Category Archives: Stories

Tammy 9 April 1977

Tammy cover 9 April 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Witch Hazel (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Copper’s Kid (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Elephant and Castle Case (artist John Armstrong) – Strange Story
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the War Games (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode
  • Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Katie on Thin Ice (artist John Armstrong) – final episode
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White)

We continue honouring the upcoming Easter season with Tammy’s Easter issue from 1977. Strangely, we have just one Cover Girl this week. Her daydream is about to send sticky goo from her Easter egg all over her head, and big sis is not around (for once) to handle the situation – or laugh at it, maybe?

Poor Bessie Bunter does not fare much better. To her mind, Easter is “Feaster”, but what she gets is far from feasting. She does not have enough money for a decent Easter egg. She tries to run away to Easter Island in the mistaken belief she would find one there. But all she gets in the end is a boiled egg because she missed her tea.

Edie goes egg-rolling, and her egg ends up going all over Farmer Grump, who really is a grump. Moreover, she forgot to hard-boil it, so he’s even grumpier. But not Edie, who still has her chocolate Easter egg.

Sue’s school is chosen to appear on a community singing TV programme at Easter. But Miss Bigger is threatening to ruin it and not only with her terrible singing voice – she’s also over-dressed herself in an Easter outfit.

There is no Bella Barlow. Instead, John Armstrong has been drawing a period story, “Katie on Thin Ice”, probably because ice-skating is such a feature in the story. Katie Williams has fallen foul of a Fagin-style racket run by Mrs Winter, who also forces her to use her ice-skating skills to commit crimes. And now Mrs Winter is out for murder by sending the whole ice fair under the ice with salt. Katie has to stop Mrs Winter and save her imperilled friends while keeping ahead of the authorities who are out to arrest her. Katie is replaced by a ballet story next week, “The Dance Dream”, so still no Bella.

John Armstrong is also drawing this week’s Strange Story, which has some reference to Easter, but even more to Sherlock Holmes. Joan Watson is sent to take her mother’s necklace to Baker Street for re-stringing, but she loses it. Then she gets knocked down by a car, and goes into a garbled dream (or something) where Sherlock Holmes himself offers his services to help locate the necklace. When Joan wakes up, the dream has given her enough clues to track down the necklace.

“Witch Hazel” is a Catweazle-type story where a 16th century witch named Hazel comes to the 20th century to learn witchcraft, and does not understand that she’s in the wrong century for witchcraft. Hazel’s first day in a 20th school is taking the science teacher by surprise: she demonstrates alchemy! Then Hazel reacts with horror at the sight of the school gym. Does she think it’s a torture chamber or something?

“Towne in the Country”, which had started out as Tammy’s answer to “All Creatures Great and Small”, took a jarring change of tack when Val Towne sets out to find her father, who had failed to return from an African expedition. This would have been better as two different serials. At any rate, Val and her companions have now been captured by a hostile African tribe. And from the looks of the idol they have been brought to, they are to be sacrificed to the tribe’s god.

Gill Warden has been having a hard time being accepted in the village her policeman father has been transferred to. They call her “copper’s kid”, but now there’s another reason for their hostility: they are hiding a secret from her, and they will only show it to her if she agrees to be blindfolded while they escort her.

Stanton Hall has been taken over by soldiers – but then Molly finds out they are criminals planning to spring their buddies out of jail. It’s Molly’s quick wits and resourcefulness to find a way to outwit them.

“The Dream House” was reprinted in Princess II. It is far from dreamy, though – it’s an evil doll house that is progressively taking away all the older members of the household, and the two youngest children are helping it for some reason.


Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit [1983]

Sample Images

Mr Evans 1Mr Evans 2Mr Evans 3

Published: Princess II, #1 (24 September 1983) to #12 (10 December 1983)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Photostory

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None

In keeping with the Easter season, we present this rabbit-themed story from Princess II.


Jenny Andrews’ father is a children’s entertainer, but ever since his wife died his heart has not been in it. It gives him too many reminders of his late wife, plus he has also grown cynical about child audiences. As he can’t work properly no money is coming in for the rent, and eviction is imminent.

Dad does manage to perform at a children’s party at the Mortimers’ house. Jenny goes out into the garden to set up the puppet show. She is surprised to find a rabbit in a garden pen talking to her. At first she thinks it is her father’s ventriloquism, but the rabbit says he is in fact Arthur Evans, owner of the local joke/magic shop, who has been missing for weeks. He unwisely tried out a book of spells he found in the market and unwittingly turned himself into a rabbit. He retained the ability to talk, which he hides because he fears people will exploit him. He opened up to Jenny because he feels he can trust her, and he begs for her help to get him back to normal.

When Mr Evans does talk he is very disagreeable and ill-mannered. As a human he was an old grouch and even his wife calls him a “miserable old so-and-so”. As a rabbit he is not much better, but he does have more reason to be irritable considering his ordeal, especially after being imprisoned in the pen. It does not sound like the Mortimer children have treated him well either. When Mrs Mortimer pulls the rabbit’s ears, he protests in a justified but very offensive manner: “Let go, you stupid old bag!” Mrs Mortimer thinks it’s Jenny’s ventriloquism and sends Mr Andrews packing without payment (now we know where the bratty Mortimer kids get it from). So no money for the rent from that job, which means they’re even closer to eviction.

Mr Evans escapes and hitches a ride to the Andrews’ place. There Mr Andrews is so desperate for food and no money for it that he wants to eat the rabbit. The rabbit objects to that of course: “You’ve got to get me out of here before I end up sharing a plate with potatoes and two veg!” He tells Jenny. Mr Andrews assumes it’s Jenny’s much-improved ventriloquism.

Jenny and Mr Evans go to the joke shop for the book, but Mrs Evans has sold it and has no clue as to who bought it. She is not missing her husband much because he was such a misery boots. Mr Evans takes money from the till (hiding it in his mouth) to pay for groceries to keep the Andrews household fed. He does not regard it as stealing. “It’s my shop, my till, and my money! I can’t steal from myself, can I?” he tells Jenny. Yes, but tell the police that. When Mrs Evans discovers the missing money she assumes Jenny trained up the rabbit to steal it, and it’s in the newspaper: “Rabbit Steals Cash!”

The Mortimers come looking for the rabbit, which they correctly suspect got away with Mr Andrews. Mr Andrews pulls a magic hat trick to confuse them and keep the rabbit safe from them. “Squashed me a bit though,” says Mr Evans. “My back’s aching.”

Then grief overtakes Mr Andrews again. He is in no mental state to do a booked show, and they badly need the money from it. So Jenny decides to do the show herself, with the help of Mr Evans. At first he is reluctant because of the child audience: “…I loathe children – smelly, sticky, noisy little brats the lot of them. Always poking and breaking things. Definitely no!” However, Jenny persuades him otherwise. The show is such a success that Jenny is paid a bonus.

Mr Evans can smell other rabbits in the house, and says they are terrified. No wonder – they are being kept in a pen, waiting to be taken to the father’s research station for experimentation. Mr Evans goes into the pen to help them while the pen is not properly secured: “Hey, chaps – now’s your chance to make a break!” This only has Mr Evans get muddled up with them and Jenny takes the wrong rabbit. Later, Mr Evans manages to escape himself, but then he gets caught in a trap.

It doesn’t take Jenny long to realise she has the wrong rabbit, and when she goes back she discovers Mr Evans’ escape and does not know where to find him. Meanwhile, Jenny’s father gets a TV talent entrepreneur to come and listen to Jenny’s ventriloquism act, but her pathetic efforts make him look an idiot. He does not realise the talking rabbit was not her ventriloquism and the rabbit she has is not Mr Evans.

Eventually Jenny finds Mr Evans and frees him from the trap, but he becomes really ill. The vet says the rabbit has a heart condition, and if he were human he would receive hospital treatment, but as he is a rabbit he will have to be put to sleep. Of course this is not an option for Mr Evans. They need the book of spells more than ever now, so they start advertising for it.

The advertising gets no response until Dad gives Jenny the book of spells for a birthday present. So it was in the house all the time!

Dad comes over to believing Mr Evans the talking rabbit is for real and lends a hand with the counter spell. Unfortunately something goes wrong. Mr Evans starts growing into a monstrous giant rabbit, which sends the landlady into faint.

Jenny and her father finally get the magic right and Mr Evans returns to human form. The landlady assumes the giant rabbit must have been one of her dizzy turns. Mr Evans now hopes to make money out of the book, but it has been conveniently reduced to ashes. “Blast!”

Mr Evans can now receive the hospital treatment he needs. He even gets his wife to believe what happened and how the money really got taken from the shop till, so Jenny is cleared. As Mr Andrews is no longer up to entertaining, Mr Evans offers him a job as manager of his joke shop because he is going to retire and take his wife on a world cruise. Mind you, Mr Evans is still a grouchy man, and he is not pleased to be given a salad lunch in hospital: “Oh no – not more lettuce!” Just when he thought he was free of rabbit greens.


Few photo stories in girls’ comics are remembered today, but there seems to be some lingering memory for this one, even if it is a bit bonkers. This has to be due to Mr Evans himself. There is no doubt he is the star of the show. Every time he speaks in his rude, tetchy, sourpuss manner it makes you laugh out loud because it’s so funny. You just have to love it, and for this reason I’ve put up examples throughout the entry.

The story would be far less effective if Mr Evans talked in a more nondescript or formal manner. And for all his cranky ways, he is simply loveable – at least when he is a rabbit – because he’s a rabbit, and rabbits are so cute. “You were impossible as a rabbit,” says Jenny. “I can’t begin to think what you’d be like as a donkey or an elephant!” But that’s what makes it so funny. The juxtaposition of a cute rabbit talking in such a crabby uncivil manner is simply hilarious. His grouchiness makes him less likeable when he is a human, yet endearing as a rabbit. It’s ironic that an old sourpuss like him runs a joke shop.

We can just see the laughs the grouchy talking rabbit would raise if the story were televised, and it would make a delightful children’s programme.

Mr Evans’ surly disposition does not improve much as a rabbit. He is rude even to Jenny when he reaches out to her for help. In some ways he does have reason to be snappy: “You’d be a grouch too, if you’d been turned into a rabbit, lived in a hutch outside in all weathers, been thought of as a tasty meal, and then cuddled like some revolting pet!” Yes, he sure has been through quite an ordeal since he became a rabbit, and being turned into a rabbit must have been very traumatic. It certainly is not very comfortable: “It’s hot, wearing a fur coat all the time!” Added to that is his growing heart condition, which would hardly help his disposition. He becomes even more sympathetic when his illness is diagnosed, so now his very life depends on finding the book of spells and reversing the spell.

Mr Evans’ experiences as a rabbit do open his heart more to other animals. For example, when he encounters the research lab rabbits he thinks “Never thought I’d feel sorry for a bunch of rabbits!”, which shows how much he had thought about animal welfare before. That’s not to say he is a heartless man; his offering Mr Andrews a job shows he’s not such a bad old stick, even if he is a grump. He does not even mind (well at least he doesn’t object) when Jenny tells him how impossible he is, even when he becomes human again.

Mr Evans’ disposition would be projected far better if the story had been drawn. We could really see his surliness brought to life with say, lines and storm clouds around his head indicating anger. This would also bring in even more humour to the story. And his growth to giant rabbit proportions would be brought off far more effectively. Indeed, the story itself would be far better off being a picture story rather than a photo story.

It’s not surprising that Mr Evans’ adventures as a rabbit are a vehicle into the exploration of animal abuse and animal welfare. It begins with Mr Evans being abused by the Mortimer family, and comes up again with the caged rabbits bound for the research lab. Mr Evans even tries to encourage those rabbits into a jailbreak, but they don’t understand him.

When heroines in girls’ comics work in the entertainment business, they are as a rule quite proactive heroines and Jenny is no exception. She may not have enough experience or talent to follow her father, but she is not afraid to speak her mind. Mr Andrews’ occupation (conjuror, clown, ventriloquist, puppeteer) also lends liveliness to the story; the best scene is where he uses the hat trick to hide Mr Evans. This shows what a good entertainer he is, and it’s a real shame he has lost his passion for it. We really hope he would regain it. He does not, but it’s a relief that he is going to get a job where his conjuring skills will be transferable. He will most certainly be a more pleasant man for customers to meet in the joke shop than Mr Evans.

Sally in a Shell [1976]

Sample Images

Sally in a Shell 1Sally in a Shell 2Sally in a Shell 3

Published: Tammy 4 September 1976 to 20 November 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Juan Garcia Quiros

Writer: Unknown. Terence Magee

Translations/reprints: None known


At Eastport holiday resort, the Shores run a deckchair hire business – with the younger daughter Sally doing all the work. Sally is the family drudge, mistreated and unloved by her father and her elder sister Dora. Although Dad metes out the abuse, Dora is the one at the root of it. She is a glamour puss who looks on Sally a nobody who is only fit to be the source of money that pays for her luxuries (posh clothes, ritzy social life, hobnobbing with the upper class etc). She is too lazy to lift a finger to pay for it herself – or do any work around the place, for that matter. In Sally’s words: “She gets all the gravy and I do all the donkey work.” The donkey work to pay for all the gravy.

Dora has Dad wrapped around her little finger and he does everything she tells him, including lumber Sally and hit her when she tries to speak out. For example, when Dad briefly protests against having Sally work nights in his new arcade in addition to the day work she does with the deck chairs, Dora tells him not to be so soft and it will make even more money. If she were his wife instead of his daughter, he would be the henpecked husband. In any case, like Dora, Dad has ambitions of making more money, rising to bigger things, and becoming somebody in this town.

So Sally is now forced to work nights at Dad’s new arcade as well as days as deckchair attendant. Her only friend is Mr Cliff, who runs the donkey rides.

As with other girls in similar serials, Sally has a talent to help keep her spirits up. In Sally’s case it is making ornaments and jewellery out of seashells. She tries to keep it a secret from her abusive family and find ways to fit it around all the drudgery. She hopes to make a living out of it in time and be able to leave her horrible home life. When Dora spots a new craft shop, “Nick Nacks”, she realises it could be the place to sell her wares.

The owner, Miss Hanning, agrees to take a look at Sally’s shell-craft. This does not please the shop assistant Edwina, a snooty, unpleasant type who looks on Sally as a scruff. Unfortunately it is at this point that Dad and Dora discover Sally’s shell-craft and smash it to pieces. Fortunately, people, including Mr Cliff, rally around to provide Sally with more shells. Sally uses them to make a sample for Miss Hanning. She is impressed and wants more for the shop.

Meanwhile, Dad tricks Mr Cliff into signing a contract that hands his donkey business over to him. Mr Cliff wrongly assumes that Sally was in on the plot to cheat him when in fact Dad and Dora took advantage of their friendship. Really, it’s his own fault for signing the contract without reading it first because he foolishly extended his trust of Sally to her family. As it is, Sally has now lost her only friend.

On the bright side, Sally discovers a secret cove that is crammed full of shells, which is a real treasure trove for her. Sally’s shell-craft starts selling at Nick Nacks, and it’s doing well. Sally takes the money from it to Mr Cliff to start a fund to buy his business back. This convinces him he misjudged Sally and they are friends again.

Unfortunately Dora soon discovers what Sally is doing with her shell-craft, and naturally wants to take advantage of it. She pretends to be nice to Sally in order to get Sally to make shell-craft for her, but Sally still wants to sell her shell-craft at Nick Nacks. Discovering Edwina’s dislike of Sally, Dora recruits her help in forging a letter from Miss Hanning that she is terminating her business with Sally. Sally falls for the trick while Miss Hanning thinks Sally has played her for a fool when she sees the Shores selling Sally’s shell-craft at a stall opposite her shop and stealing business from her.

Sally soon realises that Dora is only out make money out of her shells. Indeed, Dora and Dad have seized upon Sally’s shell-craft as the means to fulfil their ambitions to make their mark on the town. It isn’t long before Sally discovers the letter trick either (later still, she discovers Edwina’s role in it). And she finds out something else – Dad and Dora mean to buy out Miss Hanning’s shop. It’ll be easy pickings because she’s losing business because of the stall and, being asthmatic, her health is deteriorating because of it. In fact, she collapses altogether and is put in hospital.

Sally tries to warn Miss Hanning, but two thugs that Dad and Dora have hired stop her. Dad takes advantage of Miss Hanning’s weakened condition to have her sign her shop over to him. And Miss Hanning still thinks Sally is to blame for her troubles. Miss Hanning is put in a convalescent home and Sally has no idea where, so she can’t straighten things out with Miss Hanning.

Dad and Dora now keep Sally a prisoner in a squalid room, making shell-craft for them at a sweatshop pace. They even force her to work around the clock if necessary. The two thugs are her guards and the Shores plunder Sally’s secret cove for shells. Nick Nacks now reopens as “The Shell Shop”, a shop exclusive to Sally’s shell-craft. To add insult to injury, Sally discovers that Dora is stealing the credit for the shell-craft. And of course the exploitation is crushing Sally’s talent and making her lose her enthusiasm for it.

Mr Cliff assures Sally that the greed of her father and sister will catch up to them, and indeed it had started even before he said it. The new flush of money has Dora really going to town on buying extremely expensive items for her to show off in Eastport. Dad blanches at the bills rolling in for Dora’s new mink coat, valuable jewellery and the like. But Dora won’t listen to Dad’s protests that not even Sally’s shell-craft can make that kind of money and she will drive them into debt and bankruptcy at this rate.

Sally tries to make a run for it, but the thugs come after her. They set a pile of deck chairs on her with such force that her hands are all but crushed. Seeing this, Dora sacks the thugs. But she forces Sally to carry on with her shell-craft regardless of her damaged hands, although of course Sally’s hands are too now totally unfit for that.

Meanwhile, Edwina realises the Shores just used her, and now they have what they want from her they shove her out the door, without a job. She is annoyed that the “scruff” is still around; she had thought the purpose of the letter was to help achieve her desire to get rid of the “scruff”. She gets revenge by going to the convalescent home and setting the record straight with Miss Hanning herself (without confessing her role in it) and informing her that the Shores are abusing Sally.

Although Miss Hanning has not fully recovered, she bravely returns to check things out. When Miss Hanning shows up on the Shores’ doorstep, Dad quickly takes Sally out of the way to get more shells – but not before Sally leaves a message in shells saying “Help” for Miss Hanning to find. When Miss Hanning does, and sees the room Sally has been forced to work in, she becomes even more convinced the Shores are mistreating Sally. Dora shoves her out the door.

Miss Hanning heads for the cove, and soon finds Dad, Sally and Mr Cliff. Sally’s injured hands tell her all she needs to know, and Mr Cliff says he can act as a witness. Miss Hanning threatens Dad with the law for stealing shells from her privately owned cove (probably a bluff there!) unless he stops abusing Sally. The threat of the police scares him into agreeing to her demands. Without Sally bringing in the money, and what with Dora’s bills defeating the whole point of the exercise anyway, Dad is obliged to sell the arcade and shop to avoid bankruptcy. This enables Miss Hanning to get her shop back.

Sally gets a rather mealy-mouthed apology from Dad, who says: “It was your sister’s fault – she made me.” Yeah, like Dora actually forced him to constantly hit Sally, make her a drudge, and exploit her talent sweatshop-style.

A few days later, it’s back to square one with the deck-chair business for Dad. He blames Dora’s greed and has her working as the deckchair assistant now, although she finds it a great comedown: “Well you can bloomin’ well help me for once.” Well, at least Dad has finally found some backbone in how he handles Dora.

Sally’s hands are on the mend. She is eager to resume her shell-craft, and the first thing she wants to do with it is help Mr Cliff buy back his donkey business.


“Sally in a Shell” was one of the last Tammy stories to use the Cinderella theme, which had abounded in Tammy since her early days. From the mid-1970s onwards the Cinderella theme faded from Tammy, never to return. The exception was Bella Barlow, as her Cinderella story made her a regular character in Tammy.

The reasons for making Sally a drudge are better defined than some Cinderella serials. It’s all to indulge and pay for the high life her sister Dora wants to lead. Moreover, Dad and Dora have big plans to rise above the deckchair hire business and make themselves big in their hometown, and are ready to pounce on the first opportunity they see in order to get it. And it just happens to be Sally’s talent.

Dora’s domineering personality and control of her weak father makes it easy for her to exploit Sally in the name of her indulgences. She is totally ruthless about how she treats her own sister and there is nothing she won’t stoop to in order to wring every penny she can out of Sally’s labour.

Although Dora dominates her father, it’s clear that he is every bit as bad as she is. He won’t hesitate to play dirty to raise money; he’s got no scruples, for example, about the way he cheats Mr Cliff out of his business. The only difference is that he is weak while Dora is strong. He caves into her all the time and does not stand up to her. Even when Dora is running up bills they can’t possibly afford, he pretty much caves in to it despite his protests. It’s the way he belatedly stands up to Dora in the end and demands she help him with the deckchair business that redeems him somewhat. Certainly more so than that feeble and unconvincing apology he gives Sally in the final episode.

Compounding the problem is the absence of Mrs Shore. Although there is no way of telling what role she would have played in the story had she been around, her absence is clearly a factor in the abuse Dora and Dad inflict on Sally. Miss Hanning is the nearest thing Sally has to a loving mother figure in the story.

Another problem with Sally is that in the early episodes she can be easily duped by her sneaky family when she should have been more wary, and this helps to trap her in her predicament. When she receives the phony letter from Miss Hanning she can’t understand the reason for it at all, but believes it must be true. She does not take it to Miss Hanning and ask, “Please, Miss Hanning, what’s the meaning of this?”, which would have exposed the trick immediately. When Dora suddenly comes all over nice to Sally she is taken in and not at all suspicious although she has seen them pull phony niceness before. Doesn’t she remember them doing that with Mr Cliff in order to trick him into signing away his business to them? Nope. Sally is even fooled by Dora’s assurances that she will speak to Dad about giving Mr Cliff his donkeys back, and she hopes the money from the stall will go towards that. Sally does not realise the truth until it slaps her right in the face – with Dora taking all the money she raised from the stall right off her and pocketing it.

Sally’s talent becomes a double-edged sword for her. Her talent for shell-craft, which she hoped would help her escape her drudgery, traps her in even worse drudgery once her abusive father and sister discover the profit they can make from it. What’s more, they can do so at extremely low cost, which would inflate their profits even more. After all, the shells themselves are free, and easy to obtain in a seaside town.

It’s ironic that Dora and Dad are the ones who unwittingly set in motion the events that unravel everything, rather than Sally succeeding in running off and getting help. The first is their double-cross of Edwina, who takes revenge by recalling the only person who can help Sally and bring the story to its resolution. The second is those thugs they hired; the heavies go too far with Sally and damage her hands, which just about kills the goose that lays the golden eggs for Dora and Dad. The final factor is Dora herself – her vanity goes to her head and she runs up crippling debts on indulgences that would have ultimately destroyed the very enterprise they had built out of Sally. So Sally’s rescuer got there first and forced them to give it up, but it would have been interesting to see just how far they would have gone in destroying themselves. Let’s hope they emerged from it all with a bad reputation in Eastport.


Amanda Must Not Be Expelled [1972]

Sample Images

Amanda 1Amanda 2Amanda 3

Published: Tammy 15 January 1972 to 18 March 1972

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known


Amanda Blay has a real attitude problem. She has deliberately gotten herself expelled from every boarding school she has attended because she wants the comforts of home (why don’t her parents send her to day school instead?). She lives for gymnastics though, and when her parents send her to Haybury Boarding School, Jane and Marty immediately spot her talent. They realise they won’t win the inter-school gymnastics trophy without her.

Amanda is tempted by the thought of winning the trophy; it would help her career in gymnastics. But she’s too selfish to do anything for the school there and has no team spirit at all. She just wants to get expelled and enjoy her home comforts.

So it isn’t long before Amanda is up to her tricks to get herself expelled from Haybury. But Jane and Marty don’t want her expelled because they need her for the trophy. So they do everything they can to foil all her tricks to get herself expelled.

Marty and Jane soon suspect Miss Trice (initially Tring), the games teacher, is quietly helping them there, for the same reason they don’t want Amanda expelled. Indeed, it is not long before Miss Trice is obliged to explain matters to the headmistress. Afterwards, Miss Trice tells Marty and Jane that she begins to wonder if Amanda is worth the trouble. Covering up for and foiling Amanda certainly does cause problems for Marty and Jane, including taking punishments for her. Not surprisingly, the other girls turn against Amanda because of her selfish attitude and tell Jane and Marty they are nuts to even bother with her.

Amanda is also totally selfish with her gymnastics. The school puts on a gymnastics display for parents day, but Amanda refuses to participate. As far as she is concerned, she does gymnastics to please herself, not others. Miss Trice has to persuade Amanda – with the threat of being banned from the school gym for a month if she does not take part in the display. For that, Amanda says, she’ll perform badly at the display on purpose. But when it comes, Amanda just can’t do it because she loves gymnastics too much, and does a brilliant job instead. She surprises herself so much she hates herself for it, and even refuses to accept a trophy she won for it.

But of course the girls can’t always keep Amanda from getting herself expelled, and eventually she succeeds. The girls are shattered at losing their best hope of winning the trophy. Amanda doesn’t care about that and is turning somersaults for joy that she has finally gotten expelled.

However, Amanda has reckoned without her father’s wrath.  Mr Blay is determined to really teach her a lesson this time and does something that should have been done a long time ago – he confiscates her gymnasium. And it will stay confiscated until Amanda mends her ways at school. This has the desired effect of getting Amanda to regret what she did, because gymnastics are what she lives for.

Mr Blay hopes he can find a way to get the school to reinstate Amanda. Miss Trice tries to persuade the headmistress to do so because they need her for winning the trophy, but the headmistress will have none of it. Then a remark the headmistress made about raising money for a new laboratory gives Marty and Jane an idea: Mr Blay pays for the new laboratory if the headmistress takes Amanda back. Mr Blay and the headmistress agree to the deal, but Mr Blay is not happy at paying out £10,000 to keep Amanda on at Haybury. And he tells Amanda that if she gives any more trouble at school he will have her home gym demolished!

Amanda realises there is no point in being expelled because there is no gym at home now, so she better make do with the school one. She even begins to consider the trophy more seriously and agrees to join the team.

However, the other Haybury girls are not impressed at what was, it must be said, bribery to get Amanda back. In their view, Amanda deserved to be expelled and should stay expelled. So when Amanda returns they send her to Coventry. Marty and Jane stand beside Amanda, so the prefects sentence them to Coventry along with her.

Amanda is not much bothered at being in Coventry, but Marty and Jane are suffering from it more. Miss Trice sees how the Coventry business is affecting the gym team with nobody but Marty and Jane wanting Amanda there. The other gym team members boycott the team, leaving only Amanda, Marty and Jane in it. But the contest rules state there must be at least four girls in the team. And just when Amanda was starting to think of the gym team for a change! However, the staff cannot interfere with the prefects’ decision to put the girls in Coventry.

Realising it is all her fault, Amanda does something unselfish for the first time: resign from the team so Marty and Jane will be freed from Coventry and the other team members will return. She sends a letter of resignation to the head girl. Yet the head girl realises they will not have a chance without Amanda. Besides, Miss Trice refuses to enter a team without Amanda. But if the team remains at three girls, they can’t enter. Catch 2-2!

In view of the circumstances, the prefects release Amanda, Marty and Jane from Coventry. However, the other gym team members are still unforgiving and remain on boycott. Determined to win the trophy, Marty and Jane are all for carrying on training for the contest regardless, and hope they get a fourth member.

Then a new girl, Liz Davis, arrives, and the girls notice something odd about her. She keeps hanging around the gym, and watching them in action all the time. Amanda even catches Liz at the gym one night. Yet when they approach Liz, she keeps running off, saying she hates gym.

One night Amanda catches Liz at the gym. To get Liz to open up, she makes a deliberately poor vault. Liz starts telling Amanda how to do it right, then demonstrates it herself. From there Liz admits she was a brilliant gymnast but lost her nerve after breaking her shoulder on the vault. Amanda helps Liz to regain her nerve and she becomes the fourth team member. Marty and Jane comment on how Amanda has really changed by helping Liz.

The Haybury team face extremely stiff competition from Oakdean, the school that has won five years running. But with Liz and Amanda on the team, Haybury wins for the very first time. The judges say they are very impressed that Haybury managed to win despite only four members in the team: “A remarkable feat, if I may say so.” Amanda is now glad Marty and Jane did not let her get herself expelled.


This was Tammy’s first gymnastics story. It came out two years before Bella Barlow, when Olga Korbut popularised the sport. Tammy published no other gymnastics story in between Amanda and Bella. But Amanda fell into obscurity while Bella is remembered as Tammy’s answer to gymnastics. It is tempting to compare Amanda with Bella, but I will refrain from doing so and concentrate on the serial itself.

Amanda definitely comes from a long line of spoiled brats who are always in trouble/get constantly expelled because their brattiness leads to difficult behaviour. Then they finally someone who prompts them to change their ways one way or other. A.D. Langholm’s “Queen Rider” is actually a novelisation of this. I suspect “Queen Rider” was based on “Bad Bella” from Tammy annual 1976, which has a very similar plot. There is a good chance “Bad Bella” was reprinted from June, and probably retitled. It could well be it was the same writer.

There is no doubt that the trouble comes from Amanda being spoiled. As always, the parents are to blame for that. They have spoiled her with so many home comforts that she gets herself expelled from boarding school all the time for no other reason that she can enjoy them again. Now that really is pathetic. Indeed, one reader wrote in to say: “…it’s a bit silly that a girl should want so much to be expelled from school. Why should she want to be expelled?”

In addition, Mrs Blay has never had the backbone to discipline her daughter. She is way too soft. Although she calls it a “disgrace” when Amanda is expelled for the fifth time, she does not come down on Amanda as she should have. In fact, she thinks her husband is being way too hard on Amanda: “maybe she just didn’t fit in at that school.” Mr Blay rightly pours scorn on that and takes the correct approach in taking a much tougher line with Amanda to get her to behave at school. However, he definitely has a snobby attitude, which he expresses when he sees Miss Trice’s car: “What a dreadful old car!” A snobby father would not have helped Amanda’s bratty behaviour much.

Marty and Jane come from a long line of unenviable girls who strive to keep a bratty (or sometimes nasty) girl from getting herself expelled. The difference is that they do it voluntarily because they need Amanda for winning the trophy. More often, such girls are lumbered with the job (blackmail, deals etc). But Marty and Jane sure pay the price for it, especially when they are sent to Coventry because of Amanda. However, they show they are true friends to Amanda and are not just putting up with her because of the trophy. Indeed, they must have been the first friends Amanda has ever had. A selfish, spoiled brat like her would hardly have made friends at her previous schools.

Mr Blay’s new approach with Amanda (no home gym if she does not behave at school) has the desired effect of stopping Amanda getting herself expelled all the time. But this is only the first step towards reforming her. Amanda is still selfish and still has a way to go before she can redeem herself. Being sent to Coventry is the thing that snaps Amanda out of her selfishness, and it’s because she is thinking of others in how being in Coventry is affecting Marty, Jane and the team. She is also being self-sacrificing with her resignation because gymnastics mean so much to her.

It is a cruel irony that the other girls do not appreciate Amanda’s selfless act, forgive her and return to the team. Carrying on with preparing for the competition in the face of that and no fourth member becomes a sheer act of courage. Getting the fourth member is the final act of redemption for Amanda. For the first time she is helping someone, a fellow gymnast, who needs help in regaining her nerve. The remark from the judges at how impressed they are at Haybury winning despite only having four girls is the final testament to the reform and redemption of Amanda Blay.


Little Lady Nobody (1972)

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(from Sandie 18 March 1972)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 – 1 April 1972

Episodes: 8

Artist: Desmond Walduck?

Writer: Unknown

Plot summary

Elaine Moresby is the daughter of a rich Yorkshire businessman. While her father is away on business she is sent to Miss Pettifor’s Academy for Young Ladies, where she soon shows how spoilt and selfish she is. Even her fellow rich young ladies are fed up of Elaine’s complaints and meanness towards the servants. But before the first episode is up, Elaine has been told by her uncle that her father has been drowned, leaving her an impoverished orphan; and Miss Pettifor takes the opportunity to ask for the payment of 150 guineas for the last six months’ fees (even though Elaine knows that it was paid at the time). The final indignity – Elaine is forced to work as a servant to pay off the debt that wasn’t really incurred  – and all the other servants are cruel to her apart from Mary, who is kind. (This is partly because Elaine caught Mary looking at a posh dress of hers and was going to denounce her to the headmistress, but was stopped from doing so by the arrival of her uncle – so it’s only by luck that she has even one friend on her side.)

It is difficult for Elaine to adjust to the life of a servant, but her main challenge is that Miss Pettifor and the head servants are clearly out to get her. Mary helps her to get used to the tasks but Elaine is firstly nearly suffocated when Mrs Rutherford lights a fire underneath her after sending her up the chimney, and then is thrown down the well by a mystery assailant. Mary helps Elaine to climb out but of course Mrs Rutherford comes out almost immediately and sees that her ploy has failed. She tells Elaine to climb back down the well to find the bucket, and of course she is terrified at the thought – and says that Mary was the one who knocked it in, and Mary has to climb down instead. Mary understands that it was fear that drove Elaine to say that, but that forgiveness means little when Mary gets very ill as a result of her ducking. Elaine sticks up for Mary and helps to nurse her during her illness, so the other servants think better of her after all.

Miss Pettifor is still out to kill her if possible, though – her next attempt is to run her over with a horse and cart. Some of her fellow servants stick up for her, but in retaliation Mary is once more driven to illness by Miss Pettifor and Mrs Rutherford. When Elaine spots her uncle coming to visit, she thinks that he will be her way out, and escapes to find him. However, a panel set back at Miss Pettifor’s Academy has the uncle explaining that it was he who set up the series of murderous attacks, because ‘with her out of the way, I am the sole heir to her dead father’s fortune’.

Elaine has escaped from the Academy, along with Mary, but her erstwhile friends don’t believe that the tattered escapee is really Lady Elaine Moresby, who they have been told has ‘been dead these past three weeks!” And when she reaches her old home of Moresby Hall, her uncle shoots at them, sets the servants on them claiming they are ‘gipsy thieves’, and makes Miss Pettifor and Mrs Rutherford go after them to fetch them back to the academy. Not content with that, her uncle has the school set on fire, with the two girls trapped inside! So it is all a real giveaway that they have serious enemies who will stop at nothing.

They manage to make it back to Moresby Hall, where Elaine finds some papers written by her father’s lawyer, Mr Murchison. Her father wasn’t penniless at all, and her uncle is claiming the estate as his. They try to see Murchison to plead Elaine’s case, but he is ill and they aren’t allowed in – and when they are taken up by the Bow Street Runners, Uncle Ned tells the magistrates that Elaine ‘suffers from the delusion that she is my niece Elaine’. He also threatens her friend Mary. Defeated, Elaine can only plead guilty to imposture – and Uncle Ned, now clearly revealed as a black-hearted villain, sends her to a dreadful quarry where kids are made to work until they drop. However, a death from overwork isn’t going to be quick enough for Uncle Ned – firstly because Mary is making a nuisance of herself, asking questions (so off to the quarry she goes, too), and then because the father’s ship turns out to have survivors after all. So the head man in charge of the quarry is enticed into locking the two girls in a burning shed full of gunpowder… Miraculously, they escape once again, and this time are taken in by a shepherd who recognises Lady Elaine for who she is.

Biddy, Elaine’s old nurse, also knows who she is, but the real test is whether Lawyer Murchison will do so or not. He is nearly convinced, until Uncle Ned shows him Elaine’s hands, coarsened by weeks of work. It was all for nothing, and Elaine is tried and sentences to be transported for life. Mary proves her worth once again as a true friend, though- she forces her way into the place where Uncle Ned and Miss Pettifor are bamboozling the father with spurious stories of Elaine’s last days before succumbing to pneumonia. All’s well that ends well as her father turns up at the transportation ship to rescue Elaine just as she is trying one last escape – this time by plunging into the water to swim away. The last half page shows the faithful companion Mary and the reformed character Elaine drinking tea at Moresby Hall, and planning to enrich the lives of these who have less than she does.

Further thoughts

“Little Lady Nobody” is a slave story with strong redemption narrative elements. It is as over-the-top as most slave stories tend to be – of course the protagonist faces hard work, lack of food, and lack of sleep, but matters quickly escalate from the hard life of a normal skivvy to multiple threats of violent death. This cruelty is the main focus of the story, though Lady Elaine’s transformation from spoiled uncaring rich girl to compassionate champion of the poor is also a thread running through the first few episodes or so.

Elaine is quite a sympathetic character as she is very determined and tries very hard not to be beaten. Of course she is not perfect – as well as having to learn how hard a servant’s life is, she is also understandably affected by the various frights she’s had, and it leads her to some disgraceful actions that she is ashamed of later. For instance in an early episode she lies and says that it was Mary who dropped the bucket down the well, though of course it was Elaine herself who did so, because she was being pushed down the well by an unseen hand. But her lie is because she is so scared, she can’t face climbing down the well to retrieve the bucket as the cruel slavedrivers demand, so although it is wrong of her, we understand that this is not a real relapse into being an uncaring rich girl.

Even after asking David Roach and others on Facebook, it is not clear to me who the artist is. Catawiki credits this story to Desmond Walduck. who drew “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm'”, and there is certainly a lot of similarities. However, the later Sandie story “Sisters in Sorrow”, drawn by the same artist and with a very similar theme, was previously identified by David Roach as being by a female artist called Broderick. And when I looked at this story, my immediate feeling was that it looked like the work of Roy Newby, who is credited with drawing “Slaves of the Candle” and “Bound for Botany Bay” in Jinty, and “Nina Nimble Fingers” in Lindy. All three of these were historical stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries, featuring slavery, severe injustice, hard times, and danger of death – so again very thematically similar to the current story under discussion. However, on further consideration, I think I will withdraw that identification. Roy Newby’s work is much smoother than the rather scratchy line used by the artist on “Little Lady Nobody” and the figure drawing and the faces are not quite the same either, though there are a lot of similarities in elements like noses and chins. Roy Newby’s children also do not think that this is by their father, though they again can see the similarities. Perhaps we will find that there are three artists with very similar styles – Newby, Walduck, and Broderick.

Day and Knight [1984]

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Published: Princess II #25, 10 March 1984, continued in Tammy & Princess, 7 April 1984, finished in Tammy & Princess, 28 April 1984

Episodes: 8

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Cuckoo in the Nest” from Girl annual 1982, which has a similar plot

Translations/reprints: None


Ever since Sharon Day’s mother died when she was young, it has just been her, Dad, and her cat Monk. That’s just the way Sharon likes it. Sharon knows her father is now in a relationship with a woman named Sally, but has no problems with that – yet.

While dropping off Gran’s birthday present on the way to school, Sharon sees Carrie Knight and her gang pass by. She tells Gran they bully everyone at school, taking money off the first years and such, and for this reason she can’t stand Carrie. Gran is relieved to hear that at least Carrie leaves Sharon alone.

But when Sharon gets to school that suddenly changes. Carrie now starts on her, and is bullying her big time. Carrie even steals and sells Sharon’s guitar, which breaks Sharon’s heart because it was her mother’s.

The reason why Carrie has started picking on Sharon becomes clear that evening: Carrie’s mother is Sally, the woman Dad is now engaged to and wants to marry. So Sharon is now faced with the prospect of having this bully for a stepsister!

Sharon tries to tell Dad that Carrie is bullying her, but he does not believe it. Moreover, Carrie is very good at fooling him into thinking she is a sweet girl and the perfect stepdaughter who absolutely adores her new stepfather. She has no compunction in lying to her parents and swearing that she did not do any of the things Sharon accuses her of. Carrie just loves to tease Sharon with her phoney acts towards Dad and telling him how much she likes him.

Although Sharon protests that Carrie is just fooling him and she’s a horrible bully who makes her life a misery, and she’s in constant tears over the whole business, Dad just won’t listen. He thinks Sharon just can’t handle the changes and is being resentful of his new marriage.

Aside from the bullying, Sharon finds herself being pushed into changes that are too fast and difficult for her when Carrie and Mum move in. Sharon and her Dad are vegetarians, but Carrie and her mother are not, so Sharon is shocked at the sight and smell of meat in the fridge. Worse, Sharon has to rehome Monk at Gran’s house because of Carrie’s asthma. And Sharon, who once had her bedroom to herself, now has to share a bunk bed with that bully until the parents get a bigger house.

And now, of course, Carrie is making Sharon’s life a nightmare at home as well as at school, and she’s very slick at covering up afterwards. For example, she and her gang trash Sharon’s belongings. Then she tells Dad she accidentally broke Sharon’s old doll and will pay for it.

Gran is the only one who believes Sharon and understands what is going on. Oddly though, she is not doing much to convince Dad. Maybe Dad is not listening to her either? Dad certainly does not listen to Sharon’s friend Jenny when she tries to back Sharon up about Carrie’s bullying. What Gran does do, though, is attempt to instil optimism in Sharon that things will work out in the end and Carrie will change. Right now, though, there’s no hope of that.

Although Dad knows there is a big problem with the girls, he still goes ahead with the wedding. Sharon has to swallow down tears throughout the ceremony. Mum and Dad think Sharon will just come around, but of course they have another think coming.

Now Carrie pulls her worst trick yet – spiking Sharon’s vegetarian school lunch with meat! When Sharon discovers this she snaps and starts a punch-up with Carrie in the dinner hall. However, the teacher can’t find any trace of the meat afterwards. Later Sharon realises Carrie’s gang pulled a trick there, but when she tries to tell Dad this he still won’t listen and tells her to stop it. Sharon’s response to that is run away from home and take refuge at Gran’s. Dad is anguished at this while Carrie just laughs at it all behind her parents’ backs.

However, next day events take a turn that changes everything. Dad spots Sharon’s guitar at a second hand shop and discovers it was indeed Carrie who sold it there. When he confronts Carrie with this, her last-ditch effort to deny everything falls apart very quickly. The game is up:

Mum: “You’ve lied enough!”

Dad: “Your daughter’s driven mine out of her own home!”

Dad, who resolves to make Sharon happy to come back, makes the decision to split up with Carrie’s mum. At this, Mum really turns on Carrie for what she’s done, and how it will destroy her marriage if the girls don’t reconcile. She shoves Carrie out of the house to make it up with Sharon.

Carrie is shocked and upset at what she has done, and now realises she genuinely likes her new stepfather. She makes an earnest, desperate attempt to reconcile with Sharon, promising she’ll be different. But Sharon rebuffs her because her wounds are too raw. Moreover, she is not impressed with Carrie’s claims of contrition (unlike Gran), the idea of living with Carrie is still too repugnant, and she wants things the way they were. So Carrie and her heartbroken mother clear out of the house so Sharon can come home.

Sharon expects things to back to the way they were, although Gran has warned her that they can’t and won’t. Of course Sharon soon finds out how right Gran is. Dad might have sacrificed his marriage for her happiness, but he cannot hide his feelings about it (snapping at her, up all night crying, too upset to go to work). Sharon realises their relationship will become embittered because of this. She can’t let him suffer either, but still can’t stand the idea of living with Carrie.

Next morning Carrie turns on her bully gang when she discovers, in typical bully fashion, how uncaring they are about her situation. “I must’ve been crazy to hang around with you morons!” They just about have a fight.

Sharon can see Carrie is genuinely upset, but just says, “Good! I’m glad to see her suffering for a change!” However, she is more concerned to hear that Carrie’s mother was up all night crying too. She does like her stepmother.

In the end, Sharon grudgingly gives Carrie a second chance for the sake of their suffering parents. Soon the family are back together, the parents are overjoyed, and there are already signs that Carrie and Sharon are on the road to becoming the best of sisters. After all, says Sharon, she had always wanted one.


There have been so many serials where parents just don’t listen when their daughter tries to tell them she’s being bullied. And this is one of those serials where just not listening has far more serious results than most – a marriage almost being destroyed and a family torn apart. It’s not just because the bully is very crafty at convincing them she’s a sweet angel. It’s also because they are blinded by love and desperately want to marry each other. So they push headlong into it despite the clear danger signals.

Even without Carrie’s bullying, we can feel how Sharon’s world is being ripped apart by the changes her father’s new marriage is bringing into her life. Sharon was so happy with things the way they were and the changes are all, in their various ways, just too hard on her and unfair. We can hardly blame Sharon for wanting things back the way they were and it would have been understandable if she had been genuinely resentful of the marriage. But the real problem is that her stepsister is bullying her, and because the bullying goes on behind the parents’ backs, they won’t listen when Sharon tries to tell them. They really pay the price for that when Carrie’s bullying almost destroys their marriage.

As with Lindy/Jinty’s “Hettie High and Mighty”, redeeming and reforming the bully is absolutely essential if everything is to be sorted out and end happily, because that bully is now the stepsister of the girl she’s bullying. Otherwise the family can never live together in harmony. However, the road to it is realistically done and avoids the triteness and clichés that have appeared in similar stories, including “Hettie High and Mighty”.

Unlike Hettie, it’s not all that clear just what has made Carrie such a bully. We know nothing of her home life prior to her mother’s new marriage; however, her absent father could have some bearing on her conduct. She does carry out her bullying in a very cocky, obnoxious manner, which suggests she’s out of control. She’s also in with a bully gang, rather than being a sole bully/troublemaker like Hettie. So it could be a case of getting into a bad crowd, wanting to act big and feeling like she’s ten feet tall with all the power she gets out of bullying. Moreover, the school isn’t doing anything to stop the bullies. All the pupils know about them but nobody does anything about them. If nobody is cracking down on the bullying, then of course Carrie’s bullying has just gotten so bad. Finally, Carrie sees Sharon as a big wet, which is probably why she chose to bully her instead of trying to get along with her in the first place.

It is a nice change from the usual cliché, where the abused stepsister just forgives her bully stepsister once changes as her counterpart in “Hettie” does. Instead, reconciliation does not come all at once because Sharon’s hurt feelings are too strong. It takes time before Sharon agrees to attempt reconciliation. Even then it’s not because she becomes convinced of Carrie’s remorse or Carrie redeems herself in front of her, which is another common cliché in girls’ serials. Sharon does it for her suffering parents.

There is no doubt Carrie is genuinely remorseful when it comes, and it’s realistically done. Carrie is not only remorseful; she also wakes up to what a good thing she was onto with her new stepfamily and how she ruined it with her bullying. However, while her remorse is essential to the resolution of the story, she cannot convince Sharon or her parents that it is for real. Sharon does not listen and wants her gone. Mum tells Carrie that if she really had loved her new stepfather, “you wouldn’t have done anything to spoil my happiness. I’ll never forgive you for this!” Dad says to Sharon, “A pity Carrie was such a monster. I-thought she loved me…”. However, the story does not go down yet another common cliché in which Carrie finds a way to convince them she has changed and gets them back together. Nor does it have the family coming together when a big accident occurs because of what happened, which is another cliché.

This is definitely one of Princess II’s best stories because of its realism and breaking with clichés that girls’ serials dealing with similar themes often use. The artwork of Juliana Buch has always been popular and it blends in nicely with the school and family settings. This was Buch’s only story for Princess II, and her artwork would have helped this story to bridge the merger with Tammy because Buch was one of Tammy’s regular artists.


The Ghost Dancer [1981]

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Published: Jinty 3 January 1981 – 28 March 1981

Episodes: 13

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Dansen in het maanlicht [Dancing in the Moonlight] (in: Tina 1983)


Ferne Ashley’s mother, Martina Kerr, is a famous ballerina and her father a famous composer. Unfortunately Dad is a short-tempered man who flies off the handle easily, especially when his work isn’t going well, and he picks constant fights with his wife. This has tragic consequences that shape the course of the entire story.

Ferne passes the audition to her mother’s old ballet school with Madame Naninska. But instead of being thrilled for her, Dad starts an argument with Mum that Ferne only got in because Mum was Madame’s ex-prize pupil (frustration over his latest composition not going well). Worse, he’s doing it while driving instead of watching the road, and fails to avoid a tractor that’s driving on the wrong side of the road for some reason. Mum gets killed in the ensuing crash. Ferne blames Dad for Mum’s death, and decides to punish him by pretending to be crippled so he can’t see the joy of her dancing.

The doctors can’t find any medical reason for Ferne’s paralysis of course, but assume it is a mental block that’s come from the shock of Mum’s death. The decision is made to send Ferne to the ballet school anyway, in the hope it will help to unfreeze the block.

What this really does is make it increasingly difficult for Ferne to keep up the pretence. There is temptation on all sides, including urging from Madame to dance again, to just give in and start dancing. Although Ferne still blames Dad for Mum’s death, the reality of what she is doing and the consequences it has wrought are now sinking in – including denying herself the dancing she loves so much. She is beginning to feel shame and guilt. However, Ferne is too afraid of what everyone will say, especially her bad-tempered father, to confess what she has done.

So Ferne tries pretending that she is gradually regaining the use of her legs and quietly rejoin the ballet class. Madame notices that Ferne seems to be moving her toes in time to the ballet music and joyfully tells Dad. However, when Dad hears about it, he guesses the truth. He comes up to the school, confronts Ferne over it, and leaves her out in the woods, telling her to walk straight back to school. Ferne refuses to do so and her wheelchair is stuck, so she’s trapped herself, and then a downpour starts. By the time anyone finds her she is suffering from hypothermia and Dad is in big trouble for leaving a crippled girl like that. After this, Ferne is finding it even harder to own up.

One night Ferne yearns to dance so much that she slips out to some Roman ruins to secretly dance in them, as her, as her mother used to do. Unfortunately one of the pupils, Jolie, spots her, and blabs it around. At first the girls think it’s imagination, but later it adds to a rumour that the ghost Ferne’s mother is haunting the school.

Ferne is also secretly wandering around the school, and one night Madame catches her in her mother’s Firebird costume. This sends Madame into a faint, and after this the ghost rumour well and truly starts, with even staff members believing it. Ferne is appalled at what she has started and knows that owning up would stop it, but she is still too scared to do so.

The rumour just grows and grows; Ferne actually finds the girls trying to contact the ghost with a Ouija board and breaks it up. Jolie even goes to the ruins to call upon the ghost for help, because she is having trouble with her dancing and lost confidence. She is trying to distract the teacher from it by goofing off in class and playing the fool, but knows that in the end it won’t stop her being told to leave because she is not progressing. She does not realise Ferne is listening in.

Ferne soon realises what Jolie’s dancing problem is, having experienced it herself several years earlier, and wants to help. Deciding that openly helping Jolie won’t work out, Ferne decides to play the ghost. Dressing up in the Firebird costume and pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Ferne appears before Jolie in the ruins and walk her through the problem. This overcomes Jolie’s problem, but of course the big gossip can’t resist telling everyone about her encounter with the ghost of Martina Kerr.

At this, the girls crawl all over the ruins in search of the ghost. The caretaker angrily chases them off and, following this, the headmistress abruptly puts the ruins out of bounds. Despite the ban, the girls trick Jolie into coming to the ruins for another supposed rendezvous with the ghost, where they intend to have some sport with her.

Ferne overhears what they are plotting but does nothing about it, figuring Jolie had it coming for being such a blabbermouth. Then she overhears the headmistress saying she put the ruins out of bounds because the caretaker’s lawn mower badly cracked one of the pillars, and it could fall at any time. At this, Ferne abandons her pretence once and for all – she’s off and running to stop a potential accident – right in front of an astonished Madame, Matron and every pupil who sees her.

At the ruins, Ferne warns the girls and gets Jolie out of the danger the girls unwittingly put her in. But Jolie, realising the trick Ferne pulled on her, angrily shoves her away, and Ferne hits a pillar. Unfortunately this is the dangerous pillar, and Jolie’s action sends it toppling. Ferne manages to push Jolie clear of the pillar, but does not make it herself. The pillar lands on top of her.

Of course Ferne’s deception is now out, but everyone forgives her because of her heroism – no wait, there’s a far more serious reason why nobody can be angry with Ferne. The pillar damaged her spine and now she really is confined to a wheelchair. Her deception has turned into dreadful reality.

Ferne’s accident makes Dad lose heart for composing music, including completing the ballet, “Sea Maiden’s Dream”, that he was composing for Mum before she died. Ferne is informed that stress is the reason for Dad’s constant temper problems. At this she is really ashamed at blaming him, and she resolves to dance again for his sake. After weeks of secret work, she manages to dance a few steps before him, which restores his heart for composing. At Ferne’s request, he resumes work on the ballet. Some years later Ferne has fully recovered and dancing the lead in the premiere of “Sea Maiden’s Dream”.


This story has the rather sad distinction of being Jinty’s last ballet story before the merger. Ballet-wise, it does show that Phil Townsend can draw beautiful ballet. It’s a shame he did not draw ballet more frequently. It is also the last Jinty serial to use the theme of ghosts (unless you count the ghost that appeared briefly in “Worlds Apart“), even if there is no actual ghost in the story. Finally, it is also the last Jinty story to use the theme of bad reactions to grief without thinking of the consequences (a la “Nothing to Sing About” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”). So it is quite surprising that Alison Christie did not write it.

There have been scores of girls’ serials about girls (and adults) pretending to be disabled, either by their own free will or by circumstance, such as being forced. Sometimes it’s linked to tragedy and grief, as it is with Ferne, but more often it’s due to scheming. The theme cropped up frequently at DCT, but appeared less often at IPC; neither Tammy nor Jinty used it much.

Unlike most girls who willingly pretend to be disabled, Ferne never uses her deception to play upon people’s sympathy or take advantage of them. It’s a kneejerk reaction to grief and blaming her father for her mother’s death, which is quickly regretted once Ferne realises the consequences. While most girls in girls’ serials keep up the pretence for as long as possible, Ferne changes her mind about it fairly quickly, but can’t see how to end it without getting into trouble. Every time she decides to confess, something happens to scare her into staying silent and continue the deception. And in the meantime, everything just continues to get more and more out of hand.

Ferne’s heroism in giving up her deception to save Jolie would have been the perfect way  for Ferne to end the deception gracefully and be forgiven. Indeed, the story could have ended with that. Instead, there is one final twist – Ferne’s deception turning into reality  and the final episode of her story being dedicated to comeback. It seems a harsh way to go before the final happy ending, especially for a girl who deserved it far less than other schemers who pretend to be disabled in girls’ comics. After all, her deception was prompted by grief, shock and anger, which hardly made her conducive to thinking straight.  it is far less trite than the alternate ending the story could have taken, as described above.

There is no doubt the father’s bad temper started the trouble, whether or not he was actually to blame for his wife’s death. Things would have been so different if the father had done what he should have done: been overjoyed that Ferne passed the audition, congratulated her wholeheartedly and took the family out to celebrate. Instead, he uses it as a vehicle to vent his frustration and pick a fight with his wife. Moreover, he was doing it while driving, which would have made his driving dangerous. It was asking for an accident.

It is never officially established just who was responsible for the accident or why the tractor was on the wrong side of the road. Dad knows Ferne blames him for her mother’s death, but he does not blame himself. The mother might still have died, but at least Ferne wouldn’t have blamed Dad if he hadn’t started that fight in the first place. His bad temper may be due to strain and work stress, but that really is no excuse for it. He admits in the end that he does have a temper problem, but it’s something he should address with stress and anger management therapy instead of making everyone in the household suffer for it.

Discussion should also be made of Jolie. Jolie is one of the standout supporting characters in the story. She could even be a more rounded character than Ferne, and is certainly more humorous. She’s a bit of a butt of jokes at the school. For one thing, English is her second language (she is French), so she doesn’t always get things right. For example, she comes up to the girls to say she heard the gardener say a motorway is going to be built through the school grounds, when in fact the driveway is just going to be enlarged. She has the unfortunate reputation for big imagination and tall tales as well, which go hand in hand with her being a big gossip and blabbermouth by nature. But really, the pranks she plays in class (blowing down a girl’s neck for example) do not endear her much to the girls, so she is asking for a big revenge prank from them at some point. And it comes with fateful results at the climax. Jolie becomes more sympathetic there when we learn the reason for her goofing off: covering up loss of confidence in her dancing because she can’t get the hang of certain steps, and she is terrified she will leave the school. She is so human, and has potential for her own story. We can just see this one being retold from Jolie’s point of view. It would be interesting to see how it looks.

No Medals for Marie [1981]

Sample Images

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Published: Jinty 3 January 1981 to 21 March 1981

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #17 as “Winner-Loser!”

Marie Smart has always been a brilliant girl who excels at everything and wins at everything she goes for. This is one bright spot in the lives of her parents, who don’t make much money at the jobs they have. Worse, they constantly worry about their son Paul, who is seriously ill with asthma, and the polluted industrial town they live in makes it progressively worse. Paul’s health is deteriorating so badly that they badly need to move to the countryside. The trouble is, the parents can’t afford it.

Marie wins a scholarship, and it means everything to her parents for her to fill her sideboard with medals and trophies; Dad is even working overtime and risking his own health because of it so he can afford Marie’s new school. Marie understands this and resolves to fulfil their wish to fill that sideboard with medals.

But then Marie’s godmother, Miss Simon, invites her to her country home. Dad has misgivings because Miss Simon is an “eccentric old bat” who might put “strange ideas” into Marie’s head. Mum persuades him otherwise, but it turns out his fears were more than justified. Miss Simon has never won any medals in her life, and her jealousy over it is so twisted that she resolves the person to inherit her hall won’t win any either. She wants Marie’s family to inherit the hall when Marie turns 16 – but on strict condition that Marie wins no medals in the interim. And not a word to her parents about it. Marie agrees to the perverse terms because this is the only way her sick brother can move to the countryside.

So Marie starts deliberately failing things that have a medal or trophy attached. Her family is disappointed to see the sideboard not filling up with medals, but Marie has been forced to agree not to tell them why. Sometimes Marie has to resort to lengths that get her into real trouble in order to avoid winning medals, including vandalism and embarrassing her family with a lousy performance at the school pantomime. Twice Marie’s life is even put in danger because of her deliberate failures at medals.

Soon there is another problem – it will be two years before Marie is 16, and Paul is getting so sick that he could die well before that time arrives. So Marie takes the plunge and asks Miss Simon if she can have the hall when she turns 15 instead. At first Miss Simon refuses because she doesn’t understand or care about the seriousness of Paul’s condition, dismissing it as “a tickle in his chest”. She changes her mind – somewhat – when a fire in her room gives her a taste of not being able to breathe, just as Paul can’t during his asthma attacks. She agrees to let Marie have the hall when she turns 15.

But Miss Simon’s new-found sympathy for Paul is not enough to turn her around. She does not let up on Marie either although Marie helped to save her from the fire. She remains jealous because she has no medals herself and still insists Marie win no medals. When she mistakenly thinks Marie has won one, she refuses to hand over the hall to her, regardless of how much Paul’s life depends on it. Fortunately Marie manages to convince Miss Simon that she jumped to the wrong conclusion there. The trouble is, it will be some months before Marie is 15, and time is fast running out for Paul; the parents now fear for his life.

Towards the end of the school year the Smarts organise a holiday that will get some country air into Paul. But then both the parents lose their jobs and can’t afford the holiday. So a cheaper holiday is organised at Simon Hall. But finally, Marie cannot help herself from winning a medal. When the jealous Miss Simon hears, she refuses to hand over the hall, calls off the holiday, and leaves Paul to slowly die in the smoky town.

The family manage to organise a car so they can at least get some country holiday. However, a breakdown drives the Smarts to Simon Hall, where Marie decides to confront the jealous old bag once and for all. To her surprise she finds Miss Simon has had a change of heart because she has finally won a medal and now realises how horrible she had been. So Miss Simon hands the hall immediately over to the Smarts, with a job to go with it for Mr Smart. The family are thrilled, as it is the answer to their prayer. The move from the air-polluted town to the countryside of Simon Hall soon has Paul’s health going from strength to strength and his asthma fades.

Miss Simon now goes from stopping Marie from winning medals to challenging her as to which of them can fill their sideboards with medals the fastest. No medals for guessing who is soon in the lead.


IPC girls’ titles delved into the blackmail theme far less often than the DCT titles, who used it so frequently. Jinty herself hardly ever used it, and this is one of the exceptions. Objects of blackmail have included jobs, incriminating diaries, and family reputations. The health or even the life of a loved one being held hostage has been used too.

However, Miss Simon is unusual in that she did not start using Paul’s ill-health as a blackmail ploy to begin with as most blackmailers in girls’ comics would have. In fact, it sounds like she did not even know about it until Marie pleads for the hall a year early because of Paul’s deteriorating condition. So at the beginning she hardly had any leverage to seriously get Marie to agree to her no-medal condition, and Marie would have most likely to tell her to sod off. So how she could have seriously believed she would get Marie to agree is difficult to understand and does create a plot weakness. Perhaps it’s that eccentricity Dad was on about. Eccentrics are not known for common sense.

Miss Simon is also unusual is that she is not lying about guaranteeing the saving of the sick relative in return for agreeing to the blackmail. This usually is the case as shown in DCT titles like “Meg and the Magic Robot” (Tracy) and “April Fool” (Mandy). The blackmailer leads the protagonist to believe that they will do their bit to save the sick relative in exchange for the protagonist agreeing to their demands, but eventually the protagonist finds out the blackmailer was lying and not doing anything of the sort. But this is not the case with Miss Simon. In fact, it’s not really her idea to hold Paul’s life hostage in the first place.

This is one of the redeeming qualities about Miss Simon, who already comes across as a despicable character with her twisted jealousy and later, her callousness in leaving Paul to slowly die in the polluted town, just because Marie had won a medal. Her callousness is even more disgusting because she does understand and sympathise with his plight once she gets a taste of not being able to breathe, yet she is still willing to leave him to just slowly die if Marie wins a medal. We’re not really sure Miss Simon even deserves to win a medal because of her petty conduct, which not even eccentricity can excuse. All the same, Miss Simon winning a medal is the only way to make her see sense and resolve the story.

Miss Simon truly redeems herself in handing over the hall immediately once she stops being jealous over medals, instead of waiting until Marie is 15. No doubt it was prompted by guilt over the way she behaved and how she treated Paul (leaving him to his fate) who had, ironically, always liked her.

Marie Smart arouses our sympathies far more than a victim in a regular blackmail story usually does. For one thing, she is a sympathetic character from the start in that she has never let her brilliance go to her head and make her conceited like Tina Williams in “The Girl Who Never Was”. We really laud her for that, and for the way she puts her sick brother ahead of herself. Marie does not grieve over the failures she forces herself to do; instead her heart bleeds over how it is disappointing and even shaming her family. She knows how much it means to them, especially how Dad is working overtime to pay for her new school and expects medals in return. Dad going through a heart attack must be attributed to his overtime and his deep disappointment at no medals on Marie’s sideboard. Marie decides to at least come out top in mid-year exams to please him and inject him with encouragement to recover, and it’s a real tonic for him. But that’s all she can do; there are to be none of the medals he really wants because of Miss Simon.

Our hearts bleed for the parents as well. They are already under a lot of stress and worry because of Paul’s condition. The only remedy – move to a cleaner environment – is unaffordable for them and they watch in anguish as Paul’s health deteriorates in the polluted town. Marie winning medals is one of the few things to give them joy, but now they are deprived of that because of Miss Simon’s pettishness. Their constant disappointment compounds the anxiety they are already under, and it’s so unfair to them. Then they sink even lower in losing their jobs and Dad’s health not fully recovering from his heart attack.

And then final anguish – being denied the hall and watching Paul slowly die because of her medal, is the most heart breaking of all for Marie. Even the parents and Paul, who don’t know about the situation, are devastated at Miss Simon cancelling the holiday.

It’s no wonder that Jinty advertised this story as “nail-biting”. It is not one of Jinty’s most distinguished or memorable stories, but as with so many Alison Christie stories, emotion is still its strength.

Fatherland [2017]

Fatherland cover

Published: Commando #5053

Art: Ian Kennedy (cover); Rodriguez and Morhain (story)

Writer: Iain McLaughlin

In the previous Commando entry on this blog we profiled Operation Nachthexen, the first Commando to have a female protagonist after over 50 years of exclusively male protagonists. All the same, the main protagonist was still male and the female protagonist was more in a supporting if major role.

This Commando is the first to have a female protagonist who is the star of the show in her own right. It is also the first Commando to have a female antagonist.


In March 1933 Hitler and his Nazi Party gain absolute control over Germany (and absolute is the word). For Hans Fischer, a German diplomat and Nazi living in London, this means benefits and promotion, but his Nazism is tearing his family apart. Hans’ wife Elizabeth is British born and therefore does not support “that funny little man Hitler” (say what?). She is appalled at how her husband has changed for the worse since he embraced Nazism, and with fanatical zeal. When Hans says they are all moving to Berlin so their children, Kurt and Lisa, can be brought up as proper Germans (Nazis, he means!), Elizabeth tries to do a runner with the children. Unfortunately she only succeeds in getting Lisa away. Kurt remains in the clutches of his fanatical Nazi father, which does not bode well for him.

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Ten years later World War II is on, and Lisa (now Fisher) joins the fight against Hitler. As Lisa can speak German, she is chosen for a special assignment. After two months of intense special training, she is sent to the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands, where she goes undercover as Greta Kruger, a German auxiliary the Resistance intercepted. Her task is to work at one Colonel Schaudi’s office to gather information on the shipping. The German supply shipping has the infuriating habit of arriving at different times, which makes it difficult for the Allies to know when to intercept and destroy them. So they need information on the times those ships are coming.

As per training, Lisa also spends a great deal of time observing the routines of the German guards and patrols – with particular attention to the gaps and blind spots that she can take advantage of in order to move around without being caught.

Lisa also has to tread carefully around her roommate, Hannah Muller, who is a committed Nazi and a callous cold fish. Hannah looks upon the islanders as scum who are beneath the superior Germans and badly need German discipline to turn them around. She does not approve of Lisa saving a local boy from being run over by a German motorcyclist (and taking some injury herself) or Lisa going to church.

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Hannah has no idea that the real reason for Lisa going to church is that the minister, Reverend Letts, is Lisa’s contact. Lisa gets the E.T.A. of one German supply ship, the HSK Wagner. However Lisa nearly gets unstuck at the rendezvous on a cliff to pass the information to Rev. Letts when a sentry catches her. She ends up slugging him and he falls to his death at the bottom of the cliff. As predicted, Schaudi puts the sentry’s death down to an accident (and orders it to be hushed up because he does not want the islanders to hear about such embarrassments). But Lisa and Rev. Letts are not going to use that cliff for a rendezvous again.

Lisa’s information enables the Allies to succeed in intercepting and destroying the Wagner. But when word reaches Berlin they (correctly) suspect their security has been compromised and send in one of their leading and most ruthless SS Oberfuehrers to investigate the matter. And guess who it is? Yep – Lisa’s father! What’s more, Lisa’s brother Kurt is in tow too, as an SS Hauptsturmfuehrer on Dad’s staff.

Lisa is unaware of this complication as she gathers evidence that the Germans are going to use the Channel Islands as a stockpile for German weapons. Rev. Letts tells Lisa the RAF is going to bomb the munitions store that night and she is required to light flares for them to see by.

Finding pretexts to get away from Hannah for night missions has been another problem for Lisa. The first time, Lisa said she was laid up because she was injured from the motorcycle incident, which worked. But the second trick – giving Hannah drugged coffee – does not. By the time Lisa is at the rendezvous lighting the flares, she finds Hannah has followed her; obviously she smelt a rat and has now discovered everything. A fight breaks out, and Hannah ends up out cold due to Lisa’s superior fighting training. The ensuing bomb raid does the rest in finishing off Hannah. Lisa then proceeds to frame Hannah for everything in order to cover her tracks.

The frame-up of Hannah works, but Lisa is in for a shock at the debriefing over Hannah – her SS father and brother. Fortunately they do not see through her disguise, but she realises their presence is now making things too risky for her. Things get even more risky when Schaudi wants to plant Lisa on the church as a choir member because he suspects it is linked to the Resistance.

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Orders come for Lisa to be withdrawn because of the increased risk. A plane will come for her in two days and the Germans will discover her ‘fall over a cliff’ later. During those two days, Lisa is appalled to see what a pair of vicious bullies her father and brother have become, as shown in the way they treat the islanders.

Lisa has one final task on the night she is to go: steal detailed orders of naval schedules from Schaudi’s office. Unfortunately Kurt has picked that night to start changing the guard routines, which impedes Lisa’s progress in getting away to meet the plane after stealing the papers. At one point she has no choice but to slug a guard, and she barely makes it in time for her plane. Unfortunately, Hans and Kurt discovered the guard, which alerted them, and now they arrive on the scene.

Still thinking she is Greta Kruger, Hans confronts her about her treason to the Fatherland. A moment later, Hans is quite taken aback and confused when she suddenly starts calling him “[Daddy]” and confronts him on the way he ripped his own family apart in the name of Nazism. Kurt, however, immediately understands what it’s about.

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As the family squabble unfolds, it becomes clear that years of abuse and bullying from Dad are responsible for Kurt being a bully himself. However, unlike the merciless Nazi fanatic father, there is still good in Kurt, and now it comes to the surface. He cannot bring himself to send his own sister to the firing squad and finds the courage to say this to his bully father. Dad’s response is more bullying of Kurt: he lashes out at his son and knocks him to the ground. He then points his gun at Lisa, telling her that she’ll be interrogated until she talks and all the rest of it. Moments pass as they just stare down each other. However, those moments give Kurt time to recover and he shoots his father dead to save Lisa: “Your cruelty and obsession has hurt me on many occasions. You will not do this to my sister.”

Kurt helps Lisa to escape and cover it up afterwards. He declines to go with her as he is still loyal to Germany, but promises to find her after the war ends. As Lisa flies to safety, Kurt silently wishes her luck.


It is not surprising that the first Commando to have a female lead as the main protagonist puts her into undercover work and espionage rather than into combat as the male protagonists most often are in Commando. It also makes a change from making her a Resistance fighter, as girls’ comics so often did. Lisa is working with the Resistance, but she is in the role of the specially trained operative sent in by Intelligence, so we get insights into how the British Intelligence and special operatives worked from that meticulous military Commando research. We also see several of the techniques and tips Lisa provides from her special training, such as familiarising herself with the guards’ routines in order to get around them and how to handle interrogation. And the scene where she beats up that callous Hannah is absolutely priceless! Though Hannah does not get the chance to do anything that’s actually horrible as the Fischer men do, her unfeeling, arrogant remarks and her Nazi devotion make us all yearn for her to get her comeuppance.

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Lisa’s mother Elizabeth is of course the other female protagonist in the story. We really feel for the mother as we have seen so many similar situations in stories of domestic violence and parental abductions. She is faced with an increasing shadow of domestic violence from a husband who is turning bad, and then it’s compounded by the threat of being dragged off to a grim life under the jackboot of Nazi Germany. She attempts a desperate flight from that life and tries to save her children, but it’s heartbreaking to see she is only half successful. She failed to save Kurt because of his childlike naivety in hopping out of the car and asking Dad where they are going. This of course tipped Dad off at once and he threatened to take the kids away to Nazi Germany without her and she would never see them again. Mums and Dads who have lost their children to international custody disputes and parental abductions would really feel for her there and applaud when she at least manages to save her daughter. But we can imagine her heart must have been bleeding at being forced to leave her son behind and imagining what his upbringing will be like in Nazi Germany under his increasingly tyrannical father and without any motherly love. When we see how Kurt turned out because of this, Mum had every right to be concerned and how Lisa had such a lucky escape in not being dragged off to Nazi Germany as well.

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Kurt Fischer is another first in Commando: he is the very first sympathetic SS Officer to appear in Commando. Up until this point, whenever Commando used stories with sympathetic German WW2 soldiers, it made a strong point of never, ever using sympathetic SS or Gestapo officers. The sympathetic German soldiers always came from the forces and were portrayed as fighting for their country rather than Nazism and disliking the SS and Gestapo for their brutality. Sergeant Oskar Dietrich in Entry Forbidden! is one such case. SS and Gestapo officers in Commando were always just like Hans Fischer: cruel, brutal fanatical Nazis with no mercy or redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are shown to be bad because they have always been bad, such as Max Rudel, also from Entry Forbidden!

But this is not the case with Kurt Fischer. When we first see him as a kid, he looks such a sweet kid (unlike Max Rudel in childhood), and we are really worried about him when he gets left behind with his fanatical Nazi father. Sure enough, he’s the mirror image of his bullying father years later, but that’s because he’s an abused child. After the separation he was dragged off to Nazi Germany where he suffered a miserable, terrifying life under his bullying father and without even his mother to give him love. If Dad had married again, we imagine it would have been someone like Hannah Muller.

Yet Dad had not destroyed all the good in Kurt with his bullying. And we imagine that deep down, long-standing resentment from years of abuse is yearning to break out and take revenge. Both come to the surface when he is confronted with his sister and the fate she will face if Dad arrests her. When Dad shows utter lack of mercy towards his daughter, it turns out to be the last straw for Kurt. For all the bullying Kurt did earlier, we really cheer for him when he strikes back at his bully father by shooting him, and he redeems himself.

Even Hans Fischer may be a tad more tragic than SS officers in Commando usually are. Usually they are just simply bad, irredeemable characters like Max Rudel. However, the line “Elizabeth was shocked by the changes in her husband since he became involved in Chancellor Hitler’s party” hints that Hans may have been once a better man. However, becoming a fanatical Nazi destroyed all that. His fanaticism led him to destroy the family he probably once loved very much, and ultimately that same family destroyed him.

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The ending was crafted in a manner that left scope for sequels. So we might see Lisa again in a future Commando. Or we might even see Kurt in the first-ever Commando to use a sympathetic SS officer as the main protagonist. Certainly there have been serious questions raised about the consequences of that night for Kurt, which could be developed further. It’s all very well for Kurt to say he can’t go against his country, but he will find it’s not going to be that simple and he can’t really carry on with the SS the way he did before. The good in him has awakened now, and he will have to work on it if he is to keep his promise to his sister to reunite with her. After all, she’s not going to be very impressed with him if he continues to shove the islanders around or run up a list of war crimes a mile long. Besides, he now has a terrible secret that could have him executed, blackmailed or going on the run if someone finds out, and that worry is going to be a huge shadow over him. And now that Dad’s bullying dominance is gone, Kurt is more of a free man to make his own decisions. We do have to wonder if the SS was Kurt’s choice of career in the first place or if bully Dad forced him into it. It would not be surprising to see a future Commando where Lisa goes to the rescue of her brother. We shall just have to wait and see.

Operation Nachthexen [2013]

Operation Nachthexen cover

Published: Commando #4599

Artist: (cover and story) Carlos Pino

Writer: Mac MacDonald


In 1940, a dogfight with superior German Me109s goes badly for Pilot Officer Drew Granger and his unit. He is the only survivor, but his left arm is disabled from enemy fire, and the psychological damage over losing his entire unit makes him lose his nerve for flying. So he is deemed unfit to return to active service.

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So when Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, Drew is dispatched there to help the Russians because he has some background in the Russian language. However, Drew is still affected by his shattered nerve, and his command of Russian is not as good as the Allies think. The Russian commissioners are quick to realise this, so they are not impressed with him. Among them is Captain Gleb Revnik, who has a dark secret: he ran during a fight with the Germans. And Major Zubov, who has a knack for hearing tales about lack of will to fight, has men shot for running. Zubov is another commissioner who does not think much of Drew.

Then Drew is further injured during a German air raid on a Russian airfield. While recovering he is visited by a female Soviet fighter pilot, Yana Belinky, who fortunately can speak English, and they strike a friendship. When Drew recovers, he discovers the entire unit consists of women (whom the Germans call Nachthexen [Night Witches]), which he finds strange. He is concerned that their aircraft are nothing but dated PO2s (nicknamed “corn cutters” by the Russians and “sewing machines” by the Germans). All the same, they are still a vital part of the Soviet airforce. The Nachthexen pound the Germans during the night, and have worked their way up to become an effective fighting force against the Germans. Their ageing aircraft have the advantage of flying slow and low, which makes them a difficult target for the faster Me109s; they stall if throttled back too much. Another advantage of the PO2s is that they are invisible on enemy radar because their construct is canvas and wood rather than metal.

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Revnik realises that Drew still hasn’t regained his nerve, and his arm, which was reinjured in the airfield attack, is troubling him as well. Drew feels useless and is ashamed to see Yana seems more resilient than he is to losing comrades and getting injured in dogfights. Revnik decides to write to Zubov about it when the time comes. In the meantime, he is pleased that Zubov’s focus on Drew and Yana is diverting him from any potential rumours about his secret.

Meanwhile, Drew begins to suspect Revnik is up to no good. Indeed, Revnik wants to bring Yana down because of her aristocratic family background during the days of the tsars. Zubov also has his doubts about her loyalty.

Then Yana says she is not flying because there is nobody to team up with. Drew volunteers to fly with her on a raid on a German communications post, and he will handle the PO2 machine gun. Drew finds that even going through the instrument panels and controls scares him when he once found them second nature, but there is no backing out. Revnik is delighted at the prospect of getting rid of them both, and suspects will be too.

As the flight unfolds, Drew finds his nerves are doing better than expected; even his disabled arm is. The advantages of the PO2 enable Yana and Drew to reach their target with little trouble, and they soon destroy it despite a strong attack from the Germans. Then they strike serious trouble from a ferocious Me109, and Drew manages to clip it. Later it is revealed that the clipped Me109 crashes on top of Zubov’s vehicle, which kills him.

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However, during the dogfight Yana gets shot and the plane develops a fuel leak. Yana manages to land the plane so Drew can fix the leak, but it becomes apparent her condition is extremely serious. It’s up to Drew to get her back for medical treatment. But this means flying a plane he has never flown before and facing up to his nerve difficulties and problematic arm. At least he gets unwitting help with this from approaching German soldiers, who are out for revenge against one of those hated PO2’s. He has to take off fast or get mown down by their vindictive gunfire.

Drew manages to get the plane back to the airfield, though he too had taken a shot. Both he and Yana need extensive medical care, but he has regained his nerve. Revnik acquires a whole new respect for Yana and Drew and is confident they will both return to the skies. He is also relieved his secret is safe due to Zubov’s death.


This Commando holds a special place in the history of girls’ comics because it is the very first Commando to feature a female protagonist. Commando protagonists (and antagonists) have been exclusively male ever since its launch; appearances of any female characters were fleeting and peripheral, such as mothers seeing their sons off to war.

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The protagonists in this Commando are atypical for another reason: they become recurring characters. Commando protagonists are generally one-offs, but Drew and Yana return in Witch Hunt (Commando #4616) and Warrior’s Return (Commando #4635), with the same creative team.

Although this Commando is the first one to use a female protagonist, the focus of the story remains firmly on the male protagonist, Drew Granger, and his fight to regain his nerve and resume flying combat. In the meantime, he is the fish out of water at the Russian airfield. His Russian is not good enough, he can’t join the fight because of his shattered nerves, he feels useless and out of sorts, he is a target of personal and political agendas of two commissioners, and he is handicapped by an impaired arm. Drew also feels shame at how Yana is such a contrast to him. While he can’t regain his nerve she always jumps back on the horse after it throws her, never gets the loss of comrades get her down, and can face down injuries with such utter stoicism.

How Drew regains his nerve is well handled. It does not come all at once, which would feel trite. It comes in stages during the flight with Yana, but it takes a real life-or-death situation to really force Drew to face up to his problems – fly the plane and get back to base, regardless of them all – because their lives depend on it.

As the focus of the story is on Drew, we get little feel of Yana’s character. Sure, she is stoic, courageous, quick-witted, resourceful, and has nerves of steel, but that’s about it. She does not get much development, and gets no thought bubbles for us to see how she thinks or show the human side of her. The only glimpse of it is when we get a hint that Yana is more affected by the loss of her comrades than she admits: she responds abruptly to Drew when he tries to sympathise, and apologises later.

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Revnik is perhaps more developed than Yana because he gets thought bubbles for us to read, and these help to round out his character. When we learn his terrible secret and the fate he dreads, we may either develop some sympathy for him or we may hope he gets found out and shot because of his plotting against Drew and Yana. However, the respect he eventually gains for both Drew and Yana in the end turns him into a sympathetic and more likeable character. We end up feeling relief that Revnik’s secret is safe, with Drew’s unknowing help.

Unfortunately I do not have the sequels to comment on how the relationship and characters of Drew and Yana developed, or whether Revnik went on to become a good friend to them. Nor can I say whether any romance between Drew and Yana blossoms in the sequels, which is something readers might expect. For their first story there is none.