Published: Loser Lou – Bunty PSL #214; “I’ll Make You a Winner” – Bunty #240 (sequel)
Artist: John McNamara
These two PSLs starring Lou Lambert are being looked at together in a joint entry.
Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for scans of the second PSL.
Plot – Loser Lou
Lou Lambert and her family are spending a holiday at the Summerton Sports Centre because they are sports fiends and champions: Dad (golf), Mum (swimming), Lynn (athletics), Larry (martial arts), and Lou…“the world’s worst at sports and games”, and the kids back home call her “Loser Lou”. But Lou’s a Lambert, her family says, and Lamberts are winners. They tell her she’ll find a sport she’s good at. In the Lambert family, says Dad, “there are no such words as ’I can’t.’ We add two letters of the alphabet to them, and say, ‘I can try!’” So, although it looks like Lou may have skipped the Lambert sports gene, she has to keep trying.
Lou tries basketball, but she can’t match the players’ speed, and then she trips over her shoelace, sending players and the hoop crashing. Lynn advises her to look at a sport that’s more suited for her build (hmmm…considering her build, that could be tricky). Lou tries orienteering, but she gets horribly lost, not to mention getting a horrible blister on her foot. Next, Lou looks at a power-assisted sport. Deciding the motorised water sports are a bit beyond her, she tries cycling although she was never much good at it when she was younger. She soon finds she has not improved much since then, and then she lands herself in a cycling race. To cap it all, a newspaper flies in her face, sending her through someone’s picnic and then into the river.
Lou’s brother Larry tells her “winning is all in the mind! If you think you’re going to lose, you will lose – but if you’re sure you’re going to win, you will win!” Impressed, Lou works on boosting her confidence. She tries tennis next, but she’s barely got started when she challenges an opponent – without realising she’s Wimbledon standard! Lou comes a cropper over the tennis net and has to report to first aid.
Following this, Lou becomes disheartened, but her father, disappointed at her attitude, encourages her to try again. Lou tries archery, and she’s really smitten by the instructor – what a hunk! But her crush on the instructor is proving a distraction. In her drive to impress she pulls the bow too hard, and her arrow goes wild. While dodging it, the instructor hurts his leg, and now archery’s off at Summerton.
The Lamberts are now over halfway through their stay at Summerton. There will be a Grand Gala Display on the final day, and so far, nothing for Lou to show there.
Then, while watching Lynn practise athletics, Lou meets Monica. After hearing Lou’s story, Monica tells her that she failed at those sports because she was on her own when she tried them. What she needs, says Monica, is a sport where she will have the support of a friend. So she pursuades Lynn to try riding: “A girl’s best friend is her pony!”
Lynn is apprehensive, but is surprised to find herself a natural in the saddle and not messing things up at all. Before long, Lou’s family are astonished to see the strides Lou is making at jumping. Monica is going to enter Lou in the jumping competition on Gala Day. It looks like Lou has found her sport at last. Surely nothing can go wrong now.
But of course something can…
Lou doesn’t realise Monica has a grudge against her sister Lynn because Lynn’s superiority at the high jump had her scratch from the Gala Day high jump event. Her revenge is to make Lou foul up at the jumping event by switching her mount, Good Boy, with his evil twin, Bad Lad. She takes further measures to put Bad Lad in a nasty mood for the event, one of which Lou unwittingly foils.
Bad Lad’s threatening to throw Lou when the event begins, but Monica is astonished when Lou not only stays in the saddle but completes clear rounds as well while other riders score faults. Afterwards, Lou says she was too scared to even move and kept her eyes shut – WTF you ask? Yes, it is a puzzle, but the fact remains that Lou did win. So she is among the other Lamberts to receive trophies at the prize-giving and can say she’s a winner at last.
Plot – “I’ll Make You a Winner”
Back home, everyone is surprised at this sports trophy Loser Lou has brought back from Summerton. Lou’s confidence is so high, she’s joined the civic sports club. Only Corinne Fox guesses the trophy was a fluke. Figuring Lou’s as much a duffer as ever at sport, Corinne and her father, who’s on the committee at the club, plot to take advantage of this to get the sports club closed down so he can build a bingo hall on the site.
Fox starts by getting Lou the assistant secretary job at the club, where she’ll be in charge of all the fixtures. The plan is to mislead her on a few details on the events she’s arranging, and for good measure, Corinne throws in some dirty tricks as well.
Their first trick has Lou select a darts team for an event that’s in fact a brain of sports competition. But they didn’t count on Lou knowing so many answers to the sports questions that get asked. Yep, Lou may not be sporty, but she knows heaps about sport thanks to her sporty family. She gives her team so much confidence that they answer brilliantly too, and they win the trophy hands down. To make Fox even more furious, they also impressed the mayoress, who was presenting the trophy, when he was trying to convince her and the council otherwise to get the club closed down.
Next, Corinne tricks Lou into challenging the top-class white water club, without realising they are top windsurfers and it’s a championship event, and nobody in the club is qualified in that sport. But when the Foxes read the paper of the event, they discover Lou has done it again. The weather turned in her favour by turning bad, cancelling the event. What’s more, the lifesaver Lou included on her team saved one of the windsurfers who got caught in the bad weather, which is even more good publicity for the club. Foiled again, Fox!
Lou makes bookings for club members at an activity weekend, but again the Foxes mess up her bookings. Instead of sports activities they find themselves on furniture crafts courses. However, this works out in their favour; the club’s furniture and sports equipment were badly in need of repairs, and now they have the know-how to do some DIY jobs on them.
Lou books a gym display club open day, but bad luck strikes when she puts a bad crick in her back while shifting equipment. The Foxes try to mess up the open day by inviting army gymnasts as guests, but when the guys break equipment because they’re too heavy for it, they offer replacements, so the club gets the new equipment it badly needs.
Deciding the club needs funds, Lou decides on a sponsored canoe race against Chatterton College. Again the Foxes mislead her on just what the Chatterton competition will be like, and they are another lot of Olympic-build powerdrivers all set to outmatch Lou’s team. Corinne throws in a few extra dirty tricks, including putting up a number of misleading signs, to make sure Lou’s team fail. Without realising it, Lou stops her team from falling for any of those signs (she didn’t want them to leave her in the middle of nowhere by following them, as her back was playing up). And within the finishing line, the Chatterton team hit something. Their canoes go down, and Lou’s team wins.
Fox arranges for a football medical expert to sort out Lou’s back, who then introduces her to stage one of a fitness programme the footballers have been using. Lou starts teaching it to the club members in the style that has become her signature since joining: typical Loser Lou bungling, yet things always work out somehow. But what Lou doesn’t realise is that stage two of the fitness programme is at an R.A.F. airfield – and its programme includes parachute jumping practice! If the members don’t participate, says Mr Fox, the mayor and council, who are watching, might close down their hall and turn it into a bingo hall. But neither they nor the footballers are willing to jump, and the spectators are getting impatient.
Lou has arrived late, so she doesn’t know any of this as she handed an automatic-opening parachute kit and told to join the others at the Jumping Tower. The bumbling Lou blunders right through the jumping hole, becoming the first jumper and satisfying the restless crowd. Encouraged by Lou’s (accidental) example, her team follows suit. And so Lou’s civic club wins again.
Impressed that Lou has done what the footballers wouldn’t, the Mayor refuses Fox permission to replace the sports hall with a bingo hall. Instead, he’s giving the members a grant to expand their activities.
All Corinne and her father can do now is give up. “All our plans have failed – because of that Lou Lambert! Somehow, she always lands on her feet!”
Ah, so that explains Lou’s victory over Monica’s sabotage at Summerton.
Lou Lambert comes from a long line of protagonists in girls’ comics who try to prove themselves, but they only seem good for failure and be a walking disaster area at everything they try. As with Lou, their failures can be played for laughs. Or it can be for a sadder purpose, with their being the constant target of bullying and ridicule, along with harsh treatment from their own families for failure, such as in Make Headlines, Hannah! (Tammy) and Tears of a Clown (Jinty). Of course they eventually strike gold and find something they excel at, but the road to success is very bumpy. Added to that, there’s often a schemer at work trying to sabotage them.
Lou is so blessed in having a family who are supportive and encourage her to keep trying. The more usual pattern is for the family to treat the protagonist harshly and write her off as hopeless and good for nothing. Worse, it’s often the family that produces the spiteful schemer out to sabotage them (sisters, cousins). Of course, much the Lamberts’ encouragement comes from belief in the family name (Lamberts are winners) and the family motto, so they won’t hear of her quitting.
Lou’s family could do more to help her, such as helping her with her choices and offering a bit of coaching, but they’re probably too absorbed in their own sports. Lou’s left on her own on what sports to try out at Summerton.
Monica is correct about Lou failing at the various sports because she tried them on her own. In fact, Lou’s pattern was to jump straight into them them without any help, training or coaching (apart from the archery). Moreover, they were all sports she had not tried before, and when she tried them on her own, she did so at the deep end, not the beginner level.
It’s jarring when Monica, the helper, suddenly switches to spiteful schemer out to undermine Lou. It also defeats the whole purpose of the PSL, which was, after all, Lou finding a sports talent of her own and proving it could make her a winner. Instead, you’re left feeling Lou won the trophy by fluke or luck rather than talent. Though she still earned the trophy, considering the stunt Monica pulled on her, we’re left with feeling she has still not really proven talent. It proves Corinna’s point that the win was a fluke. It would have been better for Lou to have won the cup through her own skill and growing confidence, and proven beyond doubt that she had a sports talent.
So, when readers who remember Lou start reading her sequel, they will be wondering if Lou really does prove talent this time. From the cover, one would say not, so why is Lou saying, “I’ll make you a winner”?
Lou certainly has gained confidence by winning the trophy, but is confidence enough? It is disappointing that she is not keeping up the horse riding, the one sport she finally hit her stride on. Instead, she’s pursuing the sports centre and the sports there (table tennis, darts, fitness programmes) in pretty much the same manner she did at the failed sports at Summerton.
The irony is, although Lou’s still bumbling, this time she’s achieving more success through it and it’s helping her to save the day – without even realising what happened in the first place. And Lou’s real talent has surfaced: the talent of always landing on her feet, like a cat with nine lives. This was hinted at with her victory at Summerton, but now it’s confirmed beyond doubt in her sequel.
Such things have been seen before, such as “Simple Simona” (Tammy) – a dopey girl who is perpetually targeted by spiteful schemers, but her blundering ways always foil them in great comic style, without her even realising what happened. But here, Lou’s blundering has the unexpected bonus of things nobody would have thought possible with her before. She has not only become more confident but has also become a confidence booster, inspiring confidence, inspiration and success in others.
Lou may not be winning sports trophies, but she is proving herself a winner in other ways and making whole new strides with success in sport that nobody ever expected – herself included. As Corinne says, “The civic sports club was only half alive before she turned up and my dad had almost persuaded the council to close it down.” Now Lou is not only saving the club (without realising it) but giving it a whole new lease of life as well. She is surprising everyone – even the Foxes – in being able to tackle things far better than expected, such as selecting the darts team. Lou is also handling the sports fixtures far better than expected, and if not for the sneaky Foxes messing things up, she’d be doing a brilliant job of it. And she is doing a most enthusiastic, passionate job of improving the club and its members, and helping them to grow even more than before.
The irony is, it started with Mr Fox giving her the assistant secretary job in the hope it would help him close the club. Instead, it does the opposite. Moreover, rather than falling flat on her face in her new job, it gives her another boost of confidence and whole new windows in achieving success, including new-found skills in management, leadership, and inspiring others. Even without becoming a sports champion and winning trophies like the rest of her family, she is making her mark on the club and the world of sport. The club would not be the same without her, and readers are left satisfied that Loser Lou will get along just fine now.