4: Miss Bramble (and Prefect Siddons)
Creators: “B Jackson” (artist); Terence Magee (writer)
Every girls’ comic has an “evil headmistress” story somewhere along the line, and this was the Tammy version. Miss Bramble is a tyrannical, psychotic headmistress whose ideas of discipline are sheer child abuse. These include substandard food, locking pupils in dungeons, the pillory and iron masks, having meaner pupils bully and abuse other pupils, and turning pupils into either minions who have no heart or compassion whatsoever or broken-down wrecks that never smile again. Miss Bramble also crushes all signs of friendship, so when our four protagonists form a friendship she pulls every cruel and sneaky tactic she and her aide, prefect Siddons, can think of until the friendship breaks. Incredibly, Siddons is actually even more ruthless and cold-hearted than Miss Bramble. So much so that she is capable of murder and tries to kill our four friends.
3: Ma Thatcher
Story: Slaves of “War Orphan Farm”
Creators: Desmond Walduck (artist); Gerry Finley-Day? (writer)
Tammy featured dozens of cruel men and women who enslaved, abused, tortured and exploited children in the name of profit, power or glory. They appeared dime a dozen in Tammy until the mid ‘70s, and then just seemed to disappear. Stories that featured them included Slaves of the Hot Stove, Secret Ballet of the Steppes, Waifs of the Wigmaker, The Chain Gang Champions and The Revenge of Edna Hack. The most evil of them all in Tammy has to be this future Prime Minister of Britain…all right, just kidding. But Ma Thatcher was indeed named after the future Iron Lady, or “the Milk Snatcher” as she was known back then. It makes this villain even more striking as the antagonist of what is widely regarded as Tammy’s most notorious serial.
Ma Thatcher runs a farm, which we eventually learn she stole from the rightful owner, “Mad Emma”, and disfigured Emma’s face as well in doing so. Ma takes in WW2 evacuees from London. Ostensibly a war orphan benefactor, she in fact uses the evacuees as slaves in a dangerous rock quarry or leases them out to other farmers as slave labour, and locks them in the barn at night. She makes quite a profit out of this slave labour as well as the money she receives for looking after the orphans. Rebellion and escape attempts are met with cruelties such as starvation periods, being locked in a cage in terrible weather conditions, being bludgeoned with cudgels, treacherous swamps, and the vicious Doberman dogs that are used for torturing the orphans as much as keeping them prisoner. This is particularly so for our protagonist, Kate Dennison, who keeps standing up to Ma no matter what. In fact she even saves Ma’s life twice. But Ma shows no gratitude towards Kate, only more cruelty, which shows just how evil and unredeemable she is. Ma is also capable of cold-blooded murder on orphans who are becoming a liability. She almost ‘accidentally’ kills Kate at the quarry, and then plots to burn all the orphans alive in the barn when her racket comes under threat.
Story: No Tears for Molly, later Molly Mills and [title of the story]
Creators: Tony Thewenetti, then Douglas Perry (artists); Maureen Spurgeon (writer)
Pickering holds a joint record for longest running villain in Tammy – ten years. He is the bullying, slave-driving butler of Stanton Hall. He has always had it in for maidservant Molly Mills ever since she unwittingly caused his suitcase to fall under the wheels of an oncoming train. There is nothing Pickering would like better than to get her sacked, but as she always bounces back from that he resorts to all sorts of tortures, including beatings and slaps, making her work all night, lay on extra chores, and using whatever is available around the hall. These include the pillory, a flood dungeon, tying Molly up, forcing her to sweep the chimney, and a lake that he often uses for cold duckings on Molly and other staff members. On occasion he also commits outright criminal behaviour. His worst crime is stealing Lord Stanton’s luggage and then foisting the blame on Molly. As a result, Molly is forced to go on the run from the police before Pickering is eventually pressured to clear her with a cover story. He also shows cruelty to animals as well, such as tying a dog up to die from cold in a tower.
In later years, Pickering’s cruellest excesses are toned down a bit. The beatings, stocks, flood dungeons and other torture devices disappear. But Pickering remains a rotten, scheming, bullying slave driver, especially towards Molly.
Surprisingly, there are times when Pickering becomes an ally and helps Molly. But that’s only either when circumstances force it or it suits him to do so. He also has his funny moments – mostly when he gets a comeuppance of some sort.
Before unveiling Number 1, here are a number of dishonourable mentions:
- Zoe Martin (right) – Cindy of Swan Lake
- Sherry Brown’s ghost – The Shadow of Sherry Brown
- Evie Moore (far right) – The Black and White World of Shirley Grey
- Yablonski – Circus of the Damned
- The Witch – The Witch of Widcolme Wold
- Teesha Tate – Two-Faced Teesha
- Ma Sload – The Champion from Nowhere
- Ma Parting and her daughter Amantha – Waifs of the Wigmaker
- Grovel – Sadie-in-Waiting
- Angus McScrimp – Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie
And now, drumroll please, and turn the page for Number 1…