Monthly Archives: March 2020

Tammy 6 August 1977

Tammy 6 August 1977

Artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstong) – final episode
  • Maisie of Mo Town (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Keeping Pets – Edie’s Hobbyhorse
  • Time Trap! (artist Tony Higham)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the New Boy (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • I Wish I Was Someone Else… – Strange Story (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
  • Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi)

All this big news about quarantine and self-imposed isolation in the wake of the latest pandemic had me thinking of this Tammy cover. The Cover Girls are in quarantine, and big sister, as usual, gets the short end.

It’s the final episode of Bella’s story, but another Bella story starts next week. Bella is stranded in Canada after her journey to the Montreal Olympics without a passport. She makes a friend in Indian girl Oona Tall Tree and helps a mountaineer whose leg got crushed by a falling tree. They’re all snowed in while he recovers, so Bella will entertain them with stories of her adventures.

“Maisie of Mo Town” is mistaken for a mystery jungle girl from Africa, Bibi, in the press. Kidnappers make the same mistake and lure Maisie away, thinking she’s Bibi. Maisie plays along, pretending to be a dim-witted African girl who speaks only pidgin English and knows little of the 20th century while secretly trying to work out a plan against them. In the meantime, she is having a lot of fun with her pretence and giving them aggravation. Already they’re wondering why they bothered with the kidnapping. We can see this story will be filled with laughs. But it won’t be played for laughs. All the while there will be the serious side of the kidnapping and the mystery of why the kidnappers are after Bibi.

Melanie Newton is rejected by the snooty girls of her new school, who get her banned from their athletics club. Melanie decides to form a team with the ragged Canal Mob, but they think she’s a toff. In this episode she finds ways to test out how good they would be at athletics and seems to getting through to them. They want to have a private chat with her, but is it genuine or a setup?

It is the penultimate episode of “Time Trap!”. A past life regression experiment with Leonie has gone wrong. It’s left her trapped in a hypnotic state where she is reliving a past life as Wat Tyler’s sister on the run from the king when the Peasants’ Revolt failed. Leonie’s sister Jenny is trying to find ways to help her, but it looks like she’s given the wrong advice again – it’s caused Leonie to become stuck in the marsh. What’s more, the way ahead is blocked by the king’s soldiers.

Miss Stackpole has taken the girls to the beach, but the wind is causing problems. However, that’s nothing compared to the problems Miss Stackpole has in bumping into Bessie all the time. Miss Stackpole doesn’t know which is worse – Bessie or the wind. Still, everything blows over and it’s a happy ending.

Pickering wants to get rid of new boy Arthur Sparrow because he thinks Arthur’s being groomed to take his place. Arthur takes the hint and leaves to join the army. Molly informs the recruitment office that he’s underage, but she overlooked one thing: this would land Arthur in trouble for lying about his age. Now Arthur could be up before a magistrate on a charge of false pretences. Oops!

In the Strange Story, Catherine Bridie is your poor little rich girl. Her wealthy uncle is so strict he stifles her freedom and won’t allow her friends. She wishes she could be like village girl Connie, the girl she finds a friend in. Weird events ensue, and Catherine takes Connie’s place and finds friends and happiness.

Wee Sue’s mother wants a tumble dryer and insists Dad spend his bonus on one. Dad is not thrilled at the idea, and his hunt for a tumble dryer gets him into all kinds of trouble as well. And after all that, Mum’s not even using the tumble dryer.

Tessa Mason, the “Daughter of the Regiment”, is determined to clear her father, who was executed for cowardice during the Charge of the Light Brigade. A mysterious Mr Cregan is trying to stop her, and this week he lures her into a trap. She escapes with the help of her mudlark friends, but Cregan now has plans to “spirit her away”.

Tammy 18 March 1978

Tammy cover 18 March 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Maisie – Fashion Crazy (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Goldie Alone (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Mask for Melissa (artist Angeles Felices)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills on the Run (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • The Magic Lamp – the Strange Story
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Gail at Windyridge (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Pretty Things with Poly Craft (feature)

I have brought out this Tammy in honour of St Patrick’s Day. Girls’ comics didn’t seem to bother with St Patrick’s Day much, but this issue is an exception. It’s a delightful, enchanting cover of leprechauns and fairies entertaining the Cover Girls.

Inside, Bella is on hiatus, but we’re sure some story will finish soon in order to make room for her. Meantime, several of the stories that are currently running are Tammy classics. One is “Melanie’s Mob”, Tammy’s answer to “Concrete Surfer”. Melanie Newton has formed a skateboarding club to persuade the council to provide a skateboarding rink. This week they win a special prize for their display on skateboarding safety and are encouraged to compete in serious contests. But now the only skateboarding area in town has been bulldozed.

Tammy is definitely having a jag on disguises, double lives, concealing pasts, going on the run, and assumed names. No less than seven stories have it this week in some form or other. Yes, seven.

First is “Goldie Alone”. Goldie was a mega-popular Tammy story that was still remembered years later; for example, Goldie made a cameo in the Wee Sue birthday celebrations of Tammy’s 10th issue. Goldie Gibbs is living with a foster family, the Stringers, while her mother is in hospital. The Stringers are out to stop Goldie beating their daughter Emma at an ice-skating event. Goldie is resorting to secret skating at the rink, which starts stories about a “phantom skater” haunting the rink at night. The Stringers guess the truth and go to welfare with all sorts of lies about Goldie being an out-of-control girl. Although welfare have second thoughts about Mrs Stringer’s story once they probe further, it has the police on Goldie’s tail and catching her red-handed as she tries to break into the ice rink.

Second is part two of another Tammy classic, “Mask for Melissa”. Melissa Mappin has facial scars from an accident and is so affected by it that she can’t bear to look in a mirror, and it looks like her acting hopes are dashed. This week she finds the solution: steal a beautiful mask from a shop, move to a new location, and resume acting under the assumed name of Gaye Traynor. However, we know deception and disguise are going to cause complications for Melissa. Right now though, Melissa has a more immediate problem: she can’t find a place to stay and has to resort to a hotel job to get a roof over her head.

Third is “Maisie – Fashion Crazy”. This is a sequel to an earlier Tammy story, “Maisie of Mo Town”. Maisie and Mary Malone don disguises of their own to go after shifty Marcus Adams, who’s gone off to Paris instead instead of looking after Mum’s business while she’s away. But their disguises are not exactly subtle: they look like chess boards in those checkered suits they’re wearing and one Frenchwoman is shocked already!

Fourth is “Gail at Windyridge”. Gail Peters and her father are using assumed names at the stable where he works because he was wrongly disgraced for horse-doping. But now a newspaper clip threatens to reveal their past. Added to that, more dirty work with horses is afoot: someone is trying to sabotage the Flier, the champion horse of the stables.

Fifth is Molly Mills, who is still “On the Run” after Pickering framed her for theft. Molly has made her way back to Stanton Hall, which has a new owner, and trying to hide her past. This week Molly has to resort to splashing her face with car engine oil to save herself from being recognised. This gets her lot of disapproving stares but fortunately her employer sees the funny side. Interestingly, a coloured girl has been added to the Molly cast, a black servant girl named Lucy.

Sixth is Wee Sue. Sue helps an old lady who can’t get in but finds out later she unwittingly helped a house-breaker who was disguised as the old lady. She’s got to undo the damage somehow, but the crook has shed the disguise and they don’t know what he looks like without it. But Sue realises he made one oversight, and it gets him nabbed – he forgot to remove the earrings from the old lady disguise.

Seventh is Bessie Bunter, who really is on a roll this week with a sheet of lino that keeps rolling everyone up. She foils thieves who are passing themselves off as tradesmen by dressing up in a bear suit to frighten them and then hitting them with the lino roll. Pity the thieves don’t get rolled up in it, which would have been as good as handcuffs and even more funny.

This week’s Strange Story could have reinforced the St Patrick’s Day theme on the cover with a story about leprechauns, fairies or Irish myth. Instead it’s a magic lamp story. Actually, it’s a paper lamp, made out of newspaper. But can it still work like Aladdin’s lamp and get Beryl’s brother Jimmy the cure he needs?

Tammy 20 October 1973

Tammy cover 20 October 1973

  • The Revenge of Edna Hack (artist Douglas Perry) – double final episode
  • Mandy and the House of Models (artist Ana Rodriguez) – final episode
  • Jumble Sale Jilly (artist Juliana Buch) – final episode
  • The Power of the Indian’s Pipe (artist Candido Ruiz Pueyo) – final episode
  • For Isabel with Love (artist Eduardo Feito) – double final episode
  • Tammy Special Double Page Pin-Up (Anne-Marie David and Simon Turner)
  • ‘A Mouse No More’ (artist Giorgio Giorgetti) – complete story
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

The previous entry was on the issue where Sandie merged with Tammy. This entry profiles the Tammy the week before the merger. Regrettably, I am not able to do the same with the final Sandie.

This was the last Tammy to have the “happy girl covers” who had been used on the cover from the first issue. The Cover Girls, drawn by John Richardson, take over with the merger issue. As everything starts new with the merger issue, everything currently running finishes this week, in two cases with double episode spreads. The announcement of the merger has a double page spread in the centre pages.

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One story to end with a double episode is “The Revenge of Edna Hack”. Like Mr Grand in “Village of Fame”, author Dame Edna Hack is going to extremes for TV ratings. In her case it is holding girls (in convict uniform costumes) on her island for her TV show “Captives of Thriller Island”, where viewers don’t realise that what they are watching are real captives trying to escape.

The other story to end with a double episode, “For Isabel with Love”, has an unusual ending: it ends on a cliffhanger and a sequel is promised. Now that will be something to see in the merger. The setup is, Jaki Holt wants to win a riding trophy for her friend Isabel Davey, who is in a coma, but she is having trouble persuading others to give her a chance. For one thing, she has a lame leg. In the final episode Jaki finally persuades the Colonel to give her that chance. But she hasn’t won yet!

“Jumble Sale Jilly” was Juliana Buch’s first story for Tammy. Jilly Burridge is in court, carrying the can for her horrible guardians who were stealing valuables. She hasn’t a hope – unless the only witness who can clear her, her natural mother, can get to the court in time.

In “Mandy and the House of Models”, student model Mandy Larkin is similarly carrying the can for a robbery, and her hunt for the real criminals has led her to Lowland Grange. But she’s been captured, tied up, and her attempts to escape are impeded by a sprained ankle and handcuffs. Talk about Houdini.

“The Power of the Indian’s Pipe” is a war between two brothers, one good, one bad, over a magic pipe. The pipe can be used for good – or evil – depending on which hands it falls into and what tune it plays. Angela, with the help of a similar pipe she has found, brings the war to an end and the pipe to safe hands.

Molly’s got a mystery on her hands to sort out: a baby, a desperate girl, and a whole mess of misunderstandings that are resulting in people being hurt. It all ends with Pickering being obliged to give the baby a kiss. Molly’s hopeful this is evidence of a soft spot in old misery guts.

Although Tammy is focused on finishing everything off and announcing the new spread in the merger, she still has room for a couple of fillers. We get a double-page pin-up and a reprint of a Strange Story (below). It must have come from the very early days of the Storyteller in June. It’s a surprise that the Storyteller had one appearance in Tammy that predates his arrival in the Tammy & June merger in 1974. The story is about a girl who is shy until she changes her appearance with a wig. All of a sudden she is confident and she is convinced it is the wig. Was it really the wig or did it just make her feel so different she discovered the confidence she didn’t realise she had? Whatever it is, she gets her future husband out of it. Aww…

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Tammy & Sandie 27 October 1973 – merger issue

Tammy cover 27 October 1973

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Two-Faced Teesha (artist José Casanovas) – first episode
  • School for Snobs (artist J. Badesa) – first episode of sequel
  • A New Leaf for Nancy (artist John Armstrong) – first episode
  • Back-Stab Ballerina (artist Miguel Quesada) – first episode
  • Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi) – first appearance
  • Win a Winter Wardrobe (competition)
  • The Girls of Grimley’s Grammer (artist Leo Baxendale) – first episode
  • Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner) – first appearance
  • Granny’s Town (artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills) – first episode
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – new story

This is the issue where Sandie merged with Tammy. The Sandie merger is one of the most pivotal in Tammy’s history. It is also one of the most far-reaching as it resonated for many years in Tammy.

First of all, it is the first appearance of The Cover Girl covers drawn by John Richardson. The Cover Girls would be a mainstay on Tammy’s cover right up until 11 October 1980, the same month they started way back in 1973.

Second, it is the first appearance of Wee Sue – and her arch-enemy Miss Bigger – in Tammy, and she would remain a popular Tammy regular until 1981. Wee Sue came over from Sandie, but Sandie readers must have been surprised at the way she appeared in Tammy. Her original Sandie story, drawn by Vicente Torregrosa Manrique, was a serial. Sue was a scholarship girl at exclusive Backhurst Academy, which had emphasis on sport, and she was trying to save it from closure. She also came up against other problems, such as prejudice over being a scholarship girl.

But here Sue is given a complete overhaul, from her location to her very appearance. Sue moves to the industrial town of Milltown, where she attends a comprehensive school. On her first day she meets new teacher Miss Bigger, who’s a bully teacher. And on the first day it is established how Wee Sue became the biggest bane of Miss Bigger, which would be the mainstay for the rest of Sue’s run in Tammy. Sue changes from a serial to a weekly regular played for light relief. Sue was always known for big brainstorms, and in this format she would use them to come up with ways to get out of various scrapes, foiling the meanness of Miss Bigger, or sorting out someone’s problem. Sue also acquires freckles and a spiky bob. Later the freckles disappear and her bob softens into the wavy one she retains for the rest of her run.

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Everything in the merger starts new or fresh. No half-finished or nearly finished serials here, which have often been the case with girls’ mergers and annoyed many readers. It’s a delight to have everything start on episode one.

Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie have come over from Sandie as well, and they lasted in Tammy for two years. Like Sue, Uncle Meanie has been given some changes. He shifts from his castle in Scotland to a suburban house in England and is now married to Aunt Martha. We have to wonder why the heck she married him in the first place as she is constantly infuriated by his extreme penny-pinching. However, we are told why Uncle Meanie moved from Scotland although he misses it – his meanness made him so unpopular there. As if the same thing is not going to happen in his new neighbourhood and he’ll have a bad reputation in town. He’s as mean and scheming as ever and Jeannie constantly has to outwit him. Uncle Meanie still has his original nose from Sandie and has not yet acquired the big bulbous nose he would have later on. The same nose would later be given to Miss Bigger when MacGillivray drew her.

We have a new regular cartoon, “The Girls of Grimley’s Grammer” (shouldn’t that be “Grammar”?). Artist looks like Leo Baxendale, who drew “The Kids of Stalag 41” from Jet/Buster. The premise must have been borrowed from Stalag 41 as well: the girls of Grimley’s Grammer give their headmistress a terrible time, just as the Kids of Stalag 41 give their Kommandant “Schtinky” a terrible time. But from the looks of the first episode, the girls will not always come out on top each week as the Kids of Stalag 41 do. Now that’ll make the cartoon even more interesting!

The Girls of Grimley's Grammer

Molly Mills continues from Tammy. Molly starts a spooky story in honour of Halloween, which the staff are gearing up for with carved pumpkins and a witch guy for Bonfire Night. Lord Stanton has unwisely developed a craze about psychics and invited a group over for seances. After they do so, unnerving stuff starts to happen, and a tarot reading predicts sadness and danger coming to the hall, with dark forces targeting bully butler Pickering in particular. It soon has the old misery running scared, though he would never admit it.

School for Snobs also returns from Tammy. Like Wee Sue, it shifts from serial format to regular “story of the week” format with loads of laughs for the readers. School for Snobs is a reform school designed to knock snobbery out of girls, and in the new format it shifts to a “snob of the week” where a new snob arrives each week to be cured by the end of the episode. Each snob and her form of snob are different each time, illustrating that snobbery comes in all shapes and sizes. First in for the treatment in the sequel is Lucille Hornsby-Grant, who attempts to have the school closed down. However, the inspector is so impressed he wants to send his own snobby daughter there to sort her out. After this, Lucille is beaten.

Maybe School for Snobs should be the place to send “Two-Faced Teesha”. Teesha Tate is a spiteful rich girl who has been removed from a string of schools for her nasty conduct. Instead, she and her father move to a new house, which Dad hopes will help to sort her out. Teesha does not like the down-to-earth people who reside there. However, she is looking forward to playing tricks on the daughter, Gail.

In “A New Leaf for Nancy”, Nancy Kay and her parents have to move to a rundown house, which they’re not happy about, because Dad has lost his job. School gets off to a bad start too. But things start looking up after Nancy hears a tree in her garden is said to have strange powers, and when a leaf gets caught in her hair, she gives a tough teacher a flash of brilliance that surprises even herself.

The new Douglas Perry story, “Granny’s Town”, might as well have been called “Revenge of the Grannies”. Jen Young is off to Crone-on-Sea for a holiday, where she comes across indications that the old ladies of the town have formed some sort of secret society that conducts vigilantism against those who insult or displease them. First to get the treatment are a bully businessman and a rude train conductor, who get tied to lamp posts with knitting wool during a night attack. The attackers leave a message embroidered on a cushion: “Get out of Granny’s Town!”

The lineup wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, and there is no exception here. June Day and Rita Radley have been such close friends they are called “The Inseperables”, but starting ballet school changes that. Rita soon becomes June’s worst enemy and “Back-Stab Ballerina” because everyone says June is better than her.

No merger is complete without a competition. In this one, you are in to win a winter wardrobe if you can spot the differences between two story panels.

 

Their Darling Daughter (1983)

Sample Images

Their Darling Daughter 1Their Darling Daughter 2Their Darling Daughter 3

Published: Princess (second series), #1, 24 September 1983 to #6, 29 October 1983

Episodes: 6

Artist: Bert Hill

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Dat kind hoort hier niet!’ [That child does not belong here!] Tina 42, 1984. https://www.catawiki.nl/catalogus/strips/series-helden/dat-kind-hoort-hier-niet/77184-1984-nummer-42

Plot

Lord and Lady Towne lost their daughter Rachel a year ago and still mourn her intensely. While they are still in mourning, they foster Sylvie from a children’s home. There is something puzzling as to how they came across Sylvie in the first place or why they are so interested in her. It’s not shown or explained at the beginning.

Sylvie feels out of sorts at her new home as it’s such a big jump from a children’s home to an aristocratic mansion and all the rules of deportment that go with it. She thinks she can’t live up to the pedigree or to Rachel who, from the sound of it, was brilliant at everything, and everyone still grieves for her. Nowhere is this reflected more than in Rachel’s room: everything is laid out as if she had just popped out for five minutes, and is obviously intended to be a shrine. Clearly, it is not going to be easy to fit into her new home. At least Rachel’s dog Ben takes an instant liking to Sylvie and becomes her friend, so there’s solace in that.

But Sylvie soon finds her real problem in her new home is Mrs Crooks, the housekeeper. Mrs Crooks took the loss of Rachel very hard as she worshipped the girl. On Sylvie’s first night in the mansion, Mrs Crooks scares Sylvie by saying she’s not going to take Rachel’s place and makes it plain she wants Sylvie out.

However, next day, Mrs Crooks is all sweetness and light and apologises to Sylvie. She didn’t mean it; it was just the grief, and she is willing to be friends. Sylvie accepts this explanation and offer of friendship, and even buys a present for Mrs Crooks.

But it soon becomes obvious that Mrs Crooks is just pretending to be nice to Sylvie in order to play tricks to get rid of her. She tricks Sylvie into selling porcelain dogs at a bric-a-brac shop to raise money for Lady Towne’s birthday present; when Lady Towne notices they are missing she is upset because they were a birthday present from Rachel. At the birthday party, Mrs Crooks tricks Sylvie into wearing the dress Rachel wore when she died. When Lady Towne sees this, she faints in shock. The party is ruined and Sylvie is sent packing from the party.

Of course this has Sylvie realise Mrs Crooks’ game. But she can’t convince her foster parents because Mrs Crooks is now poisoning them against her and leading them to think she is a dishonest, disturbed problem child. They become even more convinced of this when they find the porcelain dogs in the shop and think Sylvie stole them for the birthday present.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting hints that Mrs Crooks’ husband (the chauffeur) knows what his wife is up to and does not approve. However, every time he protests or wants to speak out she shuts him up. In one exchange, she says they will go to prison if the Townes find out the truth. Prison? Come on, the punishment for this wouldn’t be worse than the sack, would it? What’s the old bat on about? As it is, Sylvie’s only friend and helper right now is the dog Ben.

Sylvie tries to escape the situation by packing her bags and going back to the home, but the Townes have none of it. So Mrs Crooks tries again by making it look like Sylvie wrecked Rachel’s room. However, Sylvie and Ben manage to foil that that one by tidying it up in time, which has Mrs Crooks looking a fool in front of her employers.

However, Mrs Crooks is so angry at this that she brings out her big guns and makes threats that have Sylvie really scared. What’s more, the Townes are going to leave Sylvie alone with Mrs Crooks for the weekend. This has Sylvie well and truly terrified, especially when Mrs Crooks whispers that this weekend will be her last. Sylvie suspects Mrs Crooks is crazy and capable of doing anything to her. But the Townes won’t listen to her pleas not to leave her alone with Mrs Crooks.

Then Ben leads Sylvie to Rachel’s grave, where she overhears Mrs Crooks reveal something extraordinary: Rachel was actually Mrs Crooks’ daughter and the Townes’ “real daughter [Sylvie] is here”, and Mrs Crooks vows she won’t let Sylvie take Rachel’s place.

Mrs Crooks detects Sylvie’s presence, realises she overheard, and catches her. She drags Sylvie to the house and ties her up while explaining that she switched Sylvie and Rachel in the hospital when they were born so her daughter would grow up privileged. She put Sylvie in the orphanage and became housekeeper to the Townes so she could watch Rachel grow up while being near her. Now she’s going to kill Sylvie to be rid of her and make it look like an accident. Sylvie’s worst fears about Mrs Crooks are confirmed.

Meanwhile, Ben runs for help. Fortunately the Townes’ car has not got far because Mr Crooks was stalling while trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. When Ben arrives, they realise something is wrong and head back. Mr Crooks tells them what’s going on, adding that he was behind their meeting Sylvie (with an anonymous letter about her while not revealing her true identity). He had never endorsed what his wife did and was trying to put it right discreetly. Lord Towne comments that this was why he felt an immediate bond with Sylvie when he met her.

When Mrs Crooks sees them return she realises her husband has spilled the beans. There have been hints throughout the story that her sanity was questionable, and being discovered pushes her over the edge. She heads to Rachel’s room, intending to burn down the house with herself and Sylvie in it.

The Townes and Mr Crooks rescue Sylvie. They drag Mrs Crooks – whom they find cradling Rachel’s doll in the burning room and singing “rock-a-bye baby” – kicking and screaming from the house. The fire is brought under control and the authorities take charge of the Crookses. Mrs Crooks is placed in psychiatric care and Mr Crooks will probably get a short jail sentence (suspended, we hope).

Sylvie takes her rightful place with the Townes and calls them Mum and Dad for the first time. But Rachel’s memory will always be cherished.

Thoughts

Stories about spiteful antagonists playing tricks to get rid of a cousin/foster child were very commonplace at DCT; seldom did a few weeks go by without a DCT title starting one. However, for some reason the theme was far less common at IPC, which makes this story unusual for having it.

The story also breaks with the formula in several ways, which makes it even more unusual. First, the schemer is a creepy housekeeper; more often it’s a stepsister, foster sister or cousin. Second, the victim is warned right from the beginning that she’s got an enemy because the enemy tells her so herself. More often, the schemer works secretly so the protagonist doesn’t realise what’s going on and can’t understand why things keep going wrong for her and she gets in so much trouble. Third, the protagonist has a helper and even someone who knows what is going on but is having difficulty speaking out. More usually the protagonist is pretty much on her own, and if she does gets help it’s someone who has somehow become suspicious.

From the beginning we’ve been led to believe it’s misguided loyalty and grief for Rachel that’s driving Mrs Crooks to scheme against Sylvie. This could give us a measure of sympathy and understanding for her. If so, that fast evaporates once the baby switch and the real reason for Mrs Crooks’ hatred are revealed.

Having it turn out everything’s because Sylvie threatens Mrs Crooks’ deception in switching her and Rachel at birth is a flabbergasting surprise and twist to the story. However, the baby switch sounds a bit too Dickensian. The story would have gotten away with this more if it had a period setting. And so would have Mrs Crooks. We are finding it hard to believe Mrs Crooks managed to pull off the switch in modern times, especially when she herself says she and Lady Towne were in different parts of the hospital and Lady Towne was in a private suite. And what about the name tags on the babies? It is highly unlikely Mrs Crooks could have made the switch before the tags were put on.

The twist also has us question the wisdom of Mr Crooks in sending the Townes the letter. Sure, we can understand his desire to put things right somehow. But he must have known what his wife’s reaction would be, which would have exposed Sylvie to serious trouble. What was he planning to do about that? He doesn’t do anything more than make token protests at his wife, clearly because she dominates him. We don’t see him trying to stop her or help Sylvie until the end of the story.

The story only lasts six episodes, which was common for Princess II stories. But frankly, it could have done with more episodes, which would have been the case if it had appeared in, say, Mandy. For example, the first episode could have been used to fully develop the anonymous letter and how it leads to the Townes meeting Sylvie. Moreover, the anonymous letter would have added a mystery element to the story that would have piqued readers’ interest. Instead, it’s all mentioned in the final episode and readers are left thinking, “what anonymous letter?” The letter was never mentioned or shown in the story before, so the belated mention of it comes across as annoying.

The choice of villain for the schemer gives the story an edge of creepiness and terror that you don’t normally get in schemer stories, and this makes the story even more exciting. Usually the schemer is despicable and nasty but not frightening. And the warning signs that Mrs Crooks is going insane add an extra element of dread for Sylvie because what comes next could be anything – even murder.

We get some nice Bert Hill artwork in this story. Hill was a regular artist at DCT, working for many years on all three of its biggest girls’ titles. However, it is unusual to see his artwork at IPC. The only other known sample of Bert Hill IPC artwork is “Porridge Pulls His Weight” (Tammy, 3 September 1983), which, incidentally, was his only known credited piece of work.