Tag Archives: nursing

Nurse Grudge (1979)

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Published: Tammy 3 March 1979 to 12 May 1979

Episodes: 11

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Greta Jones becomes a student nurse at St Jane’s Hospital, but although she wants to be a nurse her real motive is to take revenge on the staff she believes are responsible for her doctor father’s dismissal twenty years earlier. Guiding her is her father’s old diary, which got left behind when he vanished years ago, leaving Greta to be raised in an orphanage. It is full of the names of the people who turned against him, but it never seems to explain what he was dismissed for. Greta does not know either but intends to find out from the staff. She also befriends Old Fred the hospital porter. Although Old Fred gives no sign he knows Greta’s game, he seems to take odd actions that either protect Greta or foil her tricks. 

Greta’s revenge takes the form of nasty tricks, many of which take the form of vandalism, which are pulled on whoever’s name pops up in the diary. Of course it does not take the staff long to realise a troublemaker is at work, and after one incident where Greta is spotted and nearly caught, they know it is one of the student nurses. Sister Harris, who is in charge of the student, issues a general warning for the troublemaker to desist. Greta decides to ignore this and carry on, with more caution. 

However, things get even more risky for Greta when of her fellow student nurses, Jocelyn, rumbles her after glimpsing the diary and then catching her red-handed. Greta manages to keep one step ahead of Jocelyn but can’t allay Jocelyn’s suspicions. Greta decides to set up a phony alibi during a weekend stay at Jocelyn’s: drug everyone in the household and slip back to the hospital to cause more trouble. 

Unfortunately, upon her return, the trick backfires dreadfully on Greta. It results in Jocelyn getting seriously injured and difficulties in getting help because of the vandalism Greta caused at the hospital and drugging everyone in the household. Greta is forced to do the preliminary first aid on Jocelyn herself while waiting for the ambulance. As she does so, she realises she wasn’t paying proper attention to her nurse training because she was too distracted by revenge. Only with notes from Dad’s diary is she able to provide adequate treatment. Seeing her revenge went too far, Greta decides to end it. Jocelyn, grateful to Greta, tacitly agrees to keep things quiet. Greta looks set for a fresh start.

But oh, what a time to get found out! It is now that Sister Harris discovers the diary, which got left in the ambulance by mistake, and realises Greta is the troublemaker. She marches Greta off to the hospital authorities. Greta does not deny anything and shouts it is because of how they ganged up on her father and ruined him. The staff explain that her father brought the trouble on himself. He got so carried away celebrating Greta’s birth that in a moment of carelessness, his cigar smouldered on some curtains, which started a fire that nearly burned the hospital down. His own wife perished in the blaze and he was barely able to save baby Greta. Now Greta faces expulsion, and her dream of being a nurse looks doomed. 

Then an ambulance arrives, bringing in some very sick patients from Heathrow. The ambulance men have collapsed from the illness as well. Old Fred promptly diagnoses the condition as a tropical fever that is highly contagious and could start an epidemic. He then reveals himself as…Greta’s father in disguise. 

Dad says the hospital is not equipped to deal with this particular disease, which is unknown in England but horribly contagious, and insists on dealing with it himself. Greta tearfully declares she will help as his nurse. But the staff are not listening. So Dad and Greta seize the ambulance and drive it to an embassy to get the serum for the patients. It’s a mad scramble to get there, with not only the hospital on their tail now but the police as well!

On the way, Dad explains that after his dismissal, he left England and worked in the tropics, which not only built up his expertise in tropical diseases but also rebuilt his self-esteem and confidence as a doctor after his disgrace shattered it. Eventually he returned to England but was too scared to reveal himself. So he disguised himself as Old Fred the porter at his old hospital as a form of penance. He recognised Greta, realised what she was up to, and was trying to help where possible when things were getting out of hand.


At the embassy they get the serum to help the patients and contain the potential epidemic. After this, they both feel redeemed. Impressed by their actions, the ambassador helps to sort things out with the police and St Jane’s, and offers both Greta and Dad the opportunity to help patients in the tropics. This also enables Greta to complete her training and become a nurse after all.

Thoughts

As with Jinty, nursing serials were rare in Tammy. Both Tammy and Jinty used the nurse theme more often in their complete stories. Tammy did not seem to use revenge serials much either, but when she did, the best example was “The Fairground of Fear”.

Nurse Grudge had a strong influence on me when I first started reading Tammy, and it was one of my favourites. Its most lasting impact was being the first story to introduce me to the now-familiar formula in girls’ comics that whenever a protagonist is out for revenge, she so often discovers she was wrong about the whole thing and her victims were innocent. She was misguided, didn’t have all the facts, jumped to the wrong conclusion, or was deliberately fed a tissue of lies. And in these types of revenge serials there is often, but not always, a mystery is attached that needs to be solved. In other cases, the protagonist does start off with a justified motive for revenge (e.g. “The Cat Came Back…” from Suzy, “Stella Stirrer” from Tammy and “When Harry Dumped Sally” from Bunty). However, it can go too far or expose the protagonist to danger. 

In Greta’s case, it’s all because of Dad’s diary. Although Dad is suffering from guilt and shattered self-esteem, this is not reflected in his diary. Instead, it is full of Dad’s whining about how the staff went against him (without saying why or what he was dismissed for), which gave Greta the impression they all ganged up to get rid of him on some false charge. From the moment Greta could read it, she was in effect fed a tissue of lies and grew up hating St Jane’s and wanting revenge. Why Dad went this way with his diary is even more odd than the conduct of Mr Brabazon in Bunty’s “Down with St Desmond’s!”, who fed his daughter Carol-Anne a load of BS (turning her into even more of a nasty revenge-driven bunny boiler than Greta) about her mother dying of a broken heart over being wrongly expelled because he was too scared to tell her the truth. Perhaps Greta’s Dad was too ashamed to write about the details of his disgrace and could only write how everyone turned on him.

Whatever Dad was thinking, the damage was done with his diary. Because of it, Greta grew up with a grudge against the hospital, and it is reflected in her conduct. She goes about with a persistently sullen look and attitude. She wants to become a nurse, but it’s clouded by doing it for revenge, and it is affecting her full attention to her training. We later learn that because of this, Sister Harris was having doubts about Greta being a good nurse until her handling of the Jocelyn emergency convinced her otherwise. Her disguised father, although trying to protect her, does nothing to actually stop her vendetta or set her straight. In so doing, he must take even more blame for her conduct.

Greta is not all that clever with her revenge. Her tricks are just too obvious, making it all to easy for the staff to realise what’s going on and be put on high alert. There are plenty of examples of other troublemakers in girls’ comics who were so crafty and insidious at making their tricks look like mishaps or someone else’s fault (e.g. “That Girl Next Door!”, Mandy PSL #105) that nobody could even detect someone was making trouble. 

To her credit, Greta is not as evil as, say, Carol-Anne. For example, when Jocelyn begins to suspect Greta, Greta does not plot to get rid of her. By contrast, Carol-Anne destroyed a number of people who wised up to her by getting rid of them, and not an ounce of compunction about doing so. Also, Greta is has enough heart to be shocked into realising she has gone too far and decides to stop, something clearly totally beyond Carol-Anne. She also redeems herself far more than Carol-Anne, not only in her action to save the patients but in feeling remorse prior to being caught out. She also finds she has become a much happier person after she has no more grudge – a clear statement about how harbouring grudges sours your disposition and letting go of them makes you more positive.

The shock of going too far and deciding to stop and concentrate on being a nurse could have ended the story there. Instead, it’s at this point that Greta is found out, which feels so cruel. Just when she wanted a fresh start and was finding her proper course as a nurse. Still, there was the mystery to solve: what exactly led to Dad’s dismissal? In revenge serials there is often a mystery attached, and this one is no exception. However, Greta does nothing to investigate just what happened, though at one point she does express intent to find out from the staff. Sadly, it seems the only way to get caught and confront the staff was the only way to find out. And, like so many “revenge” protagonists in girls’ serials before her and since, poor Greta finds out it was all for nothing. And if she’d checked things out more, she could have avoided it altogether. 

It’s no real surprise that Fred turns out to be Dad in disguise (well, it wasn’t for me anyway). Dads (or sometimes Mums) working from the shadows in disguise have been used elsewhere, such as Mandy PSL #185 “The Traitor’s Daughter” or Jinty’s “Curtain of Silence”. But it is a bit surprising that he came back to England when he was doing so well in the tropics and away from all the disgrace in England. And at the very hospital where he disgraced himself in the first place! Still, he said it was penance, so maybe it is understandable. 

The final redemption does feel a little contrived. Why the heck would the embassy have the serum? It’s not a hospital, after all. Perhaps they were hoping the embassy would get the serum flown in or something when the hospital was neither listening to Dad nor equipped to handle the disease? Still, it is a dramatic and exciting way to not only redeem themselves but also enable them to continue their careers.

Harriet’s War (2018)

Published: Commando #5179

Art: Khato (story); Ian Kennedy (cover)

Writer: Andrew Knighton

In honour of Armistice Day, “A Resource on Jinty” brings you this Commando. 

Plot

It’s October 1918 in Belgium, but for Harriet “Harry” Weekes, an army nurse and ambulance driver, the closing days of WWI have gotten tougher than ever with increased fighting and lines on the move, which means more casualties. Not that she’s going to let that stop her and her friend Vera Davis from helping them. Harriet and Vera get so close to the combat zone they’re nicknamed “the angels on wheels”. They also get a lot of sexist remarks from chauvinist pig officers. Having grown up with four brothers Harriet knows how to stand her ground, but unfortunately she tends to go over the top about it. We soon see Harriet is the more emotional and prejudicial of the two; Vera is the cool head who thinks before she acts, is more open-minded and empathic, and acts as the voice of reason when Harriet’s hot head steams up.

Vera and Harriet get captured by a German soldier, Hauptmann Franz Maier, who wants them to treat their wounded. Seeing the state the wounded German soldiers are in, Vera immediately goes to help them. But Harriet does so under protest because they’re the enemy, “brutes” and “murderers”. She prompts Vera to make a run for it with her, but a German soldiers sees them and opens fire, wounding Vera. Harriet notices that Maier stopped the Germans firing more bullets, but she isn’t voicing her gratitude. Harriet is impressed to see Vera continue to treat the German soldiers despite her injury. 

Harriet is both surprised and angry when Maier questions how compassionate she is, running off like that when those men needed her. Harriet’s still too consumed with anti-German prejudice to show even one ounce of compassion when Maier says they’ve lost all their medics because of the Allied advance: “You could do the decent thing and surrender!”. She even slaps Maier.

Then their attention is drawn to a German soldier, Gerhard Muller, whose condition is now critical and medical attention is urgent. Harriet is so surprised to see the softer side of Maier when he tries to comfort Muller that she begins to open her mind. She even obeys Maier’s order to drive Muller to a German medical station. Maier comes along as translator and to deal with any hostile Germans. Harriet is even more surprised to hear Maier does realise the war is pretty much done (his final orders to his men reflected that); all he can do now is save his men.

The drive takes them through hostile German territory. Maier is very surprised at how Harriet drives through such territory; she says no man’s land has given her plenty of practice. 

When they arrive at the German medical station they find it’s in a sorry state because of Allied artillery bombardment. They manage to stabilise Muller with what is available, but he needs proper medical treatment and it’s not available there. As they treat Muller, Harriet and Maier draw closer together when he says he studied English in London and has friends there and Harriet says Muller reminds her of her brother Tommy. They draw even closer together when the station is hit by more artillery fire. It catches Harriet by surprise, as she never has encountered bombardment before, but Maier tells her what to do.

They can’t stay because of the bombardment. Harriet is against heading further towards the German lines because of the artillery – their better bet is to head for the British ones. Now it’s Maier who has to overcome his prejudices – against the British army! He doesn’t relish the thought of a POW camp either if he surrenders to the British.

Maier agrees to take Muller to the British lines, but the ambulance has to fight its way through more fighting and artillery as the Germans fight the British advance. Along the way she promises British soldiers she’ll come back for them. Muller is approaching death, and he reminds Harriet so much of her brothers that she’ll risk anything for him. And she does – she heads straight for the main British force, which is right in the heart of the fighting!

But when they arrive, it’s not the fighting that’s the problem, it’s the anti-German prejudice the soldiers have. Not even the forceful Harriet can persuade them to allow Muller to be treated and Maier ends up in the POW camp. Fortunately the nurses eventually reach a medical station where Harriet’s friend Captain Scott is in charge. They soon have Muller on the mend, and in the nick of time. Scott treats Vera’s wound as well. Harriet honours her promise to go back for the Allied soldiers, although by now she is collapsing from exhaustion. When the armistice is declared, everyone in the ward, including Maier (allowed out), celebrates, whether “British or German, nurse or soldier”. 

Thoughts

The story makes one huge comment about prejudice and how it can make good characters flawed as well as less savoury ones. Harriet’s wartime prejudice against Germans is so deep she’s not honouring the Hippocratic Oath, which dictates that medics treat all patients regardless of who or what they are. Maier’s prejudice is against the British army, a prejudice that proves more justified than Harriet’s when the British lines meet him, to the extent of their refusing to let Muller be treated because he’s German. By contrast, we have Vera and Captain Scott, neither of whom let prejudice get the better of them and both offer medical treatment to anyone who needs it. On the flip side is the chauvinism in some officers who don’t approve of women at the front, not even when they’re doing honourable and invaluable things there.

The story also illustrates that prejudice can be overcome and bridges get crossed. But Harriet illustrates that in some cases it takes a lot to do it. In her case, it’s being forced to work together with Maier. In the process she learns that Germans are human beings too and becomes more compassionate and empathic, and in so doing becomes a far better nurse than when she first started. At the beginning of the story she would never have dreamed she would celebrate Armistice Day together with Germans, but that’s precisely what happens. And so we get a far more satisfying end to the story than the Allies just hearing Armistice has come and the helmets fly up in the trenches in celebration.

Sadly, it’s not universal. Harriet and Maier are exceptions to the rule. For the most part, anti-German prejudice would have continued to run deep and, as history knows, it went a long way towards the infamous Treaty of Versailles, which proved to be the bedrock for the rise of Hitler and the start of World War II.

You also come away from this story with a whole new respect for wartime ambulance drivers. The story really shows what a tough, dangerous job it was, navigating such dangerous, unpredictable territory, sometimes having to drive through the line of fire itself and risk being blown up or whatever, in order to get much-needed medical attention to the boys on the battlefield. And so often you have to make do with what is to hand, which in the line of fire can get constantly blown up and be in short supply or not available at all. The story makes a strong point that medical services were casualties of artillery fire too, which did not distinguish what it hit.

The only problem I find with the story is one plot error. They keep talking about Muller needing a blood transfusion and antibiotics. Historically, in World War I the former was infrequent and its technology inadequate, and the latter was unavailable. If a bit more research could have been done there, we would have seen an even grimmer and more realistic of the medical situation on the WWI front that would illustrated how primitive WWI medicine was by modern standards. 

The Commando is yet another in the new line of Commandos to feature female protagonists. Its focus on nursing rather than resistance fighters or army officers is also innovative for Commando. The military must have often thought of nursing as a woman’s occupation, but the story shows that nurses often have to fight their own as much as the female fighters, whether it’s against the bombardment of the battlefield to do their job or the chauvinism of many of their own officers.

Willa on Wheels (1976)

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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. 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. 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.

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)

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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!”.