Tag Archives: Art

My Brilliant Friend (1990)

Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #324

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for helping me find a copy.


Josie Manton is a brilliant girl who excels at everything. By contrast, Josie’s best friend Debrah King seems to be a born loser and never shines at anything. Debrah keeps hearing the remarks from other girls. Some say Josie must be jolly decent to hang about with such a loser, while others say she could do better than Debrah and hanging around with such a loser is holding her back. Even Debrah wonders why Josie bothers with a loser like her for a friend instead of girls more like herself.

Athletic Mary invites Josie to her athletic club and artistic Lisa to her art class, to sharpen her edge with more fitting competitors. Josie declines both times, saying she wants to stay with Debrah. Debrah assumes they’re just trying to split her and Josie up, but she still thinks these remarks must be so disparaging for Josie.

Debrah speaks to her gran, who recently came to live with the family, about it. Gran prompts Debrah to try harder, and instead of putting herself down and compare herself unfavourably with Josie, encourage herself with a positive attitude. So Debrah tells Josie that she has decided to make something of herself and be a friend Josie would be proud to have. Gran encourages Debrah in every way and helps her with her defeatist attitude. But not surprisingly, Debrah still has problems with confidence and breaking away from comparing herself to her brilliant friend.

Both Debrah and Josie go for an art contest, but Debrah throws her effort in the bin, thinking it’s not good enough compared to Josie’s. Unbeknown to her, gran rescues it and enters it in the contest.

The school craft fair comes up. Instead of helping Josie with her stall as she did before, Debrah decides to run one of her own. Gran helps Debrah makes lucky mascots out of pom poms to sell, but just as things are about to start, the mascots go missing. Debrah eventually finds them in a rubbish sack and accuses Lisa, the girl in charge of the sack and was always harshly comparing her artwork to Josie’s, of taking them. Lisa is upset at the accusation, but Debrah is impressed at how Josie smooths things over. She’s such a good friend. Then, at the fair, Debrah’s cash box is stolen and people think she stole the money for herself. Debrah finds herself an outcast, with only Josie sticking by her and more comments from the other girls at how Josie could be so loyal to a girl like Debrah, who doesn’t deserve it.

The maths teacher sets a homework test paper on decimals, but while Josie is a breeze on it, Debrah struggles with it, thinking she’s a duffer on the subject. At home, when gran explains decimals to Debrah, she suddenly finds it easy and gets the test done in no time flat. But at school, Debrah’s maths book with the test in it goes mysteriously missing after she hands it in. She is forced to do the paper again, but her new confidence falls to pieces and she struggles with the decimals once more.

School Sports Day is coming up, and there are more remarks from Mary about how Josie could do much better at the sports club instead of training beside a loser like Debrah. Josie sticks up for Debrah, saying she’s her friend. Gran determines that Debrah’s athletic skills lie in jumping, not running, so Debrah enters those events. However, on the day, she hears Josie calling for help from the gardener’s shed. When she goes there to help, someone locks her in. This causes her to miss her events and her explanations are not believed. Debrah surmises someone must have been mimicking Josie’s voice to play a dirty trick on her, but Mary has an alibi. Josie, however, does not. In fact, she went missing for a while after competing in her own event…

The following day, Debrah receives a letter that she made it to the final of the art show, and finds out what gran did for her. Josie made it too, but Debrah doesn’t tell her she is also in the final because she wants it to be a surprise. At the final, Debrah wins the landscape section. The judges say they liked the spontaneous impressionism of Debrah’s work over Josie’s “chocolate box” effort. Debrah is concerned at how Josie must be feeling about this, but Josie’s reaction is both a shock and surprise: she claims the picture is a preliminary sketch she did and Debrah stole it from her! As the girls were together when they painted the pictures, Josie must know that can’t be true, but when Debrah confronts her about it, her only response is “Just leave me alone.” The prize-giving is put on hold while Josie’s claim is investigated.

Appalled at Josie’s conduct, Debrah decides to go over to her house and speak to her about it, but she gets no answer. After determining Josie is out, Debrah hides in the shed to catch her by surprise when she returns. In the shed, she finds her missing money box and maths book. At this, she realises her so-called best friend was wrecking her attempts at success the whole time.

When Josie returns, Debrah confronts her over it and demands an explanation. Josie replies that she wanted her to stay the way she was, not be good at things. But if it’s no longer the case, she’s through with Debrah.

So, the brilliant Josie hung around loser Debrah because she was a loser? And now she isn’t, she’s dumping her? What gives?

When gran hears about this, she surmises that Josie can’t face competition or anyone going one better than her. She declined the invitations to the art class and athletics club because she was afraid of the competition. The real reason she hung around Debrah, a girl who never shone at anything, was to make herself look better by comparison. It’s probably due to a confidence problem (gran’s theory) or a jealous streak (my theory).

Gran also informs Debrah that the judges have cleared her of Josie’s accusation. She is free to collect her prize, which she does in the final panel. Success for Debrah at last!


Stories about girls who try to prove themselves because they are ridiculed for not being good at anything, only to be constantly sabotaged by a spiteful person to keep them in the shadows have been a long-standing staple in girls’ comics. “Shani Must Shine”, “Sheena So Shy” and “Make Headlines, Hannah!” from Tammy are some examples. In stories like these, the story shows who the saboteur is and the tricks they are pulling, so we know what’s going on. In many cases, but not all, the protagonist realises it too, so what she has to do is finally get one step ahead of her spiteful saboteur.

The story takes a different take on the formula. In this case the identity of the saboteur is unknown, creating a mystery to be unravelled. And girls just love mystery. Equally mysterious is the motive for it all. It is indeed a puzzler, as there seems to be no reason why anyone would want to sabotage Debrah. The two suspects, Lisa and Mary, don’t seem to have any real motives for doing it. In fact, they would rather Debrah succeeded more against Josie, to give her more worthwhile competition. As far as we can tell, Debrah has no real enemies or bullies picking on her, nor has she upset anyone. Did she put someone’s nose out of joint? Is there some spiteful minx at work, doing it all for kicks? Or is it linked to some past grudge?

Josie is crafty in how she manages to keep herself well-hidden when she pulls her tricks. Her false show of loyalty and friendship and sticking up for Debrah further serve to pull the wool over our eyes as well as Debrah’s. However, Josie’s false accusation at the art show because there is no other way to sabotage Debrah is her undoing. Little did Debrah know what she had done in not telling Josie she was in the final: she caught the dirty trickster on the hop, with no time in advance to pull another sneaky trick to stop her winning.

There is more psychology and realism to Josie and her motives in wrecking Debrah’s efforts at glory than most, who don’t seem to do it for much more than pure spite. The story does a fine job of developing Josie’s motives, and it’s believable. It stems from some form of insecurity or jealousy in being unable to handle competition and challenges, so Josie avoids it where possible.

In a way, it’s sad for Josie. If she carries on with avoiding serious competition she will never achieve her full potential, as competition to improve herself is precisely what she needs to achieve it. The girls are right in saying Josie holds herself back. We won’t be seeing Josie at the Olympics in pursuit of medals or making her name in the art world because she is too afraid of being outdone.

Josie’s friendships won’t reach their full potential either. Choosing friends who won’t be competition rather than people she really likes severely limits her friendships. She will never be true a true friend to anyone, and her despicable treatment of her best friend, without any remorse or apology, is the ultimate proof of that. She was never a real friend for Debrah, and Debrah is well rid of her.

Debrah is a classic example in girls’ comics of how poor esteem and not believing in yourself can hold you back, especially when you are being compared to a more achieving person. Josie using Debrah to make herself look good serves the additional purpose of holding Debrah back because it makes Debrah feel she’s a failure and a loser in comparison. It’s a very crafty move. But along comes gran, who encourages Debrah to take an entirely different attitude. Even without Josie’s sabotage there will still be bumps in the road for Debrah as she strives to find her feet and what her strengths are (jumping events, impressionism, crafts, mastering maths, and more just waiting to be discovered). She discovers she had these talents all along, but it took a supportive relative, a more positive attitude and confidence, and achieving something at long last to bring them all out. We are far more likely to see Debrah making her name than the brilliant all-rounder Josie who keeps holding herself back because she can’t face competition. Debrah won’t be afraid to try the athletics club or the art class now she believes she has talent to offer there.