few issues before the merger, this gave the comic a chance to introduce a story named Nikki which follows Nicola as she moves to Redvale and joins The Comp. I liked how they had the story was told from 2 different perspectives and the character of Nikki was a good way to introduce the story to readers to those people who hadn’t read Nikki comic. Also the name of the new character was a nice nod to the old comic.

comp last nikki

(Above: The Comp – Nikki #237)

comp - bunty 1651

(Above: Nikki – Bunty#1651)

The stories themselves were entertaining and they had the opportunity to be varied and change things. They could have light moments such as Hodge and Freddy playing tricks, Hayley’s self tan going wrong and often it could be amusing when the girls got the wrong end of the stick by listening to part of conversations of teachers, like when they think Tosh is pregnant! There was also quite a lot of drama, such as dealing with parent’s divorce, a new baby in the house, and even death. While Laura & Co, did not grow up like Sam & Co. there were more permanent changes in their lives that were ongoing and did not reverse back to the status quo. Such as Roz’s father getting remarried and she gains a new stepsister Stancee or Laura’s  family deciding to foster.

As stories focused on different characters, it was more likely a reader could find someone they identified with or maybe just found interesting! My favourite characters when I was growing up, were Roz and Laura.  Roz looked quite distinctive from the other characters and being American also made her different and interesting for me. I also liked Laura as she was a tomboy, artistic and didn’t stand for the boys putting girls down. Rereading I also appreciate how well rounded  a character Jacki was, she had a rougher background, which sometimes led to her looser definitions of right or wrong, like she didn’t see anything wrong with shoplifting, but hated bullies and even saved the caretakers life by performing CPR. Of the original class I quite like Lisa, who was very like Laura but maybe more flawed, I also liked Marilyn because she had one of the most interesting story arcs for me…

Marilyn starts dating Tim, and like a realistic young romance, they believe they will get married after school and be together forever. They break up and get back together a lot, due to Tim moving further away and him cheating on her. Even when “Grim Gertie” tries to advise her that her studies are more important than boys, in typical teenager fashion, Marilyn thinks what would Gertie know about such things. They do split up for good when Tim cheats on her again. Though she has tried to move on she is devastated when he is killed in a motorcycle accident. Lisa also feels bad about this due to a comment she had made about a boy like him being no loss, after he cheated on Marilyn. Their whole relationship lasts about 50 issues, it was not always the main focus but I think it was well written and his death was quite shocking.

the comp gertie vs marilyn

Another storyline that I thought was well done was when Laura’s family foster a teenager, Rachel. Only Laura knows that she isn’t as sweet as she pretends to be and that she seems to have it in for Laura. Although this is the type of story we’ve seen before, the differences here is that this is happening  to a well-established character and we also get to see the aftermath. Laura’s mom takes it particularly hard when the truth comes out, feeling she’s failed as a foster mom and it takes some time for the family to decide if they want to foster again.

Along with the well written stories, I like the art and think it did well making characters distinctive and capturing the different environments, as they weren’t always just focused around the school. Although I do have a preference for the earlier stuff, the designs seemed to get more simpler as time went on. Some characters look quite different from their first appearance such as Jayne Saunders  or  Mad Maureen who looks a lot older in some issues.  While Ron Lumsden and Peter Wilkies were the main artists, there were some artists that took over for short periods of time like Guy Peeters (who would go on to draw another long running soap story “Penny’s Place”). When Bunty changed format The Comp became coloured, the colouring style was as varied  but usually enhanced the art.

the comp different artist

Despite such a large cast there is a lack of diversity. The second class start off well with Nadina but she doesn’t last very long. It’s not until Kiko joins that we get a main character of a different ethnicity again. Even with the teachers, there is only one black student teacher of note that appeared (although I do have some gaps in my collection). It does appear by the late 90s more non-white background characters appeare, but certainly most speaking characters were white, which was actually the norm across these comics, but still interesting to note.

The Comp was a big selling point for both Nikki and Bunty. They even expanded it so that in  Nikki, additional to the picture story, Sam Greene also had a diary,  this was 1 text page placed after the story and filled readers in on extra events. When the new class came Laura took over this slot with her letters to a friend for a for a while.  In Bunty The Comp also spawned a spin off “Carly’s Crowd”, which followed Roz’s younger sister and her friends and their lives in California. This was a text story, in a time when it was quite unusual to see text stories! Of course The Comp was also popular subject for the Picture Story Library Books. For Nikki’s 100th issue there was a competition to win a part in The Comp by answering questions about previous things that had happened in The Comp. Not surprisingly The Comp often took top place in reader polls, they even gave readers a chance to vote on their favourite teacher, while in the story the class were also voting!

the comp 100the comp competition

Over the next few pages I’ve done short character profiles on the main cast, of course it would be far too long to list all events and I have some gaps in my collection, particularly in the later years, but it should show some highlights of the characters.

Quick Links:

Original Class           Second Class           Staff            List of Appearances

Luv, Lisa

Plot:

Lisa Codd writes about her life and family in her diary. She lives with her parents Andrew and Susan, older brother Neil, older sister Ali and younger brother Martin. They go through many changes during the years, Andrew loses his job at one point, Martin begins a music career, Andrew and Susan separate for a while. Lisa deals with all this plus friend trouble, boys and everyday school life.

luvlisa_B95

Notes:

  • Writer: Linda Stephenson
  • Photographer: Richard Palmer
  • Story Idea: Rhoda Miller
  • Photo story
  • Appeared in two picture story libraries as a drawn character
  • Her dog Jeff had a spin off text story “Luv, Jeff”

Appeared:

  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1659 (28 Oct 1989) – ?
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  circa #1697 – #1729 (02 March 1991)
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1735 (13 April 1991) – #1755 (31 August 1991)
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1762 (19 October 1991) – #1788 (18 April 1992)
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1794 (30 May  1992) – ?
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1824 (26 December 1992) – ?
  • Luv, Lisa–  Bunty:  #1892 (16 April 1994) – #1916 (01 October 1994)
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty:  #1928 (24 December 1994) – ?
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty: #1975, (18 November 1995) – #2031, (14 December 1996)

Other Appearances:

  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Annual 1993
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Annual 1994
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Annual 1995
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Annual 1996
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Annual 1997
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Picture Story Library #374
  • Luv, Lisa – Bunty Picture Story Library #399

 

The Four Marys

  • The Four Marys – Bunty: #01 (18 January 1958) –  #2249 (17 February 2001)
  • Writers: Maureen Hartley (2 Stories: “Creefy’s Rival” and “The Mystery Virus”), Rhoda Miller [and other unknowns]
  • Artists: Bill Holroyd (#01-#15), James ‘Peem’ Walker, Manuel Cuyàs (#434 – #436), Selby Donnison, Jim Eldridge

Plot

Four girls all named Mary attend a reputable boarding school, St. Elmos. They become firm friends and usually go by their nicknames Raddy, Simpy, Fieldy and Cotty. Throughout their time they have many adventures and solve some mysteries.

Thoughts

This is one of the most well remembered stories, and that has to be partially due to its longevity. A 40 year run is quite impressive. The strip appeared in the majority of the issues but wasn’t a continuous run from first to last issue. There was a couple of breaks particularly in the 80s, though they never went away for too long. There were some reprints over the years particularly towards the end of Bunty.

1950s/1960s

The first 15  issues were drawn by Bill Holroyd, and each girl had their own distinctive look.  The early years had an Enid Blyton tone to the stories, they had the usual boarding school routines,  as well as chase up some mysterious going-ons.

fourmarys_02

While all the girls had their own personality and talents, Mary Simpson was probably one of the most inspirational to young girls. A smart working class girl, that had earned her place in a good school, yet had to contend with being looked down on by some snobs. Bunty in the late 50s was aimed at a more working class background and at the time it was quite a novelty to put a scholarship girl as a main character.  Overall it seems the big appeal of the story was the relationships and friendship of the girls. (Mel Gibson discusses such things in her essay: What Bunty did next….)

While it’s true that the friendships were very important, probably most people had their favourite Mary. Personally I always had a soft spot for Mary Cotter, the talented but often shy and clumsy Mary. Mary Radleigh was the daughter of an Earl but also hated anyone putting on airs and graces, she was loyal and down to earth. Mary Field was the active sports mad girl, that could be a little too pushy at times. Of course 2 other regular characters were the snobs; Mabel and Veronica, who disliked Simpy for her lower class upbringing and the Marys in general for being popular and goody two shoes!

The boarding school itself was full of traditions. Dr. Gull was the head mistress, sometimes known as the Squawker (and the first years were called the Newts). While the girls were allowed to go to the local town, Elmbury, they were expected to behave appropriately, wear their full uniform and there were certain shops they weren’t allowed visit. Miss Creef was the third form mistress, who held up the various traditions but was also described as firm but fair.

Story arcs from this decade included; a mystery surrounding  a hermit teacher Miss Johnson who turns out to be a former student; Lady Josephine Bramily. She has amnesia after a boating accident. Luckily, Mary Simpson and head girl, Ann Fairlie, help her  recover her memories so she can go reclaim her inheritance. Another mysterious teacher Miss Mandy seems to have hidden past with a young cockney that involves thieving. The girls help a young girl Hilda secure a job as maid in the school, only to discover someone’s out to get her fired.  Mary Cotter damages her eye in a lab accident and  nearly does worse damage when she mixes up eye ointment with a bottle of bleach, luckily Simpy catches her in time, and eventually Cotty’s eyes recover (although by the end of the series, her eyesight declines and she ends up having to get glasses!).  A group of girls dub themselves ‘the avengers’ and punish any girl that has done any wrong doing. Simpy discover that it is Raddy and Fieldy doing such things after they let her join them in dunking a cheating prefect Avril in a bath.

fourmarys_01

Early on the stories usually consisted of 2 pages, though later this got expanded to 3 pages. The girls interestingly didn’t refer to each other by nicknames, for the first few years they continued to just call each other Mary. I’m not sure when exactly the change happened but it made sense to start giving them each a distinctive name to be referred as.

1970s

There was a lot of reprinted stories in the 70s.  It was quite common to reprint shorter serials in these comics and with a long running strip like the Four Marys it may have been hard to keep the weekly turnover of new stories. Presumably it was also thought that readers of the first printing would have outgrown the comic by then.

Some of the new stories included; the school being threatened by a flood. A cycle trip with the cycle club led by Miss Creef, Mabel and Veronica mess with Simpy’s old bike in the hopes of getting back to the school earlier. Simpy manages to borrow an old 3 wheeler bike and enter in a race. She doesn’t win but the winner gives her the prize of a new bike for being so entertaining. Cotty believes she is under a gypsy curse and those close to her are getting harmed, it turns out to be a combination of  Mabel and Veronica playing some tricks and a scheme to take over the school. Raddy has trouble looking out for her cousin Sonia.  A feud between Mr Crowe, a local farmer, and the school starts over the school using the right of way to walk through his land.

4marys_04

1980s

Like I mentioned before the 80s saw the Four Marys on some breaks. On one of these breaks the regular ongoing story had some similar themes, involved 3 friends in a ballet boarding school called The Three Imps. Perhaps they were testing out permanent replacements or maybe they just needed a break, but the Marys did return again and with a new artist. At the end of the 80s a new format seemed to settle with the Marys. With them being the first story in the issue, and the more modern School’s Out (which was replaced with The Comp by 1989) as the last story of the issue. Dr Gull had been replaced by the more forward thinking Miss Mitchell, and the girls even got to interact with boys from St. Bartophs boarding school.  The end of 1989 was also when Bunty got a new colour update. While some stories were still in black and white, The Four Marys were now fully coloured.

4marys_05

Some stories in the 1980s include the girls rallying a strike to stop Miss Creef being dismissed after a fall out with Dr Gull. A group of unruly circus girls joining the school temporarily. A new American pupil Lana  gets elected captain of the Bee’s House and wants to hold up all St. Elmos traditions including challenging the village boys to a football match, running barefoot down to the town and raising the house flag on the clock tower. A mystery involving the school’s founder Margaret Carews actual death. A temporary Home Economics teacher who has been secretly keeping her toddler daughter at the school. A competition sees the Marys all split up into different teams, this causes problems but in the end they all come together. St Elmo’s comes under threat of closure when they start to lose students, of course the school is saved with the help of the Marys.

1990s/ 2000s

So the 90s started with the Four Marys in colour and now expanded to 4 pages. The Four Marys was trying to change with the times, with the more up to date Miss Mitchell, continuing to modernise the school, and even Cotty stopped wearing her hair in 2 plaits. The girls were now frequently seen out of uniform as they were able to wear their regular clothes down town and like I mentioned before they were even mixing with boys. Still even with this more modern tone, the girls still has familiar adventures; dealing with new teachers with hidden agendas, threats to the school and tests of their friendships. By the end of the 90s earlier stories were reprinted a lot.

4marys_06

Stories in the 90s included; Mary Field having trouble when her cousin becomes her teacher, causing the other girls to think she’s a teacher’s pet. The girls go on a trip to America with Miss Creef and help foil a jewel thief. The girls try to help a girl they believe is being held captive. It turns out the wheelchair bound, Ailsa, who just has an overprotective aunt, but agrees to let her join St. Elmos. When a famous fashion designer comes to St. Elmos to unveil her new collection, it seems someone is out to sabotage her.  A story set in the past shows the Marys first term in St. Elmos. Raddy gets held captive by robbers who coerce Miss Mitchell into letting them hide out the school. The other Marys soon get suspicious of the new “gardener” and Miss Mitchell’s story that Raddy was sent home sick.

4marys_10

In the final story for The Four Marys, it looks like they will be split up when Cotty fails her exams and will have to leave St. Elmos. Luckily she passes her resit test, Raddy gets elected as form captain and Simpy ends the strip on line “The Four Marys forever”

bunty_2249_4maryslastissue

Final Thoughts

The Four Marys certainly had lasting power, although by the 80s/90s I think they were considered somewhat old fashioned, and so there was changes made to modernise them. At the same time the Marys were permanently stuck in the 3rd form, similar story-lines were repeated and in some ways they felt quite worn out. Still they appealed to a lot of readers. Personally growing up I did enjoy the Four Marys but I  was definitely more interested with The Comp. Funnily reading back the older issues even though it was before my time I actually find the 60s stuff appealing to me more, the art was more simplistic and it had a nice charm with the setting and stories. I think sometimes the Marys could come off a little too good and helpful at times, but still they weren’t without their flaws and their solid friendship it seems is one of the things that interested people.

The art changed a lot over the years and while the artists all did well, my personal favourites are  James Walker (60s) and Selby Donnison (80s).  There was a lot of adventure, mystery, fun and characters that you could get invested in.

Quick Links:

The Four Marys – Characters                                List of Appearances