Wanda Whiter than White (1975-1976)

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Wanda 3a

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Wanda 3b

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Wanda 3c

Publication: 20/12/75-6/3/76

Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Writer: Unknown

Nobody likes a tell-tale, so any reader is guaranteed to despise this smug, sanctimonious, self-righteous, “holier-than-thou” sneak named Wanda White. Wanda is such a despicable character that you may hate her even more than the more typical abusive guardians or spiteful bullies in girls’ comics.

The problem with Wanda is that she takes truth-telling and obeying rules to such extremes that she will not allow even the whitest of white lies or the smallest of infractions. Every time she sees it, she butts in with brutal truth-telling and sneaking, much to the hurt and embarrassment of a lot of people – even school staff. For example, when the school caretaker starts yarning to entertain pupils, Wanda interferes, saying he is telling a load of lies.

But it is Wanda’s next door neighbour, Susie Foster, who suffers the most from Wanda’s constant interfering. Susie leads a double life to pay off what she owes on her pony, Dumdum, but has to do it in secret because her mother disapproves of horse riding. When Wanda finds out, she insists on telling Susie’s mother. But Susie has already told her mother, so Mrs Foster just calls Wanda a tattle tale and shows her the door.  There is also rivalry, as both girls are competing in horse-riding events.

Wanda has no time for being tactful, discreet, thinking about what circumstances might be involved, have some understanding for human foibles, or simply to mind her own business. No, she is an interfering busybody who believes she must keep everybody on the straight and narrow with truth-telling and obeying rules. Wanda’s interfering also gives her a nasty habit of jumping to conclusions and being quick to accuse without getting her facts straight; for example, when she wrongly accuses Susie and her mother of shoplifting. Fortunately they are quickly released once the store finds nothing to hold them on. But Wanda just says, “I find that most unfortunate. Evil must always be punished.”

Nor does Wanda care that she is hurting a lot of people – such as when her tale-telling gets people’s pets confiscated by the council and the Fosters facing eviction. Rather, she expects them to thank her for clearing their consciences over disobeying the rules. And when she embarrasses the school caretaker over spinning yarns to the girls she smiles because “I am at peace with my conscience.” This is something Wanda says so often you might think it is a clue as to what has made Wanda what she is.

And it is. When Susie discovers the truth about Wanda, it is a complete surprise and the twist of the whole story. And what is it? It turns out that Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing. She is going to extremes with honesty to appease her guilty conscience and redeem herself – or perhaps use the infractions of others to put them down in order to feel better about herself?

But in the end Wanda is truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life. Susie is impressed, and feels that Wanda is now going to be more human and less whiter-than-white in future.

Stories about how taking truth-telling taken to extremes can turn you into a sneak and cause loads of trouble have appeared elsewhere in girls’ comics. Examples include “The Black-and-White World of Shirly Grey” in Tammy and “Minna Mindreader” in Bunty. However, it is more usual for the truth-telling extremist to be the heroine of the story and suffer more from her extreme truth-telling than anyone else who gets hurt by it. But in this story it is the reverse, which makes it a more atypical and therefore more interesting serial.

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