Bunty for Girls 1990

I was going to do a Christmas post while I had time off from work, unfortunately after Christmas day, I was unwell, but I have recovered now (just in time to go back to work of course!), so better late than never, I have managed to get time to look at an old Bunty annual.

The Bunty annuals up to 1988 all depicted a drawing of the Bunty character on the cover, in 1989 this changed instead to a photo of a girl and the 1990 annual does the same, a trend that would continue until the end of the annuals. What I do notice about this earlier photo covers is they are more minimalist, with just plain background, girl, and title. Later annuals would have more text added to the cover advertising what to expect inside. For regular weekly readers they would know what to look forward to, a lot of familiar characters are present with some fun one-off stories as well. (For just a list of contents go to the next page)

 

Picture Stories

Sister Susie (Pages: 6-15)

Artist: Matias Alonso

Petra Mayne’s uncle raised a chimp named Susie like a human child. While he was away, Susie comes to stay with Petra’s family. Susie can be quite difficult to manage at times. To try and keep her entertained they go to visit a Stately home with a fun fair (oddly enough they leave Petra’s young twin siblings with a neighbour, which seems unfair that they miss out!). The plan is to stay at the outside grounds, but Susie slips away into the Hall. She causes mischief until  a group of children visiting from children’s home are able to lead her outside. They have more success at the fair as Susie helps a boy down the helter skelter and stays with the children for the rest of the day. She does manage to get up to one more piece of mischief before leaving slipping hall to steal the wax fruit display, which the Mayne’s don’t notice until driving home!

Bonnie and Claude (Pages: 17-24)

Artist: Andy Tew

Ballroom dancers Bonnie and Claude Plank along with young Laura Balmain go to Rio de Janeiro on holiday, before they are to compete in the World Latin American Dance Campionship. Unbeknownst to them a competing pair of dancers, Pedro and Carmen Maneto, have decided in order to win, they must make sure the Planks can not participate.

They follow the Planks around on holiday but their tricks always backfire, until Pedro takes drastic measures and gets bandits to kidnap the trio. The bandits put them to work for them, but it has disastrous consequences, Laura puts too much chilli in the food, the Planks flatten his gold watch and burn his long johns with an iron. Laura then comes up with a plan to escape, Bonnie and Claude distract the bandits with dancing lessons and she throws bullets on fire, making them think they are being attacked. Bonnie, Claude and Laura manage to make it to championship just in time and of course win it. Still not knowing Maneto’s involvement she is confused when the Bandit seem to blame the Manetos for things her and the Planks did!

The Wilde Bunch (Pages: 26-32)

Art: Russ Nicholson

Carol Wilde found kids for the model agency she worked at. The company used real ordinary kids off the street rather than pretty posed professional models. Carol was good at finding the perfect kid, but it could also cause a lot of trouble.

While running late for work, she runs into a boy on roller skates, although he says he will jump over her, she ducks out of way landing in water, he tells her she could have saved herself a soaking if she listened to him. When she finally gets to works she has a note from colleague Miss Potts, but she can barely read the hand-writing, “Mega TV need a boy – skater trained – for a special stunt commercial” . Miss Potts is out looking at potential candidate but rings to say she has had no luck, Carol says she has an idea that she ran into a great skater earlier, she hangs up before hearing Miss Potts protest.

The boy, Lennie, sees Carol coming and thinks she is mad about earlier and runs off. Borrowing some skates Carol goes after him. Lennie gives is skates to is twin brother Teddy and disappears, Carol catches Teddy not knowing he is a twin. Without listening to him trying to explain she rushes him over to studio wondering why he has got so clumsy all of sudden, learning the truth, she thinks she is in big trouble but the TV people are delighted with Teddy. Miss Potts arrives she had been trying to tell Carol earlier the note said ‘scatter-brained’ not ‘skater-trained’, the commercial is for a relaxing hot drink where a kid is to wreck the house. So coincidentally for Carol, everything worked out as it should!

Three stories in and a lot of humour, hijinks and misunderstandings in this annual! There’s a change of pace for the next story.

The Necklace (Pages: 33-44)

Artist: David Matysiak

As in a lot of these annuals (mostly in Diana, Man in Black stories)  a spooky tale by David Matysiak, seems tradition. In this story Sally Regan borrows a special necklace from a friend and promises to return it first thing in the morning. She puts in a secret cubby hole for safe keeping but oversleeps in the morning and forget to bring it. Jean is anxious to get the necklace back, so Sally rushes home to get it after school but doesn’t pay attention when crossing the road getting hit by truck.

Sally makes it home but is feeling strange, there is a truck moving furniture and girls in her bedroom which confuses her. Then she puts her hand through a clock and she realises she is a ghost. Her memories are not fully in tact, she remembers getting hit and she was rushing to do something important but can’t remember what it was. Getting used to her ghost state, she eavesdrops on the new owners conversations to find out her parents moved. She then seeks out her grave and sees her friends including Jean visit. Jean is sorry that she was cross about the necklace the last time she saw Sally. Now knowing what she needs to do Sally goes back to the house, and after a workman discovers her secret cubby  hole she scares him and takes the necklace placing it in Jean’s desk. This is not the end of it though, as Sally discovers so much time has passed that her old class have moved to third year. The boy who now has Jean’s desk finds the necklace and gives it to his girlfriend. Sally manages to sneak it back from her during gym class and slip it into Jean’s blazer pocket. Jean is surprised to find it, and even more surprisingly Sally wakes up in a hospital bed with her parents beside her. She has been unconscious since the accident, she thinks it was all a strange dream she had, until Jean visits wearing her necklace, saying she found it in her blazer pocket!

School’s Out! (Pages: 49-58)

Artist: Terry Aspin

Before The Comp came over from Nikki, Bunty’s equivalent long running soap story, School’s Out, followed the pupils at Wansdale School. In this story Patti asks her friends to come along to the Christmas Eve disco with her, but they all have plans – Dawn is decorating at an Old people’s home, Sandra is going to a fancy dress party, Carol is baking a Christmas cake, Ellie is going with her brother Kevin to get a Christmas tree and Gladys is being Santa at a kid’s party. Their Christmas plans end up being a disaster, after lots of complaints about her decorating Dawn discovers someone else has decorated the party room at the old peoples home, Sandra’s Eddie the Eagle costume cause her trouble as she can’t get in taxi or crowded bus with her skis, Kevin and Dawn tries to cut down a tree but after a misadventure buy one instead, and the kids are not convinced by Gladys Father Christmas voice and rip her beard off. Patti is surprised to see them all turn up at the disco, but they all have a good time in the end.

Life in Bunty (Pages: 59-61)

Not to be confused with Life with Bunty that follows the Bunty character, this strip follows Kirstie a worker in a ficionalised Bunty office, that seems to employ a number of women with a male boss they call “Sir”. In this story Kirstie recall some previous years Christmas mishaps, like Sir trying dance on table at restauraunt and slipping onto holly or when they all had the same idea to give Sir a photo of themselves as a present. This year Kirstie brings the whole office down as she slips on a filofax after decorating the office.

Toots (Page: 64)

Artist: Bill Ritchie

Toots bemoans the youth watching TV instead of doing constructive hobbies like bygone years  such as knitting, painting, playing the piano… that is until she hears the theme tune of “Neighbours” on the TV and so has to pause to watch that first.

Bike Rider (Pages: 65-69)

Artist: Andy Tew

Sandy Clark with her computerised super bike go on the hunt for a pickpocket, after mistaking a man running for the bus as the thief trying to get away, they have better luck at the circus and they find a trained monkey responsible. After the events, the ringmaster is sorry that the Bike Rider has disappeared he wanted to offer him a job as a stunt rider. Sandy overhearing thinks “he” won’t be taking up the offer.

The Four Marys (Pages: 71-80)

Artist: Jim Eldridge

After the four Marys find out that Miss Creef’s been teaching at St Elmos for 25 years, they talk to Miss Mitchell about celebrating the occasion. They decide to write to old pupils to get together for the celebration. Everyone replies except sisters Ruth and Rhoda Dale. As the last address they have for them is close to Raddy’s home, over half-term they decide to pay a visit. They are shocked when Rhoda has so much hate for Creefy, she tells them of her time in school. Her mother was a famous actress that they rarely got to see when she was in London for only one day, they wanted to go visit, but Dr Gull was unable to let them go as there was no teacher free to chaperone the. Rhoda and her sister snuck off to London anyway, surprised to meet Creefy at the train station. Despite the hotel being close by, Creefy just took them back to school, and they never got a chance to see their mother again as she died in an accident a few months later.

The Marys are disappointed that Miss Creef could do something like that, but remind themselves people can make mistakes. On the day of the celebration allthe old pupils tell stories of how Miss Creef helped them. The Marys think everything will be ruined when Ruth and Rhoda show up, but of course the story Rhoda told was not the whole truth. What she did not know was that he mother did not want to be seen with the girls in case having grown up daughters damaged her career. Miss Creef had gone to see her to try and get her to change her mind, Ruth found this out later and only after learning that Rhoda still had resentment for Miss Creef she told her the whole story. So the firm but fair Creefy’s reputatation is restored and everyone is able to happily join in the celebrations.

Haggis (Pages: 93)

Haggis is tired of having to follow orders, but he doesn’t refuse the order to come for dinner.

Life With Bunty (Pages: 94-95)

Artist: Doris Kinnear

Bunty is enjoying skating with her friends. When a boy comes along that she likes, she pretends not to be a good skater so he will offer to help her.

No Time for Terri (Pages: 97-104)

Artist: Douglas Perry

Terri Dempster’s parents run a children’s home, Heartvale House. Sometimes Terri feels her parents don’t have as much time for her as the other children, so she is excited when she sees they have booked a holiday to Paris. She icannot hide her disappointment when they tell her it is a getaway just for her mom and dad and they’ve got a temporary matron in for the week. Terri is so upset so won’t stay at the home and asks to stay with an aunt instead. She ends up quite bored, meanwhile the children aren’t getting along with the new matron and decide totrack down Terri. Terri comes back to the home and helps the matron, with all the little tricks she’s learned from her parents (like putting a sprinkle of cheese on the mash so the children eat it).

Hearing the whole story when they return, her parents are proud of her when they come back. They want to treat her to a weekend away to London just the three of them. Terri is excited but when one of the young girls, Mandy, is upset that Terri will miss her birthday, Terri feels so bad that they end up staying for the party instead. Terri tells her parents she is getting as daft about the place as they are.

Bringing Up the Barkers! (Pages: 106-112)

Artist: Andy Tew

Walter the dalmatian of Janner Hall, despaired at his new owners, the rough and common Barkers who had inherited the Hall. When Princess Idra comes to stay, he thinks she must also be appalled by the Barkers behaviour. When he invites some of his dog friends to look at the Princesses room, he get in trouble as Karl attacks a big teddy bear and the room gets wrecked. Walter is  ashamed but redeems himself when he raises the alarm to kidnappers who are spying on the place. Him and the Barkers stop them and Princess Idra is grateful, she also thinks the Barkers are fun and is enjoying her stay. Walter admits one can’t be highbrow all the time!

Dream Pony (Pages: 113-120)

Artist: Edmond Ripoll

Mandy Mason gets to ride her neighbours cart pony Missy, but dreams of owning her own exciting competitive pony. When her father comes into money her dream comes true when she is able to buy an arab pony, Flame. But she soon finds out he is not as perfect as he seems, he tires her out from straining on the reigns, is traffic shy,  he bolts from her and doesn’t watch out for people when jumping over a drop. Mandy#s friends mention having such a thoughtful pony as Missy who would never do such things has spoiled. Mandy had never seen things that way but begins to realise how lucky she was to have Missy. She gives Flame back and when her old neighbour wants to give up her cart, Mandy is delighted she can buy Missy her perfect pony for herself.

Photo Stories

Ever Had That Shrinking Feeling? (Pages: 81-92)

Helen agrees to take on her friend Rosemary’s newspaper round for a day as a favor. The shopkeeper mentions Rosemary was shakey after returning from her round the previous day. Helen wonders what could have caused trouble, as everything runs smoothly, her nerves start to ease, but when she gets to house 13 suddenly everything starts looking bigger. The house belongs to a witch who has cursed her for insulting her the previous day, not realising she’s a different paper girl. Helen has to escape the wilds of the garden before getting into the house and finally getting attention of the witch. Finding out her mistake the witch un-shrinks Helen but also makes her forget what happened. So the next day when Rosemary asks what happened thinking there is no trouble she says she doesn’t want to give up the money will take back the paper round.

There is some dodgy cut and paste sometimes with making Helen small and interacting with things, but it was a different type of photo story than we usually see so it makes it more memorable.

Features

  • Top Popstrels  (Pages: 16, 48, 70, 121)
    • Posters of popstars: Kylie Minogue,Whitney Houston, Tiffany and Sinitta
  • Pop the Question (Page: 25)
    • A pop music quiz.
  • Alton Towers (Pages: 45-47)
    • A feature on the lesure park
  • “As We Were Saying…!” (Pages: 62-63)
    • Animal photos with joke speech bubbles
  • A Right Royal Crossword (Pages: 96)
    • A crossword based on the royal family.
  • Lets All Go to Sandy City! (Page: 105)
    • Feature on sculptor Kent Trollen sand city built on Seal beach, California.
  • A Photo Story is Born… (Pages: 122-123)
    • An interesting insight into the making of a photo story. The story in question is “Nothing to be Afraid of” appeared in the Bunty 1989 Summer Special.  According to this feature firstly the writer Judy Maslen, passes on the story to sub-editor Jeanette Taylor which then gets passed to photographers Norman and Benita Brown. The photographers gather the cast and after shooting the scenes, the film is developed and passed back to the Bunty office. The type is set, read and corrected and stuck up by balloonist Elaine Bolton.
  • Design a Fashion (Pages: 124-125)
    • Eight fashion designs submitted by readers, redrawn by a Bunty artist.

 

Final Thoughts

This was the earliest Bunty annual I owned when I was younger (well… technically it belonged to my sister first). I always preferred the Mandy and Judy annuals, but Bunty had its merits too and I have good memories of this. There is a lot of humourous stories in this, I enjoyed The Wilde Bunch, the misunderstandings and Carol’s chase of Lennie is quite dynamic. The soap story School’s Out could be played for drama in the weekly issues at times, but this story instead goes for a humourous Christmas inspired tale. I especially appreciate Sandra’s costume of an eagle with skis to represent Eddie the Eagle. Another favourite of mine is The Necklace the long spooky story, left you wondering how much was a dream and is a story that stuck out in memory with of course David Matysiak’s distinctive art.  The Four Marys is always a classic, and I do have a soft spot for stories that show flashbacks to St Elmos in the past, of course there was a misunderstandings with Miss Creef, us readers could hardly believe she could be so cruel and story shows of course that’s not the case.  It’s the only story that shows us some past events as well, as all the stories are set in contemporary times, no tragic Victorian orphans stories present here.

Surprisingly we get no text stories, although maybe its not a big surprise as Bunty annuals didn’t have a lot of text stories other than the very early years, and none appeared in annuals from 1988 to 1992. We do get one photo story, Ever Had That Shrinking Feeling? is more memorable than other photo stories which usually stuck to general life stories with their restricted format. Another bonus of this book is the behind the scenes of how the photo stories were made, with names of people who worked on the story. Photos taken of photographer taking photos for a photo story, all very layered! There were some other other fun features, I liked the Design a Fashion page where reader’s designs would be drawn by a Bunty artist, and the sand sculptures in the Lets all Go to Sandy City.

 

Carole – the Clownmaker (1979)

Published: Bunty PSL #199

Artist: Carlos Laffond

Writer: Unknown

Reprints: None known

There was a request for this one, so here we go.

Plot

Orphan Carole Patton has been brought up by her grandfather in Antello’s Circus, where he works as a clown. Now he’s getting too old for it and needs to retire, but Antello won’t hear of it because grandfather’s the star attraction of the circus. As the story develops, we learn Antello doesn’t like anything that costs him money, which can be at the cost of the safety and wellbeing of his performers.

Grandfather is saving hard to buy a cottage where he and Carole can retire together. Unfortunately, he keeps the money in a cashbox in the caravan because he does not trust banks, despite Carole’s warnings that it’s not safe to keep his money like that.

One day, while setting up the circus in a new location, Carole discovers they’ve picked up a stowaway, Tim Newall, who says he’s run away to join the circus. One gets the impression he’s hiding something, but Carole agrees to help him, and grandfather takes him on as a trainee clown. They are surprised when Antello, who can’t afford to pay Tim a wage and still won’t let grandfather go, agrees to this. Tim does well in performance, but Antello isn’t full of praises; his mind is set on keeping grandpa in the circus and he still isn’t friendly to Tim.

 

Antello overhears Carole talking to Tim about the money stashed in Grandad’s caravan for the retirement cottage and tells Carole to watch it, as he doesn’t trust Tim. Soon after, grandad’s cashbox is stolen from his caravan. Well, that was just waiting to happen, wasn’t it? Antello puts the blame on Tim, and Tim becomes an outcast at the circus. Carole refuses to believe Tim took the money, but she did notice he looked a bit strange when Antello suggested calling the police.

Then, one night Satan the lion gets loose and Tim bravely tackles him with nothing but a balloon (as shown on the cover). Satan is so taken by surprise that he is stunned, giving the circus hands their chance to recapture him. Following this, Tim is the hero of the circus and the circus folk forget their doubts about him.

Tim and Carole notice how worn and dangerous the trapeze equipment is getting, but Antello is apathetic about replacing it because it costs money. The trapeze artists know about the situation, but they are aging and therefore afraid they won’t find other work if they leave the circus. Tim successfully stands up to Antello over the dangerous equipment, but is warned this has put him on Antello’s bad side, which can make him really nasty.

In town, Carole discovers two men shadowing Tim and he tries to avoid them. Back at the circus, she tackles Tim over whether he’s in some kind of trouble and is scared someone will recognise him, but he doesn’t front up over anything. They don’t realise they have discussed this with Antello in earshot.

The two men arrive at the circus. Tim again tries to dodge them, and later Carole sees them talking with Antello. She overhears them trying to get Antello to help them, but Antello has qualms about it. There is also something about them getting in touch “with the old man”, but they get alerted to Carole eavesdropping, so she has to run. She heads after Tim about this, but he disappears.

Next day, Tim is still missing and one of the men shows up at Antello’s again. Carole overhears him telling the jittery Antello everything’s going to plan, they’ve been in touch with the old man – and there’s something about a ransom. She realises the men must have kidnapped Tim for ransom, but doesn’t understand the point as Tim does not seem to have any money or family.

Carole hides in the man’s car, which he drives to a cottage. The man tells his accomplice that Antello was scared and he had to spend a lot of time talking him around. Carole finds Tim tied up in the cottage, releases him, and they run for it. As they do so, Tim explains that his father is the reclusive millionaire J. B. Willows. After two attempts were made to kidnap Tim for ransom he decided to run away. The two men, Leigh and Martin, were his bodyguards, but they turned kidnapper after Dad threatened to sack them, and they recruited Antello to help them.

Leigh and Martin are catching up in the car, but Carole and Tim fall into an old pit shaft, which helps them to elude their pursuers. After climbing out they grab the kidnappers’ car and find their way back to the circus, calling the police along the way. Tim’s dad, who had hired a private detective to find him and traced him to the circus, arrives as well. When the police search Antello’s caravan they find grandad’s cashbox; it was another of Antello’s ploys to keep grandad at the circus. Antello and the kidnappers are soon dealt with. Dad owns a place in Devon with several empty cottages and tells Carole and grandad they can have any one they like as a reward. The cottage will be close to where Tim goes to school, so they can continue their friendship.

Thoughts 

In circus serials, it was a common setup to have a newcomer at the circus with a mystery about them that shapes the entire story, including whether the mystery makes them good news or bad. As we have an antagonist circus boss, we know it has to be good, but the villainy of the circus boss is going to help shape the mystery, including why Tim has run away. Was it just to join the circus, or is there more to it? We sense it is the latter and Tim is hiding something. Whatever he is hiding, girls love mystery, so the mystery is an instant hook for this story. So too are the plot threads of grandad’s cashbox (we know something bad is going to happen there) and what the mean circus boss is going to do about the newcomer he perceives as a threat to keeping his star attraction clown where he is. What is he going to do to get rid of Tim?

Having a boy as one of the main protagonists arouses the readers’ interest even further. We can just imagine what would develop between Carole and Tim if they were closer in age (and height), but these were still the days before Bunty allowed boyfriends in her stories.

There’s a lot in this story to keep things engaging: a strong plot with plenty of tantalising threads, circus theme, mystery, a mean circus boss who doesn’t consider his performers more, sinister men, an unsolved theft and kidnapping. Antello gets a strong moment to heighten the story when the kidnappers try to get him to help them. He is clearly tempted because he doesn’t like Tim, but is he evil enough to get involved in real crime, will he prove the weak link in the chain because he’s scared, or will he actually find his better half and do something to help the situation? As it is, he made himself complicit enough in the kidnapping plot to get arrested for it. Plus it unmasked him as the one who stole grandad’s cashbox.

One of the biggest selling points of the story is the character arc of Tim, which is perhaps developed even more than Carole. Tim really earns his place as a protagonist. He almost became a recluse like his father after the first two kidnap attempts, but has instead turned to using his wits more. His best moment has to be tackling the lion with nothing but a balloon. This astounding scene puts the rest of the drama in the shade and grabs the cover to boot.

As Tim settles into the circus he shows he really has what it takes to be a clown and a performer. So it is a shame Tim doesn’t stay at the circus at the end of the story. He’s back to school, but we never know how his circus experience will shape his choice of career once he leaves school.

Carole is pretty much what we expect her to be: loyal, courageous, does her best to help, acts fast when needed, and is the one to save the day. Some things could have been explained a bit more about Carole’s circus life and how she feels about the retirement. Carole begs grandad to train her up as a clown, but is it to take his place and give him a break, or is it because she wants a circus career as well? Grandad says he wants her to have a normal life and education as her mother wanted, and she seems okay with retiring from the circus with grandad to a cottage. After all, Carole doesn’t seem to do any performing and only came to the circus after she was orphaned. As it is, Carole regards everything as a happy ending and is so glad she can still see Tim, sparking readers’ imaginations as to what might ensue from that.

Anthea Skiffington – DCT Writer

Anthea Skiffington, a writer for DC Thomson, wrote for the comics, Suzy, Nikki, M&J and Bunty. She had a long career with the comics and her most famous story being the long running soap story The Comp.

To note, as people’s memories are not always the most reliable, especially when trying to recall stories written 40 years ago, it was once said a previous headmaster came up with the story idea The Comp but as that was second hand information it is possible that it was confused with another story such as Bunty’s School’s Out a similar story which predated The Comp joining Bunty. Also there have been other claims for the idea for the story of Luv, Lisa, but may have been collaborative talk between editors and writers.

Thanks to Anthea for sharing some of her memories and experiences writing these comics.

How did you get your start working on these comics?

Back in 1981, on a whim, I submitted an idea for a series, “The Travels of Troyah”. The editors were looking for stories for a new paper, “Suzy”. They liked Troyah, and off the back of that, I met with three of the editors in London (they would come down twice a year for story conferences) and they commissioned further series from me, initially for Mandy and Judy. All short 12-episode types – The Comp was really the first long serial we did, when Nikki came along in 1985.

You wrote The Comp for many years and I noticed some good continuity over the years, did you keep notes on all the characters?

No, I don’t think I did – I just remembered things better in those days!!!

The Comp started in the Nikki comics following a set of characters who later moved on, and a new set of characters were introduced. Can you remember if this was a choice by editors or something you wanted to do?

It was the editors’ idea, and took me rather by surprise. I think the editors regretted it at first, as Sam, Julie, Lisa and Megan had been very popular, and there were a LOT of complaints from the readers when they suddenly disappeared. Luckily everyone got used to Laura, Becky, Hayley and Nadina in time!

You also mentioned you wrote another long running soap story Penny’s Place, as well as Luv, Lisa and even some Four Marys stories. That was sure to keep you busy, but were there any other stories you wrote, like one-off series?

Lots, too many to recall!! But I do remember writing such stories as “Ernie’s Girl”, “Please, Mum”, “Sally’s Seven Sisters”, “Call Me Joe” and many more. Once I started on all the serials the series started to taper off as I didn’t have much spare time.

When the editors first pitched the idea for Sally’s Seven Sisters to me, it was to have been Sally’s SEVENTEEN Sisters – and they were all to have been Sally’s age , I talked them round and got it down to seven, and demoted Sally to a mere twin. Much more believable – and workable!

I wasn’t the regular writer of the Four Marys, I was honoured to be asked to write five stories for them in 1990 – ostensibly to “update them” for the new decade.

   
(Sally’s Seven Sisters and Ernie’s Girl)

You wrote a lot of soap stories with ongoing storylines, what was your favourite part of writing these?

I liked being able to develop characters and situations, and the way one story idea would often segue into another. It made thinking up plot-lines rather easier. too. Also I felt I got to know the characters in more depth – hopefully the readers did, too!

Getting to write some stories for the famous The Four Marys must have been fun. Were there other stories you would have like to tackled?

No, I think I got to write everything I wanted to – I was lucky!

As these comics were mostly not credited, I’m always interested to find out about people behind the scenes, were there any other creators that you worked with or knew?

Alas, I too only ever met with the editors. They would, as I mentioned above, come to a London hotel twice a year and the writers would travel up to have individual story conference sessions with them. On a few occasions they flew me up to Dundee when they wanted to talk in more depth (such as when we were working out how to merge the Comp storylines from Nikki into Bunty, for instance).

Writing for comics, Nikki and M&J which would eventually merge with Bunty, and then eventually Bunty also closed up, did that news surprise you when they would stop a comic? Did you continue on writing after Bunty finished?

Sadly, no. When circulation fell below a certain number (usually around 40,000, as I recall), it became unprofitable for D C Thomson to keep a title going, and they warned us in advance when things were going to shut down, or when two titles were going to merge.

I’d already had three books published, so I think I was about written out. When the comics ceased publication I changed career and became a medical secretary, a job I loved

Any other memories or thoughts that you’d like to add?

Just that working for D C Thomson was enormous fun and I felt very privileged to have been able to earn my living for 20 years doing something I enjoyed so much!

 

 List of Stories written by Anthea Skiffington
  • The Travels of Troyah – Suzy: #19 (15 January 1983) – #34 (30 April 1983)
  • Sally’s Seven Sisters– Judy: #1241 (22 October 1983) – #1254 (21 January 1984), #1509 (10 December 1988) – #1522 (11 March 1989) and #1537 (24 June 1989) – #1544 (12 August 1989)
  • Call Me Joe! – Suzy: #82 (31 March 1984) – #94 (23 June 1984)
  • “Please, Mum!” – Bunty:  1401 (17 Nov 1984) – (?)
  • Ernie’s Girl –  circa #1428 (25 May 1985)
  • The CompNikki:  #01 (23 February 1985) – #237 (02 September 1989) and Bunty: #1650 (26 August 1989)– #2243 (6 January 2001)
  • Luv, Lisa –  Bunty:  #1659 (28 Oct 1989) – #1688 (19 May 1990)
  • The Four Marys – Bunty (5 stories circa 1990s)
  • Penny’s Place – M&J: #93 (20 February 1993) – #315(24 May 1997) and Bunty: #2055 (31 May 19) – #2249(17 February 2001)

.

Oh, Boy! (1993)

 

Plot

Charlotte Wilson, a tomboy who is always called Charlie, moves to a new town and stumbles upon an open air audition for a new television series. Because of her boyish looks, she is mistaken for a boy and gets a male part in the show, and continues pretending to be a boy in order not to lose the role. Inevitably she is discovered, but she has become too popular to be fired. So the director writes her true gender into the show as a twin sister.

Appeared

  • Oh, Boy! – Bunty #1845 (May 22, 1993) – #1854 (July 24, 1993).

Notes

  • Art: Ron Lumsden.
  • Translated into Dutch as “Zeg maar Nico!” (Call me Nico!) in Tina #7/1994-16/1994, reprinted #18, 2002.
  • Image from Dutch translation.

Amy Beckett Says… [1993]

  • Amy Beckett Says… –  M&J:  #104 (8 May 1993) – #112 (10 July 1993)
  • Artist: Guy Peeters

Plot

After a bulldozer accidentally knocks against the the old entrance archway of the school, friends Fay Davis and Karen Green, notice some strange things happening. Fay feels an eerie chill when passing the entrance way and then some younger school kids start singing a skipping rhyme “Amy Beckett, now she’s free says come on girls and dance with me!”. A prefect, Jane, clears the young girls for making too much noise, later that day their skipping song changes to “Amy Beckett sees it all. Watch out when the oak leaves fall!”.  Fay and Karen don’t think the words make much sense as all the Autumn leaves have already fallen. Then Jane has a lucky escape when Fay saves her from a falling stone. Jane is clearly shaken, but the girls reason that it most have come loose when the bulldozer knocked against it. Fay notices a pattern of oak leaves on the stone, they put it down to a strange coincidence, though they don’t hear the girls now singing “Amy Beckett see it all and she KNEW the leaves would fall!”

The next day after a workman tells the skipping girls to move out of the way, the rhyme changes again, referencing the classic ‘ring-a-ring o’ roses’ nursery song. Fay, who still thinks something strange is going on, is worried when the workmen are planting a rose garden, that the rhyme is referencing it but is temporarily placated when nothing bad happens. She later realises when a builder sneezes and causes some bricks from a pulley to fall down injuring a workman, that she was right something bad would happen just not right in what the song referenced. Karen has also come around to the idea that the girls singing is a threat. Fay and Karen decide to talk to one the young girls they know, Annie, but she claims she doesn’t know any skipping rhymes. Karen theorises the girls are in some kind of trance while singing and don’t remember anything. But their questions have made them targets, the skipping girls surround them singing them to sleep and  in their dreams the ghost of Amy Beckett appears warning them not to interfere.

The girls are not deterred and decide to find out who Amy Beckett was, but when they try to look things up in the library, the reference cards start flying everywhere. They do manage to get a lead on some local history books that may be of use and the librarian tells them they are out on loan to an ex-teacher of their school. The skipping girls are keeping a watch on Fay and Karen, and when they try to go to Mrs Wilkins the next day, they are surrounded by fog, eventually they get to her house. Mrs Wilkins says she is writing a book about the school and shows them her notes, but the notes just repeat the same rhyme “Amy Beckett, now she’s free says come on girls and dance with me!”.  Then her granddaughter arrives it is one of the skipping girls, they find themselves surrounded as they sing “Amy says What is the fuss? Mrs Wilkins is with us!”. As the girls get away from the house, they have some luck when they find the history books in the rubbish bin outside.

At a cafe, when reading though the books Fay comes across a story about a tragedy at the school, but then it appears the book goes on fire. She douses it in water, but Karen didn’t see any flames. The cafe owner accuses them of vandalism and says she will return the books to library herself. We start to get hints of what could of happened to Amy, through the illusions and new rhymes. The girls sing “Everybody in this town says Amy Beckett burns things down!” then at the school the girls see flames they can’t be sure if its another illusion and sound the fire alarm. Annie has set them up to be caught by a teacher as there isn’t a fire. They are given detention to write ten thousand lines saying “Amy Beckett never was bad. But no-one believes her isn’t that sad?”. The lines are magically done, and they are told to give the sheets around the town. Mrs Wilkins is upset by the sheets, claiming it is all lies.More illusions show a newspaper saying “Amy Beckett is innocent” and fire caused by other girl before changing back to normal headline. We are given more information when the skipping girls new rhyme is “Amy didn’t start the fire  – Enid Armstrong is the liar”

Determined to get to the truth, Karen asks her dad who works for local newspaper if they can look at their records. While driving to office, Amy Beckett beckons Mrs Wilkins to step out in front of car, luckily  Mr Green stops just in time, he takes Mrs Wilkins home while Fay and Karen go on to the office. While they aren’t having luck finding information on fire, Karen finds an interesting wedding notice for local teacher Enid Armstrong marrying Ken Willkins. The girls figure out through what they heard in the rhymes and what they  saw on the fake newspaper that Mrs Wilkins was responsible for the fire and now Amy is out for revenge. The girls track down Mrs Wilkins but Amy has got to her first, hypnotising her and leading her to top of the school roof. Amy is about to get Mrs Wilkins to walk off the roof, but at last second has a change of mind and stops her and lets her go free. Mrs Wilkins confesses to starting the fire and blaming Amy who had died saving her. With the truth out the new school extension is named after Amy, to honour her and her ghost can now be at peace.

Thoughts

This was an effective creepy ghost story, the young girls skipping chant makes for an unsettling atmosphere, that sticks in your mind. While the story starts off, with Amy Beckett seeming to have no purpose but to cause trouble, later we find out more about her tragedy. As a ghost she seems quite conflicted, she wants revenge on Mrs Wilkins and wants to stop the girls investigating, but she also wants the truth to be known. At first she is an angry spirit, causing potentially deadly accidents to the prefect and workman for trying to stop the skipping girls, but she just warns off Fay and Karen and later only tries to cause the true fire culprit, Mrs Wilkins, harm. She tries to stop Fay and Karen in their research but then also starts to show them what happened by the false newspaper headline and tries to spread the truth by getting them to pass out papers saying she wasn’t bad. She comes close to taking full revenge on Mrs Wilkins, but as we know in life  Amy was a heroic person, it seems as a ghost she still has some of those qualities in her and can’t bring herself to go through with it. Which is good as she finds the truth is what sets her free not revenge.

While the girls own investigations are often disrupted like in the library and cafe, their biggest clues come from the rhymes and illusions that Amy shows them. It’s interesting that the biggest revelation they find themselves is not about a fire but a wedding notice. I thought that was a nice twist, rather than finding an article detailing a fire that we could figure out from what had happened from what been shown in the story but instead tying the importance of Mrs Wilkins to Amy’s revenge plot. Up to this point Mrs Wilkins could have just been targeted just because she was writing a book about the school, but we learn it is much worse. She started the fire, although we are not given a reason or whether it was on purpose or an accident, Mrs Wilkins was worried about getting in trouble and then blamed the girl who had died saving her. We don’t know what the consequences for her will be, but if she felt guilt over the years maybe now her conscience can be put to rest as well.

The other thing I noticed on this read is perhaps a sneaky reference to another ghost story The Shining where  in the film Jack’s draft of his book repeats the old proverb “All Work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in this Mrs Wilkins notes repeat the Amy Beckett rhyme. While there have been other evil influence ghost stories, I do find the repeating rhymes, the mystery and that Amy Beckett wasn’t all evil makes it stand out from some others. It is a good read for Halloween and the resolution of the story, with the truth finally coming to light and Amy finding peace, was satisfying.

 

The Boot Laceys

Plot

Paula Lacey and her twin brother and sister, Peter and Penny, were orphans. Along with their grandfather, they were travelling to Willowdene in a giant-sized boot which they had converted into a home with wheels. Mr Lacey was a skilled cobbler, and intended to go into partnership with his brother when they reached Willowdene.

Notes

  • Art: “B. Jackson”

Appeared

  • The Boot Laceys – Mandy: #294 (2 September 1972) – #299 (7 October 1972)

Other Appearances:

  • The Boot Laceys – Mandy Annual 1974

The Girl with the Wooden Collar

Plot

Kate Pickard was the daughter of a rich English merchant in the 14th century. Kate was on her way to join her father when she was captured by pirates  and sold as a slave to a tribe of Tartars. She was made the favourite slave of Princess Temulin, the Tartar chief’s daughter. Kate was forced to wear a wooden collar as a punishment for trying to escape.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Girl with the Wooden Collar – Mandy: #280 (27 May 1972) – #289 (29 July 1972)

Sarah – Slave of Darkness

Plot

In the 1800s, young Sarah Brown worked with scores of other unfortunate children in a coal mine. Only the hope that she might find a clue in the mine to prove that her father had not caused the disastrous explosion in which six men had been killed, enabled her to continue to work in the dreadful conditions in the pit. Her father, Jeremy Brown, had lost his memory in the accident and Sarah had to look after him in addition to earning a living.

Notes

Appeared

  • Sarah – Slave of Darkness – Mandy: #275 (22 April 1972) – #284 (24 June 1972)