Tag Archives: Troublemakers

“I’ll Take Care of Tina!” (1978)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

I’ll Find a Friend!

Plot

Vicky Page and Pam Reid have always hated each other, but now they are both looking for a new friend as theirs have gone to another town. This leads to more animosity between them as each tries to outdo the other in finding a friend and even playing tricks to sabotage each other’s efforts. As a result, neither of them is succeeding in finding a friend.

Friends

Notes

Appeared

  • I’ll Find a Friend! –  Mandy: circa #1217 (12 May 1990) – (?)