On 27 October 1973 Sandie merged with Tammy, and this changed the style of the cover completely. Tammy switched to The Cover Girls, and from then on until 1980 used them to sell her covers with humour. Essentially they were two sisters who got into a one-panel scrape on the cover that was humorously rendered by John Richardson. One girl was an older sister with shoulder-length hair and a younger kid sister with pig tails. The older sister is believed to be Tammy, but the identity of the younger one is a bit uncertain. In one complete story on the cover girls she is identified as June, the title that merged with Tammy in 1974. But as shown here, the younger sister appeared earlier than that, so perhaps she was originally Sandie. She also appears to be much younger than she does in later covers. Perhaps Richardson allowed her to age a bit. The colour of their hair varied between blonde, brown and red, but eventually both sisters were rendered as blondes.
The Cover Girl scrapes included kid sister annoying big sister, practical jokes, falling foul of something, Laurel and Hardy slapstick, using copies of Tammy in innovative or consoling ways, losing their copies of Tammy in some hijinks, or the “moment before the disaster”. There were also tie-ins with popular pop stars, current events such as the Silver Jubilee, yearly events, including Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween, and anniversaries in Tammy’s history. Unlike Bunty or Mandy there were no dialogue or text captions to tell the story. Instead the whole story and its humour were rendered in a one-panel self-contained picture that filled the entire cover.
On 22 June 1974 June merged with Tammy. It is at this point that the Cover Girls developed more and strengthened in humour, and the pig-tailed girl is identified more as June.
In fact, as can be seen from the complete story Tammy ran about The Cover Girls on 5 August 1978, the girl is definitely called June by this stage. Tammy ran this story in response to popular demand as to what the Cover Girls get up to.
As the Tammy & June merger progressed, so did the rendering of the Cover Girls and the humour. The top caption advertising the comic was now frequently a pun that tied in with the gag on the cover and made the cover even more funny. This also helped to avoid repetition of the same captions over and over, as Comixminx and I found when we compiled issue lists for Princess II, Sandie and Scream!
On 7 February 1976 Tammy celebrated her fifth birthday. The cover just had to lead off the celebrations, of course. The Cover Girls are preparing a birthday party, with a slip-up adding humour to the party. Well, it wouldn’t be The Cover Girls if there wasn’t a laugh somewhere. Now we wonder who is going to eat all that cake? The Tammy team? The characters who have appeared in Tammy over the past five years?
It is around the mid 1970’s period that the covers also displayed testimony to the growing popularity of Bella Barlow in the wake of her first story. On occasion she pushed The Cover Girls right off the cover, particularly if she was starting a new story. As the cover was meant to be a selling point, using Bella to advertise Tammy on the cover shows Bella was becoming so powerful that she was increasing the sales figures.
Much of the appeal of The Cover Girls is that they often incorporated references to the other strips in the comics, humorous uses for Tammy, and even had in-jokes that were almost a self-parody. One that still attracts comment is this Tammy cover on 25 October 1975. Readers must have been scratching their heads at what the heck “G.F.” was supposed to stand for, but the Tammy team must have chuckled at their Gerry Finley-Day in-joke.
Another source of humour for The Cover Girls cover also paid homage to the adult readership of Tammy. Tammy knew full well there was such a readership as she published plenty of letters about how mums, dads and grandparents were reading Tammy too for one reason or other – including Bella. Some of them used to read Tammy when they were kids and were enjoying rediscovering it. There was even some indication that there were fans of Tammy in the animal kingdom. However, Tammy did not seem to be brave enough to have a Cover Girls cover that took a bow to the boys who read Tammy and other girls’ comics covertly.
Although most of the Cover Girl covers were drawn by John Richardson, some were drawn by other artists, including Audrey Fawley and Giorgio Giorgetti.
The 11 October 1975 issue drops the June logo. It’s one of the most amusing covers, about what happens when the vicar comes to tea and finds the Cover Girls were dog-sitting! Now what sort of sermon could that have inspired that Sunday?
Tammy also began to look to readers for inspiration for the Cover Girl covers. Well, it
must have been hard at times to continue coming up with ideas for them. Readers were invited to send in suggestions for Cover Girls covers, and of course there were money prizes for winning entries. A cover that was the product of a reader’s suggestion was indicated by a thought bubble saying “Reader’s cover idea!” Covers that fired the imagination and hopes of getting money would have been even more attractive to the readership.
The reader’s cover idea also produced what must be the funniest and most imaginative Cover Girls cover ever in Tammy, published 7 October 1978.