Tag Archives: Charity

The Comp: Bunty PSL #348 (1992)

Published: Bunty PSL #348

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Anthea Skiffington

Special thanks to Goof for scans


Grim Gertie is hospitalised, bringing in a substitute teacher, Mrs Whitely. Laura Brady isn’t off to a good start with Whitely when she rushes to registration, which causes her to collide with Whitely and tread on her toes. “Trust me – I just crashed into Gertie’s stand-in!” But the real bad start comes when Whitely discovers Laura’s name during registration. All of a sudden she is looking daggers at Laura, seems to have a sudden thing about Laura being a problem pupil or something, and says, “I shall remember you, Laura Brady.”

From then on, it’s bully teacher time for Laura. Whitely constantly singles Laura out for unwarranted and unfair punishment, even for things that are totally untrue, and detentions are a particular punishment. It starts with her giving Laura detention for homework with four wrong answers, sloppiness and scribbles. Now that’s bizarre to say the least. Okay, so Laura did the homework while being engrossed with a Tom Cruise movie on television, but it looks like everyone else did too. Her mother, who checked her homework, can vouch it was tidy and scribble-free, so what’s Whitely talking about? Later, Laura finds out others did even worse than her on the homework assignment and didn’t get detention – so why did she get it?

At any rate, as Laura is soon to discover, it makes no difference to Whitely as to whether her schoolwork is the best or not.

At first Laura’s classmates think she is just imagining things about Whitely, but they change their minds as it grows more obvious. On one occasion Whitely pounces on Laura for trying to ping a paper pellet at Hodge; Hodge says it was his fault for pinging it first, but Mrs Whitely refuses to listen and punishes Laura with a stinging 500 lines. On another, she punishes Laura for talking in class; her friends admit they talking too, but Whitely doesn’t listen to them.

Whitely also refuses to hear Laura’s pleas that these constant detentions are causing her to miss out on vital hockey practice and matches, which incurs the displeasure of Miss Bliss (“The Blizzard”) against her. As a result, Laura eventually loses her place in the hockey team.

The class reckon it must be Whitely’s trodden toes. Their only advice to Laura is to ignore it, but that’s easier said than done. As Gertie will not be fit to return for a while yet, Laura fears her bully teacher ordeal looks set for the long haul. She has not spoken to her parents about it, not even when Mum asks at one point why she’s crying.

Meanwhile, the class visit Gertie in hospital and discover the maternity wing badly needs funds or face closure. They decide to pitch in, and settle on a Fun Day to raise funds. They need approval from their form teacher before approaching the Head. But when Laura suggests it to Whitely, she won’t listen: “Don’t bother me with your ridiculous notions, Laura Brady!” Then Laura discovers that a few minutes earlier, Whitely thought it was a great idea when Hayley and Roz suggested it, and told them to go straight to the Head for permission. This makes her even more convinced Whitely hates her.

The Head agrees to the Fun Day, sets the date for the last day of half term, and he must approve of the events being held. This could be problematic, as Hodge has scripted a parody of Redvale, “Riotvale Comp”, with parodies of the school staff. Laura is in the role of the Grim Gertie parody, “Miss Gruesome”.

Although Hodge tries to keep this school parody hidden from the Head, he inevitably finds out. Surprisingly, Hodge comes back with the news that the Head gave his approval to stage Riotvale, with “one or two tiny conditions”, such as a couple of small changes to the script. Hmm, is there a hint of something else here? Anyway, rehearsals for Riotvale continue. For Laura they are a welcome relief from her growing miseries with Whitely, and despite them, she is coming along well in the role.

But then Whitely goes too far. She forces Laura to do a homework assignment twice, saying the first was sloppy while Laura had taken care she would have no cause for complaint, plus having to do those 500 lines as well. Then she springs a surprise test on the class over the material. Laura is determined to score well, and ought to after running through the material twice. But when she does, Whitely hauls her before the Head with claims she saw Laura cheating in the test, but as there is no way these accusations can be true, Whitely can only be lying. The Head sends a letter to Laura’s parents, and there’s more detention for her. It’s getting too much for Laura, and she decides to drop out of Riotvale.

When the letter arrives, Laura reaches breaking point and finally tells her parents her teacher hates her. But they don’t believe it: “Now, that’s silly, dear. Why should she?” At this, Laura runs out of the house, still yelling that Whitely hates her and shouting at her parents for not listening to her. She then decides to run away, unable to take any more of Whitely. By now she has realised there has to be far more to this than trodden toes but can’t think what.

In class, Whitely notices Laura’s absence, but only says “perhaps we’ll have some peace and quiet for a change”, which further convinces the class that Whitely is gunning for her. She isn’t even asking questions about Laura’s absence.

Laura left the house in such a state that she forgot her schoolbag, which brings Mum up to the school. From there, she discovers discovers Laura is missing and reports it to the Head, who calls the police.

Mum asks to speak with Whitely. When she sees her, she now believes Laura, for she has recognised Whitely as Susan Stigmore, a nasty piece of work who used to be an old enemy of Laura’s aunt at school. When Mum confronts Whitely about this, her malice spills over and she expresses venomous comments about Laura and her aunt. She then realises her mistake in doing this right in front of the Head, but it’s too late – she’s been caught out. He sacks her and writes a report that will make sure she never finds another teaching job.

Laura is soon picked up, and everything is sorted out. When the other teachers hear about Whitely’s conduct, the Blizzard reinstates Laura on the hockey team. And Laura is back in Riotvale.

Two weeks later, it’s Fun Day, and Gertie is back. Riotvale is a thundering success. But then Hodge tells the gang what he had not told them before (aha!). The Head had granted permission to stage Riotvale on the condition that the school staff have their own sling-a-sponge event afterwards – with the Riotvale cast as targets. And boy, are the staff loving it! Revenge at last for all those things they put up with in class.

However, the Riotvale cast get revenge on Hodge with another fundraising idea: 10p to help throw him into the school fountain. And so he is, much to his chagrin. Ah well, it’s all in good fun and fundraising for Fun Day.


This is a PSL to be read over and over. There’s so much in it for readers to enjoy, and it is a well-constructed story that interweaves two contrasting elements with each other: the bully teacher and the Fun Day. Fun Day delivers the ever-popular charity cause theme, a brazen school parody that’s a welcome change from tired old fund-raising events, and heaps of fun on the big day that will finish half term with a bang. Providing contrast is the ever-popular bully teacher theme, with the drama, emotion, misery, and bullying that grows worse and worse until it becomes too unbearable. Added to it is the mystery element – what is Whitely’s problem with Laura?

There isn’t a DCT regular strip (The Four Marys, Penny’s Place, etc) that hasn’t had a bully teacher at some point, but it’s never a regular member of staff – it’s a new/substitute teacher. Whitely belongs to this long-standing tradition, as she does to the long-standing tradition of new/substitute teachers frequently spelling trouble of some sort in girls’ comics.

Bullying a pupil because of a long-standing grudge against a family member is a common theme. “Teacher’s Pet” (Judy) is another example of this. It also has the added tension of mystery to the story – why does the teacher hate the girl? And girls just love mystery in comics. And because the pupil doesn’t understand the teacher’s motives in bullying her, she may start wondering if she’s the one at fault.

The story was ingenious in throwing in the little mishap Laura had with Whitely right at the start, as misdirection for why Whitely hated Laura. If Laura (or reader) had looked more carefully at Whitely’s initial reactions to her, she might have realised it was something about her name that set Whitely off. Whitely changing her name through marriage was also a clever means in keeping her motives concealed and making them harder to figure out. If she’d come to the school as Miss Stigmore, it might have set off a few alarm bells with Laura’s family or laid some clues for Laura to pursue.

It’s no surprise to hear Whitely was a bully in her youth. It’s not clear if she was a bully teacher before Redvale or if Laura just brought out the worst in her because she was related to her old enemy. But, as it is obvious Whitely never learned her lesson about bullying, she was set to be a bully in adulthood. A teaching career would put her on course as a bully teacher who could bully other pupils, and ones who reminded her of Laura’s aunt would be particularly vulnerable. So we can all say thank goodness she was out of the teaching profession in the end. Her bully streak made her totally unfit for it.

But it’s not all depressing bully teacher time. The Fun Day thread is a total delight and a welcome light relief and contrast to the bully teacher situation. It’s all in a good cause, and Riotvale puts it above a whole new level. Without it, the Fun Day plot line would not have been nearly so much rollickin’ good fun for the reader. When the Head added the condition to performing it, we can just imagine his reasoning for it: “If you’re having your piece of fun with us, it’s only fair we have ours with you, eh?” Well, yes, he’s right – it’s fair exchange, and we have to laugh at the added twist it gives. Setting Fun Day at the end of the half term finishes off the half term in grand style, and the added punishment of Hodge gives Fun Day an even higher and more satisfactory note to end the story on.

Hard Times for Helen (1984-85)

Logo Hard Times for Helen

Artist: Bert Hill

Published: Judy: #1302 (22 December 1984) to #1312 (2 March 1985)


Helen Shaw’s widowed mother is awarded the Superworker Award for her charity work and becomes a local celebrity. But from the moment Mum wins the award, nothing seems to go right for Helen. Her life changes for the worse, both at home and at school, not least of which is because she becomes “the girl who suffers from being compared to Mum”.

First, being Superworker means increased workloads on Mrs Shaw, which leave her constantly overworked, exhausted, and having no time for other things, such as household chores or devoting time to Helen. Also, Helen finds herself constantly lumbered with the things her mother hasn’t time for (chores, housework, errands, meal preparation, shopping, favours etc), or can’t do because she has been called away to some other task. This begins to interfere with schoolwork, social life, friends, and even makes Helen frequently late for school. Mum takes it for granted that Helen will help out all the time, and never stops think that Helen has other commitments or may not be able to help. For example, she tries to force Helen to miss a rehearsal to help her out, although Helen is playing the lead. As a result, the teacher kicks Helen out of the production (and Helen arrives home too late to help her mother in any case).

Hard Times for Helen 5

Helen is also feeling neglected and lonely because her mother is scarcely home, and even when she is, she has no time for Helen. Helen had begun to feel this way even before charity-busy Mum became Superworker, but following Superworker it becomes a whole lot worse. Mum is frequently overtired, still encumbered with heavy workloads that she expects Helen to help out with, and dashing out yet again to help someone else. Worse, a lot of the work comes from people who take advantage of Mum’s kindness and never refusing anyone’s request (in other words, unable to say “no”).

Finances also suffer because Mum is becoming over-generous. But she does nothing to curb her over-generosity, although she is keeps saying that she is terribly short of money and she must know the reason for it. Sometimes Helen even goes hungry because Mum is too busy to remember to replenish the larder and doesn’t leave money for it.

And there is a jinx that seems to dog Helen at every turn. It lands her in constant trouble with Mum and giving other people false impressions that she is jealous, lazy, badly behaved, and “not at all like her mother”. Sometimes it’s not able to help because other things get in the way, like people popping in with more favours to dump on Helen when she has other work to do already. Or it’s not able to get other things done, such as homework, because Mum lumbers her with other things to do. Other times, things just seem to go wrong whenever Helen tries to help out her mother. Helen frequently thinks that everything has gone wrong since her mother won the award and wishes she had never won it. Meanwhile, the constant trouble has Mum thinking her daughter is being “awkward” and unhelpful, and their relationship deteriorates.

Hard Times for Helen 4

To make things even worse for Helen, everyone, from strangers in the street to the next-door neighbour, always compares her unfavourably and unfairly with her mother with the relentless criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” or variations thereof. By far the worst culprits are the staff at Helen’s school, with headmistress Miss Pringle being the leader of the pack. Some of the criticisms arise from misunderstandings and affected schoolwork caused by Superworker (for example, Helen being frequently late for school because of the jobs she gets lumbered with in the mornings). But in other cases Miss Pringle and the teachers seem to pounce on even the slightest thing to attack Helen with the criticism. Often these are things that have little to do with Helen’s mother or Superworker. Their conduct becomes more and more like bullying. Examples include:

  • (Helen is eating in the street) “I don’t care much for finding one of my pupils in the street like this! Really, Helen, you’re a disgrace to your mother!”
  • (Helen fails to deliver a message in time) “You stupid girl. You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen is distracted with worry while teacher is setting homework) “You’re not making a note of the homework I’m setting! Perhaps you have no intention of doing it? Really, Helen! You’re not at all like your mother!”
  • (Helen says she was trying to help her mother) “Your mother couldn’t possibly need help from you! You’ll never be like her!”
  • (Helen asks to be excused from a swimming match to look after her mother) “Helen objecting to something again, is she? It’s all she does. She’s not hardworking like her mother.”
  • (Ignoring that Helen would have homework to do, and she never asked Helen to help in the first place) “Your mother’s giving up this evening to help my dramatic society, Helen. I suppose it would be too much to expect you’d be helping?” At this, Helen realises she cannot win with Miss Pringle.

And on top of the constant criticism there is the notion that Helen is jealous of her mother. This starts as a nasty rumour among Helen’s classmates, but soon spreads and is taken on board by the harsh school staff. And when Miss Pringle misinforms Mum about it and Helen’s so-called bad behaviour, Mum thinks it is the reason for Helen being so “awkward” and their strained relationship is poisoned further.

Hard Times for Helen 2

Finally, when Mum wrongly blames Helen for a disturbance that wrecks a public demonstration, Helen reaches her limit. She snaps at Mum that she is fed up of everyone saying “You’re not at all like your mother!”. It doesn’t do Helen any good though – Mum still thinks Helen is behaving badly and just says it’s her own fault. But Helen’s outburst indicates that this is the penultimate episode and the final episode will be next.

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Sure enough, in the next episode everything comes to a head. Mum has gone to help Miss Pringle at her drama society. But while Mum is out, the electricity is cut off because she had neglected the bill too. This leaves Helen in a quandary over how to complete her homework, and is so distracted that she stumbles into the road and gets hit by a car. While in a semi-conscious state, she starts rambling about all the problems Superworker has caused for her. The medical personnel are listening and then have a word with Mum. Mum apologises to Helen and promises that things will now be different. She also informs Helen that at the drama society meeting she wised up to Miss Pringle’s conduct.

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This story certainly belongs in the long-established formula of the “jinxed girl” – where events always seem to conspire against the protagonist and everything goes wrong in every episode for her. So at the end of each episode she always ends up in deep trouble and people think she’s jealous, spiteful or whatever, and she becomes more and more unpopular. The formula makes for a story that is more episodic in structure than having a single story arc and the advantage is that it can be spun out as long as necessary. The disadvantage is a risk of stretching credibility too far and readers may begin to think, “Oh come on, nobody can be that unlucky!”

However, Helen suffers a lot more than many protagonists who just have things that keep going wrong for them. She is suffering from bullying too, mostly from people who keep comparing her to her mother and putting her down with unfair and unwarranted criticisms. The conduct of Miss Pringle fits exactly into the bully who uses unreasonable criticism to bully someone: constant put-downs and sarcasms, often using a supposed kernel of truth to justify their comments; making big mountains out of molehills in criticizing even trivial things; blowing things all out of proportion; and there is no pleasing or reasoning with Miss Pringle, regardless of what Helen does. And it’s not just Miss Pringle but all the teachers. Helen can’t seem to be in class for five minutes without some teacher humiliating her in front of the classmates with the criticism, “You’re not at all like your mother!” Helen hears it so much that she feels like screaming.

Hard Times for Helen 3

No doubt this conduct from the teachers would have fuelled the bullying from Helen’s own classmates, who started the rumour that she was jealous of her mother. It began with their misreading Helen’s unhappy expressions, but there must have been some schoolgirl cattiness as well. Perhaps they were the jealous ones and projecting their jealousy onto Helen.

Protagonists who suffer because their parents are too busy/famous to pay them serious attention is a well-established formula in girls’ comics too. But in this case it’s even more heart-breaking in that the misery comes from charity, of all things. This is because of Mrs. Shaw’s personality as much as the demands of Superworker itself. She is always ready to help and never refuses anyone – but the flip side of that is that she cannot say “no”. So in addition to all the increasing demands of Superworker, Mum gets more and more people who take advantage of her: food, money, free favours, or using her as a dumping ground. All too often we have seen this type of thing in real life: good-natured people who are too nice for their own good, get lumbered and taken advantage of, and don’t stand up for themselves and say “no”.

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Mum in turn starts taking Helen for granted. She uses Helen as a dumping ground for things she hasn’t time for, or expects her to help all the time and doesn’t stop to think that sometimes Helen may not be able to help. Never once does she say, “All right, I’ll get someone else to help.” To others, she never says things like “Sorry, I’ve got too much to do right now, please ask someone else” or “Sorry, I can’t loan you any money, I need my money for other things.” And so she leaves herself open for people to walk all over her. And there certainly never is “I’m giving up Superworker – it’s too much for me and I’m turning into a nervous wreck,” although it is so hectic that it constantly wears Mum out with exhaustion. More than once we see her collapsed in a chair or laid up in bed because of it.

This story certainly is a cut above an average “jinxed girl” story because it draws so much on real life: Bully teachers who constantly put pupils down with nasty, uncalled-for remarks. People who use criticism to bully others. People who can’t say “no” and get turned into doormats because they are not assertive enough. People who overwork themselves, causing their family to suffer as well as themselves. Nasty schoolkids who bully others, very likely because they are jealous. Parents who get so busy with new commitments that they lose sight of other things in life that matter too, including their family. People who take others for granted and make selfish demands on them – even ones who do not see themselves as selfish.

It’s all brought to life with the artwork of Bert Hill. Hill has a very clean style that can produce a lot of panels on one page without it looking cluttered. His style has become linked with several Judy classics, including “The Fish Twins” and “The Girl with the Golden Smile”. Just one thing about the artwork – why does Mrs Shaw’s hair suddenly switch from blond to dark in the final episode, with no explanation possible?

And there is one thing about the story that is really puzzling: throughout the course of this entire story, we never see the Superworker Award itself. What the heck does it look like? Is it a trophy? Is it a medal? Or is it something else? We never know because it never appears. Not once are we shown Mrs Shaw with it, nor does she ever show it to Helen.