1: Jed and Gert Barlow
Story: Bella at the Bar, later just Bella
Creators: John Armstrong (artist); Jenny McDade (writer), followed by other writers, including Primrose Cumming
Gert and Jed Barlow hold a joint record with Pickering for longest running Tammy villain at ten years. They come from the long-running tradition of Cinderella-type serials where cruel guardians abuse and exploit the protagonist wicked stepmother-style for their own ends. From her early days to the mid ‘70s this type of villain abounded in Tammy like nobody’s business; Little Miss Nothing, Nell Nobody and Sally in a Shell to name but a few. However, they faded in Tammy after that. Only Jed and Gert Barlow remained from the glory days of Cinderella-based serials in Tammy. They deserve to stand as the most infamous of these types of villains because the girl they abused has become one of the most famous characters in girls’ comics. For this reason they became recurring wicked stepmother-style abusers for Bella while most met their comeuppances in the end and never got the chance to abuse their charge again.
The Barlows force Bella to do all the work, both in the house and at Jed’s window-cleaning business. While doing so, they keep her ill-fed and sometimes beat her. At one point they even chain her to the floor! They don’t pay her anything, making the excuse that her upkeep is the payment. Bella’s education is lacking because they keep her away from school and no truant officer ever seems to come around. Whenever they see the opportunity they will exploit Bella in other ways. For example, when Bella damages her back they keep her confined to the wheelchair so they will continue to receive the government payouts from her injury. They even try to re-injure her – twice. On top of that they continue to force her to do work for them.
As well as force, there have been several occasions where the Barlows also use trickery or blackmail to get what they want out of Bella. One such tactic is offering Bella deals that she either thinks are legit or serve her or someone else’s benefit. Of course the only benefit it serves is that of her dodgy guardians.
Jed and Gert have also committed crimes and served a few jail sentences. Only once though, did the authorities actually punish them for their treatment of Bella. By and large they get away with it because Bella is too scared of being put into care to speak out.
After so many years of Jed and Gert abusing, starving, exploiting, blackmailing, impeding and taking advantage of Bella, things finally come to a head. The Barlows get so fed up with Bella constantly defying them in doing gymnastics instead of slaving for them that they just throw her out for good. All things considered, that’s got to be the best thing they ever did for her.