Make Headlines, Hannah! (1979-1980)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 17 November 1979 – 26 January 1980 

Episodes: 11

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #23 as “Fame and Fortune”

Plot

Hannah Hilton is regarded as the failure of her family, a line of success stories. She lives in the shadow of her sisters Jane and Louise, who are showered with attention and the lion’s share in everything because they are brilliant and succeed in everything. People are always whispering and laughing at what a failure Hannah is. Her apathetic parents treat her as if she doesn’t exist. They don’t lend her any help, encouragement or sympathy, especially her mother.

Great Uncle Matt, who is paying a visit, tells Hannah he will give her £100 if she can make a name for herself in the papers upon his return. It appears to be meant as a joke as much as an incentive. Still, it sets Hannah going and she starts entering a series of events to hit the headlines and prove herself. Her actions eventually focus on the town carnival. 

However, Hannah’s every attempt to hit the headlines keeps being foiled by dirty tricks from her sisters. When they become the carnival princesses, they are in a stronger position to sabotage Hannah at the carnival. However, the sisters’ spite has the unexpected effect of Hannah acquiring help from others, though not from her apathetic parents. In fact, Mum just grumbles at how Hannah has changed since Uncle Matt’s money promise, as she’s not sitting quietly in the back seat anymore and even shouting at her sisters for their spite. By contrast, Hannah’s new friend Derek has noticed the sisters’ dirty tricks and offers help in any way he can. Another helper emerges at the carnival after Jane and Louise wreck Hannah’s attempt to present a letter to the guest pop star. To cheer her up, he gives her a costume to help raise money. Hannah is successful at this, but it doesn’t make her name. 

Jane and Louise’s next trick is to set Hannah up at a rag week fund-raising competition to make a fool of her. Following this, Hannah finds another helper, Mrs Taylor. In return for Hannah finding her lost dog, Mrs Taylor says the Colonel is just what she needs to succeed. The Colonel is a stuffed fortune-telling parrot who was a popular attraction in Victorian times. Mrs Taylor had several requests from the mayor to revive him, but as she is too old for it, she is lending him to Hannah to do so at the antiques fair. Outside, the sisters and a friend of theirs, Mandy, hear Hannah and Mrs Taylor talking about Colonel. The sisters just laugh, but it rings a bell with Mandy and she seems more intrigued. 

Soon everything looks all set for Hannah to hit the headlines when she revives Colonel at the fair, complete with reporters and the mayor all eager to see it. But on the morning of the fair, disaster strikes – someone breaks into Mrs Taylor’s cottage. The place is turned inside out and Colonel vandalised. Hannah manages to repair Colonel and is determined to put him on anyway. Before she does, she confronts her sisters over her suspicions that they were behind it. However, she is not so sure when she later hears them accusing each other of it. 

At the fair, she discovers her display stand has been dismantled because the fairground staff heard about the attack and thought she wouldn’t be able to make it. But she is surprised when Uncle Matt turns up. Derek had written to him about Hannah’s situation and he has come to help. He pushes things to get a stall for Hannah and Colonel and pictures with the mayor. But he pushes things so far for Hannah rather than helping her to do things for herself that he unwittingly pushes Hannah into the background again. 

Uncle Matt is so impressed at Hannah’s hard work at the fair that he gives her the money he promised. But Hannah feels it did not bring her the success she was looking for. What’s more, she soon discovers she still hasn’t really earned her family’s respect and her sisters still hog the family limelight. Besides that, there is still the mystery of the attack on Colonel.

Then Hannah learns more about Colonel’s history and discovers there are rumours about him guarding some sort of treasure. Believing this is the motive for the attack and figuring the culprit is someone who knows her, Hannah works out a plan to catch them. She also examines Colonel and finds a name plate on his base with the word “Domingo”, but can’t figure out what it means. 

To flush out the culprit, Hannah throws a party with Uncle Matt’s money, to gather all the people who know her. Her sisters steal the limelight at the party, but Hannah is more interested in using the party to set a trap. This entails drawing everyone’s attention to Colonel at the party, say they’re dropping him off at Mrs Taylor’s cottage, and then wait. The thieves take the bait, and Hannah sneaks inside to surprise them while Derek calls the police. The trap snares Mandy and an unnamed boy, all ready for the police. Belatedly, Hannah remembers Mandy overheard her discussing Colonel with Mrs Taylor.

The police also clear up the mystery of Domingo: it’s the name plate and last surviving piece of Nelson’s flag ship “Domingo”, and it’s worth a fortune at auction. The valuable find and catching the thieves earns Hannah the name and respect she had been seeking for so long.

Thoughts

Girls’ comics have a long tradition of serials about plain girls who never shine at anything, are written off as losers, often get teased over it, and grow tired of living in the shadows. But stepping out of the shadows is far from easy, and there are always loads of setbacks and disappointments in between. And it’s never because they are genuinely incompetent or stupid. It’s because a) they have poor self-esteem and no confidence in themselves, b) their appearance is often against them, c) their home and/or school environment is letting them down, and d) there’s always some spiteful person out to sabotage them. 

Hannah is no exception. Lack of confidence and self-esteem rather than incompetence are the obvious cause of her never winning anything, and her home environment is clearly to blame for it. It is doing nothing to build her confidence or support or help her in any way. In fact, it is doing the total opposite. Hannah’s school environment is not shown, but it is unlikely to be helping much either. A serious makeover would go a long way to building Hannah’s confidence, but nobody in the family ever gives her one. The only family member to help Hannah in any way is her Uncle Matt. After all, it is his promise of money that finally gives Hannah the incentive to make something of herself and climb out of the shadows. But even he is not quite going about things the right way. 

Hannah is lucky in that she does find genuine helpers, most notably Derek and Mrs Taylor. Many girls in similar situations don’t have even that e.g. Kathy Clowne in “Tears of a Clown” (Jinty). Without their help Hannah could never have overcome her spiteful sisters and finally made a name for herself. Some failing parents in similar stories offer last-minute help that helps redeem themselves and save the day, such as “Sheena So Shy” and “Belinda Bookworm” from Tammy. Sadly, this is not the case with Hannah’s parents.

We also note that Hannah would have won far sooner if her sisters hadn’t keep interfering, and her failures to hit the headlines have nothing to do with incompetence. We also have to wonder why the sisters bother to sabotage her at all if they’re so confident she won’t succeed in getting the money anyway: “Caterpillars will be walking to the moon and back before Hannah shines at anything!” Unlike, say, Sandra Simpkins in “Tears of a Clown”, their motives for derailing Hannah are not clear. The nearest we get to it is their telling Hannah she’s only thinking of the money, but that doesn’t sound like their real motive. Do they secretly fear she might win after all? Do they want to make doubly sure she won’t succeed and fail to get the money? Or are they just doing it out of spite and think it’s all one huge joke?

Most heroines in Hannah’s situation discover some surprise talent and try to prove themselves through it. Kathy Clowne, for example, finds she is brilliant at running, and Sheena Willcox in “Sheena So Shy” discovers how to turn her refuge in disco dancing into a fight for success. But Hannah doesn’t go this route. This is probably because she has to meet Uncle Matt’s deadline, so it’s hit the headlines any way she can as fast as she can. But instead of her just winning in the end and getting the money, the story takes the novel route of making Hannah a winner by giving her a mystery to solve. And if there is one thing girls love, it is mystery. Unravelling the mystery makes the final episode even more exciting to read. The story also takes a surprise twist of Hannah using the money she is promised to help her succeed when readers expected Hannah to just make her name and being given the money. 

There is just one question readers may be wondering: is Hannah’s triumph at the end going to be a one-off, or will it be the start of Hannah’s own success? The story gives no hint, but along the way to hitting the headlines, a number of hidden talents did come to light for Hannah: creativity, fund raising, horseshoe throwing, deduction, fortune telling with Colonel, and even ventriloquism. Any one or all of these could be taken further to boost Hannah’s confidence and further her gains as a success. And, as mentioned earlier, poor self-esteem and lack of confidence and support were at the root of Hannah’s failures. Now these are sure to get a boost, Hannah is bound to make strides in improving herself.

2 thoughts on “Make Headlines, Hannah! (1979-1980)

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