Tag Archives: bullying

Eva’s Evil Eye (1974)

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Published: Tammy & June 22 June 1974 to 7 September 1974

Episodes: 12

Artist: Charles Morgan 22 June to 3 August 1974; John Richardson 10 August to 7 September 1974

Writer: John Wagner

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Eva Lee and her grandmother go into Clariford Camp at Wetham, a gypsy resettlement scheme run by Councillor Hawkins, where anti-Romany prejudice is rife in the community. At her new school, Eva is bullied because she is a gypsy, led by school bully Trudy Morris. The form teacher Miss Loftus is just as bullying and constantly humiliates Eva with derogatory comments about gypsies. Eva’s only friend is Mary Miller, a girl with a bad leg. 

To stop the bullying, Eva pretends to have the evil eye through a series of tricks, staged accidents, and strokes of luck. This soon has the school bullies running scared and backing off. However, Trudy is less fooled and not giving up bullying Eva that easily. She is determined to show Eva up as a fraud. Later, Eva tries the evil eye stunt on Miss Loftus to stop her bullying. The headmistress, although nicer to Eva, is not fooled about the evil eye, and warns Eva to desist. However, Trudy is still trying to have the girls gang up on her again, so Eva returns to the evil eye trick to be left in peace. 

Eva soon finds it’s not just the school bullies she has to scare off with her “evil eye”. Councillor Hawkins strips all gypsies in Clariford Camp of their vardo, something he uses to cheat them and make a profit. When his workmen try to remove gran’s horses, Eva cares them off with her evil eye pretence. Later, she pulls the same stunt on Hawkins himself (pretending to turn his workmen into mice) when he tries to take the caravan and force Eva and Gran to live in a hut.

Then Eva discovers her deception is snowballing and leading to unforeseen consequences. Mary, who has also been fooled, wants Eva to use her powers to cure her crippled leg. Trudy tries to get her parents to remove Eva from the school, and when the headmistress refuses, they organise a rally, which leads to a march on the streets all the way up to the town hall. Councillor Hawkins holds a meeting at the school. It’s very heated and angry, with only the headmistress in favour of Eva, but things turn to terror when Eva shows up. 

The stage where where Hawkins, Trudy’s parents and the school staff are sitting suddenly collapses. Only the headmistress is spared. The hall empties in panic. Even Eva is taken by surprise. The headmistress says she had been trying to get the education committee to strengthen those stage supports about umpteen times, but now Eva herself is wondering if she’s got powers, and Mary is now 100% convinced Eva does. Following this incident, Eva is suspended from school and Hawkins and the housing committee decide to evict Eva and her gran. 

Eva and Mary head to Clariford, where Hawkins is indeed trying to evict gran. However, the other gypsies decide they’ve had enough of Hawkins and the way he’s treated them. They turn on him and his cronies. Enraged, Hawkins yells for the police to throw them in jail, and it looks like he’s out to evict them all now. Mary urges Eva to use her power. When Eva wishes for someone to come to the rescue, who should show up but a cavalry of medieval knights! They drive off Hawkins with their lances.

It turns out the knights are from an upcoming pageant. They attacked Hawkins because they ran amok. The people running the pageant have heard about Eva and offer her the part of the Witch of Wetham, which will culminate in a mock burning at the stake. Eva accepts. 

Eva is still suspended from school, all the girls exept Trudy believe in her evil eye and are scared stiff of her, Trudy’s hell-bent on exposing her as a fraud and renew the bullying, but the headmistress wants to help her. She pulls some strings – school governor Sir Percival Lumsley – to get Eva back in school, but there is to be no more of that evil eye stuff. Eva, who had initially hated her school and the gypsy resettlement idea, now finds she wants to settle at the school and get a proper education, something she could not get because of her wandering life.

Unfortunately, Eva soon finds that stopping what she has started is easier said than done; The momentum’s too strong now. Mary’s now convinced Eva’s powers really have cured her of her bad leg. Even when Eva tries to tell her she doesn’t really have powers, Mary refuses to listen. Trudy is still a threat. Hawkins is going to close down the very gypsy camp he established and evict the gypsies, and this time he’s brought in real enforcements – the police. The townspeople turn up in force as well to watch the fun. 

Then the knights turn up again. One lifts his visor and there is no face underneath. All of a sudden everyone’s screaming that Eva’s evil eye has summoned ghost knights, and they run away in panic. Of course there’s a simple explanation – the suit’s too big for its wearer, the dwarfish Sir Percival. The gypsies are saved and Sir Percival is confident there will be no more trouble from Hawkins. Unfortunately, Sir Percival has reckoned without Hawkins working out the truth about the ghost knights. Now he’s hell-bent on stopping that pageant, and finds an old Puritan law forbidding such activities, which can still stop it going foward. 

At school, Trudy is equally hell-bent on destroying Eva. She and her gang torture Mary in the washroom with water soakings to force her to give up Eva. Eva, seeing the water mains are being worked on, takes advantage to make it look her evil eye has foiled the water soaking and then give Trudy one instead. 

Trudy decides on a change of tactics – pretend to be friendly to Eva while working out a way to crush her. Eva falls for the phony friendliness, despite Trudy having just made one big threat against her and Eva knows her threats are not idle. Eva thinks it must be her evil eye. Trudy learns about Eva’s role in the pageant, and decides to show her up as a fraud at the stake scene by adding something extra to the stake – real fire. Her reasoning: if Eva really has the evil eye she should be able to put the fire out. 

Hawkins comes up with the old law he’s found to ban the pageant. However, Trudy surrepticiously destroys it with a magnifying glass; she now has her own reasons for the pageant to continue. Everyone else, including Eva herself, thinks it was her powers at work there. Now Eva really believes she has the evil eye. 

At the pageant, Trudy covertly sets fire to the faggots at the stake. However, the fire rages out of control, nearly burning Eva alive and then spreading dangerously towards everyone else. Eva manages to free herself and then she and her gran start a bucket chain to put out the fire. Eva is now a heroine and confesses about the evil eye fraud to Hawkins himself. Realising how he drove Eva to it, Hawkins apologises. Gran and Eva are now free to stay, the townspeople will be friends with them, and Eva can get the good education she wants. Sir Percival emerges with Trudy, whom he caught in the act of starting the fire. This being a medieval pageant, Trudy is punished medieval style – clamped in the stocks and given a good pelting. 

Thoughts

Deception, even when it starts with the best intentions (or for reasons that are misguided or desperate), is never condoned in girls’ comics. When deception is used for such purposes, the story uses it as a vehicle for how lies can spiral out of control, leading to unforeseen consequences, and the protagonist finds herself caught in a deeper and deeper quagmire of lies and complications she finds increasingly difficult to extracate herself from gracefully.

In Eva’s case, the deception has extra-dangerous consequences. It comes ominously close to what Eva would have experienced in earlier centuries like the white witch she plays in the pageant. Or in a village where witch supersitions still persist and village idiots persecute a girl they believe to be a witch. We have seen this in serials such as “Witch!” from Bunty, “Bad Luck Barbara” from Mandy, and “Mark of the Witch!” from Jinty. The people of Wetham come so close to it, stopping just short of calling Eva a witch and going after her with torches, stones and pitchforks. They storm the streets with signs saying “Rid Us of the Evil Eye”, “Throw Out the Gipsy” and “Protect Our Children”. Protect their children from what? Do they seriously believe Eva has powers to turn their children into toads and such? It would seem so. Trudy’s parents actually fall for her claims that Eva has the evil eye and will turn her into a toad instead of telling her not to speak such nonsense. 

Under normal circumstances these people would be told they’re being hysterical, superstitious idiots and ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Instead, there are only two voices of scepticism and sanity about the whole thing. The first is the headmistress, the only member of school staff to support Eva: “I wish [Eva’d] stop this idea that she can work magic. I’m worried that it could lead her to real danger.” The headmistress turned out to be more right than she thought, when Trudy’s stunt almost gets Eva burned alive. Ironically, the second is Trudy, the school bully herself. She doesn’t fall for it one bit and is constantly trying to convince her idiotic cronies that Eva’s a fake so she can bully Eva again, something even she doesn’t dare do openly while everyone else believes in Eva’s evil eye. 

Similar to the aforementioned witch persecution serials, even Eva starts believing she has powers. So many things seem to happen that give the impression that it does. Coincidence, autosuggestion, manifestation, law of attraction, maybe even a genuine supernatural power from somewhere, call it what you will, it all adds to the momentum and the increasing snowballing. It can’t just stopped be stopped in an instant, though Eva realises it’s getting out of hand and does try to stop it. 

The Wetham people do draw the trouble upon themselves, especially Councillor Hawkins, and it’s their attitude that drives Eva into scaring them with her evil eye pretence. It’s not just the school bullies. We see it everywhere, such as the remarks in the local community and the openly derogatory remarks Miss Loftus makes in class. Kindly ones such as Mary Miller, the headmistress and Sir Percival are exceptions – until the end of course, when Eva wins everyone over by saving their lives and become a heroine. 

The only reason the gypsies are there to begin with is Hawkins’ gypsy resettlement camp. Presumably it’s for assimilation purposes, but profit comes into it as well, as we can see in how he forcibly sells the gypsies’ property for his own ends. He treats the gypsies badly, cheats them, and then, when he decides the settlement camp is no longer a good idea, he tries to close down the very camp he established and forcibly evict the gypsies. It is to his credit that he turns around after Eva saves his life and apologises for his conduct. That is more than can be said for Trudy, who feebly says the fire was only meant as a joke, to liven up the pageant. 

Ironically, despite itself, Hawkins’ resettlement scheme eventually has a positive effect on Eva and the gypsies. At the beginning of the story Eva hates the resettlement scheme and her new school and wants things to stay the way they are. But eventually she finds she wants to settle, get a good education, and cover the deficiencies in her education due to her nomad life. And in episode 2, where Mary says, “I hope you’ll be happy here, Eva”, somehow we already know that’s exactly how it’s going to turn out. 

The Clock and Cluny Jones (1973)

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Published: Tammy 27 January 1973 to 14 April 1973

Episodes: 12

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Bill Harrington

Translations/reprints: Misty annual 1985 as “Grandfather’s Clock”

Plot

Cluny Jones is a bully. She is the terror of the school where she does not pull her weight and cheats and cribs at classwork and games. Her justification for her conduct is that life is tough and you have to be tough to get what you want, something her orphaning has made her believe in. Also part of the problem is that she is indulged too much by her kind Aunt Mabel, whom she takes advantage of.

An inheritance comes for Cluny from her late grandfather in Scotland. Cluny is chagrined to see it is not money but a grandfather clock he made himself, and she has a good mind to sell it. However, when Cluny opens the clock in search of any hidden money, she soon finds out it is no ordinary grandfather clock. When it strikes thirteen, she suddenly feels as if she’s falling into a void inside the clock. Then she finds everything is different somehow and everyone she knows behaves the opposite of how they were before – including herself. Aunt Mabel is now an abusive tyrant and more rough in appearance. Cluny is forced to go to school in tatty uniform, and her toughness is gone; instead, she is timid. She is also brilliant, the “swot” of the school. The pupils, whom she bullied before, get so jealous at her winning the Craigavon scholarship they start beating her up. Cluny finds herself terrified of this instead of duffing them up as she would back home, and she wonders why the heck she can’t stand up to them.

Thirteen strikes again, Cluny falls back into the void, and then finds everything has gone back to normal. But she’s at school, not in front of her grandfather’s clock where it all started, and realises something is weird about that clock. Cluny checks inside it and finds a message. It reads: “If money you require, step into the mire, if real riches you esteem, slip into my timely stream. The bridge of time is my thirteenth chime.” Cluny can’t figure it out.

After this bizarre experience, you would expect Cluny to steer well clear of that clock and try to get rid of it fast. But greed has taken over and is drawing Cluny back to the clock and the mystery about it. She still hopes there is a fortune inside the clock and thinks the note is promising it. She wonders if there is a connection with that other existence. Fuelled by greed, Cluny forces the clock to strike thirteen. She is back in the other reality, this time with everything flashing past at lightning speed. And the abuse is even worse: Aunt Mabel throws crockery at her and then says she’ll pay for those broken dishes, and at school the bullies attack her with such force they nearly drown her, but the thirteenth chime saves her in time. Inside the clock she finds another rhyming message, and this time she understands it: she rushed time by forcing the clock to strike thirteen and in future please wait for thirteen to strike. 

Greed over what “real riches” seems to promise draws Cluny back to the clock. She wants to figure out “timely stream” and decides to seek the “genius” she is in the other universe so she can figure it out at school. But the thirteenth chime has stopped. Cluny soon finds out why: Aunt Mabel sent it for an overhaul, thinking the thirteenth chime must mean it is time to get the clock fixed. Worse, she has sent it to a crooked firm, Manson’s, who swindle Cluny with another clock when she tries to get the clock back. She has to do a bit of breaking and entering to do it. She finds the clock just as it strikes thirteen, and she’s off again. In the other reality she finds Manson’s even worse: it’s a clock factory, and Mr Manson is even more cruel and coarse-looking. Cluny soon finds the abusive Aunt Mabel yanked her out of school to slave in the factory. She is sacked for cutting her finger and bleeding all over the goods. Aunt Mabel kicks her out to find another job, and she’s not to come back until she’s got one. 

Instead, Cluny heads to school in search of the science teacher, Miss Jarvis, to help her figure things out. With Miss Jarvis’ help, Cluny soon realises she is stepping in and out of a parallel timestream, one of many that run concurrent with her own. 

Cluny’s search for a job is fruitless, leaving her stuck on the streets because Aunt Mabel said not to come back until she had a job. Then, when Aunt Mabel catches up she’s all sweetness and light – and neat as a pin. Cluny soon finds out why: in this timestream grandfather is still alive and he’s paying a visit. Aunt is sucking up to him in the hopes of money from his will, as he’s filthy rich. It’s the cruel Aunt Mabel’s turn to be put out when grandfather’s present for Cluny is…the grandfather clock. 

Cluny now realises the notes she got in the grandfather clock were in grandfather’s writing, but Aunt Mabel takes them from her before she can figure them out further. Grandfather is very kind and takes Cluny out on treats, but he makes it clear he knows what she’s like in her own timestream, and if she’s ever like that again – remember him. Before he leaves, he tells Cluny that if things are getting too much she has no need to wait for the thirteenth chime – just touch the pendulum lightly and wish to go the time and place she wants. Cluny can now come and go as she pleases with the two timestreams. 

But the nasty Aunt Mabel sells the clock, leaving Cluny stranded in the harsh timestream. She fits Cluny up with a job at the Saracen Hotel, which means more drudgery with another cruel employer, Mr Frinton. On the plus side, it turns out to be where Aunt Mabel sold the clock. Unfortunately Cluny does not use the pendulum correctly and finds herself still stuck in the harsh timestream. 

Worse, she is arrested for attempted theft of the clock and assault on Mr Frinton. She soon finds that in this timestream there is no separate legal system for minors – “thank goodness” says the judge. Cluny is tried in an adult court and sentenced to an adult prison for eighteen months. The prison is as harsh as everything else in this world, where the guards and inmates alike bully Cluny. Now Cluny is doubly trapped by the timestream, with no hope of return unless she can escape from the prison and back to the clock, which looks hopeless. 

Then escape comes unexpectedly. Cluny’s two bully cellmates break out, and when Cluny discovers this, they drag her along at knifepoint, intending to kill her when they get the chance. But things go wrong with the getaway. When the police give chase, their getaway van goes over a cliff. It looks like the two convict women came a cropper below. Cluny is thrown clear, and it is not long before she realises the police are hunting for her. 

Fortunately Cluny ended up where grandfather lives and he helps her. He indeed knows what she is like in the other universe; this was all to teach her a lesson, and show her how horrible things can be if everyone was like her instead of being kinder to one another. Cluny promises to be different if she can return to her own timestream. 

Grandfather starts to build a second timestream clock to return Cluny to her timestream, but just as he finishes it, a policeman arrives in search of Cluny. Grandfather hypnotises the policeman into sleep, but the interruption he caused sends them off course, causing them to fail to change timestreams. Fortunately the clock sent them to Saracen Hotel, where the first timestream clock is. They are also facing down a very angry Mr Frinton. Grandfather keeps Mr Frinton hypnotised while Cluny uses the clock to return to her timestream. Grandfather stays behind, unable to go with Cluny, his fate uncertain, saying he can always make another clock. 

Back home, Cluny now realises the “riches” the note was on about meant the riches that come from being kind, and that is the course she will pursue from now on. The clock is back as well, and now Cluny wants to keep it. There is some hint from the clock suggesting that grandfather is all right in the other timestream.

Thoughts

“The Clock and Cluny Jones” holds the distinction of being Tammy’s first science fiction story, a genre she used less often than Jinty in her serials, but it became more frequent after Misty and Jinty merged with her. The science fiction elements have been very deftly combined with something the early Tammy was very well known for: dark stories laden with cruelty that is increasingly piled up against ill-used heroines, especially orphans, who remain unbroken by it all but are desperate to find some way to escape their abusive existence and find happiness. 

Tammy turns one of her own favourite premises right on its head by starting off this orphan as the opposite of how she is usually set up in the Tammy universe. Instead of being a cruelly abused orphan suffering at the hands of abusive guardians (as Bella Barlow was) and others at school and work, she is a tough, bullying orphan with a kind guardian, and she is the one who makes everyone else’s lives a misery. The irony is, when Cluny is flung into the other timestream, it is the other timestream that is more like the setup that Tammy used for her ill-used orphans: cruel guardians, school bullies, slave-driving employers, everything against the heroine, and any scrap of kindness they find (such as grandfather) is an oasis for them instead of taking it for granted (such as the kind Aunt Mabel) in Cluny’s own timestream. In the harsh timestream, Cluny herself is more like the ill-used victim heroine frequently seen in the early Tammy. This is not only in what she endures but also because her personality, rendered the opposite of what it was before, makes her unable to fight back as she would in her own timestream. 

Parallel worlds are commonly used in girls’ serials for “what if?” (The Sentinels from Misty) or dystopias based on out-of-hand extremes (Worlds Apart from Jinty). In this case we have a parallel world ruled by an extreme – extreme bullying. It is so extreme that it often turns ugly, coming close to murder more than once for Cluny in the story. It is a stroke of genius to use a parallel reality where virtually everyone is a bully, with rare exceptions such as grandfather and Miss Jarvis, to show Cluny the bully how terrible the consequences of bullying can be if everyone followed her philosophy and behaved tough to get what they want. The result is harsh, brutal, bullying people who shape a world that follows a very dark path. Nowhere is it more frightening than when Cluny falls foul of its legal system. Kids are treated the same as adults, no separate facilities for them, and everything, from the police to the prison, is brutal, bullying and violent. There are even “nasty penalties” for witchcraft, suggesting the brutality of this reality has made it backward in many ways. Grandfather is threatened with these penalties when a policeman sees the clock paraphernalia and stacks of books in his house, making us hope all the more he managed to get away. Perhaps he used another clock to jump into yet another timestream.

It is most unusual for a bully to be used for a redemption serial. More often girls’ comics went for spoiled brats, snobs, selfish girls and bigheads to put through the mill to transform them into better people, not protagonists who are downright nasty. But using a bully for a redemption story is the case here, which makes a very nice change. Cluny isn’t quite as evil as some bullies we’ve seen in girls’ comics (The Honourable S.J. and Nancy Norden from “Be Nice to Nancy!” from Judy for example), and much of her bullying stems from the wrong attitude, which she needs to learn is wrong. But her bullying needs to be sorted out and straight away we want her to get her comeuppance. It takes a while and a full stranding in the bully timestream for the message to sink in, though. Her initial trips to the timestream do not make her stop to think about her own bullying and she is still doing it at school.

Bullies were used more as antagonists to make life hell for the protagonist until their expected comeuppance at the very end. It’s good to see a bully get her comeuppance through a redemption story for once, and it’s a real twist to do so by turning her into the bully victim. And it begins with stripping Cluny of everything that made her a bully and taking everything for granted to make her appreciate you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – by giving her the total opposite in another reality. 

The pace of the story is really cracking and hard-hitting. For example, Cluny’s time in the prison does not last any more than it needs to. In just one episode Cluny is sent there and left shivering with cold because her cellmates have stolen her blankets; in the very next episode she escapes with those same cellmates. It’s also very frightening and eerie, and it’s disturbing to see Cluny drawn to the harsh timestream as much as she is scared of it because of her greed and mistaken belief that riches await her somewhere if she pursues that timestream. But we can tell straight away what that note about “real riches” means and Cluny’s letting herself in for big trouble by pursuing it instead of keeping away from that clock and its thirteenth chime. Once she learns her lesson we will not be at all surprised if the clock no longer strikes thirteen.

Tammy’s first science fiction story is definitely one of her very best serials, and it’s beautifully rendered by the ever-popular John Armstrong artwork. There is so much in it to make it a firm favourite with readers. It is not only fast-paced, exciting, intriguing and frightening; in many ways it is also atypical of girls’ serials, especially in having a bully being the one to go through the redemption process. 

Sit It Out, Sheri (1976)

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Published: 14 February 1976 to 24 April 1976                      

Episodes: 11

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

We now complete our look at “possession” stories with this 1976 story from Tammy. 

Plot

Sheri Soames is a shy, scruffy girl. She has no confidence and no idea how to stand up for herself, and always sits things out because of it. She is bullied at home by her stepmother, who steals all the money Sheri earns for bingo, takes advantage of her father’s absence to treat her as a drudge, and never bothers with the rent; at school she is bullied by Kay Thorpe (later spelled Thorp in the story); and also by Mr Dobbs at the second-hand shop where she works. Her only friend at school is Mary. Sheri auditions for the role of Marie Antoinette in the school play but fails because of her lack of confidence. 

At Mr Dobbs’ shop, Sheri is allowed to have a chair said to be a Louis XIV chair once owned by Marie Antoinette herself but a dealer, Mr Crispin, said was fake. It has a strange effect on her. After periods of sitting in it she feels wonderfully refreshed and confident. She takes more pride in her appearance and sheds her ghastly specs. She starts standing up for herself, albeit in an oddly pompous, old-fashioned manner that leads to arrogance at times, which sometimes leads to trouble, and has no problems re-auditioning Marie Antoinette for the school play (to Kay’s chagrin). But the effects don’t seem to last, causing Sheri to fall back to her old self just as she makes strides with her new confidence and going back to the specs and being bullied by Kay and her stepmother. 

Sheri also begins to have strange visions of voices out for her blood and people out to kill her. As the visions get stronger, they take the form of ghoulish-faced, bloodthirsty French revolutionary lynch mobs and even the guillotine. These visions always seem to appear as Sheri’s confidence fades, as if they were an after-effect. 

As the confidence-building does not seem to last, Sheri sits in the chair more and more to get more of that confidence, and gives her bully stepmother a lot of shocks with it, which leave stepmother frightened and sweating. Her schoolwork improves, particularly in regard to the French Revolution. But her arrogance is growing too; she acts like a haughty queen who thinks everyone and everything is beneath her, such as flinging her lines away: “Pah! What does a person of my consequence want with such piffling trifles!” She does not seem to get into any trouble over not doing the lines; instead, the teacher praises her for her improved classwork. 

Sheri discovers her stepmother has sold her chair to Mr Crispin. At this, she now realises the chair is genuine and the old twister is trying to get his hands on it for a fraction of its value. Her brimming confidence from the pickup enables her to foil the pickup and retain the chair, but is warned Mr Crispin will be back. After an evening of forced drudgery from stepmother as her confidence ebbs again, then giving her money-grabbing stepmother the shock of her life after sitting all night in the chair – “You are a thieving knave who steals money and sells things that do not belong to you” – she sends Mr Crispin packing, with his money returned. However, Mr Crispin isn’t giving up on the chair that easily.

At school, Sheri’s haughtiness grows worse. She demands to know where Mary’s curtsey is, and when she is outraged to find her name not on the list for the hockey team, Kay challenges her to a hockey test. Kay is stunned when Sheri does brilliantly, and when Kay tries to nobble her, she attacks with Kay her stick. Then the nightmares return. This time, Mary appears as a friend who tries to pull her to safety from the mob, but they throw her into prison. When she comes to, she is in the team and is expected to perform as she did, but she is back to her scared, useless self. After this, Mary, who had been sceptical about Sheri’s story about the chair, becomes more convinced and wants to help.

Sheri finds herself again under threat of losing her chair, this time from bailiffs who confiscate all the furniture to cover stepmother’s non-payment of rent. Sheri is homeless after this and is now staying at Mary’s. They learn the chair is in the distraint pound. Mary manages to sneak the keys for the distraint pound from her father, but it’s the wrong set and they have to break in to take back the chair. Inside they are caught by a policeman, who places Sheri in the chair, which has Sheri soon behaving in the haughty manner towards the surprised policeman and she demands the return of her chair. She even has the policeman carry it out for her. They run for it with the chair and hide it in a barn. The visions return, this time showing Sheri crying out from behind bars: “Let me out, I am your queen!”, but her cries fall on deaf ears with the French revolutionaries, who remain out for her blood.

At the hockey match, Sheri’s haughty behaviour reaches heights like never before. She gets so angry at the “insolence” that she lashes out at the captain of the opposing team. The opposing team turns ugly at this, which triggers more nightmares of the French revolutionaries. Sheri locks herself in the pavilion, suffering nightmares of them coming into her cell, tying her hands behind her and leading her out while screaming “Death! Death!” The sports mistress is not impressed and sends Sheri home in disgrace, to face the headmistress on Monday. Mary suggests Sheri tell the headmistress what’s going on, but they have to collect some evidence about the chair. Which means asking Messrs Dobbs and Crispin some questions. 

On the way, they discover stepmother convincing the policeman from the distraint pound that Sheri is out of control and wants her taken into care. And after what happened at school, Sheri is terrified she will be locked up as a delinquent or something. Her only hope is the chair again and get the confidence to talk her way out of things as usual. They head back to the barn but find the chair gone. Moreover, they don’t realise Kay is eavesdropping and now she is tailing them.

They go to question Mr Dobbs. He says he lost the records of the chair’s purchase in the Blitz, but he did buy it on a trip to France. At Mr Crispin’s they find a matching chair and learn Sheri’s chair and this one are a valuable pair of chairs that belonged to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who used them the day before the wrathful Paris mob struck. The chairs need to be together to be of value, which explains why Mr Crispin is so determined to get Sheri’s chair. They then discover Mr Crispin has called the police but manage to give the police the slip.

Back at the farm they discover the chair in a field with a scarecrow in it. Sheri gets a fright when the scarecrow’s head falls off – she is reminded of the ultimate fate of Marie Antoinette. Then the police catch up and lead the girls away. Kay tries to take the chair, but the police bring the chair to the station with the girls. 

At the police station they are surprised to find Mr Soames, Sheri’s father, there too. He retired from the sea, lost track of Sheri, but has now caught up and heard about stepmother (and now we’re wondering why the heck he married her in the first place). He says he now works at a detective agency and a very strange client had him track down the chair, which he says genuinely belonged to Marie Antoinette. He believes there is something spooky about the chair and it is giving Sheri terrible nightmares. He has her sit in the chair again, saying it is the only way to see the nightmares through. Sheri now realises she becomes Marie Antoinette in the visions, and of course the latest vision is Sheri/Antoinette meeting her appointment with Madame La Guillotine. Everyone gets a fright when Sheri’s head drops back as the blade falls in the vision, but it’s just a faint.

The nightmare is not finished. A soothsayer appears and leads Sheri/Antoinette away from the guillotine, saying it happened again and none of it would have if she had listened to him. The soothsayer tried to warn Marie Antoinette that the way she treated her subjects would cost her her head if she did not change her ways and treat them differently. When she refused to listen he put a spell on her chair in the (vain) hope the visions she would see would make her see sense before it was too late. The spell was not supposed to affect anyone but Antoinette, but it did affect Sheri because of her desire to have the role of Marie Antoinette in the school play. 

Things are sorted out at school, Sheri gets the role of Marie Antoinette, and tells a rather confused Kay about her new confidence and no more pushing around from her. The chair is restored, cleaned up and put on display in a case where it can’t affect anyone else. Sheri is now sure of permanent confidence and no more sitting out for her. The client – whom Sheri recognises as the soothsayer – rewards Sheri and her father with money to start a happy new life. 

Thoughts

In more recent times, historians (e.g. Alison Weir) have seriously revised the image of Marie Antoinette who said “let them eat cake” (which never comes up in the story) and single-handedly started the French Revolution with the haughty, callous way in which she treated her subjects. She was in fact a much kinder person than that. However, this story was written before that revisionism, and the image of Marie Antoinette paying the price for her arrogance with her throne and life was how she tended to appear in girls’ comics (Misty’s “One Last Wish” for example). 

Girls’ comics were never good at historical accuracy either, but things go a bit far when Mr Soames says, “[Marie Antoinette] was just a girl, nor much older than you. What did she know about being a queen?” Come on, Antoinette was 47 when she died, a grown woman with children! It’s also funny we never see Antoinette’s husband in these visions although the chair was one of a pair that belonged to both of them. It’s a girls’ world in girls’ comics all right, regardless of setting, whether it’s alien planets, lost civilisations, visions or whatever.

Now these quibbles have been said, we move on to how the story handles the “possession” theme. It certainly is stranger than possession/evil influence stories usually are because the force is not inherently evil. It is just the personality of an unsavoury person that, unlike other “evil influence” serials such as “Portrait of Doreen Gray”, probably does not even intend to be a bad influence on the protagonist. It is not quite clear whether Sheri is being possessed by the spirit of Marie Antoinette or if her personality is just influencing Sheri’s. It is also unusual for the actual power behind it all not to be evil either. Instead, it was intended to change Marie Antoinette for the better before it was too late for her. Sheri just got caught up in it when she wasn’t supposed to be. In a different serial it would be a redemption story, only in Antoinette’s case it failed. 

As with Doreen Gray, Sheri’s confidence turns to dangerous arrogance, which gets her into trouble. But that is not the main concern that should put her off using the chair. It is the terrible price she pays afterwards – the ever-increasing nightmares, which were meant to be the warnings for Antoinette to change her ways but are now scaring the living daylights out of Sheri. This makes the story even more frightening than the more usual ominous warnings that the object the protagonist is using to increase her confidence is dangerous. Because of these nightmares, Sheri develops a love/hate relationship with the chair, fearing it as much as she feels she needs it. 

There is also great humour in the way Sheri stands up for herself Antoinette-style when she’s under the influence. Readers must have been laughing out loud when the horrible stepmother received lines such as: “Out, peasant! How dare you enter my private room without permission! Back to your pots and pans!” and “How dare you burst in here! Get out and knock if you want to see me! Do it again and you’ll lose your head!” Or when the policeman was told: “Insolence! Am I not above the law?” and “You are getting above your station!”

It is so distressing for Sheri that the confidence just does not seem to last and she is back to her old self. In the end, what made Sheri’s own confidence stick was realising she could be confident if she wanted to, and if you want things to be different you have to work at it, not sit back and just hope they will be different. “It’s all a case of mental attitude,” she tells Kay. And this was the lesson she learned from the chair. 

Portrait of Doreen Gray (1983)

Sample images

Published: Tammy 21 May 1983 to 6 August 1983

Episodes: 12

Artist: Tony Coleman (credited as George Anthony)

Writer: Charles Herring

Translations/reprints: None known

Continuing our possession/evil influence serial theme, we take a look at what can happen when possession/evil influence strikes a girl who wants to improve her lot or strengthen her character. Conversely, the possession/evil influence actually helps the girl to do just that – well, at least at first. But its nature being what it is, it is inevitable that the girl eventually senses the dark side of how she is changing. 

Plot

Doreen Gray is the butt of teasing at school because she is a very shy girl. The worst of the bullies is Jane Quarles. Jane secretly knows Doreen can be more than what she is in the school sports teams if her shyness didn’t get the way, but of course she doesn’t want Doreen to step out of the shadows.

One day, Jane and her gang tease Doreen about being too shy to have a birthday party, and the teasing culminates in their chasing Doreen across the school pool. It backfires when Doreen unwittingly swims so well to get away from them that swimming team captain, Ann offers her a trial for the swimming team, but it’s too much for Doreen’s shyness to take.

Doreen’s father is an antique dealer who could be richer than he is, except Mr Quarles (Jane’s father) is always picking his brains for free advice on the best antiques to buy, which is how he has grown so wealthy. Doreen can see how Mr Quarles is using Dad, shy though she is, but Dad is too good-natured to realise this or how Mr Quarles is cheating him out of antiques that could benefit him instead. 

One day Mr Gray brings home a Victorian portrait that has been painted over. He bought it for the value of the frame. Then the black paint begins to flake, showing another portrait underneath, and Dad removes the paint altogether. They are surprised to find the portrait is of a girl who is a dead ringer for Doreen. She also looks a girl who always got her own way and anything she wanted. As Doreen gazes at it, she suddenly surprises her father when she demands the portrait for her birthday – which she has now dubbed “The Portrait of Doreen Gray” – and a party to celebrate. 

Doreen notices odd things, such as a whisper in her ear saying “You can get what you want, too!”, and when Jane and Carole challenge Doreen at the swimming trial, she sees the portrait staring up at her from the water, which spurs her to win the trial and a place in the team. Oddest of all, the girl’s face in the portrait seems to be able to change expressions, which seems to have an effect on Doreen. She is growing more confident to the point of being demanding.

Dad notices unsettling changes in Doreen. One is pretending to the other girls that she sat for the portrait herself. He is disturbed, as he is suddenly reminded of a certain Oscar Wilde story and warns Doreen about it. Although he has misgivings about letting Doreen have the portrait, he eventually lets her have it. 

At the party Doreen continues to pretend the portrait is of her. Jane’s nose is put out of joint at this and she quickly leaves. Doreen noticed Jane had her eye on the frame and realised its value. Afterwards, Mr Quarles is after the frame and Dad is willing to sell it because he needs the money (something he’d have more of if he wised up to Mr Quarles). Realising Jane’s hand in this, Doreen hides the portrait in the attic where she can secretly visit it and feel its influence strengthening her. She pretends to Dad that it was stolen. The ladder to the loft is too unsafe to bear Dad’s weight, so she is confident he won’t find it. Any pricks of conscience (such as cheating Dad), second thoughts or worry when she finds her behaviour becoming arrogant (which it does as the story progresses) somehow get overridden every time she’s near the portrait and it seems to make a look at her. 

Doreen is still having problems with self-confidence at school. Although she is in the swimming team, she is struggling to find her feet at netball. Egged on more by Jane’s remarks than the portrait, Doreen not only makes her way into the team but pushes Jane out of it as well. Finding out Jane intends to make her the lame duck in a swimming match against a rival school, Doreen is spurred on to come first. But she is becoming arrogant and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Ann drops Doreen from the team, saying she’s become too big-headed. But the influence of the portrait (this time in the form of tears and sympathetic looks) has Doreen thinking Ann is just being jealous. She challenges Ann to a swimming match, where she pushes Ann out of her position as captain and takes her place. Yet she persuades Ann to stay in the team – leaving no place for Jane. Jane’s nose is out of joint again.

To humiliate Doreen, Jane challenges her to a tennis match. Doreen is not experienced enough at tennis, but she is riding on such success she feels confident she can win without the portrait and tells it so. Doreen senses the portrait is laughing at this but presses on with her resolve. However, Jane slaughters her, and Doreen is left thinking she does need the portrait after all.

In revenge for her humiliation, Doreen pulls a long-overdue comeuppance on Mr Quarles, who is again taking advantage of Dad. Mr Gray identifies some candlesticks Mr Quarles has his eye on at an auction as fakes. Then Doreen sees the portrait winking at her from a mirror, and suddenly gets an idea. She tricks Mr Quarles into thinking they’re valuable and waste money on buying them. When Mr Quarles finds out, he and Dad exchange angry words, and it looks like Mr Quarles won’t be able to use him anymore.

Mr Quarles has to cancel the family holiday because of the money he lost through Doreen’s trick, so next day an angry Jane tackles Doreen. Doreen deals to her with a good shove. Realising the change in Doreen started with the portrait, Jane suspects it was not stolen and wangles her way into Doreen’s house to do some investigating. In the loft she discovers Doreen with the portrait, but is then scared by a rat sitting on top of it. Doreen won’t shoo the rat away until Jane agrees to stay silent, which she does. Realising the portrait helped her keep her cool when Jane discovered the truth, Doreen is now more drawn to it than ever before. 

At netball, Doreen’s growing big-headedness gets her dropped from the team. The netball captain, Clare, adds that Doreen isn’t going to take her place as she did with Ann. (Oh, dear, is Doreen starting to get a reputation at school because of that portrait?) When Doreen visits the portrait, she suddenly knows how to not only worm her way back into the netball team but steal Clare’s position as captain as well – and succeeds at both. 

Meanwhile, Mr Quarles is worming his way back into taking advantage of Mr Gray, this time by paying him fees (sops, more like) for his advice on antiques. This leads to an angry exchange between Doreen and Dad, and she takes refuge in the loft with the portrait. 

Then Doreen hears her father climbing up the ladder to apologise and on the verge of discovering the truth. But he has forgotten the ladder is dangerous for him to climb, and Doreen is shocked to find herself tempted to not warn him. Eventually she does, but too late – the ladder collapses and he is hanging on for dear life. Doreen is again shocked to find herself tempted to loosen her grip and let him fall. Fortunately she overcomes it and tries to save him, but only succeeds with the help of a man who has arrived in the shop. 

The man is the previous owner of the portrait, and Doreen now confesses to hiding it. The man explains the portrait is evil. It is of a Victorian girl who was always able to influence people although she was so young. She died in debtors’ prison when her family was ruined. The man’s grandfather bought it for his daughter, who also bore a resemblance to the portrait. Then grandfather discovered it was exerting an evil influence over her. He tried to destroy the portrait but couldn’t, so he ordered it painted over and hidden. It was kept that way until money troubles forced the man to sell the portrait. Then he grew concerned and tracked the portrait down. He says he will now take the portrait, but Doreen screams, “No! It’s mine!” and runs off with it. Dad and the man are relieved to find Doreen meant it was hers to destroy, which she does by pulling it out of the frame and throwing it in a vat of boiling tar in the road. Then she finally allows Dad to have the frame (but let’s hope Mr Quarles doesn’t get his hands on it!).

Thoughts

You don’t need to look far to see what inspired the story. However, it is more the title that draws on the Oscar Wilde story than the premise itself, which is firmly rooted in the evil object formula seen so many times in girls’ comics. Most often the evil object makes the girl do terrible things against her will or without her even realising, but this is not really the case here. Rather, the portrait acts more like the magic object that can help a shy girl become more confident, stand up to bullies who make her life miserable, and advise her on what to do when she wants to her own way or get out of sticky situations. But as it is an evil object, not a beneficial one, it is not helping her for the sake of it.

There are indeed positive sides to how Doreen changes (becoming more confident), but there is a dark shadow all the way. Doreen never turns totally to the dark side, but she does get disturbed by horrifying changes in herself: becoming arrogant and big-headed, going behind Dad’s back, finding insidious ways to get her own way in everything, even being tempted to let Dad fall to his death rather than him discovering where she hid the portrait. But until the end of the story it does not take much for one look at the portrait to smooth over any twitches of conscience or second thoughts. 

Portraits with an evil influence have been seen elsewhere in girls’ comics. Stories with this theme include “The Painting” (Bunty), “The Portrait of Paula” (Suzy) and “Penny and the Portrait” (Mandy). Another, on a more comical note, is “The Happiest Days” (Tammy), where the frightful portrait of the school founder casts such a pall over the school it has to be gotten rid of, which our protagonist tries to do in all sorts of hilarious ways. After finally succeeding, she is surprised to find a more savoury version of the portrait. 

But this portrait is far more insidious for several reasons. First, unlike other spooky portrait stories we don’t even know who the girl in the portrait is, and right up to the end of the story her name remains unrevealed. This adds an extra note of mystery to the story and the portrait. Is she a witch (a common reason why a portrait is evil in girls’ comics), someone who died tragically, someone out for revenge, or someone just plain bad? 

The portrait does not speak as some evil portraits do, such as “The Painting” from Bunty. Instead, it exhibits its influence through facial expressions and, at times, through distance. Yet its influence is so subtle Doreen doesn’t even realise what it’s doing, which makes it all the more creepy.

Second, setting itself up as the magic friend/object who can help Doreen makes it all the harder to fight against because it seems a friend to her, one she can’t do without in becoming a success and beating the bullies. It always seems to offer a friendly listening ear when Doreen has a problem in getting her way or trouble with Jane. 

Third, the portrait is very cunning in the way it influences Doreen through its expressions. It seems to smile in delight when Doreen tells her how she dealt to Mr Quarles. It turns on the waterworks when Doreen thinks it is making her big-headed and then sympathetic looks to convince Doreen that Ann is just being jealous. In other words, it really sets itself up to appear a genuine friend. But we can sense the portrait is only manipulating Doreen to strengthen its hold over her. One example is the episode where Doreen loses against Jane after telling the portrait she doesn’t need it to win against her, then she reverts back to dependency on the portrait after losing. We’re left thinking the portrait planned the whole thing. Another example is the rat in the loft that frightens Jane. We have a strong feeling the rat was not sitting on top of the portrait by accident!  

Fourth is the way these bad ideas just seem to pop into Doreen’s head and she surprises herself with them. There’s never an evil voice in her head telling her to do these things, though she does get one whisper in her ear: “You can get what you want, too!” Yet we know it’s the portrait all the same. 

Fifth, for an evil object story, it’s unusual in that the evil object does not force the protagonist to do terrible things as other “evil object” stories often do. It is more like the serials where the protagonist gets into bad company with a false friend who is a bad influence on her and taking advantage of her. The protagonist can’t see her for what she is (or ignores it) because the sneaky girl is so slick and manipulative in the way she keeps the protagonist close to her. “The Kat and Mouse Game” (Jinty) is one example of this, and “Lessons from Lindy” (Bunty) is another. This must have been what the girl in the portrait was like when she was alive, except that unlike Kat or Lindy, not even death stops her. There can be no doubt she was a girl who always got her own way in everything (except debtors’ prison), and not even death stops her there either. Through her portrait she gets her own way through others by leading them to think she is helping them get their own way in everything.

Finally, it must be said there is good coming out of the portrait influencing Doreen. It helps Doreen to overcome her shyness, give Mr Quarles a long-overdue comeuppance, stand up to Jane, and step out of the shadows at school to take prominence in school teams. Setting itself up as a good thing makes it all the harder to realise it is evil and fight against it. For this reason, for all the new confidence Doreen shows, it is not until she finds the power within her to destroy the portrait that she shows her whole new strength of character. 

Knight and Day (1978)

Sample Images

Knight and Day 1aKnight and Day 1bKnight and Day 1c

Published: Jinty 20 May 1978 – 26 August 1978. Not to be confused with “Day and Knight” (1984), Princess/Tammy

Episodes: 15

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Pat Day’s mother abandoned her four years earlier and never bothered with her since. Pat is now happily fostered with the Hargreaves, has a foster-brother named Terry, and she has just qualified for the school county swimming team.

Then Pat’s mother, now remarried as Mrs Knight, successfully applies to get her back. Pat protests that she doesn’t want to go back to her or leave the Hargreaves. Mrs Hargreaves can’t believe social welfare is allowing it after how the mother treated Pat before, but it’s no use. The Hargreaves have no rights, not even visitation rights. Pat has to go back to her mother. Terry gives her a parting gift: his precious Chinese coin, which he has turned into a pendant for her.

But Pat soon finds out her mother only wanted her so she, her new husband and stepsister Janet could get a council flat. Neither parent cares about Pat, and Janet bullies her and makes her life a misery. Ironically, it is soon obvious that the parents aren’t particularly good to Janet either.

Later, Pat finds out Janet is the school bully and hated by the whole school. Moreover, Janet is the unbeaten school swimming champion. She thinks she’s the greatest. And she does not like the threat Pat poses to her there. She also intercepts and destroys a letter the Hargreaves send to Pat. All Pat has now are swimming and the coin pendant.

School is of little help because once the girls realise Pat is the school bully’s stepsister, they want nothing to do with her. Moreover, Janet cunningly poisons them against Pat by pretending to act nice to her at their expense. One girl, Laura, sees through this trick, but can’t convince the others.

However, the girls cheer when Pat beats Janet at swimming (finally) and gets a place on the swimming squad. Soon Pat is impressing the swimming teacher with her diving and swimming capabilities. But Janet is furious over her humiliation and is playing dirty tricks to get revenge. Her first is getting Pat lumbered with a paper round, on pretext of the family needing extra money. As planned, this cuts into Pat’s time for her swimming coaching.

The only drawback to this plan is that Janet has to do the round as well. Meanwhile, the man hiring Pat lets his daughter Cheryl accompany Pat on the first round. Cheryl is afraid of water and can’t swim, and Pat offers to teach her. She and Cheryl become friends, much to Janet’s chagrin. At school, Laura guesses the real reason why Pat got lumbered with the paper round. She still believes Pat is not like Janet, but again nobody is listening to her.

Cheryl’s dad hears about the coaching problem and offers to pay Pat to teach Cheryl to swim. So Pat can now get her coaching and Janet gets lumbered with the paper round. And Dad says she has to do it or feel the back of his hand. Ha, ha!

A package arrives for Pat from the Hargreaves, with money and a lovely swimsuit, but Janet steals it and shows it off in front of Pat at Cheryl’s swimming lesson. When Pat sees Janet in the swimsuit she finds it odd, because her foster parents were going to buy her a costume like that. Janet takes advantage to taunt her that not hearing from them (because she intercepts the mail) shows how much they care for her. This really hurts Pat, and Janet loves it. She pulls other nasty tricks, such as shaking Pat off the diving board and trying to poison Pat’s mind against the Hargreaves. Cheryl is more suspicious about the origins of the swimsuit and tries to convince Pat that Janet is just being spiteful and bullying, but Pat is still fooled by Janet’s phony kindness to her.

At home, Mum gives Pat a letter; it came with the parcel and Janet overlooked it. Once Pat reads it she realises what Janet did. Pat confronts Janet, says she now sees Janet for what she is, and takes her swimsuit back.

The parents slap both of them for fighting. Both Pat and Janet cry over it. Janet’s trying not to, but Pat can hear it, and she now realises why Janet is the way she is. But she’s had enough and is also scared she will end up like Janet because of those parents. So she runs back to the Hargreaves. However, the police are there when she arrives and take her back to the Knights.

To the police, Mum puts on a good show of loving mother who was worried sick over Pat running off. But once they’re gone, Mum hits Pat for running off, and spills her guts over how she really feels about Pat. She never loved Pat or her father, never wanted Pat at all, and only got her back so they could get the council flat. Otherwise, she would have been quite happy never to see Pat again. But now they’re stuck with each other, she says, and there’s no escape. There is little doubt that lumbering herself with the daughter she never cared for, just to qualify for the flat, is turning Mum’s unfeeling towards Pat into downright hate.

After this frightening scene with her mother, Pat starts cracking up. It begins with outright rebellion. When Janet tries to steal Pat’s swimsuit again, she cuts it up rather than let her take it. She smashes crockery, threatens to wreck the flat, and defies her mother when she tries to force her to eat. This looks like the beginning of a hunger strike because Pat refuses to eat all day. Then she turns to depression, thinking the whole light has gone out of her life and there is no escape from her miserable home life. She is snappy to the other girls at school. Again, Laura correctly guesses what’s wrong. At the school gala Pat refuses to dive and just bombs off the diving board. Worst of all, she shoplifts a bracelet from a store, not realising security caught her on the store camera.

Suddenly, Pat is struck by guilt and wants to return the bracelet, but not eating all day is catching up and she feels faint. A policeman sees this and takes her home, where her parents give her a terrible beating for breaking the crockery. However, Cheryl discovers this when she comes to the door to enquire after Pat. She realises Pat’s parents are mistreating her.

Even Janet is shocked at the state Pat is in after the beating, and it’s the start of a whole new relationship between them. The parents force Pat to stay home until the injuries heal as they don’t want the teachers to see them and ask questions. They force Janet to stay home as well, to make sure Pat does not go to school. Janet protests that this means missing the swimming competition, but Dad clouts her: “If you don’t want to end up like her, you’ll do what you’re told!”

Seeing Janet’s new-found sympathy, Pat agrees to stay at home – but then remembers the bracelet. She slips out to return it, disguising her bruises as best she can with a scarf and dark glasses, but her attempt to return the bracelet goes wrong. What’s more, security recognises her from before and alerts the staff and police.

They don’t believe Pat was trying to return the bracelet. But then the police remove her glasses and scarf and see she is a battered child. The police realise she needs serious help and offer to do so. However, Pat is overcome by shame and runs off.

Meanwhile, at school, Janet is beginning to redeem herself. She threatens to menace a girl but stops when she sees how terrified the girl is, just like Pat, and makes a kind offer of help with swimming instead. This surprises everyone and Laura realises the change in Janet. Janet further redeems herself when she leaves the swimming to go home and check on Pat.

By now, Pat hasn’t eaten for two whole days. At the canal, lack of food, the beating and running from the police take their toll and she collapses. She falls into the canal, hasn’t the strength to swim, and she’s got cramp and blacking out. Someone needs to rescue her or she’ll drown.

Cheryl has been following Pat about the beating, and now she’s the only one to help. The trouble is, she can’t swim and is scared of water. Nonetheless, she bravely goes in to save Pat but soon realises it’s beyond her. Janet sees how foolhardy Cheryl is and tells her to get out fast. Janet rescues Pat herself.

In hospital, Pat goes into a coma for three months. Despite this, she has horrible nightmares about her ordeal and her mother separating her from the loving Hargreaves forever. But when she wakes up from the coma, she finds everything has been sorted out. The store did not press charges over the bracelet. Janet and Cheryl helped the police inquiries about the battering. The parents were prosecuted and given suspended sentences. Pat returns to the custody of the Hargreaves, who are adopting her now. Pat’s swimming coach is arranging special coaching for her in her own town, and now Pat couldn’t be happier.

As for Janet, she’s now the heroine for saving Pat and her redemption is complete at school. She has taken over giving Cheryl swimming lessons. Cheryl’s brave attempt at rescue had clearly been the first crucial step she had to take to overcome her problem with water. Mind you, Janet still thinks she’s the greatest! Pat and Janet are reconciled and all is forgiven. There’s still rivalry between them at the swimming gala, but it’s friendly. Janet is staying on with her parents, who weren’t quite so bad to her, and is hopeful they will treat her better because social welfare is watching.

Thoughts

“Knight and Day” is cast in the mould of the Cinderella theme, a common formula in girls’ comics, but goes against it in several ways. In so doing, it depicts a far more realistic and grimmer picture of the horrors of domestic child abuse. First, the heroines in the Cinderella serials are usually resilient and refuse to broken by the cruelties they are subjected to. They come up with ways to fight back, usually with a little secret or talent of some sort. But not in the case of Pat. From the outset, her only response is to cry a lot. She still clings to her swimming and pendant for comfort and hope, but on the whole she is far less resilient than most Cinderella-type protagonists such as Bella Barlow. There can be little doubt it stems from her being damaged by her mother’s initial neglect, and the damage is exacerbated by her being forcibly removed from the home where she was loved and happy.

Second, when Pat finally fights back, it is first by standing up to Janet and then running off, then lashing out and hunger strike, and even a mutinous act of shoplifting. But then depression sets in. Pat loses all fight and hope, and self-inflicted food deprivation is not helping. Her will is just about broken. This is quite surprising as it’s not normally how Cinderella heroines in girls’ serials react. Sure, they can get depressed and demoralised, but they usually bounce back somehow. On the other hand, it is pretty close to how things would be in real life with an abused child, which makes the story very realistic indeed.

Third, Pat may be the worst-off daughter, but it’s a surprise to see the parents don’t spoil Janet or treat her as the favourite at Pat’s expense, which is usually the case in similar serials e.g. “Make-Believe Mandy”, also from Jinty. In fact, they’re not fit parents for Janet either. For example, Janet comes home soaked to the skin from the paper round, but they don’t care and haven’t even left any breakfast for her: “We’re not your bloomin’ servants. Make your own.” And the only thing for that is a slice of stale bread. They also clout Janet as much as they do Pat, although they don’t go as far as to beat Janet all over.

Finally, the parents use both girls for their own advantage, not just the ill-used heroine. They use Pat to get the council flat. None of the money either girl earns from the paper round or the swimming coaching goes to them, as it should. Instead, the parents pocket it all. The pretext is that the parents are hard up. There may be some truth in this, but it is still blatant exploitation. The girls should at least have some of it.

We get some secondary characters who are more perceptive of what is wrong. Laura correctly guesses at every turn what is going on. Unfortunately she can’t be of further help because all the other girls overrule her and even threaten her with Coventry if she speaks to Pat. So she gets little development as serious help for Pat and takes no part in the resolution of the story. That part belongs to Cheryl, whose attempts to help Pat help her to overcome her own problem: her water phobia. Cheryl also witnessed the beating, which would be of immense help to Pat.

Social welfare and the police are, as usual, depicted as totally useless and until the near the resolution of the story. Up until then they are totally fooled by Mrs Knight’s phony acts of concerned mother and don’t listen to Pat’s protests.

We wish the parents could have been given a proper jail sentence instead of a suspended one, but presumably it was because they could take care of Janet. As it is, they would have lost their council flat because they no longer qualify, and now have the stigma of abusive parents.

We agree with Pat that it’s no wonder Janet is such a bully with those parents of hers. Although she does not show it, it is clear she is also miserable with her home life. Her response to it is toughen up in order to survive, not cry miserably all the time like Pat: “[Crying] won’t do any good. You’ve just got to learn to survive…keep your nose clean,” is her advice to Pat after the beating. But for all this acting tough, it is obvious that Janet is full of hurt from her parents’ treatment, and she’s taking it out on the girls at school with behaving hard and tough and bullying. So, although Janet is mean, spiteful and bullying, she is a more sympathetic character than is usually the case for wicked stepsisters in Cinderella-type serials. It’s not just Pat we want rescued from the situation; it’s Janet too. If something is not done about her unfit parents and dysfunctional home life, she will spiral down a very dark path indeed, as Pat begins to once her ill-treatment gets too much. Not to mention have no chance of redemption from her spiteful bully behaviour.

It would take a horrible shock for Janet to realise that bullying’s not the way, and she gets it when she sees the horrific beating Pat gets from her parents. Though they had frequently slapped both girls, they had never gone that far before. Janet would be terrified by this; after all, suppose they do the same to her? They even threaten her with it. This is the turning point for Janet, and it’s realistic because it’s credible.

As is often the case with bullies and dysfunctional children, the parents are Janet’s bad behaviour. Both of them are selfish, unfeeling, abusive people. They clearly deserve each other but are not at all fit to be parents. Even after Janet grows hopeful her relationship with her parents will improve, we seriously doubt they will show her any genuine love because they’re just not the loving type. We rather wish the Hargreaves could take Janet too.

Ironically, if Janet had been on the right side of things instead of a bully, she would have been the resilient Cinderella heroine we expect in a girls’ serial. In fact, she would have been a much stronger one than usual as she is not given to tears and has learned the hard knocks of being tough in order to survive. We would have cheered the story for having a heroine like this all the way.

Note: The unknown artist of this story has not been linked to any other serial or title at IPC, and this was his/her only story for Jinty. It is presumed the artist was a guest artist from DCT. If anyone has any information about the artist or other serials he/she drew, it would be much appreciated.

 

The Black and White World of Shirley Grey (1981)

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 7 February 1981 to 23 May 1981

Episodes: 16

Artist: Diane Gabbot

Writer: Jake Adams?

Translations/reprints: Tammy annual 1986

Plot

Shirley Grey’s best friend, Trisha Morris, has an accident because she tempted fate once too often in practising her diving at a dangerous cove, and ends up in a coma. Although she was acting on Trisha’s instructions, Shirley blames herself because she lied about Trisha’s whereabouts to Trisha’s mother, Mrs Morris. Mrs Morris also blames Shirley for the same reason (she does not know Shirley was only obeying Trisha) and lashes out at her whenever their paths cross.

In the wake of the accident Shirley swears never to lie again, but is taking it the extreme of not telling even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. So what happens? A whole raft of circumstances where this gets Shirley gets into ever-increasing trouble as either a tattletale or a very rude girl. They are summarised as follows:

  1. Shirley twice insults the boss’s wife by giving a too-honest opinion on her clothes (hideous and don’t fit her properly because she’s too fat). As a result, Shirley’s father loses his promotion and his job is on the line, and Shirley’s parents are up in arms against her. Mum is having hysterics because they needed money from the promotion to buy a place away from the estate, which has been terrible ever since a gang of troublemakers moved in.
  2. Shirley begs a nurse to go against the Morris parents’ instructions (no visitors for Trisha except immediate family) and let her see Trisha. When Shirley is caught and the matron demands to know if the nurse let Shirley in, she says the nurse did. The nurse throws Shirley out, raging at how Shirley has repaid her – by getting her into trouble.
  3. Shirley falls foul of the school bully Evie Moore when she tells on Evie for stealing from a teacher because she can’t lie. Evie ruins Shirley’s blazer and demands menaces money of £1 a day, which Shirley can’t possibly pay, of course. When Shirley fails on her first payment Evie and her gang threaten to do something terrible to her. Shirley’s friends find their courage and rise up against the bullies, but Evie gets hurt in the process. When the teacher asks Shirley who did it, Shirley says who it was without explaining why. Furious at how Shirley got them into trouble when they were trying to help her, the girls have everyone at school send her to Coventry. Even the teachers feel the effects of this.
  4. Evie’s final revenge against Shirley is to frame her for shoplifting. Shirley is convicted and the court is awaiting a social worker’s report before passing sentence.

All the while everyone is trying to tell Shirley she is being ridiculous, both in the way she is blaming herself and in thinking she can go through life without telling a lie because everyone has to one way or other. “You’ve got to pack it in,” says Shirley’s friend Hannah. “You can’t go through life without telling a lie – it’s not possible!” Even Evie tells Shirley she is mad about never lying, and around the district Shirley is soon derogatorily dubbed the girl who never tells lies. But Shirley says she can’t help not lying and won’t stop blaming herself. As things get progressively worse, Shirley comes to think it is all a punishment for Trisha’s accident. She fails to realise the trouble all stems from her blaming herself.

Mum has been having nothing but hysterics ever since Dad lost his promotion. Although she and Dad believe Shirley innocent of the shoplifting charge, neither of them show her any sympathy, support or concern about it and treat her harshly. All Mum can think of is the shame of it all, that she’ll be struck on this dreadful estate, what everyone will think and how she won’t be able to hold her head up, etc, etc.

For Shirley, the final straw is overhearing Mum having yet more hysterics that she can’t take any more of this and is going to have a nervous breakdown. She decides to run away, which she does blindly. Shirley’s disappearance has the parents finally showing concern about her as they call the police.

Shirley finds herself back at the cove where it all started and the very cliff edge where the accident occurred. This gets very dangerous for Shirley when she falls asleep there and then the parents and police shine a blinding light in her eyes. She falls off the cliff, nearly drowns in the sea below, and takes a head injury that fractures her skull. She is rushed to hospital, and when Mum hears that it was her hysterics that made Shirley run off, she realises how selfish she has been.

Shirley finds herself in the next bed to Trisha, and still blaming herself for Trisha’s accident. The medical staff suggest Shirley talk to Trisha about their times together in the hope this will bring Trisha out of the coma. But Mrs Morris, who still blames Shirley for the accident, won’t allow Shirley near Trisha. However, the same nurse from before helps Shirley to talk to Trisha secretly, and forgives what happened last time. After two weeks this brings Trisha out of the coma. Shirley finally stops blaming herself and the grateful Mrs. Morris apologises for her conduct. Shirley discontinues her vow never to tell even a white lie because she now understands “that things aren’t all black-and-white”.

But there is still the little matter of the problems Shirley created for herself with that guilt complex, and there is now a wrongful conviction hanging over her head as well. What about those?

Shirley finds most of these problems are now sorting themselves out, albeit in a somewhat contrived manner. Shirley’s remarks shocked the boss’s wife into slimming and a complete makeover. She is so grateful to Shirley that Dad gets his promotion after all. There is new hope that Shirley will be cleared of the shoplifting once the social worker get the courts to reconsider Shirley’s side of things because she was going to such extremes about not lying. What Shirley started about standing up to Evie has continued, despite her “dropping [the girls] in it”. As a result, Evie has lost her power as a bully and is no longer her “cocky, obnoxious self”. However, the girls have not forgiven Shirley. Trisha and the more forgiving Hannah try to persuade them, but they remain unmoved until they see Shirley covering up for them and telling the teacher the Coventry thing was just a misunderstanding that’s been sorted out. They go along with it and are reconciled with Shirley.

Thoughts

Essentially, Shirley has the same problem as Wanda White in Jinty’s Wanda Whiter Than White—she is taking truth-telling to extremes that causes problems both for her and for everyone around her, and it all stems from a huge guilt complex. In the end, Shirley, like Wanda, realises things aren’t all black and white and uses a white lie to help redeem herself. Unlike Wanda though, Shirley knows she is hurting people with all this extreme truth telling and feels terrible about it. But to her mind she can’t help it and she’s got to tell the truth at all times because of her massive guilt complex.

Again, unlike Wanda, Shirley is a totally sympathetic character. She is tortured by guilt, keeps getting herself and others into constant trouble over her extreme truth-telling, becomes a victim of vicious bullying, a frame-up that gets her wrongly convicted, and nearly gets herself killed.

Like so many protagonists in girls’ comics who are suffering from a massive guilt complex, Shirley is blaming herself over something that is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is to blame, it is Trisha herself, who disobeyed orders in going to the cove and ignored Shirley’s warnings about how dangerous it was. That’s what everyone tells her, but they’re not getting through. This girl needs serious counselling and psychiatric help. But despite initial concerns about how badly Shirley has reacted to the accident and some talk of getting a doctor involved to help sort Shirley out, her parents never do so. Instead they degenerate into the common theme of parents handling things badly in girls’ serials. This is because they’re thinking too much about how the effects of it all are having on themselves. They’re not thinking about Shirley at all until her disappearance shocks them out of their selfishness.

The story also makes a serious statement about bullying and harassment, and ineptness in handling it effectively. It’s not just the vicious bullies at school that Shirley falls foul of. There is also a gang of delinquent girls who have been causing nothing but trouble ever since they moved in and turned a once-great estate into a nightmare for everyone. For example, they set fire to a lady’s washing. But nobody seems to do anything about them and by they end of the story they go unpunished. That’s pretty much how Evie Moore went too with her bullying until Shirley’s extreme truth-telling got her reported for the very first time. However, unlike Evie, they don’t add much to the story. The only time they really do so is when they chase Shirley while she is running off because she shoved one of them over. But she is too fast for them – hurrah! For the most part though, they are just distracting. Perhaps their purpose in the plot is to explain why Mrs Grey is so desperate to get away from the estate and keeps having hysterics that she’s going to be stuck there once Dad loses his chance of promotion.

Evie gets some punishment in that she loses her power and her bullying days are over at that school. But it feels she got off too lightly considering what she’s done, particularly to Shirley. She is not even expelled for stealing from the teacher. The headmaster just gives her a final warning and will expel her next time. “He’s too soft,” says one girl. “He should’ve expelled her now!” We certainly agree, and we feel the story is making a comment about schools not cracking down on bullying hard enough.

Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat (1980)

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 23 August 1980 to 25 October 1980

Episodes: 11

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

In the first decade of the 20th century Dulcie (short for Dulcima) Dobbs, a country girl, has to transfer to a town school because of changes in the school system. Being a country girl makes Dulcie a target for prejudice and potential bullying from rich girl Annie Archer (her father’s cotton mill makes him a big cheese in town) and her gang. Once Annie realises Dulcie is so naïve and lacking in perception, and hearing that teacher Miss Brittle applies the dunce’s hat, she and her gang start pulling dirty tricks to sabotage Dulcie’s schoolwork and make her look the class dunce, just so they can get a great big kick out of seeing her wear the dunce’s hat. The whole class is in on it; after all, nobody could miss tricks like diverting the teacher’s attention so Annie can sneak up and mess up Dulcie’s answers on the blackboard. But nobody seems to have any conscience.

Dulcie is so naïve that she can’t pick up on what’s going on, not even when it’s staring at her right in the face. Whenever she does think someone might be causing trouble, she dismisses it because nobody can be that wicked, surely?

Miss Brittle’s application of the dunce’s hat is so harsh that it’s not confined to the classroom. Dulcie has to wear it all the way home and when walking from home to school, so the whole town sees her humiliation. She has to let her father see her wearing the hat but say nothing about it – just let him see for himself. Fortunately for Dulcie, something always seems to happen one way or other that prevents Dad from even seeing the dunce’s hat. Right up to the end of the story he remains thankfully unaware of her shame. Presumably Miss Brittle does not issue school reports to parents either.

The only thing that makes things bearable for Dulcie is finding the hat has all sorts of uses because of its cone shape. When Dulcie finds dogs chasing a rabbit, she saves the rabbit by blocking the dogs’ entrance to its burrow with the hat. When the vicar’s upset because the tip of his steeple got blown away by a storm and a church VIP is coming, Dulcie climbs the steeple and puts the hat there as an interim tip. The vicar is quite surprised to find his steeple suddenly looking miraculously undamaged, but never gets the chance to find out why. A sick boy wants to see a unicorn. Dulcie puts the dunce’s hat on Dad’s horse so it will look like a unicorn from a distance, which sets the boy on the road to recovery. These and other uses for the hat cause a curious love/hate relationship to develop between Dulcie and her hat.

All the same, Dulcie wants to get rid of her hat. But she has no chance while Annie’s campaign continues to interfere with her schoolwork and she seems to half-believe she really is stupid.

Then Dulcie meets a tramp called Gentleman George after saving his cat. George can’t believe Dulcie is stupid. After testing her out, he says her answers were correct, so she is not a dunce. So when Annie next sabotages Dulcie, she is finally forced to suspect that someone is causing trouble for her. And her first suspect is Annie Archer.

Unfortunately Annie realises Dulcie suspects her. To put her off the scent (which works), she suddenly comes over all friendly to Dulcie and invites her to her party. Also, Annie has another reason to invite Dulcie: to pull even more dirty tricks on Dulcie at the party, which includes tricking her into wearing her dunce hat at the party.

However, the dunce hat at the party eventually has Annie laughing on the other side of her face when the 101 uses for it come into effect again. This time it’s a fluke rather than quick thinking on Dulcie’s part, but it does Mr Archer such a good turn that he’s full of praises and gratitude for Dulcie.

This makes Annie so furious that she’s no longer content with getting kicks out of Dulcie in the dunce’s hat. Now she wants to destroy Dulcie completely. To this end she has her maid make a fake dunce’s hat and (unwisely?) tells her why: “I’ll have my own dunce’s hat and get Dulcie Dobbs into her deepest trouble yet!”

Then Miss Brittle announces that there will be an end-of-term test on all subjects the following day (which gives the girls only one night for revision!). Most unwisely, she leaves the test papers out overnight instead of keeping them locked away. Isn’t she at all worried about exam cheats?

As it turns out, not securing the test papers gives Miss Brittle a far bigger problem than exam cheats. Annie sneaks into the school and pours ink all over the papers. She is wearing the fake dunce hat while doing so and making sure the caretaker sees this. The idea, of course, is to frame Dulcie for ruining the papers and get her expelled.

Sure enough, Miss Brittle and the caretaker are waiting for Dulcie next morning and all set to expel her for ruining the papers. Protests of innocence are unavailing. Miss Brittle sends the girls to fetch Mr Dobbs from the market. In the most ironic remark of the story, Miss Brittle tells Dulcie that she is a dunce, will always be one, and be “useless – like that hat!” But it won’t be long before Miss Brittle will be eating those particular words.

All of a sudden the furnaces set the school on fire. Miss Brittle and the caretaker get trapped when part of the roof collapses and Miss Brittle yells at Dulcie to fetch water. But the roof fall has crushed the buckets, so Dulcie uses her hat instead. Still think the hat is useless, Miss Brittle?

Mr Dobbs, Gentleman George and others soon see the school’s on fire, and know Dulcie’s in there. The fire brigade will take time to arrive, so they rally around with bucket chains. Dulcie continues to do her bit with the hat, but it’s not enough. Then the end gets burned, so now she can’t fetch water anymore. Then more of the roof collapses and Miss Brittle and the caretaker need air. So Dulcie applies one final use for the hat – use it as a breathing tube for them. Then the fire destroys the hat altogether; it’s a real inferno now.

Fortunately the fire brigade has finally arrived. The firemen rescue the trapped people and Dad pulls Dulcie out. The girls that had helped Annie make Dulcie’s life such a misery with the hat now cheer her for the two lives she saved. But not Annie herself – she’s off to destroy the fake dunce hat and incriminating evidence against her. However, when Annie arrives home she finds her father with the hat and the maid. The maid must have informed him what she knows because he tells Annie: “I think I know it all now. You’ve done enough damage. That fire could have reached my mill!”

Okay, so maybe Mr Archer hasn’t got things quite right. But that’s how Miss Brittle gets put straight about everything. In hospital a more human Miss Brittle informs Dulcie of this, and that Annie has been sent to a private school. Miss Brittle says that when school resumes she has a feeling she will see a very different Dulcie Dobbs. We also get the feeling Dulcie will be seeing a very different Miss Brittle who won’t be using the dunce’s hat on any more pupils.

There is one last echo of the dunce’s hat when Dulcie is surprised to receive another pointed hat. But it’s a more savoury one this time – a pointed princess hat. Everyone wants Dulcie to be the town carnival princess in honour of her heroism.

Thoughts

DCT ran hundreds of serials about a girl secretly causing trouble for another, whether it’s out of jealousy, personal gain, selfishness, revenge, or just for kicks as Annie does. However, it was less common for IPC to use this formula. So this IPC story is unusual for being an exception to the rule.

Annie taking her spite to a whole new level to destroy Dulcie is not unusual for this type of formula. It’s often what takes the story to its climax and ultimate resolution. The troublemaker gets bored of the game, or gets scared she’ll be found out, or gets her nose put out of joint like Annie does, so that’s when she tries to get rid of her victim altogether. But it leads to her undoing, as is the case with Annie. This is a most effective way of catching Annie out. There was no chance of Dulcie doing so, and Annie was way too spiteful to become remorseful.

However, the story is even more unusual for a whole class to be in on the game. Usually – and more credibly – it’s just one sole troublemaker working secretly. It really is stretching credibility for a whole class to help Annie play those dirty tricks on Dulcie and nobody speak up about it or try to help Dulcie. Isn’t there one person in the whole class who is kind and won’t have any of it? We never see one at all, but you’d think there would be someone. Or do they all get in behind Annie because her father is so important in town?

The situation is not helped by Dulcie’s personality. Like Cherry Campbell in “No Cheers for Cherry”, Dulcie is just too naïve and good-natured to realise what’s going on, not even when it stares at her right in the face. It’s so infuriating. But as with Cherry, Dulcie is sharp in other ways, which helps her to survive. Unlike Cherry though, Dulcie does realise that it is doing so. Dulcie’s true intelligence is best seen in the ways she can think fast in finding ways to put her hat to good use and helping others. This helps to make her situation more bearable and make the hat as much a friend as a badge of shame that she wants to be rid of. The test Gentleman George gives Dulcie also indicates she would be top of the class if not for Annie and her dirty tricks.

There are a lot of contrivances in this story, such as Mr Dobbs remaining totally in the dark about the hat because something always happens to prevent him from seeing it. Some of the 101 uses for the dunce hat come across as a bit silly, such as Gentleman George using it as a megaphone. And as already stated, it is hard to believe a whole class would play those dirty tricks on Dulcie without anyone going against it. Yet we still follow the story for the same reason we always follow this type of “troublemaker” story – we want to know how the troublemaker will be caught out.

Perhaps we should spare a moment for the dunce’s hat itself. Miss Brittle deemed it useless, fit only to shame a slow pupil into doing better. Nowadays we regard the dunce’s hat as a product of less enlightened times that is thankfully no more. So it is a really delightful twist that the dunce hat turns out to have so many uses in the story that are far more savoury than what it was invented for. If the dunce hat could speak about that, what would it say to Miss Brittle who called it useless – “don’t underestimate me!”, perhaps? All the same, we still say “good riddance” when the dunce’s hat gets destroyed at the end of the story. Dulcie’s dunce hat may have had its uses, but it is still a hated object.

 

 

Belinda Bookworm [1981]

Sample images

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Published: Tammy 17 January 1981 to 18 April 1981

Episodes: 14

Artist: Giorgio Giorgetti

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Tina 1981-82 as “Belinda boekenwurm”

Plot

Belinda Binder has had a very bookish upbringing, by parents who think books and studying are everything and scorn non-bookish things – like sport. Even their jobs are bookish: accountant (Dad) and town hall clerk (Mum). Belinda has excelled at studying and teachers praise her for her academic work. But for some reason Belinda is finding the life of a swot and bookworm increasingly unsatisfying.

Unfortunately, in more modern parlance Belinda is a nerd, and this makes her a target for bullying. Her particular enemies are Janet Jones and Dawn Davis, who are the complete opposite of her. Sport is all they bother with at school and they don’t care about classwork at all. They are the school sports champions and have remained unbeaten. So while the form teacher is full of praises about Belinda’s work, which she contrasts with Janet and Dawn’s sloppy work that they rush so they can go out and train, the PE teacher Miss Jagger praises Janet and Dawn while looking down on Belinda. Belinda does not shine at sport, is always left out of it, and her classmates scorn her for it. Even Miss Jagger does: “Really, Belinda Binder – always sprawling all over the place!” she sneers as one of the bullies trips her up.

At this point the English teacher Miss Milton asks Miss Jagger if Belinda can be spared PE in order to help set up the new school library. While doing so, Belinda surprises herself in doing a perfect forward roll in order to avoid a nasty fall off a ladder. Following this, she begins to wonder if she really is as hopeless at sport as she thinks and maybe she will really show the PE class something next time.

So Belinda is shattered when Miss Milton tells her she is being withdrawn from PE at school because she and Miss Jagger have taken the view it is just a waste of time for her. Instead, Belinda will use those periods to assist in the library. Just when Belinda had decided she wasn’t going to be a bookworm anymore and wanted to be a sports champion instead.

Undaunted, Belinda starts using her time in the library to do secret sports training and copying the sports activities she sees out the window. Fortunately for her the new library overlooks the school sports facilities, so she can see all the PE classes that go on there. She sets up stacks up books as hurdles, uses the library desk for vaulting, the shelves to practise gymnastics, the “silence please” board to practise swimming strokes on, and so forth. She even acquires a false book that can be used to smuggle in sports gear.

At home, Belinda rigs up a dummy of herself with her dad’s reading lamp so she can sneak out and train in the streets. She has to do this as Janet and Dawn regularly pass by her window while doing their training and observe her studying.

Belinda seems to be making progress, but has no real yardsticks or overseer to gauge by how much. However, one night something happens that suggests that Belinda may be a more serious rival to Janet and Dawn than she thinks. She found her father left behind a couple of pages of a vital report and needs to be intercepted at the train station fast. As no taxis are available the only option is to run – in pouring rain – so this is the first full test of Belinda’s training. As she sets off, she does not realise she is being tested even more. Janet and Dawn, who have become suspicious of Belinda’s secret training, see her and run to catch up and verify who she is. Belinda does not realise they are following her, but she keeps ahead of them and they fail to catch up. After delivering the papers Belinda finally discovers this, while they say the mystery girl was not a bad runner and therefore couldn’t possibly have been the bookworm.

On another occasion, Belinda has been secretly practising netball throws. Afterwards Janet and Dawn grab Belinda’s false book and start throwing it around. They are astonished when Belinda manages to catch it. Another hint that Belinda is making serious progress.

But of course close calls and slip-ups are inevitable. Eventually Dawn and Janet get so suspicious that they plant themselves in the library (joining the library, ducking out of sports periods) in order to keep an eye on Belinda. So now Belinda can no longer secretly train there.

Then comes sports day. Belinda steals some time to secretly train in the library now that Janet and Dawn are out of the way. However, it is at this time that Belinda gets caught right out. Miss Milton had brought the Binder parents to the library to show them how well their daughter is working there – and they get a horrible shock to see what Belinda has been really using the library for! They take a very dim view of it all, and are not at all impressed at Belinda demonstrating how she has been progressing with sports training using her improvised sports equipment. In their view, Belinda is not an athlete and should stay with books, the way she has been raised.

Belinda goes into outright rebellion at this and decides to prove that she is not a mere bookworm anymore. She breaks away from her angry parents and teacher, runs to the sports field, and demands to enter every event. Miss Jagger is astonished, but allows it. Belinda’s parents are mortified; they think Belinda is about to make a fool of herself in front of everyone. They can do nothing but watch, ironically accepting the invite to sports day they had scorned, but not are not supporting Belinda at all. The whole school expects one big laugh out of the bookworm entering sports day.

However, Belinda’s unorthodox self-training begins to pay off. The pupils are astonished to see the bookworm do better than they expected at the hurdles:

“Hey, the bookworm’s not bad!”

“Not bad at all! She’s only just behind the leaders!”

Belinda comes fourth at the hurdling. She is placed third in gymnastics, and is beginning to earn respect from Miss Jagger. However, the Binder parents remain unmoved.

Ironically, Janet and Dawn are now so worried at Belinda proving more serious competition than expected that they begin to resort to dirty tricks and cheating to stop her rather than their skills and greater experience. At swimming, Janet flashes a mirror in Belinda’s eyes to stop her seeing the turn and enable Dawn to win. However, something makes the reflection flash back into Janet’s eyes, enabling Belinda to see the turn and finish second. Later, Belinda realises it was her mum cleaning her glasses that flashed the light back at Janet.

Finally, there is the 800-metre race, and Belinda is running against Janet. Dawn tries to nobble Belinda by dropping her book under her feet, but is caught red-handed by Miss Milton and the Binder parents. Seeing the dirty trick Dawn tried to play on Belinda, the Binder parents are finally won over and start cheering Belinda on. Encouraged by this, Belinda beats Janet – the first ever to do so – and comes first in the race. Miss Jagger is well and truly astonished at this.

The Binder parents tell Belinda she has taught them a whole new respect for sport and they now see that sports and studies complement each other. Everyone cheers Belinda as she receives her trophy – except for the seething Janet and Dawn.

Thoughts

I have often wondered if this story was the Tammy version of Jinty’s “Tears of a Clown”, which is one reason why I have posted the entry. There are some similarities between Belinda Bookworm and Kathy Clowne: they both wear glasses; they are underrated and friendless at school, which makes them the targets of bullying; they turn to sports training to gain confidence and win respect; they both have indifferent parents and teachers who don’t help them at all until near the end of the story; and they both hope entering school sports day events will get them the respect they want. Bookworm started in Tammy only two months after Clown ended, and Jinty and Tammy shared some writers. So it is possible that Clown was an inspiration for Bookworm.

Whether it was or not, there are huge differences between Bookworm and Clown that make it worthwhile to compare the two stories. While both Belinda and Kathy embark on their respective sports training in order to beat the bullies, Belinda does hers in secret while Kathy keeps striving to prove her talent, but the chief bully (or fate) keeps getting in the way. Belinda is also a more proactive heroine than Kathy, in that her secret sports training is a form of revenge against the bullies a la Revenge of the Nerds. It’s also a rebellion against her bookish upbringing and being labelled a bookworm. There is also an ironic edge to Belinda’s rebellion in that she is using the very thing she has turned her back on – books and libraries. Instead of using them to read she is using them to train, and is showing readers that there is more than one way to use a book.

In regard to the bullying, Belinda does not have it nearly as bad as Kathy. At least the teachers praise Belinda for her academic work. Kathy is bottom of everything at school, because the bullying erodes her confidence and nobody steps in to help her. But when it comes to sport, both Kathy and Belinda want to prove themselves there because that’s where they will earn respect from the people who disparage them. However, it comes in different ways for Kathy and Belinda. Kathy hoped sports day would enable her to prove her talent and win respect. Instead, it is the final humiliation that drives Kathy into running away and setting off a chain of events that redeem the people who bullied or failed her. But for Belinda, sports day is precisely where she proves herself and puts an end to the bullying – by giving the bullies their first-ever defeat at sport and thoroughly humiliating them. The unhelpful parents and school staff redeem themselves in different ways. In the case of Kathy, it’s their realising they have let her down and try to find her after she runs away. In Belinda’s case, it’s foiling the dirty tricks that the bullies start pulling on her, which makes Belinda’s parents more redeeming than Kathy’s.

There are some glaring plot holes that really stretch the story’s credibility. For one thing, no school would withdraw a pupil from PE just because they’re not good at it; only medical grounds would excuse a pupil from PE. Second, when Janet and Dawn get suspicious, they take a rather cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face approach by sitting in the library with Belinda to stop her suspected training. After all, they must loathe sitting in the library when they want to be out there doing sport with Miss Jagger. And how many times can they get away with coming up with excuses to dodge PE in order to sit in the library watching Belinda? And it’s all on mere suspicion – they have no proof. If they had any real sense they would come up with a plan to catch Belinda red-handed in the library. Most glaring of all, how is Belinda able to swim at competition standard on sports day? She is a complete non-swimmer and the only training she has had is practising strokes on the library’s “silence” notice board. The only swimming we see her do in actual water is a few strokes. So how is she able to do competitive swimming against Dawn – hidden power or something? Or did Tammy have Belinda do some actual swimming lessons off panel without telling us?

Plot weaknesses are offset somewhat by Georgetti’s caricatured, cartoony artwork, which provides the humour and helps make the story engaging. In the hands of a straight artist the story would far worked less well. But in the hands of an artist like Giorgetti, improbabilities like using torn-up books to practise long jump and high jump, and shelves to practise gymnastics are more forgiving. This is because they have a dash of humour and give the sense that they are not to be taken too seriously.

Linda’s Fox [1981]

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 30 May 1981 to 1 August 1981

Episodes: 10

Artist: Ron Tiner

Writer: Update: Ron Tiner

Translations/reprints: None.  Groot Tina Winterboek in 1982 as “Linda’s vos” [Linda’s Fox].

Plot

Linda Barnes’ policeman father, Charlie Barnes, is wrongly imprisoned for stealing the money some criminals left behind. He was convicted solely on the (perjured) testimony of “Splinter” Mallory. More likely it was Mallory himself who stole the money or is covering up for whoever did; as Linda is about to discover, he is a criminal who commits regular crime sprees in the Exchester area where he lives.

Linda and her mother lose the house that came with Dad’s job. They have to move to a rundown house with little income to live on…in Exchester. Linda finds this so depressing, but she cheers up when she finds what is in the derelict house next door: a mother fox and her cubs. She starts making friends with the foxes, and she names her favourite fox cub Ross. Mrs Barnes does not approve of Linda’s visits to the foxes because the house is derelict and dangerous. But Linda continues to feed the foxes and make friends with them.

At school Linda makes a good friend with Julie, who is constantly annoyed by the school troublemaker, Kevin Mallory. Mallory? Yes, you guessed it – Splinter Mallory’s son! Kevin is a bully and delinquent, and he leads a gang who are always causing trouble for everyone. He likes to pick on Linda and Julie in particular. Pugnacious Julie says if she were Kevin’s mother she would give him a good hiding every day to mend his ways. If only Julie knew that Kevin’s bad behaviour is because this is the way Splinter and his wife have brought him up – to be a good criminal and do a “job” (crime) right.

When Kevin and his gang try to block the staff exit to a cinema after being banned for causing trouble there once too often, the girls spot them and call the police in. The police march Kevin straight home to his parents, where the only telling off they give is that Kevin needs to be more clever so as not to get caught. It is at this point that Splinter learns that the Barnes family are in the neighbourhood and tells Kevin to stay away from them. Too bad for Splinter that Kevin couldn’t tell him where the Barneses actually lived, though…but more on that later.

Meanwhile, the cubs are growing. As they do, they naturally start to venture into the world outside, where they encounter clashes with city life, and bigger, unfriendly animals – including Kevin and his gang. These adventures and misadventures progressively break up the litter until Ross is the only fox left in the derelict house.

It is at this point that Ross begins to cross paths with Splinter himself, which will prove to be Splinter’s undoing. It begins one night when Splinter tries to steal takings from the zoo. But he is foiled when Ross disturbs a lion, which rouses the zookeeper and he spots Splinter. Splinter has to run for it.

Then Splinter sees a house with an open window and proceeds to burgle it. Too bad for him he does not know it is the Barneses’ house. Or that Ross breaks the Barneses’ milk bottle, which wakes Mrs Barnes and alerts her to the burglary. Moreover, while Splinter makes his getaway, he cuts his feet on the broken milk bottle, and Mrs Barnes catches his licence plate number as well.

When the police trace the number back to Splinter, he goes into hiding – in the derelict house next door to the Barneses. He chases Ross off, who digs his own lair under the house. As Splinter is now next door to the Barneses, he soon finds out the joke fate played on him that night: “Damn bad luck I picked their house to burgle out of all the houses in town!”

Linda learns from Kevin that it was Splinter who burgled them. But Mum says that even if he were caught it would not help Dad. A confession to the frameup is the only thing that would. Linda has also guessed the hand, um, paw that Ross played in foiling the burglary.

A heavy downpour sets in; this, combined with the foundations that were weakened by Ross’s digging, causes the derelict house to collapse. It takes Linda’s bedroom wall with it, so that house is no longer fit to live in. Linda and her mother safely evacuate from the house. Linda is anxious about Ross, but Ross managed to escape as well. However, Splinter is not so lucky; they find him trapped, injured and calling for help under the debris of the collapsed house. Linda says she will only do so if he makes the confession to clear her father. Desperate and terrified, Splinter agrees to do so.

Dad is freed by Mallory’s confession, reinstated to the police force, and given a huge amount of compensation. They use the money to buy a house in the country. Linda, still wondering what happened to Ross, says Ross would feel quite at home here too. Little does she know Ross has in fact made his own way to the same place and is settling in very happily.

Thoughts

There have been hundreds of girls’ serials dealing with frameups. But it’s a very nasty twist to make a policeman the victim of a frameup. And it’s all on the word of one man against a police officer who clearly has an unblemished record and a sound reputation. In fact, one policeman expresses disbelief that Charlie Barnes is guilty because he does not seem the type to him. And PO Barnes is that while Mallory is…what? A police informer? A jailhouse snitch? An accomplice turning Queen’s evidence? What? It is presumably something to do with his nickname, but we are never told why he’s called “Splinter”.

And from the sound of it, there is not one shred of corroboratory evidence; PO Barnes goes down solely on Mallory’s evidence and nothing else. It sounds outrageous, but in fact that is how it really is in the English legal system and in many other Western legal systems (Scotland is one exception) that are modelled on it: a person can be charged, tried, and even convicted on the testimony of a single witness, without any corroboration whatsoever. Even a questionable witness, such as a jailhouse informer, can bring a person to trial. Not surprisingly, there have been many cases that illustrate how dangerous it can be for a criminal case to depend on a single witness without corroboration. The writer may or may not have been aware of this flaw in the English legal system, but either way they deserve a pat on the back for such realism.

When the foxes and Julie are first introduced, they are set up as pillars of support and comfort for Linda as she goes through her ordeal of her father’s false imprisonment and the downturn of her home life in the wake of it. Julie is a real standout. It’s not only because she’s strident, pugnacious, does not hesitate to stand up to Kevin and his gang, and is a really good friend who helps Linda cope with her ordeal. It’s also because she’s one of the few black protagonists we see in girls’ comics, and this makes the story stand out even more. The foxes add light relief and emotional appeal against the angst. They even dashes of humour to the story. For example, Ross accidentally gets into one of the boxes Kevin’s gang are using to block the cinema exit. They get a surprise when Ross bursts out of the box and helps to foil their trick!

Once it’s established that the Barneses have moved into the same neighbourhood as Mallory and that he’s committing regular crime sprees there, the stage is clearly set for exposing Mallory and clearing Dad. The question is how it is all going to fit together. Maybe Linda will expose Mallory, perhaps with Julie’s help?

It’s a real surprise twist when Mallory is the one to destroy himself, with some unknowing help from Ross: first by picking the wrong house to burgle, and then picking the wrong place to hide. In addition, he injures his feet on the Barneses’ broken milk bottle during his botched burglary. Wow, the karma is really biting there! We can imagine the police must have turned up something in the Mallory house with their search warrant that would link Mallory to other crimes as well.

It must have been both a surprise and a shock to readers when Linda tells Mallory that she will not get help for him unless he makes the confession to clear her father (below). Readers are more used to heroines being too nice to be downright mean to the villain, regardless of what the villain has done to them. But then, it was pressure that was required to make Mallory confess, and Linda was seizing upon what looked like her only chance to get that confession. After all, she could not depend on Mallory to make the confession out of gratitude for saving him (trite) or remorse (not bloody likely!). Besides, we know Linda wouldn’t really have refused to get help for Mallory.

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It’s another delightful twist when Ross ends up in the same place as the Barneses in the country and it rounds off the story completely. Readers smile at the last panel where Linda wishes Ross was there, not knowing that he is and sharing the same panel with her. Let us hope they find each other again in their new home.

Day and Knight (1984)

Sample Images

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Published: Princess II #25, 10 March 1984, continued in Tammy & Princess, 7 April 1984, finished in Tammy & Princess, 28 April 1984

Episodes: 8

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Cuckoo in the Nest” from Girl annual 1982, which has a similar plot

Translations/reprints: None

Plot

Ever since Sharon Day’s mother died when she was young, it has just been her, Dad, and her cat Monk. That’s just the way Sharon likes it. Sharon knows her father is now in a relationship with a woman named Sally, but has no problems with that – yet.

While dropping off Gran’s birthday present on the way to school, Sharon sees Carrie Knight and her gang pass by. She tells Gran they bully everyone at school, taking money off the first years and such, and for this reason she can’t stand Carrie. Gran is relieved to hear that at least Carrie leaves Sharon alone.

But when Sharon gets to school that suddenly changes. Carrie now starts on her, and is bullying her big time. Carrie even steals and sells Sharon’s guitar, which breaks Sharon’s heart because it was her mother’s.

The reason why Carrie has started picking on Sharon becomes clear that evening: Carrie’s mother is Sally, the woman Dad is now engaged to and wants to marry. So Sharon is now faced with the prospect of having this bully for a stepsister!

Sharon tries to tell Dad that Carrie is bullying her, but he does not believe it. Moreover, Carrie is very good at fooling him into thinking she is a sweet girl and the perfect stepdaughter who absolutely adores her new stepfather. She has no compunction in lying to her parents and swearing that she did not do any of the things Sharon accuses her of. Carrie just loves to tease Sharon with her phoney acts towards Dad and telling him how much she likes him.

Although Sharon protests that Carrie is just fooling him and she’s a horrible bully who makes her life a misery, and she’s in constant tears over the whole business, Dad just won’t listen. He thinks Sharon just can’t handle the changes and is being resentful of his new marriage.

Aside from the bullying, Sharon finds herself being pushed into changes that are too fast and difficult for her when Carrie and Mum move in. Sharon and her Dad are vegetarians, but Carrie and her mother are not, so Sharon is shocked at the sight and smell of meat in the fridge. Worse, Sharon has to rehome Monk at Gran’s house because of Carrie’s asthma. And Sharon, who once had her bedroom to herself, now has to share a bunk bed with that bully until the parents get a bigger house.

And now, of course, Carrie is making Sharon’s life a nightmare at home as well as at school, and she’s very slick at covering up afterwards. For example, she and her gang trash Sharon’s belongings. Then she tells Dad she accidentally broke Sharon’s old doll and will pay for it.

Gran is the only one who believes Sharon and understands what is going on. Oddly though, she is not doing much to convince Dad. Maybe Dad is not listening to her either? Dad certainly does not listen to Sharon’s friend Jenny when she tries to back Sharon up about Carrie’s bullying. What Gran does do, though, is attempt to instil optimism in Sharon that things will work out in the end and Carrie will change. Right now, though, there’s no hope of that.

Although Dad knows there is a big problem with the girls, he still goes ahead with the wedding. Sharon has to swallow down tears throughout the ceremony. Mum and Dad think Sharon will just come around, but of course they have another think coming.

Now Carrie pulls her worst trick yet – spiking Sharon’s vegetarian school lunch with meat! When Sharon discovers this she snaps and starts a punch-up with Carrie in the dinner hall. However, the teacher can’t find any trace of the meat afterwards. Later Sharon realises Carrie’s gang pulled a trick there, but when she tries to tell Dad this he still won’t listen and tells her to stop it. Sharon’s response to that is run away from home and take refuge at Gran’s. Dad is anguished at this while Carrie just laughs at it all behind her parents’ backs.

However, next day events take a turn that changes everything. Dad spots Sharon’s guitar at a second hand shop and discovers it was indeed Carrie who sold it there. When he confronts Carrie with this, her last-ditch effort to deny everything falls apart very quickly. The game is up:

Mum: “You’ve lied enough!”

Dad: “Your daughter’s driven mine out of her own home!”

Dad, who resolves to make Sharon happy to come back, makes the decision to split up with Carrie’s mum. At this, Mum really turns on Carrie for what she’s done, and how it will destroy her marriage if the girls don’t reconcile. She shoves Carrie out of the house to make it up with Sharon.

Carrie is shocked and upset at what she has done, and now realises she genuinely likes her new stepfather. She makes an earnest, desperate attempt to reconcile with Sharon, promising she’ll be different. But Sharon rebuffs her because her wounds are too raw. Moreover, she is not impressed with Carrie’s claims of contrition (unlike Gran), the idea of living with Carrie is still too repugnant, and she wants things the way they were. So Carrie and her heartbroken mother clear out of the house so Sharon can come home.

Sharon expects things to go back to the way they were, although Gran has warned her that they can’t and won’t. Of course Sharon soon finds out how right Gran is. Dad might have sacrificed his marriage for her happiness, but he cannot hide his feelings about it (snapping at her, up all night crying, too upset to go to work). Sharon realises their relationship will become embittered because of this. She can’t let him suffer either, but still can’t stand the idea of living with Carrie.

Next morning Carrie turns on her bully gang when she discovers, in typical bully fashion, how uncaring they are about her situation. “I must’ve been crazy to hang around with you morons!” They just about have a fight.

Sharon can see Carrie is genuinely upset, but just says, “Good! I’m glad to see her suffering for a change!” However, she is more concerned to hear that Carrie’s mother was up all night crying too. She does like her stepmother.

In the end, Sharon grudgingly gives Carrie a second chance for the sake of their suffering parents. Soon the family are back together, the parents are overjoyed, and there are already signs that Carrie and Sharon are on the road to becoming the best of sisters. After all, says Sharon, she had always wanted one.

Thoughts

There have been so many serials where parents just don’t listen when their daughter tries to tell them she’s being bullied. And this is one of those serials where just not listening has far more serious results than most – a marriage almost being destroyed and a family torn apart. It’s not just because the bully is very crafty at convincing them she’s a sweet angel. It’s also because they are blinded by love and desperately want to marry each other. So they push headlong into it despite the clear danger signals.

Even without Carrie’s bullying, we can feel how Sharon’s world is being ripped apart by the changes her father’s new marriage is bringing into her life. Sharon was so happy with things the way they were and the changes are all, in their various ways, just too hard on her and unfair. We can hardly blame Sharon for wanting things back the way they were and it would have been understandable if she had been genuinely resentful of the marriage. But the real problem is that her stepsister is bullying her, and because the bullying goes on behind the parents’ backs, they won’t listen when Sharon tries to tell them. They really pay the price for not listening to Sharon and heeding the red flags when Carrie’s bullying almost destroys their marriage.

As with Lindy/Jinty’s “Hettie High and Mighty”, redeeming and reforming the bully is absolutely essential if everything is to be sorted out and end happily, because that bully is now the stepsister of the girl she’s bullying. Otherwise the family can never live together in harmony. However, the road to it is realistically done and avoids the triteness and clichés that have appeared in similar stories, including “Hettie High and Mighty”.

Unlike Hettie, it’s not all that clear just what has made Carrie such a bully. We know nothing of her home life prior to her mother’s new marriage. Her absent father could have some bearing on her conduct. She does carry out her bullying in a very cocky, obnoxious manner, which suggests she’s out of control. She’s also in with a bully gang, rather than being a sole bully/troublemaker like Hettie. So it could be a case of getting into a bad crowd, wanting to act big and feeling like she’s ten feet tall with all the power she gets out of bullying. Moreover, the school isn’t doing anything to stop the bullies. All the pupils know about them but nobody does anything about them. If nobody is cracking down on the bullying, then of course Carrie’s bullying has just gotten so bad. Finally, Carrie sees Sharon as a big wet, which is probably why she chose to bully her instead of trying to get along with her in the first place.

It is a nice change from the usual cliché, where the abused stepsister just forgives her bully stepsister once she changes as Sharon’s counterpart in “Hettie” does. Instead, reconciliation does not come all at once because Sharon’s hurt feelings are too strong. It takes time before Sharon agrees to attempt reconciliation. Even then it’s not because she becomes convinced of Carrie’s remorse or Carrie redeems herself in front of her, which is another common cliché in girls’ serials. Sharon does it for her suffering parents.

There is no doubt Carrie is genuinely remorseful when it comes, and it’s realistically done. Carrie is not only remorseful; she also wakes up to what a good thing she was onto with her new stepfamily and how she ruined it with her bullying. However, while her remorse is essential to the resolution of the story, she cannot convince Sharon or her parents that it is for real. Sharon does not listen and just wants her gone. Mum tells Carrie that if she really had loved her new stepfather, “you wouldn’t have done anything to spoil my happiness. I’ll never forgive you for this!” Dad says to Sharon, “A pity Carrie was such a monster. I-thought she loved me…”. However, the story does not go down yet another common cliché in which Carrie finds a way to convince them she has changed and gets them back together. Nor does it have the family coming together when a big accident occurs because of what happened, which is another cliché.

This is definitely one of Princess II’s best stories because of its realism and breaking with clichés that girls’ serials dealing with similar themes often use. The artwork of Juliana Buch has always been popular and it blends in nicely with the school and family settings. This was Buch’s only story for Princess II, and her artwork would have helped this story to bridge the merger with Tammy because Buch was one of Tammy’s regular artists.