Tag Archives: schemers

Minnie the Meanie [1989-1990]

We’re heading towards that time of year to be extra-generous to people while spending up large on gifts, holidays and other treats. But here’s a cautionary tale from Judy not to take either one to extremes. The consequences can be just as damaging as for the other extreme that we always hear about at Christmas – Scrooge. As the parents in this story found out, not even a pools win is a limitless amount of money for spending.

Published: Judy: #1153 (13 February 1982) to #1166 (15 May 1982)
Reprinted – Judy: #1564 (30 December 1989) to #1577 (31 March 1990)

Episodes: 14

Artist: Unknown artist – “Merry”

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Hard Times for Helen

Plot

Minnie Mill and her family live in a shabby house in Badger Street. Then they win £300,000 on the pools.

Unfortunately Mum and Dad let the whole new flush of money go to their heads and turn into super-spendthrifts. They go crazy on buying new things right, left and centre. They treat the money as if it will never cease to end and begin to lose the meaning of its value. For example, when Dad receives a letter saying there’s a back payment from his old company he scorns it because it seems like chickenfeed to what he has now and can’t be bothered collecting it. Minnie is horrified at his attitude, and she collects it herself because someone around here has to be sensible. They give no thought to investment or long-term planning at all, despite the offer – and warning – from the pools representative.

The worst of it is that Mum is a good-natured woman with a heart of gold, so it is an all-too-easy matter for the money to turn her generosity into over-generosity. Dad is just the same. And Minnie is quick to realise why the residents of Badger Street who previously took little notice of them are suddenly crowding around to be nice and friendly – they are out to take advantage of the money and the parents’ generosity. Dad soon has a well-earned reputation for spending and giving away huge handfuls of money as if it were nothing and people say he’ll give away his last penny.

Minnie is also finding that kids are taking advantage of her as well and pretending to be friendly while finding ways to cheat her out of huge sums of money. Several of these tactics are really despicable. For example, one girl, Gladdie, appears to be genuine, so Minnie trusts her with £600 to pay her mother’s rent with. When she discovers the money has in fact gone into Gladdie’s bank account, she orders her to pay the money to charity – or else. Another girl, Ida, cons Minnie out of money that was supposed to go on replenishing her grandmother’s empty coal cellar. When Minnie finds out, she helps to replenish the cellar secretly. Even a girl who is far richer than Minnie cheats her out of money.

Minnie reckons she has no friends anymore; the ones she had have joined the bullies who shout “Minnie the Meanie!” at her. Only one girl, Rosie, seems to be a friend. But by now Minnie has been so badly burned she just can’t trust anyone.

Because of all this cadging and cheating, Minnie becomes afraid to display her generosity openly and with the gay abandon that the parents do. She resorts to doing it in secret, and where she sees it is going to a genuine cause, such as replenishing the grandmother’s coal supply or getting treatment for a sick dog.

Minnie also starts saving any money she can get her hands on (including Dad’s unwanted back payment) because she realises their money will run out because of their careless spending, and a reserve will be required for when this happens. This and not displaying her generosity openly give the impression that she is turning into a miser, a reputation she believes she must cultivate in order to protect her parents’ money as best she can. The people of Badger Street start to bully and jeer at her, calling her “Minnie the Meanie!” in the street. This causes misunderstandings with her parents, who think she is turning into a miser too. So they don’t listen when she tries to tell them that people are taking advantage of them. They just brush it off because they have lots of money anyway, so what’s the big deal?

At first the parents dismiss warning signs that they are spending too much. Dad laughs and says there’s still plenty left. They buy over a house next door (and make an overinflated offer for it!) so they can add it to their own and develop their residence in accordance with how they are rising up the social scale. Once the redevelopment is complete, Mum throws out the furnishings they only just bought when the money first arrived and buys whole new ones!

Ironically, the parents don’t even approve of Minnie saving money instead of spending it as they do and think it’s just more of her miserliness. This attitude gets really bizarre. For example, when they find out what Minnie did with the back payment, what angers them is that she saved the money instead of spending it! They are far less bothered about her taking the money herself.

Minnie’s saving causes other problems too. For example, she goes on a shopping spree, and then returns the gifts for money, which gets banked. Nasty Ella Stevens finds out and starts blackmailing her. To get Ella off her back, Minnie tells the folks herself. She then teaches Ella a lesson by compelling her to donate £20 to the Youth Club Roof Fund.

One day Dad comes in looking awfully worried. He does not say what is wrong, but Minnie guesses that Dad is paying more heed to warning signals that the money is running out. Indeed, he now becomes more wary about spending money. Strangely, Dad would still much rather have Minnie spending than saving, which she steps up of course. Meanwhile, Mum pays no attention and continues with heedless spending.

Dad getting worried about the spending prompts nasty gossip from the neighbours that the parents are getting as mean as Minnie. Despite Minnie’s protests not to give in to such bullying, Mum tries to stop the gossip by lavishing even more generosity on them.

One of the worst cases of this is when Mum takes the residents of Badger Street on an outing that includes a funfair and an expensive lunch. Dad joins in Minnie’s protests that they are spending far more than necessary on the trip, what with buying snacks for the residents on top of the lunch and giving them all spending money at the fair. Mum just tells him that he’s getting as bad as Minnie and he gives in to keep the peace. Minnie secretly cancels the lunch and temporarily hides Dad’s wallet so he can’t treat the residents elsewhere, hoping their reaction will make the parents see sense. Their reaction is to accuse the parents of pulling cheap tricks despite the other treats they provided, stalk off to find a cuppa without including the Mills, and they show they care more about a free lunch than Dad getting his wallet nicked. Dad is outraged and disgusted at this, while Mum does not open her eyes at all. However, Minnie has new hope that Dad is beginning to see things her way.

Indeed, Dad starts quarrelling with Mum over her overspending while she says he’s just a big meanie like Minnie. Minnie cannot reason with her either. Dad groans when the latest bank statement arrives, and Minnie can guess why.

Finally, the inevitable happens because of Mum’s overspending. But by the time she learns this, it’s too late – her latest spending spree has not only eaten up the last of the money but also run up an additional £29,500 in bills to pay! So they are now in huge debt and there are angry creditors on the doorstep.

Fortunately Minnie managed to save enough to clear the debts, and there is even a bit left over. The parents now understand why Minnie was saving so hard. So the next time the bullies call Minnie a meanie, Mum gives them a real piece of her mind and tells them what Minnie did for them. After this they apologise to Minnie, admit they were just jealous and how horrible they were, and they also guess who the secret beneficiary was. Minnie gets her friends back and forgives their conduct. The other Badger Street residents rally around to help out once the word spreads (with a few gloating exceptions).

The parents have to find a new way to make ends meet. At Minnie’s suggestion, they use the two cars they have now and the remaining money to start a taxi business.

Thoughts

This story is so realistic because it draws on so many real-life stories that we hear about. People who go from rags to riches, only to end up in rags again. People who win vast fortunes – only to lose the lot within a few years because they handled the money badly, as the Mill parents did. People who come into a huge amount of money get taken advantage of by cadgers and false friends. Which is precisely the reason why some people who win the lotto prefer to stay quiet about it. Over-generous people losing huge amounts of money because they can’t stop giving – sometimes even when they can’t even afford to give – and cadgers taking advantage of them as well. People who found that huge wins turned sour for them and prove the old adage that money is not everything. All of it is revolving around in this story.

Through Minnie’s eyes, we see an exploration of greed and how it brings out the worst in people, even in people Minnie thought were her friends. Minnie always sees vultures swooping in on what the parents have to give away and cadgers dropping in to take advantage with sob stories and such. She also sees jealousy in people when they’re not grasping, such as nasty gossips. Jealousy is clearly behind all their nastiness towards Minnie as they were whispering she was turning into a miser well before she started on her so-called miserly conduct. At the party to celebrate the win they are gossiping that she is a miser just because she doesn’t look so happy; in fact it’s because she already suspects their cadging.

While the residents of Badger Street say Mrs Mill has a heart of gold, they do not reciprocate it in any way or show any gratitude for the things the Mill parents do for them. They don’t even give the Mill family a cup of flour when they ask for one or offer to help out when Dad loses his wallet. All they do is take, take, take from the Mill family now that they’re in the money, and they don’t give anything in return. They have a nerve calling Minnie a meanie when they are so mean themselves towards the Mill family and don’t show them any generosity. It’s not until the very end that they rediscover their kindness and give something back to the Mill family.

The story also comments on how a huge supply of money can get people to take things for granted. Dad laughs off the back payment because it looks nothing compared to his win. Mum throws out brand-new and expensive furnishings and thinks nothing of the expense of buying new ones. An expensive trolley goes when the vultures swoop on the old furnishings, but Mum dismisses it as no big deal (Dad is more horrified). Mum thinks little of a woman cadging off her because she’s got so much money anyway. The parents would never have thought that way in the days when they lived in shabby accommodation and Mum had to be a careful housekeeper because they did not have much money. Minnie never goes that way at all and is appalled at her parents’ attitude.

This story is no exception to girls’ serials where the protagonist has far more brains, common sense and perception than her parents. While the parents are so blithe to the cadging or shrug it off, Minnie can see right through it. Minnie gets victimised by the cadging too, but at least she rumbles the cadgers and does something about it wherever she can. Also, Minnie never catches the “buying disease” as her parents do and goes crazy on spending, so she is quick to realise where it is all going to lead. She is the only one to take active steps to prepare for that eventuality. Dad eventually heeds the warning signals about the impending doom, but he does not really do anything about it. He does worry and quarrels with his wife about overspending, but he does not actually tell the family what is going on or show them the bank statements. Nor did he put any remaining money into a reserve, as Minnie did.

Minnie is more assertive than many protagonists. So many of them, such as Helen Shaw from “Hard Times for Helen”, just suffer in silence and don’t speak out (until the end). But Minnie is not afraid to speak up. She constantly speaks parents about the cadging, even if they don’t listen. At times she even talks back at the cadgers and bullies.

And of course it’s all thanks to the protagonist that things do not turn out so badly for the parents in the end. If it had not been for Minnie, their stupidity, lack of foresight and heedless spending would have ruined them entirely and they would ended up even worse off than when they were to begin with. As it is, Minnie’s money and brains and Mum’s not-too-bad idea of buying a second car enable them to begin on a new business venture that keeps them from going right back to square one or even worse.

It’s a relief all around when the money goes, because it brought only trouble. But then, much of that was due to the parents handling the money badly and not heeding the advice of the pools representative. If the Mill parents get another chance at the pools, they will no doubt try to use the money more wisely.

The Barn [1995]

Published: Mandy Picture Story Library #226

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

We continue commemorating the Halloween season with “The Barn”, as it’s got owls and a haunted barn.

Plot

Beth Braden and her parents move to the countryside when Dad gets a job on an estate with Mr Horden. Beth is soon settling into the country life, though Horden rapidly makes it clear he is not the nicest of bosses to work for. Beth soon discovers that Horden has big plans for developing the estate. Moreover, he does not care how he goes about it, or who or what gets in the way.

Beth comes across an old barn and immediately likes it for its character and historical feel. She also finds a love heart carving that says BB loves LD, and is struck at how she shares the same initials as BB. She is dismayed to hear Horden is planning to develop the area for a luxury villa, which would look awful in that area. It would also demolish Beth’s beloved barn, which looks like it has heritage values too. Unfortunately she can’t do anything to put Dad’s job in jeopardy. Later she learns she has BB’s old room in their new cottage when she stumbles across BB’s box hidden under the floorboards. The box contains a pressed flower and a silver owl brooch.

At the village disco Beth meets a boy who has the same initials as LD – Luke Daniels. Beth learns that Luke’s father lost his job on the estate when Horden took it over, and for this reason he gets frigid with her once he hears who her father works for. But they soon come together again when they find an injured barn owl. Luke has been taught a few things in how to nurse the owl. They decide to keep her in the old barn where they can continue to nurse her. There is an owl window in the barn too, which suggests it has been used for owl watching before.

Then Beth and Luke overhear a conversation between Horden and Councillor Roberts. They realise Roberts is helping Horden to get council permission for the development plans as part of an illegal deal.

Beth’s father also tells her that Horden is trying to get permission to pull down an oak tree despite it having a protection order because it houses rare bats. Learning that buildings that house rare creatures could get them protected too, Beth realises that if they can get the barn owl to settle in the barn, they could get it protected. But it’s not just because of the owls; it’s also for BB and LD because Beth senses it means a lot to them. Beth also feels there is a presence in the barn that does not want the barn to go.

The owl begins to settle into the barn, and her mate turns up to feed her. But Horden’s application for council consent to convert the barn is now moving, so they have to come up with a way to stop it, and without Horden knowing Beth is part of it. They hit on the idea of entering a photo of the owls in a junior wildlife photo competition in the newspaper, with a note to say where the owls live, in accordance with the rules. But it will be entered under Luke’s name only to protect Beth.

There is something spooky about what happens when Luke takes the photo of the owl feeding its mate. Beth could swear she heard someone gasp as it was being taken. Luke thinks there was something odd about it too – he is not much good at photography, yet he seemed to know when to take the photo. Beth now really begins to suspect something in the barn wants it to be left intact. It’s no surprise that the photograph wins the competition.

The owls have settled into the barn so well that they have started nesting. A reporter who runs the nature column in the newspaper comes to do an article on the owls and hears about Horden’s application for planning approval. He gets the application blocked, much to Horden’s fury and Luke and Beth’s delight.

However, Beth and Luke soon learn that Horden is not going to take it lying down. He poisons the two nesting owls and all that is left are their new chicks. The kids now raise the chicks themselves, and it is not long before the chicks are learning to fly.

Then BB’s diary turns up from under the floorboards. It dates from 1913 and also contains a record of owl watching, which BB used to conduct with a boyfriend called Len. Their chicks are almost ready to fly by the time Len goes into the army. The silver owl brooch was his parting gift to BB, and she says the owls would help to keep them close. Sadly, Len was KIA. The diary ends with BB reporting hearing strange noises in the barn and thinks it is a tramp. Luke and Beth then find evidence that there was a fire in the barn once. BB does not mention this in her diary, which suggests that the fire was after her time.

All of a sudden, fire strikes again in the barn, courtesy of an arsonist. The smoke nearly claims the lives of Beth and the owls, but Mr Daniels puts the fire out in time. He then explains that BB – full name Beth Baxter – perished in the other fire, which was accidentally started by the tramp. Sure enough, she used to live in the cottage and she was owl watching too.

Horden is jailed for attempted bribery of the council. So he has been forced to sell up. The new owner is a much nicer man who is happy to employ both Mr Braden and Mr Daniels. He also agrees to leave the barn and its owls as they are.

Thoughts

 This is a story you have to love for the wildlife caring, the dash of the supernatural and the hints of romance. Though there is no sign of romance between Beth and Luke and they seem little more than close friends, we will not be surprised if it goes that way at some point. That was the way it went between the two predecessors who parallel with them so much, right down to the initials. Even before we learn the full story and names of BB and LD, we get the impression that their story ended tragically. After all, how else could the haunting have started? We get the feeling the story is going to go in the direction of a haunting once Beth sees the love heart in the barn, even before the supernatural is introduced. The supernatural touches are very deftly and cleverly done. Instead of apparitions, objects moving and spectral warnings, the haunting is kept indistinct and gives little more than subtle nudges here and there to influence events in saving the owls and the barn.

Many could regard Mr Horden as just a ruthless, greedy man who stops at nothing and nobody to get what he wants. Yet he can also be seen as an allegory of the destructive forces of greed and profit at the expense of the environment and driving our fellow species into extinction (as exemplified in bowling over the rare owls and bats), and not giving a damn about it. Councillor Roberts could be regarded as even more distasteful because he’s corrupt. He’s breaking council rules and the law in order to help Horden because he stands to have his share of money out of Horden’s venture. Just how these two are caught out is not revealed, evidently because there were not enough pages to go into those details. Perhaps the arsonist was caught and made a confession.

The artwork does a brilliant job of bringing the story to life. It has a rugged, even heavy feel at times that blends in perfectly with the rural setting and depicting the owls and the barn, especially when the supernatural elements are introduced.

Selfish Susan [1991]

Published: Mandy: #1261 (16 March 1991) – #1269 (11 May 1991) (final issue)

Episodes: 9

Artist: Dudley Wynne

Writer: Unknown

Reprints: None known

Plot

Susan Smith is a selfish girl. Not surprisingly, she is not popular at school. Then Susan contracts an illness that leaves her temporarily deaf. All of a sudden, Susan enjoys a swell in popularity because the girls are sympathetic and make a big fuss over her and give her treats. The school staff also give Susan special privileges and allowances because of her deafness, and her parents spoil her too. Susan loves every minute of it, so when her hearing returns she keeps it a secret so she can continue with the gains she’s made and take advantage of everyone.

Being able to hear in secret also enables Susan to pull tricks to get extras she wants, and she does not care if it hurts someone. For example, she wants a tape recorder (easier to switch off her music quickly with when someone approaches), but not just any tape recorder. She wants the most expensive one in the catalogue. When her parents say they can’t afford it, Susan pulls at their heartstrings and sympathy until they give in and buy it for her. She has no thought whatsoever about how hard financially it must have been on them. In another episode Susan wants to go on a school trip, but all the places are filled. So she gets the girl on the list ahead of her into trouble with a teacher so the girl gets crossed off the list. The poor girl’s in tears, but all Susan cares about is being on the trip after all.

Susan’s thinking resembles that of a spoiled brat. When it looks like she is not going to get her own way she thinks, “Oh, it’s not fair!” She thinks this so much it could be her tagline.

Then new girl Sonia arrives. Sonia has had the same illness, which diverts some of the big fuss over Susan away from her. Susan feels threatened by Sonia, especially where Sonia’s suggestions threaten to cramp her privileges at school, such as being excused note-taking in class and copying the notes off the girls later. However, Sonia suggests something she did when she did when she was deaf: tape-record the lessons and have her parents recite them to her later so she can lip-read from them. Susan, who never got the hang of lip-reading like Sonia and prefers to crib notes off the girls, has the tape-recorder cause such a nuisance in class that Sonia gets into trouble because of it. And so it becomes one of the dirty tricks Susan has been pulling on Sonia to make her unpopular and neutralise the threat she poses.

However, Susan’s lack of ability with lip-reading becomes the beginning of the end for her. During another lesson Sonia realises Susan can’t lip-read at all. Therefore she can’t be reading her classmates’ lips, so how come she understands them? It is then that Sonia begins to suspect the truth. But when she tackles Susan, Susan deals with her by feigning the waterworks. As planned, this turns the other girls against Sonia.

Sonia has her suspicions about Susan, though. While they are working in the school stockroom, Sonia pulls a trick to test her suspicions. Susan manages to wriggle her way out of that trick. But then there is a fire in the school and Sonia realises Susan can hear what’s going on all right. However, proving that Susan can hear is not that easy. Once they pupils evacuate from the school and get sent home because of the fire, Susan really pulls at the girls’ sympathy to forestall any attempt Sonia makes to convince them of her discovery. It works, and Susan is confident that Sonia will now give up.

But Susan is wrong. When the girls go to the park, Sonia makes one more attempt to catch Susan out, with a phoney “wet paint” warning. This time, she succeeds. Susan’s initial reaction is to arrogantly say what fools she’s made of them, how it’s been great fun, and she’s come out the winner. This just fuels the girls’ indignation at how Susan took advantage of them and they stalk off, saying they won’t have anything to do with her again. This has Susan realising she is not such a winner because there are going to be no more of the friendships, special privileges etc that she had enjoyed so much; “Oh, it’s not fair!” And she soon finds she is definitely not the winner because nobody ever trusts her again.

Thoughts

This was one of Mandy’s very last stories. It has the distinction of being the last-ever story Dudley Wynne drew for Mandy before she was cancelled. It is a somewhat cruel irony that this story was running cheek-by-jowl with a reprint of another Dudley Wynne Mandy story, “Angel”, because Angel is everything that the scheming Susan is not. It was also the last in Mandy’s long line of stories where a schemer fakes disability.

Stories where girls fake disability were a common staple in girls’ comics. Usually this was to take advantage of people as Susan did, but there have been other motives such as revenge, being blackmailed, or misguided bids to keep the family together. It was more frequent for them to fake blindness, lameness or paralysis rather than deafness, but feigned deafness has appeared elsewhere too, such as Tracy’s “Sheila the Sham”.

Deafness must have been a more difficult disability to fake, though. Imagine if there was a sudden, unbearable noise right in your ear! Faking deafness also means Susan has to miss out on some things such as not being able to laugh at a hilarious television show and the gossip she used to enjoy so much while she could hear. It also leads to difficulties such as Susan having to play her pop music in secret.

Susan isn’t as evil or despicable as some schemers such as Bettina / Linda from “The Dark Secret of Blind Bettina” aka “The Lying Eyes of Linda Lee”. Still, Susan is not a sympathetic character, even when she is genuinely deaf, and she remains unsympathetic throughout. The parents and schoolmates all sympathise with her, but we don’t when we see how opportunistic Susan is being about the big fuss over her. The deafness has done nothing to humble Susan or help cure her of her selfish nature. Instead, it’s made her even more selfish once she realises the advantages she is gaining from it, which far outweigh the disadvantages. She has no remorse or compunction about how she takes advantage of everyone and is not at all grateful for the extra-nice things they do for her. There are no second thoughts or twinges of guilt when she hurts others just to get what she wants. There is no quitting while she’s ahead, but these schemers in girls’ comics never do. She isn’t at all remorseful either when she is finally caught out. It’s just bitterness, horror, and thinking “Oh, it’s not fair!” The final page does not say whether the ensuing ostracism and distrust once Susan is caught out did change her for the better or just reinforced her “Oh, it’s not fair!” thinking. It’s all left to our imaginations. As it is, Susan remaining totally selfish throughout the story is realistic and believable, if regrettable.

It is fitting that the one to catch Susan out is one who had the same illness, which gave her the insight to see through Susan. Sonia is also a contrast to Susan in how she dealt with her illness. While Susan used it to take advantage of people, Sonia took the opportunity to learn and grow from it, such as learning to lip-read.

Some endings to serials can be rushed and crammed at times. So it is good to see the ending built up over a three-episode story arc instead of one episode. The final episodes of “Selfish Susan” do give the impression that Mandy was finishing off the story quickly because of the merger; the penultimate episode is a six-pager and the final one a four-pager, while Mandy’s usual format was three-page episodes. Still, readers always loved extra story spreads.

Rosetta and the House of Fear

  • Rosetta and the House of Fear – Mandy: #358 (24 November 1973) – #362 (22 December 1973)
  • Artist: Guy Peeters

Plot

Fourteen year old Rosetta was brought up by gypsies and had found work as a maid at the big house, owned by invalid, Mrs Trevelyan. The house was known as ‘The Towers’ and Rosetta felt drawn to it, but also cautious as she also sensed a mystery surrounding the house and it’s occupants. Joe and Emily Briggs and their daughter Molly, were the only other staff that Mrs Trevelyan had and Rosetta suspected they were trying to swindle the woman after hearing them arguing about money.

Rosetta finding a dress laid out for her tries it on, but is distressed when Mrs Trevelyan is taken ill after seeing her in the dress that had belonged to her dead daughter. When she wants to go apologise to her, Mrs Briggs forbids her. Later when she goes to try and talk to her anyway, she sees Emily Briggs coming out of Mrs Trevelyan’s room and locking the door, she assumes this to keep her out. She wonders what she can do about this, as who would believe the word of a gipsy girl. She decides to go to nursery to think, but then wonders how she knew the room was nursery, and inside the nursery more strange occurrences as she seems to know what a doll is named too.

When Rosetta sees Mrs Briggs, slipping something into Mrs Trevelyan’s food, she decides to slip out and ask her gipsy friends for help. She is too late though as the gipsy camp has moved on and Joe Briggs catches her and brings her back to ‘The Towers’. Despite the Briggs keeping a closer eye on Rosetta, she does manage to switch out the sleeping powder that the Briggs are giving Mrs Trevelyan, with a harmless powder. More luck for Rosetta as she meets Mr Price who is buying old paintings from the house. He tells her how the house used to be a happy place but then Miss Selina, her husband and daughter drowned in an accident. The Briggs came to work for the family soon after, but Mr Trevelyan didn’t like them and then he met with a tragic accident too, killed while riding. After hearing this Rosetta wonders are the Briggs capable of murder and if the only thing stopping them killing Mrs Trevelyan too was in case the house was sold by whoever inherited it.

No longer being drugged Mrs Trevelyan is up and about and Joe Briggs is quick to steer  her away from Rosetta. Later Mrs Trevelyan collapses again and Rosetta finds a syringe nearby. The next day, Rosetta is waiting for the injection to wear off so she can talk with Mrs Trevelyan. Molly is hanging around mocking Rosetta’s gipsy heritage, she mentions that she could be a lady if her family could solve a riddle –  “I lie beneath the sun, yet am always in darkness. Time passes over me, yet I never grow old. Where am I?” Rosetta has heard that riddle before and spends the day pondering it. Still her priority is to talk with Mrs Trevelyan so when she sees an opportunity she goes for it, only to be caught by Joe Briggs and thrown in the cellar. In the celler she finds a chest with album in it. She is drawn to a photo of Selina and her family, feeling like she knows them…

The Briggs don’t keep her locked up in the cellar, they plan to work her hard with no food and lock her in her room at night. Rosetta thinks the only way to escape is to solve the riddle. Looking out of her window at night she figures out that the riddle refers to the sundial. She manages to slip away and finds a hidden compartment in the sundial containing Mrs Trevelyan’s will. Unfortunately this was all part of the Briggs plan, to get her to find the will, so they can change it and now having done what they needed from her they plan to get rid of her for good! Luckily her gipsy family arrives in time to stop them. Magda also shows her the pinafore they found her in which has the Trevelyan family symbol on it. Rosetta is Mrs Trevelyan’s granddaughter and now that the Briggs have been exposed, she and her grandmother can start making ‘The Towers’ a happy place to live again.

Thoughts

Here we have some common story elements; scheming characters trying to get inheritance and a girl finding out she is a long lost relative (such as in ‘The Secret of Hardwick Hall’). Considering the potential for playing with and expanding on these elements, the story seems  unusually short at only 5 episodes. For the most part this does help keep the pace quick and still covers all that we need to know. It’s quickly established that the Briggs are shady characters, and becomes apparent that they are keeping Mrs Trevelyan in a state of illness. Meanwhile Rosetta finding she somehow knows things about the house, coupled with the story of the family drowning, it is obvious that she will turn out to be the grandchild. There is a nice touch with the Briggs needing Rosetta to figure out the riddle (although it doesn’t seem they were aware of her connection to the house). It shows their cunning by getting Molly to mention the riddle, then watching Rosetta to see where she goes.

So while the story keeps things interesting and fast moving, the last episode could have been expanded on more, especially as Rosetta escapes the Briggs through a deus ex machina! The gipsies show up to help, not because Rosetta got message to them or some other set up, just Magda’s crystal ball suddenly telling them they needed to return. Then she explains about finding Rosetta half drowned as a child. We don’t get to see Rosetta react to this news or even the reunion with her grandmother as the last 2 panels just cut to a few days later with Rosetta and Mrs Trevelyan waving the gipsies off. While Rosetta showed concern for the old lady throughout the story, because the Briggs tried to keep them apart, we never see a relationship build between them. The ending could have taken the time to establish the connection and end on a more emotional note.

 

Star of the Silver Pool (1983)

Plot

Invalid Alison West’s mother, a top diving coach, has disappeared in a plane crash so Alison has been sent to live with her cruel uncle and aunt and their selfish daughter, Brenda. Alison discovers a mysterious silver pool deep in a forest. There, with the aid of a mysterious voice, she starts learning to dive, and also begins to secretly use Brenda’s personal gym for the same purpose.

Despite her aunt’s decision to lock her in the cellar to prevent her from getting to the diving championships in the nearby town, Alison manages to escape with the help of a mysterious monk. A neighbour drives her to the venue, where she becomes county champion. Outside the building the monk appears again and leads her to a waiting car belonging to Mr Bundock, the family solicitor. When Alison asks where they are going he says he is to take her to the appointed place, which is an airport. The plane takes her to the very place in the Tibetan Himalayas where her mother’s plane had crashed over a year earlier. There she sees her silver pool and the face of her mother. She feels guilty about letting her mother down but her mother disagrees. When Alison turns round she sees her flesh-and-blood mother who has been cared for by the monks since the crash. A monk tells Alison that her mother had only been able to recover because her daughter had been strong too. The monk tells them that the work of the pool is over, and it is now time for them to return to their own world, time to begin their lives again.

Notes

Appeared

  • Star of the Silver Pool – Suzy: #35 (7 May 1983) – #50 (20 August 1983)

 

The Green Lady (1986)

the-green-lady-cover

 

Published: Debbie Picture Story Library #102

Artists: Cover – uncertain; story – Terry Aspin

Plot

Lucy Lang seems all set to spend her summer holiday at Sheringdale, her boarding school, when a letter arrives from rich Great Aunt Alicia inviting her to spend the holiday at her place, Random House. Great-Aunt is also inviting Lucy’s cousin Cheryl, whose mother (Aunt Jean) is ill in hospital.

When Lucy meets Cheryl at the railway station, Cheryl is rude and cold towards her. Lucy is also surprised to find Cheryl has dark hair instead of blonde, which she thought Cheryl had. Cheryl says she had a change of hair colour, but is soon behaving in other ways that are not so easily explained. She tells Lucy she does not care for her. Even more strangely, Cheryl says she has the perfect way to make sure Lucy stays quiet if she finds out things. And right from the start, Cheryl pulls nasty tricks on Lucy and tells lies about her to completely discredit and blacken Lucy in the eyes of Great-Aunt. One trick is telling Great-Aunt completely false story that Lucy deliberately tried to pull her under when they swim in a lake. Cheryl acts in other odd ways too: she does not recognise her mother’s Christian name; she behaves as if she is a non-swimmer and afraid of water when Aunt Jean said she was a keen swimmer; and she tells Great-Aunt that Lucy has a teacher called Miss Dean, but Lucy has never had a teacher by that name.

the-green-lady-1

Eventually, Lucy tells Cheryl she has had enough of her, the fraud! The girl replies she is not Cheryl at all. Some friends of hers have kidnapped the real Cheryl, and Lucy had better stay quiet or Cheryl will suffer. When Lucy discovers the imposter is interested in the valuables of the house, she concludes that theft is the motive for the kidnapping.

The imposter tells Great-Aunt she is going to send Aunt Jean a get-well card. Guessing the imposter is planning to relay a message to her accomplices, Lucy follows her and sees her slip a message into the collar of a dog, which then goes in response to someone’s signal. Lucy tries to follow the dog but loses it, and the search makes her late back. The imposter then returns in tears and gives Great-Aunt a phony line about Lucy deliberately losing her in the woods. As a punishment, Great-Aunt locks Lucy in her room.

Lucy creeps up the drainpipe to do some investigating. In the attic, she comes across information about the family’s most valuable heirloom, a miniature called “The Green Lady”. Lucy concludes this is what the imposter is after. But as she climbs back down, the imposter takes photographs of her, and tells Lucy that she is going to use it as “evidence” that Lucy stole the heirloom.

However, the imposter’s threat gives Lucy the idea of travelling to Cheryl’s house to find evidence that the girl is an imposter. Facilitated by a newly arrived gift of a bicycle from her father, she does so. Upon arrival, Lucy sees a woman who is ostensibly going in to clean the house. But when Lucy enters the house afterwards, she finds the house is a tip.

the-green-lady-2

Then Lucy finds the real Cheryl bound and gagged. As she unties Cheryl, Cheryl explains that a neighbour volunteered to help out with the housework when her mother took ill.  But when the neighbour found out how rich Great-Aunt was, she hatched the scheme of sending her daughter in, posing as Cheryl, to steal the heirloom. Helping the scheme along were big brother Len and his dog Bonzo to carry messages.

The neighbour and Len then corner the girls. The girls put up a fight and scream for help. While they do so, Great-Aunt arrives with the imposter, who tells her relatives that the game is up: Great-Aunt (who got suspicious of her) caught her red-handed and extracted a full confession. The plotters give up the fight and are handed over to the police. Great-Aunt tells Cheryl that her mother has recovered enough to have visitors, and she apologises to Lucy. When Lucy and Cheryl see the miniature, they marvel at how such a tiny thing could have caused so much trouble.

Thoughts

When we see the tricks Cheryl is playing on Lucy, the story seems set up to be another one about a scheming cousin who tries to push out another one. Only the cover saying that a girl’s life is in danger because of a miniature painting suggests it is something bigger than that. And there are odd things about Cheryl that hint she is not just out to cause trouble for Lucy. So it is not too much of a surprise when the imposter reveals herself to Lucy, though it makes a nice change from the spiteful cousin formula. The girl isn’t pulling these tricks because she’s spiteful – it’s all part of a bigger design to commit a crime.

Once it is revealed that a plot to commit a crime is at the centre of the trouble, the story gets really tense and exciting. Lucy knows a crime is planned but doesn’t know just what the criminals are after. She can’t speak out because Great-Aunt has been tricked into thinking badly of her, and the imposter has blackmailed her into staying quiet. She’s all on her own, and she has to figure out the crime while being under a cloud and then being confined to her room. And she is desperately worried about the real Cheryl, who has been kidnapped and being held somewhere, and it sounds like her life is in serious danger. When Lucy sets off on her own, the drama intensifies as we wait anxiously to see what Lucy will find at the other end, including what dangers that might await her. And what will happen when the imposter finds Lucy has gone? She is bound to guess where Lucy is headed and why. It will certainly scare the criminals into stepping up their game or worse, and the imposter making a grab for the miniature points to that.

the-green-lady-4

The criminals certainly are clever, even if their scheme depends too much on neither Great-Aunt nor Lucy not knowing Cheryl by sight. The imposter bears no resemblance to the real Cheryl and isn’t wearing a disguise, so the plotters must have put some interrogation on Cheryl in order to know they would get away with just planting a strange girl at Great-Aunt’s. The imposter does not put much effort into fooling Lucy – she goes for those nasty tricks instead to discredit her while working her way in with Great-Aunt to get close to the valuables. The tricks certainly look clever. Great-Aunt says afterwards that the girl was not that clever and it was gullibility on her part when she should have seen straight through the girl. Still, it is easy to say that in hindsight. And in the end, Great-Aunt shows perceptiveness in how she finally got suspicious of the girl: the girl refuses to go see her mother when news comes that the mother is well enough for visitors. Great-Aunt was expecting Cheryl to be eager to see her mother, so the refusal made her suspicious at last.

The artwork of the popular Terry Aspin (known for Bunty’s “Maisie Mercury” and “School’s Out!”) lends itself well to the story. However, we are a bit puzzled at the bejewelled hand making a grab for the miniature on the cover. Neither the imposter nor her mother would be wearing such expensive ladies’ jewellery, so whose hand is it? It’s probably just artistic licence for dramatic effect, and perhaps the jewels do make it more effective.

“I’ll Take Care of Tina!” (1978)

I'll Take Care of Tina logo

Published: Mandy: #605 (19 August 1978) – #616 (4 November 1978)

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Plot

Mr Marsden, an engineer, is promoted to a job that means he and his wife will be transferring to a post at the Middle East oilfields. The company will pay Tina’s school fees at Fairfield College, a top boarding school. Tina is not keen on leaving her old school but puts a brave face on it for her parents’ sakes.

When Tina arrives at Fairfield, junior school captain Elaine Warnock immediately takes her under her wing. But before long, things keep going wrong for Tina and she can’t explain why. Girls accuse her of hiding cupcakes in the dorm (as Elaine told her to) instead of sharing them around and they retaliate by shoving them down Tina’s throat. Tina is accused of stealing another girl’s soap when it turns up in her bag with no explanation and the girls throw her in a cold shower as punishment. The secretary accuses Tina of taking a confidential folder out of the cabinet when it is found near her in the office, and Tina has no explanation as to how it got there. These and other incidents soon put Tina under a cloud at Fairfield. None of the girls will have anything to do with her because she now has a reputation as a bad lot. They bully and ostracise Tina all the time and Elaine is the only one who stands up for her. Miss Barnett the headmistress and the teachers are getting dubious of Tina as well.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 1

Tina soon realises she has an enemy at school who is causing trouble for her. But at least she has one friend – Elaine. Or so she thinks. In truth, it is Elaine who is her enemy. She has been using her position as junior school captain and pretence at being Tina’s friend to secretly cause trouble for her ever since she arrived. There is no apparent motive for Elaine’s scheming against Tina. The only clue is when Elaine intercepts and destroys Tina’s letters to her parents because “we can’t have Tina’s parents getting worried, and taking her away from Fairfield.” Now what can she mean by that?

Around the middle of the story, Elaine’s motive is finally revealed. Mr Marsden was promoted ahead of Mr Warnock, who works at the same company, and Mr Warnock needs the promotion to keep Elaine on at Fairfield. So they are plotting to steal the promotion by causing trouble for Mr Marsden through getting Tina expelled, as the company is covering her school fees. Mr Warnock warns Elaine to be careful; he knows Mr Marsden is clever and surely Tina is the same. Elaine is confident Tina will never be able to figure her out.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 2

Once the motives and intentions for the scheming are revealed and the groundwork been laid down, Elaine starts the real campaign to get Tina expelled. Getting Tina blamed for a trick on a guest of honour. A stone pinged at a girl’s face during a hockey match and the catapult found in Tina’s pocket. Tricking Tina into going out of bounds and getting into a fight at a sleazy café. Wrecking Miss Barnett’s office. Trying to make it look like Tina stole from a pensioner. When the pensioner guesses the truth and tries to warn Tina, Elaine shuts the old lady up by starting a fire in a kitchen and puts her in hospital. It is a series of narrow escapes and Tina only escapes expulsion through Elaine’s pretend support, or others back Tina up by pure chance.

Tina cannot convince Miss Barnett that someone is working against her. Elaine also makes the clever move of pulling tricks on a girl named Ann to mislead Tina into thinking that Ann is the enemy. Ann is an easy target for this because she openly dislikes Tina as a ‘troublemaker’ and has played her own tricks on her.

When Elaine plants an exam paper on Tina, Miss Barnett decides to call Tina’s parents. Forewarned by Elaine, Mr Warnock intercepts the call, as they do not want the parents to remove Tina before she is expelled. Pretending to be Mr Marsden, he feigns callousness about the whole situation.

Eventually, it gets too much for Tina and she tries to run away. Elaine intercepts her and frames her for a fire in a classroom. Miss Barnett finally decides to expel Tina. Then Tina pretends to run away again while sneaking back to prove her innocence. Along the way she overhears a remark from Elaine that has her think she can no longer look to Elaine for help and is on her own (actually, it means Elaine is no at Tina’s side to sabotage her attempts to prove her innocence).

In the head’s office Tina tries to phone her father, but gets hold of Mr Warnock instead. Mistaking Tina for Elaine, he says he is expecting good news from her soon. Following this, Mr Warnock’s warning begins to bear out as Tina begins to suspect Elaine and her never mentioning that their fathers worked for the same company. She then sneaks out of the office.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 4

Meanwhile, Miss Barnett gets hold of the real Mr Marsden, who says he and his wife are flying back at once. During the course of the conversation Miss Barnett discovers she was speaking to a fake Mr Marsden earlier. This has her reconsider Tina’s claims that an enemy is working against her. Summoning Elaine, she informs Elaine of her suspicions. Alarmed to hear that the plot is in trouble, Elaine makes a hasty lie that she saw Tina start the fire in the classroom. But she does not know Tina is eavesdropping outside the door and overheard her. Now Tina knows who her enemy is, but she needs to prove it.

Tina is then caught outside the door and brought in. She tries to tell Miss Barnett the truth. Then, recalling the earlier phone call with Mr Warnock, she asks to make a phone call to prove her innocence. Miss Barnett agrees, because her suspicions are not satisfied. Tina phones Mr Warnock and, pretending to be Elaine, says she has the good news he wanted. This tricks Mr Warnock into a gleeful admission of the entire plot for Miss Barnett to hear on the other end. Miss Barnett then reveals herself to Mr Warnock and tells him to remove his daughter from the school.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 6

By the time Tina’s parents arrive, everything has been sorted out. However, they decide it would be better to take Tina with them, and the company is starting a new school in the Middle East that she can go to. They are right: although Tina now has real friends at Fairfield, she is anxious to get away from the memories of the false one.

Thoughts

Serials about a girl plotting to get another expelled (out of misguided revenge, spite or personal gain) are not unusual; “Captain Carol” (Bunty) and “Rachel’s Revenge” (Judy) are but two. Neither are stories about a girl pretending to be friends with another while secretly causing trouble for her e.g. “False Friend” and “A Friend Like Freda” from Mandy.

However, there are several aspects about this story that are atypical for this theme. First, it is unusual for a parent to be behind the whole plot. Usually the troublemaker acts alone, or on occasion has an accomplice, as Gwen of “I’ll Get Rid of Rona!” from Tracy does. It would have been more standard for Elaine to plan the whole thing herself for the sake of her father, as is the case with Lucinda Gromley of Bunty’s “Tina at Tumble Towers”. But here father and daughter conspire the whole thing together.

The second is the buildup in the early episodes. Instead of starting with overt tricks to get Tina expelled, Elaine is playing a very clever game in pulling subtle tricks that are aimed at turning the other girls against Tina. The purpose is clear: isolate Tina, stop her from making real friends, cut her off from potential avenues of help, give her a bad name that will make it easier to get her expelled, and make her increasingly dependent on the only girl who seems friendly to her. It’s not intended to get Tina expelled straight away; it’s all groundwork on which Elaine can build her real campaign once she thinks the time is ripe.

Elaine’s early groundwork also reaps other benefits that play into her hands. The other girls bully Tina because they think she is a bad sort. Elaine uses these incidents to plant things that make it look like Tina is getting her own back in vicious ways, such as planting a glass shard in Ann’s sports shoe and a rat in her locker. Standing up for Tina during these bullying incidents also reinforces Elaine’s false show of friendship towards Tina. Ann’s overt dislike of Tina also enables Elaine to turn her into a red herring by playing tricks on Ann that have Tina suspect Ann is the enemy.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 3

The third is keeping Elaine’s motives hidden in the early episodes while she lays down the groundwork (isolating Tina, giving her a bad reputation at Fairfield, turning others against her). It provides a mystery element that keeps the reader guessing and wondering what lies behind it all. Perhaps it will all be revealed in the final episode, as is what usually happens? No, here it is revealed around the middle, and after this the buildup to the climax begins with Elaine starting her campaign in earnest.

Tina herself is, like most victims of this sort of trickery, a good-natured innocent who makes easy prey for the schemer. She has been completely fooled by Elaine’s false show of friendship and is surrounded by red herrings – a whole school of girls who have been led to hate her.

She is not without courage; she puts a brave face on her transfer to Fairfield for the sake of her parents. And she does not turn a hair at finding a mouse in her desk (Ann’s joke). She likes the mouse, and we can see she would have been a popular, well-liked girl at Fairfield if things had been different. And towards the end, Tina shows even more courage when she risks life and limb in climbing ledges to get in and out of the head’s office.

It is ironic that Mr Warnock warned at what will eventually be their undoing – do not underestimate Tina’s brains. Indeed, Tina is sharp enough to figure out she has an enemy fairly early on in the piece (some victims don’t even realise, like Bettina in Mandy’s “That Bad Bettina!”). She is also clever enough to act on the mistakes Mr Warnock and Elaine make in the end and hit on a way to trap them. It is also unusual for this type of story to foreshadow how the schemer will be caught out. Usually the reader is left guessing as to how that will happen until it develops towards the end, or even coming in the final episode itself.

I'll Take Care of Tina panel 5

The only problem with the resolution is what Tina says to Elaine in their final confrontation: “It’s all over, Elaine. I’m sorry – I really mean that. I did so want us to be friends.” Now we know Mandy would not want to show her protagonists being bitter or bearing grudges – but is that what you would say to a person who had been plotting against you, or turned out to be your worst enemy when you thought they were your friend?

The villains’ motives are less clichéd than most. They are not driven so much by greed or spite but by circumstance. For some reason Mr Warnock can no longer afford Elaine’s school fees and needs the promotion for it. So he and Elaine hatch the plot to steal Mr Marsden’s promotion. But they do not come across as being driven by desperation, nor do they have any redeeming or sympathetic qualities. They show no qualms, remorse or conscience in what they are doing to Tina. Elaine has no limits in the lengths she will go to get Tina expelled; starting a fire, pinging a stone in a girl’s face, and putting an old lady in hospital for trying to help Tina are extremely vicious and dangerous stuff.

The story is very deftly constructed in how it builds up Elaine’s campaign and reveals her motives in stages rather than the more typical “scheme of the week” format that a lot of schemer stories such as “That Bad Bettina!” often follow. This story construct also illustrates what a clever schemer Elaine is in laying groundwork for her campaign before launching on it in earnest, rather than plunging straight into it as a lot of schemers do in girls’ comics.

The resolution brings out real strengths in Tina (except for some unconvincing final dialogue). The parents’ decision to take Tina away from Fairfield is less trite than her staying on for a fresh start at a new improved Fairfield, free of the schemer. The artwork of Peter Wilkes lends itself well to the school environment, and it really brings out the innocence and good nature of the hapless Tina.

That Girl Next Door! (1986)

TGND cover

Appeared: Mandy Picture Library #105

Published: 1986

Artist: Unknown

 Plot

Twelve-year-old Jennifer Jack is the most popular girl in the neighbourhood because she has a sunny personality and is well known for her helpfulness, kindness and cheeriness. She also bears a lot of responsibility for her age because her mother is an invalid and there is no father (his absence is not explained). She has to collect her younger sister Cindy from school, do the shopping, cook the tea, manage the house, and do a paper round, and it is all on a limited income for the Jacks. But she does not complain; she is always positive and brings a smile to everyone else. She also does a lot of favours for people and participates in plenty of community work.

TGND 1

Yes, Jennifer Jack is hardly the type of girl to make an enemy. But things begin to change when the antithesis to Jennifer moves in next door…

Her name is Freda Lindsay. Everyone says the Lindsays are lucky to have the Jacks for neighbours and Freda and Jennifer are sure to be great friends. Mrs Lindsay is impressed at how nice and helpful Jennifer is – she even welcomes the Lindsays with some freshly made tea.

But what nobody realises is that Freda is the opposite of Jennifer. She is surly, unpleasant and selfish. She has no thought for others, never helps anyone and loathes the very idea of helping. She doesn’t even help around the house. Freda is snobby too; she wants to go to the posh-sounding Woodgrove Academy, not the “common” Billenhall Comprehensive. But once Mum and Dad hear about Billenhall being Jennifer’s school and its community service scheme, they settle on Billenhall for Freda, with Freda in Jennifer’s form. Freda does not intend to stay for long, though; she means to find a way to transfer to Woodgrove.

TGND 7

Freda can’t stand Jennifer being such a goody-two shoes, and how everyone keeps putting her on a pedestal and praising her virtues. Worse, she hates how her mother keeps comparing her unfavourably to Jennifer – “Why can’t you be more like Jennifer Jack?” – and nagging her about being more helpful and considerate like Jennifer. But of course it is having the opposite effect – causing Freda to react against Jennifer and downright hate her. However, Freda does not express her hatred openly. Instead she keeps her hatred of Jennifer to herself while pretending to be friendly with her.

At first Freda pretty much strings Jennifer along with her phoney friendship, hoping to take advantage of her. It looks promising, because once the other pupils think she is Jennifer’s friend, they go to extra lengths to be nice and friendly to her too. And Jennifer is a good friend – she even helps Freda against some boys who start picking on her once they realise what a snob Freda is: “You Billenhall scruff!” But Jennifer doesn’t know Freda had deliberately provoked the scrap in the hopes her parents would remove her from Billenhall, and now she hates Jennifer even more for ruining it.

Then, once Freda has had enough of the high praises for Jennifer, she sets out to undermine Jennifer’s popularity and takes advantage of their ‘friendship’ to secretly cause trouble for her. Even before this, Freda had made an early start by manipulating Jennifer into keeping her company while shopping, although Jennifer protests she has an appointment to pick apples for Mr Benson. As a result, Jennifer runs late and Mr Benson breaks his leg while trying to pick the apples himself.

Now Freda starts in earnest by tagging along while Jennifer helps out a pensioner (a drag for Freda, who can’t stand participating in charity or helping other people), and makes sure Jennifer ‘loses’ the pension – which Freda will ‘find’ later and steal the credit. Later, when they take a toddler for a walk, Freda arranges a near ‘accident’ for the child that Jennifer gets the blame for. Sure enough, Jennifer’s reputation begins to suffer. She finds herself reduced to reserve on the school community service rota, while her sister Cindy finds nobody wants to play with her all of a sudden.

TGND 3

But Mum is still comparing Freda unfavourably to Jennifer and rubbing her nose into how helpful Jennifer is, while Freda is selfish and won’t help anyone. Resenting this, Freda decides to work harder on Jennifer, and plots to have Jennifer mess up her mother’s birthday. She talks Mrs Jack into letting Jennifer go to the disco that is scheduled for the same night, while making an enormous fuss over her own mother for her birthday. As planned, this has Mrs Lindsay thinking badly of Jennifer for apparently neglecting her mother’s birthday, and she spreads the word around.

However, Freda finds that Jennifer’s helpfulness is still making her popular at school and decides she needs to work on that. She vandalises scenery and puts the blame on Jennifer, which gets her into trouble with the headmaster. However, the pupils are still friendly with Jennifer, so Freda finds sneaky ways to turn them against her. These include spreading gossip that Jennifer is blamed for, and causing her to hold up the swimming class so there is not enough time for long distance swimming tests. These and other tricks achieve Freda’s design: Jennifer is sent to Coventry, and thinking that Freda is a good friend who sticks by her in all the trouble. Freda’s tricks have her pinching all of Jennifer’s friends as well. To ingratiate herself with them further, she invites them to a party.

TGND 4

Despite everything, Mrs Lindsay still compares Freda unfavourably with Jennifer. When Mrs Lindsay does it again, Freda pulls out her big guns to destroy Jennifer completely. She pilfers some of her classmates’ belongings to convey the impression there is a thief around. Once that is established, she sets out to pin the blame on Jennifer by stealing money from a school charity collection box and planting the box in Jennifer’s desk.

Following this, Freda carelessly bumps into two boys. This causes their mouse cage to burst open, and the mice get away. The boys are further outraged when selfish Freda refuses to help them catch the mice that she is responsible for being loose. Little does she know what the consequences of this will be…

Next day, Freda’s plan works: Jennifer is blamed for stealing the money when the charity box is found in her desk, and she is suspended from school. The pupils think Jennifer stole the other items as well. Freda is confident her parents will stop comparing her with Jennifer and send her to Woodgrove.

But there is one thing Freda overlooked…

And it comes to light when the mice boys take revenge by planting spiders in Freda’s schoolbag. In class, Freda gets such a fright at the spiders that she drops her schoolbag on the floor and the items spill out – including the items that Freda had pilfered from her classmates. She had forgotten to dispose of that evidence and carelessly left it in her schoolbag! Seeing this, the pupils realise Freda is the thief. In the headmaster’s office, Freda confesses to all the thefts and is expelled.

TGND 6

Jennifer is back in favour with everyone and now knows the reason for the trouble she has been having. She is relieved that soon she won’t be living next door to her enemy – the Lindsays are moving out. So Freda never gets her party or sets foot in Woodgrove Academy.

Thoughts

Girls who secretly cause trouble for another (out of jealousy, spite, personal gain or revenge) are one of the most frequent formulas in DCT titles. Stories with the theme appeared constantly in DCT. Mandy herself didn’t go past many weeks without running such a story. But no matter how many times the theme would appear, what would hook the reader into the story was to see how the troublemaker would be caught out. Would someone get suspicious and set a trap for her? Would she make a mistake that would catch her out, as was the case with Freda? Or would she repent? All these things have happened with this type of story.

TGND 5

Both Freda and Jennifer are more rounded characters for this type of story than most (the victim is nice but naïve and the villain just plain spiteful). No doubt this is because they are deliberately set up as polar opposites to each other, and we even see the psychology and background that goes into it. Freda’s background clearly plays a huge role in making her the selfish person she is. Her parents are wealthy and it looks like they have spoiled her. They don’t seem to have encouraged her to help around the home; it’s only after Mrs Lindsay sees Jennifer’s example that she starts making suggestions to Freda about helping out more. Pushing Freda towards Jennifer in the hope it will make Freda a better person must have also played a huge role in the parents’ decision to send Freda to Billenhall.

But Mrs Lindsay’s constant nagging to Freda about Jennifer and comparing Freda with her all the time was a bad mistake. Anyone who knows about human psychology can tell you it is more likely to have the opposite effect and cause the person to build up feelings of resentment towards the person they are being compared to. This is precisely what happens with Freda. So Mrs Lindsay must take some of the blame for Freda’s spiteful campaign to destroy Jennifer.

It is more likely that the shock and shame of being caught and expelled would change Freda, but we don’t know for sure. We are shown a panel of her in tears (for the first and only time in the story) in the headmaster’s office, but no thought bubbles of what is going through her mind. And this is the last panel in which she appears. But it shows her crying, not arrogant or defiant, so we are left with a hint that she will never be the same selfish girl again.

Even the appearances of the two girls emphasise how different they are. Freda is blond and has a long, beaky nose that also hints at what a toffee-nose she is. Jennifer is dark-haired and has a short nose. The artist who brings their differences to life is not known, but was a mainstay on the Mandy team for pretty much all Mandy’s life. His/her style lent itself well to science fiction, humour, school and family stories. He or she drew “Slave to the Space Princess”, “Copy Kate!”, and “The Sorrows of Laughing Anne” among others. “Glenda the Guide” marked the end of his or her run.

Although this is never explicitly stated, jealousy must have also played a part in Freda’s hatred of Jennifer. It is quite likely that Freda was jealous of Jennifer for being so popular with everyone – something Freda is not likely to have ever been.

TGND 2

Jennifer not only arouses admiration but sympathy as well, and not just because of Freda’s campaign against her. It is because Jennifer has to bear a lot of responsibility at home as her invalid mother is incapable of doing housework. We see Jennifer doing all the housework, the cooking, collecting her sister, shopping – and she is only twelve! Sure, Jennifer’s personality enables her to take it all cheerfully, but it would be fairer to Jennifer for the household to get some home help in looking after her mother. Plus, there are all the favours she does, the paper round (hmm, shouldn’t she be 14 before she can have a paper round?), and the community work. They must eat up a lot of her time, though she loves doing it and everyone (well, nearly everyone) loves her for it. At least we are given a hint that eventually Mrs Jack will return to health and take over from Jennifer again; the doctor said that all she needed was rest.

But like so many good-natured people, Jennifer tends to be naïve, over-trusting, and easy to be taken advantage of. These are the qualities that Freda uses to lure her into several of her traps that are so cunningly and insidiously crafted that it is difficult for anyone to even realise that it is a trick. One example is where Freda makes Jennifer late for her apple-picking appointment with Mr Benson by pleading with her to come along: “Please, Jenny! I’m so bored here all on my own. Looking around the town wouldn’t take long and I could help you with the apples afterwards.” But of course Freda has no intention of helping Jennifer with the apples, and no doubt she found sly ways to keep Jennifer in town past the appointed time.

Just two things mar the story. The first is Jennifer being twelve years old. Legally, that is too young for her to have a job, so how can she have a paper round at all? Adding a couple of years to her age (or not stating her age) would have made more sense, and also made it more reasonable for her to have such responsibility at her age. Second, the day Freda takes the charity collection box is “on Friday morning”. This cannot be correct because two more school days follow (the first for Jennifer’s suspension and the second for Freda’s expulsion). It would have been more logical for Freda to take the box on, say “Wednesday morning” or not state the day at all. Otherwise, this is an engaging story, which extends beyond the average formula of a spiteful girl causing trouble for an unsuspecting innocent one to convey a stark lesson not to rub someone’s nose in it by comparing them with another person all the time.

 

 

 

The Long Sleep [1968]

Plot

In 1668 (updated to 1675 in the reprint),  14-year-old Trudy Wain is taking a legal document to a lawyer in Chesterton. On the way she gets lost and comes across an empty cottage. She pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls asleep for 300 years, waking up in the 1968 (1975) Chesterton. Time shock and culture shock ensue, both for her and those who see her, and Trudy is also shocked to see her parents’ graves. She is taken in by the Carrs, and proves useful in identifying genuine 17th century artefacts for Mr Carr at auctions.

The document  Trudy was taking to the lawyer proved her father’s ownership of a certain piece of land. This happens to be the land that the Carrs are now renting from a nasty landlord, Mr Hamble, who will stop at nothing to evict them. However, the legality of the document is accepted and makes Trudy the nominal landlady of the Carrs. She just lets them have the property and they ask Trudy to become a member of their family.

The Long Sleep

Notes

Appeared

  • The Long Sleep – Mandy:  #76 (29 June 1968) – #85 (31 August 1968)
  • Reprinted – Mandy: #456 (11 October 1975) – #469 (10 January 1976)

 

Hetty with the Healing Hand [1981]

Plot

Hetty Holt has a strange mark on her hand that gives her the power to heal. The Maggs take advantage of it and her, threatening to denounce her as a witch if she does not comply with their demands. (Hetty lives in an age that is past the witch hunting era, but the superstition is still strong among the lower classes.)

2nvbbf8

Notes

  • Artist Hugo D’Adderio

Appeared:

  • Hetty with the Healing Hand – Debbie: #448 (12  Sep 1981) – #459 (28 Nov 1981)