Tag Archives: Abusive guardians

Who is Astra? (1983)

Published: Mandy PSL #62

Reprint: Mandy PSL #211

Artist: Kim Raymond


Esther Blake is having a hike out on Storm Peak with her father and brother Tom. Suddenly, a storm comes in without warning and lightning strikes Esther. Her condition almost kills her several times in hospital, and she has to be revived by artificial respiration, hovering between life and death.

When Esther returns home she starts having nightmares of her family being cruel towards her. They force her to do all the work while mocking, bullying and beating her. They sneer at how she has to do everything by hand, with no modern labour-saving devices to help her. She is dressed in rags and the house is shabby and run down.

Then Esther’s cousin Astra arrives to stay. Everyone marvels at how she could be Esther’s twin, except for the colour of her hair. Esther notices how she and Astra are virtual mirror image opposites. Astra even has the same scar on her left arm that Esther has on her right. Hmm, doppelganger alert here?

What the story pays less attention to verbally, but can be seen in most of the panels, is that Astra is wearing a star-shaped necklace. Meanwhile, Astra is making odd remarks about things she should not know about that have Esther becoming suspicious of her – in a worried sort of way.

In true doppelganger fashion, Astra is soon causing big trouble for Esther. She plays sly tricks to get Esther into trouble with the family and then sweetly telling them, oh please, please, don’t blame Esther. What makes it so easy is that the family always seem to instantly believe the worst of Esther despite Astra’s sugary sweet attempts to convince them otherwise – as if they were being poisoned or under a spell of some sort. And while they are harsh with Esther, they make a big fuss over Astra and what a sweet girl she is.

It’s exactly the same thing at school once Astra starts there with Esther. Astra’s tricks and everyone oddly assuming the worst of Esther all the time soon get Esther into big trouble with the teachers and losing her friends. Esther’s performance begins to suffer, both academically and athletically, and it’s not just because of Astra. Esther feels oddly tired and unwell and can’t understand why. Esther is soon pushed out of the sports teams while Astra takes her place. Everyone comments on Astra’s sporting performance being just like what Esther’s used to be (another clue?).

By now Esther has realised that Astra is pushing her out of everything and deliberately turning everyone against her. But she soon finds trying to speak out does no good with everyone just assuming the worst of her all the time.

Meanwhile the nightmares continue, but now they seem to be more than just nightmares. In one dream, the evil family chase Esther into brambles and thorns. When Esther wakes up she finds scratches on her arms and legs that were not there before. In another dream the abusers force her to scrub the floor until her hands are raw, and she still has to scrub. Next morning, Esther finds her hands look and feel exactly that way. She also suspects that Astra knows the contents of the dreams.

Then Esther dreams she is back on Storm Peak, and being hit by lightning. Astra and the evil parents come up behind her. Astra jeers that they have come for her, and eggs them on to carry Esther off. Esther breaks free of them but gets hit by lightning. When Esther wakes up, she is surprised to see Astra looking white and scared for a change. She realises Astra is scared because she knows about the dream.

Realising the dream means something, Esther heads straight to Storm Peak first thing in the morning. As she climbs up the peak, she sees Astra has followed.

Astra explains that she is the evil side of Esther. The lightning accident caused her to come in from a parallel universe where everything is the opposite of what it is in this one. Her plan is to take Esther’s place in this universe and drive Esther into the other universe, where the abusive versions of Esther’s family are waiting. Sure enough, they start appearing and Astra urges them to take Esther.

But Esther doesn’t think so because there is something different about Astra this time. Next second she realises what it is – Astra does not have her necklace. When Astra sees this, she screams that she’s lost her protector – “He-elp!” (Oh dear, Astra, left the house in too much of a hurry, did you?) Then lightning strikes both girls. Esther falls unconscious. Presumably because the protector is missing, the evil parents grab Astra and ignore her pleas for them to take Esther instead.

When Esther regains consciousness she finds everything is back to normal. All trace of Astra has disappeared and nobody but Esther knows anything about her. It’s as if Astra never existed at all. Esther concludes it must have been a dream or something. But later, Esther gets a nasty shock when Mum turns up Astra’s necklace while spring-cleaning. Dream – or what?


Evil doubles that are created to cause trouble for the protagonist until the protagonist finds the way to destroy them are not new in girls’ comics. But this one goes way above the usual doppelganger format because it’s got so many other well-established, popular formats thrown into the mix as well: the Cinderella theme, abusive guardians, the scheming troublemaker, the evil influence theme, and the regrettably less-used theme of the alternate reality. What’s not to like about this story? It brings together so many of the DCT themes that are always so popular on their own. Together they make for a really intense, exciting and crackling story where the protagonist is attacked on all sides from the threats posed not only by the evil double but also by the other themes listed above.

The scheming troublemaker who pushes the protagonist out with nasty tricks was one of the most frequent themes at DCT, but this version really catches the eye because it has supernatural elements attached. There are hints that Astra is exerting some evil influence on everyone to make them act so negatively towards Esther. We suspect this even more so once it is revealed that Astra’s necklace has powers of some sort. And it’s not because the antagonist is just spiteful or jealous as most troublemakers usually are. It has a far more sinister purpose – to weaken Esther and soften her up for transportation to the alternate reality while Astra takes Esther’s place.

However sinister the undertones of the scheming troublemaker scenes, they don’t hold a candle to the night terror dreams. These are truly the best moments of the story and what make it truly frightening. It’s even more terrifying when we find out that this is actually the fate that lies in store for Esther if Astra succeeds. This makes the climactic scene of Esther struggling against the evil guardians all the more electrifying – and it’s not just the lightning.

Ironically, the nightmares of the evil guardians also add a sympathetic element to the evil Astra. When we see what life is like at home for Astra through Esther’s nightmares we can certainly understand why Astra wants to escape that universe. But we are not going to have her throw Esther into that hellish universe in her place.

Here the Cinderella theme of girls’ comics gets turned on its head. Instead of some talent helping her escape her misery and getting a happy ending, the Cinderella gets thrown back into that life of abuse and drudgery. We may feel a pang of pity for Astra there. Yet we still want her gone and are relieved she is back where she belongs – because unlike the protagonists of the Cinderella stories, she is evil.

I Don’t Want to Be a Model! [1984]


Roslyn Grant is taken in by Gerda Grayson, a (so-called) friend of her mother’s while her mother is away. Grayson abuses Rosyln into becoming a model and holds her prisoner by removing her glasses so Roslyn can’t see properly, and takes her out of school. When Roslyn tries to run away, she is caught, and the label of runaway gives Grayson even more blackmail power over Roslyn. Eventually Roslyn learns that Grayson’s cruelty is due to a long-standing jealousy she has held against her mother ever since their school days, and Grayson has a long record of bullying.


  • Artist: Rodney Sutton
  • Writer: Marion Turner (under pen-name: Fiona Turner)


  • I Don’t Want to Be a Model! – Tracy: #235 (31 March 1984) – #243 (26 May 1984)


The Posy Princess [1975]

 Posy Princess logo

Published: Mandy: (?) – #89 (28 September 1968) – (?)


  • Mandy:  #454 (27 September 1975) – #460 (8 November 1975)
  • Mandy: #970 (17 August 1985) – #976 (28 September 1985) [with new art]

Artist: Unknown


When Jill Bailey is orphaned, she goes to live with her Uncle Jack, Aunt Betty and cousin Marilyn, who run “The Weeping Willow” Hotel. Jill’s parents did not talk about them and she soon finds out why: they are callous, selfish people who care nothing for her. They tell her that if she is to stay, she will have to work for her keep – which is of course their excuse to use her as unpaid slave labour at the hotel. Jill soon finds her cousin Marilyn is no better. She is a lazy, selfish girl who just uses Jill to wait on her and do all the work.

Jill does have a kind relative, her Aunt Kate. Aunt Kate could take Jill in. The trouble is, Aunt Kate lives in New Zealand.

Posy Princess 1

At least Jill finds friends in Mrs Smith the Cook and Barbara the part-time chambermaid, who are not treated well at the Weeping Willow either. Cook tells Jill about the Posy Princess competition, where contestants win posies at various tests, and the girl who wins the most posies wins. As this year’s Posy Princess competition is the centenary one, there is a special prize of a month’s holiday anywhere in the world.

This prize would enable Jill to get to New Zealand and track down Aunt Kate. However, Jill is initially nervous at such a challenge and does not think she is up to it. Eventually Cook’s encouragement and the chance to escape her horrible relatives spur her on.

However, Marilyn is entering the Posy Princess competition as well. And of course she is doing everything she can to sabotage Jill. But Jill often gets help from Cook and Barbara, who do everything they can to help foil Marilyn’s schemes and make sure Jill wins the heats.

And there are times when Marilyn’s dirty tricks backfire and unwittingly end up helping Jill. For example, in the first test she tries to ruin Jill’s outfit by sending her out in drenching rain to do shopping. But it’s Cook to the rescue with a new outfit and Jill has to do an impromptu speech as she lost the other one with her ruined outfit. But the judges like her appearance and speech so much that they give her more posies than Marilyn. So thanks to Marilyn’s trick, Jill ended up doing better than she anticipated in the first test.

Marilyn’s next trick, in a first aid test, causes Jill to lose a posy for lateness. But Jill passes the test itself with flying colours, so remains equal with Marilyn.

Posy Princess 5

In the third test, for cookery, Marilyn thinks she has been more successful with her dirty tricks. She ruins the sponge cake Jill has made for it and its replacement is not as good as the first. But the sponge cake is only one half of the test, and by the end of the second half (making a difficult trifle with the sponge), Jill remains equal with Marilyn.

The next test is to make a dress. Marilyn tries to sabotage Jill by locking up the sewing machine. When Jill finishes the dress on another machine with Barbara’s help, Marilyn tries to make her miss the event by sending her out on an errand. But Barbara, posing as Jill, foils Marilyn again, and now Jill is one posy ahead of her.

It looks like the fifth test – a beauty contest – has Jill beat because the hotel drudgery is ruining her appearance. But Cook has some remedies (lemon juice to whiten the red hands and oil to soften them). Marilyn lends an unwitting hand in trying to ruin Jill’s hairstyle and dress, which in fact results in Jill going in for replacement styles that are more becoming. So Jill ends up with more posies than Marilyn.

In the next test, Marilyn tries another trick to put Jill out of the way, and this time it is more successful. Jill ends up stranded at Drayford Market with no hope of getting to her test – high tea with the Mayor and Mayoress – on time. She gets a lift back, but the ride is too slow and the driver won’t stop giving her lectures on the history of the area. But it all comes in useful when the mayor gives her a second chance to take the test, which demands good knowledge of the district. Jill, being new to the district, would not have been able to pull that off if it hadn’t been for the driver and Marilyn’s trick. So although Marilyn’s subterfuge did cost Jill a posy, it backfired in the end (again) by helping her pass the test.

So Jill is still in the lead, but only by one posy, and there is just one test to go. This means the last test is going to be tight.

The test is one for “personality, tact and general helpfulness”. A secret judge will be watching the five remaining contestants for this. Marilyn assumes the secret judge is the latest guest at the hotel, and goes out of her way to impress him with out-of-character hard work and good service. Along the way she tries to sabotage Jill again by tripping her up while she is lugging a trolley in order to create a bad impression on the man. She then brags to Jill that she did that to make sure Jill does not win the final round. To make doubly sure, Marilyn tries to make Jill miss the last contest by forcing her to slave in the kitchen all week.

Posy Princess 2

Neither Jill nor Marilyn realise the window cleaner has seen and heard everything. But when Jill makes it to the contest with Cook’s help, she discovers the window cleaner was the secret judge, not the guest. And of course he declares Jill the winner of the Posy Princess competition. Marilyn, who came second, is appointed Jill’s attendant. Marilyn has unwittingly helped Jill to win again, and this time it is the top prize itself!

A month later, Jill is heading for New Zealand to find Aunt Kate. Her horrible relatives can only watch in seething silence as Jill departs. On the plane there is a nice surprise for Jill. Cook is coming too, both as Jill’s chaperone and to escape the hotel as well.


There is no doubt this is a Cinderella story. The emphasis is more on the wicked stepsister than the wicked step-parents – er, uncle and aunt, whom we don’t see much of in the story. But then the main conflict of the story is meant to focus on Marilyn and Jill as they both compete for the Posy Princess competition.

In our brief glimpses of Uncle Jack, we immediately sense that the conflict between Marilyn and Jill mirrors the conflict between Uncle Jack and his late brother Bill (Jill’s father). Jill’s father never spoke of his brother, and Jill soon finds Uncle Jack does not speak of his brother kindly either. When he meets Jill he is not in the least bit overjoyed to see her and says, “You look like [my brother], I must say – good for nothing!” Clearly a case of good brother vs. bad brother, and now the same good vs. bad passes to the next generation in the Posy Princess competition.

Posy Princess 3

Our Cinderella protagonist shows she is human and at first is less proactive than most of her counterparts. Jill only enters the contest out of desperation and Cook’s encouragement. But at the beginning she lacks confidence: “I can’t enter, though. I’m hopeless at tests”. Jill finds the first challenge – speaking in public and being “judged on poise and praise” so daunting. But thanks to Marilyn’s unwitting help and Cook’s genuine help, Jill not only passes the first test but also discovers a whole new skill – thinking on her feet. Her confidence is growing, and along the way she develops in courage, such as where she plucks up enough courage to go apologise to the mayor after she misses his appointment. Jill almost sits out the final judging because she thinks Marilyn has cast her in a bad light with the secret judge, so Cook helps her once again by insisting on taking her there herself. It was just as well because Jill would have missed the grand prize otherwise. Ultimately the newfound strengths in Jill’s character impress the secret judge: “she managed to stay polite and cheerful under the most difficult and trying circumstances”.

During the story Jill always needs support and advice from Cook and Barbara. In so many Cinderella-type stories the protagonist has only herself to depend on because there is nobody else to turn to except a fairy godmother figure who is sympathetic but either does not realise what is going on or is powerless to intervene. But in this case it is different in that the fairy godmother helps throughout. It is also different in that Jill is less proactive than most Cinderella-type protagonists. She is less capable of getting herself out of the scrapes and obstacles that her nasty relatives put in her path. If not for Cook and Barbara she would never have made it through the competition. But it makes a delightful change to see the Cinderella protagonist have help throughout the story for once instead of having to battle on alone. There is no doubt Cook is the Fairy Godmother figure of the serial. The artwork even gives her the semblance of a fairy godmother in her kind, grandmotherly appearance.

Marilyn, the wicked stepsister figure, unwittingly helps Jill to win as well. So many of her tricks end up backfiring and give Jill a helping hand where Jill would have failed. If Marilyn had left things alone, Jill would have fallen behind her without her needing to do anything really dirty. But although Marilyn’s tricks do get Jill docked a couple of posies, Jill never falls behind Marilyn and even gets ahead of her because of so many misfired tricks. It is poetic justice that Marilyn unwittingly helped Jill to win the contest itself as well.

Posy Princess 4

The Posy Princess competition itself lends to the fairy tale elements of the story. In fairy tales heroes and heroines face so many trials before they win through and live happily ever after, and this is paralleled in the tests the contestants face. The parallel is reinforced even more if you count up the tests. There are seven of them, and seven is a magical number that is often found in fairy tales. Seven tests also structures the length of the story, so it is not too long or drawn out. The grand prize turns Jill into a princess, which is what happens to Cinderella herself in the end. The secret judge is clearly the Prince Charming figure. He is even more charming in that he says nothing about Marilyn’s dirty play; instead he says he has chosen Jill because she impressed him the most. Perhaps he felt it would be a more fitting punishment for the cheat to be appointed attendant to the girl she tried to sabotage.

It is fitting that the final test is one for character integrity, because that is the most appropriate one for Marilyn to fail at and for Jill to pass with flying colours. And it reinforces the fairy tale retribution for the wicked stepsister figure and reward for the good stepsister figure.

They Call her Tuesday Twelfth [1980]


Kathy Gregg lives a hard life slaving for her uncaring aunt and uncle in their cafe. They head off to Spain on a high-paying job, leaving Kathy to fend for herself with no money or food. While trying to think what to do, Kathy has a road accident. Her dazed state has everyone think she has lost her memory and they call her “Tuesday Twelfth” in lieu of a name, after the date of the accident. Kathy ends up in a home, and decides to go on pretending to be amnesiac for as long as she can so as not to go back to her old life.




  • They Call Her Tuesday Twelfth – Tracy: #47 (August 23 1980) – #57 (2 October 1982)

Eve All Alone (1996)

Eve All Alone cover

Published: Bunty Picture Library #425

Artist: Unknown

Year: 1996


Gemma Halliday comes home from school one day to good news – her father’s company wants him and mum to spend the summer in Hong Kong. But the bad news is that Gemma can’t come as well. The company isn’t paying for her and the parents can’t afford it. Instead, Gemma will be spending the summer with Great Aunt Lyn in the country. Gemma is very disappointed to hear she won’t be going with her parents and is bracing herself for a summer holiday of boredom in the countryside with a great aunt she hardly knows.

Aunt Lyn is very nice, but Gemma still wishes to be with her parents, and her boredom increases when bad weather sets in. Aunt Lyn suggests she go up to the attic for something to read. Gemma is not hopeful that there will be anything decent to read, but is pleasantly surprised to come across an old diary. It starts in September 1939, when a twelve-and-a-half girl called Eve writes that she has just decided to start it.

Eve All Alone 1

Eve and her parents live in London. World War II has broken out, and there are tearful goodbyes to Dad as he departs to go into the army. Eve promises her father that she will look after Mum while he is away.

At school the teacher distributes letters for parents about children being evacuated to the countryside in case Germany bombs London. Mum declines the offer because she and Eve want to stay together. But then their home is destroyed in the Blitz. At this, Mum changes her mind and tells Eve that she is joining the next round of evacuees. Eve is horrified, but Mum is adamant. So Eve resolves to be brave and not cry over leaving her and going to an unknown fate.

Eve All Alone 2

Lunch interrupts Gemma’s reading. But now she is feeling less upset because her own separation from her parents is nowhere near as bad as Eve’s.

Upon the resumption, Gemma reads that at their destination, the evacuees were all taken in except Eve – Mrs McDonald, who was meant for her, has been taken ill. Evacuee organiser Mrs Barford hastily sets Eve up with Mrs Pettigrew, a reclusive-sounding woman living alone in a big house with a housekeeper.

Right from the start, Mrs Pettigrew’s is not the place Eve wants to be; the house looks “gloomy and scary”. Mrs Pettigrew herself “looks like a witch” and doesn’t behave much better. She has never welcomed lodgers – Mrs Barford virtually blackmails her into taking Eve by threatening to get her house commandeered for army barracks or hospital services if she refuses an evacuee.

But Mrs Pettigrew immediately goes to spiteful lengths to show Eve how unwelcome she is. She gives Eve the attic bedroom (tiny and cold) when the more kindly housekeeper offered her the more plush spare room. When the housekeeper offers Eve porridge for breakfast, Mrs Pettigrew directs her to make Eve’s porridge with water because she wants all the creamy milk. Then she forces Eve to do the washing up although Eve protests that it will make her late for school, and she suspects that was precisely Mrs Pettigrew’s intention.

Eve All Alone 3

Soon Mrs Pettigrew is making Eve work like a slave. All the while she allows Eve so little food that Eve cannot sleep for hunger, even though she is worn out because of the work. Added to that, Eve starts hearing strange noises (a door banging for no reason, mysterious footsteps) and Mrs Pettigrew starts winding her up about the house being haunted.

Meanwhile, an enemy plane is shot down and one of the pilots escapes. Now there is a manhunt for him and everyone is on the lookout, but so far the airman is evading capture.

In between reads, Gemma learns not to turn up her nose at food she doesn’t like (better than going to bed hungry like Eve), and introduces Aunt Lyn to bowling. She is delighted to see Aunt Lyn enjoying it and thinks her childhood must have been really boring. But Gemma can’t wait to get back to the diary; it is a riveting read now.

Now food goes missing. Mrs Pettigrew blames Eve and punishes her by allowing her no breakfast for a week, and the work gets harder. More food goes missing, but the kindly housekeeper agrees not to mention it to Mrs Pettigrew; she reckons Mrs Pettigrew is taking it herself. Where possible, the housekeeper shows Eve kindness.

Then Eve finds a man’s footprints on the kitchen floor she just cleaned, and they go straight to the larder. Eve realises there is a man creeping about in the house, which explains the strange noises and missing food. Assuming that Mrs Pettigrew is hiding the missing German airman, Eve goes to the police. But it is not the airman (who gets captured later) but Mrs Pettigrew’s son Peter. She had been hiding Peter in the cellar to keep him away from the fighting, but now he is arrested for “shirking”. Following this, Mrs Barford takes Eve away from Mrs Pettigrew, saying something else has turned up for her anyway.

Eve All Alone 4

And in the next village, Eve is surprised to be reunited with Mum! Mum didn’t like being on her own, so she got herself a job as a cook at a big house in the countryside in order to be with Eve again. They are going to stay there until the war ends – and there ends the diary. Gemma wishes she could know if Eve’s Dad ever came home.

But next day Gemma discovers that Eve is Aunt Lyn (Eve and Lyn are short for Evelyn). Aunt Lyn does not mind Gemma reading the diary one bit. Yes, Dad did come home, and there was “quite a to-do” when she exposed Mrs Pettigrew and Peter. Recalling her earlier assumptions about Aunt Lyn having a boring childhood, Gemma realises how wrong you can be about people.


This story is certainly a lesson in expectations and not making assumptions about anyone or anything until you know more about them. Gemma came in with expectations of a boring, miserable summer with no parents, and she came away with a whole new appreciation for the things she has, her aunt, and also family history. And Gemma reciprocated her aunt as well, such as introducing her to bowling for the first time in her life. So grownups can learn from kids as well.

Eve All Alone 5

It is also a story about two girls undergoing the pain of separation but being united through the diary. As Gemma reads, her own pain of separation lessens as she learns that there are others who are worse off than herself, including the girl she is reading about. Eve has no idea when – or even if – her father will return from the fighting. Then she loses her home in the Blitz and the forced separation from her mother to an uncertain fate as an evacuee. Things go from bad to worse when Eve endures starvation, drudgery and misery under the spiteful Mrs Pettigrew. Mrs Pettigrew’s motives for abusing Eve are more rounded than most adults who treat their charges badly in similar stories. She was clearly selfish and mean by nature, but she was also a reclusive woman who understandably resented having Eve forced upon her, and she was no doubt worried about her secret being discovered. But of course that is no excuse for her treatment of Eve or helping Peter with “shirking”. After the punishment of the Pettigrews, it’s a happy ending for Eve when her mother moves to the country to be with her. The diary is the stuff of fairy tales.

Eve All Alone 6

Eve All Alone is an engaging story and one you could read again and again. World War II is always a theme that can guarantee engrossing stories about emotion, separation, hardship, courage, adventure and warfare, and this one is no exception. It also reminds us that the war didn’t bring out the best in everyone, especially if they were not the best of people to begin with. Eve’s story as an evacuee still resonates even generations later in her family, and the lessons it teaches come across in a heart-warming manner that is not preachy.

Curiously, the son Peter has exactly the same name as a Harry Potter villain – Peter Pettigrew. Yet Eve came out three years before Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. An anticipatory moment or a popular choice of name?


Sandi’s Secret Services


Sandi Peters lives with her Aunt Madge, Uncle George, and cousins Bridget and Clara. She is an unpaid servant who is expected to wait on her lazy uncle and spoiled cousins, and slave as a seamstress for her aunt’s clothes business, which the aunt does not run honestly. Sandi discovers a passion for table tennis, but has to find ways to get away from the work her guardians lumber her with in order to practise and compete in secret. This is not always easy.



  • Artist: Veronica Weir


  • Sandi’s Secret Services –  Mandy: #1232 (25 August 1990) – #1243 (10 November 1990)


Terry and Her Trumpet


Orphan Terry Thompson lives with her brother Gerald and sister-in-law Frances who are cruel to her and make her slave in their cafe, which leaves her too tired for homework. Terry discovers she has a talent for the trumpet, but when her mean relatives won’t let her play, she tries to find ways to practise her trumpet in secret.



  • Artist: Dudley Wynne


  • Terry and Her Trumpet–  Mandy: #987 (14 December 1985) – (?)


Patti Must Paint


Patti Charlton is a talented artist and wants to go to art school. But when her unscrupulous Uncle Sid adopts her to look after his motherless twins, he forbids her to paint, so she has to find ways of getting to art school in secret. She also has to contend with bullying at school, especially with spiteful Alice.



  • Artist: Tony Higham


  • Patti Must Paint –  Mandy: #713 (13 September 1980) – #727 (20 December 1980)