Tag Archives: Ron Lumsden

Looking for Lucy \ Distant Cousin

  • Looking for Lucy – Nikki: #10 (27 April 1985) -#19 (29 June 1985)
  • Artist: Guy Peeters
  • Distant Cousin – Bunty: #1919 (22 October 1994) -#1931 (14 January 1995)
  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Plots

These are two different stories but have so many similarities I decided to look at them together. Both stories revolve around a protagonist going to a boarding school where her cousin is also meant to attend. Both have not seen their cousins in years and when they arrive they find some mysterious cover-up about said cousin. Everyone is hiding something and they can’t get the truth from staff or pupils, so it’s up to the protagonist to investigate, solve the mystery and find their cousin.

Although there is a common plot thread, there are differences in how the stories are told. In Looking for Lucy, Shirley Wright arrives at the school where everyone claims that there is not and never was, a Lucy at the school. Shirley  tries to find evidence of her cousin’s existence in the school, but every time she finds a clue, someone destroys the evidence.  In Distant Cousin, Jenny Clayton, has kind of the opposite problem as everyone claims the her cousin Claire is at the school but she believes the person who claims to be Claire is not her cousin. So she is out to prove “Claire” is not who she says she is and find her real cousin.

looking for lucy-Distant cousin

Firstly Looking for Lucy  – Shirley is surprised that no one has heard of her cousin, Lucy Semple, but surprise turns to concern when she soon suspects a cover up. She starts hunting down evidence of her cousin, such as trying to find her name on the class register. She finds one register is brand new, with no Lucy in it, in the same classroom she finds a table with L.S. carved into it with hockey sticks.  As this is early in her investigation and the girls in her dorm seem friendly, she tries to enlist their help. She tells one of the girls, Janet, about the desk but when she goes to show her the desk, it is gone. She then decides it’s best to talk to an adult and goes to the headmistress, Mrs Bull, but even she denies Lucy’s existence! Knowing that Lucy liked hockey,  she tries to track her down checking old school magazines, only to find the sport pages have been torn out. She does manage to find an old team list with the name L Semple on it. Again Janet pops up and Shirley suspects she is destroying any evidence she finds, but  but when the list goes missing at a time Janet couldn’t have took it, Shirley realizes she can’t trust anyone!

looking for lucy 2

She writes to her parents for advice, she receives a letter  from them but it seems they didn’t get her letter. On a trip to a place the school have visited before, she finds photo with someone she is sure is her cousin. She confronts the girls that were in the photo and they first claim not to remember the other girl, then later say she was an old school girl Jane Smith, a common name that would be hard to track down.  She tries writing again but with her parents are moving around a lot she doesn’t know when they will receive the letter.  At a hockey match she thinks she has a good opportunity as she can ask opposing team about Lucy.  She also believes she may have found an ally in Ruth, who seems sympathetic. But then during half-time when she wants to talk to  the other team, she is tricked and gets locked in a shed. Knowing that Ruth was the only person with opportunity to lock her up, she decides to be even more careful collecting evidence and keeping it secret.

She tries to throw the girls off by saying she’s lost interest and that her parents have told her not to worry. Late during a party game she is hiding, when she overhears some pupils saying they are glad Shirley stopped asking questions, as they hate lying. While trying to see who is talking. she slips and hits head. She recovers and is more determined then ever to find out what happened to Lucy. She finally finds solid evidence, when she gets one of the girl’s old photo album, she finds a photo of her cousin in front of school with her name on the back. She goes to police only to be stopped by teacher with Lucy! Mrs Bull explains, that Lucy has been sick with an infectious disease and had to be kept quarantined.  They didn’t want people to know about Lucy’s illness in case parents pulled their children from the school and they were afraid of financial disaster. As it is a happy school everyone pulls together to keep it secret and since Lucy is fully recovered they hope Shirley can be happy at the school too.

looking for lucy 6

In Distant Cousin Jenny Clayton is excited to get a scholarship to Larchwood, and her mother calls Aunt Mary, who doesn’t seem enthused about Claire looking out for Jenny. They have never had much to do with that side of the family and Jenny has never met her cousin, so she is unsure of what to expect. Still on the day “Claire” greets her and shows her to the dorm. She seems friendly, but when Jenny talks about other family members, she seems to shut down, Jenny thinks its her snobbery. She begins to suspect, there is something strange about her cousin, and that she is keeping secrets.  “Claire” is secretive about the letters she receives and appears to lie to the school to get a weekend away (She goes home for a grandparents golden anniversary, but Jenny knows there are no family anniversaries happening). Jenny tries to settle into school and does make some other friends. One time down town with some of her new friends, Sandra points out Alison’s gang and Jenny is confused as she doesn’t know anyone named Alison but does see Claire. Then later another girl calls “Claire”,  Alison, she then claims that Alison is her middle name and she uses it a lot. Jenny doesn’t buy this story and quizzes Alison about their family, trying to catch her out but she seems to have brushed up on her information as she is able to answer most of her questions.

distant cousin 2

Later the girls are planning Alison’s birthday, this is further proof for Jenny as she knows Claire’s birthday is close to hers. After  this she does some investigating, she finds an old receipt  of Claire’s for shoe repairs. She collects the shoes and tricks Alison into trying them on.  After this Alison owns up that she is not Claire but won’t tell her why the deception. Jenny tries to talk to the head but she is away at a conference, she then tries the art teachers but she dismisses her. She them rings her Aunt Mary who claims that Claire is at Larchwood and only phoned her yesterday. Jenny thinks maybe Claire has been kidnapped, she wonders if Alison and her friends are too scared to speak out,  but then she overhears them saying they’re glad Claire is gone.

During games she sees someone watching from a window of an isolated part of the building. She sneaks up to see her, thinking that she may be Claire, but she is actually a girl named Sophie with measles, and the matron quickly ushers Jenny away. One evening, when the girls are looking at an old photo, they avoid letting Jenny see it but she manages to sneak a look later. One of the girls Pippa catches her,  but  she tells her she understands, she”d like to help, but she promised not to tell. At least Jenny now knows what Claire looks like. She also gets a hint from a head girl, that Claire got into trouble but is interrupted before she can ask further questions.  When Sophie is released from sick bay, Jenny gets to talk to her and she mentions that no-one liked Claire and she remembered the day she left, but then Alison pulls her away. Jenny finds a letter addressed to Alison from Aunt Mary. Watching her later, she sees Alison read the letter and share out the money that was inside, among friends. Jenny tries to ring Aunt Mary again, but instead gets the housekeeper who tells her Claire’s at school and be home shortly. Jenny confronts Alison telling her what she already knows. Alison fills in the gaps, it turns out Aunt Mary bribed her to pretend to be Claire so Jenny wouldn’t find out she was expelled. Everyone is glad everything is out in the open as they like Jenny and glad they can all be friends now.

distant cousin 5

Thoughts

Both stories are really good at building up the mystery and they are quite engaging. Their downfall is the endings. In both stories it felt like they didn’t know how to end it, Looking for Lucy felt particularly rushed at the end as Lucy appears in the last few panels, just as Shirley is about to enter the police station, then there is a very long expository speech bubble. Despite this I think Looking for Lucy is the stronger story over all. Shirley is really dedicated to her investigation and therefore the tension and urgency can transfer to the reader. Whereas in Distant Cousin Jenny can sometimes be a bit halfhearted, she is annoyed when she messes up her chance with a boy as she goes to ask another boy about her cousin, also she only asks one teacher about Claire and then gives up asking any adult. Although the Headmistress was away first time she wanted to talk to her, she doesn’t attempt to talk to her again after she returns, even when she finds out the only teacher she asked about Claire is new to the school!

distant cousin 3

In Looking for Lucy it is clear that everyone in the school is part of the cover up which makes things more difficult for Shirley and again builds on the mystery and distrust, there seems to be no one she can turn to for help. She does well in her own investigations, tracking down any scrap of information she can, even if the others foil her progress. But all the build up leads to not much in the end.  At least all the school have a combined motivation, but it makes little sense. Why not tell Shirley, Lucy had measles or was spending a term away, anything other than destroying all evidence of her existence! The ending might make more sense if Lucy had an accident at school and they didn’t want to ruin their reputation,  that it turns out the school wasn’t at fault. Really the disease, that she picked up abroad during holidays, seems like a flimsy reason to hide everything from Shirley.

looking for lucy 5

Distant Cousin does a nice job in adding new mystery halfways through the story. At first the mystery seems to be that “Claire” is hiding something and sneaking away from school. When she is revealed to be Alison, this changes to Jenny trying to find out what happened to her cousin. This change is slowly developed as we begin to suspect “Claire” is not who she says she is. Unfortunately the characters here have less motivation to lie then in Looking for Lucy. Nobody liked Claire, Alison wasn’t been blackmailed, her family seem to be well off so it’s not like she needs the money. It does seem that Alison’s friends  seem to encourage her to go along with charade and she does share the money with friends, but it really doesn’t seem to be a big enough reason to go along with it. In fact she’s relieved when the truth finally comes out. This might have worked better if Alison was a scholarship girl and needed the money or if Claire was blackmailing her. Whatever about Alison’s side of things, how long did Aunt Mary think the secret was going to last? None of the teacher’s are in on it, just some girl’s in Claire’s old class, realistically unless the whole school was involved like in the other story, something was going to slip out eventually!

distant cousin 6

While the endings leave too many questions as I’ve said the rest of the stories are well done an the art in both is gorgeous. I like Ron Lumsden’s  art, he does nice close ups of characters, filling the panel and capturing different expressions. Guy Peeters some has great details in some panels, such as when Shirley visits a church, and the light shines through a stained glass window or  nice wide shots of school.

Looking for lucy 4

 

The Comp

  • The Comp–  Nikki:  #01 (23 February 1985) – #237 (02 September 1989)
  • Nikki –  Bunty: #1650 (26 August 1989) – #1651 (02 September 1989)
  • The Comp– Bunty : #1652 (09 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

Puppy Love

Plot

Lauren Dean has always wanted a pet, but it was not possible as her family live in an apartment block. Then Dad changes jobs and the family move into a cottage, where Lauren can have a pet at last. A stray dog adopts Lauren, and Lauren names her Spot. Spot dies, but not before she has given birth to three puppies, who become Lauren’s new pets.

Notes

  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • Puppy Love –  Bunty: #2209 (13 May 2000)

Last Chance for Laura

Plot

Laura Patterson’s modelling career is on the line because success has gone to her head and made her arrogant and badly behaved. When Laura’s misbehaviour causes an accident that damages her face, her younger sister Amy agrees to pretend to be her in the modelling assignments until her face heals. It is vital that the deception is not discovered because it would definitely destroy Laura’s career after her misconduct. Amy is also using her pose as Laura to convey the image that Laura has reformed and thus saving her career. Privately, though, the real Laura is proving slow to reform.

Notes

  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • Last Chance for Laura –  Bunty: #1875 (18 December 1993) – #1886 (5 March 1994)

The Change in Cheryl

Plot

Cheryl is being fostered by the Dysons. She is naturally shy and quiet, but then she stands up to a bully, winning admiration from her foster sister and friends. Cheryl then decides that the way to go in not being pushed around is to go all out to get anything she wants, regardless of anyone else.

change in cheryl

Notes

  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • The Change in Cheryl –  Bunty:  #1958 (22 July 1995) – #1972 (28 October 1995)

Secret Star!

Plot

When rising pop star Jeff Collins loses his voice, he owes his agent Mr Winter a lot of money. Mr Winter wants his money back and insists Jeff perform despite his illness. Jeff’s twin sister Jodie takes his place in secret. When Jodie finds out what an unpleasant man Mr Winter is, she decides to investigate his dealings with Jeff.

Star

Notes

  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • Secret Star! –  Mandy: circa #947 (9 March 1985) – (?)