Category Archives: 1971

“They Call Me a Coward!” (1971)

Sample images

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Published: June and School Friend 3 July – 28 August 1971

Artist: Leslie Otway

Writer: Unknown

Sometimes we discuss non-Jinty serials, provided the entry is discussed within the confines of Jinty context. Such is the case here. Recently I came across this story from June and School Friend, and was immediately struck with the parallels it shares with “Waves of Fear”: a girl is bullied at school after being accused of cowardice in the wake of an accident; her enemies gang up to get her expelled; she is pushed too far and runs off in pouring rain; then comes a turn of events that puts things right. It could well be it was the same writer.

Plot

Cathy Price has a terrible fear of heights (acrophobia). So when Sue Dawson is clinging to a cliff top and in need of rescue, Cathy is too overcome by her phobia to help. Sue falls and is soon having life-or-death surgery. Following this, the girls at school call Cathy a coward and start bullying her. Leading them are Brenda Smith and her crony Marion, who are always causing trouble for somebody one way or other in any case.  Cathy’s best friend Lynn Greenway is shunning her as well – at first.

The bullies’ taunts drive Cathy back to the cliff, where she tries to prove herself by trying to climb the cliff this time. But again her fear overwhelms her. The bullies dangle her over the cliff and then leave her on the grass. When Cathy returns to school the bullies throw her in the shower with the water set to hottest because they think she is sneaking on them. Lynn rescues Cathy and almost picks a fight with the bullies until a teacher intervenes. Following this, Lynn becomes Cathy’s defender against the bullies. Lynn also cops some of the bullying as well. On a school trip Brenda and Marion push into her into the pool at the aquarium, which puts Lynn in danger from a killer whale and she can’t swim. Mr Withers rescues her, and she tells Cathy not to beat herself up for not being able to do something herself, commenting that those two bullies didn’t do any heroics either.

Cathy’s parents do not know what is going on. Cathy does not tell them because she is too ashamed, and also because they become stressed when Dad is suddenly made redundant and money gets tight. Cathy’s paper round helps make ends meet, but she loses the job because she is too upset about the trouble at school to do the job right. So Cathy takes an evening job in a café, but the extra work is soon taking its toll and interfering with homework. She loses sleep and is getting exhausted at school. Mum finds out about Cathy’s evening job and tells her to stop it because it is affecting her schoolwork. Cathy continues regardless because the family needs the money, but gets her wages docked when she accidentally breaks a stack of plates.

At school Brenda picks another fight with Cathy and they are hauled up before the headmistress. Brenda refuses to shake hands as ordered; she calls Cathy a coward and a disgrace to the school. The headmistress, who does not know what happened either, eventually gets the whole story out of Cathy. She handles it compassionately, telling Cathy that you don’t always succeed at being a hero, and how many people would be heroes when it comes to the crunch? The headmistress then has a word with Brenda, but it only makes the situation worse because afterwards Brenda tells Cathy that they are now out to really fix her.

Next day, Cathy finds out what Brenda means: the girls are now trying to get her expelled with a protest demonstration and threats of strike action. Worse, the press have gotten wind of it. The headmistress sends Cathy home while they try to sort it out. Form teacher Mr Withers assures Cathy that everything will be all right in the end.

Cathy is too ashamed to tell her parents or pass over the note from the headmistress. Then, when Cathy hears a newsflash reporting the trouble at school, she is so terrified that she runs away – in pouring rain. Her dog Spot follows and gets injured. The vet is closed, so Cathy takes Spot to the hospital. She discovers Sue has pulled through surgery and is on the mend. She goes in to see Sue and finds Sue wants to be friends with her. However, Cathy knows she will continue to be branded a coward and runs off again.

Then Cathy sees a young girl about to be attacked by a vicious guard dog. Without thinking, she jumps in to save the girl, but takes a bad mauling in the process. Now Cathy is quite the heroine and considered as having redeemed herself. The headmistress says it is safe for Cathy to return and there will be no more trouble. Indeed, all the girls cheer Cathy when she returns, including Brenda. The girl’s father is so grateful for the rescue that he gives Cathy’s father a job.

Thoughts

As stated before, this story shares a number of parallels with Jinty’s “Waves of Fear”. There are differences, of course. First, it is a phobia that stops Cathy from rescuing Sue and consequently being branded a coward, not an outright medical condition as it was in “Waves of Fear”. It is akin to how Marnie’s hydrophobia prevented her from going to the rescue of a drowning child in part one of “Cursed to be a Coward!”. This means Cathy has to redeem herself for her initial failure a whole lot more than Clare does if she is to shake off the “coward” label and the bullying is to stop. Not to mention assuaging the dreadful feelings of shame and guilt she is suffering in the wake of the accident.

Second is the focus of the bullying. It is confined exclusively to the classmates, which seems a bit unbelievable. One would think the story would filter through to other quarters of the town, as it does in “Waves of Fear”. And it is a bit strange that Cathy’s parents remain ignorant of the whole affair, even if Cathy is too ashamed to tell them. One would expect them to hear rumours or gossip of some sort.

The vendettas to get the protagonists expelled is motivated by revenge, but it differs in whose idea it is. In “Waves of Fear” the accident girl’s aggrieved parents demand the expulsion, which the headmistress refuses. Word leaks out and the chief bully takes up the task because of a personal grudge. In Cathy’s case the drive to get her expelled is motivated by pure spite from the ringleaders Brenda and Marion. Sue’s parents don’t compound the trouble at all.

Third is how the school tries to deal with the bullying. In “Waves of Fear” the school staff know about Clare being bullied. But they don’t do a thing about it and show no regard for Clare’s welfare or the bullying getting out of hand. In Cathy’s case the headmistress and teachers show deep concern for Cathy. They are extremely worried about the trouble and  what could happen if it does not blow over, though they could have taken much sterner action against it. The headmistress actually takes a non-judgemental approach with Cathy over the matter that is most impressive. The headmistress in “Waves of Fear” does not sound that wise or kind; in fact we hear it is unlike her to even pay compliments! And Lynn must be praised for her courage and empathy coming over to defending Cathy because she feels the bullying is going too far. Clare never had anyone like that at school to help her against the bullies.

Fourth is the trouble at home that both Clare and Cathy have to contend with on top of the trauma and guilt over the accidents and the bullying they are suffering at school. In Clare’s case it is because her parents have become a pair of ogres and turned against her because they also think she’s a coward. In Cathy’s case the parents don’t even know about the matter. It is the emotional and financial stress over the father’s redundancy and Cathy exhausting herself to help make ends meet that creates the domestic problems on top of her bullying problem. At least Cathy has someone to support her at home – her dog Spot. Clare doesn’t even have a pet to lean on during her troubled time.

Fifth is the ways in which the protagonists confront their fears. They both return to the scene of the accident to try to do so – only to be attacked by the bullies. This particular parallel does suggest the same writer for both stories. However, the ways in which they finally handle their fears is quite different. In Clare’s case she has to fight her fear (claustrophobia, which has intensified into a mental illness) all the way to rescuing her friend from the cave she is trapped in. This is regarded as the first step in recovering from her illness. In the case of Cathy, saving a child from a dangerous dog has nothing to do with her acrophobia. It was a matter of not giving in to fear itself. In fact, Cathy didn’t think about fear – she just jumped in without thinking. There is no indication of Cathy overcoming her fear of heights. The story goes for something less clichéd; Cathy just accepts that she’ll always be scared of some things. After all, she is only human.

There is a nice touch in having Cathy tell the story herself. This gives the story a more personal perspective, for it is told in the protagonist’s own words and gives insights into how the protagonist is thinking and feeling throughout the story. Having a serial being told in the first person is not unknown in girls’ comics though it was not used much. The only two Jinty stories that had the protagonist narrate her own story were “Wenna the Witch” and “Pam of Pond Hill“.

First Tammy Ever Published: 6 February 1971

Tammy 6 February 1971 reprint
First Tammy cover: reprint
Tammy 6 February 1971
First Tammy cover: original
  • The Secret of Trebaran – first episode (artist Giorgio Cambiotti)
  • The Girls of Liberty Lodge – first episode (artist Dudley Pout)
  • Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” – first episode (artist Desmond Walduck, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • Dawn and Kerry Double for Trouble – first episode (artist Giorgio Letteri, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • “Our Janie” – Little Mum – first episode (artist Colin Merritt)
  • Betina at Ballet School – first episode
  • My Father – My Enemy! – first episode
  • Courier Carol – first episode (artist Jean Sidobre)
  • Glen (later called Glen – A Lonely Dog on a Quest) – first episode (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Tammy Club Page – Feature
  • Castaways on Voodoo Island – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
  • No Tears for Molly – first episode (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Cats and Kittens – Feature

Recently we had an entry for the last Tammy ever published. So it is seems appropriate that there should be one for the first Tammy as well.

The cheery blond girl who greets us on the cover (which has far better colouring than its 2009 facsimile reprint) belies the content that is waiting inside. For Pat Mills and Gerry Finley-Day intended that Tammy would revolutionise girls’ comics, which more typically went for stories about ballet, school and ponies. Instead, Tammy would lead a revolution by going for the dark side of comics. She would print stories filled with suffering, misery, cruelty, and pushing the envelope with over-the-top ways to torture the heroines. Parents and teachers hated it, which was a sure sign it was working.

Tammy 4

Tammy’s welcome to her readers stated: “…for the whole gang of us here have tried to make it the kind of picture-story paper we think you want…I just hope we’ve succeeded and that you’ll go on reading and enjoying Tammy every week”.

They must have succeeded – sales of Tammy skyrocketed, and it would blaze the trail for the early Jinty, and Action and Battle.

The first story that readers see when they open the issue is a supernatural story, “The Secret of Trebaran”, which is quite a blend of time travel, evil sorcerer and period story. Trudy Smith thinks her holiday in Cornwall is as dull as ditch water – until she comes across a mysterious medallion that sends her travelling back in time to when the island of Trebaran was a thriving community instead of the ruin it is today, and nobody knows why it ended up that way. Trudy is about to become part of that mystery, of course. But it’s already threatening to get her burned at the stake for witchcraft when Puritans encounter her tape recorder and hear what it can do!

Tammy 1
The Girls of Liberty Lodge

The next story is the first of the stories in the pioneering dark side, “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”. We meet Miss Steele, the bully headmistress of Hardington Hall, whose ideas of discipline are put girls on ‘trial’ in a kangaroo court in front of the whole school. Good grief! Miss Valentine, the only kind teacher in the whole school, is so appalled that she quits to start her own school, Liberty Lodge, which is set up as the antithesis of Hardington Hall. But Miss Steele is not having that, and is determined to bring down Liberty Lodge any way she can.

Story three is the Queen of Cruelty in Tammy’s lineup – “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. This story is regarded as perhaps the cruellest strip ever in girls’ comics. Ma Thatcher (named for the future Prime Minister) takes in war orphans, ostensibly to give them a home for the duration of WW2. In reality, she forces them to work in a quarry and contracts them out as slave labour to other farmers.

“Dawn and Kerry” takes a break from the cruelty with two good friends who turn into sleuths when they get caught in a storm and have to take shelter in a creepy hall, Whispering Heights. They meet a girl who seems to be a prisoner of the place, and now they are prisoners themselves!

Tammy 2
Slaves of “War Orphan Farm”

The fourth story, “‘Our Janie – Little Mum!’”, returns to the suffering. Janie Greaves has been mother to the family since Mum died, but now more tragedy is tearing the family apart. Dad has been landed in hospital with serious injuries, social welfare is threatening to split the family up, and now her brother’s being arrested!

The first lineup of a new girls’ comic just wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, and “Betina at Ballet School” is it. Betina Brooks wins a scholarship to a ballet school. But snobbery is against her – and it’s coming from the teachers. This story would spawn an early Tammy sequel, “Betina and the Haunted Ballet”.

“My Father – My Enemy!” delves into the horrors of Victorian exploitation and child labour with Mr Jeffries, who cares nothing for the suffering of his miners and their families. But his daughter Julie is more compassionate and she goes against her own father to do what she can to help them.

“Courier Carol” is the only story in the Tammy lineup to have any humour. Carol Jones and her uncle run a coach tour with a difference – a vintage coach that picks up a lot of laughs on the way. But they pick up trouble too, in the form of a rival coach business run by the man who had tried to buy them out.

Humour and hijinks are definitely short in the first lineup; there isn’t even a cartoon feature starring a “funny”. If there is one problem with the first Tammy stories, it is that they lean too heavily towards stories filled with suffering, hardship and cruelty. There is little counterbalance in the form of laughs and light relief. The first Jinty, though she would have her share of dark, cruel stories with tortured heroines (especially “Merry at Misery House”), she would include more humour and slapstick in her first lineup than the first Tammy lineup did.

Tammy 3
Courier Carol

And it soon gets back to it with “Glen” (later called “Glen – A Dog on a Lonely Quest”). Glen is an abused dog (yes, more cruelty) who sets out to find the girl who saved him when his abusive owner tried to drown him. And the girl’s name is June – coincidence or what?

The facsimile reprint reproduces only page one of the Tammy Club from the original. The editor knew readers would want one, and Susie is the secretary who presents the details on how to join and what to expect.

The reprint also omits the next story, “Castaways on Voodoo Island”, for some reason. Perhaps it is because this story is considered a weak one. Girls find themselves castaways on an island where they fall foul of a weird witch doctor. At least it makes a change from being tortured and abused by bullies and slave drivers.

Tammy 5
No Tears for Molly

Finally, we come to the story where the heroine would endure no less than 10 years of cruelty, abuse, bullying and suffering in Tammy. These would include being tied up and beaten, locked in a flood dungeon, freezing cold duckings in a lake, and being clamped in the stocks, would you believe? She would end up holding a joint record with Bella Barlow as Tammy’s longest running character. This is, of course, Molly Mills, a 1920s maidservant. She has the bad luck to arrive at the same time as bully butler Pickering, who would become her arch-nemesis at Stanton Hall. Her strip was originally entitled “No Tears for Molly” and the title would stick several years, despite the fact that it is a complete misnomer. Right from the very first episode we see Molly crying. No tears for Molly, huh? And now she’s been sacked too, because of a dirty trick from the other two maids who are destined to give her more trouble in the years to come. As if Pickering wasn’t bad enough!