Tag Archives: Bella At The Bar

Further reprints from Rebellion: “Bella” and two Jinty stories

You will perhaps have already seen the latest exciting information on the internet: Rebellion Publishing is bringing out two volumes of girls comics reprints from Tammy and from Jinty respectively.


Bella at the Bar” is billed, appropriately, as “A modern day Cinderella story”. At 96 pages it is the right length to include the first two “Bella” stories but the blurb is fairly general and gives little away to the aficionado as to exactly what the contents are. It seems unlikely that it includes Bella’s later struggles to reach the Moscow Olympics or travels to mysterious Arab countries where she tutors princesses – or at least not yet, as this is billed as Book One. May there be many more!

Rebellion have chosen a strong pair of stories from Jinty to launch what is again billed as Volume One of (hopefully) a series: “The Human Zoo” and “Land of No Tears”. No cover is shown on the initial announcement on the Simon & Schuster website, but there are plenty of great images that could be used, of course. As with the Misty volumes, they have made sure to link the two stories in some clear way – this time rather than choosing the same author, they have gone for the same artist. Guy Peeters is an under-recognized girls’ comics artist and I am glad to see him get more attention.

Jinty cover 19 August 1978

Where possible, I am keen to link to the original publisher’s site. I see that the Bella book is listed as being one of the “Treasury of British Comics” line, but it is not yet mentioned on the specific website for that imprint. I found it on the Simon & Schuster website: I think that Rebellion have a distribution deal with them, which is presumably why it is listed there. I’m not quite sure why the Jinty volume is listed as being one of Rebellion’s Graphic Novels (a list that on searching seems to include “Charley’s War” and “Marney the Fox”, but also some less all-ages titles such as “Bleach”). It would be nice to see all the announced titles listed clearly on the Treasury of British Comics site, which is a good dedicated shopfront that is easy to navigate and use.

Finally, a word of warning to other sites announcing these two new titles  and future ones in the series – be careful to attribute the creators and the stories correctly. “Bella” is correctly credited as being by Jenny McDade as writer and John Armstrong as artist, but in future Bella stories it will be harder to be sure of the writer. During Tammy’s era of printing credits, Primrose Cumming is known to have been the writer of the time – hopefully the publishers will check with erstwhile editor Wilf Prigmore in case there was any other writer in between those two times, but certainly Jenny McDade did not write all the Bella stories over the ten years that it ran.

“The Human Zoo and Land of No Tears” is billed as being by Pat Mills as writer and Guy Peeters as artist. The sharp-eyed reader of this blog will spot straight away that “The Human Zoo” is known not to have been written by Mills – although the writer is not definitively established it is thought likely to have been one of Malcolm Shaw’s. That uncertainty presumably makes it harder for the publishers to be clear about the authorship: in the circumstances they can’t just say straight out that it is by Malcolm Shaw I suppose. However, that lack of clarity will muddy the waters for others and I fear it will lead to a perpetuation of the unexamined notion that Pat Mills wrote the vast majority of girls comics – something which he does not himself claim, but which others not infrequently do on his behalf.


WTFometer VII: Cinderella Story

Comixminx has devised the WFTometer, the idea of which “was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways”.

This seventh volume of the WTFometer will look at three Cinderella stories that already have entries on this blog. They are Cinderella Smith and Make-Believe Mandy from Jinty, and Bella at the Bar (original Bella story) from Tammy.

As the name suggests, the Cinderella story means a serial where the protagonist is treated like Cinderella by cruel parents, foster parents or other type of guardian. There is often a wicked stepsister type (though not always) who is spoiled and joins in the abuse of the protagonist. Most often the protagonist’s one hope of escape comes from a talent she has discovered or special secret, but the abusers throw all sorts of obstacles in the way.

When comparing the results on the WTFometer, the scores remain the same for agency in small/large things and emotional/physical/mental security. They remain “small difference”. One reason is that the emotional/physical/mental security issues are not serious enough to go into “big difference”. For example, the abuse the protagonist endures is not severe enough to put her at risk of death, so it remains “small difference”. The variations in scores are seen in the sections on household structures and standard real-life talents. This ties in with the Cinderella format, where family structure is the basis for establishing the abuse, and where a special talent/secret is often the key to freeing the protagonist from the abuse. None of the stories hit “extreme” in any category.

First: Cinderella Smith

Score: 10


Cindy Smith is sent to live with her two elder cousins while her father is away. They exploit and abuse her to the point of putting her in chains and making her eat out of the dog’s dish. Although they live a luxurious lifestyle they make Cindy live in mean conditions and put her in tattered clothes. Their abuse is prompted by stinginess and hatred towards Cindy’s mother, who is now dead. Cindy takes a secret modelling job. The cousins’ dog Woozums, initially hostile to Cindy, becomes her companion and co-modelling star. Cindy also gets help from her friends at school in working against her cousins’ abuse.

This story scores a 10 on the WTFometer. This is because it is the most consistent with the patterns observed above. There is “small difference” in “standard pets” because of Woozums, which takes up the scoring slightly more. It would score higher if Cindy was an orphan, but she is not. Her father is still alive. The “standard friends” structure remains “standard”, but this is in fact unusual for a Cinderella serial, in which the protagonist tends to be more isolated from any friends to help her.

Second: Make-Believe Mandy

Score: 14


Mandy Miller’s family hate her for some reason. The parents make her do all the housework and slave in their second hand clothes shop while they devote all their attention and money on their spoiled daughter Dinah. The parents always compare Mandy unfavourably with Dinah, calling her ugly, useless and not fit to be seen with her. Whenever Mandy threatens to go one better than Dinah, the parents get even more cruel with her.

Gradually Mandy realises their hatred stems from her not being related to them by blood. She is in fact a foreign princess who was left in their care when calamity struck the country. When payments for Mandy’s upkeep fell through the Millers were left stuck with her. But now officials from Mandy’s home country have located her whereabouts, and after a series of tests to determine her identity, they want her to reclaim her throne. The Millers try to stop this by locking Mandy in the coal cellar, and Mandy is making a seemingly impossible bid to escape through the coal chute.

The scoring is similar to “Cinderella Smith”. One difference that would make the scoring lower than Cindy is that the ticket out Mandy’s misery is her royal birthright, not a special talent, so standard real-life talents are ranked as “standard. However, Mandy scores “big difference” on the two-parent household category because the Millers are not Mandy’s real parents and it can be safely assumed her birth parents are dead, which would make her an “orphan”. So Mandy scores four points higher than Cindy.

Third: Bella at the Bar

Score: 24


Orphan Bella Barlow is exploited by her Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, who wring as much money and work out of her as possible. They make her do all the housework, slave at Uncle Jed’s window cleaning business (without payment), don’t feed her properly and keep her off school.

Bella has a genius for gymnastics, but the Barlows either do not allow it because it will make no money for them or they take advantage of it if they do see a way to make money from it. This includes sending Bella to a seaside show where they will get money from her gymnastics acts. The seaside show manager exploits and abuses Bella as much as the Barlows do, and the acts she is being forced to do threaten her health.

Bella follows the same patterns as Cinderella Smith in the real-life talents and emotional/physical/mental security sections, but in other sections it scores higher. Unlike Cindy, Bella is an orphan, which means “big difference” in the two-parent category. The Barlows don’t let her go to school, which means “big difference” in the school category. There is “small difference” in the locality section because of the shift to the seaside show.

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights, pt II

Around this time last week, I met up with Ben Smith from Rebellion, to discuss the acquisition of the IPC copyrights and to pitch some possible ideas. This is not an interview (I didn’t take detailed notes), but it is a way of recording some particularly exciting elements of what’s looking plausible or likely.

First of all, Ben and the company as a whole are as keen to make great use of this new material as you could wish them to be. This is a significant investment for them, so it needs to be approached in a way that means it makes good long-term sense. There’s a lot of obvious value to be got from this treasure trove. A line of well-chosen reprints is a no brainer when you consider that the company has already proved the worth of that model (their reprint of Monster from Scream & The Eagle is one of their very best sellers).

Monster has name recognition factor (Alan Moore and John Wagner), but how do you sell the stories that don’t have quite such attention-grabbing names? And will it only be the ‘usual suspects’ that sit fairly comfortably alongside 2000AD – stories from horror comics or hard-hitting war tales? One of the things I was particularly happy to hear was that they really are looking in detail across the range of boys, girls, and humour comic stories. Ben was enthusiastic about all sorts of girls comics, from sports stories (yes, “Bella at the Bar” is a strong contender) to stories of everyday life (he name checked Pam of Pond Hill), and of course the science fiction / fantasy / creepy stories that were such a big part of Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. (We talked less about humour comics as it’s not my main focus, but they won’t be ignored in the line-up.) At the same time he was realistic in acknowledging that there will also need to be energy spent in making new markets; the nostalgia market is a great start but it needs to be grown to incorporate a new readership. Parents whose kids are outgrowing the Phoenix, or teens who are excited by the Olympics? Rebellion will be casting the net more widely than just the nostalgia market, wherever it ends up landing.

It’s not just reprints, though. We didn’t talk about relaunching titles or creating new material using the old characters – if these possibilities come into view I suspect it will be some way along the line, once the new playing field has been staked out and surveyed better. But merchandising, oh yeah. Again it needs to be done right, to make it work long-term, but can you imagine the bull leap from “A Leap Through Time” on a t shirt, or the cover of “Concrete Surfer” on a bag? Maybe you won’t have to just imagine it, soon.


Of course as a fan historian and interested blogger, I also wanted to ask other questions about the acquisition. Ben was quick to reassure that fan sites such as this one were very much fine by him (so long as people don’t ‘take the piss’ by which I assume he means reprinting whole issues or stories, or of course selling material commercially). They help to keep the buzz going, and are an important information resource. (Certainly any artist and writer credits that the reprints publish is more likely to come from bloggers and historians than from any official records, I fear.) So there is no problem with this site continuing to feature scanned art, sample episodes, posts about stories, and analysis (even if this includes spoiler details of story endings). You needn’t worry about changes to the content of this site, therefore (though I will now be amending the copyright information to credit Rebellion correctly).

I also asked about what sort of archives were included in the deal. Ben’s focus as the head of publishing is different from mine as a comics historian – he is thinking about the fact he will need to build around 80 metres of shelving to hold the bound file copies of the comics, and is looking forward to seeing if any of the new haul includes anything that could speed up the reproduction process (for instance, any usable film from the original printing – though he doesn’t hold out much hope). I am wondering if there might be any further material included in those archives – I don’t realistically expect there to be letters and editorial files, but you never know. Might there be a file copy of the issue of Tammy which never got distributed – the one which includes the last episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”? We know that there were 30 copies printed of the last pre-censorship Action, and maybe a similar situation could be the case here. I will be very keen to make a trip to the new archive location, once the dust has settled!

Tammy & June 22 June 1974

Tammy & June 1974 Cover artist – John Richardson

  • Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong, writer Jenny McDade) – first episode
  • Secret of the Supermarket – The Strangest Stories Ever Told (artist Douglas Perry) – first appearance in Tammy
  • Sadie in the Sticks (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
  • Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • It’s Great Here! – Competition
  • Bessie Bunter – first appearance
  • Summer Madness! Competition
  • Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall (artist Douglas Perry, writer Gerry Finley-Day?) – first episode
  • Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer Terence Magee)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – new story
  • Eva’s Evil Eye (artists Charles Morgan and John Richardson, writer John Wagner) – first episode

As we have a June theme running at present, I thought I may as well discuss the issue where June merges with Tammy. The title hails it as “a great get together” and I certainly agree. In this merger, everything starts either new or anew. This makes a nice change from the usual annoyance of mergers starting with stories from both comics that are still unfinished, so new readers are irritated to start reading stories half-way through.

What comes over from June – Bessie Bunter and the Storyteller – will last for many years in Tammy. In fact, Bessie and the Storyteller are going through their second merger; they originally came from School Friend, which merged with June. Many of the Strange Stories that appear in Tammy would later make their way into Jinty with Gypsy Rose replacing the Storyteller. Some of them even turned up in June annuals during the 1980s – talk about reciprocation. Their appearance in Tammy also gave her more regulars in addition to Molly Mills and Wee Sue.

Molly Mills starts off with a great story that hooks you in immediately (well, it did me). Molly takes pity on Ada Fellows, a girl who seems to be bullied by her ex-employer and brings her to Stanton Hall for a job. Pickering the resident bully butler thinks Ada should be got rid of. And for once he has the right idea. Molly soon discovers Ada is big trouble – especially for her.

Sadly, Lucky’s Living Doll proved less durable. Although she had lasted for years in June, she did not make it to the merger. Maybe the editor decided her time was done or there was no room for her because Tammy was to retain Wee Sue and Uncle Meanie from the Sandie merger? If so, Wee Sue proved the most durable and would go through the most diverse range of artists before ending in 1982.

It would be nice to know which of the new serials were originally meant for June or Tammy; they could have appeared in either of them.

In “Eva’s Evil Eye”, Eva Lee pretends to have the evil eye to stop girls from bullying her because she is a gypsy. But what will the consequences be – especially if someone sees through Eva? “Sadie in the Sticks” belongs in the time-honoured tradition of an amnesiac girl being exploited by unscrupulous people who take advantage of her loss of memory. Sadie Wade’s only joy as she slaves in the Scraggs’ household and chippie is a talent for making matchstick models. Pretty odd considering she has a fear of fire. The start of the mystery that has to be unravelled if Sadie is to regain her memory and be free of the Scraggs. In “Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall”, Sue Briggs is a difficult pupil at school who seems no good at anything or even try. Then, when she trespasses at the reclusive Mrs Squall’s house, her talent for swimming is discovered and Mrs Squall offers to train her as a champion. But the title warns us that her motives and methods are not all that noble.

And the best for last. The Tammy & June merger issue is a milestone in Tammy history for another reason – it marks the debut of Bella Barlow. She starts off as a serial here, “Bella at the Bar”. Like Sadie, Bella is a Cinderella story (minus the mystery). Her aunt and uncle make her do all the work, both at home and at their window-cleaning business. The only thing that makes her life worth living is gymnastics. Her talent is spotted, but her mean uncle won’t agree to training unless there’s money in it. Bella is determined to find a way, but of course there will be even more obstacles. However, this would not be just another Cinderella story. Popular demand would bring Bella back again and again until she held a joint record with Molly Mills for Tammy’s longest-running character – ten years. It is appropriate that Bella is the first serial we see as soon as we open the issue. Bella is also indicative of how topical gymnastics had become at the time with Olympic champions like Olga Korbut. Up until then there had been only one gymnastics story in Tammy – the 1972 story “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”. But the popularity of Bella – not to mention the fluid, anatomical artwork of John Armstrong – would make gymnastics a regular feature in Tammy.

That’s it for my June contributions to this blog. My next entry will be back on topic with Jinty.

The Best of 70s Girls’ Comics Annual

(Thanks to Lew Stringer for alerting me to this new annual of IPC Fleetway girls comics material: it is sold exclusively in Sainsbury so there is little information on the internet about it.)

Best of 70s Girls Comics Annual


  • Jokes: Fun Spot and Fun Time
  • Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong)
  • At the Midnight Hour (text story)
  • Fancy Dressing Up? (feature)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Good news for the birthday girl! (feature)
  • The Strange Story: Called to Save
  • Jokes: Fun Time
  • Friend of Alison (text story)
  • See Yourself – In Your True Colours (feature)
  • Sally Was A Cat
  • Tammy Jokes
  • How To Make Baubles, Bangles, & Beads (craft feature)
  • Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
  • Holly Takes The Plunge! (text story)
  • Beauty From The Fridge (feature)
  • No Tears For Molly (writer Maureen Spurgeon, artist Tony Thewenetti)
  • Bag of Tricks! (craft feature)
  • Crocodile, Crocodile! More Fun With Minna From Mars (artist Colin Merritt)
  • Put Your Cards On The Table! (feature)
  • The Osmonds (pin-up)
  • Jokes: Fun Spot and Five More Fun Spots

As a reader of British girls’ comics, overall I think this is reasonably well-balanced as a selection; I’m not that fond of text stories generally but they do give you something chewy to go back and read once you’ve devoured the comics (always my primary focus), and it includes a reasonable range of kinds of comic story too, as well as some of the usual kinds of features. As a particular fan of Jinty, with my Jinty-blinkers on, I was pretty disappointed with how little material from ‘my’ title showed up in this annual – the cover image is from the Jinty annual of 1975, and it is possible that some of the jokes or features are taken from an issue that I don’t recall, but none of the stories do*. Fans of Tammy will find more in it that they remember.

That aside, it is a publication that I will be happy to share with my young daughter even if it doesn’t trip the nostalgia-button that the publishers may have been expecting. It’s not that large a book – 72 pages is thinner than the usual run of annuals – but it has some fun items to look through with her, without me needing to trust fragile forty-year-old paper to her tender mercies.

* Edited to add: “Minna From Mars” is taken from the 1976 Jinty Annual, but there is no representation of any of the stories from the regular Jinty weekly issues.