Donna Edwards is given a dummy for her ventriloquist act. But it has been cursed by a witch doctor and causes trouble wherever it goes.
- Artist: Andy Tew
- The Demon Doll – Bunty: #945 (21 February 1976) – #956 (8 May 1976)
Pauline Pratt finds a ventriloquist’s dummy, Little Lord Percival, but discovers he is evil and causes a lot of trouble that she gets the blame for. Eventually she realises that Lord Percival is possessed by the spirit of Fred Vernon-Vaisley (“Vernon the Valet”), a ventriloquist with a difficult, quarrelsome personality. Vaisley’s personality led to his “sad end” after a quarrel with a fellow performer, Mr Grantley, and now Lord Percival is out for revenge on Mr Grantley.
Amy inherits her Great Uncle Harry’s ventriloquist dummy, which surprises her as she didn’t know him that well. What surprises her more though, is when Codey (the dummy) starts talking to her. He gets her in trouble when people think she is throwing her voice, saying nasty things. He wants to make it big, but Amy tries to refuse. He threatens her family, so she has to go along with things.
She unsuccessfully tries to get rid of him a few times, which doesn’t make Codey to happy. It seems he is getting stronger, and has the power to get inside her head and make her say things like she was the Dummy! At a show, she runs into an old man, Mr Morton, who claims Harry stole Codey from him years ago. Codey says horrible things to Morton and the old man collapses. Later Amy goes to visit Mr Morton in hospital, she talks to his daughter who tells her that Codey is a jinx and she should get rid of him. Amy decides to donate him to a museum, but Codey doesn’t want that. Amy puts him down stairs so she won’t have to listen to him all night. The living room catches on fire that night. Luckily Amy and her family escape but Codey is burnt up.
Evil dolls/ventriloquist dummies another common theme for these comics. As I’ve mentioned before, the picture story libraries were more limited in what they could compared to ongoing weekly issues . So a story like Charlie Chatterbox, had more depth to his character and the story had more of a build up to his motivations. Codey is simply evil and there is a lot of unanswered questions in the story.
It is unclear why Uncle Harry left the dummy to Amy in the first place, although it could be because he was still under the influence of Codey. How Codey could not only talk but also make Amy say things and influence her dreams is a mystery. The idea of a dummy making words coming out of someone else, is interesting but it is only used once, so it’s hardly developed. It seems to be a just a throwaway power for the convenience of one scene.
The parents are a bit pushy, they do relent in the end when Amy says she doesn’t want to do ventriloquism anymore, but first they just sign her up for talent contests and don’t even listen to her. So Amy has a hard time, with being scared by Codey and pushed by her parents. She does try to stand up for herself at times and she is concerned about keeping her family safe, but a lot of time she just seems helpless.
Codey’s motives just seem to be to get famous, but he doesn’t help himself by being rude and sometimes nasty to everyone including the agents that are there to help him. There is no potential nice side to him. He is just nasty and evil. His act usually involves him being cruel. He doesn’t want to end up in a museum, but you’d think if he was that powerful he could find some way around it, he sat up in Harry’s attic for so long, you’d thing he had patience. Somehow he throws himself on to the electric fire, so he can avoid going to museum and probably hopes to take whole family with him.
I quite like the cover art, it is not crowded and looks interesting, the dummy looks mean and creepy. The art inside isn’t bad but again, I think “Charlie Chatterbox” made better use of shadows and angles to make a dummy seem bigger and more threatening. Codey is a menacing character and the story isn’t bad but it is a story that has been done better before.
Fiona Parker is given an old ventriloquist dummy named Charlie. Only Charlie can really talk and he convinces Fiona to start performing with him. Money is tight for her and her mother, who is a widow. Mrs. Parker is working all hours to provide for them, so Fiona sees this as an opportunity to help out. Things don’t run smoothly for Fiona when Charlie causes problems by insulting people. Also she is worried as he seems to have an agenda of his own.
They make an enemy of a wealthy influential woman, Mrs. Grant, when Charlie insults her. When Mrs. Grant tries to get her own back, Charlie soon puts her in her place as he knows some of her family secrets. Charlie is eager to tour about the old theatres, and when Fiona catches the eye of agent Ted Alcorn, they get their opportunity to tour. Fiona starts to suspect Charlie is up to something when she finds him rooting around Alcorn’s office.
He also scares Fiona at times, and he comes across as threatening. She is particularly cautious after an old stage hand, Bob, appears to have been attacked and Charlie has blood on his sleeve. Fiona gains some advantage with Charlie as she realises he needs her to carry him around. Then they get an opportunity to appear on TV, while on TV he sings his special song and it appears to have affect on another doll Daisy-Belle, who is owned by two old ladies. Meanwhile Mike Harris, a reporter, is investigating Charlie, after a magician Solesto who tried to steal Charlie, and who claimed Charlie could talk. Harris follows Charlie, but Charlie gets the better of him locks him in a shed. He goes for Daisy Belle who is delighted to see him. He wants Fiona to perform with both of them. Instead Fiona decides to retire and gives Charlie to the old ladies. Mrs. Parker has put away enough money to open up a shop, so money won’t be a problem any more. Mike not being able to report on the talking dummy, writes a “fictional” novel about Charlie, which gets turned into a film. He shares the profits with Fiona and also ends up marrying her mother.
This is a story that can go in the classic list. It is mysterious and creepy, with good characters and nice atmospheric art. The story was published around the same time as horror film Child’s Play came out. The film has Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray a serial killer possess a doll. So while there is no serial killer aspects to this story there does seem to be a few similarities. But The Secret of Charlie Chatterbox is actually the scarier of the two and definitely the better story.
There is a slow build up to what it is Charlie is after, you also don’t know what he is capable of doing to get what he wants and Fiona definitely doesn’t know whether to trust him. He is quite nasty to Fiona at times, calling her stupid and threatening/blackmailing her. The readers do see some sort of a redemptive side to him when the old stage hand sees Charlie walking around, he has a heart attack and Charlie tries to help him. Charlie calls an ambulance, but he does let Fiona believe it was him that attacked him to keep her doing what he wants.
He makes trouble for Fiona with other people on the theatre tour, being rude to them. Charlie also keeps Fiona going along with things by making her feel guilty about her mother working all the time. When Fiona gives out to him about his rudeness, he makes things difficult by not speaking on stage. In the end though he has a rough manner, his objective is to find his love Daisy Belle. He would not really go through with any threats.
The story is developed well. There is a nice progression in the story. Even hints of what Charlie is after, such as when he gets upset when Fiona says she doesn’t care who he used to sing his song to. The character of Mrs Grant and her daughter could have been the typical snobs and antagonists throughout the whole thing, instead she is quickly dealt with and the plot moves on focusing more on Charlie. Mrs. Grant after being insulted, fires Mrs. Parker so you are glad to see her get her comeuppance when Charlie reveals her family secrets on stage. But it also shows Charlie’s nasty streak and that he obviously has a lot of knowledge and history.
The dynamic between Charlie and Fiona is well done. Fiona is doing the gig to help her mother and sometimes Charlie scares her. But at the same time she isn’t afraid to argue with him and point out his rudeness. She also gets the better of him at times like when he won’t speak she starts singing his song to get a reaction out of him. Charlie can be scary particularly in the early issues. But he also is very set on achieving his goal. So rather than any real maliciousness on his part, he is just trying to reunite with his love, which sometimes makes him oblivious to others around him. Its interesting to see how Fiona and Charlie interact together.
While Fiona and Charlie have the main dynamic, side characters do get a bit of time too. Mike is an ambitious reporter, knowing he could have a great story on his hand, but he is also a nice guy he is actually concerned about ruining Fiona’s career if he tells Charlie’s story. Eddie and Liz are acting as chaporones to Fiona, they seem to mostly be there to get the brunt of Charlie’s rudeness, but they do try to help Fiona out.
How Charlie and Daisy Belle could talk in the first place is never explained. They touch on it in the last issue but it is a bit of a cop out as they say we’ll never know!
But on the other hand the focus of the story is more concerned with Charlie finding Daisy Belle and his relationship with Fiona. So I guess there really isn’t a need to know why he can talk and it can be fun to come up with theories.
So my verdict is this was a good strong story, nice build up to its conclusion, a good mystery and creepy in parts. It is also well drawn, the framing and use of shadows to make Charlie more imposing despite his size, is good and the character of Charlie should be remembered as one of the greats.