Tag Archives: Norman Lee

Spellbound No. 1, 25 September 1976

Spellbound cover 25 September 1976

  • When the Mummy Walks… – first episode (artist Norman Lee)
  • Spectre from the Flame – Damian Darke story
  • The Secret of Silver Star – first episode (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Nightmare (text story)
  • Supercats: Meet the Sun God (artist Jorge B. Galvez (possibly with help from Enrique Badía Romero))
  • The Haunting of Laura Lee – first episode
  • I Don’t Want to be a Witch – first episode (artist Norman Lee)
  • Lonely Lucy – first episode (artist Jordi Franch)

Spellbound Supercats

The DCT title Spellbound is best remembered today as the proto-Misty, the first girls’ title to be the first to be a horror/Goth title. Spellbound lasted for just 69 issues and merged into Debbie. Ironically, Spellbound folded in the same month Misty started. In the wake of the lingering affection for Misty, Spellbound is being rediscovered and her issues are becoming serious collectors’ items.

Spellbound is unusual for not having a girl’s name as her title, a la Bunty, Debbie, or even Misty. Because of this, no female host acts as the female the comic is named after or appears as a cover girl. This role is covered by The Supercats, regular characters in Spellbound who originally appeared in Diana as “The Fabulous Four”, and were resurrected in Spellbound to the point of dominating it. The comic’s club is named after the Supercats, they are the fictional writers of the letters page, and the weekly horoscope, the Zodiacat, is Supercat-themed. And when Spellbound merged into Debbie, the Supercats were the ones who carried on in the merger.

The theme of ancient Egypt is running high in the first issue, beginning with its first gift: the mystic sun pendant. It continues with the first Spellbound story, “When the Mummy Walks…”. The gorgeous artwork in its splash page hits you right in the eye and draws your attention straight into the comic the moment you open it. A Victorian museum featuring an exhibition on ancient Egypt incurs the curse of the mummy, which has broken out of its sarcophagus. No, it isn’t King Tut – it’s an Egyptian priestess.

Spellbound Mummy

Next is the other Spellbound regular character, Damian Darke. He hosted the weekly complete stories, which were of course spooky. In his first story, “Spectre from the Flame”, Jane Armitage senses something strange about the latest arrival in the antique shop where she works, an old candlestick. A burglar trying to steal the candlestick finds out too late what it is – the candlestick belonged to none other than the infamous Judge Jeffries! But for once we are rooting for Jeffries when his spectre appears to show the burglar the justice he was famous for. All the same, Jane is relieved when the candlestick gets sold. After Spellbound folded, Damian Darke carried on his stories in Debbie and Mandy.

Damian Darke 1

Spellbound Judge Jeffries

The second serial is “The Secret of Silver Star”. It feels a bit out of place in this spooky-themed comic as there is no supernatural theme about it, not even the titular horse being a spectre or something. Instead it’s about a horse that has to be put into hiding when it is to be destroyed. Perhaps the story’s mystery theme – an unknown saboteur trying to destroy the stables – is what is supposed to tie it into the comic. All the same, it does not feel like it really belongs in this type of comic and would be better off in a more traditional DCT title like Mandy or Judy.

After the text story “Nightmare” (which turns out to be a false alarm for the protagonist), we meet the Supercats in person. They are a group of intergalactic super-heroes: Helen Miller the leader despite her lack of superpowers; Hercula, who is super-strong; Electra, who can generate electricity; and Fauna, who can change colour. Their first adventure in Spellbound carries on the ancient Egypt theme. They land on a planet that looks like ancient Egypt and the Egyptian Sun God wants Helen as his bride. But it isn’t a wedding to make her so – it’s being sacrificed on his altar!

(Click thru)

It would not be complete without a story regarding an evil force of some kind taking possession of the protagonist, and this we get with “The Haunting of Laura Lee”. Laura Lee had only played the piano for fun. But that changes when she acquires a mysterious ring that won’t come off. All of a sudden she can play brilliantly, but she senses it wasn’t her playing. What’s more, she’s playing until she’s exhausted. She doesn’t like it one bit.

In “I Don’t Want to be a Witch”, Celia Winters does not want to follow the family tradition of becoming a witch and insists on going to an ordinary school. However, her Aunt Armida is out to change her mind, which means the story will follow the pattern of who will win the argument.

Finally, we come to “Lonely Lucy”. There is no outright supernatural theme, but it still blends into Spellbound better than Silver Star because it is a dark story, has a period setting, highwaymen, and persecution that stems from ignorance and superstition. Lucy Pilgrim has been dumped in an orphanage, which, as you might expect, is a cruel one. But for Lucy it’s even crueller as the children call her a witch because she’s left handed. She runs away, but runs slap bang into the highwayman himself! Has she jumped from the frying pan and into the fire? And will the branding of Lucy as a witch just because she’s left handed continue?

Spellbound Lonely Lucy

There are no humorous cartoon strips in the first issue to lighten things up a bit, as Miss T did in Misty.

 

 

Mandy #1269, 11 May 1991 – last Mandy published

Last Mandy cover

Cover artist: Claude Berridge

  • The Greys and the Greens – final episode (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Best Friends! – final episode
  • Pippa’s Paper Round – final episode
  • Freda Who? – final episode
  • Gwen’s Goats – final episode
  • Selfish Susan – final episode (artist Dudley Wynne)
  • Glenda the Guide
  • Angel – final episode (artist Dudley Wynne)

This was the last-ever issue of Mandy. After a long run that began on 21 January 1967, Mandy and her sister comic Judy both ended so they would amalgamate into a whole new comic, Mandy & Judy (later M&J), instead of one incorporating and absorbing the other, as was so often the case with mergers.

Mandy’s cover story of the week was usually a series of misadventures that played on a single word or phrase, such as knots, stars, melting, music, ups and downs, and guesswork. This sometimes had a happy ending, sometimes not. But in this case it is meeting up with Judy, the cover girl from the comic she will amalgamate with next week. Judy moves in next door to Mandy, and the two girls come together when Mandy’s dog Patch goes missing and it’s Judy who finds him. This is the last time Claude Berridge drew the Mandy cover stories as he had done for years, and the last time Norman Lee drew Judy’s cover story. Next week Guy Peeters takes over for both Mandy and Judy in their new two-in-one comic.

As this is Mandy’s final issue, her stories come to an end. The only exception is “Glenda the Guide”, which carried on in Mandy & Judy but didn’t last long. This was a humour strip about a blundering girl guide who is always trying to win badges, but her efforts always lead to failure and loads of laughs for the readers.

In the other stories, Lindy Grey is always getting into trouble by copying her favourite soap, “Life with the Greens”. Now it’s her birthday, she decides not to copy it to be sure of a happy birthday. Ironically, Lindy’s birthday copies the soap all by itself and nothing goes wrong! Then the soap finishes, but Lindy is eager to watch and copy its replacement because the star is also called Lindy.

The two girls in “Best Friends!” are anything but. They hate each other but keep being shoved together because their mothers are friends. Then an emergency brings the two girls together when their mothers come down with food poisoning, and they are surprised to learn that their mothers started off as enemies too.

Pippa Roberts has all sorts of adventures on her paper round. This time it’s helping an old man who refuses to go into a home. Pippa’s solution is for a neighbour to help him with housework in exchange for him helping her with her garden. Brilliant!

“Freda Who?” is one of two Mandy reprints. Karen Wilkinson is puzzled by new girl Freda, who seems to be oddly clueless about things. Now it is revealed that Freda comes from the 23rd century, where warfare has rendered England virtually uninhabitable. Freda’s father sent her on a one-way time travel into the 20th century to save her life. This reveal must have had readers in tears.

Gwen is taking five goats across the country to Melbury Market as a publicity stunt for her mother’s health food shop. In the final episode she finally gets to Melbury and gets all the publicity she could want, plus a welcome lift to get her goats home.

Susan Smith has been faking deafness to continue getting favoured treatment after the genuine deafness from an illness wore off. But of course it all has to unravel in the end, which is what the whole of the final episode is all about. A new girl, Sonia, who had the same illness, has gotten suspicious of Susan. After several attempts, Sonia eventually succeeds in exposing Susan’s deceit to the other girls. Susan puts on the bravado, saying what fools she’s made of them, it’s been great fun, and she’s come out the winner. But she soon finds out she is no winner because nobody ever trusts her again.

It is fitting that the last-ever Mandy ends on the final episode of the most popular serial she ever ran: “Angel”. A wealthy Victorian woman, Angela Hamilton, is diagnosed with an incurable illness. She goes into the London slums to dedicate her remaining time to caring for the needy as “Miss Angel”. This was Angel’s second reprint in the regular Mandy comic, and the reprint in Lucky Charm makes it three. Angel was not reprinted in the Mandy & Judy merger (probably too close to the last reprint in Mandy). But as the lineup for Mandy & Judy explains, she did carry on in the amalgamation with “The Diary of Angel”.

 

Mandy 1Mandy 2

Judy & Tracy 19 January 1985, #1306

Judy and Tracy cover.jpeg

Cover artist: Norman Lee. Judy is on the left. Tracy and her budgie Elton are on the right.

  • Big ‘n’ Bertha – cartoon
  • Sandra of the Secret Ballet (artist Paddy Brennan) – first episode of a reprint
  • Little Amy
  • Georgie and the Dragon (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Junior Nanny (artist Oliver Passingham) – first episode of a return appearance
  • Twin Trouble (artist Paddy Brennan) – first episode
  • Microgirl (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones) – first episode of a sequel
  • Hard Times for Helen (artist Bert Hill)
  • Debbie at the School for Horses (artist Oliver Passingham)
  • Find the Hidden Headphones Competition
  • Harvey – Go Home!

Here’s another dip into DCT. This time we are going to take a look at the issue where Tracy merged with Judy on 19 January 1985. Judy is also celebrating her 25th Jubilee, which makes the issue even more significant. Her competition is being run because of the Jubilee, not because of the merger. It is not surprising that Judy is also looking back on her past. This week she begins to repeat one of her very first stories, “Sandra of the Secret Ballet”. She also brings back another established Judy favourite: “Junior Nanny”.

The merger is unusual in that the merger issue came out the same week Tracy published her final issue. Well, at least Tracy readers didn’t need to wait a week to see their stories continue in the merger. Or rather, more than a week, considering that Tracy came out on Saturday and Judy on Thursday. Perhaps it was done out of consideration to the readers.

However, one odd and annoying thing about the last issue of Tracy is that she began a new story in it, “Little Amy”. Why the first episode of Amy couldn’t wait until the merger issue so all readers could read the serial in its entirety is something I don’t understand.

Other Tracy stories that came over were: “Harvey – Go Home!”, where a lost dog has adventures while trying to find his owner; “Georgie and the Dragon” a humour story about a baby dragon; and “Microgirl”, which is a sequel to an earlier Tracy story about an evil scientist who can shrink people. Tracy’s budgie, Elton, also came over, and he appeared on Judy’s covers for quite some time.

Judy also begins a completely new story, “Twin Trouble”. The trouble is about an accident girl who causes trouble for her twin sister because she blames the twin for the accident – quite wrongly, of course. Judy’s other stories are “Hard Times for Helen” and “Debbie at the School for Horses”. In the former, Helen Shaw suffers not only from the fallout of an over-busy mother but also from bully teachers who constantly compare her unfairly with the mother and make unjust accusations of bad behaviour against her. In the latter, Debbie Marsh is on a steep learning curve on how to look after horses at a riding school.

Rhoda Miller – Interview

Rhoda Miller was a subeditor at DC Thomson and at IPC, working on girls comics and magazines between 1966 and 2008. In answer to my questions, she wrote the biographical piece below, which I am very happy to be able to publish. Many thanks, Rhoda!

I began work in August 1966 on Diana magazine in Dundee. Editor was George Moonie, Chief sub Ken Gordon. There were two other men subs and about four girls. From day one I was expected to write features and was sent out, (untrained!) to interview people such as The Walker Brothers, Amen Corner, Davy Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Titch (?). Story ideas were discussed at “story sessions” and ideas sent out to script writers. The subs’ job was to prepare them for publication. Sometime, this meant a complete re-write! In 1970, I was in a one-way love affair and decided to move to London. A bit drastic, but there you go!

When I applied to IPC they had just paid off a lot of people and the unions wouldn’t let them take anyone new on. But John Purdie was keen to have someone from Thomsons, he took me on as a free lancer, but I was to work in the office full time, and if anyone asked, I was to tell them I was a “visiting free lancer”.

I was put in Desmond Pride’s old office with Annie Deam, who had recently been removed from her post of School Friend editor, and like me, was working on projects. Eventually I went onto Sandie and worked as a sub. My days of working there are very hazy, and I wasn’t there very long before personal circumstances propelled me back to Dundee. I do remember the art editor, though. His name was John Jackson, and he had come from Eagle, and I remember the artists agent, Jack Wall, and his best mate, an artist whose surname was MacGillivray (can’t recall his first name) [Robert MacGillivray] but MacGillivray’s nephew was the legendary Ali McKay who also worked for IPC for quite a few years.

Back in Dundee, I rejoined DC Thomsons, and went to The Bunty, where Harold Moon was editor, Ian Munro chief sub. These were amongst the happiest days of my working life. I was there for several years, writing scripts for “The Four Marys” among others. At this time, the company still employed several long-standing script writers. One of the most prolific was a lady called Olive K Griffiths. Her scripts needed a lot of re-writing, as I recall. In the weekly comic we didn’t have features, but we did in the annuals, and these the staff were required to write.

After that, it was Spellbound with Ken Gordon editing, and David Donaldson chief sub. By this time, some of the subs were writing more and more of the scripts, and the company was employing fewer outside script writers. Spellbound, a spooky magazine, only ran a few years before it ran out of steam. I remember we had a lot of interference from Norman Fowler, who was one of our managing editors.  He was keen to have horse racing stories in all the magazines!

After Spellbound, it was Mandy under Alan Halley, but when I objected to him wanting to run a horrible story about a wealthy couple planning to kidnap a poor girl and use her as a blood donor for their ill daughter, we fell out and I went to Nikki, where I wrote “The Comp”. As I say, my memory is not great for dates, or how long I was on each magazine, but in 1997, I was chief sub editor on Animals and You. Frances O’Brien was editor.

“Luv, Lisa” was my idea, and was quite an innovative idea, as it was a “dear diary” photo story rather than an illustrated one. Richard Palmer was the photographer (he also worked for IPC). After Animals and You, Frances and I moved to work on a new project, of which nothing came, but we did come up with the concept of The Goodie Bag Mag, and I worked on that with her, until I took early voluntary severance in 2008.

The artists who worked for us (that I remember ) were Claude Berridge, George Martin, David Matysiak, and Norman Lee. Spellbound had an amazing Spanish artist drawing one of our stories, but again the name escapes me! [I assume this may have been Romero who drew Supercats; if Rhoda is able to confirm then I will update.]

[Edited to add the following further additions from Rhoda, below. I had asked why she felt that the publishing industry moved from story-heavy titles to ones that were more focused on features or freebies, and about credits for artists and writers.]

I really cannot explain why the comics became less content and more free gifts, except to suggest that research showed children were less inclined to read great screeds of type and preferred more pictorial and less copy. The free gift phenomenon was very much a case of “the opposition are doing it, so should we.”

As to naming the script writers/artists, it was certainly a DC Thomson policy not to allow anyone to be credited. But some of the Spanish artists sneaked their names on and a blind eye was turned. Mainly because they were indispensable. Indeed, it was only in the past twenty years that Thomson allowed their newspapers reporters and columnists to get bylines!