Tag Archives: nursing

Willa on Wheels (1976)

Sample Images

Willa 1

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Willa 2

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Willa 3

Publication: 12 June 1976 – 28 August 1976

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Willa Keen is a student nurse at Larkhill Cottage Hospital who is determined to become a fully-qualified nurse. But when a timber lorry crashes and she goes to the aid of a trapped passenger, the timber falls on top of her and damages her spine. Now she is confined to a wheelchair, and her dream to qualify as a nurse depends on whether she will walk again.

When Willa saves and revives a drowning girl during physiotherapy, it fires her with a whole new determination to walk again and become a nurse. The trouble is, the same determination leads to her making single-minded and stupid decisions to prove herself, and that wheelchair not only limits her access to the wards but leads to some accidents as well. The crunch comes when a patient with angina has an attack. Instead of calling the night nurse, Willa resolves to tackle it herself in order to prove she is still a nurse. And then she finds she can’t access the patient because of her wheelchair and her legs are useless. She falls and knocks herself out, and this puts the patient in even more danger and valuable time is lost. The patient is saved in the end, but Willa is in big trouble for not taking the proper course of action in calling the nurse. However, the board goes too far; they tell Willa she is just not capable of helping right now because of her condition and she must face the fact that she is not a nurse anymore. This shatters Willa and sends her into deep depression.

Then Mr Leggett, the truck driver from the accident and his son Teddy step in and offer to take Willa on a holiday away from it all. Willa goes, but is in a state of deep depression and shows it by flinging her nurse’s uniform out the window. She is just as bitter and bad-tempered at the Leggett household and tries everyone’s patience. When asked to cook dinner, she grumpily refuses. So Teddy tries to cook dinner himself, and the result is fire in the kitchen. Another accident because of Willa’s attitude, and she herself realises it. But when she has put out the fire, she finds herself standing on her own two feet! It looks like she has made the breakthrough, and it is the end of her bitter attitude. She now has fresh hope and is more cheerful.

Things are looking up. Willa is given a puppy, Benje, and asked to help out at the play-school. There she exhibits her nursing skills with first aid. But she is still wheelchair-bound and her legs give way under her. Then Willa gets a letter inviting her back to the hospital and there is a job waiting. Willa goes, eagerly anticipating a return to nursing.

But she gets a nasty shock when she finds it is a clerking job! She gets all depressed and the staff realise they have made a mistake. Willa gets off to a bad start in her new job because her heart is not in it, but she soon picks up when the manager tells her it is not all just bits and pieces of paper – patients’ problems are in there too. She also meets Jim Cooper, a man disabled like herself but is being trained as a masseur. Despite his blindness, Jim soon finds he can play football with his other senses. This inspires Willa to sit the nurses’ exam, although she is not supposed to. This comes to a head when Willa is asked to come up and help with the blackboard. It means Willa has to walk up there – but can she?

Her friend Gay manages to cover for her by taking her place. Willa comes top in the exam, but Matron says she still has to be able to walk if she is to be a nurse, and she is not likely too. This has Willa working far too hard in physiotherapy and collapsing. Eventually she manages to walk a bit, but then she overhears a surgeon badly needing a nurse for an emergency operation and none is available. Ever determined to prove herself a nurse, she steps in, determined to stay on her feet no matter what. She manages it and the patient pulls through, but then she collapses.

This time it is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Staying on her feet throughout the operation has damaged her spine again – to the point where it is beyond repair and there is no hope of ever walking again. Willa is utterly depressed, and none of the people who helped her before seem to get through. Her depression results in yet another near-accident, this time to Jim, and she steps in to save him. It snaps her out of her depression. Then she meets a new patient, Pamela Sutton who is wheelchair-bound like herself and seeing a specialist. The specialist’s verdict is that Pamela is now capable of walking and just needs motivation. Willa starts using what she learned in her own physiotherapy to help Pamela, figuring it will be the next best thing to walking again herself. This sets Willa on a whole new career as a physiotherapist.

Thoughts

For some reason, nursing stories was one theme that Jinty was very short on. Throughout her entire run she ran only two nursing serials – this one and Angela’s Angels. When readers in the 1980 Pam’s Poll asked for a nursing story, Jinty’s response was to repeat Angela’s Angels rather than publish a new nursing story.

Stories where heroines are determined to make their own miracles with comebacks after an accident are well established in girls’ comics. But this story seems to be making a statement about what can happen when determination is not combined with common sense and crosses the line to pig-headedness and stupidity. Willa is so fixated on proving herself a nurse and gets so depressed when she can’t that she puts herself and others in danger several times. She realises her mistakes afterwards, but continues to make them because she is so hell-bent on proving herself a nurse. She doesn’t understand that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is very weak after the accident, and she should concentrate on recuperation before looking at nursing again. And in the end, it is that same reckless determination that destroys her chances of recover altogether, when she takes on the job in the operating theatre when her body was just not ready for it.

It is not all Willa’s fault; some of it the way the medical staff handle her psychologically; at the board hearing they go too far and crush Willa’s confidence completely, just as she is feeling very bad over the angina patient (but will continue to make the same mistake). There is no counselling or psychological treatment for her depression and the mental impact the accident has had on her.

The ending is a surprise; instead of the clichéd one where the heroine beats all odds and makes her comeback, Willa becomes permanently crippled but discovers a whole new vocation in the field of medicine. The skills she had learned in her own road to recovery are now being applied to others. But Willa is applying them in a more sensible manner than when she did with herself and, through the patients she helps, makes her own comeback. So Willa can be said to be a “comeback” story that is a very refreshing and even surprising take on the formula of “comeback” serials. It breaks all the clichés and gives us a heroine who is very human.

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Leo Davy

One of the things I am most appreciating about this blog is the way that it is able to take part in an expanding network of resources: the existing UK girls’ comics blogs, the Comics UK forum, Catawiki, the original creators or editors where we are able to make contact with them, and interested fans and experts internationally. This not only means that things known in one area (artists of specific strips, contents of individual issues) are made more readily available to other interested parties, but also that inconsistencies can be corrected and new knowledge promulgated. This is particularly important as, sadly, there is no single reliable source of this information in the shape of publishing archives or editorial records; I recently spoke to copyright holders Egmont who confirmed that they have no editorial files or information held from that time. This makes our current networking and sharing of memories, information, and analysis the only way we can come up with a good picture of who did what, when, how, and where.

I posted back in November about the artist attribution we have been giving for “Angela’s Angels”; we have given the name of the artist as Alberto Cuyas, though in fact we seemingly should have listed him as Manuel Cuyàs. However, Sleuth from Catawiki has recently emailed me a number of pages of art definitively credited to Manuel Cuyàs and to Leo Davy, confirming to me that we should change the attribution of “Angela’s Angels” to the latter artist (now done).

There is quite a bit of artwork attributed to Leo Davy and Phil Townsend together; they drew two Girl strips together, “Susan of St Bride’s” and “Calling Nurse Abbott!”. There is some similarity here of faces and other details when compared to “Angela’s Angels”: look at the bottom left of the first page and the bottom right of the second.

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“A Scooter To Sydney” is credited to Leo Davy alone, as is a smashing adaptation of “The Day of the Triffids” – Bill’s face in the second row of panels, in particular, is a very good match with the “Angela’s Angels” artwork to my mind. (Moreso than the art on “Sydney”, which is in a very finished style.)

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Here are some more faces from the nursing strips:

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Finally, some more “Angela’s Angel’s” artwork for comparison:

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Cuyàs has similarities of style; he is a vigorous artist with lots of movement in his drawing, and his characters are not pretty-pretty. However, his faces are distinctively different (those noses!) and he often signs his work. His art appeared in June & Schoolfriend, Bunty, and other classic girl’s titles, and some of it was reprinted in Jinty: the 1979 Jinty annual (post to follow) includes the rather fun collected story “Trudy on Trial!” (originally published between 24 June 1972 and 19 August 1972 according to Deskartes Mil). The 1975 Jinty annual republishes the story “Eve’s Dream” which I assume is also from June & Schoolfriend, though I would be grateful for confirmation of this.

Manuel Cuyàs
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Manuel Cuyàs
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There is very little information available on the internet about Leo Davy. As Girl printed credits for writers and artists, we can attribute the following stories to him:

  • Susan of St Bride’s (with Phil Townsend)
  • Calling Nurse Abbott! (with Phil Townsend)
  • The Day of the Triffids (adaptation of the John Wyndham book)
  • A Scooter to Sydney
  • The Red Pennant

The only Jinty strip attributable to him is “Angela’s Angels”, including a short story featuring the same characters in the Jinty 1974 annual. There is also a longer list of titles available on Catawiki here; I haven’t reviewed it fully or sense-checked it for any oddities yet, though.

Looking at those strips in Girl, Leo Davy has a very classic, elegant style. The strips he draws are energetic and also pretty neat and meticulous; “Angela’s Angels” is less meticulous to my eye, looking in some places as if it was pencilled but not fully inked or painted. Could this be a sign of an experienced draughtsman towards the end of his career, still drawing beautifully but less carefully and precisely?

Leo Davy fits well as the artist on “Angela’s Angels” – especially in the first issues of a new title, getting an experienced artist on a nursing story to do another makes good sense! Cuyàs would also be unsurprising as an artist in Jinty, having probably previously worked with Mavis Miller or colleagues of hers, but compared to the themes in his previous stories it would be a little more of a leap for him to turn up as the creator on a nursing story.

With particular thanks to Sleuth from Catawiki

Angela’s Angels (1974)

Sample Images

Angelas Angels 1

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Angelas Angels 2

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Angelas Angels 3

Publication: 11/5/74 – 12/10/1974 (23 episodes)

Reprint: 11/4/1981 – 12/8/1981

Artist: Alberto Cuyas Leo Davy [edited Jan 2015]
Writer: Unknown

And here we go with another story that began in the first issue of Jinty.

Angela Rodd and her six budding student nurses: Sharon, Lesley, Jo, Susannah, Helen and Liz. The six would become known at Spilsbury General as Angela’s Angels. Ah, Jinty’s answer to the old nursing TV programme, Angels, you think? Actually, no – “Angela’s Angels” came out the year before Angels. Anticipatory, isn’t it?

It all starts when a cyclist is knocked down right in front of the hospital. The six girls who will become Angela’s Angels step in to help. A nurse from the hospital, Angela Rodd, comes out and takes charge of the emergency. Angela comes across as a bit severe, but together they get the cyclist to hospital. We get a taste of things to come when Sharon commandeers the ambulance because the ambulance men are distracted!

The six girls all discover that they are applying to be student nurses at Spilsbury General. Sharon hopes they don’t meet “that dragon of a sister” from the cyclist accident. Famous last words – that dragon is now in charge of them! Prompted by how they worked together over the accident, Angela chose them as the student nurses she is going to supervise throughout their training. Angela finds she may have gotten more than she bargained for, as the girls prove to be a handful. On their first day they mistake the house surgeon, Mr Shrubsole, to be unconscious when he is only asleep. The treatment they administer to the unfortunate Mr Shrubsole shows they have much to learn about nursing. First lesson: first do no harm to the patient, you over-eager juniors! Ironically, it is Mr Shrubsole who gives them their nickname: “Angela’s Angels”.

And so begins Jinty’s hospital soap opera, filled with drama, thrills, tears and laughs. And Spilsbury itself will never be the same after the arrival of Angela’s Angels. Nor will Angela herself. Although she comes across as the archetypal, strict, senior nurse whose severity does not make her popular, we know that she is fond of her charges, even if supervising them leaves her shattered afterwards. When Angela is strict about the rules or handling patients, she always shows her charges that there is a reason for it; for example, the reason for no jewellery on duty is for maintaining hygiene. The girls call Angela an acid-drop, but Angela shows that she has a heart underneath. When the Angels are accused of stealing, they assume the questioning Angela gives them is because she thinks they are guilty. But no – Angela had never believed they were guilty. She is the one who uncovers the true thief and sticks up for her charges. At another point Lesley is on the roof retrieving a book and surprised when Angela covers up for her.

Much of the humour and thrills come from the personalities of Angela’s Angels, particularly Sharon, the rebel of the group who hates being tied down with rules and red tape, and is a bit headstrong. She is also naturally high spirited, which leads her to waltzing with an anatomy skeleton and breaking it, tumbling down a laundry chute, and other scrapes that often get her into trouble with the hospital administration and even the law. Helen comes across as the least confident but more determined member of the group; she wants to be a nurse but struggles with the study for it. She studies so hard that she falls asleep while on duty in the ward. When it’s exam time, Helen not only has to study but run a risky but hilarious double bluff because she has been injured and has to get treatment without Angela finding out. Yes, imagine being both a nurse and a patient at the same time, and facing exams as well! It is a delight to see a black girl among the Angels in the form of Jo. Stories with coloured girls were a rarity. Unfortunately, there is a lapse into the African stereotype when Jo is revealed to be superstitious and a believer in magic. It is even more unfortunate for Jo when an enemy discovers her weakness; she has Jo believing she is cursed and enclosing herself in a protective circle of flowers and refusing to leave it.

And Angela’s Angels have their personal problems as well as personalities to provide us with drama. For example, Lesley is the poor rich girl – the daughter of a millionaire who neglects her. And she does not want anyone to know she is the daughter of a millionaire, fearing favouritism. Unfortunately, this is precisely what happens when her secret comes out.

Naturally, much of the drama comes from patients as well. There is the old lady who accuses the Angels of stealing, but is caught out by Angela. A neurotic patient tries to jump out the window, but Sharon saves her. But the most defined patient is Neil, whom the Angels rehabilitate when he is blinded from an accident. In the final episode, Neil gives a toast to the Angels. They comment that they have a long way to go yet in their training, but they have learned how rewarding the job can be. This shows us how much they have grown already, although they are not fully fledged nurses yet.

“Angela’s Angels” was repeated in 1981 as a result of Pam’s Poll, because readers indicated that they wanted a nursing story. Indeed, there had been a dearth of nursing stories in Jinty after “Angela’s Angels”; the only other Jinty serial with this theme was “Willa on Wheels”. “Angela’s Angels” was one of two Jinty serials to be repeated in the regular comic; the other was “Land of No Tears”. Both were repeated because of Pam’s Poll. Strangely, the nurse theme cropped up in the 1 October issue in 1977 with a competition based on the Angels programme. Readers had to find all the nurses’ watches in the issue to be in for winning an Angels doll.

One final note: some of Angela’s Angels appeared in a story of their own in the 1976 annual. Here, they have to administer treatment to a sick woman on an island. The trouble is, they are not experienced enough and the weather is too stormy for medics to come in. Ironically, this story was not called “Angela’s Angels” but “The Little Demon!”.