Little Miss Nothing (1971)

Published: 5 June 1971 to 4 September 1971 

Episodes: 14

Artist: Updated: Miguel Rosello, Miguel Quesada and Luis Bermejo credited by David Roach

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Annabel Hayes is the drudge of her family. Her parents say she’s nothing and have eyes only for her younger sister Dora. Everything goes on Dora, including Annabel being forced to slave on her father’s market stall, and he doesn’t care that it makes Annabel late for school. At school, Annabel is brilliant at sewing. Her sewing teacher, Miss Turner, says she could make a real career out of fashion and design, and gifts her a book on dressmaking.

Then the family moves to be closer to Dora’s modelling school. Dad yanks Annabel illegally out of school to work full time to help pay Dora’s fees and tells her to lie about her age if anyone asks questions. Dad even rips up Annabel’s dressmaking book when she tries to rebel against his latest ill-treatment, but she manages to salvage the pieces. 

At her new home, Annabel is forced to sleep in an attic, but this works in her favour when she finds an old sewing machine there. Later, she discovers an evening dress and design class she could go for. After finding some materials and thread, she is in business.

As Annabel works at her sewing, she bemoans how she must everything for herself, from the nothing her parents say she is, while the spoiled Dora gets everything handed to her on a plate for her modelling and doesn’t lift a finger for herself. Well, at least Annabel has the talent. Does Dora have the talent too? We haven’t been shown that part yet. 

Annabel’s first day on the market stall goes badly, as she is forced to work on it alone with no experience in sales pitch, and she’s up against Tom, who really knows how to sell stuff on his own stall. Dad’s furious at Annabel not making any money and clouts her. And now Dora’s been recommended to the De Vere fashion house, so the pressure on Annabel to make money at the stall is worse than ever. 

Next day, Tom, who saw the way Dad treated Annabel for making no money, gives her a hand, and she makes more money on the stall. She has used some material left behind on the stall to make some items, which she hopes to sell on the stall and raise her own money for the evening sewing classes. None of them sell until towards closing time, when a Mrs Crawford, seeing the flair and design that went into making them, scoops up the lot and places an order for six bags in dark red.

Unfortunately, Dad grabs the money Annabel had just raised, leaving her with nothing to buy the red material for the bags. All the money has gone for expensive material to make Dora’s new dress – which happens to be dark red. When Dora takes the material in to be made up, Annabel makes a grab for the scraps (getting herself into a few scrapes along the way) and makes up the bags, but just as she brings them to the stall, Dad finds them. He throws the bags away – but happens to pick the moment when Mrs Crawford arrives and sees everything. She puts Dad very firmly in his place, “you dreadful man”, and forces him to apologise to Annabel. 

Mrs Crawford says she wants to have tea with Annabel to discuss things. Sensing what a rich friend Annabel’s suddenly got, Dad realises he could take advantage, especially for Dora. 

All of a sudden, Dad goes all nice to Annabel at home, and tags along with her to the tea. Mrs Crawford says she wants Annabel to work for her in the fashion business and needs a guardian’s consent. Dad gives it, and then he puts on a great “poor man act” to cadge some junk for the stall. While doing so, he helps himself to some more valuable items Mrs Crawford bought at auction. Annabel discovers this and runs off to return them, with Dad giving chase. She manages to get them to Mrs Crawford, but Dad tries to put the blame on her. It looks like the end of Annabel’s job with Mrs Crawford, and Dad’s furious at how Annabel has wrecked his chance of a fortune. Unknown to them both, Mrs Crawford is not convinced Annabel took the paintings. 

Annabel is now so heartbroken and fed up that she just runs away, leaving the market stall unattended. Dad’s livid when he discovers this. When Mrs Crawford returns to the market stall to make further enquiries about the paintings, Dad tells her about Annabel’s disappearance and yells at her for interfering.

Meanwhile, it’s time for Dora’s modelling audition at the De Vere school. We’re finally shown just how good Dora is at modelling, and no, she definitely does not have what it takes. Dora overhears Miss De Vere say she was the only one she was not impressed with. 

But Dora gets an even bigger shock when she sees the row between Mrs Crawford and Dad at the market stall – Miss De Vere and Mrs Crawford happen to be the same person! (Later, they find out De Vere is Mrs Crawford’s professional name.) So Dad and Dora really need Annabel now, to pull strings with her “rich friend”, if Dora is to get the modelling job. 

The hunt for Annabel begins, with the family all anxious, and all nice and making a big fuss when they find Annabel injured and save her from drowning at the embankment. Saying things are sorted out with Mrs Crawford, they have Annabel bring her over to tea, and Dora tearfully asks Annabel to say the reason she didn’t do so well at the audition was because she was worried about her disappearance. Annabel falls for it despite the show of phony niceness they had shown before. The end result is Mrs Crawford taking on Annabel as a trainee designer and Dora as a model, and both are to report to her fashion house. Unknown to them, Mrs Crawford is not entirely fooled, but is not sure just who to believe. 

But of course Dora doesn’t want Annabel coming with her to their appointment at the fashion house. So, as they set off to report, Dora “loses” Annabel, and makes sure she is the one with the address. Annabel had no idea what the address was to begin with and can’t find it herself (no doubt, something else they made sure of). At the fashion house, Dora tells Mrs Crawford Annabel has changed her mind and not coming. The family make sure Mrs Crawford and Annabel don’t meet up when Mrs Crawford comes around asking questions and spin them both lies about the other. Annabel is left thinking Mrs Crawford now thinks she’s unreliable and wants nothing more to do with her; Mrs Crawford still has her suspicions but not sure what to think. As Dad planned, Annabel’s back on the market stall, thinking she’s Little Miss Nothing again. 

Meanwhile, Dad’s received a crooked offer from a friend of his, Harry Marks, and there’s an ominous hint it has something to do with Mrs Crawford. Dora doesn’t want it, saying she now has everything she needs to advance in modelling without “any crookery”. But then there’s a further development that could change her mind…

By now, Mrs Crawford has seen enough of Dora to confirm her earlier impressions that she is not modelling material. Her suspicions have also deepened as to why Dora is at her school and Annabel is not. Mrs Crawford confronts Dora over it all, shows her the bags Annabel had a natural talent for making, and says it’s Annabel she wants at the school, not her. At this, Dora’s jealousy overboils. She says she made the bags, not Annabel. Her proof? Her dress, which is made from the same material, and she claims she made the bags from the scraps. Sceptical, Mrs Crawford decides to test her by telling her to bring in something else she designed. 

Of course, Dora cons Annabel into doing the design for her, saying it’s home-based design work Mrs Crawford is offering as preliminary for a second chance at the fashion house. This time, Mrs Crawford really does fall for Dora’s trick and now thinks Annabel is a liar and a cheat. She is also so impressed with the design that it’s going into her autumn collection, Dora will model it, and the design is soon made up. 

Meanwhile, Annabel finally finds the address for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house and nips along to see how things are going with her design. The results are the whole truth blowing up right there and then right in front of everyone. Mrs Crawford sacks Dora, throws her out, and Dora angrily rips up the dress to spite her. 

Annabel finally gets her job at the fashion house, but then loses the roof over her head. Her family throw her out because of what happened. Not knowing where else to go, she heads for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house, now locked up, and slips in for the night. Unfortunately for her, she has left a window open, which unwittingly sets the stage for the Hayes’ next move. 

Burning with rage and thirsty for revenge, Dora is now all too eager to listen to that earlier proposition from Harry Marks. This entails stealing Mrs Crawford’s fashion designs for his buyer, a rival fashion designer. They find it easy to break in through that open window, and then Dora discovers Annabel fast asleep there. Dora seizes her chance for revenge on Annabel by planting one of her shoes at the scene of the crime and then tipping off the police about the break-in. The frame-up works, and now Mrs Crawford is back to believing Annabel is the cheat. Dora’s crowing over this, convinced she can now worm her way back into Mrs Crawford’s favour. Annabel tearfully makes a run for it.

Annabel soon guesses who was behind it all. But she can’t prove anything. Her only chance is to confront her family. First stop is back home, and after she confronts her mother, she realises she must check out the market. She arrives in time to see Dad and Dora hand over the designs to Marks. Dora is promptly interested in working for Marks’ buyer as a model, and all three head for his fashion house. They don’t realise Annabel is desperately hanging on at the end of their car. The designs are handed over to the fashion designer, a man looking as shady as Marks, and he agrees to take Dora on as a model. He’s doing so on the spot, by looks alone and no audition, which shows how professional he is in comparison to Mrs Crawford. 

Unwilling to report even her horrible family to the police, Annabel decides to just burst in and grab the designs to return to Mrs Crawford. When they try to block her, she escapes by window, but takes a fall and damages her knee. Despite it, she manages to run to Mrs Crawford’s before her knee gives way. She desperately rings the doorbell for help, only to find nobody in; Mrs Crawford, still thinking Annabel took the designs, had decided to go away for a bit. Dad and Dora catch up, but rather than hand the designs over, Annabel rips them up. At this, Dad starts thrashing Annabel, as the buyer said the deal is off without the designs. He is caught red-handed by Mrs Crawford, who had suddenly decided to return. She has seen enough to realise who really had stolen the designs and who to believe now. 

Dad is jailed for his role in the theft. Dora is let off because of her age, but it’s the end of her modelling hopes. Now she is the one miserably and bitterly slogging on the market stall (how this fits in with her being even more underage to work on it than Annabel is not explained), and she is humbled. 

A month later, Annabel’s design receives the loudest applause at Mrs Crawford’s fashion show, and she’s on her way to a brilliant career in fashion and design. Mrs Crawford finds out Annabel is not the Hayes’ natural child. They adopted her in infancy but went off her when Dora arrived. Mrs Crawford, who had always wanted children, now adopts Annabel as her own. Annabel takes pity on Dora after seeing her plight at the market stall. She arranges for Mrs Crawford to take her in at the fashion house, and they are reconciled. 

Thoughts

“Little Miss Nothing” is one of Tammy’s most pivotal stories and definitely in her Top 10 of the best. In fact, Pat Mills is one to regard it as one of the most ground-breaking serials ever in girls’ comics: “it was the first of its kind” in establishing the template of the Cinderella stories for other Cinderella stories to follow. And they followed big style! Among them in Tammy were “Jumble Sale Jilly”, “Nell Nobody”, “Sally in a Shell”, and “Sadie in the Sticks”. Cinderella-based Jinty stories, such as “Make-Believe Mandy” and “Cinderella Smith”, also owe their roots to “Little Miss Nothing”, as does the 1983 “Cinders on Ice” in Princess II. Most significant of all, the Cinderella template set by “Little Miss Nothing” led to the creation of Bella Barlow. 

Mind you, “Little Miss Nothing” was not quite the first of its kind. The text story version of “The Sad Star”, an even grimmer Cinderella story from Mandy, predated it by a few months, and went on to become Mandy’s most popular text story ever and enjoy several reprints, in both text and picture story form. There may be other Cinderella stories at DCT to predate Tammy’s ground breaker here, but there is currently no confirmation. Was it a case of “Little Miss Nothing” being the first of its kind to matter? Or it being the first of its kind at IPC? Or was it the template it set for others to follow?

In his Millsverse blog, Pat Mills said on “Little Miss Nothing”:

“Little Miss Nothing by Alan Davidson in Tammy (1971) was hugely popular – equivalent in success at the time to Judge Dredd in 2000AD. It was the first of its kind and it was such a massive hit that it was meticulously studied and analysed by the editorial staff. They identified its vote winning ‘formula’ and then endlessly duplicated it with subsequent remarkably similar serials. I recall there were at least ten ‘begats’ of this ground-breaking story.”

Wow, a pioneering girls’ serial with success the equivalent of Judge Dredd is serious stuff! 

The template of the Cinderella serial “Little Miss Nothing” can be seen as follows: 

  1. The protagonist is treated as a drudge by cruel guardians.
  • The protagonist is also exploited to feed the indulgences of a wicked stepsister type. This element is not always used in a Cinderella serial, as in the case of Bella Barlow.
  • The protagonist has a talent/secret to keep her spirits up. It is her only joy in life, and she fights to keep it up against all odds. 
  • Her talent is spotted, enabling her to find a fairy godmother figure and friends to help her, achieve her dream, and ultimately help her to break free of the ill-treatment. But in between there are still obstacles and ill-treatment from the cruel guardians, which often include their causing a fallout between the protagonist and her fairy godmother. 

Cinderella has always been a popular fairy tale, told in many versions and cultures throughout the eons. So Tammy was guaranteed a hit if she used the Cinderella theme as a ground-breaker. Modelling, fashion and design have always been popular in girls’ comics, so throwing those into the mix were guaranteed to make it even more popular. Plus there is the growing undercurrent of criminal conduct in addition to the abuse to make it even more exciting. Readers would be on the edge of the seats to see how that unfolds.

The writing is mature, well-paced, and well-constructed, particularly in how it keeps the ill-treatment of Annabel within the bounds of realism. We can easily imagine a real-life child being treated that way. It does not go over the top or taken to excess, which has happened in some Cinderella serials. For example, Annabel is not kept frequently underfed, as in the case of Bella Barlow, or put in chains, as in the case of Cinderella Smith. The reasons behind the Hayes’ increasing exploitation of Annabel are also well-grounded in realism: she was not their own flesh and blood as Dora was; they were unfit guardians and unprincipled people by nature; and they would never be able to afford Dora’s modelling on their own income, so they need Annabel to generate the income required.

Also realistic is how so many key people, from Miss Turner to Tom, do sense the Hayes are unfit guardians, but although they are helpful and sympathetic, none of them take any action against the abuse itself. This has been an all-too-common phenomenon for many years.

It is also credible in how the contrasting upbringings Dora and Annabel have had have shaped the ways in which one will get to where she wants and the other not. Dora, even if she did have the talent for modelling, has been too spoiled to learn the lesson that to achieve your dream, you must work hard and have guts, determination and persistence against obstacles and challenges, and be grateful for all the help and encouragement you can get. In fact, Dora never learned to work at all, as everything was just handed to her on a plate by her parents. The only thing she works hard at is being nasty. When she ends up on the market stall, she is working for the first time. But she is not making any effort to work her way out of it as Annabel did. Instead, she’s wallowing in bitterness, jealousy and misery as she works on the stall. It takes yet another thing handed to her on a plate – Annabel’s kind offer – to help her out of it. 

Annabel, by contrast, won’t give up her dream, but she has to do everything for herself against all obstacles set down by her family. This includes the constant knocks to her self-esteem as her parents call her a nobody while they hit her. The saving grace is the good people who raise Annabel’s confidence by telling her she has talent and could go far and offer various means of help. But everything, whether good or bad, all helps to give Annabel far more tools to get where she wants than Dora. 

The reconciliation between Dora and Annabel at the end of the story is typically fairy tale, very sweet, and in line with Cinderella. But it is a bit hard to understand how Dora could ever go back to the fashion house all. Surely Mrs Crawford would not want her anywhere near it after what happened. And what could Dora do at the fashion house anyway, as she has no talent for modelling or fashion? 

Would just leaving Dora on the market stall have made more sense as well as give us more satisfaction? Dora’s counterpart in “Nell Nobody” meets a similar comeuppance, and it gives readers great satisfaction to see her just left there to slog and hate every minute of it. On the other hand, the final panel between Dora and Annabel is very moving, as Dora sheds tears for the first time in the story. It leaves us wanting to think things will work out between Dora and Annabel somehow. 

4 thoughts on “Little Miss Nothing (1971)

  1. Is the art really by Miguel Quesada? It doesn’t look at all like the work of the artist who did stories like ‘Pavement Patsy’, ‘Anna’s forbidden friend’ and ‘Trixie the tennis tramp’.

    1. Thank you. After your query, I did some further checking. David Roach has mentioned two other artists as contributors to the artwork, so I put them in.

      1. I guess the third artist must be Miguel Rosello. Lambiek says that he worked under the guidance of Bermejo and Quesada.

        I quite agree with Markie that this doesn’t look like Quesada’s work, nor for that matter Bermejo’s. I wonder who did what. The father looks a little like some of Quesada’s villains. If Rosello was the junior partner here, perhaps he did some of the pencils and the others did the inking? Sean Phillips had a similar arrangement with Ken Houghton for some of his very early work for DCT.

  2. Thank you for the information, guys. Anyway, the art team did a brilliant job. I love the artwork of the story. It must have made it even more popular.

    The “Nell Nobody” Cinderella story I mentioned is definitely Miguel Quesada, and it may be the same writer, as it shares some similarities with LMN. I hope to do an entry on that sometime, but there are still a few gaps in the run I have.

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