Little Stranger [1976]

  • Little Stranger – Mandy: #504 (11 September 1976) – #516 (4 December 1976)
  • Reprinted – Mandy: #805 (19 June 1982) – #817 (11 September 11 1982)
  • Reprinted – Mandy #1000 (15 March 1986) – Mandy #1012 (7 June 1986)
  • Reprinted (as Mandy classic) –  M&J: #16 (31 August 1991) – #28 (23 November 1991)
  • Artist: Andrew Wilson

Plot

Betty Demster (named Clare in the reprints) awakes one night and sees a strange light out of her window, she goes to investigate but trips over and is knocked unconscious. When she comes around the light is gone and she goes back to bed. She is shocked in the morning to find a stranger in her house,  a young girl that her parents claim to be her little sister, Darla. Meeting with friends and neighbours it seems Betty is the only one that knows something is wrong, everyone else is convinced that Darla has always been there. Betty sees Darla talking to the sky at night,and mentioning one subject needs to be kept under close surveillance. Betty senses something evil about Darla, but decides to play along as “big sister” until she can find proof. Darla proves to be more powerful than she thought though, when Betty tries to find allies that may not be under Darla’s influences, Darla gets in the way. When Betty asks her aunt to visit from out of town, Darla causes her to have an accident so the aunt ends up in a coma, and the new neighbours have a tree fall on their house so they have to go stay elsewhere.

Betty has to be even more careful while trying to find out what Darla is plotting. Her father brigs home sensitive documents from work under Darla’s influence and Betty as to sneak them back. Darla forces the whole town to clear a  hill of stones. Later she returns and Betty sees her go into spaceship, she overhears that Darla wants to increase take-over power and the mysterious light appears again, but Betty sneaks out so she is not effected. She sees Darla sneak to her father’s office and take pictures, later she hands them off to the local doctor who Betty finds out is an imposter/replica of the real doctor. She manages to hide the film, from them both. Betty decides to try and find help from an author, Erica Vanton, that wrote about aliens. She tells her story and Miss Vanton appears to be an ally. But when she comes to town Betty finds her with Darla and the fake doctor. She manages to escape them, she knows their influence is waning, she finds her mom with a headache, and a fuzzy memory. All traces of Darla has disappeared from house.

The three aliens go to the hill hoping for contact from their home planet Kaza as their powers are fading. As no-one appears they ave to get nourishment from somewhere else. Betty who has been watching them follows them to a nuclear power station. Darla knocks out the entrance guard with her powers,  Betty tries to warn people at the station and the Doctor and Miss Vanton aliens are captured.But they don’t believe Betty’s  story. The two aliens have lost all power and they disappear as they can no longer hold the human form, only Darla is left, but the guards can’t believe a little girl is dangerous. Betty manages to delay Darla long enough so she can’t renew her powers. She fights her off until she also disappears. Everyone’s memories of the event start to fade. Only Betty remembers Darla and everything returns to normal.

Thoughts

When it appeared in M&J as a Mandy classic, it says that it was a big success when it was first printed in 1982. Which is partially true, I’m sure it was popular story, but 1982 wasn’t it’s first appearance, as it was first published in 1976.

This is another entry for the secret alien invasion category, the actual alien plan is left a bit vague and we don’t know why Darla’s home planet no longer helps her in the end (did they think the plan was no longer going to work and abandon her?) but it is a fun read. Again we’ve got someone in form of child leading the invasion,though unlike Simon or The Frightening Fours, aliens create a new child rather than taking over a child already there. This way because Betty escaped the initial mind control she knows immediately something is wrong because this sister has appeared from nowhere! To have to pretend to be nice to this mysterious creature while investigating her and having no one to to confide in is tough, but she does well, after initial shock, playing along in order to keep off Darla’s radar.

Andrew Wilson’s art is so expressive, sometimes to story’s detriment as Darla undoubtedly has evil expression on her face, it’s a wonder anyone thinks she is so sweet, it’s also clear from Miss Vanton’s expression she wasn’t going to help Betty! But it is still great art all the same. The story is good, and creepy, but some of the plot points were left very vague, like what was so important about Mr Demster’s documents, and if the aliens could take on the form of actual people (such as the Doctor), why create Darla at all, could they not have just created a duplicate Mr Demster instead to get documents. It feels like a story that they had a good premise for but weren’t too sure where to go after that. Which can often be the case. Still despite some plot-holes, I think the characters, premise and and art has made this a memorable story, which is why it was chosen for multiple reprints.

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