Fran sure deserves the cover spot this week because of her latest potty antic – landing a horse she’s trying to protect in the school swimming pool! She’s really excelled herself this time.
Spotty Muchloot pulls another trick on Alley Cat, this time to keep him tracked and stop him pinching his food. But of course Alley Cat’s fast to detect it and turn the tables on Spotty.
Tina (The Girl Who Never Was) and Lisa (She Shall Have Music) continue to make their difficult situations even more difficult for themselves because of their selfish attitudes, because of which they can’t see beyond themselves or realise there could be different ways to handle their situations. At the end of it, it looks like Lisa’s in trouble in front of the whole school, but there’s a strange development for Tina.
This week, our space aliens in “The Human Zoo” demonstrate that in some ways, they are not as advanced as we first thought, and Earth has the upper hand over them in some areas. Shona and her friend Laika glimpse the aliens’ farming methods – which is done by hand ploughs and tools, and captured humans as (cruelly treated) beasts of burden – while Earth, far less advanced, has long since gone over to mechanised farming in developed nations. These aliens have the flying saucer, food replicator robots, a time machine and the flying skateboard, but they don’t have the frikkin’ tractor?! The logic to it is that farming machines would need repair and maintenance, whereas slave humans can be quickly replaced. Oh? For how much longer? The aliens are driving native humans to extinction, and it is getting too expensive to take ones from Earth. Considering how efficient and cost-effective Earth’s mechanised agriculture is by comparison, these aliens would do well to take a leaf or two out of our book. Well, on to the alien city, where things take a surprising but weird twist in Shona’s search for her lost sister Jenny.
A police cell? That’s the latest shelter for our runaway orphans in search of the home “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, as the police haven’t anywhere else to put them. Don’t worry, the door’s not locked. The police have to do their duty and send them back where they started, but our orphans are working – well, singing – their way to the policemen’s hearts.
Cherry gets an audition, but whether by accident or design, her mercenary relatives have dolled her up to such ridiculous levels that Cherry’s not on form for it. Can she recover and turn things around, or will there be no cheers for her again?
“Sea Sister” finds the stone she came for. The trouble is, it’s been set into a wall to fix a hole. And she’s growing attached to her new friend, Jane Bush, but she can only stay until she retrieves the stone. Things are definitely getting problematic.
As the winter season is approaching, we take a break from girls’ comics and bring you a Commando with a winter theme.
In Verdalsora, occupied Norway in World War II, Major Walther Brandt has been ordered to crack down on any Resistance activity. As Brandt is an utter psycho, his methods are insane as well as brutal. He forces locals to clean off the anti-Nazi graffiti that keeps appearing – then has them all shot. When a suspect (who looks like the correct one) refuses to talk, Brandt goes berserk, kills the man with his bare hands, and then orders more suspects to be rounded up.
Hauptmann Georg Fischer, recently transferred to Brandt, can’t bear to watch his atrocities, and Brandt has noticed “he has a bad habit of disappearing at times like this”. Though Fischer still wants to serve his country, he does not want to go on serving that “madman”, or the Reich if it’s producing people like him. So, one winter’s night, Fischer puts on his skis and deserts.
When Fischer’s desertion is discovered, it puts Brandt’s promotion on the line, as it came just when the Oberst (Brandt’s commanding officer) was making an inspection. So Brandt is demanding a swift recapture, but his goons lose the trail in the falling snow, which forces them to abandon the search. They are confident the winter conditions will soon deal with Fischer, but this cannot save Brandt’s promotion, and he is left seething over it.
Meanwhile, Fischer is having problems finding proper shelter against the winter conditions, which are indeed threatening to finish him off. When he tries to get help from some Norwegians in a remote area, he gets shot at because of his German uniform. Eventually, he finds a mountain hut. As he can’t travel any further in the winter season, he winters at the hut and passes the time surviving, growing a beard, and learning what Norwegian he can from a phrase book he brought along.
As winter turns to spring, Fischer’s thoughts turn to how to get out of Norway. He notices an increase in Allied/Resistance activity in the area, in the form of Allied reconnaissance aircraft and a seaplane using a fjord as a landing strip to make deliveries to the Resistance, at the place where he was shot at before. He considers approaching the Allied aircraft to surrender and make safe haven in Britain, albeit in a British POW camp.
Then Fischer observes one Allied plane being shot down. He rescues the only survivor, the wireless operator Peter Blance, who has sustained a foot injury. When a German patrol approaches, Fischer downs them, but does so while wearing German uniform himself. One of the soldiers survives to report this. When Brandt receives the report, he realises the truth. Hellbent on revenge for the lost promotion, he takes a party into the region in search of Fischer.
Meanwhile, Fischer brings Blance to the hut. Blance is rather surprised at a German helping him, but guesses Fischer is a deserter. Neither can speak the other’s language, but they both have some knowledge of Norwegian and establish rough communication and an odd Allied-German friendship that way. Fischer does what he can for Blance’s injury, but he does not have the proper resources to treat it, and then infection sets in. The only way to get treatment is to ask the Resistance at the fjord for help. Fischer takes Blance to them on a makeshift sled and this time engages in a more prudent approach to avoid being shot at: the white flag of surrender and calling for help in his limited Norwegian.
Blance’s injury is soon being treated, and he helps to convince Resistance leader Ivan Petersen that Fischer, who has been locked up by the Resistance as a precaution, is friendly and wants help out of Norway. Petersen trusts Fischer enough to explain his Resistance movement is growing but still incipient, and they need the Allied supplies to make more impact. The remoteness of the fjord makes it an ideal place to set up shop, as theirs are the only houses for miles. They arrange to help Fischer and Blance get to Britain via the seaplane. But when the seaplane arrives, Brandt spots it too. Realising the seaplane is how the Resistance gets its supplies, he sees his chance to impress the Oberst.
Brandt utterly blows that chance once he sees Fischer on the boat to board the seaplane. As with the graffiti suspect, rage overtakes him and he goes utterly berserk. He orders his men – only a small party – to open fire. Fischer and the seaplane return fire, decimating Brandt’s goons. The revenge-crazed Brandt orders his remaining goon to cover for him while he takes an outboard motor and goes wildly after Fischer himself, firing his gun all the way. Fischer fires back, rupturing Brandt’s fuel tank. Brandt’s boat erupts into a mass of flames and he perishes in the icy waters. Nobody in Brandt’s party is left to make a report, so operations are still safe.
After his final confrontation with Brandt, Fischer changes his mind about seeking refuge in Britain. Deciding he should now fight instead of run, he wants to join Ivar’s Resistance and fight men like Brandt in the Reich. And so he does, under the codename Snowbound. To protect his identity, British Intelligence only ever refers to him by his codename.
Commando always made a strong point of showing there were good Germans in World War II, German soldiers who served out of loyalty to their country rather than Hitler and were repulsed by the atrocities committed by the SS and such. The Wehrmacht was one, and for this reason they and the SS were so often at odds with other. Commando often used this to have stories featuring sympathetic German soldiers, and always made the distinction between them and the likes of the SS or Major Brandt very clear indeed.
World War II Resistance stories in Commando usually focus on the POV of the Resistance and/or the agents dispatched to help them, and their reactions and responses to the brutalities of the Nazi regimes. The Holocaust is never mentioned, but even without it, Commando can depict the horrors of the Nazi regime clearly enough; it does not spare the scenes of the brutal arrests, torture, executions, and mass slaughter of innocent civilians in retaliation for anti-Nazi activity. One example of this is “Night and Fog” (Commando #4464).
However, “Snowbound” takes a different approach with WW2 Resistance by focusing more on the Germans than the Resistance fighters and has us thinking: What might the reactions of the Germans themselves be to these brutalities? Were there any German soldiers of conscience out there who said, “No, I can’t do this, I don’t want to be part of such barbarities”? Historically, the answer must be yes. Even in Auschwitz, there were examples of good Germans, such as Hans Wilhelm Münch, known as “The Good Man of Auschwitz”.
The case of Georg Fischer illustrates what must have been a common dilemma for German soldiers with a conscience: What can you do if you find yourself serving under a commander like Brandt? Or in a place like Auschwitz? Fischer initially chose to run from it, but eventually he decides to fight it. His initial decision to desert was a wise one. It was not just to stop being part of evil he despised – it was also because Brandt sensed Hauptmann did not agree with his “methods”, which in time could have put Fischer in serious danger if he had stayed much longer. When he meets the Resistance, he now has the option to fight, but still chooses to run and seek sanctuary. It takes the confrontation with Brandt for him to look at the fighting option, and make him realise he would achieve far more productive things in joining the Resistance than spending the rest of the war in a POW camp. Besides, he deserves far better than a POW camp.
Peter Blance is a very engaging person, and the Khato artwork of his somewhat dumpy appearance really brings him to life. He is a guy you instantly like and want to know more about, maybe even see again in a future Commando. His Norwegian exchanges with Fischer as they begin to communicate gives us some insight into their backgrounds and fleshes their characters out more. It’s an odd friendship, between a German and an Ally, but one that would have Blance realising there are good Germans, ones who are not like the psycho Brandt. When Blance and Fischer are forced to say goodbye, they hope they will meet again. Blance’s parting comment is that he thinks Fischer is the bravest man he has ever met.
Brandt’s lunacy is also brought to life by the Khato artwork, particularly the close-ups of his killer eyes and the rendering of his big square jaw when he’s in a crazy mood. The Khato artwork is also perfect for the harshness of the winter and living rough settings. The only artwork that lets things down a bit is the cover. The scene, which is not a snow scene at all, is a jarring match against the title “Snowbound”. Fischer in a winter scene of some sort (fighting in the snow as Snowbound or fleeing on his skis, for example) would have worked far better. Also, it is not very inspiring, showing someone’s back against a seaplane. Surely Commando could have produced a more exciting cover.
Ultimately, Brandt’s madness leads to his own destruction (what other kind of destruction is there?). His insanity, when a cool head would serve him far more, is also why he is not all that good at seriously crushing the heart of the Resistance. We see this twice, first with the suspect and then discovering the Resistance in the fjord. In both cases he throws a golden opportunity away by turning into a raving loony instead of keeping his head and using his brains more. He lost the suspect as a source of valuable information by just killing him in a rage instead of looking for other means to make him talk. When he spots the Resistance activity in the fjord, at first he does things right by observing it discreetly. But once he sees Fischer, he goes crazy again and starts blasting, alerting everyone to his presence and opening up their own fire. Even when he’s being fired upon and losing men, he recklessly chases after Fischer, not thinking or caring he’s only one man who’s outgunned and outnumbered. That sort of conduct would most likely get him killed, and it did. If the Oberst had been watching, it is hardly likely he would have been impressed.
The ultimate irony is, by compelling Fischer to desert and then to fight, it was the psycho Brandt who turned him from loyal German soldier to the Resistance fighter Snowbound. If Fischer had been transferred to, say, a front instead of Brandt, things could well have taken a far different turn for him. No turning away from the Reich once he’d seen what monsters it was producing, no desertion, no joining the Resistance, and still fighting for Germany, but for Germany rather than the Reich.
Cathy Sampson lives for running – which she does barefoot. It’s her only joy in the miserable life she leads with her parents (or foster parents, as they referred to at one point). They treat her worse than Speed, their racing greyhound, who gets expensive steak to keep fit for racing, whereas Cathy gets a cheap diet. Living off Speed’s winnings is the only way they live, as neither of them are bothered to work. But even Speed is prone to being ill-treated.
Cathy’s ambition is to join the local athletics club and beat the local champion, Helen Douglas. Helen and her fellow athletes have heard of Cathy, but they, along with the rest of the neighbourhood, look down on her because she lives in a slum house and her parents, known as “the smelly Sampsons”, have a bad reputation. As a result, Cathy has no friends, except for Speed. Cathy also has a reputation among the athletes as a wild girl, and she is tagged with the moniker “common”, which comes as much as from her spending so much time on the common as the way she lives.
Cathy uses her time on the common to train secretly while helping Speed to do the same; training Speed is something her parents constantly lumber her with. She has also learned how to forage for nutritious food growing there to compensate for her home diet, which is hardly suitable for training on. In the garden, she has a secret stash of money, which are her savings to join the club.
One day, Helen and the other athletes drop by Cathy on the common and tease her. Cathy gets her own back by setting Speed on Helen. She then chases after Helen herself, and discovers she is a match for Helen and could even best her. Unfortunately, Helen has realised it too, which sets the stage for what follows: not allowing Cathy to prove it to the club or overtake her as local champion.
After her race against Helen, Cathy heads to the club to get the enrolment form for joining up. But Dad finds her secret stash for the joining fee, which all goes on steak for Speed, of course. However, after reading the enrolment form, Cathy discovers that if she can demonstrate exceptional talent, she can join without a fee. The club secretary, Mr Bennett, is a bit reluctant, as this rule is seldom applied, but eventually agrees to Cathy’s deal: if she beats Helen, she can join. What can be more exceptional than beating the club champion? The race is set for the following day.
Helen isn’t having this, and knowing Cathy could beat her, tries to make trouble for her by reporting Speed’s attack to the police. The police warn Cathy’s parents that Speed will be destroyed if there is another complaint. This really gets their backs up as they depend on Speed for their livelihood. They go around to Helen’s place to read out the riot act to her and her family, and the scene they make gets really ugly. Mr Bennett, after seeing their conduct, is put off allowing Cathy to join, and she realises it. It looks like Cathy’s parents have ruined things for her again.
Cathy decides to go back to apologise for her parents’ conduct. There she meets Mrs Mirren, who agrees to pull a few strings. However, Dad is so angry at Cathy going back to apologise that he forces her and Speed through extra-hard training, which leaves her too exhausted to perform well against Helen, and she fails the test.
However, Mrs Mirren can’t forget Cathy and has Helen take her around to Cathy’s place. She is appalled to see the house Cathy lives in and senses Cathy is in desperate need of money to join. Cathy sees them approach. She doesn’t know if it’s jeers or second thoughts, but eventually assumes it’s the former. Meanwhile, Dad sees them both off with Speed. Mrs Mirren still won’t forget Cathy, so Helen is desperate to find a way to put her off Cathy altogether.
Deciding money is the problem, Mrs Mirren decides to loan Cathy the money for the joining fee, encloses a note to join in time for the inter-club competition on Saturday, and has Helen deliver it. But, as Helen plans, Cathy’s parents pocket the money, which they intend to put on Speed’s race the following day. When Cathy asks questions, the parents spin a lie that Mrs Mirren doesn’t think she’d make a runner and sent 25p to feed her up as she looks skinny. Cathy’s left heartbroken and raging at Mrs Mirren for such an insult. Meanwhile, Helen tricks Mrs Mirren into thinking Cathy conned her out of the money. Now both mistakenly thinks badly of the other.
Then, a newspaper informs Cathy that Mrs Mirren is one of Britain’s top coaches and Helen is one of her discoveries. This renews Cathy’s hopes of beating Helen and getting her chance. Meanwhile, back at the stadium, which is also used for the greyhound racing, Mrs Mirren discovers how horrible Cathy’s parents are to Speed. He’s lost the race and the money they put on him, and they’re beating him. She then overhears them rage on how they lost all that money they took from Cathy and now suspects the truth.
Sensing Mrs Mirren has overheard them, the parents make fast tracks for home and silence Cathy, fearing Mrs Mirren will come asking questions. But Cathy overhears Mrs Mirren asking what happened to the money she sent for the joining fee. The parents try to fob Mrs Mirren off with more lies, which she doesn’t believe, but she can’t do much without seeing Cathy. Cathy, of course, now realises her parents have tricked her and is desperate to explain to Mrs Mirren, but doesn’t know where to find her. After making enquiries, Cathy realises her only hope of finding Mrs Mirren is the championship on Saturday. But when Cathy sees the crowds at the event, she realises finding Mrs Mirren will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Then, when Cathy sees Helen running in the 800 metres, she gets a crazy idea on how to get Mrs Mirren’s attention. There’s nothing to lose, anyway. She jumps straight in and races after the competitors. The spectators are initially angry at Cathy gatecrashing the race, but they soon start cheering at her amazing speed, how she’s narrowing the gap and “going through them like a hot knife through butter” – and doing it barefoot! And this time, Cathy beats Helen.
Of course, Cathy’s win isn’t official, so the medal goes to Helen. But it’s a hollow victory for her because she’s been beaten at last, and Cathy is the hero of the event. She’s made her point, gotten Mrs Mirren’s attention, and soon explains what her parents did. Mrs Mirren replies that she guessed as much. Mrs Mirren not only takes over Helen’s training but her welfare too, so Cathy leaves her horrible parents forever. Sadly, Speed’s still in their clutches, and Cathy can only hope he wins enough to keep safe from ill-treatment.
This story was published in the weeks leading up to the June merge with Tammy on 22 June 1974 and ended, along with all the other running Tammy serials, the week before the merger. Yet it does not give the impression it is intended as a filler story, even if it was. The length of eight episodes feels right, and the pacing is good. Nothing feels rushed or underdeveloped. It would have worked well as a reprint in an annual somewhere.
Common Cathy was one of many serials to follow the Cinderella format, but it does have some differences from the formula, which makes it refreshing. The main one is that there is no wicked stepsister/cousin who gets the lion’s share in everything at the expense of our ill-used Cinderella protagonist. Instead, there’s a dog who gets the lion’s share of the food expense, but he’s far from spoiled. In fact, he’s as liable to be as ill-treated as Cathy herself. He’s only there for profit and income, and the parents don’t care any more for him than they do for Cathy. His racing is the only means of income for the parents, who are too lazy to work, but his winnings are subject to hit and miss, and he suffers if it’s a miss. And he serves not only as Cathy’s friend but also in helping her to become the speedster that she hopes will be her salvation from her miserable life.
Cathy does not seem to be as much of a drudge as other Cinderella protagonists, such as Bella Barlow. For example, we don’t see her being forced to do all the work her parents are too lazy to do. The drudgery seems to be more focused on training Speed, as her father is too lazy to do it, and getting the leavings of the food expense. She is also very innovative in how she makes up for the poor diet she gets at home, so she is not underfed as some Cinderella protagonists are. But there is no question she is not well treated, and the RSPCA ought to have serious concerns about Speed too.
The parents’ nickname, “the smelly Sampsons”, sure makes us laugh. It’s not quite clear if it’s their B.O., their slum house or what, but there is no denying they are stinkers in everything they say and do. They would live better than they do if they made their own income instead of depending on Speed’s racing, but they are too lazy for that. It’s surprising they are not involved in any criminal activities, given the type of people they are.
Again, we have abusive parents that are not punished in any way for how they treated Cathy. But what’s even more concerning is that they still have Speed. Mrs Mirren has seen for herself that they mistreat the dog, but nothing is done in that regard. Being left on the hope Speed will win enough to stay safe is not very reassuring, especially as Cathy is no longer there to train him. The story would have ended on a much happier note if Speed had been removed from his abusive owners and maybe come along with Cathy.
A race to win is always an exciting resolution to any serial, and making it unofficial, with Cathy crashing the race out of desperation rather than being officially entered, makes it even more so. Seeing Helen seething over a hollow victory and a medal that means nothing while Cathy is cheered as the real winner gives us a whole lot more satisfaction than seeing Cathy claim an official victory and the medal. Moreover, Cathy not being officially entered in the race gives Helen no time for dirty tricks, as she’s been taken by surprise. Readers would be reading Cathy’s race to win over and over.
Temper, Temper Tina! (artist Giorgio Giorgetti) – final episode
Sarita in Uniform (artist Diane Gabbot(t))
The Fire’s Warning (artist Tony Highmore) – Guy Fawkes Strange Story
Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)
Molly Mills and the School for Servants – first episode (artist Douglas Perry, Maureen Spurgeon)
Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
Guitar Girl (artist Angeles Felices) – final episode
Spring To It! – Edie’s Hobbyhorse
We now come to the Tammy Guy Fawkes issue for 1979. This was the last Guy Fawkes cover for the Cover Girls. This time the following year, they were gone.
Inside, Bessie, Wee Sue, Edie, the Strange Story and the Tammy Talk page all honour the 5th of November. Even the last episode of Guitar Girl does the same, but in a more frightening way. The spiteful Sabrina tries to burn Jacey’s guitar on the bonfire climaxing the birthday party they are both entertaining at. Jacey nearly gets herself burned alive clambering the bonfire to retrieve it!
Tina’s story ends, with her learning that trying to conceal her family (in a derelict house?!) was a very foolish, misguided way to keep them from being split up when her mother fell ill, and her actions were only bringing her troubles on herself. Once everyone helps her to handle the problem the right way, everything is far better for her, including the temper that has been her bane since the beginning of the story.
Sarita in Uniform is evidently nearing its end, for her secret is out! What’s going to happen now? Meanwhile, Bella dodges another close shave in keeping her own secret safe, but here comes another threat to it – blackmail!
Molly Mills starts a new story, “The School for Servants”. What school for servants? So far we haven’t see any school for servants, just some new guests at Stanton Hall – but Molly suspects there’s something odd about them.
Just when Moira and Lindy have sorted out their misunderstanding, along comes another one – Moira thinks Lindy’s tricked her into a lousy kitchen job on the ship. Oh dear, here we go again – one very angry Moira out to make trouble for Lindy! Is Moira going to be “My Terrible Twin” for Lindy with all these misunderstandings right up until the final episode? It could well be the case.