June & Pixie 22 December 1973

 

June cover

(Cover artist: Jim Baikie)

  • The Twin She Couldn’t Trust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • My Family, My Foes! (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • The Shepherd Boy (text story)
  • Lucky’s Living Doll (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Dark Destiny (artist A.E. Allen)
  • The Sea Urchins (artist Audrey Fawley, writer Linda Blake) – text story
  • Poochy – cartoon
  • Sylvie on a String (artist Tony Highmore)
  • Tell Us about It! (letters page)
  • Swim to Safety! (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Tilly’s Magic Tranny (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Are You a Sparkler? (quiz)
  • A Christmas Miracle (artist Jim Baikie) – complete story
  • School for Sports (artist Dudley Wynne)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • He’s Grown Up! (Neil Reid)

 

Christmas is coming, so we continue our tour of older titles with the June Christmas issue from 1973. This was the last Christmas issue June ever published. On 22 June 1974 she merged into Tammy. Several of the June artists would also join the Jinty team as regulars when it started in May 1974: Jim Baikie, Phil Gascoine and Phil Townsend. Carlos Freixas, Audrey Fawley and Robert MacGillivray, who were also regulars on the June team, would also feature on the Jinty team, but not as regulars. These artists were Jinty’s biggest legacy from June. Jinty would also inherit a number of reprints from June as well, such as Strange Stories repackaged as Gypsy Rose stories and Barracuda Bay.

June, who would go through a merger in six months’ time, is still going through her current merger with Pixie. Mini Ha-Ha, a cartoon about a Red Indian girl, is one that really carried over from Pixie, but would not join the Tammy & June merger. Bessie Bunter, who came from the School Friend merger, would continue in the merger with Tammy. So would The Strangest Stories Ever Told, though currently it is not running in June.

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Although the Storyteller is not running, the Christmas issue does have a spooky Christmas story by Jim Baikie. It is reproduced here for the benefit of Jim Baikie fans. Also reproduced here is the Bessie Bunter Christmas story, about a giant Christmas pudding. So giant you could fit people into it. And what’s this with goblins? It’s Christmas, not Halloween.

Also celebrating Christmas are Lucky’s Living Doll, two text stories and a quiz: Are You a Sparkler? The artist illustrating the quiz is the same artist who illustrated a number of Jinty’s quizzes.

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Rather than give the usual potted summaries of the picture stories in the issue, I have chosen to feature panels from them. This is to give an indication what our Jinty artists got up to in June before they joined the Jinty team five months later. This was a month before June folded.

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John Richardson: Comics Bibliography

Goof from the Comics UK Forum has kindly supplied a list of the comics work done by John Richardson over the years.


Misty
Serials:
End Of The Line… 12/08/78 – 18/11/78

Short Stories:
Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts Story) 4/2/1978
Green Grow The Riches – O! 18/2/1978
The Dummy (Nightmare Story) 25/2/1978
The Secret Of Lan-Shi… (Beasts Story) 11/3/1978
The Haunting (Nightmare Story) 18/3/1978
Napoleon Comes Home… (Beasts Story) 25/2/1978
Miranda 22/4/1978
Stone Cold Revenge 6/5/1978
Sticks And Stones 20/5/1978
A Spell Of Trouble (Nightmare Story) 15/7/1978
Titch’s Tale… (Beasts Story) 29/7/1978
Dance Of Death 5/8/1978
Yet Another Teacher For Molly! (Nightmare Story) 16/12/1978
Examination Nerves 23/12/1978
A Girl’s Best Friend 30/12/1978
The Sad Eyes Of Sorrow 13/1/1979
Happy Birthday, Spooky Sue! 20/1/1979
Pot Luck 10/3/1979
The Curse Of The Wolf 31/3/1979
The Choice Of Silence 14/4/1978
The Uglies 14/4/1978
One Hour In Time 12/5/1979
The Disembodied 26/5/1979
A Stain On Her Character 23/6/1979
Framed 14/7/1979
The Writing On The Wall 21/7/1979
Time To Spare 18/8/1979
Inside Story 25/8/1979
Mrs Grundy’s Guest House 29/9/1979
The Pig People 1/12/1979
Smile 5/1/1980
Black Sunday Summer Special 1978
Old Ethna’s House Holiday Special 1979
The Pipe Dream of Marty Scuttle Holiday Special 1979
The Swarm Annual 1979

Tammy
Serials:
The Duchess of Dead-End Drive 2/03/74 – 16/03/74

Short Stories:
Moonlight Prowler 17/7/1982
Shock Treatment 20/11/1982
Carla’s Best Friend 15/1/1983
(Reprint from Misty “A Girl’s Best Friend”)
The Turning Point 12/3/1983
Donkey’s Years 17/9/1983
Fair Shares 24/12/1983?

Strange Stories:
This is Your Life 14/6/1980
The Beauty Contest 6/3/1981
Monster Movie 28/3/1981
Lost for Words 11/4/1981
The House of Leopards 9/5/1981
Water Under the Bridge 13/6/1981
The Carrier Bag 22/8/1981
Quicksilver 16/9/1981
Down to Earth 10/10/1981
Safe as Houses 17/10/1981
Unmasked 20/12/1981
Star Born 26/12/1981
The Burry Man 20/3/1982
All the Fright of the Fair ?
(?) The Pharaoh’s Daughter’s Stand-In (?) ?

Monster Tales:
The Gargoyle 16/1/1982
The Guardian 27/2/1982
Old Bug’s Last Trip 15/5/1982

Series: Wee Sue:
Weekly episodes 14/09/74? – 1982?
(Main artist from September 1974 to March 1977?)
1 story Annual 1977
1 story Annual 1979
3 stories Annual 1982
1 story Annual 1984
1 story Summer Special 1975
1 story Summer Special 1976
3 stories Holiday Special 1982
1 story Holiday Special 1983

Text Stories:
…Through Rose-Coloured Glasses Annual 1982
Star of Wonder Annual 1982

Comic Covers:
The Cover Girls 20/08/1973 – 04/10/1980
Annuals 1979 – 1982, 1984
Holiday Specials 1979 & 1980

Filler Artist:
Eva’s Evil Eye 31/8/74(?) – 07/09/74

Jinty
Series: Could It Be You? (or Is This Your Story?)
(Reprints from the June series) 1976 – 1977

Gypsy Rose Stories:
The White Blackbird (reprinted Strange Story) Holiday Special 1980
The Yellow Dress (reprinted Strange Story) Holiday Special 1980

Bunty
Serials:
Phantom of the Fells 348 (12/09/64) – 358 (21/11/64)

Judy
Picture Story Libraries:
Green for Danger No 237 (January 1983)
Dora’s Dragon No 254 (June 1984)

Mandy
Serials:
The Girl with the Black Umbrella 300 (14/10/72) – 313 (13/01/73)

Other:
Stella Starr – Policewoman from Space Annual 1974
Stella Starr – Policewoman from Space Annual 1975

June
Series: Could It Be You?
Some of the weekly episodes Early 1970’s?
1 story June Book 1973

Series: Lucky’s Living Doll
Filler artist for the weekly series 30/09/1972 – March(?) 1973
2 stories (reprints) June Book 1982

Princess Tina
Filler Artist:
Clueless – The Blunderdog 22/4/72, 29/4/72, 27/5/72, 15/7/72

School Friend
Short Stories:
The Misfit (possibly reprint from longer story) Annual 1973
Elfrida of the Forest Annual 1975

Scream!
Serials:
Terror of the Cats 24/03/1984 – 28/04/1984
The Nightcomers 05/05/1984 – 30/06/1984

Short Stories:
A Ghastly Tale! – Green Fingers 7/4/1984

Pink
Short Stories:
Miss Get-What-She-Wants Annual 1975

Mirabelle
Serials:
A Song for Andrella ? 1977 – ? 1977
Later episodes, following Horacio Lalia (serial started 19/02/77)

Buster
Filler Artist:
The Leopard from Lime Street ? – ?

Guest post: John Richardson

Comics UK Forum poster Goof has kindly contributed the following appreciation of artist John Richardson, along with a detailed comics bibliography. Many thanks indeed, Goof!

John Richardson, who died earlier this year, was not a Jinty artist. He drew no serial stories for Jinty – in fact, he did few full serials of any kind – and is represented only by a few reprints. Yet for other girls’ comics, especially Tammy and Misty, he produced a body of brilliant and original work across a wide range of stories from the darkest horror to the craziest knockabout comedy.

Like nearly all artists who worked for girls’ comics, he was largely anonymous to his many readers, and information about his life isn’t easy to find. Born in 1943 in the North Yorkshire mining town of Eston, he started working as a commercial artist after studying at Art College. Before this, he once assured an interviewer, he had tried his hand at farm work and professional wrestling.

His earliest work includes what seems to have been his first foray into girls’ comics, the 1964 Bunty serial “Phantom of the Fells”. During the 1970’s, he worked on several IPC girls’ comics such as June and Princess Tina, and did a serial and some smaller items for D C Thomson’s Mandy. He also did a couple of series for Cheeky Weekly comic, and the cartoon strip “Amanda” for the Sun newspaper.

Around this time he also began his long run of work for Tammy, which over the years made a significant contribution to the character of the comic, especially his series of “Cover Girl” covers which did so much to define to look of the comic between 1973 and 1980, and his period as the main artist for the “Wee Sue” series. He continued to produce stories and covers for Tammy until the end of 1983.

He contributed short complete stories to Misty throughout its two year run, as well as the serial “End of the Line“, and took full advantage of the extra space which Misty offered to artists to create some of his most spectacular work.

During the 1980’s, he drew for 2000AD, especially “The Mean Arena”, a science fiction serial that he also wrote, and contributed to the serials “Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales” and “The V.C.s”. He also drew two serials and a short story for Scream! He drew and wrote the cartoon strip “Flatmates” for the Sunday People newspaper, and strips for specialist car and bike magazines. Most memorably perhaps out of his cartoon work, he created the Goonish comedy science fiction strip “Jetman” for a computer magazine called Crash.

Unlike a number of artists who worked on IPC’s girls’ comics, it seems that he didn’t move over to D C Thomson after the last IPC picture story girls’ comics ceased publication in the mid-1980s, although he did produce two Judy Picture Story Libraries in 1983 and 1984. I have not been able to find any further girls’ comic work after the demise of Tammy, and it looks as if he may have stopped working for comics altogether around this time. The latest comics work that I have been able to trace was in two issues of the Enid Blyton’s Adventure Magazine, published in July and December 1986.

It’s not clear why he did comparatively few full serials during his 20 years drawing for comics. I have seen it suggested that he had no great liking for drawing stories written by other people, and this may have discouraged him from working on long serials, where the artist would normally work more or less under instructions from the writer. It may be no accident that some of his best and most inventive comedy is in the Tammy series of Cover Girl covers, where he was free to interpret the joke in his own way because the jokes were purely visual. Many brilliant examples of this series are illustrated in Mistyfan’s History of Tammy Covers on this website.

He had the kind of style which once seen, was instantly recognisable, and yet this didn’t seem to limit his ability to adapt to almost any kind of story. He once said in interview that his work as a last-minute substitute for other artists had helped him to “learn from other people and gradually evolve something unique”. It’s an interesting thought that imitating the styles of other people can help you develop an original style of your own, but certainly his frequent work as a filler artist didn’t stop him developing a highly individual and spontaneous style, with a good feel for human anatomy and convincingly realistic facial expression.

Although he could turn his hand to almost any type of story, his best work in girls’ comic stories was in horror and farcical comedy. He had a tremendous flair for the grotesque, and he was able to turn this to account equally in horror and comedy. There’s nothing unusual about extravagantly hideous creatures in horror tales, but John Richardson’s had an exuberance which was all his own, like this example from “The Uglies” (Misty 14 April 1978):

John Richardson artwork from Misty

He could handle bizarre comedy with the same panache, even when the subject was something as humdrum as a parking meter (“Stella Starr – Policewoman from Outer Space” from Mandy Annual 1975):
John Richardson artwork from Mandy

But the impact of his work didn’t depend solely on his command of the grotesque and fantastic. He could convey the same chill in a horror story by the power of suggestion, through his flair for facial expression, and ability to compose a powerful page layout. From “Black Sunday” (Misty Summer Special 1978) and “Old Ethna’s House” (Misty Holiday Special 1979):

John Richardson artwork from MistyBlack Sunday

John Richardson artwork from MistyOld Ethna

He was also able to draw on his cartooning experience to enliven slapstick comedy stories, as in the Judy Picture Story Library “Dora’s Dragon”, where a dragon costume brought to life by a witch becomes a boisterous mini-Godzilla enthusiastically devouring anything that moves:

John Richardson artwork from Judy PSLDora’s Dragon

Although his style was so distinctive, he was well able to adapt it when taking over an established series from another artist. The Tammy series “Wee Sue” is an interesting example of this. He succeeded to the original Tammy series artist Mario Capaldi in the issue of 14 September 1974, but unusually, he did so in mid-episode. Here are the first two pages of the episode:

Mario Capaldi/John Richardson artwork from Tammy

John Richardson artwork from Tammy
Page one is clearly in Capaldi’s style, and I would say that the end of page two is clearly by
Richardson, although he has toned down the normal character of his work to harmonise with Capaldi’s. But at what point did he take over? I personally think that Capaldi drew the first three panels of the second page, and Richardson did the rest. The point is debatable, but it certainly shows how well Richardson was able to adapt his style to conform to the very different style of another artist. By way of contrast, here’s a later episode where he has remodelled Sue’s enemy Miss Bigger from the severe and tight-lipped martinet created by Capaldi into a crazed hobgoblin in his own distinctive style (issue of 26 February 1977):

John Richardson artwork from Tammy

I strongly feel that this art should be known and celebrated far more than it is, but as so often with girls’ comics, the first stumbling-block to recognition is simply a lack of reliable information about what work the artist did. Contributors to the Comics UK Forum have compiled a list of the work he is known to have done for girls’ comics, and this will be posted next. Inevitably, it’s not complete, and we would be grateful to hear from anybody who can offer further additions, or spot any mistakes. If you can give us any help with this, please let us know.

Comics Jam: Preserving British Comics

Yes, good pun, I didn’t notice it myself until the suggestion that the next follow up should be a Dundee-based one called Comics Marmalade. (Note to the unknowing – Dundee is famous for both marmalade and comics.)

On Saturday I went to the Cartoon Museum in London, to a small but perfectly formed event (follow link to Down The Tubes for fuller description). I feel very lucky to have gone: the numbers were limited due to the venue size, and I believe also the key person behind the gathering was keen to keep it sharp and focused. Many thanks indeed, therefore, to David Roach for suggesting me as an attendee and to Peter Hansen for finding a slot for me to join in. The event was called “Comics Jam” and the aim of it was to discuss ways to preserve UK Comics History (though the subtitle actually used was just the straightforward descriptive phrase, “British Comics History”).

The event started at the beginning of the afternoon: 2 pm, to allow everyone  time to get there from far-flung locations (Dundee, Bournemouth, Wales, and indeed Peter Hansen himself is primarily based in Vancouver, Canada). Peter gave a short introduction of how he came to become a collector (recounted in more detail in a video included in the Down The Tubes link above) and we also saw an amazing short video walking us through his collection. The collection consists of a very large number of old comics of course (Peter shudders at the number of rusty staples he has pulled out of comics over the years, to prevent them from deteriorating further). Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it also includes a large amount of original art work – but I think no one would expect the sheer number of pages of physical artwork that he has collected, which certainly numbers in the tens of thousands, stored in folders and on pallets.

Amazingly though, the collection also includes even rarer material. Tin plate adverts hung up outside newsagents, and a very few surviving paper adverts; leaflets and other promotional items including free gifts; dummies of comics never launched: all of great interest in giving a context to the business of publishing comics, of course. Best of all, the real holy grail for those of us who want to credit the creators behind it all: editorial correspondence, editorial bound copies of comics with annotations, and even pay books with information about who created what, and how much they were paid.

I hope the video, or a similar one, can be released at some time for wider appreciation. There is nothing quite like the impact it makes on the viewer as we watch Peter walking us through a simple door into a Tardis of comics ephemera: down corridors, along shelves, across pallets, peering into and out of art folders and banana boxes, and thence around many corners, up various stairs, and finally into a calm area where he catalogues his material. I was relieved to know that there is an electronic catalogue of the archive in spreadsheet format and that it’s not purely hard-copy, but it surely can’t be a complete work at this point as it consists of just Peter’s own labours rather than a joint effort or one done by someone brought in to complete this mammoth task. (Given that the event was co-organized by a number of academic bodies, perhaps this will change and a PhD student might end up with this task, or some part of it? Or Peter, please do correct me if I am wrong in my assumption about the completeness of it!)

Once we’d recovered from gawping at the Aladdin’s cave on the video, we had two discussion panels: the first was the one I was on (“The Story of British Comics: a round table discussion on the history of British comics, featuring Julia Round, Chris Murray, Jenni Scott, John Freeman, and David Roach, chaired by Phillip Vaughan“) and the second ranged from further historical discussions to information about what Rebellion and others are doing right now that will help to preserve this important part of cultural history. (“Celebrating and Preserving British Comics: a round table discussion on comics archives and preserving collections for the nation – featuring Peter Hansen, David Huxley, Rob Power, and Hannah Berry, chaired by Steve Holland”). Finally, we had a short trio of celebrities talking about their youthful memories of comics: Dave Gibbons and his youth as a comics reader and of course comics creator, Posy Simmonds on her early years reading both British and American comics (courtesy of a nearby USAF base) and Jonathan Ross talking eloquently on the rich texture of cultural history that a collection like Peter’s can hold for ordinary punters and for the research community alike (drawing on his experience as a governor for the BFI there).

Without going into detail of who said what and when (I didn’t take any notes for myself), I remember the discussion covering the below areas and more.

  • None of us present needed convincing of this ourselves, but as we stated and re-stated, these are important cultural and artistic artifacts for a number of reasons. They are elements of a shared history that has shaped the readership and affected the nation, while they also reflect back to us the concerns and interests of the nation at that time; but they are also amazing creations of a high artistic standard, denigrated and overlooked at the time and since then. This is evidenced by the lack of printed credits throughout most of the time that British comics were published, but also by people’s attitudes to it and the lack of attention paid to the area since the comics stopped being published. The publishers were hugely cavalier about the original artwork (though to be fair, it constitutes a real physical challenge for archiving and storage if you are going to do it properly!), and the creators themselves downplayed what they put out, typically not thinking of it as art.
  • As a result, the history and the artifacts from that time weren’t carefully preserved, and the knowledge of what it was made up of was being lost even when the main movers were still alive, let alone now, when more and more of those primary sources have died. We have lost and are losing memories  and information as well as artifacts – who did what, but also how they did it, what it meant to the readers, what unrecorded processes might have happened as a part of the overall business of publishing. (That’s some of the meat and drink of the interviews on this blog of course: hearing that in-house people wrote stories as well as freelance writers, that in-house art editors shaped a lot of the look and feel of the resulting page.)
  • The knowledge or the information that is out there is very scattered and certainly isn’t brought together in any central way: the indexes and the archives that do exist need to be searchable, discoverable, queryable in ways that allow us to ask questions and perhaps get unexpected answers about the kinds of stories included in girls comics, or the numbers of women involved in girls comics as compared to boys comics, or any other similar question of interest that could be posed. At the most basic level, never mind those research questions: how about being able to refer to a complete bibliography of a high-quality but over-looked comics artist, or to be able to produce a complete list of all the stories written in a certain title?
  • The range of things we need to do is of course overwhelming, and one question I asked was about what will we do, how can anyone choose a priority to stick to (or does each person choose their own priority, maybe). Some voices were asking about digital formats and the archiving of that material – a physical lump of Bristol board is quite hard-wearing and withstands quite a lot of mistreatment, and concept sketches also can last well, whereas current creators probably don’t even keep their ‘draft’ digital files that show the processes they used in order to get to the final output. (And even if they did, would the storage media and the machines to run them on exist a few years later?)
  • We can’t do it all, though clearly different people will have different interests and aims – so what might or will we actually do, and what might happen first?
    • Rebellion are slowly going through their acquired archives to make use of it, seeing it as the valuable resource that it is; but the size of the challenge in front of them means they can only go relatively slowly if they are to do it right. Currently they are recruiting an archivist and sorting out things so that it will become somewhere that researchers and others can visit, but it isn’t at that stage yet. Peter Hansen also confirmed that there are discussions around Rebellion acquiring whatever IPC original artwork that he currently holds, because of course that would considerably reduce the work to be done by the Rebellion reprographics department, but that is still to come.
    • There is a consortium of interested parties working together to acquire Peter’s collection for the nation, but it would need substantial funding not only to acquire the material itself but also to make good use of it (storing it, recording it in some way, and making it available to the wider public and to researchers). Having said that, it’s not that this is all cost and no benefit – the recent Seven Stories touring comics exhibition, “Comics! Explore and Create Comic Art“, featuring art from Peter’s collection, has helped generate some £60,000 in income so far and over three years is expected to comfortably exceed that figure.
    • There were some digital archivists in the room so there is some interest in building up expertise in that area, but it is at a very early stage as yet.

Even what feels in comparison to be much smaller efforts, such as this blog, are part of the collective gathering of information and valuing of what was created – we are helping to show creators and readers from the time that it is worth bringing together, that it is worth preserving what we can of this. Not just the visible product of the weekly comic itself, but the invisible processes that went into it; the thoughts, the memories of how it was made, and how it was received by the readers themselves. After all, the Girls Comics of Yesterday blog made a great joint leap of attribution only the other day, bringing in not only the name of a really prolific writer – Marion Turner, writing under the pen name Fiona Turner – but also a long-sought-after name of an artist, Don Walker, given by Marion Turner’s son Philip. (Though I say ‘long-sought-after’ – seemingly the information must have been held at DC Thomsons all along as they are attributed with supplying the information to Philip in the first place.) So please, please keep writing in, anyone with any connection to the British comics publishing world!

 

Girl (first series): 28 May 1960, Vol. 9, #22

Girl cover 28 May 1960

  • Susan of St. Bride’s in Relief Nurse (artists Ray Bailey and Phil Townsend, writer Ruth Adam)
  • Sharon Wylde the Girl with a Goal (artist Harry Linfield, writer Adrian Thomas)
  • The Slazenger Sports Girls (feature)
  • Wendy and Jinx in Ghosts at the Grange (artist Peter Kay, writer Stephen James)
  • Entertainment: the Royal Ballet
  • All in the Game! (competition)
  • Lettice Leefe: the Greenist Girl in School (cartoon)
  • The World of Animals (artist Tom Adams, writer George Cansdale)
  • Barbara Woodhouse and Her Pets (feature)
  • Angela in Africa (artist Dudley Pout, writer Betty Roland)
  • Belle of the Ballet: keeping the school going (artist Stanley Houghton, writer George Beardmore)
  • The Zoo Hospital (feature)
  • I’m Sorry I Was Born a Girl (writer Mary Tandy, a reader) – feature
  • New Rider at Clearwater (artist Bill Baker, writer Kathleen Peyton) – first episode, text story
  • Letters Page
  • What’s Cooking? With Carol and Chris (feature)
  • A Guide to Easier Dressmaking (feature)
  • Prisoners’ Friend: Elizabeth Fry (artist Gerald Haylock, writer Chad Varah)

In our latest instalment on older girls’ titles, we take a look at Girl (first series), not to be confused with the 1980s photo-comic of the same title. Girl was launched by Hulton Press on 2 November 1951 as a sister paper to Eagle, and its standards were glamorous. Many pages were in full colour, with the colouring rendered in a beautiful 3D effect, which must have been mouth-watering to the girls who saw the issues at the newsstands. Girls who could afford to buy Girl were the envy of those who had to settle for titles printed on cheaper newsprint.

Girl even ran credits for her stories, which her counterparts at DCT did not. And there is one that should be very familiar to Jinty readers: Phil Townsend.

It is surprising too that Girl not only had issue numbers but volume numbers as well. What the heck were the volume numbers for?

Oldhams Press took over Girl in 1959, and then IPC after Odhams’ merger in 1963. On 10 October 1964 Girl merged into Princess, which later became Princess Tina.

Girl I Wendy and Jinx

Not surprisingly, as Girl was founded by Rev. Marcus Morris (who also founded Eagle), it had an “educational” side with heroines involved in tales with a moral substance, including the heroines involved in adventures or scrapes. A considerable number of pages were also dedicated to real life tales of heroic women. An example, which begins here, is the story of Elizabeth Fry, which is told in serial form. This certainly brings the characters to life a whole lot more than simply telling Elizabeth’s bio with panels and dry text boxes. Plus we feel a whole lot more drama, emotion, thrills and empathy (or distaste) for the characters.

Girl I Elizabeth Fry

The educational side of Girl can also be seen in features like “The Zoo Hospital” and “The World of Animals”. Even so, Girl also had educational features on themes that remained equally popular in later titles. These include the Slazenger Sports Girls with sporting tips, A Guide to Easier Dressmaking, celebrity features (in this case Barbara Woodhouse) and What’s Cooking? The last one is unusual for having two guides, Carol and Chris, walking us through the recipe with panels and commentary as well as text containing instructions. This approach makes the cookery page a lot more fun and engaging to read than simply following a list of text instructions with accompanying diagrams.

Girl I Whats Cooking?

This week we have an unusual feature: a disgruntled reader writes on how she’s sorry she was born a girl (because in her view, boys have more fun, independence and adventure). The Editor invites other readers in to share their views on this topic, and the best one would be printed. We have to wonder if someone wrote in saying they wished they could be one of the heroines in the Girl serials. After all, they seem to have a lot of fun and adventure, ranging from treks in Africa to hospital drama. Or perhaps they wished to be the short-lived Kitty Hawke in Girl, who was considered too masculine and replaced by Wendy and Jinx, two girls at boarding school who, like The Silent Three or The Four Marys, are always getting into mysteries, adventures and thrills. Or maybe Lettice Leefe, the dopey girl in the regular cartoon.

Girl I Lettice Leefe

The stories had one to two page spreads. More often they were one page spreads.

In the other serials, Susan of St Bride’s is blaming herself for a patient’s condition, which is not improving. A woman who does not like her, and is clearly a nasty old bat, latches onto this and, together with the patient’s mother, starts proceedings against her. Plus she’s spreading all the gossip around the town. Susan’s stories were individually titled, as a subheading to the main title.

Sharon Wylde, who has ambitions to be a famous writer like her parents, writes a book. However, it does not cast a film producer in a favourable light and he’s taken the manuscript (accidentally). She sneaks into his office to get it back – and gets caught!

Girl 1 Sharon Wylde

Angela Wells, who has started a charter airline (something the short-lived Kitty Hawke tried to do with an all-female squad) in Africa, but develops a taste for adventure. While Angela’s friends have flown off seeking medical assistance for a sick woman the villagers suddenly run off in terror. The culprit turns out to be the lights from the plane bringing her friends back. The patient is soon on the mend, but then Angela feels faint. Is she the one falling sick now?

Girl I Angela in Africa

Belle of the Ballet has to find a way to save the school after a kidnapping causes scandal and pupils are withdrawn. Her solution: make a ballet out of the scandal to convince people they were not to blame for the affair. But they have to get it together fast.

In “New Rider at Clearwater”, unpleasant girl Stella is not pleased with the new pony at Clearwater Stables. The pony has given her a much-deserved humbling, but the look on her face tells protagonist Briony that she is not taking it lying down.

Girl I Belle of the Ballet

Princess Tina 27 May 1972

Princess Tina cover

Cover artist: Purita Campos

  • Stop ‘n’ Chat with the Tina Gang (writers Linda, Jeffy (Jennifer) and Horace) – feature
  • Patty’s World (artist Purita Campos, writer Phillip Douglas)
  • Clueless – the blunderdog (artist John Richardson)
  • No Swimming Allowed! (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Pop People (feature)
  • Princess Tina cookbook cover – feature
  • Briony Andrews (artist Rodrigo Comos) final episode
  • Ross – Student Nurse (artist Colin Merrett)
  • The Happy Days (artist Andrew Wilson, writer Jenny Butterworth)
  • Summer Line-up (feature)
  • Problem Pony (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Freedom Island (artist Juan Solé Puyal)
  • Fifty Tote Bags to Win! (competition)
  • Make this with Jeffy (real name Jennifer) – feature
  • Princess Tina Cook Book – feature
  • Flower Arranging – feature
  • Janey (writer Jemma) – text story
  • “Fire!” (by Horace) – text story
  • Jinny below Stairs (artist Julian Vivas)
  • Tina Aims for the Top! (artist Candido Ruiz Pueyo)
  • Tell us about it – letters page

We continue our exploration of older titles with a look at Princess Tina. Princess Tina started on 23 September 1967 by merging Princess (first series) and Tina. Well, it makes more sense than “Princess & Tina”. In 1973 Princess Tina merged into Pink (best remembered for Sugar Jones, the scheming celebrity you love to hate, though you have to love her for being a sex symbol). 

Princess Tina is a larger size than her contemporary sisters. Princess Tina is also striking for giving credit to some of her writers and her creative teams. These tend to be the writers who write features such as Jeffy (Jennifer), who puts up cut-out dress patterns and text stories, and Horace, writer of the Horace Scope (horror scope). Now that is a nice touch, showing a human face to the creative team. There are even photos of these writers attached to the features. Horace also took part in the artwork; Stop ‘n’ Chat says he painted the cover you can cut out for the Princess Tina cookbook (which has been removed from this copy).

(click thru)

 

The Princess Tina covers were drawn by Purita Campos and featured happy girls doing very happy, everyday things; in this case they are eating watermelon. Many Princess Tina covers found their way into reprints on other covers, such as the Katy series and the Dutch Tina.

Princess Tina is best remembered for Patty’s World and The Happy Days. This particular issue is the last to feature Patty’s World in black-and-white. Next issue Patty is going to be produced in colour, “in all its shades from happy sunshine yellow to the blues”. Ooh, nice! In the story itself, Patty is looking forward to leading a majorette’s parade but has to cancel out because of a funeral. At least such a sombre thing should be out of the way in time for Patty to start enjoying her colour episodes.

Princess Tina 2

In “The Happy Days” Sue has to find a missing will but the dog has torn it up. Let’s hope the dog hasn’t eaten it too! At least trying to find the dog helps a man in trouble.

In this issue, John Richardson makes one of four appearances as filler artist for “Clueless – the Blunderdog”. The other dates Richardson drew Clueless are 22 April, 29 April and 15 July 1972. The Richardson artwork for Clueless in this issue appears below.

Princess Tina 7

“No Swimming Allowed!” is, as you might expect, an unreasonable ban on swimming. In this case it’s a headmistress imposing it on an entire school (because her fiancé drowned) instead of a parent or guardian imposing it on the protagonist. Of course the swimming continues in secret, with help from a surprising source: an aristocrat named Lady Squires. She and her husband have wangled it so the team will compete for the junior swimming trophy match, but the unpleasant head girl is suspicious.

Briony Andrews, a shy but good-natured girl who has elevated from “country mouse” to a confident model, finishes her story this week. But next week she starts another, “Designed for Danger”, so she must have been popular.

Jan Ross, a student nurse, is wrongly dismissed thanks to a forgetful nurse, Sister Mott. But now she finds Mott’s forgetfulness is having even more dangerous consequences: forgetting the warning that her car brakes are bust – and now she’s driving it!

Princess Tina 4

“Problem Pony” is such a problem that Hazel Green has run away with him. His problem is that nobody can ride him unless his dog pal, Dodger, is near him. Then, when Dodger runs off, problem pony does the same. This will most certainly mean he will gallop into trouble.

“Freedom Island” is home to a school where children of UN delegates can be free. All the same, one girl, Pauline, is unhappy and sets off – in shark-invested waters. Even after being rescued from all those sharks, Pauline just won’t say why she tried to run off.

Jinny below Stairs is a good-natured maid who agrees to help a fellow maid, Mary, hide her brother Bert, who is on the run from the police. But doing so gets her into trouble and she is now in danger of being sacked. Then there is even worse danger – Bert is forced to come up to the house and it looks like the horrible housekeeper is about to catch them all red-handed.

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In “Tina Aims for the Top!”, Tina has been ordered to find out why girls are leaving an office training course at Maire Castle. Tina suspects it is because the trainer, Fay Petrie, is up to tricks. Caught snooping in Fay’s office, Tina has no choice but to confront her with her suspicions. What is Fay going to say next week?

Pixie #4, 15 July 1972

Pixie cover

  • Marion of Sherwood
  • Rex Varney – Pixie Pin-up
  • Those Sums! (poem)
  • Looking after Egbert: A Story of the Happy Days (artist Andrew Wilson)
  • Giggles Galore! – cartoon
  • Doll Cut-out
  • The Secret Garden – adapted from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (artist Mike Hubbard?)
  • The Mikado – adaptation
  • Enid Blyton tells the story of The Naughtiest Girl in the School (artist Tony Highmore)
  • Puzzle Fun
  • Milly-Molly-Mandy (told and drawn by Joyce Lankester Brisley)
  • Gussie the Girl Guide and Her Good Deeds (cartoon)
  • A Story to Remember (text)
  • When Black Beauty Was Young
  • Mini Ha-Ha: Big Laughs with a Little Indian Girl – cartoon

A while ago we had a request to put up some entries on older girls’ titles if possible. So here we will take a look at one: Pixie. Pixie ran 24th June 1972 to 13th January 1973 (30 issues) and merged into June.

This is #4 of Pixie. Like Penny, she is meant for a younger audience. This is evidenced right from the cover, which has a very young cover girl. And the content inside is clearly meant for a younger readership. But there is no denying Pixie is much more gorgeous than Penny. She has so many colour pages and the artwork is eye-catching, whether it is serious or humorous. Some examples are posted in this entry. The young girls must have simply loved it and bought the issues for this reason alone.

It would have made them enjoy the adaptations far more and want to read the originals. Pixie put a high emphasis on adaptations. The ones here are Enid Blyton and The Naughtiest Girl in the School, The Secret Garden, Milly-Molly-Mandy, and The Mikado. Elizabeth Allen, the Naughtiest Girl in the School, is a spoiled girl who is trying to get herself expelled from boarding school. But things get awkward when Elizabeth finds the school is beginning to grow on her. Sounds like Elizabeth set the template for serials on problem girls who like to get expelled, such as “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” and “Queen Rider” (both from Tammy).

 

Other stories were inspired by popular literature or folk tales, such as “When Black Beauty Was Young” and “Marion of Sherwood”. The artwork is amusingly cartoony in places and would not be out of place in a Disney animated feature.

We also have The Happy Days, possibly a Princess Tina reprint (update: information received indicates it was unlikely). At the dreaded dentist Sue reads about a missing dog in a magazine and then finds the dog. But then she realises she forgot to note the owner’s address from the magazine and it’s been thrown out! While trying to find the owner she leaves the dog in the house, and the yappy thing scares the wits out of her mother. Oh, dear.

Pixie 2

The text features should have amused the readers. One, “Those Sums”, is about a girl who struggles with maths (yep, many of us can relate to that). “A Story to Remember” would not be out of place in a book of fairy tales. A milkmaid is taking a jug of milk to market on her head, but gets caught in a dream about the riches it will make for her. It inflates her ego too much and she tosses her head, causing the milk to go for a burton. The moral it reminds her: don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Pixie also had her share of cartoons. Mini Ha-Ha is one that enjoyed a good run in the June & Pixie merger until June merged with Tammy, but she might be considered a tad un-PC today.

Pixie 6

Lady Death [2019]

Lady Death cover

Published: Commando #5217

Artist: Manuel Benet

Writer: Andrew Knighton

I am always on the lookout for Commandos that follow the new Commando trend of having female protagonists. This is the first Commando I have read that not only has a female protagonist (a whole army unit of them in fact!) but is decidedly feminist in tone as well.

Plot

In 1941, schoolteacher Svetlana Korzh signs up for the army against the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The recruitment officer is sceptical about her doing so: “A woman’s place is at home…. Women can’t shoot.” However, Svetlana’s equally sceptical fiancé Vasily Zimyatov (now in the infantry) has given Svetlana plenty of backbone and shooting practice in dealing with such attitudes. She declares she can shoot better than any man around here, she will be an asset to the army, and to prove her point she seizes the officer’s own rifle and puts a bullet through a weathercock. Across the Soviet Union, other women have also had to persuasive to have the military let them fight, from fighter pilots to partisans.

Lady Death 1

Svetlana is assigned to an all-women sniper unit and is soon proving one the best. Svetlana is soon making friends who will impact the story. One is Galina Chaykavsky, a former secretary who proves courage comes in many forms by always looking calm and stylish no matter what their trainer Captain Leontev puts them through – and it’s just as tough as what he puts the boys through. Another is Zoya Tikhmirova; like Svetlana she’s a former teacher who suggests they use their teaching skills to help with training. However, Leontev just says stick to soldiering. Zoya is also distinctive for expressing hatred of Stalin (very dangerous!), but considers the German invasion (aided by Romanian allies) a worse evil and that’s why she’s fighting.

Soon Svetlana’s garrison are fighting at the Siege of Odessa, which goes badly for them. Svetlana saves an injured Lieutenant, Yuri Valeev, from death. Zoya is not happy about her saving “one of Stalin’s stooges”, but is promptly reminded of her own words: “better Stalin than the Germans”. Svetlana and Galina press on with Odessa as snipers. They pick off Romanian soldiers, including a vital captain, and press on to attempt sniping a Romanian colonial.

Lady Death 2

But a German sniper, Ludwig Weber, spots these “little ladies of death”, and picks off Galina. Svetlana goes after the German sniper, but he is gone; the only clue to his identity is a peppermint wrapper, and the distance he shot from indicates he is a brilliant shot. In fact, she eventually learns he is the best German sniper on the Russian front. Svetlana vows she will kill this sniper with a taste for peppermint and avenge Galina. But in the meantime, all she can do is continue her own sniping, and soon her count is almost as high as Weber’s.

Meanwhile, Zoya falls in love with a Russian soldier, Maxim, and soon marries him. Svetlana’s own romance, Vasily, returns as well. Determined to protect Vasily, she sets up a sniper nest near his patrols. She does her best with her sniping to help Vasily against a Romania offensive, but Vasily’s infantry is soon overwhelmed the far superior Panzerkampfenwagen IV tanks. Soon Vasily is one of the last men standing. He recklessly charges a tank with a grenade, but a sniper kills him instantly. Though there is no peppermint wrapper this time, Svetlana automatically knows who that sniper was. Now Svetlana has double the reason to take ol’ Peppermint down. And it’s double the grief, which she has no time to even address with all this constant fighting. But right now Svetlana is forced to flee, and she seeks refuge in an army truck, where Yuri finds her and gives the impression he is falling for her.

Lady Death 3

Svetlana returns to her sniper unit. But the newer female snipers are not as skilled as Svetlana, and the peppermint sniper, whose name is now known to her, is picking them off like flies. Svetlana has been giving them sniping tips, but now she demands a general give her permission to give them better training at sniping, and if he doesn’t she’ll do it anyway. Being too busy to seriously argue with a strong willed person, he just shrugs and lets her do it. “What harm can one woman do anyway?”

The all-female sniper squad is soon improving tremendously under Svetlana’s training and teaching skills. So is the Soviet counter-attack on Odessa, which has now entered the city itself, and it’s turning into rubble.

As Svetlana seeks out a sniper spot, an all-too-familiar peppermint wrapper falls down from above. She promptly takes a shot at Weber, but misses (not like you, Svetlana!). She heads to his sniper spot, but he is gone. Weber then shoots her from a new position and hits her in the arm. After bandaging her arm Svetlana makes her way into the catacombs, where a partisan fighter finds her and helps her get back to her lines. She has to be shipped out to an army hospital, where a visit from Yuri is the only bright moment in what she finds is a frustrating wait for recovery and getting back to her unit. And by this time, killing Weber is a real obsession.

At last Svetlana hears news of Weber, who is now an even bigger problem for the Soviets than ever. She heads out to pick him off, and this time she succeeds. But she is surprised to find that finally getting revenge did not bring her the peace she expected.

Lady Death 5

Removing Weber makes Svetlana famous and she becomes known as “Lady Death”. Strangely, that is what Weber himself calls her just before she kills him. Perhaps Svetlana was developing a similar reputation among the Germans to the one Weber had among the Soviets. Svetlana keeps on sniping and training new snipers right through the push into Germany.

On the last day of the war Yuri proposes to Svetlana but she declines; she still wants to feel the satisfaction of carving her own way through the war and isn’t ready to consider marriage again just yet. But now the war’s over the army has no place for women. Svetlana receives the Order of Glory and discharged. She heads to university to get a Masters in Education.

Thoughts

As said before, this story definitely has a strong feminist tone. We see it in how Svetlana not only has to prove she deserves her place in the army but has to fight chauvinist attitudes among her superiors as well. But the real reason she can get into the army is the necessities of war, which has driven many Allied countries to allow women into positions traditionally occupied by men. Once the war is over, not even the strong-willed Svetlana is allowed to stay in the army; like all other WWII working/fighting women she is expected to just go home to mother and be a homemaker.

Lady Death 4

It’s not often we see feminism in the British titles. Even girls’ titles didn’t seem to touch on feminism much. Some stories did of course, such as Mandy PSL #105 “They’re Letting Girls into St. Justins!”, where an administrative error unwittingly admits girls to an exclusive boys’ school. But the girls are there now and they are determined to stay, even though they really have to fight against boys and even teachers who don’t want girls in their school. Another is Debbie’s “Janet and Her Travellin’ Javelin”, where Janet Malcolm has to defy her grandfather, who believes a woman’s place is in the home, in order to become a javelin champion.

Galina and Zoya are more fleeting, but they have their moments to give them what depth the 62 pages can allow. Before Weber cuts her time so short, Galina turns vanity into an act of courage by always keeping herself stylish, no matter how tough the army makes things. Zoya is distinctive for her brave hatred of Stalin, and she also provides light relief in marrying Maxim, whose ridiculous moustache invites a lot of teasing. The wedding, amid the hardships of war (wedding dress made out of a parachute, army rations for the wedding dinner), and Maxim and Zoya seizing the moment, knowing full well war could take either or both of them, is also an act of courage. And both make it to the end.

Weber illustrates why German snipers were so feared during World War II. However, he doesn’t get much chance for development and only his peppermint fondness gives him a bit of roundness. He seems a bit careless, leaving those peppermint wrappers lying around. One of those wrappers almost gets him killed because it gives him away.

Lady Death 6

The main villain, Weber, is more fleeting than other Commando villains and takes up fewer panels. The story is not all focused on the pursuit of him either. It takes pauses to look at the characters more, whether it’s Zoya’s wedding or training new recruits as snipers. It doesn’t all dwell on the pursuit of Weber. But the threat of Weber is always there, an underlying current that pressures the story towards its resolution.

The story also devotes panels to illustrating the horrors of war and some of the effects it is having. We see the city of Odessa being turned into rubble, horses having to learn to take the carnage in their stride, partisans luring soldiers into catacombs and ambushing them, and Vasily’s unit bravely fighting overwhelming odds against enemy tanks until only one man is left. For the soldiers there is no time for grieving or dwelling on the horrors – you have to press on and fight. The story does not go into war weariness and we don’t see anyone cracking up under it. But when Yuri proposes to Svetlana, she finds her heart has been lifted for the first time in the grim war years she was fighting and pursuing revenge.

It is a bit sad that Svetlana turns down Yuri’s proposal. But after what she had been through and what she had to do to prove herself, becoming the homemaker expected of her after the war would have felt a comedown. We are delighted that Svetlana is going to pursue a degree instead, and pursue it with as much determination as she did to get into the army. We also hope she will continue shooting and pass on her skills to others, as she did with the sniper unit.

The Dream House [1977]

Sample Images

 

The Dream House 1a

The Dream House 1b

The Dream House 1c

Published: Tammy 12 March 1977 to 23 April 1977

Episodes: 7

Artist: Mike White

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Princess (second series) 26 February 1984 – 31 March 1984 (one double episode); Tina #35 1984 as Het mysterie van het poppenhuis [The mystery of the dolls’ house]

Plot

Jan Dale has taken a temporary job as a nanny to a wealthy family. At first glance the house looks a “dream house”, the sort Jan would buy if she won the pools. Then she is informed Mr Glenn the owner disappeared two days ago; just vanished into thin air while gardening, it seems. His disappearance spooked the staff into leaving except the housekeeper, Miss Royd. Mrs Glenn is a bag of nerves, shrieking, “I won’t go in there! Please! Let me stay outside!” Now what can she mean by that? Elder daughter Diana Glenn is a rude, unpleasant type, and the younger children John and Becky are playing with a dolls’ house that is an exact replica of the house. Later Jan learns the busy parents neglected the younger children, so they turned to spending time with it.

Jan notes there are no dolls in the house, but later she and Diana see a doll outside it that looks just like Mr Glenn. Diana thinks it’s her siblings playing a cruel joke, but later Jan hears a voice calling for help from inside the dolls’ house. Becky says it’s “Silly old Dad!” and John aggressively tells her to shut up.

John and Becky show Jan doll’s clothes in the drawer, saying there will be more dolls in the house soon. Jan is shocked to realise the doll’s clothes are replicas of the clothes she brought with her – but how can that be when she only arrived a few hours ago? John says it’s because the dolls’ house knew she would be coming. Miss Royd tells Jan the dolls’ house is evil. Eventually John and Becky tell Jan they found the dolls’ house in a secret room in the house and show it to her.

Mrs Glenn just vanishes into thin air without explanation. Jan hears her voice calling from the dolls’ house and a hand waves from the window in the dolls’ house. Sure enough, it’s a doll-sized Mrs Glenn screaming for help. But when Jan rouses Diana the doll has disappeared. Diana wants Jan out, but the younger siblings insist she stay, and warn Diana she will be the next for the dolls’ house.

That night Jan has a dream of standing outside the dolls’ house, a voice calling her in, and don’t fight it. At first Jan resists but then calms down and welcomes it; it looks so peaceful in there. Then she wakes up, saying the sun woke her up in time from being snatched by the dolls’ house.

The dream is a forewarning of what happens to Diana. Jan sees her abruptly vanish from the grounds and heads to the dolls’ house, where she sees Diana about to open the house, urging it to let her in. Jan stops Diana in the nick of time, and even Diana is becoming convinced Jan is right. She flees the house in terror, but then she does disappear, as do the doll’s clothes that matched hers. Then Miss Royd and Jan see all three dolls in the house.

Realising she is next, Jan tries to destroy the dolls’ house with an axe, but Miss Royd stops her. Then Jan realises something: there are no doll clothes for Miss Royd, so the house was not planning to take her. Now why could that be?

Caught out, Miss Royd reveals she is behind the dolls’ house. She came with it and lived in it for centuries, and Jan and the Glenns are going to do the same. She was a squire’s wife who sought to discover the secret of eternal life. Frustrated with her constant failures she exclaimed, “Let the devil take anything of mine if I can succeed!” At this, a fire broke out, burning her house down, and the dolls’ house mysteriously appeared. Taking it as a sign, Mistress Royd ordered her new house (now the Glenns’) to be an exact replica. She also ordered a secret room to be built into the dolls’ house and the real one. She had the man who built them murdered, but he made a statement before he died, and the authorities came to arrest her. Mistress Royd and her niece Mary headed for the secret room, but soon realise the authorities had been informed about it. Working through Mary’s mind, Mistress Royd hid in the secret room in the dolls’ house. She stayed there until her mind reached out to John and Becky. Like Mary, they were young children, and her mind can only work through children.

Miss Royd says that it’s not just Jan who is going in there now; John and Becky are going in there too, and they are delighted about it: “It’s lovely being a doll!” She has them believe, and they’ll all be very happy in there. However, Jan manages to turn the power of the dolls’ house against Miss Royd: she persuades Becky and John to let Miss Royd go in first and let the family out, saying this will enable Miss Royd to find out how happy she is being a doll. This sends Miss Royd right back into the dolls’ house and frees the trapped people.

Jan soon finds nobody except her remembers what happened. The parents find they suddenly hate the dolls’ house for some reason and want it gotten rid of. So Jan puts the dolls’ house back in the secret room. She can only hope no other child finds it – Miss Royd is still in there, waiting and calling to be let out.

Thoughts

Surprisingly, Tammy didn’t often run serials on evil dolls, objects or influences, which makes the theme quite refreshing here. By contrast, DCT ran such stories with great abandon, which is another peculiar difference between IPC and DCT. Maybe one of these days we should have an analysis on how IPC and DCT had such differing emphases on serial themes and why this might have been.

The story establishes the theme and the mounting evil very quickly, which is not surprising as it has only seven episodes. So there is no padding or drawing out of the plot. The plotting is tight and well paced, and the evil is closing in fast like a tightening coil, which makes it even more gripping and scary. Unlike some evil doll/toy stories, it does not take long for Jan to realise the evil of the house and what’s progressively happening to the people who disappear. After all, it’s pretty obvious, what with the dolls’ clothes matching the people in the house, the dolls being replicas of the vanished people, the cries for help from the house, and what everyone else in the household is saying about the dolls’ house.

Unlike many protagonists in evil influence/object stories, Jan does not have a frustrating time trying to convince anyone what’s going on, only to find everyone thinks she’s nuts. Miss Royd already says the dolls’ house is evil (but of course she knew that all along). The young children know what’s going on but embrace it and even facilitate it. Mrs Glenn can already sense it coming and is scared out of her wits. Only Diana rubbishes it, but deep down she has her doubts, and it’s not long before her doubts turn into terror.

The family dysfunction (neglectful parents, unpleasant big sister) clearly made John and Becky easy targets for the dolls’ house and falling under the power of Miss Royd. It appeared to offer them happiness, comfort and peace, and would make them all one happy family once they were all inside, as dolls. From what we gather from Jan’s dream and how Diana almost got enticed in, this is how it lures them all in and gets the children into its power. Like its real-sized counterpart, it appeared to be the dream house. But once they were all inside, they would soon find it was really the nightmare house. Once released, Dad’s remark that he now hates the dolls’ house for some reason gives the impression that although they don’t remember anything, they will be wiser for the experience and work on being a better family unit.

Miss Royd is clearly a cautionary tale in the consequences of dabbling in the dark arts and tempting the Devil. Though the Devil does not seem to be after souls – after all, what he gives Miss Royd offers eternal life – any gifts from him will have strings attached. The dolls’ house is no exception. It grants eternal life – but from the look of it, it’s eternal life as a doll. Is that really the lovely and happy thing Miss Royd says it is? We don’t think so from the way the Glenns keep screaming once they are trapped in the house. Or Miss Royd herself once she is returned to the house. She screams at Jan to let her out, in the way Mrs Glenn did. Aww, poor diddums Royd – don’t you like it in the dolls’ house, even if it does give you the eternal life you wanted?

Katie on Thin Ice [1977]

Sample Images

Katie on Thin Ice 1

Katie on Thin Ice 2

Katie on Thin Ice 3

Published: Tammy 8 January 1977 – 9 April 1977

Episodes: 14

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

It is winter 1815 and it’s so cold the Thames has frozen. Katie Williams comes to the Port of London to greet her father, who is returning from the Napoleonic Wars. But bad news awaits her: Dad perished in the wars and now she’s an orphan. He has left a couple of things for Katie: a pair of ice skates and a bag of money.

The money bag is promptly snatched by a thief named Annie. Katie manages to catch up to Annie and demand her bag back. Then a cold-looking woman named Mrs Winter appears, saying she is a benefactor for Napoleonic war orphans and apologises for Annie. She offers to take Annie into her home for war orphans. The home looks respectable enough, but Katie senses something is strange about it.

Next day Katie tries out her skates on the frozen Thames and sees an angry mob chasing Susie, a girl from the orphanage. Katie helps Susie by leading them off, but then finds out too late why they were chasing her: she had stolen a necklace. Mrs Winter is now revealed to be a female Fagin type and she runs her orphanage as a den of thieves and pickpockets. As nobody will believe Katie was duped into helping Susie, Mrs Winter has snared Katie, blackmails her into crime, and says those skates and the frozen Thames will be the perfect getaway every time Katie steals.

Annie, Katie soon learns, is the most vicious of the thieves. She is also jealous of Katie because Katie has usurped her position as favourite after saving Mrs Winter’s life. Katie suspects Annie tried to kill her when a lamp warning of a hole in the ice got moved and she spots candle grease on Annie’s hand later on.

Katie is forced to go along with the racket; for the most part just watch helplessly and provide diversions on the ice while the thieves make their getaway. But she does not downright steal anything and is determined to find a way to stop it. In one attempted thieving she is pleased to mess up and go back empty handed, even though it means a beating. In another attempted raid she saves a girl’s life when Annie attempts to send her sliding to her doom over the edge. The girl is Claire Stern, ironically the daughter of a magistrate. The magistrate wants Katie to give Claire ice-skating lessons. Anxious to keep up her façade of respectability, Mrs Winter agrees.

The lessons start well, but Katie can see Annie following and out to rob the Sterns. She pulls a fast one on Annie when she tries it, which gets Annie a beating, but now Annie’s really out to get her.

Mrs Winter has the gang attempt to raid the ships, but it goes wrong and Susie is arrested. Katie manages to rescue Susie, but now Susie is seriously ill. And Mrs Winter says Katie must steal the money needed for Susie’s treatment – and stealing had been something Katie had been trying to avoid with Mrs Winter. Eventually Katie smashes an apothecary’s window to grab some medicine, but leaves money to pay it. When Miss Winter finds out, she beats Katie for not stealing.

By this time Katie has become known to the police as “the ice thief” and they are on the lookout for her. They almost nab her with a net as she makes her way back from the apothecary, but an amazing leap to grab an ice shard to rip her way through the net saves her.

But Inspector Hawkfinch, who has seen Katie skate as both the ice thief and Claire’s skating teacher, suspects her, and Katie knows it. At Claire’s next lesson he tries to trick Katie into replicating the leap, but she is too sore from the beating to do it. So it looks like suspicion is allayed. But now Katie has another problem: Claire says she is going to use her skating lessons to help the police catch the ice thief!

Claire is getting ready to set her trap on the Thames, but her speed skating is still not up to the ice thief’s and needs more coaching there. That night Mrs Winter forces Katie to go help stealing at a warehouse, saying they will kill Susie if she doesn’t. Katie warns them the police are on the lookout, and they say they will provide the decoys while Katie gets away on the ice. But Claire spots her and, as Katie is still weakened from the beating, Claire could well catch her. Katie uses a stolen tapestry like a sail to make her getaway.

But when Claire tells Mrs Winter she almost caught the ice thief, it puts Claire in danger from Mrs Winter. Katie tries to protect Claire by offering to steal Claire’s skates. But she fails, and she soon discovers Mrs Winter has set Annie onto Claire. Annie tries to set a coach toppling on top of Claire, and Katie saves her. Next, Annie tries to burn down Claire’s house, with her and Katie in it. Again, Katie’s quick action saves the day. Her own skates get damaged, though.

London is going to have an ice fair on the Thames, which means more pickings for Mrs Winter. At the fair they meet up with Claire, who says her skates got destroyed in the fire. It looks like Claire is now safe from Mrs Winter. But Susie is still sick and they are using her as a hold over Katie. Katie decides it’s time to make a break for it, with Susie. After tying up Annie, Katie tries to get away Susie away on a sledge on the Thames, but Claire catches her, revealing she managed to get her skates fixed. And Katie’s damaged skates left a trail from her house to Mrs Winter’s.

Claire now realises Katie is the ice thief, but thinks it’s Katie’s own operation. Katie tries to tell Claire it is Mrs Winter who is behind everything, but Claire does not listen. People think she’s a respectable woman and benefactor of war orphans. Katie and Susie are turned over to Mrs Winter, who locks them in the icehouse. Katie manages to get them out of the icehouse – and lock Mrs Winter’s crony Ena in the icehouse.

Katie discovers that Mrs Winter is planning to send the whole ice fair under the river by spreading salt on the ice. This is because there are people there, including Claire, her father, and her own pickpockets, who know or suspect too much. Katie meets up with Claire and her father and tries to tell them about Mrs Winter, and that she was forced into crime. They still don’t listen – until they see Mrs Winter’s charges at work for themselves and they finally suspect her. Then the salt takes effect, breaking up the ice. Katie and Claire go the rescue of many trapped people, including the pickpockets, on the ice. Everyone is pulled clear of the ice, and Katie and Claire have to sacrifice their own skates so they will be saved too.

Across the ice, Mrs Winter fumes at failing to kill them. Annie overhears her and, realising she was also intended to be a victim, takes revenge by throwing her cutpurse knife at the bag of salt at Mrs Winter’s feet. This breaks up the ice under Mrs Winter and sends her to her death in the icy waters of the Thames. Annie then clears out to find warmer and greener pastures for her pickpocketing.

Claire’s father promises the orphans he will arrange a better life for them.

Thoughts

Tammy’s choice of artist must have caught her readers by surprise. John Armstrong didn’t usually draw a period serial (though he did plenty of period stories for the Strange Stories). Or a skating serial for that matter, despite his aptitude for sports stories. By this time Armstrong was known more in Tammy for his Bella stories and only older readers would remember he once drew Tammy stories that had nothing to do with Bella. But when we view this story, we wonder why the hell he wasn’t given more of a chance to do more of such stories.

The story formula itself is one we see more often in the DCT titles, such as “The Courage of Honor Bright” (Mandy). An orphaned girl discovers too late she has fallen foul of a racket in the Fagin vein, but she refuses to become part of it. She is the one oasis of honesty and courage against a racket that has destroyed honest principles in the other waifs, whether by offerings of a good home, intimidation, abuse, or taking advantage of worse-natured children. She fights all the pressures to turn her into one of the criminal gang and desperately tries to find a way to escape and bring down the racket. The Fagin villain rues the day he or she ever ensnared this girl in the operation. It is unusual to see the formula in Tammy though, which makes the story even more of a surprise.

Mrs Winter comes from a long tradition of sinister villainesses who pass themselves off as respectable benefactors in girls’ comics. In reality, it’s a front for their criminal operation and maintaining a façade of respectability to the outside world. In this case, it’s entrapping orphans from the Napoleonic Wars and turning them into pickpockets to line her pockets. At first glance the home looks fine and the orphans well cared for. There are no hints of the child abuse that helps to maintain Mrs Winter’s hold over the orphans or the punishments (beatings, the ice house, threatening to expose a sick girl to the cold until she dies) for those who refuse to steal. Yet even before the protagonist realises the façade there are warning signs about Mrs Winter. She does look like a creepy, cold crone. Even her name is a warning and ties in with the running theme of cold and ice.

The ice-skating itself is also unusual in that it’s not being done for competitions or battling to keep up the skating against obstacles, as in most skating serials. Instead, the skating is the vehicle that both entraps the protagonist and provides her means of hope and escape against the nightmare she has fallen into. It’s beautifully drawn against the backdrop of the frozen Thames and the life and culture that used to develop on the Thames when it froze over. Those days must be bygone ones now in an age of global warming.

The theme of Katie running on thin ice runs throughout the story. The ice grows increasingly thinner in a metaphoric sense as Katie struggles to keep ahead of the tightening grip of the law before she can prove herself and find a way to escape the racket she has fallen into. The skating is both entrapping and assisting Katie, and we have to wonder which will get her first. When Claire wants to use her skating lessons to help catch the ice thief, Katie well and truly is caught in her forced double life and the thin ice is reaching breaking point.

Finally, the ice breaks up altogether – literally. It was only a matter of time. After all, spring will come and melt the ice on the Thames, which would put an end to the “ice thief”. But it’s Katie’s nemesis Mrs Winter who falls under it, not Katie. The only reasons Katie herself does not fall under any ice despite all the close calls are quick wits, quick reflexes, and smart moves on the ice.

The demise of Mrs Winter, cold-hearted and frosty in every sense of the word, is a shocking yet fitting one. It’s poetic justice – dying by the very means she used to try to kill everyone at the ice fair and it ties in with the thin ice thread. “You’re the one on thin ice now!” Annie mocks. We just love it. It gives us more satisfaction than Mrs Winter simply being arrested. But who would know the wanted Mrs Winter has died except Annie? Perhaps her body will be fished out of the river and they will assume she fell foul of her own scheme.

We still hope the long arm of the law will catch up to Annie eventually. After all, she is a very vicious criminal and a dangerous person, and she has a lot to answer for. Despite the period setting she belongs to the John Armstrong tradition of evil tough girls drawn like Norma Sykes from Misty’s “Moonchild“.