Monthly Archives: February 2016

Tammy 11 February 1984

Tammy 11 February 1984

  • Foul Play (artist John Armstrong, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Cassie’s Coach – first episode (artist Tony Coleman but credited as George Anthony, writer Alison Christie)
  • Julie’s Jinx (artist Julian Vivas, writer Nick Allen)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Event of the Year – complete story (artist Raymond, writer Roy Preston)
  • Queen Rider – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito, adapted from book by A.D. Langholm)
  • My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Spring a Foot! – Feature (by Mari L’Anson)

The first Tammy to feature credits has recently had an entry on this blog. Now the last Tammy to have credits will be profiled as well.

Since the credits started, they have evolved and changed, sometimes in odd ways. Some of the credits were pseudonyms. For example, Tony Coleman was credited under his own name at first, but he was subsequently credited as George Anthony, as he is here. Some writers and artists did not appear under their full name. For example, the DCT artist who draws “Event of the Year” is only credited as “Raymond” (is that his first or his last name?).  Julian Vivas, who draws “Julie’s Jinx”, is just credited as “Vivas”, but his full name appears in other Tammy credits. Reprints were not credited, as was the case with “My Terrible Twin” here. Even the artist, Juliana Buch, is not credited, as she was for her new stories in Tammy. Features, such as the one about footwear on the back cover, also received credits. But it is not clear whether Mari L’Anson is the writer, the artist or both for it, because the credit just says “by: Mari L’Anson”.

When the credits first began, Roy Preston was credited with a lot of stories that had dark, supernatural themes such as “The Evil One” and “Sign of the Times”. These were probably leftover scripts from “Monster Tales” in the Tammy and Jinty merger. Preston continued to be credited with several complete stories that had a supernatural theme, such as “The Lady of Ranoch Water” and “The Moon Maiden”. But here Preston is credited with a lighter story that has no supernatural theme whatsoever: “Event of the Year”. Throughout the credit run, Preston wrote only complete stories; there is not a single serial attributed to him during this period.

Ian Mennell is credited with several mystery stories, such as “Foul Play” and “Saving Grace”, but the credits also show he was not solely confined to that genre. Mennell wrote the unorthodox male cross-dressing story “Cuckoo in the Nest” and a lot of Button Box stories, such as the one in this issue. Alison Christie, who first started Button Box, did not write all of its stories; Mennell and Linda Stephenson are also credited with Button Box stories. This is unlike the case of “Pam of Pond Hill”, where Jay Over is credited as the writer throughout.

Alison Christie remains credited with emotional stories such as “A Gran for the Gregorys” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!” throughout Tammy’s credit run. There were no stories with a more supernatural or sporty theme attributed to Christie, though her interviews revealed that she sometimes delved into those genres in Jinty. And here Christie begins her last credited Tammy story “Cassie’s Coach”. This is a Victorian-set struggle for survival after the mother is wrongly imprisoned. Her children take up the most unusual accommodation after they are thrown out of their old home – a discarded coach! Cassie is not quite as intense or disturbing as some of Christie’s emotional stories. This is probably why Tony Coleman was the choice of artist for a period story, something he does not normally draw.

 

 

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers?

I don’t know yet, but I’m going to give it a go.

And I’ll need a little help from others, please.

I have been thinking about the problem of unknown writers and how we can try to identify them. In writing story posts here, Mistyfan and I sometimes raise questions about whether such and such a writer might have also written such and so other story, based on things like similar plot lines and the like. But there is a whole area of research into using computers in the Humanities, and a specific technique designed to help you attribute authorship to unknown writers: it’s called Stylometry. I want to try to use one of the pieces of software that does this – JGAAP – to see if we can get any help in thinking about who might have written what, or at  least in some cases. (Edited to add: this is written by the chap who did the analysis that strongly suggested that J K Rowling was the author of “The Cuckoo’s Egg”.)

The way it works is that I need to feed the program a number of texts from Known Authors, because it then compares the unknown writing with those known samples. (All it can ever do is say ‘this piece looks most likely to have been written by Author A out of the list of A – Z that you have given me’ – it’s just matching a sample to a known finite list, so it has limitations.) That means I need some text files (as many as possible) which are typed-up versions of stories where we already know the authors, such as the below:

  • Jay Over, Slave of the Clock / The Secret of Angel Smith / The Lonely Ballerina from Tammy 1982 and 19833
    • I can do the first two but haven’t got any copies of The Lonely Ballerina
  • Alison Christie – see list on the interview post
  • Pat Mills, various stories including Moonchild in Misty and Concrete Surfer in Jinty
    • I am in the middle of typing up the episode of Concrete Surfer included in the post about this story
  • Alan Davidson, Fran of the Floods / The Valley of Shining Mist / Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Malcolm Shaw, The Robot Who Cried

Can any one help by typing up one or more episodes from the stories mentioned, and sending them to me? I’m working out a standard format to use, because it’s going to be important to be consistent about things like how to indicate thought balloons or the text boxes at the beginning of each episode. We can work that out further together of course. Very many thanks in advance!

Once I have enough example files to start running them through the program, this is what I am intending to try (any comments or suggestions will be received with interest).

  1. Can I get the program to work at all?
    • If I load a credited Jay Over text as a Known Author, and a Pat Mills story likewise as a Known Author, will an episode of “Slave of the Clock” be successfully identified as a Jay Over story?
  2. What if I then compare a credited “Pam of Pond Hill” story – will the program identify this as a Jay Over story, or will the comedy style mean it is not as recognisable to the program?
  3. What if I then compare an uncredited “Pam” story with a credited “Pam” story? We think all the Pam stories were written by Jay Over but could this program show us any other views?
  4. What if I then add in more Known Authors and re-run the tests above – will the results still come out the same?
  5. And then excitingly I could try some further tests, like:
    • If I compare an episode of “Prisoner of the Bell” to “Slave of the Clock”, does the former look like the known Jay Over texts?
    • If I compare an episode of “E. T. Estate” by Jake Adams to the uncredited story “The Human Zoo”, what does the program indicate about any plausible attribution?
    • We think Benita Brown probably wrote “Spirit of the Lake” – is there any textual / stylistic similarity we can find between this and “Tomorrow Town” that we know she wrote?

Of course no stylistic attribution program is going to replace a statement from a creator or a source from the time, but we know these are thin on the ground and getting thinner, and what’s more people’s memories and records are getting more fragmentary as time goes by, so this seems worth trying. I don’t expect anything to happen very quickly on this because it does mean quite a bit of typing to get a good body of texts. If anyone is able to help on the typing front then I will be very grateful and hopefully will then be able to show any results sooner rather than later.

Apologies, I had meant to say something about the format of the text. I have a sample document which hopefully can be viewed via this link. In case that doesn’t work, this is what I mean for it to look like:

text grab

But I can add in extra detail such as the description that the text appeared in a word balloon, if I have a scan of the pages in question.

Tammy 17 July 1982

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  • Cat ‘n’ Mouse – artist Joe Collins
  • Saving Grace – first episode (artist Juliana Buch, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Moonlight Prowler – complete story (artist John Richardson – uncredited)
  • Pam of Pond Hill – new story (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey – uncredited)
  • A Gran for the Gregorys – first episode (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Come Back Bindi – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Jenny McDade)
  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Nanny Young – new story (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Slave of the Clock – first episode (artist Maria Barrera but credited as Barrera Gesali, writer Jay Over)
  • The Schoolgirls’ Beauty Book – Feature

The recent entry on Jay Over was one inspiration for this entry on the Tammy issue where she starts printing credits. We owe so much to these credits, without which a lot of artists would still be unknown, including Guy Peeters and Hugh Thornton-Jones.

It looks like Tammy had a few things to iron out with the credits, because there is no credit for Bob Harvey in Pam of Pond Hill and the complete story, “Midnight Prowler”, goes completely uncredited. The credits also mark the swansong of long-standing Tammy writer Jenny McDade, who started in 1972 with “Star-Struck Sister” and wrote the first Bella story. Here McDade is credited with writing “Come Back Bindi”, but she is not credited with any other Tammy story after that.

The issue makes a completely clean break from the one before it, which was the last issue in the Tammy & Jinty merger. Instead of the merging comic just gradually fading away except for her strongest features and her logo being reduced in size before it is dropped altogether, the whole merger is dropped altogether. Gone is the Jinty logo, and there is a completely new logo for Tammy. Gone are the Monster Tales and Old Friends (which ran Molly Mills, Bessie Bunter, Wee Sue and Tansy of Jubilee Street in rotation). Even the Storyteller, who had been a long-established part of the Tammy line-up since June merged in 1974, is gone as well. Only Bella, Nanny Young, The Crayzees and Pam of Pond Hill remain. The cover itself is an artist’s rendition of an actual photograph of two readers (shown on the inside cover) who were asked to read the issue and provide feedback. “They loved it”, and they must have treasured the issue thereafter.

The old Tammy and Jinty merger clearly had been gearing up for the new look in the preceding weeks. Several stories ended in the previous issue, including the reprint of “The Human Zoo”. The reprint also cut out an episode or two from the original because of the upcoming new Tammy.

We do have to wonder what drove Tammy to undergo such a radical makeover when she was right in the middle of a merger. Was it new editorship bringing in sweeping changes, or did the editor decide on drastic action to bolster sales?

Pam and Bella have whole new adventures. Pam discovers the teachers’ frustration at the playing field being inadequate and then the land next door that the neighbour, Sir Hartley Barnett could spare. But we get the feeling that acquiring the extension won’t be as easy as that.

Meanwhile, Bella is having a mental breakdown and it is showing in her latest gymnastics performance that is so disastrous that she loses her nerve. And then she loses her memory as well after being hit by a hit-and-run driver.

Nanny Young’s new job takes her to the Glendale Children’s Holiday Home – but soon finds it is not a holiday camp with the welfare officer, Agatha Primm, running the place like an army camp! The children aren’t happy about it either, and Peter Hopkins is always out to pull a prank over it.

There must have been some scripts left over from “Monster Tales”, because the new-look Tammy continued to run complete stories with a monster theme for a while. The first is “Moonlight Prowler” and the monster is vampire-wolf, who plunders the villagers’ livestock. At least that is what Mr Wyss has the villagers believe while he makes a fortune out of them by claiming to hunt the monster. The monster is really his stepdaughter, whom he forces to wear a wolf costume for him to chase around after and secretly steal the livestock. But the fraud backfires when the real vampire-wolf shows up!

The first serial to start is a mystery story, “Saving Grace”. Sue Blackstone is delighted to catch up with her old friend Grace Clark in a new school after four years apart. But then Sue discovers her friend has changed for the worse over those four years, and the mystery Sue sets out to unravel is what caused the change and whether anything can be done about it.

The second serial, “A Gran for the Gregorys”, reunites Jinty’s Alison Christie/Phil Townsend team for another tear-jerker story. The Gregory children have lost their beloved gran, and her loss is telling on the management of the household after Dad goes abroad to work. Then Ruth finds out about adopting grans and sets out to adopt one for the family. But of course the quest won’t be straightforward and there are going to be a lot of candidates who will disappoint.

The third serial, “Come Back Bindi”, was Jenny McDade’s swansong in Tammy. Bindi was a short-lived serial when it had potential to be spun out longer. Perhaps it was not all that popular or was meant to be a filler story. Bindi the dog has run away because she wrongly blames herself for her owner’s accident. However, Bindi is essential to the girl’s recovery, so finding her is urgent. But it is not easy, because Bindi has lost her collar.

The last serial is one of Tammy’s best-remembered stories, “Slave of the Clock”. Alison Thorne is a talented ballerina but doesn’t have the dedication to take her talent further. But then Alison meets a fanatical ballet mistress whose idea of making pupils more dedicated to ballet is “the power of the clock” – hypnotise them into dancing whenever they hear the ticking of a clock. Of course this can only lead to trouble.

 

 

Jay Over

Jay Over is one of the few Jinty writers we know the name of; this is really down to the fact that Tammy started printing artist and writer credits in its pages at a time overlapping with the long-running “Pam of Pond Hill“. Thanks to those credits, we also know that Over wrote at least three serials in Tammy: “Lonely Ballerina”, “The Secret of Angel Smith”, and “The Slave of the Clock”.

Pam 1

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Stories credited to Jay Over:

  • Pam of Pond Hill (1979 – 81 in Jinty, continued in Tammy until 1984)
  • Slave of the Clock (Tammy, 1982; artist Maria Barrera)
  • The Secret of Angel Smith (Tammy, 1983; artist Juliana Buch)
  • The Lonely Ballerina (Tammy, 1983; artist Maria Barrera)

“Pam of Pond Hill” was one of the longest strips that ran in Jinty, though not to be compared with Tammy‘s regular character Bella Barlow, still one of the most well-known characters in girls’ comics. We know that Bella was written by more than one person – credited authors include Primrose Cumming, Jenny McDade, and Malcolm Shaw – but all the credits we have for “Pam” indicate that this story seems to have been written by Jay Over throughout all that time.

Mistyfan writes at length about how well the character and voice of Pam comes across in her serial: the dialogue is vivid and the stories are realistic. Re-reading a number of the stories, I also was struck by how much variety is packed into the short story arcs that this serial is made up of, and how humane the stories are. Tess Bradshaw is the class fat girl but she is given a backstory that is considerably more nuanced than something just relating to her size or appetite. Indeed, in one of the Tammy stories Tess is given the chance to shine while still keeping to her old self rather than slimming down or similar: a frustrated ballerina, she becomes a genuinely triumphal synchronized swimming star. Likewise, Pam’s boyfriend Goofy, who is a funny-looking clumsy kid as you’d expect from his nickname, has real musical talents and a kind heart which he allows to be shown, at least sometimes. Of course sometimes Pam is unrealistically able to pull a solution out of the bag in the way a real 11 year old would find it hard to do, but hey, she’s the heroine of her own story – and even then she’s not always a winner.

If not for those printed credits, I think not many people would make a connection between the soap-opera comedy of “Pam” and the angsty mystery of “Slave of the Clock”. The three serials that Jay Over is credited with in Tammy are focused on mystery and on the athletic arts of ballet and trapeze. The only one of those three stories that I have read fully is “Slave of the Clock”; Mistyfan’s entry on 1979 Jinty story “Prisoner of the Bell” briefly summarizes the plot of the later Tammy story and draws parallels between the two. Could they both have been written by Over? Certainly we know that writers for a comic often wrote more than one for the same title, and multiple stories at the same time. Over could easily have started a career in girls’ comics writing rather earlier than the 1979 “Pond Hill” debut. If only there was a way to analyse the story writing itself rather than relying on very incomplete records and memories that are hard to elicit…

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Jinty 7 July 1979

Jinty cover 7 July 1979

  • Almost Human – first episode (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Timbuctoo Fashion – Competition
  • The Forbidden Garden – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Mike and Terry – first episode (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • More Smart Ideas! – Feature
  • Picnic with Patti – (artist Paul White)
  • July with Jinty – Feature
  • The Disappearing Dolphin (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Nothing to Sing About (artist Phil Townsend)
  • A Girl Called Gulliver (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters)

Two new stories begin in this issue. The first, which went on to become one of Jinty’s classics, is “Almost Human”. An alien girl, Xenia, is left to fend for herself on Earth because her own planet is facing ecological catastrophe. But Xenia soon discovers that her alien touch is deadly to any life form on Earth. Talk about being the Untouchable!

The second, “Mike and Terry”, is the Editor’s response to a recent competition in which readers were asked for what they especially wanted in Jinty. Ye Editor was flooded with requests for a detective story, hence Mike Temple (makes a change, having an adult male as protagonist in a Jinty serial) and his assistant Terry (a woman) on the trail of a master criminal known as “The Shadow”. This must have taken inspiration from “The Zodiac Prince”, which had a similar pairing that proved extremely popular.

Meanwhile, Pandora wants to be rid of the cat she was obliged to magically bind to her in order to make her box work because she hates cats. But it looks like she’ll have to learn to tolerate the cat instead.

Maloney thinks the Lilliputians are leprechauns and is out to catch them. And the Lilliput children are in big trouble on a river. Linette’s hatred of Dad’s fans is driving her to run away from home, which can only lead to big trouble for her too. And in “The Disappearing Dolphin”, Paula and Chris are having problems overcoming local hostilities to their expedition. But it looks like they’ve got an ally at last, with something in his boot that can help them.

In “The Forbidden Garden” Laika discovers that destroying Gladvis’s blackmail evidence is now paying off dividends in a most surprising manner. The headmistress Miss Karvell was among the people she freed, and Miss Karvell has been her secret helper in return. (Pity Gladvis is still in business, using her position as prefect to collect more blackmail evidence to use on pupils and teachers alike.) However, the forbidden garden yields a surprise that is not so pleasant – Laika discovers that the plants she had been cultivating for her dying sister are not beautiful flowers but hideous mutants!

 

Jinty 18 August 1979

Jinty cover 18 August 1979

  • Almost Human (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • Village of Fame (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Tom Baker – Doctor Who feature
  • Mike and Terry (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • The Disappearing Dolphin (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Be a Private Eye! (text story with deliberate mistakes to spot)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Nothing to Sing About (artist Phil Townsend)
  • A Girl Called Gulliver (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Harvest Crossword – Feature
  • Crumbs! That’s a Good Idea! – Feature

The indignity the Lilliputians suffer in this issue makes the cover, and the complementary use of orange and green on the cover makes it even more striking. The silly things thought a sandcastle was for living in, and have been hung up to dry after the soaking they got from the sea. This Gascoine story certainly had several cover slots, no doubt because it was such a fun, upbeat story (unlike the next story Gascoine will draw – “Waves of Fear” –  which is one of Jinty’s most disturbing stories).

This issue is one for Doctor Who fans because it has an exclusive interview with Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor. The text story is unusual too. There are deliberate mistakes in it, and the challenge is to see how good a sleuth you are by picking up as many of the mistakes as you can.

Xenia’s inability to touch Earthlings without killing them causes real problems as she tries to help some people with an accident. The district nurse is getting suspicious.

Sue does not trust Mr Grand’s scheme to use her village as a location for a television serial. And when she discovers just how he is filming it (cameras everywhere and stirring things up to create action), she declares war on him.

Mike and Terry are out to stop a plot to kidnap a ventriloquist, and Mike is turning conjurer to do it. But at the end of the episode he looks like he could do with a disappearing trick when the kidnappers accost him.

In “The Disappearing Dolphin”, Paula and Chris think they’ve worked out who is plotting against them – Mrs Ormerod-Keynes. But now they need to work out why and how.

It’s the penultimate episode of “Nothing to Sing About”. Linette has now been put straight about the cause of her father’s death and realises she was wrong to blame the fans. But her bitter behaviour beforehand has had serious consequences – it wrecked her mother’s new engagement.

Pandora works another spell to get what she wants – a job in a commercial. But she finds a conscience when she discovers it cost Ruth her chance of getting it, and she badly needed the money because her father can’t pay the school fees.

Douglas Perry

Douglas Perry is an artist whose style will be recognized by most readers of girls comics as he has had a very prolific history of drawing for IPC/Fleetway and for DC Thomsons across many decades. I think of him as a Jinty artist because he drew two particularly striking serials for this title, and a number of Gypsy Rose stories too. In fact however the bulk of his artistic output was clearly done for other titles, particularly IPC’s Tammy and DCT’s Bunty.

As my particular memories of Douglas Perry are from his spooky stories in Jinty, I want to illustrate this post with some pages from 1978’s “Shadow on the Fen“; they show his distinctive style (loose but effective) well, and give a chance to shiver at the creepy atmosphere he brings to life.

Shadow On The Fen pg 1

Shadow On The Fen pg 2

Shadow On The Fen pg 3

You can see from the above that Perry’s art has a lot of movement and energy in it, with some lovely touches in the composition, like Rebecca’s hair breaking the boundaries of the panel in the last page.

Douglas Perry stories in various girls comics (incomplete bibliography)

  • Jinty
    • Come Into My Parlour (1977-78) ‘Kom maar in mijn web’ in Dutch Tina 1981
    • Shadow On The Fen (1978)
    • Various Gypsy Rose stories including “The Thirteenth Hour”, reprinted in the 1983 Annual
    • Miss Clever Thinker (1986 Annual)
  • June / June & School Friend

    • The Haunted Playroom (1965)
    • The Dream (1965)
    • Crash Point (1965)
    • The Missing Manuscript (1966)
    • The Wishing Well (1966)
    • The Gay Dolphin (1966)
    • Milly the Mindreader (1967)
  • Misty
    • The Chase (complete story)
    • A Voice from the Past (1979 Annual)
    • String of Seven Stones (1980 Annual)
  • Sandie
    • The Return of Rena (1972)
    • Sandra Must Dance (1972) ‘De pas-de-deux van Sandra en Jessie’ in Dutch Tina in 1972
    • The House of Toys (1973)
    • The Plan That Rocked the School (1973 Annual)
  • Tammy
    • Various Uncle Pete / Storyteller stories (his art was often used for the ‘talking head’ intro or outro on these)
    • Palomo (1971) reprinted in Penny Annual 1980 and Dutch Tina book 1980
    • Bernice and the Blue Pool (1971)
    • The School on Neville’s Island (1971)
    • The Dragon of St George’s (1972)
    • The Camp on Candy Island (1972-73)
    • Cherry’s Charter (complete story) (1973)
    • Sarah the Scapegoat (complete story) (1973)
    • Granny’s Town (1973)
    • The Revenge of Edna Hack (1973)
    • Leader of the Pack (1974)
    • Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall (1974)
    • Secret Ballet of the Steppes (1974)
    • Rona’s Rainstones (1974)
    • Crystal Who Came in from the Cold (1974)
    • Slaves of the Hot Stove (1975)
    • Carol in Camelot Street (1975)
    • Serfs of the Swamps (1975)
    • A Lead through Twilight (1976)
    • The Sungod’s Golden Curse (1976)
    • Curtains for Cathy (1976-77) ‘Applaus voor Kitty’ in 1978 in Dutch Tina
    • Dark Star Wish (1977)
    • The Dance Dream (1977) (writer Anne Digby – see the interview with her for a sample from this story)
    • Molly Mills (1977 – 82)
    • My Shining Sister (1980)
    • Black Teddy (complete story) (1982)
    • The Grand Finale (complete story) (1982)
    • Midsummer Tresses (complete story) (1983)
    • Listing supplied by Mistyfan in comments below – many thanks!
  • Bunty
    • “The Legend Of Lorraine” (1970) De geheimzinnige ballerina in the Dutch edition of Debbie 1984
    • The Little Shrimp (1971) ‘De kleine garnaal’ in the Dutch edition of Peggy 1984
    • “The Laughing Lady of Hamble Hall” (1972 Annual)
    •  Supergirl (1977-78) ‘Bionische Susie’ in Dutch edition of Debbie in 1985
    • Parker versus Parker (1981-82) ‘Parker tegen Parker’ in 1982-83 in Dutch Tina
    • The Fate of the Fairleys (1982-83) ‘Het geheim van Bella Vista’ in a Dutch edition of Debbie Parade Album from 1985 or 1986
    • “T for Trouble” (1985 Annual)
    • ‘Sally on Planet Serbos’ (1985)
    • ‘Trapped in time’ (1986)
    • “The Seven Sisters” (c1988)
    • “Little Miss Lonely” (c1988)
    • “The Trouble With Boys” (1989)
    • “I’ll Never Forgive You!” (1989)
    • “A New Life For Lily” (1994) ‘Lotje’s nieuwe leven’ in Dutch Tina 1994
    • “Lonely Lynn” (1994)
    • “Stop, Thief!” (1995)
    • “The Impostor!” (1995)
    • “The Seeker” (1996-97)
    • “Shivery Shirley” no date available
    • These items were taken from a discussion thread on the Comics UK Forum and added to by Marc in comments below
  • Mandy
    • “Go Girl Go” from the 1971 Mandy album
  • Dutch translations with original titles unknown
    • ‘Billy MacGuire, hoofd van de clan’ [‘Billy MacGuire, head of the clan’] (Dutch Tina book 1981), original unknown
    • Een hoofdrol vol gevaren! (1987, Dutch Tina)

See also this discussion thread about him on the Comics UK Forum, which includes some example art uploads. The Girls Comics of Yesterday site, which focuses on DC Thomson titles, also has a Douglas Perry tag. Here is a Catawiki tag list too.

I am sad and surprised to see how little information there is available about this fine artist on the internet. There is nothing on Bear Alley, or the UK Comics Wikia entry, nor even anything on Lambiek’s Comiclopedia. I suppose we must count ourselves lucky that Perry drew for Tammy during the years they were running credits.

As ever, further information (particularly in order to add to the Bibliography) would be extremely welcome.

Edited to add: Mistyfan has sent through scans of the Misty story that Perry drew: “The Chase”. It is a great spooky tale and I include it here to show more of his artwork.

Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty

Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
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Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
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Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
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The Bechdel Test and Beyond: Part V and last

So, you may say, why might we care about representation, and therefore about this test at all?

One main reason I wanted to look at this was in order to have another analytical tool to address the question of how boys and girls comics differ. We have memories and statements from Pat Mills and from other creators of the time about how girls comics feature “more complex psychology” which you don’t find in boys comics, or that in boys’ comics you can’t have a mystery-based story as this doesn’t work for that readership. What does this really mean, when you come down to look at it? Is there something you can undeniably point to in the stories themselves, that isn’t purely down to people’s memories and subjective judgements? Well, this tool doesn’t answer all of that, but it does help to show some systematic differences between boys’ comics and girls’ comics, with boys’ war comics at the furthest end of the spectrum from girls’ comics.

(The discussion about differences between boys’ comics and girls’ comics is often stated in quite gender essentialist terms – ‘boys don’t like this, girls love that’ – which is something that I have a problem with. We know perfectly well that there were always boy who read and enjoyed girls comics and vice-versa, but because it was likely to be frowned on by peers and parents this behaviour was often hidden. To me it makes better sense to say that the boys comics market worked in a certain way, and the girls comics market in a different way – that when boys were given stories that were too far outside the established mould, those stories were typically not popular.)

It would be great to also try to apply this analysis to see whether there are systematic differences between what women wrote and what men wrote – because again this is often discussed in gender essentialist terms. In so far as we know what stories were written by women and what ones were written by men (the million dollar question, of course), are there any glaring differences, or is the constraint of the market (the fact that they were writing to a targetted market) a more important factor? The ideal would be to compare a story written by a women for a girls’ comic, and a story written by the same woman for a boys’ market; and likewise two stories written by a man, one for each market. Personally I think the target market will have a stronger impact than the gender of the writer, but I’d like to try it in the future, if I could find good examples to use.

It’s not just about good analytical tools, though. The Rounded Representation test is a relatively limited test (as is the Bechdel test itself, of course): apart from generally not telling us anything about whether a story is well or badly done, it says nothing directly about important characteristics like psychological depth. (I’d argue that if a story doesn’t even pass the Bechdel test it is rather less likely to be very psychologically realistic, but even so there are very well-written counter-examples: an obvious one to mention would be the excellent film “Das Boot”, set in a German U-boat in WWII, and hence a very male set-up.) No, the Rounded Representation test is interesting and hopefully useful because diversity of representation itself is so important, while at the same time being so easy to let slip past. It’s a mass action game: sure, an all-male film about a German U-Boat crew can be amazing and excellent, I’m not disputing that. But if out of all the films that are out there – or the books or the comics – only a minority deal with any characters other than white hearty action men then yes, we have a problem. And to spot that unequal representation we have to go round actually looking and counting, because humans are subject to systematic errors, biases, and stereotypes.

Why is representation important? It’s easy to point to the powerful effect that it can have on people seeing themselves represented – there’s a great story about how Nichelle Nichols was asked to continue in the role of Lt Uhura by Martin Luther King. That link also tells us how Nichols rejigged the role of a character who would otherwise have been a stereotyped madam in a blaxploitation film – it’s not only about having strong positive characters but also about widening the range of what is shown in the first place. Black British youngsters had it bad too – this piece in the Guardian by David Harewood starts off with an anecdote of what it was like growing up Black in Britain in the 70s, and Harewood was far from unique in those memories.

On a more comics-focused example, I came across a blog post written by a man who had read “Cuckoo In The Nest” as a boy, and who identifies as a cross-dresser as an adult. To him this story was a very powerful one that lived with him for 30 years or more. The story wasn’t (I assume) written with him as a target reader, nor even primarily for boy readers (again, I assume) – but the wider the range of stories written and depicted, the more people that will be caught in the net of the stories out there. Are there Black British women of around my age who still remember “Life’s a Ball for Nadine” fondly not because it was necessarily a great serial in itself, but purely because it was so rare to see a non-white protagonist?

Having a wider range of characters and stories that get written, drawn, and published is also good for the reader. It rescues the stories from stale stereotyping and broadens the interest and understanding of the reader. Why not have a story set during Ramadan, say, that touches on what it is like to fast for the daylight hours and feast at night? For Muslim readers this could be a touch of real life, of how things work during the fasting month; for non-Muslims this could be an unusual angle that they’d not considered in any detail.

Of course this can be done badly, and this is often a fear for creators and readers alike. Will it be heavy-handed and more concerned with hammering the point home than with telling a good story? Will it just be a tokenistic effort that is the equivalent of failing the Bechdel test by including just one woman and never having her talk about something substantive? These are challenges; and everyone is going to screw up at some point. (The recent scandal about the children’s book “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” is relevant; there has been lots of discussion of this online but I am here linking to a piece by the writer of the book, herself not white, who points to a number of more systematic problems than simply insensitivity on the part of an individual creator.) But resources like the We Need Diverse Books campaign site underline the importance of keeping on trying.

The Bechdel Test and Beyond – Part IV, Boys Comics

It looks like girls’ comics portray a very wide range of roles for girls and women – perhaps wider than is the case in some recent mainstream media targeted at a girls’ market – and that boys and men are integrated into that world of girls as well. The roles that boys and men are shown as playing are not as wide-ranging as those that girls and women are shown in, but compared to the representation of other groups such as Black and Minority Ethnic characters, boys and men get much more of a look-in. What about boys’ comics? What sort of representation do they have of girls and women? Do boys and men get as wide a range of representation in the comics targeted at them as a market?

A couple of notes of caution before I go further. One obvious one is about the scope of what I am looking at in this post – I don’t own very many boys’ comics at all and so I am restricted in what I can easily put through this test. I am of course very happy to hear comments to expand on or to refute the results I will go through below. If readers want to apply the tests to a wider range of boys’ comics I would be very happy to hear the results, and to put then in a followup post if people would like. For instance, I could imagine that repeating this analysis on 2000AD – perhaps on the same sort of date range as my examples below – could reveal an interesting set of different results. (Edited to add: the latest post on blog Great News For All Readers gives a clear hint that Valiant and Lion in 1975 would almost certainly have given different results even to the following year’s copy of Battle and Valiant that I look at below.)

The second, perhaps more major, caveat is to reiterate something I said in earlier posts: this test says nothing about the quality of the individual story or comic, and was never intended to. A story can be great entertainment, excellently written, touching and humane, exciting and innovative, while dealing with a very small subset of humanity or the human concern. The problem comes when only a small subset of humanity is used as the usual channel for stories – when no one else gets a look-in and it is not even questioned. The overall range of stories that are told ends up narrower, but also a wide range of people – those not included in that selected small subset – are implicitly told they are not the stuff of stories. To repeat again, please do not take the comments below as a negative judgment of the comics I am looking at – I can see the stories are exciting and well crafted. That’s exactly why it’s important to apply an analytic test that doesn’t talk about the way the story makes the reader feel or whether it’s well-done – to look at an aspect of the story or comic that can otherwise get hidden by those subjective judgments.

Rounded Representation 5

I was able to look at: four issues of Battle Action dated between March and April 1980, and one issue of Battle and Valiant dated December 1976, all five of which were published by IPC. I have grouped these under the heading ‘War comics’ above, coloured green. Not all boys’ comics are about war as a genre, I appreciate, and thankfully I also had an individual issue of a more general comic that featured a wider genre range – DC Thomson’s Spike, dated 26 November 1983. I didn’t look at humour comics (which weren’t marketed in as gender-specific a way) or at the action adventure comics of an earlier age. Other notable omissions are the weekly publications with a more overtly didactic element and an implicit seal of parental approval – Eagle, Look and Learn, and the like.

First of all, do any of the chosen boys’ comics pass the Bechdel test? If not, there is very little chance of them passing the Rounded Representation test because they are unlikely to have any sort of range of female characters depicted. It’s perhaps not that unexpected that none of the war comics I looked at had as many as two named female characters – there was one story in Battle and Valiant (“The Black Crow”) set in a nursing home, that showed three uniformed nurses, but each unnamed. Arguably two of the nurses have a minimal conversation, which I didn’t indicate in the analysis above, but this is about a man (“Mon dieu… Germans!” “It is Major Klaus von Steutsel… head of the Gestapo in Pontville!”). (Most of the issues had absolutely no women depicted at all, so to have turned to a page with as many as three women on it felt quite unusual.)

The copy of Spike also does not have any stories that pass the Bechdel Test: a couple of the stories had mothers mentioned or shown, but again none of the female characters were named. It felt like slightly less of an exclusively male world on show; balanced against that though, the nurses in “The Black Crow” were professionals with roles of their own, rather than generic wives and mothers, so perhaps honours are even.

In any case, it’s easy to see that girls and women are considerably less well represented in these boys’ comics than is the case for boys and men in girls’ comics. Even in publications that include a lot of fantastical stories, girls stories are not set in an exclusively female world; boys and men are given parts that are more than purely token. Not so in (these) boys’ comics. I have therefore not gone through the Rounded Representation test looking at depiction of girls and women in boys’ comics.

What of the roles that boys and men are depicted in, in these publications aimed at them? Now here’s an interesting thing – in terms of representation, boys are actually slightly hard-done-by in their ‘own’ comics, more so than in girls’ comics. That will need a little more teasing apart than the simple ticks in the various cells above show, however (which is also often the case with the Bechdel Test). So, let’s look at the Rounded Representation test as applied to male characters in boys’ comics.

  • Emotions: in both the war comics and the individual issue of Spike it was possible to find depictions of the range of emotions. I must say though that it was a lot easier in the single issue of Spike; in the war comics it took me looking through most of the pages before I was able to find much in the way of happiness. There was a lot of fear and doubt, and friendship wasn’t hard to find (D-Day Dawson ready to sacrifice himself for his buddies, Jimmy Miller trying his hardest to win Machine Gun Cooley’s friendship). Happiness, and even anger, weren’t anything like as prevalent though. I felt like the tone was a fairly steady and grim one: not many highs and lows of emotion overall, other than perhaps fear in particular.
  • Abilities: Again the individual issue of Spike has a wider range shown of abilities – the war comics stuck to a fairly realistic representations of physical and mental feats. Spike included a story about a footballer, a Conan-type warrior, and the immortal “Wilson, Maker of Champions”, who was clearly especially clever to boot. (I wasn’t however quite sure on that brief sample that I could call him superhumanly so, hence the question mark for that cell.)
  • Challenges: as mentioned earlier, the war comics I looked at are pretty focused on realism so there are no fantastical challenges faced by the protagonists. And while World War II is clearly a society-wide threat if ever there was one, I didn’t feel that the protagonists’ roles in these stories were really about trying to stop the whole war, they were much more specific than that. There were of course plenty of threats in the war comics, driving the story along; fewer positive goals, but I counted Jimmy Miller’s quest to win Machine Gun Cooley’s friendship as such. Spike includes fantasy and realism, individual challenges and wider-spread ones, and a few positive goals as well as external threats (a group of inner-city kids work hard to start a City Farm, and Wilson has a visitor who wants to be made into a champion decathlon athlete).
  • Ages: neither the war comics nor Spike show any very young children – baby brothers or suchlike. Not very surprising in a war comic, but there were no families escaping the horrors of war or similar – the focus was pretty narrowly on the soldiers themselves, hence on young adults and grown ups. The story in Battle and Valiant mentioned above, “The Black Crow”, features old men in a nursing home, and expands the range of ages noticeably. Spike, once again, is wider in its range than the war comics and ticks most of the boxes fairly comfortably.
  • Roles: so few of the characters are female that there is hardly any way that these comics couldn’t have featured men and boys as all of the range looked at: protagonists, sidekicks, villains, and background characters.

Overall, the Rounded Representation test looks like it shows a pretty wide representation of male characters in these boys’ comics, though some of the ticks would have ended up as blank cells if only one or two individual issues had been examined. Certainly some of the result is about genre, with (these) war comics likely to focus on young adults and grown men in a realistic setting, facing individualistic challenges in an overall story tone of fear and anger, with little happiness depicted. Of course in principle war comics could work differently – “Rogue Trooper” is a war story set in a science fiction milieu with an overarching threat to the whole of the world and positive goals based in comradeship as well as threats from external forces. (There’s even at least one named woman in it, though whether as a whole it passes the Bechdel Test I am not sure.) Overall however it is pretty clear that whereas girl readers had their stories set in a world which represented them in a rounded way as people endowed with possibilities both good and bad, boy readers were given more circumscribed stories with a narrower set of options – and very little room indeed for their sisters, mothers, and fierce warrior Leelas.

The Bechdel Test and Beyond – Part III

So, in the last two posts on this blog I introduced a new Rounded Representation test that takes us beyond the starting point that is the Bechdel Test, and gave various examples of its use.

In the first post:

  • We saw that girls comics of the 1970s had very fully rounded representation of the female characters in their pages; even in a single issue of one girls comic (chosen primarily for easy accessibility) there was female representation of a wide range of emotions, abilities, challenges faced, ages, and roles.
  • In comparison, other groups of readers are not likely to be represented anything like as fully. The same test done for BME (Black / Minority Ethnic) characters results in a very much patchier picture of representation. Across the whole run of a single title, there are some significant gaps in representation, and in a single issue of a title, there is very little guarantee of representation of this group, despite the net being cast as widely as possible (by testing for any BME representation rather than specifically Asian or Black British representation, for instance).

In the second post:

  • We saw that recent stories targetted at girls (a My Little Pony feature film, a Barbie doll webcast, and the Tangled film from Disney) also generally showed a fairly fullly rounded representation of the female characters, though the representation of girls and women in the Barbie webclip was noticeably patchier than was the case for the other two.
  • Just because something is targetted at a female audience, it is not necessarily the case that the representation of female characters will be fully rounded.

In this post, we will look at the representation of male characters in comics aimed at girls, and in the next post we’ll look at the same in comics targetted at boys. Do girls’ comics only show us female characters – an almost absolute reversal of the way that mainstream media is dominated by male characters? Or do they give readers a rounded representation of both genders? Likewise in comics intended for a male market – how do they represent both the gender that they are targetting, and the other half of the world?

First of all, what happens when we do a ‘reverse Bechdel’ on girls’ comics – checking to see if there are at least two named male characters who interact with each other? There are a one or two stories in Tammy and in Jinty which have male protagonists, and if any stories pass this reverse Bechdel then they will. The Tammy story “Cuckoo In The Nest” is a particularly good example of such (see this Booksmonthly article for a synopsis halfway down the page). This story passes without many worries – although protagonist Leslie is forced to attend a girls’ boarding school in disguise as a girl and therefore mostly interacts with ‘other girls’, he also meets up with his friend from home, talks to his Uncle Fred, and even finds a local group of boys he can play football with when he escapes from his female disguise.

The story also covers most of the bases on the Rounded Representation test: the male characters are shown with a range of emotions (I didn’t have the whole story to hand and didn’t see much anger depicted, but I may have missed this through not looking at all the episodes). It’s a fairly realistic story, or at least not a story of magic or science fiction, so the male characters don’t show any superhuman abilities, but we see Leslie playing football and solving various problems (such as how to fool his schoolgirl chums into continuing to think he is a girl). The story is really based around the fairly individualistic challenge for him not to get caught out, though there are also some positive goals he is trying to achieve (such as continuing to enjoy himself by playing football well). We don’t see that wide a range of ages in the male characters shown – no little boys or old men in the episodes I looked at, but they may be included in later episodes so I have put question marks here. And of course Leslie in this case is clearly the protagonist, but the villains or antagonists are all female (his Great-Aunt, and a nosey schoolgirl who has to be prevented from finding out his secret). The sidekick in the story is a schoolgirl chum who has her own reasons for being on his side. We might perhaps count his Uncle Fred as a sidekick but I am more inclined to categorize him as a background character – happy to hear arguments on this though.

It’s also helpful to check an individual issue of a girls’ comic that wasn’t specially chosen as likely to pass, so let’s go back to the 1978 issue of Misty that was referred to in the first of these posts and do the same tests. This does pass the reverse Bechdel test, though only once you get over half way through the issue: in the complete story “The Love and the Laughter” the devil has a short conversation with two named male characters about a book, and in “The Sentinels” there are a few conversations between policemen.

As for the Rounded Representation test on this issue of Misty, it passes most of the hurdles relatively easily:

  • The male characters are shown with a wide variety of emotions (for instance the fathers in “Seal Song” and in “Paint It Black” are both happy, though not in ways that are likely to bode well for their respective daughters).
  • They show a range of abilities both physical and mental, realistic and supernatural (I’m not totally convinced that the devil in the Carnival story can be said to be using more than human mental powers, hence the question mark in that cell).
  • There are a range of challenges faced by the male characters, whether individual or more widespread (in “The Sentinels”, the father is part of a resistance group fighting the Nazis, which definitely counts). It’s not so clear as to whether any of the male characters in this issue have a positive goal they are trying to achieve, so much as threats they are aiming to survive; and of course this is a horror comic so most of the challenges that all the characters face are more supernatural than mundane. (The protagonist of “Moonchild” faces the mundane challenges of an abusive mother and some horrible bullies, but she is a female character and hence does not come into this specific test.)
  • We see a reasonable range of ages in the male characters depicted – no babies or toddlers at all whether girls or boys, but plenty of grown men, a boy of a simlar age to the protagonist in the background of the end of the seal story, one young adult in the Dragon story, and old men in the carnival story.
  • None of the male characters are given the role of protagonist in this issue but we do see men and boys as villains, background characters, and as ‘sidekicks’ – important characters who are not the main protagonist.

For completeness I have also scored the Rounded Representation test for Jinty as a whole; there are few male protagonists (but at least one) and none of the male characters I can immediately think of show superhuman physical abilities, though some of them can certainly do magic. I would also say that none of the male characters face widespread societal challenges, though again I am open to examples being sent in. (Perhaps little brother Per in “The Song of the Fir Tree”, as him and his sister escape Nazi persecution across the breadth of Europe.)

So we can see that in comics aimed at girls, the roles available to male characters were very nearly as wide as the roles available to female characters – there were very few male protagonists and perhaps some other gaps in what they were shown doing, but overall boys and men very much formed part of the world depicted in girls’ comics. Is the same the case in boys’ comics – did they show an equally wide range of female roles? Did they show a full range of male roles? The next post will tell more.