In this issue one of Jinty’s most enduring stories, “Guardian of White Horse Hill”, starts. Janey still gets nightmares of her parents’ death and clings to her teddy. This makes things difficult when she gets fostered out and she gets off to a bad start. Things look up when a beautiful white horse appears and Janey offers it an apple. Then it just seems to disappear…like a ghost. There’s not a trace of it or hoofmarks.
Alley Cat is pursuing apples too, from Spotty Muchloot’s orchard. Spotty goes to extreme measures to deal with Alley Cat – chop down the apple trees. Dad is very angry to find his entire orchard has been felled.
This week’s Gypsy Rose story is a weird one to make sense of, and the protagonist in the story is clearly having a hard time making sense of it too. She’s an air stewardess who has a vision of an Indian boy named Rajan walking right off the plane in mid-flight. Nobody has any record of Rajan even being on board, yet she has a carved elephant he gave her. She asks Gypsy Rose for help, and they find Rajan was in hospital at the time of the flight. But yes, that’s definitely the carved elephant he made in woodwork class. He was going to give it to her on the flight. He thought it got lost in the fire that put him in hospital, but there it is in her possession. Okay, you confused yet? Nobody but Gypsy Rose seems to understand it.
Destiny Brown has seventh sight, yet she never seems to foresee how to keep out of trouble. She has gone in search of her father, who has been accused of bank robbery. She camps out for the night at a funfair but gets caught. What are they going to do with her?
Sue’s got problems with seeing through a microscope and calls on Henrietta for help with a “see through” spell. Unfortunately the spell gets skewed because Henrietta wasn’t on the ball, with hilarious hijinks. Fortunately everything works out in the end for all those who got caught up in it.
Goose girl Glenda enters a wildlife poster competition, using her beloved goose as a model. Bird-hating Mum foils her again, but Glenda’s not wasting the poster – she’s using it to demonstrate against the local goose-hunting. However, she is not getting any support – except for the geese behind her.
In “Stage Fright!”, Linda finds out why someone is gunning for her – Lord Banbury is leaving his mansion to her on condition she win the acting trophy that has been in the Banbury family for three generations. Everything points to Lady Alice being her enemy – but is she? Then Linda gets locked in. Her enemy again?
“Fran’ll Fix It” fixes a burglar posing as a policeman. But she could do something to fix things up for the poor gardener – she keeps accidentally dropping plaster casts on his head.
In “Cursed to be a Coward!”, the crazed Madam Leo almost drowns Marnie and gets away with it because the police won’t listen to Marnie. Cousin Babs suggests confrontation time with Madam Leo, so she and Marnie go together. There’s a real face-off starting. How will it work out?
Translations/Reprints: Girl (second series) Picture Library #29 (abridged); Tina 1986 as “Merel, het meisje van morgen” [Merel, the girl from tomorrow].
We continue our Halloween season with one of Tammy’s very best spooky stories, “Thursday’s Child”.
Life has always been good to Thursday Brown, at home and at school. Hmm, do we sense an “until” coming? Oh yes, and it starts when Mum tells Thursday to put the family Union Jack flag away in the loft until it is needed for the millennium celebrations in 2000. While doing so, Thursday ponders where she will be in 2000, and the thought crosses her mind that she might have a daughter.
Then Thursday decides to use the flag for a bedspread instead. Her mother reluctantly agrees, hinting there is something about that flag when she says there was a story grandfather told her about it. Thursday gets her first taste of this when she washes the flag: red liquid comes out in the wash, and Thursday is creeped out to find it feels more like blood to the touch than dye.
That night, the weirdness really begins. Thursday can’t sleep because she feels awful for some reason. She leaves the bed momentarily and recovers, but when she comes back there is a strange girl in her bed. The girl is crying and makes strange ramblings about her mother and how she’s suffering, and if only things had been different. Thursday also notices that the girl bears a resemblance to her. The girl introduces herself as Julie Kemp and really insists on staying, claiming it is her home after all. She wheedles Thursday into helping her stay on with a cover story to her parents.
At school, Julie plays nasty tricks on Thursday. Moreover, Thursday used to be popular, but now her friends just seem to go off her and make a big fuss over Julie instead. Thursday is out in the cold and nobody seems to care about her anymore. Most telling of all, Julie draws a picture of Thursday in a wheelchair in art class. This upsets Thursday, but nobody sympathises with her.
Thursday gets the feeling Julie is getting her own back on her for something, but for what? She has never done anything to Julie. But Julie is definitely giving Thursday evil, vindictive looks full of utter hate. When Julie is finally given thought bubbles, we see she is thinking Thursday deserves everything that’s coming to her.
Julie then claims to be Thursday’s own daughter from the future, and she has travelled back in time to the present. All the hints Julie has dropped now have Thursday thinking something horrible awaits her in the future and she will become wheelchair-bound. Thursday is also getting terrifying manifestations of blood on her face and hands (and it’s not stigmata), and experiences an inexplicable bout of paralysis in her legs. Julie just gloats over this.
During a fight with Julie, Thursday is consumed by a hatred she never felt before, and it shocks her when she realises. Then she sees the flag glowing. She shows this to Julie, who is disturbed by it too. Thursday tells Julie the flag is making them hate each other. Julie doesn’t argue. Is she having second thoughts about whatever it is she has against Thursday? She does become nicer to Thursday after this and even prompts Thursday’s friends to be nice to her again. But is Julie’s friendliness for real? She has put on false shows of niceness to Thursday before.
Remembering what Mum said about the flag, Thursday asks her for the story about it. But Mum can’t remember what it was. Thanks a lot, Mum.
Thursday decides to follow her mother’s advice and put the flag in the loft. But while doing so she has a fall, which both the flag and Julie (influenced by the flag) cause. The accident leaves Thursday’s legs paralysed for real, with no apparent explanation except shock (or the power of the flag?). Julie really is rubbing it in and Thursday is learning the hard way what it means to be disabled.
Despite her paralysis, Thursday manages to get the flag into the loft, hoping this will stop the trouble. But as soon as she turns the tap on, more blood-like water comes out. The parents put this down to dye running out because the flag was put near the water tank – but Thursday put it in the trunk! The flag is making it clear that being in the loft won’t stop it.
Julie has persistently refused to explain why she hates Thursday or just what happened in the future, but now she gives way. She is indeed Thursdays’ daughter from the future. In fact, the house Thursday living in now is where she will raise Julie once she’s married and the room that is currently Thursday’s will become Julie’s. In Julie’s time, Thursday’s careless driving (nagging at Julie over her untidy appearance instead of watching the road) caused an accident that left Julie’s legs paralysed. This embittered Julie and turned her against her mother. Then Thursday brought the flag out as a bedspread for Julie (oh, dear, where have we seen that before?) and gave her a library book about the Westshires, a British regiment that one of their ancestors served in. When Julie read it, it told her something about the flag. She then used the flag’s power to go back in time to regain the use of her legs, get her revenge on Thursday, and have Thursday know what it’s like to be paralysed. And she is determined to stay in Thursday’s time although she’s not supposed to be there and her presence is messing up continuity.
Thursday tracks down the library book. She learns a South Sea island chief, Battanga, ran a cult of the Undead, which ran amok. The Westshires were dispatched to crush the cult and Thursday’s great-grandfather killed Battanga. As Battanga lay dying, he cursed great-grandfather’s family, saying his blood is upon them and their descendants, and he will return for revenge someday. His bloodied hands grasped the flag as he made his curse (which would explain the blood manifestations). Since then, Thursday’s family have regarded the flag as “a token of ill-fortune” (but they just have to keep the ruddy thing, don’t they?).
Thursday now realises the flag has to be destroyed utterly. Julie won’t agree, as this would mean sending her back to the future where she will be paralysed. Thursday points out the future will be altered, as the flag, if destroyed in this time, won’t exist in Julie’s time as it did before, which may change the future and prevent the accident. Julie still won’t budge.
Then the flag has a workman take a hacksaw to his own hand (urrghh!) when he is told to remove everything in the loft. This has Julie realise things have gone too far and how horrible she’s been. She agrees to help Thursday take the flag to the dump to be burned, and take her chances on what happens when she returns to her own time.
But of course the flag puts up a fight – and how silly of them to drape it over Thursday’s wheelchair! The flag seizes its chance to race Thursday’s wheelchair over to the canal, wrap itself around her, and try to drown her while Battanga himself appears and gloats over Thursday’s impending doom. Fortunately Julie manages to save Thursday in time. After the rescue, Thursday suddenly finds she can walk again.
The flag washes up just where they want it to be – the dump – and it is thrown into a fire. Once the flag is destroyed, Julie vanishes. Thursday feels the timeline has been altered sufficiently to prevent Julie’s accident but “won’t know for sure until today catches up with tomorrow…”. Yeah, assuming it is the same tomorrow. What else will be altered because of Julie and the flag’s meddling with the timeline?
“Thursday’s Child” is a Tammy classic and it was hugely popular, attracting comment in the letters section and even Tammy’s 10th birthday issue. It sure was one of my favourites and I was dying to read the next episode each week.
The artwork of Juan Solé must have been a delightful novelty for Tammy readers. Solé’s artwork appeared more frequently in June, but this is his only Tammy serial. It is a shame he did not draw more for Tammy (apart from a couple of Strange Stories). I really enjoyed the artwork as much as the story, and the artwork must have added to its popularity.
The story was written by Pat Mills. This was at the height of the Misty era, so it’s not surprising it goes into a lot of themes that are strong, scary and dark: a cursed flag that can move on its own, exert influence evil influence over people and even glow in the dark when it’s aroused; a hate-crazed daughter out for revenge on her own mother; terrifying visions; inexplicable bouts of paralysis; threats of a terrible future ahead; a voodoo chief; the Undead (briefly); a man nearly sawing his hand off; and lots of blood. And ye Editor allowed it. The story would not be out of place in Misty. Could there be any other dark stuff Mills wrote into the story that ye Editor censored or diluted, which he did with a couple of completes Mills wrote for Misty?
The story certainly has a moral to be careful what you put on your bed, especially if you are warned there might be a history attached. The same thing happens in the Gypsy Rose story “Zebras of Zendobo“, where weird, terrifying things start to happen in a girl’s bedroom when she uses zebra skins as bedspreads despite warnings they come from sacred zebras her grandfather shot.
The way in which the flag carries out its curse certainly breaks the pattern we usually see in serials about cursed objects. Usually they force the protagonist to act nasty or commit acts she gets the blame for. Though both things happen in the story, the curse takes the unusual course of using time travel to bring in a hate-crazed girl from the future with an axe to grind against her own mother.
Julie’s hatred is arguably the most disturbing aspect of this story. Hate campaigns we have seen before in girls’ comics – but against your own mother? Or rather, the girl who will become your mother but for the moment is totally innocent of causing the accident. After all, it hasn’t happened yet in this time period. And just look at the things Julie does to Thursday and the hate-filled, gloating looks on her face. Even allowing for the flag having a hand in it…well, we know Thursday’s child has far to go, but in this case Thursday’s child goes too far!
The hate campaign goes against the usual pattern of the protagonist not realising the antagonist is campaigning against her. No, Julie makes no secret of the fact that she hates Thursday and is out to make her life a nightmare. It’s the reason why she’s doing that is part of the mystery that has to be solved, and girls just love mystery.
It’s also unusual in that Julie does turn out to have a reason to hate Thursday instead of being mistaken and getting things wrong, which is more usually the case. However, she has failed to consider that the accident caused by her mother’s carelessness has nothing to do with the 1979 Thursday. Therefore, like so many hate campaigners in girls’ serials, Julie is persecuting the wrong person, but in a different sense.
Moreover, Julie is so blinded by hate that she can’t see the flag is just using her for its own agenda. Sure, it’s helping her get revenge on Thursday, but what happens when it’s done with that? After all, Battanga said his curse would be on all descendants of the great-grandfather, and that includes Julie. We would not be surprised if the flag moved on to the rest of the family and Julie herself, and Julie finally realising what a Pandora’s Box she’s unleashed.
Despite herself, Julie adds odd bits of humour to the story, most of which stem from her landing in a time period years before her own. For example, when she sees Thursday’s Star Wars poster, she snorts at how out of date it is. She is also a bit put out to find she can only find BBC1 and BBC2 on television and asks whether they’ve invented BBC3 yet. But she’s not developed as a fish out of water.
The story also touches on the ramifications of the Butterfly Effect: change one thing and you change everything. It doesn’t delve into the Butterfly Effect except try to prevent Julie’s accident in the future and Thursday try to tell Julie that her presence is interfering with continuity. But what else has been altered by destroying the flag in 1979 instead of letting it hang around until it is used for Julie’s bedspread? Not to mention letting Thursday know the events of the future: a daughter named Julie; her married name is going to be Kemp; she will carry on living in the same house as now and raise her own family there; and the accident she will try to prevent. We are left wondering and worrying what’s going to happen because Thursday knows all this when she shouldn’t have and could easily do other things to change the timeline (like not name a daughter Julie), but the story doesn’t go into it. Anyway, knowing girls’ comics, Thursday will go home to find everything as if Julie had never existed and nobody knowing who the hell Julie is. She will begin to think she probably dreamed it all or something…until she discovers something that suggests it did happen (like the flag missing) and now she doesn’t know what to think.
The Butterfly Effect stems from one event at the beginning of the story: Thursday deciding to use the flag as a bedspread instead of putting it away until 2000 as her mother directed. Now, what if Thursday had obeyed her mother and put the flag away until 2000? Apart from us not having a story that is. Was it the first step on the timeline that led to Julie’s accident because the flag still existed in her time? Yet in this timeline Thursday puts the flag on her bed, which sets in motion the events in the story and the destruction of the flag in 1979, and therefore it will no longer exist in the time period Julie came from. This has us wondering if the flag sent Julie on the wrong timeline and she ended up in (to her) a parallel universe, with a parallel world Thursday instead of the Thursday that will become her mother. If so, the irony is it led to the flag’s own destruction in 1979 and Julie persecuted the wrong Thursday altogether. Perhaps the flag confused things because in both timelines it was used for a bedspread, and in the same bedroom.
We also wonder how Julie will fare once she returns to the future. Knowing comic books, the timeline that led to her accident has been erased and she can still use her legs – but what timeline has taken its place? Julie is bound to return to an altered timeline, one where she could be a castaway in an alternate timeline she can’t change and is left reaping the consequences of her blind hatred. It might even be a timeline where she was never born. We have only Thursday’s feeling that everything will work out for them both to reassure us that the time meddling won’t mess things too much (like in Back to the Future). But if it’s been said once, it’s been said at least a thousand times: don’t meddle with the past.
As with another Pat Mills story, “Land of No Tears“, “Thursday’s Child” makes a point about disability and treatment of the disabled. But instead of decrying harsh attitudes towards disability as in “Land of No Tears” the story takes a few moments to comment on how patronising attitudes and treating disabled people as objects of sympathy do not help disabled people that much. This is one reason why Julie wants to show Thursday what being disabled is like. Curiously, both stories use time travel elements to make their respective statements about disability, yet they have disabled girls going in opposite directions: one travels from the 1970s travels to the future, the other travels from the future to the 1970s.
We fill another October gap here. As the cover indicates, it is the start of a new serial, “Gertie Grit the Hateful Brit!”, but one thing puzzles me about it: why does the cover show Gertie Grit with long green sleeves when in fact she has bare arms?
Inside, Jinty seems to be paying Halloween some early homage with Alley Cat, who has a dream about a witch turning him into a worm. He gets used as fish bait, but the spell wears off in time for him to catch fish of his own. When he wakes up he really does catch fish, which have fallen off the back of a lorry.
In the first episode of “Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit!”, Gertie hails from Roman Britain. There’s a definite Flintstones feel about Gertie’s home environment, but we don’t get much chance to see it before she steals a magic time-travel pendant from Druid Caractacus. Off she goes, and her first stop in time is the boudoir of Helen of Troy. Though it hardly looks it, Gertie’s is the face that launches the fabled 1000 ships when she mucks about with Helen’s makeup. Gertie then discovers Caractacus is following her through time to get his pendant back, but she isn’t going to let him do it that easily. And so the pattern is set for the rest of the episodes to follow. We are informed that Gertie meets Nell Gwynn in the next issue. Pity poor Nell…
In “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, Stefa is trying to turn her heart into stone after losing her best friend Joy, which for everyone is more like “Stefa’s head of stupidity”. Stefa’s now trying to get herself expelled to get away from Ruth Graham, the girl who looks almost like Joy. However, Ruth keeps foiling Stefa’s attempts to do so. You’re not getting rid of Ruth that easily, Stefa!
In Victorian times, Lady Daisy de Vere and a skivvy named Maud have accidentally switched lives. Maud is taking advantage of a posh finishing school (shades of My Fair Lady), and this week she is trying to cover the fact that she’s barely literate by pretending to have an injured hand. Meanwhile, Daisy attempts to run from the horrible downstairs life she has landed in, but she gets recaptured, brutally beaten, and then chained to a kitchen range until she’s finished cleaning it.
Hugh Thornton-Jones is doing double duty as filler artist for “Champion in Hiding” and “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”. In the former, Firefly foils some sheep rustlers but gets badly hurt, and cruel Aunt Shirley is still a real slavedriver to our protagonist Mitzi. In the latter, Katie attempts to reconcile a quarrelsome couple who keep breaking off their engagement. It succeeds, but in an extremely weird way that leaves us all scratching our heads along with Katie.
Helen Ryan escapes from the bubble she was kept in for lack of germ resistance and even joins an art class. But then she feels horribly ill. Maybe she should have stayed in the bubble after all? Meanwhile, Miss Vaal discovers Helen has escaped and says “she will have to take the consequences”. Now that sounds very, very ominous…
In “Rose among the Thornes”, motorcycle roughs are raising hell in the village, and Rose discovers the Thornes are behind it in a scheme to shut down a café. She manages to foil that scheme but knows the Thornes will have another brewing soon.
Jassy discovers Mr Danby is taking advantage of her water-dowsing powers to extort payment and goods out of drought-stricken people. Her response is to walk out on Danby, but then she jumps from the frying-pan into the fire. She gets captured by Sir Harmer Jeffreys, the man in charge of the power plant. He’s heard the gossip about her and Danby, and whatever he’s got in mind for her does not sound promising.
Another extortionist threatens Sue, one of the “Sisters at War”. Sue gives in to his demands to meet him, but the blackmailer reckons without Uncle Jason. Uncle manages to deal to the blackmailer but then collapses with a heart condition. He swears Sue to secrecy. Then sister Sylvia jumps to the wrong conclusion about what happened and it’s “sisters at war” again.
Artists: (cover) Ian Kennedy; (story) Vicente Alcazar
Writer: Georgia Standen Battle
In Norway, 1943, a heavy water plant is located on a high cliff above a dark forest where nobody goes in because something evil is said to lurk there. In the opening scenes of the story, the evil in the forest claims the life of one German soldier. The odd thing is, the evil that attacked him was in German uniform too…
A Commando team is dispatched to destroy the plant. Its members are Sergeant Manktelow, the team leader; Corporal Lionel Stone, who cracks unfunny jokes; Erik and Harald, who come from the Norwegian area in question and have a brother, Knut, in the Resistance; Private Joe Burn, a Cockney; and Leo (last name and rank not given). They parachute in, and the Resistance fighter meeting them is Anna Bang, who takes them to Knut.
The Commandos are informed of the difficulties. The plant is up a large cliff with a steep drop, and there’s a minefield. The plant is surrounded by a dense forest that nobody goes into after dark because of something evil in there. Apparently it’s the draugr (Norse word for the Undead) that the Nazis are creating from the corpses of German soldiers. Trucks come in bringing those corpses to the plant. The draugr are the reason why they must destroy the plant. The Commandos are sceptical about the draugr bit and think Anna’s been eating too much snow or something. For this reason, they do not fully trust her. Still, their mission is to destroy the plant.
They intercept one of the trucks (which contains barrels of heavy water, not corpses) to get into the plant. Unfortunately they get tripped up by Joe’s garbled German. They still manage to get in, but Joe is now relegated to lookout. He gets grabbed by some very sinister-looking hands.
Inside the plant, the team is shocked to find heavy water chambers containing corpses. Then they get caught by German soldiers and a Nazi scientist, Adolf Wuest (because they lost their lookout). Wuest explains that he is indeed reanimating the corpses of Nazi soldiers as Undead (zombies) so they can serve the Reich in death as well as life. But there is one drawback: to replenish themselves and stay Undead they must consume the living. So the Commandos are taken to the feeding chamber along with one bungling German soldier to be fed to the Undead. Anna is taken for interrogation.
The German is first to be thrown into the Undead feeding chamber. The Commandos put up a fight, but Harald falls victim to the zombies. Anna breaks loose, joins the fight, and provides the Commandos with weapons. They apologise for doubting her. Fortunately bullets work against the zombies and they are soon overcome. The Commandos then set explosives to blow up the plant. They are rejoined by Joe, who managed to escape from the zombies.
Unfortunately the explosion does not destroy the plant all at once. Worse, it releases the zombies from their cages and they are coming out in swarms. The Commandos open fire, but there are too many zombies and they just keep coming. Wuest meets his end at the hands of his own creations (below).
The Commandos flee to the forest but forget the minefield. Lionel steps on a mine and gets a leg blown off, but he bravely continues to fire on the zombies and give the others a chance to escape. In the forest, the Commandos mow down the remaining zombies who have followed them. The plant is going up in flames, and they are satisfied the evil has been destroyed and it’s all over.
They don’t realise Lionel has now become a one-legged zombie…
It was extremely rare for Commando to use supernatural elements in a story. This one does so in ghoulish, visceral style with zombies, so I’ve been saving it for Halloween month.
We also get a dash of Frankenstein, what with it being an evil Nazi scientist rather than a voodooist who’s behind the zombies. Wuest never explains exactly how he creates the zombies, but judging from the wee glimpses provided, it is some kind of science that needs heavy water. And like Dr Frankenstein, Wuest meets his downfall at the very hands of the monsters he created.
A heavy water plant being used to create zombies makes it an even more exciting story than if the Commandos had simply had to stop the plant from the usual (nuclear bombs). We are sure the plant was being used for that as well, but the zombies make it far more interesting. In the words of the Commandos: “Well, the zombies are a surprise.” And they are even more surprising because they are real and not some ruse to scare people off or a figment of superstitious minds affected by eating too much snow.
The story is a pretty simple, straightforward one, and takes no detours with twists or turns. Perhaps this is why we get so many large, expanded page layouts and very little cramming. It’s because the simplicity of the story allows enough time for it. For example, the opening scene of the zombies attacking the German soldier takes five pages with almost no dialogue, and no text or SFX, only closeups of the German’s terrified eyes, his running feet, and shadowy attackers progressively closing in. Similarly, when the zombies attack the Commandos, we get plenty of page spreads on this, including one complete image that covers two pages. Other key scenes are also given expansion with large panels. For example, the scene where Lionel loses his leg is given a single panel on one page. What is even more unusual is that a number of scenes showing the zombies, explosions or action scenes are done without any dialogue, text or SFX; the scene is left to speak for itself.
The inking has a charcoal effect that lends well to the horror scenes. Unfortunately it loses detail when showing scenes of more distant figures in the background, such as the Germans (Undead and living) chasing the Commandos into the forest. The artwork and inking in this story are more suited to closeups, large panels and action scenes than fine detail.
The story is another addition to the growing list of Commandos to feature female protagonists. Anna Bang is another proud addition as well. She is not the main protagonist but shows plenty of courage and is everything you’d expect from a Resistance fighter. For example, when Wuest takes her for interrogation, her response is “Nazi pigs!” She is the one to save the day when the Commandos try to fight the zombies without weapons by breaking through and supplying them with much-needed weapons. Her patriotism makes her a fearsome foe for Nazis; when she helps gun down the final wave of zombies, she yells, “This is for Norway!” But perhaps her greatest show of courage is staying resolute in the face of those Commandos who laugh at her for saying the Nazis are creating draugr. When they hint they don’t trust her, she doesn’t plead with them to do so or go off in a huff. She just gets on with the job and helps them anyway.
On the female protagonist front, what’s even more noteworthy is that the story has a female writer, Georgia Standen Battle. Are female writers now making their way into a title where male creative teams have predominated since issue 1? It’s hard to say, as Commando does not always give full names in its credits.
Of all the characters, Corporal Lionel Stone is the one to get the best character development, and ironically it’s because of his unfunny jokes. Weak though they are, they still provide light relief against a very dark tale and make him more distinct and rounded. And he can still crack those jokes while staring in the face of danger, even in the face of terrifying zombies. In so doing, his lousy jokes become an act of courage. It even seems to rub off on the others a little; for example we hear a bit of jokiness from the Sergeant: “The only good Jerry is a dead one – a really, really dead one!” the Sergeant says as he shoots the zombies. Lionel shows the best show of courage of the entire story when he stays behind to shoot more zombies even when he has just lost a leg. We can just see him receiving a posthumous medal. Sadly, the final pages have us shedding a tear when we see the soldier who had showed such courage even with his rotten jokes is now a hop-a-long zombie.
This is the fifth-to-last issue of Jinty. The repeats to fill the dying comic are really telling now – we get not one but two reprints of old Gypsy Rose stories. The repeat of the 7-part “Monday’s Child” and so forth strip continues with “Wednesday’s Child”, who’s full of woe. In this case it’s a girl who is always grumbling, but she eventually realises how selfish and petty it is, and the final panel shows her becoming more positive.
In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Tessie Bradshaw has run off to the canal in search of the girl she drove off with her bullying. Tessie has an accident there and is hospitalised. The story is really realistic about bullying when it reveals the reasons why Tessie bullies: jealousy, sensivity about her weight, too much responsibility at home, absent mother and overtime father. Dad decides to remarry in the hope it will help, but Tessie isn’t reacting well to it. And she’s also worried her classmates won’t forgive her for bullying although it put her life in danger.
Tansy tries being a newshound, but when she tries to report news on Jubilee Street she comes up empty and decides nothing ever happens there. She completely fails to notice the things that get reported in the local newspaper later on.
Sir Roger has a dream that Gaye will be hit by a car. As ghost dreams always come true, he is going to all sorts of lengths to protect her, which is causing all sorts of hijinks. In the end, Gaye does get hit by a car – but it’s only a pedal car.
The text story discusses how fashions go in cycles. But things go a bit far when a fashion designer from the future takes a trip to the present for ideas on how to reinvent 20th century fashions for her own time. Sadly, the time period she came from is one that never came to pass: the Queen Diana period. Perhaps it did in an alternate timeline.
The last remaining Jinty serials “The Bow Street Runner” and “Badgered Belinda” continue. In the former, tricks from nasty Louise mess Beth up on cross-country. At least Beth realises it was Louise who was reponsible and will be on the lookout for her in future. In the latter, Squire Blackmore brings some old hunting prints to the school and nobody seems upset by them except Belinda – especially at the one showing badger digging. The squire’s also having the school setting up vermin traps, which is another concern for Belinda in minding the badgers. What’s more, looking after those badgers is causing Belinda to lose sleep and it’s taking its toll.
We continue the October theme by filling in a few remaining gaps in the Jinty October issues. This is the sixth-to-last issue of Jinty and she’s in her countdown to the merger.
Pam of Pond Hill has returned by popular demand and will continue in the merger. Her latest story features the debut of Tessie Bradshaw, “Ten Ton Tessie”, a girl who would go on to appear regularly and be known for her heftiness and love of food. In Tessie’s first story, where she is a new pupil at Pond Hill, she doesn’t get off to a good start because she is bullying. Her bullying goes too far and drives off her victim, Sue, in tears. Tess runs away in search of Sue (who showed up later) – and she is headed to the canal, a most dangerous area.
Tansy holds a rag week to raise funds for her youth club. But things go wrong, and Simon & Co deal to Tansy with something else from rag weeks. Tansy is left, shall we say, feeling a bit wet afterwards. Cindy Briggs of the text story “Donkey Work” is more successful in raising funds with her contribution to the autumn fayre – donkey rides in the school playground – despite things going mad-cap (just like her).
This week’s episode of “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” sets up the story arc to end the strip in the final issue of Jinty. Sir Roger deliberately failed his exam for the House of Ghosts because he thought Gaye would miss him too much. Gaye, who doesn’t know, is wracking her brains on why Sir Roger failed at floating in the exam when he does it very brilliantly. In fact, it’s how he gets away from her a few times in this episode.
Jinty is now using reprints to help fill the pages of her last six issues. So Alley Cat returns, and we are having a repeat of the 7-part strip on the old rhyme, “Monday’s Child is fair of face” etc. This week it’s Tuesday’s Child and how she teaches her selfish siblings to have more grace. The Gypsy Rose story is another repeat, “Haunted Ballerina”, about the ghost of a jealous ballerina who is out to stop others from doing the dancing she can’t do after an accident. You could also say the story’s a caution about picking up second-hand items – you never know what might come with them from previous owners, especially ones who’ve passed on.
“The Bow Street Runner” and “Badgered Belinda” are the only serials left. In the former, Beth Speede sets out to become a champion runner so she can beat a prophecy that she has interpreted as her father’s life being put in danger. But she has a jealous rival, Louise Dunn, out to make trouble for her. In the latter, Belinda Gibson tolerates constant bullying while she secretly helps a badger sett. She gets worried when the local squire says he’s hunting vermin – could this include the badgers?
Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll) – final episode
The Bird of Wisdom – the Strange Story
Selena Sitting Pretty (artist Diane Gabbot(t))
Say Hallo to Hallowe’en! – feature
Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
Rowena and the Realms of Night (artist Peter Wilkes)
We continue our Halloween theme with the Tammy Halloween issue from 1977. One of our Cover Girls is enjoying a Halloween party while something else appears to be enjoying her Tammy as much as she does. The Cover Girls years were very enjoyable for celebrating Halloween, Easter, Guy Fawkes and other occasions in light-hearted and often amusing ways. Inside, there is also a feature on Halloween customs.
Wee Sue and her family have a day at the races. Sue takes a punt on a horse called Autumn Springer, which prompts Miss Bigger to do the same. Then Miss Bigger unwittingly causes Autumn Springer to bolt. They have to do something fast or lose their punts and the things they want to buy with them.
In the Strange Story, Jean Regan is a brain, and there always seems to be a bird hanging around her when she does academic wonders. But her brains make her a know-all and show-off, and she becomes unpopular. She chases the bird off and finds she is reduced to middling scholar, but now she’s more popular and happy.
It’s the final episode of the popular “Melanie’s Mob”. Its replacement next week is a Giorgio Giorgetti story, “C.L.A.R.A.”, about a computer utilised to improve the declining sporting and academic achievements of Glumthorpe Comprehensive. But is it really the answer? In girls’ comics, computers have a track record of bringing their own problems. Anyway, we begin to find out in the Guy Fawkes issue.
Bessie has to prove her strength for a bet, with a treat at the tuck shop if she wins. Bessie tries to win the bet by cheating (naughty, naughty) but in the end wins (accidentally) by using her bulk as strength.
Betsy Blair’s father is opting for “The Good Life”, living off the land and bartering, after being made redundant. Betsy is finding the change very hard and demeaning when she has been used to such a posh, comfortable life. Plus a snobby neighbour is taking the mick out of her over it and a lot of classmates are laughing. Betsy invites them over for homemade scones, but it’s another big humiliation for her when Mum puts chicken feed in the scones by mistake. At this, Betsy cracks up and screams at her parents.
Bella’s at a Russian gymnastics college, which is going much better for her than in 1975, when a jealous pupil got her expelled before she’d hardly begun. But it looks like jealousy is rearing its ugly head again at a competition: Bella’s doing her floor routine and feels something sharp and painful in her shoe.
“No Place for Children” – no, not a place where children are banned or is not appropriate for them. It’s a place where all the children are missing. Terri Jennings keeps hearing strange whispers from the adults that it’s somehow connected with wealth they expect to receive, the old quarry that has been sealed off, and kids gossiping.
Selena Sitting Pretty, our girl pretending to be in a wheelchair at school, has struck another problem – some toughs have thrown her wheelchair into the river and she can’t get it out. She has to continue pretending being crippled to her schoolmates while thinking of a way to retrieve the wheelchair. She succeeds both ways and is sitting pretty again after this close shave.
In “Rowena and the Realms of Night”, the sequel to “Rowena and the Doves”, Rowena has to rescue her brother Asser, who is in the power of the Nightqueen and her daughter Princess Ygerna. He doesn’t even realise what’s happening to him, and there are only three days left to rescue him. This week Rowena and her companions get trapped in the Caverns of Endless Night. The Caverns are so dark nobody can find their way out unless they are guided by a human voice.
Published: Tammy 31 December 1977 to 28 January 1978
Artist: Veronica Weir
Translations/reprints: Dutch Tina 1982 as “Bladeren in de wind” [Leaves in the wind]; Indonesian translation in Komik Nina #98 as “Daun Daun Berguguran” [Falling Leaves]
It is autumn at Laurel and Hester’s school, and those falling autumn leaves make them a bit sad. The headmistress decides to cut down the trees in the school drive to make things more tidy, and as she can be a stubborn, determined sort, it will take a lot to change her mind. Laurel and Hester are upset at this and a lot of other people are too, but none more so than a strange woman who is obsessed with her love of the trees, to the point of monomania.
The woman senses the girls are friends of the trees and invites them to her house. The girls find the interior lovely but really weird. The room is decorated with trees and leaves and even the furniture is carved in leaf shapes. The girls get a dreadful fright when Hester accidentally pulls a leaf off one of the arrangements; the woman goes absolutely berserk and looks as if she’ll tear Hester apart. The girls make a fast exit after that. The woman apologises for losing her temper, saying that all day she had a strange feeling that “my trees were in danger”.
After the headmistress gives a television interview on why she wants to fell the trees, the woman picks a real fight with her. She calls her a “murderess”, a “tree-killer” and warns the headmistress her friends will stop her, so she better be careful. The headmistress is unmoved, but Laurel and Hester are uneasy. They also find it odd that the woman knew what the headmistress intended to do when there was no television set in her home.
That afternoon, a wind blows the falling autumn leaves towards the head’s office and Laurel and Hester hear her screaming. Inside, they find her smothered with leaves and absolutely terrified, saying the leaves seemed to be alive. But she recovers her equilibrium and won’t let this change her mind.
The woman tells the girls it was a pity they interfered just then, and hints that the headmistress had better really watch out when dusk comes. The girls decide they need to watch the headmistress after this. They are also getting really spooked; leaves and trees appear to come alive and even seem to look like people. And by now Laurel and Hester are really scared of the strange woman.
At dusk, the headmistress has a car crash, and mumbles the accident happened because she tried to miss some people. Laurel investigates the drive and finds leaves in the shape of a head. Then a blast of wind blows the evidence to bits. The woman reappears, accuses Laurel of siding with the tree killer, and says she will soon see what the headmistress saw. She hints it will be that very night. In hospital, the headmistress looks scared, but Laurel can’t tell if it was the shock of the accident or whatever made her crash.
The police put the accident down to skidding on leaves, but then Laurel hears two buses met the same fate, in the same spot, and for the same reason. She heads to the spot to investigate. There, the woman sets three people, made entirely of leaves, upon her. Laurel realises they drove the headmistress off the road and she lashes out at them with a branch. But then the leaf people just turn into three piles of leaves. Later, Laurel learns this coincided with the time the headmistress changed her mind about felling the trees because she had grown scared enough to do so.
Laurel heads to the woman’s house with the news and questions. But inside everything is very different and there is no trace of the leaf-decorated room. The old lady who lives there knows nothing at all about the woman. The lady then tells Laurel the legend about the guardian of the trees. The story goes that the trees used to be a sacred grove for druids. When the Romans drove the druids away, they left a guardian behind.
Laurel leaves the house, hoping nobody else tries to fell the trees. However, the old lady thinks the tree guardian story’s just a load of rubbish and will fell the trees herself if the headmistress does not…
I haven’t seen many girls’ serials with an autumn theme, but this one has such a setting, which ties in nicely with the October theme this month. It is also a spooky, scary story, which ties in with the Halloween season too. It’s a bit surprising they didn’t publish it during the period in question. It is a short story, at five episodes, which suggests it was probably a filler.
Tree spirits rising in anger against tree fellers have been seen in Gypsy Rose and Strange Stories, but turning it into a mini-serial gives more room for development and scares. The development of the guardian is brilliantly handled. I like how she is dressed. She is in ordinary clothes rather than robes, hoods, gowns and such, which makes a nice change and her a bit different to most supernatural characters in girls’ serials. At first, to all appearances she is just an old woman and there is nothing really out of the ordinary about her. She just seems a bit eccentric and fanatical about her love of the trees. However, she soon starts to scare when Laurel and Hester see how one-tracked she is about her love of trees and taking things a bit far, as evidenced when Hester accidentally breaks a leaf off her leaf arrangement. The woman progressively reveals herself as something beyond ordinary, making comments about things she shouldn’t have known about, and issuing warnings of things to come. And when these strange things start happening with the leaves, that’s when the scares really begin and the woman becomes truly terrifying. To make her even more creepy, she never gives her name and she remains nameless throughout the story.
It it’s not just these spooky things that are terrifying; it’s the woman’s fanaticism as well. It’s so extreme it goes way too far and starts hurting innocents. Although Laurel doesn’t want to harm the trees, the woman views her as helping the “tree killer”, and that’s good enough reason to attack her with the tree people. And what was the idea with attacking the buses? They had nothing to do with the headmistress’ decision to fell the trees and were no threat to them. Whatever the woman was thinking of, she was going too far there. It was just as well the headmistress took only five episodes to change her mind about felling the trees. We dread to think what would have happened if she had taken more episodes to do so. But even when it’s all over, it’s a sure bet Laurel will never be able to look at those trees in the drive or autumn leaves in the same way again.