Tag Archives: Success narrative

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.

Loser Lou (1981) and “I’ll Make You a Winner” (1983)

Published: Loser Lou – Bunty PSL #214; “I’ll Make You a Winner” – Bunty #240 (sequel)

Artist: John McNamara

These two PSLs starring Lou Lambert are being looked at together in a joint entry.

Special thanks to Lorrsadmin for scans of the second PSL.

Plot – Loser Lou

Lou Lambert and her family are spending a holiday at the Summerton Sports Centre because they are sports fiends and champions: Dad (golf), Mum (swimming), Lynn (athletics), Larry (martial arts), and Lou…“the world’s worst at sports and games”, and the kids back home call her “Loser Lou”. But Lou’s a Lambert, her family says, and Lamberts are winners. They tell her she’ll find a sport she’s good at. In the Lambert family, says Dad, “there are no such words as ’I can’t.’ We add two letters of the alphabet to them, and say, ‘I can try!’” So, although it looks like Lou may have skipped the Lambert sports gene, she has to keep trying.

Lou tries basketball, but she can’t match the players’ speed, and then she trips over her shoelace, sending players and the hoop crashing. Lynn advises her to look at a sport that’s more suited for her build (hmmm…considering her build, that could be tricky). Lou tries orienteering, but she gets horribly lost, not to mention getting a horrible blister on her foot. Next, Lou looks at a power-assisted sport. Deciding the motorised water sports are a bit beyond her, she tries cycling although she was never much good at it when she was younger. She soon finds she has not improved much since then, and then she lands herself in a cycling race. To cap it all, a newspaper flies in her face, sending her through someone’s picnic and then into the river.

Lou’s brother Larry tells her “winning is all in the mind! If you think you’re going to lose, you will lose – but if you’re sure you’re going to win, you will win!” Impressed, Lou works on boosting her confidence. She tries tennis next, but she’s barely got started when she challenges an opponent – without realising she’s Wimbledon standard! Lou comes a cropper over the tennis net and has to report to first aid.

Following this, Lou becomes disheartened, but her father, disappointed at her attitude, encourages her to try again. Lou tries archery, and she’s really smitten by the instructor – what a hunk! But her crush on the instructor is proving a distraction. In her drive to impress she pulls the bow too hard, and her arrow goes wild. While dodging it, the instructor hurts his leg, and now archery’s off at Summerton.

The Lamberts are now over halfway through their stay at Summerton. There will be a Grand Gala Display on the final day, and so far, nothing for Lou to show there.

Then, while watching Lynn practise athletics, Lou meets Monica. After hearing Lou’s story, Monica tells her that she failed at those sports because she was on her own when she tried them. What she needs, says Monica, is a sport where she will have the support of a friend. So she pursuades Lynn to try riding: “A girl’s best friend is her pony!”

Lynn is apprehensive, but is surprised to find herself a natural in the saddle and not messing things up at all. Before long, Lou’s family are astonished to see the strides Lou is making at jumping. Monica is going to enter Lou in the jumping competition on Gala Day. It looks like Lou has found her sport at last. Surely nothing can go wrong now.

But of course something can…

Lou doesn’t realise Monica has a grudge against her sister Lynn because Lynn’s superiority at the high jump had her scratch from the Gala Day high jump event. Her revenge is to make Lou foul up at the jumping event by switching her mount, Good Boy, with his evil twin, Bad Lad. She takes further measures to put Bad Lad in a nasty mood for the event, one of which Lou unwittingly foils.

Bad Lad’s threatening to throw Lou when the event begins, but Monica is astonished when Lou not only stays in the saddle but completes clear rounds as well while other riders score faults. Afterwards, Lou says she was too scared to even move and kept her eyes shut – WTF you ask? Yes, it is a puzzle, but the fact remains that Lou did win. So she is among the other Lamberts to receive trophies at the prize-giving and can say she’s a winner at last.

Plot – “I’ll Make You a Winner”

Back home, everyone is surprised at this sports trophy Loser Lou has brought back from Summerton. Lou’s confidence is so high, she’s joined the civic sports club. Only Corinne Fox guesses the trophy was a fluke. Figuring Lou’s as much a duffer as ever at sport, Corinne and her father, who’s on the committee at the club, plot to take advantage of this to get the sports club closed down so he can build a bingo hall on the site.

Fox starts by getting Lou the assistant secretary job at the club, where she’ll be in charge of all the fixtures. The plan is to mislead her on a few details on the events she’s arranging, and for good measure, Corinne throws in some dirty tricks as well.

Their first trick has Lou select a darts team for an event that’s in fact a brain of sports competition. But they didn’t count on Lou knowing so many answers to the sports questions that get asked. Yep, Lou may not be sporty, but she knows heaps about sport thanks to her sporty family. She gives her team so much confidence that they answer brilliantly too, and they win the trophy hands down. To make Fox even more furious, they also impressed the mayoress, who was presenting the trophy, when he was trying to convince her and the council otherwise to get the club closed down.

Next, Corinne tricks Lou into challenging the top-class white water club, without realising they are top windsurfers and it’s a championship event, and nobody in the club is qualified in that sport. But when the Foxes read the paper of the event, they discover Lou has done it again. The weather turned in her favour by turning bad, cancelling the event. What’s more, the lifesaver Lou included on her team saved one of the windsurfers who got caught in the bad weather, which is even more good publicity for the club. Foiled again, Fox!

Lou makes bookings for club members at an activity weekend, but again the Foxes mess up her bookings. Instead of sports activities they find themselves on furniture crafts courses. However, this works out in their favour; the club’s furniture and sports equipment were badly in need of repairs, and now they have the know-how to do some DIY jobs on them.

Lou books a gym display club open day, but bad luck strikes when she puts a bad crick in her back while shifting equipment. The Foxes try to mess up the open day by inviting army gymnasts as guests, but when the guys break equipment because they’re too heavy for it, they offer replacements, so the club gets the new equipment it badly needs.

Deciding the club needs funds, Lou decides on a sponsored canoe race against Chatterton College. Again the Foxes mislead her on just what the Chatterton competition will be like, and they are another lot of Olympic-build powerdrivers all set to outmatch Lou’s team. Corinne throws in a few extra dirty tricks, including putting up a number of misleading signs, to make sure Lou’s team fail. Without realising it, Lou stops her team from falling for any of those signs (she didn’t want them to leave her in the middle of nowhere by following them, as her back was playing up). And within the finishing line, the Chatterton team hit something. Their canoes go down, and Lou’s team wins.

Fox arranges for a football medical expert to sort out Lou’s back, who then introduces her to stage one of a fitness programme the footballers have been using. Lou starts teaching it to the club members in the style that has become her signature since joining: typical Loser Lou bungling, yet things always work out somehow. But what Lou doesn’t realise is that stage two of the fitness programme is at an R.A.F. airfield – and its programme includes parachute jumping practice! If the members don’t participate, says Mr Fox, the mayor and council, who are watching, might close down their hall and turn it into a bingo hall. But neither they nor the footballers are willing to jump, and the spectators are getting impatient.

Lou has arrived late, so she doesn’t know any of this as she handed an automatic-opening parachute kit and told to join the others at the Jumping Tower. The bumbling Lou blunders right through the jumping hole, becoming the first jumper and satisfying the restless crowd. Encouraged by Lou’s (accidental) example, her team follows suit. And so Lou’s civic club wins again.

Impressed that Lou has done what the footballers wouldn’t, the Mayor refuses Fox permission to replace the sports hall with a bingo hall. Instead, he’s giving the members a grant to expand their activities.

All Corinne and her father can do now is give up. “All our plans have failed – because of that Lou Lambert! Somehow, she always lands on her feet!”

Ah, so that explains Lou’s victory over Monica’s sabotage at Summerton.


Lou Lambert comes from a long line of protagonists in girls’ comics who try to prove themselves, but they only seem good for failure and be a walking disaster area at everything they try. As with Lou, their failures can be played for laughs. Or it can be for a sadder purpose, with their being the constant target of bullying and ridicule, along with harsh treatment from their own families for failure, such as in Make Headlines, Hannah! (Tammy) and Tears of a Clown (Jinty). Of course they eventually strike gold and find something they excel at, but the road to success is very bumpy. Added to that, there’s often a schemer at work trying to sabotage them.

Lou is so blessed in having a family who are supportive and encourage her to keep trying. The more usual pattern is for the family to treat the protagonist harshly and write her off as hopeless and good for nothing. Worse, it’s often the family that produces the spiteful schemer out to sabotage them (sisters, cousins). Of course, much the Lamberts’ encouragement comes from belief in the family name (Lamberts are winners) and the family motto, so they won’t hear of her quitting.

Lou’s family could do more to help her, such as helping her with her choices and offering a bit of coaching, but they’re probably too absorbed in their own sports. Lou’s left on her own on what sports to try out at Summerton.

Monica is correct about Lou failing at the various sports because she tried them on her own. In fact, Lou’s pattern was to jump straight into them them without any help, training or coaching (apart from the archery). Moreover, they were all sports she had not tried before, and when she tried them on her own, she did so at the deep end, not the beginner level.

It’s jarring when Monica, the helper, suddenly switches to spiteful schemer out to undermine Lou. It also defeats the whole purpose of the PSL, which was, after all, Lou finding a sports talent of her own and proving it could make her a winner. Instead, you’re left feeling Lou won the trophy by fluke or luck rather than talent. Though she still earned the trophy, considering the stunt Monica pulled on her, we’re left with feeling she has still not really proven talent. It proves Corinna’s point that the win was a fluke. It would have been better for Lou to have won the cup through her own skill and growing confidence, and proven beyond doubt that she had a sports talent.

So, when readers who remember Lou start reading her sequel, they will be wondering if Lou really does prove talent this time. From the cover, one would say not, so why is Lou saying, “I’ll make you a winner”?

Lou certainly has gained confidence by winning the trophy, but is confidence enough? It is disappointing that she is not keeping up the horse riding, the one sport she finally hit her stride on. Instead, she’s pursuing the sports centre and the sports there (table tennis, darts, fitness programmes) in pretty much the same manner she did at the failed sports at Summerton.

The irony is, although Lou’s still bumbling, this time she’s achieving more success through it and it’s helping her to save the day – without even realising what happened in the first place. And Lou’s real talent has surfaced: the talent of always landing on her feet, like a cat with nine lives. This was hinted at with her victory at Summerton, but now it’s confirmed beyond doubt in her sequel.

Such things have been seen before, such as “Simple Simona” (Tammy) – a dopey girl who is perpetually targeted by spiteful schemers, but her blundering ways always foil them in great comic style, without her even realising what happened. But here, Lou’s blundering has the unexpected bonus of things nobody would have thought possible with her before. She has not only become more confident but has also become a confidence booster, inspiring confidence, inspiration and success in others.

Lou may not be winning sports trophies, but she is proving herself a winner in other ways and making whole new strides with success in sport that nobody ever expected – herself included. As Corinne says, “The civic sports club was only half alive before she turned up and my dad had almost persuaded the council to close it down.” Now Lou is not only saving the club (without realising it) but giving it a whole new lease of life as well. She is surprising everyone – even the Foxes – in being able to tackle things far better than expected, such as selecting the darts team. Lou is also handling the sports fixtures far better than expected, and if not for the sneaky Foxes messing things up, she’d be doing a brilliant job of it. And she is doing a most enthusiastic, passionate job of improving the club and its members, and helping them to grow even more than before.

The irony is, it started with Mr Fox giving her the assistant secretary job in the hope it would help him close the club. Instead, it does the opposite. Moreover, rather than falling flat on her face in her new job, it gives her another boost of confidence and whole new windows in achieving success, including new-found skills in management, leadership, and inspiring others. Even without becoming a sports champion and winning trophies like the rest of her family, she is making her mark on the club and the world of sport. The club would not be the same without her, and readers are left satisfied that Loser Lou will get along just fine now.