Tag Archives: secret identity

Vengeance of Vampirene [1977]

  • Vengeance of Vampirene – Spellbound:  #57 (22 October 1977) – #65 (17 December 1977)
  • Art: Adolfo Usero

Plot

Irene is the princess of the small Balkan kingdom, Geldania, which is ruled by her kindly father Prince Stephen. The princess has been attending a boarding school in Switzerland, since her mother’s death. She excels at sports at the school and her classmates are also impressed that her despite her status she is not snobby. This life is to become disrupted, when her uncle, Count Zukor, decides to overthrow Stephen. He plans to capture Irene in order to keep his brother quiet, but Irene escapes, she makes her way home and seeks out her old nurse, Magda for help. Irene gets into the castle and with a bracelet that maps all the hidden passages, she attempts to find her father. Unfortunately she makes a noise that attracts the attention of Zukor’s men. It is then Irene first dons the appearance of a Vampire, playing up the superstitions of the country. She has to make a leap from the tower into the water below, but luckily escapes and this gives her the idea to continue to use the myths of vampires to help her father.

She prepares a new plan to get to her father. First Magda and other loyalists use a kite, shaped like a large bat, to distract the guards. It works and Irene in her vampire costume, manages to get into the castle and through the passageways to her father. He asks her to get a message to one of his supporters, Anton Tesla. Later Irene is at her hideout in the Vampire Tower, a place where no people like to venture as they are scared and superstitious. She has a problem leaving as there are still guards nearby. She initially planned to get to Tesla in her peasant disguise, but now will have to become Vampirene again. She distracts the sentries by hitting their coffee pot into the fire. Then with the fire out and in her costume she makes her way past them as a shadowy vampire shape. Using her mountaineering skills she climbs a sheer mountain to avoid Zukor’s soldiers. She reaches the loyalists and tells Anton Tesla that he must lead an uprising.

That night as snow falls, they find out an armed convey is on the way. A plan is formed to seize the guns. Vampirene sets off on skis, doing a jump over the convey. But it seems her plan is failing as they are not stopping. She makes a second appearance giving the men an opportunity to shoot at her, she’s cleverly fixed her cloak up and stayed hidden so she is in no danger of getting shot. This gives the others a chance to ambush the trucks. Anton is relieved to see Vampirene ski away.

Irene returns to Magda and while playing the part of her niece in the village, she sees a dog attacks a young soldier. Despite being an enemy Irene helps him. That night they fly the bat kite high, while Irene skates across the now frozen lake. Count Zukor has his suspicions about the legendary Vampire and decides he can use his prisoner as bait. Irene arrives at the castle but is surprised to find her father has been moved. When she is searching for him, she comes across a guard, luckily for her it is the same one she helped earlier. He says he will help her, and they use secret passages to get to her father. They manage to free her father and they stay hidden in tunnels  when alarm is raised. She then sends her father on to the rebels but she stays on to spy on her uncle.

Nikki, the guard, makes his way back to the others, but as he can’t account for his whereabouts at the time Stephen was freed, he is captured. They will torture him for information unless Irene can free him. She creates a diversion with a fire, unlocks the door and they escape into secret passage. Zukor is enraged and thinks there must be a secret way into the castle. Irene and Nikki are laying low in the passages, but Zukor is intent on searching every inch of castle until he finds the passages and they are forced to flee. They make it to the Vampire Tower, where they think they will be safe, but Zukor insists it be searched despite guards reluctance, he has no time for superstitions. Irene releases her cape from the top of the tower as a distraction. They get to Zukor’s snowmobile and escape towards the loyalists. They don’t make it all the way as the vehicle runs out of petrol, and they are forced to take refuge in a cave. Zukor wants them alive, so he can find out Prince Stephen’s whereabouts. One of the guards foolishly lets off a warning shot, causing an avalanche. While Irene and Nikki are safe in the cave, it ends up being a great way for loyalists to capture Zukor’s men, and then they rescue Irene and Nikki. Prince Stephen declares this day of victory will always be a public holiday and Vampirene can be put to rest.

Thoughts

Keeping with the Halloween spirit, I thought this would be a fitting story to look at. While the protagonist is not actually a Vampire, just  playing on superstition, it is something that is more rare to see in these comics. The preferred supernatural beings were witches and ghosts, there are a few stories with vampires and some references may have been made to them (such as Nightmare Academy, Worlds Apart and Dracula’s Daughter) but it was less common. I really like Irene’s vampire costume, it goes for a classical Dracula look but also plays off the bat elements. She uses a second version  of the costume, which is more of a bodysuit which is more practical for what she has to do physically. I quite like that she has two versions, the one that plays on the myths and she takes off a layer and has the bodysuit which gives her a more bat-like appearance and more maneuverability. This story also has one of my favourite covers, done by Norman Lee,  the grey/purple and green used for Vampirene, and her posture makes her an imposing figure.  The cover immediately captures attention. This is also one of my favourite story titles, the alliteration, the merging of Irene’s name with Vampire, the foreboding threat of vengeance!

The art by Usero is great too, as well as Irene’s costumes I like Count Zukor being made distinct with his facial scars. He also handles the action scenes well. They do well at establishing Princess Irene as a top sportsperson, taking a little time at her boarding school, before jumping into the main plot. The change in weather also makes sure she can show off her varied skills (such as her swimming and diving, then when the lake freezes over she can show  off her skating). She could stand proudly beside other costumed heroes like the Cat from Catch the Cat or Bike Rider. She is clever, brave and resourceful and has some uncommon skills such as marksmanship and judo as well as being achieved in a lot of winter sports. Although there are times when it seems obvious that she is not supernatural (I do wonder how the guards don’t see her skis when she jumps!), it is interesting how she plays on the people’s fears and superstitions, to keep them at bay. It is also nicely played that she acts as a distraction while the loyalists can take advantage of that. There are some coincidences, like that she happens to help Nikki, the one nice guard, who in turn is the one who finds her in the castle. But the story is still exciting and appealing and one of Spellbound’s best. Which again highlights that it is a pity that Spellbound didn’t last longer, as it was printing some interesting and different stories.

 

 

Lady Sarah’s Secret

    • Lady Sarah’s Secret – Emma:  #61 (21 April 1979) – #69 (16 June 1979)
    • Reprinted – Judy: #1500 (8 October 1988) – #1508 (10 December 1988)
    • Reprinted (as Judy classic) – M&J: #308 (4th May 1997) – #315 (May 24 1997) [last issue has 2 installments]
    • Artist: Hugo D’Adderio

Plot

In 1840, Lady Sarah Cragston is out riding when she nearly runs down a girl. She is surprised to find out the girl has runaway from the local orphanage which her father is governor of. Sarah doesn’t listen to the girl’s claims of mistreatment, believing her to be an ungrateful wretch and takes her back to the orphanage. She does however become suspicious when the Bonneys that run the place, are keen to get rid of her. She insists on looking around and is appalled by the conditions. Later she tries to tell her father about what she saw and at first she thinks he shares her outrage but he is only upset that she went to orphanage and forbids her from going there again. Later while talking to a maid, Sarah learns that the orphanage used to be a mansion called Fell Grange, until the daughter of the house, Elizabeth Sturgesse, was tragically killed while out riding. There is a legend that Elizabeth’s spirit appeared  to help those in need  and she became known as “The Dark Lady of Haunted Hill”. Lady Sarah decides it is time for the Dark Lady to reappear and  finds old riding gear and dark wig to become the part.

Lady Sarah’s first act is to free the runaway she met earlier, who had since been beaten and locked in the cellar. She first runs into the Bonneys, Mr Bonney is terrified of the ghost but Mrs bonny shows less fear and has to be dragged inside by her husband. The girl, Ellen Rumble, is very grateful and even more so when Sarah arranges it so she can hire her as personal servant.  Ellen makes a good ally as she can tell Sarah about the inner workings of the orphanage. She helps Sarah when she does some investigative work to see where Mrs bonny gets the food for the orphanage, she obviously buys the good stuff for herself and the orphans get the cheap, poor quality stuff. Sarah buys supplies for the orphans and sets out a feast for them. Then in the guise of the Dark Lady, she warns the Bonneys to start feeding them properly.

At this point Mrs Bonney’s original confidence of ghosts not being able to harm them, seems to be waning. The Bonneys even foolishly put bars on the cellar door to keep the ghost off. Of course while that would be no use against a ghost, it does pose a problem for Sarah, as she now needs to find another way to access the orphanage. Ellen does know of one  successful runaway who said she had aunt in Crampton. Sarah manages to track her down and find out about a secret passage. Then using a potion that was given to her father by a sea captain, she is able to temporarily paralyze the Bonneys in order to stop them abusing cripples. These things further convince the Bonneys that she is a supernatural being with powers.

Next Sarah finds out that the money her father provides for a doctor, actually goes to a charlatan doctor who gives the sick children coloured water, so him and the Bonneys make a tidy profit by not giving proper medicine. Sarah and Ellen go searching for a legitimate doctor to treat a very sick girl. They find a doctor name Sturgesse and this seems like a good omen so Sarah hires him. The Bonneys are surprised by Dr. Sturgesse’s visit and by his name. Adding to their stress further is when asked who sent him, the doctor points to Sarah who is watching close by dressed as the Dark Lady.

When a letter arrives from the Bonneys to her father, saying the price of coal has increased, Sarah is suspicious of a scam. She is proved right when visiting the orphanage she hears the Bonneys plan to forge bills. While returning home, her father sees her near the orphanage and is very angry, he doesn’t want her anywhere near the orphans in case she catches something. While she says she will stay away, that night she is back again as the Dark Lady to see if she can find out what the Bonneys are doing with the money they keep. She finds Mr Bonny hosting a card game and she takes a risk haunting them. While she does startle the men, one of them knocks over a lamp and starts a fire. While they are putting out the fire, Sarah escapes, but one on of the men, Harry, hears her coughing and therefore believes there is no ghost. Harry visits Lord Cragston the next day to talk about the occurrences at the orphanage. Sarah whose throat is still irritated by the smoke can’t stop herself coughing, which leads Harry to accuse her of being the ghost. Lord Cragston doesn’t believe such things and kicks him out but he is concerned by Sarah’s coughing and sends her to an aunt to recover. This is a further worry for Sarah as this will mean the Bonneys will not believe in the ghost now, but Ellen keeps up the legend as she sneaks out and plays the Dark Lady in her stead.

While out riding Sarah sees the parish clerk beating on a young girl while bringing her to orphanage, that night worried about this outspoken new girl Sarah sneaks into the orphanage to check on her, but Ellen has a sense of foreboding. That night the Bonneys have visitors who are concerned about the “hauntings” – the parish clerk and Mr Calver, the justice of peace. Ellen goes to warn Sarah about the arrivals, but the secret panel to the passage closes and they are forced to hide. While they do manage to slip out, Sarah accidentally leaves a riding glove behind. The Justice of Peace sees the girls riding off in the distance, he suspects there is no ghost and wants to investigate the orphanage further. Meanwhile Mr Bonney has found the riding glove and also now knows there is no ghost and that it is Lady Sarah that has been behind everything. He goes to Lord Cragston with this news, who is troubled by this, but still doesn’t believe Sarah that anything wrong with the Bonneys. He is forced to listen with the sudden arrival of Mr Calver with Mr Holmes, a government inspector of children’s work conditions. They want Sarah to testify against the Bonneys. At the inquiry Ellen also testifies but the other orphans are too scared to. One exception is Crissy, the outspoken girl, who shows the beatings on her back. Lord Cragston, apologizes for being unaware of what Bonneys were doing and promises to get suitable replacements. A few weeks later with the kindly Jacksons in charge, Sarah can put away her Dark Lady costume.

Thoughts

When we first meet Lady Sarah she is not too concerned for the orphans, going so far as to bring back the runaway to orphanage by tying a rope around her waist and calling her an “ungrateful little wretch”. It is likely that this initial attitude is influenced by her father.  He doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of the orphans seeing them as brats, of little use and potentially infectious rather than what they actually are – children. We are not told how Sarah’s mother died but it may be a factor in Lord Cragston’s fear for his daughter’s safety and that she may catch some illness from being near the orphans. He doesn’t seem to be intentionally cruel, as he does believe the orphans are being provided for and that the “good” Bonneys are training the brats to be useful to society. But his claims of ignorance of the Bonneys wrong doings, isn’t good enough when his own daughter has told him of their cruelty and he doesn’t bother to investigate further.

Like I said Sarah seems to have a similar attitude to her father, until she sees the actual living conditions of the orphans and is horrified. It is fitting then, that the first person she helps is that same runaway she brought back. In quite a contrast to their first meeting, after her rescue of Ellen, Sarah attends to her injuries, no longer feeling above those poorer than her. In return for this kindness Ellen becomes a loyal companion to Sarah. In other stories such as “The Seeker” or “The Secret Life of Hateful Hattie”, the protagonists pretend to be mean spirited in real life to keep their secret, so it makes a difference here that Sarah speaks up for the orphans even when she’s not in costume and also that she has an ally to confide in.

Using the legend of the ghost, is also an interesting angle. Through her father’s local history books, Sarah learns about deeds that  the “Dark Lady” supposedly did, which she uses to help her own cause. It would seems most people are familiar with the legend, but whether those events were real, exaggerated or perhaps someone playing at the ghost, like Sarah did, we never know for sure. It could be interesting if different people use the guise of the Dark Lady whenever she is needed. While many people fear her, Mrs Bonney initially shows her toughness, not fearing the ghost, it certainly seems to be her that’s in charge, as Mr Bonney fears his wife’s wrath as well as the ghost.

The art is gorgeous and very detailed, I particularly like the details in the clothes. Also the use of the shadows and perspective when Sarah is doing her haunting, makes her a very intimidating presence. While a lot of the panels are standard size, when given more room with wider panel D’Adderio takes advantage doing some lovely work as demonstrated in the opening panel.  It is another strong story from the short lived Emma comic and with the classic artwork and captivating story, it’s no surprise that this was reprinted in Judy and as a Judy classic in M&J.

The Double Life of Dana / The Secret Life of Dana

  • The Double Life of Dana– Mandy: #306 (25 Nov. 1972) – #317 (10 Feb. 1972)
  • Reprinted as The Secret Life of Dana – Emma: #49 (27 Jan. 1979) – #60 (14 Apr. 1979)
  • Artist: Claude Berridge

Plot

Dana Fenton, an orphan, has always dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Even now that she has left the orphanage she grew up in and has gotten a decent job and comfortable lodgings, it is not enough to satisfy her. So when she sees that there are auditions for a scholarship with a Ballet Company and a maid’s job in a prestigious ballet school, she takes the leap to follow her dream. She quits her job and applies for the in-house maid job, in the hopes that while she could never afford to go to school there, she may be able to learn by watching. Madame Rochelle proves to be a tough employer, meaning Dana will certainly be working hard to earn her place. At the same time she has to try and find time to go to Belmont Company audition. She arrives at the audition, but seeing Madame there with two pupils, she is afraid she will lose her job, so she dons a wig and makeup and gives the fake name ‘Ann Smith’ in order to keep her secret. The judges see potential in her and she gets in to the next round along with the two pupils from the ballet school, Janice and Ella.

secret life dana1Dana’s double life makes things difficult at time, such as Madame telling Dana to wait by the phone so she can tell everyone the results of the next audition. Of course as Dana is also meant to attend the audition she has to figure out how to do both things! She manages to attend the audition then rushes to pay phone outside and calls Madam pretending to have misunderstood the instructions. She then has to rush back to the school, and actually lets air out of Madame’s tyres so she will beat them back.

Also making life difficult for Dana, are her two rivals, Janice and Ella, who are snobbish and like to make more work for Dana. When Madame entrusts Dana to take the girls to next audition (which is a stroke of luck for Dana as she wondered how she was going to get to someplace so far away), the girls don’t listen to Dana and call her skivvy expecting her to be their personal maid. Luckily Miss Norris and old friend of Madame’s has also been sent to check on the girls and she helps Dana keep them in line. They still continue to cause more trouble,  back at the school making muddy prints over the floor Dana just cleans, they turn even more against Dana when Madame sticks up for her and make them re-clean the floor! Then later at an audition, they leave room a mess and carelessly leave clothes near an electric fire. Dana  in her ‘Ann Smith’ disguise finds the dressing room on fire and helps put it out, before having to run off before her identity is discovered. Janice and Ella blame Dana for the fire and their clothes getting destroyed. They decide to return the favour by destroying her clothes. So her ballet costume isn’t discovered, she has to chase them out of her room, which causes more trouble with Madame. While Madame doesn’t blame her for fire, she does think she should have been attending her duties more carefully, she also is suspicious of the girls being in Dana’s room but does tell Dana any more trouble and she’ll be dismissed.

secret life dana2

Due to the fire, the audition has been rescheduled and Madame offers the school as a new venue. Dana has to be extra careful not to be discovered and uses a traditional mask to hide her face completely. More questions are being asked about, who this mysterious Ann Smith is! While Madame doesn’t suspect Dana, Janice and Ella are beginning to wonder if she and Ann are the same person. Ella even opens a trapdoor at an audition in the hopes of not letting Ann slip away, she doesn’t seem concerned that she could have caused her some serious injury, if not for Dana/Ann’s quick reflexes allowing her to leap out of the way in time. Her secret is discovered by an unlikely person Myra Dean, a famous dancer, who is now blind. When she visits the school, Dana helps her twice, one time as ‘Ann’ and Miss Dean recognises her work-rough hands. Although she hints to Madame, that Ann and Dana maybe the same person, Madame dismisses the thought and Myra doesn’t try to persuade her, instead she becomes Dana’s ally.

secret life dana3

A  mistake signing a girl’s autograph book, leads Janice and Ella to also discover Dana’s secret.  At the last audition, using Dana’s friendship with Miss Dean against her, the girls send Dana to the wrong place. She only just makes it to the right place at the end, with no chance to change into Ann Smith. Myra Dean confirms her identity and Dana is allowed to dance, even though she doesn’t have time to even change into ballet clothes. Dana wins the scholarship and Madame Rochelle is shocked to find her own maid is Ann Smith. Seeing her dance she knows Dana deserves to win and she will also being having words with Janice and Ella about their involvement in the audition mix-up. Dana is delighted she can now pursue her dream and no longer lead a double life.

Thoughts

Dana while she certainly hasn’t the easiest time, it’s not as hard as other characters in similar positions, leading double life (such as “Ballerina on a String”). She is actually a very upbeat person and she is in charge of her own choices, as she is not forced to do the things she does. She left comfortable lodgings and a shop job, to work at the school, because she wants to follow her dream.

Madame Rochelle has a reputation as a slave-driver and none of  her other maids stayed very long. She certainly works Dana hard but she is not cruel and does treat her fairly. She even puts her trust in Dana to chaperone the other girls. When she knows of the tricks the girls play, she assesses situation and doesn’t automatically favour her students over her employee, as seen when she makes Janice and Ella clean the muddy prints and not taking their side when she finds Dana yelling at them as they were in Dana’s room.

secret life dana4

While she does treat her with some respect, at the same time she does not see Dana’s potential, viewing her only as maid. This bias blinds her to the clues in front of her, such as finding Ann Smith looks familiar, nearly catching a girl practicing late at night to audition music (and it not being Janice or Ella), she doesn’t even question that the mysterious Ann Smith gets a letter to the school and ignores the hint her old friend Myra Dean gives.

secret life of dana

So while the work is hard the main difficulties Dana has, is keeping her identity hidden while getting to auditions and the bigger problem of the spiteful girls. Of the two girls, Ella is more dangerous than Janice, she is the leader of the two and the most suspicious. She also opens the trapdoor on Dana and while she passes it off as an accident, she should really have more repercussions. She is not happy to be shown up by Ann Smith, and even less happy when she finds out that Ann is actually the ‘skivvy’ Dana. Even without Dana in the competition, Ella’s thoughts are shown to be quite big-headed, she expects to win over her supposed friend Janice too.

While Dana has joined the school to learn of ballet, we don’t really see much time focused on seeing how she benefits from this and how she improves. Instead most episodes are dedicated to her trying to attend an audition and keep her secret. Although as she keeps getting through to the next stage her “unpolished potential” must be getting better. The competition for the scholarship isn’t very clear, there’s seems to be a lot of auditions happening but it’s not clear how many stages there are and how many people auditioning. In the first stage the 3 girls get through, but as we never really get to see other competitors this leads to the impression that there are only three in the running all the time! In the last audition there appears to be five competing but again wonder how many auditioned initially in the first stage and how wide an area did the competitors come from? Still other than the questions of how the competition is ran, the story keeps a nice pace and the main characters are each distinctive both in personality and design. The art throughout is very nice and expressive. Berridge seems to be quite a varied artist, doing many different type of stories, I’m not aware of any other ballet story that he’s done, but he does a good job here.

secret life dana5

 

Bike Rider

Plot:

Sandy Clark’s uncle, an inventor, had built her an unusual bike – a computerised super bike that could talk and even fly. But only Sandy and her uncle knew about its unusual powers, everyone else wonders who the mysterious rider was.

bike rider

Notes:

  • Art: Robert MacGillivray

Appeared:

  • Bike Rider –  Bunty:    #1429 (01 June 1985) – ?

 

Other Appearances:

  • Bike Rider –  Bunty Annual 1990

The Many Faces of Morna

Plot

Under the stage name of Aurora Daye, Morna Reynolds entered the ” Search for a Superstar” Contest—unknown to her nasty guardians, her Uncle Gerald and Aunt Sybil. Performing in disguise, Morna had reached the semi-finals, beating her unpleasant cousin, Pat, on the way. When Morna accidentally added salt instead of sugar to the ingredients she packed for Pat’s school cookery lesson, the spiteful Pat became determined to cause trouble for Morna—in any way she could!

Notes

Appeared

  • The Many Faces of Morna  – Mandy: #565 (12 November 1977) – #579 (18 February 1978)

No Girls Allowed

Plot

When Andy Ellis was taken ill and told not to play his cornet for three  months, his twin sister, Kate, secretly took his place in the Barfield Boys’ Brass Band. Although Andy was now well again, and fit to rejoin the band, Kate was continuing for the time being because of preparations for a competition.

Notes

  • Artist: Andy Tew

Appeared

  • No Girls Allowed – Mandy: #839 (12 February 1983) – #850 (30 April 1983)

The Double Life of Delia

Plot

Heiress Delia Davenport was determined to help the poor people in  Victorian London, but her guardians, Henry and Amelia, refused to allow her money to spend on the poor. By behaving like a spoilt child. Delia was able to get money from them. Disguised as Lame Lottie, a crippled girl, Delia took  food and clothes to the needy living in the slums.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Double Life of Delia  – Mandy: #844 (19 March 1983) – (?)