Tag Archives: Juan Sarompas

Dark Days at Torloch Towers [1977]

  • Dark Days at Torloch Towers – Spellbound: #35 (21 May 1977) – #41 (02 July 1977)
  • Artist: Juan Sarompas (thanks to David Roach for confirming)


At the secluded boarding school, Torloch Tower, a new science teacher, Miss Ray is preparing  a special experiment with her class. They leave the solution for over night but friends Gail Thomson and Pat Moore return to the lab late to collect something Gail forgot. They can’t get in to the locked room but see in the window a strange black cloud forming from the solution and escaping through the key hole. Suddenly the girls start bickering, they return to dorm room still angry but the next morning they feel bad about the fight. They go back to the lab to investigate and find the room trashed. Their friend Faye is watching them, when a strange black bird appears in front of her, she becomes spiteful and tells the headmistress about the girls being outside when they shouldn’t be. Gail and Pat get called to the head’s office and already Faye is regretting her actions and is there too asking the headmistress to forget what she said, they all get punishment for their actions. Faye thinks the other girls won’t be friends with her anymore but because of their experience they believe her that something evil and strange came over her.

Gail and Pat are showing Faye the lab when Miss Ray appears. The normally understanding teacher,  accuses them of wrecking the lab, then girls notice the dark  shape nearby that then dives into lake. The evil influence doesn’t last too long at least and Miss Ray apologies to girls. The cloud now in the form of a fish causes two other students attack another swimmer. It leaves the water turning into a lizard. Gail, Pat and Faye wonder what they can do to stop the creature especially as it can change shapes, but they know they must try to stop its nasty influence. Later Gail and Pat see the cloud in its original form again, it is moving slower and they observe it feeding off ink and becoming stronger and faster again.

Revitalized the shape makes Joan the captain at the hockey match want to win game at all costs.  She gets sent off for foul play on other team. Then the cloud takes shape of a cat and causes the real school cat to attack Pat. Later, surprisingly the Cloud stops at prize day notice and looks like it is reading it. It then turns into a question mark, and the girls can’t make sense of what it is planning. The parents arrive for prize giving and the Headmistress is influenced to say insulting things at the ceremony, Pat pulls fire alarm to stop the speech. Gail and Pat discuss if the parents take action on what the Head said their could be real trouble and they need to destroy the thing before it destroys the school (incidentally the parents don’t complain it seems because it is never mentioned again). The girls consider talking to Miss Ray for help, but she has taken some leave to visit her mother. Pat gets idea to kill the “pest” with fly killer but it only makes it angrier. While cleaning up spilled ink they then think they should use ink remover on the thing, they lure it in with some ink to feed on and the pour the ink remover over it. The thing is completely destroyed, the nightmare is over and the girls are happy to forget about it and enjoy the rest of the school term.


This story has great art, from the impressive school and its location to the menacing cloud, also the layouts and composition are really good. This elevates the story a lot, the mysterious shape that can change into  animals (and a   question mark) makes for a very creepy opponent, and the art captures that and the girl’s terror perfectly. The three main characters all are given their own personalities, Pat being the most proactive, Faye being nervy and Gail being the more calm supportive one.  We don’t know what motivates the shape but it is interesting rather than many other evil influence stories, it doesn’t latch onto one person, and neither is its effects long lasting. This give the girls a better chance of defeating it. They are smart enough observe the creature, then come up with a solution from what they have seen.

The story does leave a lot of unanswered questions, from the beginning it was so vague what experiment the class were doing, I thought that Miss Ray was behind it, (it wouldn’t be the first time a nice new teacher wasn’t what they seemed). So how the cloud/shape was created was unclear and also what it’s ultimate goal was. The girls are surprised when it seems to read the noticeboard, showing it has some intelligence, perhaps it particularly wanted to stir up jealousy as the swimmer, hockey and prize giving instances were all related to people being better at something than others. Whatever the reason, it is quickly defeated in the last episode and the girls are happy to just forget about it, which is a bit of an anti climatic ending.



Ashamed of Her Sister (1983) aka “She’s Guilty!”

 Published: Debbie PSL #70

Reprinted: Bunty PSL #420 as “She’s Guilty!”

Artist: Cover Dudley Wynne?; story Juan Sarompas?


Sixth former Carole Trent is school captain at Redways Boarding School, and her younger sister Julie is third former there. Carole Trent has always been popular, and has won several trophies for the school. But Carole’s popularity takes a dip when she gives some girls who were overzealous about cheering about their latest trophy 100 lines each for bad behaviour. Even Julie cops the lines and the girls, especially Cindy Barker, are furious with Carole. Later, Carole expresses disapproval at Julie being with Cindy’s crowd because they are such a bunch of troublemakers.

During the night someone breaks into the trophy cabinet and steals the trophies. The police find a pair of broken scissors and conclude the thief used them to break into the cabinet. That evening, Julie is puzzled to see Carole leaving the school grounds with a bag. Carole heads to an alley called Skinner’s Walk, because someone told her on the phone that the trophies will be there. She finds them, but as she leaves the alley the police catch her and don’t believe her story as to how she got them. In their view it looks like Carole stole them and now she is under a black cloud at school. She can’t actually be taken away from the school as the police have put her into the school’s care. So she is being kept under confinement in the sick bay while the investigation is underway. When word spreads, all the girls turn against Carole, especially the ones who are angry at those lines from her.

In sick bay, Carole tells Julie she received a phone call telling her where to pick up the trophies. The story was that the thief wanted to give the trophies back quietly. Carole foolishly agreed to collect the trophies without telling anyone. It is now clear that the whole thing was a setup and she walked straight into it. Julie resolves to find out who is behind it – but to have a better chance of doing so, she must pretend she’s turned against Carole over the whole business. Carole’s friend Jane Lytton, who seems to be the only friend Carole has left, is appalled at Julie’s sudden vociferousness in the way she has turned on her sister. This includes Julie joining demonstrations to get Carole expelled, which Jane furiously breaks up.

When the girls hear about the broken scissors they go to check Carole’s scissors. The scissors are missing, and a search fails to find them. Jane interrupts the search and tells them to clear off. Suspecting Cindy is behind everything and the scissors might be hers, Julie drops a hint that has the girls producing their scissors in order to see if one is missing. All the girls’ scissors are accounted for.

Then the detective searches Carole’s room himself and finds the broken scissors. Carole admits they are hers, but says they disappeared two days ago and were not broken then. Nobody seems to find it odd that the broken scissors somehow shifted from the scene of the crime to Carole’s room, especially as they should be in a police evidence bag. And why did the girls not find the broken scissors themselves when they searched the room earlier? Nonetheless, the evidence seems to be piling up against Carole.

Jane expresses fury at Julie over the way she is treating her sister. Her rage leads to odd comments about her being an orphan and the family history she has been doing. When Julie gets curious about the project, she seems to strike a nerve – Jane snaps at her and gives her 500 lines for impudence. Even more strangely, Jane tells Julie that Carole believes someone planted the scissors in her room, and accuses Julie of doing it! When Julie denies it, Jane says it must have been one of the girls. At this remark, Julie realises one of the girls could indeed have planted the scissors while pretending to help with the search. But if so, it could have been any of them.

Julie softens her pretence a bit to try a different tactic. She tells the girls Carole claims that someone framed her. If that is true, then the real culprit would have been missing from school that evening. As planned, this has all the girls accounting for their whereabouts at that time. Everyone seems to have an alibi, but Sarah says something odd – she went to see Jane about lines, but was kept waiting for one-and-a-half hours because Jane was not around. (In other words, Jane has no alibi for that time and was missing when she shouldn’t have been…?) Sarah then explodes with fury and turns on Julie, says Julie was trying to catch her out for something she didn’t do, and she’s as bad as her sister, etc, etc. Just then, Jane breaks them up.

Julie tells Carole that all her suspects are in the clear because they have alibis for that time (except Jane, maybe?), but then gets another lead. Carole has orange paint on her shoes that must have come from her trip to Skinner’s Walk. Realising the culprit might have gotten the same paint on herself as well, Julie heads to Skinner’s Walk. She finds the paint, now dried. Carole’s footprint is there, and there is a smeary mark beneath it, which Julie deduces was made by the enemy.

The next call is to check everyone’s shoes for the orange paint, but Julie finds none. Then, when Julie checks Cindy’s holdall to see if it has the paint on it, the girls catch her and chase her lynch-mob style, accusing her of stealing and then (correctly) snooping because she thinks they set her sister up. Julie takes refuge in Jane’s study, where she declares she thinks she can prove who stole the trophies. Jane keeps the girls out and asks Julie to explain.

All of a sudden, Julie accuses Jane of being the culprit. She planted the scissors in Carole’s room for the police to find after kicking the girls out. The reason Sarah had to wait one-and-a-half hours for Jane that night was because Jane was out stealing the trophies, making the phone call to Carole, and setting up the trap at Skinner’s Walk. Her proof? She saw Jane’s holdall on her desk – and it has the orange paint on it!

At this, Jane suddenly goes berserk. She attacks Julie and yells that her family has hurt her and killed her mother. Hearing the commotion, the girls, Carole and two other sixth formers burst in and demand to know what’s going on. Jane directs them to her family school project. The Brent family of Dingham Hall wrongly accused Jane’s mother, who was one of their servants, of stealing silver candlesticks. The real thief confessed in the end, but it came too late for Jane’s mother; she had died of a broken heart in prison. Jane’s frameup of Carole had been her revenge against the Brent family. Carole then informs Jane she overlooked one thing with her project – there were two Brent families living in Dingham. Theirs had no connection to Dingham Hall and had nothing to do with Jane’s mother.

The authorities decide Jane needs more help than punishment. So they take no action, although Jane has to leave the school. Carole forgives her too. Carole is now more popular than ever and so grateful to Julie for what she did.


This is a solid detective story, and the cover Julie has to undergo is a heartbreaking one – pretending she has turned on her own sister and giving the impression of family disloyalty. She even has to join protest demonstrations to get Carole expelled to make it even more convincing. It must be even worse than for protagonists like Marie Bonnet “The Cat” who have to pretend to side with the enemy in order to be a secret helper. In contrast, Jane appears to be the only one who is loyal to Carole and be the real brick that stands by the protagonist while everyone else goes against her, no matter what. Friends like these have appeared in so many girls’ stories, such as Beth Parker in Bunty’s “Move over Maria”. Only in this case it is not for real – it turns out to be a case of it being the person you least suspect. It was so fortunate that neither Julie or Carole took Jane into their confidence about what they were planning although they still thought Jane was Carole’s friend.

The red herrings established at the beginning of the story are well done. It’s only natural Julie’s suspicions fall on Cindy and her gang as their grudge against Carole began only hours before the affair began, and they have a reputation for causing trouble. And who else could it be? Nobody else is known to hate Carole for any reason. The real clues are done in a more deft, subtle manner that you don’t quite pick up on until Julie suddenly accuses Jane, right out of the blue. If the story had been in colour you would have known it was Jane if you could see the actual orange on her holdall, but you can’t with the black and white print.

The frameup itself is quite clever. The only thing that does not fit is how Jane managed to plant the scissors when the police found them at the scene of the crime and therefore should be in an evidence bag. It would have made more sense for the police to find the piece that broke off the scissors at the scene of the crime, and then the broken scissors the piece came from be found in Carole’s study.

The story of Jane’s mother being a servant who is wrongly accused of stealing candlesticks sounds more like something that would happen in Victorian times than say, the 1970s or so, considering the time the story is set in. Sure, we don’t know the full circumstances of how the mother came to be wrongly accused of stealing the candlesticks or what the evidence was against her. But it would have sounded more credible to have the false charge happen to an ancestor of Jane’s and the tragedy still deeply affecting Jane’s family.

Jane falls into the trap that so many revenge seekers in girls’ comics fall into – they find out that they did not have their facts straight, the person they were targeting was entirely innocent, and their revenge was all for nothing. In Jane’s case it is even more tragic because she was once a genuine friend for Carole before her mistaken assumptions about the Brent family turned her into a very disturbed girl who blames them for her mother’s death and wants to give them a taste of their own medicine with wrongful accusations. The tragedy is ameliorated somewhat by the view the authorities and Carole take about Jane, but Jane now has to live with a guilt complex and feeling a complete idiot.

Bunty Annual 1991

Picture Stories

  • The Great Escape (Pages: 6-15) [Artist: Andy Tew]
  • Bunty- A Girl Like you (Pages: 16) [Artist: Andy Tew]
  • Sister Susie (Pages: 17-24) [Artist Matias Alonso]
  • Haggis (Pages: 25)
  • Pinkie (Pages: 26-32) [Artist: Douglas Perry]
  • Robina Hood (Pages: 36-38) [Artist: Rodney Sutton]
  • The Comp (Pages: 49-57) [Artist: Guy Peeters]
  • A Saddle for Strawberry (Pages: 58-64) [Artist: Juan Sarompas]
  • The Painting (Pages: 65-77) [Artist: David Matysiak]
  • The Four Marys (Pages: 81-90) [Artist: Jim Eldridge]
  • Toots (Pages: 91) [Artist: Bill Ritchie]
  • The Good Fairy (Pages: 92-96) [Artist: Norman Lee]
  • School’s Out: The K.O. Kids (Pages: 97-108) [Artist: Terry Aspin]
  • Brassribs (Pages: 113-120) [Artist: Matias Alonso]
  • Bunty- A Girl Like you (Pages: 125) [Artist: Andy Tew]

Photo Stories

  • Second Fiddle Sarah (Pages: 39-45)
  • Dear Katy… (Pages: 109-112)


  • Another Day… (Pages: 2-3, 126-127)
  • The Statue of Liberty is in- Denmark? (Pages: 33-35)
  • Who is Sylvie? (Pages: 46-47)
  • Design a Fashion (Pages: 48)
  • Leading Ladies! (Pages: 78-79)
  • Whatever Neckst? (Pages: 80)
  • Calendar (Pages: 121-124)

(Click on thumbnails for bigger picture)