- Sue Spiker– Emma: #01 (25 February 1978) – #19 (01 July 1978)
- Sue Spiker– Emma: #44 (23 December 1978) – #63 (05 May 1979)
- Sue Spiker– Judy & Emma: #1027 (15 September 1979) – #1038 (01 December 1979)
- Art: “B. Jackson”
Sue Spiker ran for 3 series, two series in the Emma comic and it survived the merger with Judy to have one more series in that title.
In the first series Sue is a troubled girl who has been kicked out of several schools, she now lives in Farewood Home, a home for deprived girls and the only available school in her district is the posh Farewood school. No-one is pleased by the situation, the head-mistress is reluctant to take her in and the pupils look down on Sue, but Sue isn’t one to be quiet about snide comments she gets, which gets her into more trouble. At the home things aren’t much better as Mrs Crum, the Matron, is lazy and mean-spirited and leaves majority of chores to Sue as the oldest girl. She does gain one ally in Miss Graham the assistant games mistress. Sue has a talent for volleyball, in particularly spiking the ball, which gets Miss Graham’s attention and she puts her on the school’s senior team. While one of her teammates, Val, a prefect, is friendly the other girls still don’t accept her. One girl Elma accuses Sue of stealing her gym kit, just to stir up trouble, Sue not taking kindly to the accusation hits her. Elma’s parents call the police and the headmistress feels the school will be in disgrace when people see police there. At the police station Sue is calmer and even convinces them to let her play volleyball when she sees a game by the cadets. That along with Miss Graham coming to defend Sue,means she is released and the police set up match between the school and the cadets which relieves the headmistress as she can say that is why the police were at the school.
Sue shows she does have a softer side when she takes the kids to fair and wins coconuts for them, then sells the coconuts to buy treats. She also guards the younger kids from Mrs Crum. After seeing her home Val tries to get her father to help but it ends with Sue being kicked out of the home as Mrs Crum blames all the problems on her (poor kids that are left behind!). Sue ends up in a tougher home for girls, but not for too long as her dad shows up again. He has remarried and has 3 young step children, he takes her in so she will look after them and do housework, while he and his new wife go out all night. Looking after the kids means Sue is late for school and volleyball and she also falls asleep in school. She has to take them to practice with her when the parents don’t return home. When the kids fall sick a social worker arrives and they have to go to hospital. Sue is left on her own and then because of unpaid rent , the furniture is taken and then the flat. Because of all this she is kicked out of school for not attending. Her only bit of reprieve is playing with the youth club. She finds out about the Midlands Juniors team that she was part of when she as in school are going to big final in London. She gets down to London to join the team and they win the game. At this stage she is finally tracked down by her social worker who she had been avoiding. She is put with a new, kind, foster mum and is let back into school when social worker explains case (it resolves pretty quickly).
When we return to Sue in the sequel, she is happy but that actually takes the edge off her game. The happiness doesn’t last too long, as her foster mother takes ill, her old social worker has moved away and Miss Graham gets a new job. She is put back with her father, who has allegedly changed his ways. In her new home, Sue has a run in with some hoodlums vandalising the tower block and things are no better at school as the new games mistress, Miss Collins, takes a dislike to her, and drops her from team. Sue’s father has of course not improved, he beats on his wife and she takes it out on Sue. Sue in turn takes it out on the gang that are still causing trouble.To escape this bad home life, she plays a volleyball marathon with youth club friends, but then has trouble in school the next day for being sleepy and out of uniform, because her father has pawned it! Sue runs away from home to escape a beating. She gets her things back from pawn shop and a job as night watchman at an allotment, she finds this situation much better than living with her family, but she doesn’t want the social workers to know she is living rough, so has to pretend to still live with her father. Meanwhile the thing that has always comes easy to her, volleyball, she is surprised at a match to meet some equals and realises she will need to learn more defense moves and not just rely on her spiking .
The school headmistress meanwhile is trying to get her transferred and Miss Collins has put her in the younger B Team, she instead chooses to play for the youth club. The district judges see her play and she is chosen for district team, but then her makeshift home in the watchman’s hut is destroyed by vandals and she is left homeless. Some good news for Sue is when the chairman of the school sticks up for her and she gets to stay at Farewood. Then another bit of good luck when she gets a job and room at factory coaching team. Of course things can never keep going right for Sue so after accidentally hitting a teacher during a factory training session, when the school is on excursion, she is pulled from district team for being a professional. Her social worker finds her and puts her in front of panel, luckily Mrs Blane (who got Sue on the district team) and the factory manager stick up for her and she gets back on the team. Then she loses her cool with an American businessman visiting the factory and loses her factory job. Again this bad news is followed by some good news as she gets picked for the special English volleyball team (along with her friend Val) and has news that her foster mother will be out of hospital soon. After a tough match against the Netherlands, Sue makes the winning point of the game and then returns home to her foster mother.
The third series, sees a change of setting, as Sue joins a holiday camp while her foster mother visits family in Canada. The Carson Sport Camp is a struggling holiday camp that takes Sue on after the snobbish Panton camp she was meant to work in, refuse her when they realise she’s a girl. After the cook quits the Carson’s Camp, Sue has to be cook, dishwasher, and waitress as well as volleyball coach. There are 2 guests Mike and Koolie that also keep causing problems, but the owner, Mr Carson, still tries to keep them happy as he can’t afford any bad reviews. Things start to look up as a volleyball enthusiast joins as cook. Sue encourages them to join a volleyball league, to earn some money to do up the camp. They get on well and start tidying up camp. They even attract some guests over from the Panton Camp. Sue continues to work hard and do favours around the town so she can improve camp. Then she gets surprise when her father, and family turn up. Seems Mr Carson thinks he was doing something nice to thank her for her work, little did he know! Sue’s upbeat enthusiasm takes a hit, and soon Mr Carson realises his mistake, especially as he sees her stepmother ordering Sue around. Mr Carson gets rid of them by saying the condition of the free holiday is to help with the piles of dishes, which gets them moving quickly. They also clear out Mike and Coolie with all the new facilities, they can’t put a complaint in against the camp. To round things off they win final volleyball match against Panton Camp, and now with all problems fixed Sue can relax and enjoy the rest of her holiday.
Sue Spiker is the character that appears the most in the Emma comic (just outdoing “Jodie and the Otter”), it had 39 episodes in total in Emma and a further 12 episodes in Judy & Emma. I can see the appeal, firstly the top art by “B” Jackson, then the story following a likeable character that seems to never be able to catch a break, she has to deal with abusive guardians, being unfairly treated at school, and homelessness. Of course her one talent, volleyball, may be the thing to get her a happy ending. It does follow a typical formula, but there is a reason readers like these stories, anticipating if the protagonist will overcome all the obstacles that keep getting flung at them. Emma was a more experimental title than some other DCT girl comics, it may have been trying to compete more with IPC titles of the time, as we see with the character of Sue Spiker, a working class girl that has a lot of hardships and with a more unusual sport that she is good at (tennis or hockey was more commonly seen in these titles), Sue would have fit right in with Tammy or Jinty.
The class divide is clearly against Sue from the start, not only are the girls snobbish and try and get Sue in trouble, the teachers are as equally (if not worse) at fault, being condescending, spiteful and looking down on Sue. Right away the headmistress declares her unhappiness to having Sue there, before she even meets her and is always looking for an opportunity to get rid of her just because she not the “right” class of student she wants in the school. There are few exceptions Sue finds a friend in Val, a senior, and Miss Graham. Although in the second series, Miss Graham takes a new job without even a goodbye or warning to Sue, which seems thoughtless. Miss Collins her replacement has similar attitude to the Headmistress, but also seems to be not a good teacher as Sue is able to teach girls more about volleyball than her. The teachers say she has a bad attitude, and while Sue might not always go about things right way, she won’t be bullied or talked down to which is what causes trouble. But she has had to learn to look out for herself since an early age and we are glad to see her take down some of the bullies at school.
Despite all these problems at school, it is still better than her home life, filled with abusive and neglectful guardians. At least Sue finally gets a good home in the end, but I feel sorry for the kids she left behind, particularly her stepsisters. In the first series both with the foster home and her family, they neglect the kids, don’t give them enough food and let Sue do all the housework and looking after the kids. Her father and step mother are particularly bad, coming back late at night and having parties and leaving the kids on their own for long periods. So it is a surprise that the kids are given back to the parents with only a fine. In the second series we see the abuse escalate to physical abuse, while it doesn’t seem like the younger girls get hit, it is still wrong that they get left behind. In the third series, everything seems a bit more toned down, the parents show up and take advantage and talk down to Sue but don’t come across more lazy than abusive and are quickly gotten rid of.
The third series is the weakest story, while Sue has challenges to overcome, they are less personal, she is just trying to help Mr Carson out, the biggest conflict is when her family arrive but they don’t hang about too long. While we always want protagonist to win in the end, I’m sure part of Sues appeal was the hardships she faced, so there is less drama here and perhaps that is why she didn’t last another series after this one.