Tag Archives: Bella

Tammy 4 November 1978

Tammy 4 November 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Upper Crust – first episode (Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Dancer Entranced (artist Angeles Felices)
  • Tuck in with Tammy – food ideas for Bonfire Night
  • One Girl and Her Dog… (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Tender Trap (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Strange Story – The Pied Piper
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece – cartoon (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • TEAM in Action (artist Carmona)

Guy Fawkes is coming, so I am taking time out from Scream to discuss fireworks issues, courtesy of Tammy.

This one, from 1978, had the regulars Edie the Ed’s Niece, Wee Sue and Bessie Bunter available to provide Guy Fawkes-themed stories, and they all do so. Tammy’s recipe page, “Tuck in with Tammy”, also has some recipes for Bonfire Night.

In Bessie Bunter Miss Stackpole won’t allow the girls to have Guy Fawkes because it clashes with a concert she booked for the girls for the same night. “Mean rotter!” says Bessie, and we totally agree. Naturally, the girls don’t look very happy at the concert, and Bessie is taking a more proactive stance – sneaking out of the concert with her friend Mary to let off fireworks secretly. As it turns out, this leads to a chain of events that have the girls enjoying a Guy Fawkes celebration after all.

Wee Sue and her friends are on the Penny-for-the-Guy routine, but some boys steal their Guy and leave them with an inferior model. Surprisingly, it’s Miss Bigger who gives the boys their comeuppance when they mistake her for an even better Guy.

Now here’s a twist on The Pied Piper legend in this week’s Strange Story. The Pied Piper turns up at the scene of an accident near Hamelin where a hit-and-run driver forces a coachload of kids off the road. And would you believe it, the Pied Piper helps the injured driver and drives the kids to safety at a carnival in Hanover. But was it really the Pied Piper or just someone dressed up? There was a carnival going on, after all.

Toni, Ellie, Anthea and Maggie (TEAM) have formed the school newspaper editorial team for their boarding school, with the scrapes they get into becoming fodder for the paper. This week it’s Ellie’s turn, with some water gypsies stealing her sacred talisman for good luck. Ellie believes the loss is causing her to suffer terrible misfortune as she tries to recover the talisman, to the extent where the police have nabbed her for her failed bike lights.

Bella is in Australia and has joined Limber, a promotional team for gymnastics equipment. The trouble is, her latest coach, Sergeant Marks, has too much of a military and masculine view of gymnastics, which not only causes clashes between him and Bella but is also detrimental to the way he coaches the team for a competition. When the day comes, Bella is not confident that Sarge’s style of coaching will lead them to victory. His latest is setting the floor routines to military marches, despite Bella’s protests they won’t fit. Fortunately she has managed to set her floor routine to different music secretly. Will it make a difference?

It’s part one of “The Upper Crust”, where the Carrington-Crusts arrive in High Hills, the super-snob area of Cherryton. The daughter, Clara Carrington-Crust, immediately clashes with snobby Mavis Blunt, but in a very odd way. One minute she seems to be taking Mavis down a peg or two, the next she’s as snobby as the rest of them at High Hills. Nobody knows what to make of Clara and she’s baffling everyone at school, even the caretaker. Meanwhile, the Blunts decide there is something about these Carrington-Crusts that they’re determined to get to the bottom of.

A ballerina is under the influence of hypnotism in “Dancer Entranced”. It’s not in the same way as “Slave of the Clock”, but when you think about it, there are some hallmarks. Trina Carr is obliging her father’s dream for her to become a top ballerina like her late mother but she has no talent and doesn’t want Dad to know. Then a hypnotist seems to give her the ability to dance, but only while his metronome is ticking. The metronome has now gotten Trina into a top ballet school, where she is striking problems with a jealous rival and keeping that damn metronome ticking because she believes she can’t dance without it.

In “One Girl and Her Dog…” Kim Robinson is hoofing it all the way to London to claim an inheritance because her daft dog Rumpus ate her train ticket. They’re getting into all sorts of scrapes along the way. Among them is Harry Whelkes, a flunky a relative hired to stop them claiming the inheritance. They have just met Harry in this episode but don’t realise what he is up to. Rumpus almost scared him off for good when he tried out growling for the first time, but the promise of double the money has lured Harry back into the game.

You wouldn’t think anyone could seriously fall in love with that bully butler Pickering in Molly Mills, would you? Well, the district nurse Miss Key has after a misunderstanding has her thinking he is in love with her, and she doesn’t realise his true nature. All Pickering’s attempts to get rid of her have failed. Now the daft woman thinks he has proposed to her, and she has accepted!

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Tammy & Misty 4 October 1980

Tammy and Misty cover 4 October 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Visitor (artist Tony Coleman) – Strange Stories from the Mist text story
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Plain as Pearl (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Cut-Glass Crystal (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Running Rosie Lee (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Loneliest Girl in the World (artist Jaume Rumeu)

 

In the previous entry we profiled the Tammy that abolishes the Cover Girls and the logo that Tammy had used since her first issue. So now we take a step back and take a look at the issue that was the last to use them. So what did the Cover Girls do for their swansong? As you can see, they had a very hair-raising experience!

Of course the issue has a preview of the new-look Tammy that will be launched the following issue. It starts off with the “great news” blurb, and it is definitely much better news than saying the comic will be merging with another next issue.

New look Tammy preview 11 October 1980

After an absence of several years, Jed and Gert finally return to the pages of Bella. They have fallen on such evil days after Jed gets injured that they’re squatting, in debt, and unable to resume their window cleaning business. Bella feels so sorry for them despite the cruelties they inflicted on her in the past that she helps to revive their business. Will this be the beginning of Bella having improved relations with them though, or will they go back to the Jed and Gert of old? And there is still the matter of how Bella is going to get back into gymnastics.

This is the last issue to have the Misty text stories, which were revived during the merger. It’s a cautionary tale about not messing with blood pacts, especially when they’re sworn on the Bible.

Bessie Bunter makes one of the intermittent appearances she has been making ever since Misty joined Tammy. Bessie is so determined to go on a camping trip because it’s at an apple orchard that she lies about the weather forecast (stormy) and the state of Miss Stackpole’s tent (ripped). Of course Miss Stackpole discovers the truth on the trip, not to mention all the apples Bessie stashed in her tent. Then she and Bessie meet a lion after straying into a safari park and end up in a tree. Meanwhile, Wee Sue gets chased on the beach twice after a couple of mishaps, but it works out well in the end.

“The Loneliest Girl in the World” reaches its penultimate episode. Thank goodness it is for Karen, because she’s just about at the end of her rope with all these crazy goings-on that now go completely bonkers all around her. She’s discovering that everything and everyone around her is just one great big fake – even the forest and its wildlife. Finally, Karen emerges somewhere that at least looks genuine, but it looks like nothing on Earth – oh golly, could that be it?

At the school’s 200th anniversary celebrations, the school snobs, who have always had it in for “Running Rosie Lee”, recreate the Boston Tea Party by throwing Mr Lee’s tea into the school swimming pool to spite Rosie. But Rosie’s revenge is really surprising. Instead of the American Revolution she’s launching the French Revolution against the snobs. Is she going to send the snobs to the guillotine or something?

In “Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat” (because of the dirty tricks Annie Archer keeps playing on her in class, not because she really is useless at schoolwork), Dulcie is swotting hard for exams so she can get rid of the hat. Little does Dulcie know her hard swotting is a waste of time, because Annie is framing her for ruining the exam papers. For some reason this episode got switched with the one in the next issue, so we don’t see what happens when the school discovers the ruined exam papers for two weeks.

This week’s episode of “Plain as Pearl” shows more and more of what vanity, spoiling and pretty looks have done to make Claire a mean, selfish type and why Pearl is so right to keep her modelling job a secret from her. But at the end of the episode Claire could discover it when she drops in to Pearl’s friend Kathy’s house while Pearl is trying on her modelling clothes.

In “Cut-Glass Crystal”, Crystal’s mother and grandmother arrive to take her away from Pitedge. Dad is furious about it. That’s pretty rich of him, considering how hard he has been on Crystal. Crystal has considerable reason to leave Pitedge because she has been such a misfit there, but now there are loyalties to consider. So what will happen?

Tammy & Misty 11 October 1980

Tammy cover 11 October 1980

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong) – new story
  • The Black Stallion (text and spot photo adaptation) – first episode
  • Sandy and Steve (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
  • The Loneliest Girl in the World (artist Jaume Rumeu) – final episode
  • Looking Good Booklet part 1 – feature
  • Running Rosie Lee (artist José Casanovas) – final episode
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Cut-Glass Crystal (artist Tony Coleman) – final episode
  • Plain as Pearl (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat (artist Mario Capaldi)

 

This issue of Tammy is a milestone in Tammy’s history. Tammy does away with the logo she has used ever since her first issue (with some tweaks) in favour of one with a more modern and heavier typeset. She still has the Misty logo underneath, though.

Tammy also does away with the Cover Girls, who have graced her cover ever since Sandie merged with Tammy. So that’s John Richardson out of a job. The Tammy covers are using a style similar to the one that Jinty used in her early years before she started using story panels: put the opening page of a story on the cover. However, in this case it was one or two of the first panels, used as splash panels on the whole cover, as opposed to resizing the whole of the first page to fit on the cover. So the story still ran for three pages inside. For the most part it was Bella, as is the case here. Putting Bella directly on the cover must have attracted even more readers to her and to Tammy. Not to mention seeing Bella in full colour. Now and then Bella was on hiatus, so Tammy used other serials on the cover. This style was used for Tammy’s covers throughout 1981 and the Jinty merger. It ended with the 10 July 1982 issue.

The new look Tammy also has some new stories to match. The first is a new Bella story. Bella is helping Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert revive their window cleaning business after Jed’s back injury put it out of action and they have been reduced to squatting. So far Jed and Gert have not mistreated Bella the way they used to, but trouble comes in another form. A gang of hooligans blackmail Bella into one of their schemes, threatening to report her relatives for squatting. Then the scheme goes badly wrong when they are attacked by guard dogs.

Tammy also begins another adaptation, that of “The Black Stallion”. But it is the new serial “Sandy and Steve” that is the most striking, and must have caught readers by a most delightful surprise. For the first time, Tammy is running a boyfriend serial. This was really radical for the time, because at that stage girls’ comics did not run boyfriend serials. Boys and boyfriends, when they appeared, were on the periphery. It’s no wonder Sandy became so popular in Tammy. She spawned two sequels, the last of which had her finally having a boyfriend that she and her father could both agree upon. For the first story, though, Dad does not approve of Sandy dating Steve because he’s a real snob and regards Steve as “riff-raff”. So Dad begins his interfering habit of pairing Sandy up with boys that he deems suitable. Unfortunately the boy’s class and business/political connections with the boy’s parents are what dictate Dad’s choices of ‘suitable’ boyfriends for Sandy. He has no consideration for Sandy’s tastes or wishes. Heaven forbid this man ever goes into the dating agency business!

Also new is Tammy’s “Chatterbox” letters page, which includes a pen friends section.

Three serials end this week, which would open up space for more new serials to match the new-look Tammy. In “Running Rosie Lee” (abbreviated to “Rosie Lee” in the issue) the tea theme that’s been running throughout the story ends with it running up against its rival – coffee. “Cut-Glass Crystal” decides to stay on in her father’s hometown of Pitedge despite all the difficulties she has been having there.

The ending for “The Loneliest Girl in the World” is one of the most memorable ever in girls’ comics and still crops up in comic book discussions. In fact, the entry has been updated to include a scan of the episode below. Karen Chalmers finally learns the human race destroyed itself in a worldwide nuclear war and she is the last human. She begs the aliens who rescued her and tried to hide the truth from her to send her back in time before the war so she can die with her parents instead. Moreover, Karen goes back without losing her memory of what happened in the story (as happened in “The Human Zoo”), so she knows what is coming to her and her parents. The story looks like it was originally written for Misty.

Click thru

 

Something very odd happened with this week’s issue of “Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat”: the episodes for this week and last week got swapped. Anyway, in the episode we do get, spiteful Annie Archer takes her tricks up the notch that so many troublemakers do, and it’s the notch that always advances the story to its climax and ultimately, its resolution. Annie is no longer content with getting kicks out keeping Dulcie in the dunce’s hat by sabotaging her schoolwork. After Dulcie unknowingly puts Annie’s nose out of joint in this episode she’s out to destroy Dulcie altogether.

Juliana Buch has started on Sandy while still drawing another of Tammy’s popular serials, “Plain as Pearl”. This could be a sign that Pearl is beginning to reach the end. Pearl Kent has taken a job as a model to raise the money to send her sick mother on holiday. However she has to keep it secret from her foster family or the daughter Claire will be jealous and start spitefully interfering. Now this makes a change, having the protagonist actually anticipating a thing like this instead of the usual format of the antagonist causing trouble for the protagonist behind her back. The episode opens with Pearl having a close call with Claire, but now there’s another problem – Mum has had such a serious relapse and is so unresponsive to treatment that she may never be fit enough for the holiday.

Tammy and Princess 28 April 1984

Tammy 28 April 1984

Cover artist: Maria Barrera

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Cassie’s Coach (artist Tony Coleman, writer Alison Christie)
  • Open an Easter Egg! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz
  • The Horse Finders – A Pony Tale
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch) – final episode
  • Easter Parade – feature
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, main writer Alison Christie)
  • Easter Fun Spot – Easter jokes
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito) – final episode
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Picture Yourself! – feature

 

We finish off our spread of Tammy Easter issues with the very last Tammy Easter issue in 1984. Easter is celebrated here with Easter features, an Easter quiz, Easter jokes, and a beautiful spring cover drawn by Maria Barrera.

It is four weeks into the Tammy and Princess merger, and two of the stories that came over from Princess end this week. In “Day and Knight”, Sharon now realises the only way to make her heartbroken father happy is to allow her bully stepsister Carrie a second chance. However, her wounds from all that bullying are making it very hard for her to do so, and she does not understand that her bully stepsister is now genuinely sorry. So it’s a real dilemma. Meanwhile, helping Rusty to get his leg fit again is what finally gets Donna to stop depending on her leg brace and work on improving that leg with exercise.

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, which Princess reprinted from Jinty, carries on, as Stefa has still not learned that a heart of stone is not the answer. Ruth, who now realises Stefa’s game, has the girls rally around for a “Melt Stefa” campaign to soften that stony heart. But so far all this gets is rude rebuffs from Stefa. Next week is Stefa’s birthday. Will this make things any different?

Bella has persuaded Benjie to join the sports acrobatics group as her partner. Pity the instructress is so unfriendly to Bella because she is a former gymnastics champion. An encouraging coach would really help the partnership to flourish more.

“Cassie’s Coach” reaches its penultimate episode, and it’s a tear-jerking plot development. Mr Ironside has been such a father figure to the Lord children ever since their mother was wrongly imprisoned. There is so much they could not have done without him – like find the old coach that became their home. But this week they lose him because he has to give up his business (can’t afford to replace his horse) and go work at his cousin’s farm. Can the Lord children survive without him?

“The Horse Finders” are commissioned to find 60 of the near-extinct black Zarah horse breed. They find 50 readily enough, but the final 10 are proving elusive, and time is running out. And time has just about run out when they are one short. But the 60th appears in a most surprise manner.

In this week’s Button Box story, Bev hears a church button story that is instructive in the evolution of hassocks. They started out as tufts of grass for poorer parishioners to kneel on. Unfortunately tufts of grass also made a mess on the church floor. So they became the more practical, decorative and non-messy cushions.

A Pond Hill girl, Catherine Bone, is being terrorised by a secret society known as “The Group” because she had been such a sneak. While Pam is appalled at what “The Group” is doing, others are unsympathetic and say it’s Catherine’s just desserts for sneaking. Di is one of them – but then Catherine turns up on the doorstep, dripping with paint that “The Group” threw all over her. What do you say to that, Di?

Tammy & Jinty 9 January 1982

Tammy & Jinty cover 9 January 1982

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Danger Dog – first episode (artist Julio Bosch?)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Shadow of Sherry Brown (artist Maria Barrera)
  • Little Sisters – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Nanny Young – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine, writers Maureen Spurgeon and Tom Newland)
  • Bessie Bunter – Old Friends (artist Arthur Martin)
  • Molly Mills and the Unhappy New Year – Old Friends (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Monster Tales: The Secret of Seafleet – first episode (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Sandy – A Fresh Start – first episode (artist Juliana Buch)

We are now into the new year of the Tammy & Jinty merger. Indeed, the Molly Mills story in this issue has the New Year theme, where an old superstition causes the New Year to get off to a bad start at Stanton Hall. There is no New Year theme in the Bessie Bunter story, but there is a party theme where Miss Stackpole wants to go to a dance, but her new shoes need breaking in. Bessie volunteers to help stretch them. Of course Bessie has her own agenda in borrowing the shoes for a bit – namely, to cover her tracks when raiding the kitchen.

As part of the New Year celebrations, Tammy & Jinty bring out a lineup of five new stories (count ‘em, five!). There is little doubt that these were waiting in the wings while the merger completed other serials from both Tammy and Jinty in the first weeks of the merger.

Some months before the merger, there was a letter asking for Sandy back. The Editor replied that a new Sandy story was in hand and would be published in a few months, so stay tuned for an announcement. This meant the story was kept waiting for quite a while (wonder how many other stories were kept waiting for months before publication?). This is the third (and last) Sandy Rawlings story, and it takes the then revolutionary step of featuring boyfriends and boyfriend troubles. Sandy’s boyfriend troubles stem mainly from her father who not only still treats her like a little girl (all too common) but also chooses the boyfriends for her. To make matters worse, Dad’s choices of ‘suitable’ boyfriends for Sandy are determined by his snobby attitudes and his business connections rather than Sandy’s tastes. In this story, Dad becomes Education Officer of Birchborough, which means the family is on the move straight after Christmas. But will Sandy’s New Year be happy? Given how interfering her father can be when it comes to boyfriends, we wouldn’t bet on it.

I suspect “Little Sisters”, which also starts this issue, was originally written for Jinty as it gets an appearance in the 1984 Jinty annual. I am not quite sure why it is called “Little Sisters” as there is only one little sister, Samantha “Sam” Grey. Maybe it is meant to have us thinking “these kid sisters”. As you might have guessed, Sam’s age causes all sorts of scrapes for her older sister Carol. But there are other times when little sis is a blessing for Carol.

“Nanny Young” is the first story former Jinty artist Phil Gascoine draws for the merger. Tina Young is trying to find her first job as a nanny, but her looks (everyone thinks she looks too young to be a nanny) and even her surname (Young) are against her. How can she overcome this hurdle? Of course, this being a girls’ comics, Tina’s break comes in an unexpected and humorous manner, but when Tina sees her first family, she finds this is only the first hurdle to be overcome.

“Danger Dog” may have been originally written for Misty as it uses a Misty artist. It may have been inspired by “The Plague Dogs” or “Rats of NIMH”. Beth Harris rescues her dog Sammy from a scientific research station, but there is a fear that he may be contaminated with something from it.

“Monster Tales” is the most striking feature of the new lineup because it is so unconventional. It is a series of monster-themed stories, beginning with smugglers trying their hand at wrecking, only to encounter a sea monster that got washed up from the ship they wrecked. Afterwards they all disappear without a trace and everyone gets so frightened that they clear out of the area. I wonder if this was originally written for Misty or been inspired by her, as neither Tammy nor Jinty would run such a feature.

The stories that started in the first issue of the merger continue. Bella’s still having problems gaining points in the “Superkid” contest and the track-and-field events aren’t helping so far. Then Bella finds just what she needs – gym apparatus. After a practice on it, she surprises everyone by coming back looking a champion. Will this turn things around next week?

The jealous ghost of Sherry Brown shows she is capable of hurting even her own best friend when Katy Bishop foolishly begins to become friends with her too. Sherry’s action has put both girls in danger of drowning in the weir.

In Pam of Pond Hill, Pam’s class have been temporarily housed at St Dorrit’s while Pond Hill is closed because the foundations are under repair. But St Dorrit’s is such a super-snob school that even the caretaker looks down on them. Everyone, pupils and school staff alike, go out of their way to make it clear that Pond Hill is not welcome at St Dorrit’s. The poor Pond Hill pupils are forced to take their lessons in a substandard hut, which is leaking from bad weather in this week’s episode. After a visit from their unsympathetic headmaster, Pam tries to bridge the gap between the schools by encouraging her classmates to offer olive branches to the St Dorrit’s pupils. But she soon finds that this has opened the door to more of their bullying when they play a dirty trick with Di’s hair!

‘The Mighty One’ by Steve MacManus (2016)

The Mighty One - cover

This is a review (of sorts) of Steve MacManus’s autobiography “The Mighty One”, in which he covers his time working at Fleetway / IPC between 1973 and 1991. It’s not your usual review though, as it is also intended as a way to highlight some material mentioned in the book that either gives us new information on how the comics publishing of the time actually worked, or re-confirms information we already knew (but which it’s always good to have from more than one source.) (Some write-ups that are more ‘review’-y can be found here: GNFAR, Colin Noble at Down The Tubes, Lew Stringer.)

MacManus started work at Fleetway Publications in 1973, as a sub-editor on Valiant, which was part of the Juvenile Group of comics and magazines aimed at young people. He was part of a team of four people: an editor and a sub-editor, an art editor and an art assistant (often referred to as a bodger). He subsequently worked on Battle Picture Weekly, and although he wasn’t part of the core team working on Action he got involved in some elements of that title too. Starlord was his next step and when that merged with 2000AD he went to that title, eventually becoming Editor in 1979. In 1986 he moved sideways and relinquished the editorship to stay involved with the Judge Dredd universe, with the creation of titles for a more mature audience – Crisis (in 1988), the short-lived but beautiful Revolver, and the much longer-lasting Judge Dredd the Megazine. The book ends in 1991 with the collapse of the Maxwell Communication Corporation (which had bought IPC’s remaining comics line in 1987) and the subsequent sale of the titles to Gutenbergus (later Egmont), though the last chapter of the book, effectively an epilogue, races through the aftermath of the subsequent years through to 2011.

During this book he talks about working with key staff contacts such as art editor Doug Church, editor Dave Hunt, art editor Jan Shepheard; and with well-known freelancers like Pat Mills, Alan Grant, John Wagner, Tom Tully. The names we are familiar with from girls comics publishing – Mavis Miller, Wilf Prigmore, Terence Magee – mostly don’t get a look-in but there are certainly some folks mentioned who crossed over that significant divide as we will see – Gerry Finley-Day, Jim Baikie, and of course Pat Mills again (who seems to get everywhere). If you want to read anecdotes of those days, or find out how a boys’ comic of the time was conceived, written, drawn, put together, printed, and marketed then you couldn’t ask for a better book than this, and a fun read to boot. I’m sure it will get people digging out their old issues of the comics mentioned, or looking out for reprints of stories they missed (it’s certainly had that effect on me!).

My interest in getting the book in the first place, however, was to see what light it might shed on the creation and publishing of Fleetway / IPC’s girls comics. It did not disappoint. As mentioned above, some of the information in the book is material that we already know or had a good idea was the case, but it’s good to have it corroborated in a printed source that can be referenced in the future. Some of the information, however, is stuff I’d never dreamed of, and which has got me thinking of new things to look at and analyse in Jinty and other comics.

What did we already know that is corroborated here?

  • There are some basic facts that are repeated here about things like the target age of the readership (8-12 years), and the sales figures of the time (around 80,000 copies per week normally, with 2000AD achieving noticeably strong sales of 100,000 copies per week, but still being out-sold by Tammy which was selling 200,000 copies a week).
  • The expectation was that any given child would be reading the comic for a maximum of four years before going on to other things (it states in the book that a boy might give up his weekly comic in order to save up for something bigger and more grown up). So the rule of thumb, as we’ve heard before from Mistyfan, was that stories from a specific title could be reprinted in that title after some 5 years had passed.
  • The normal format of a comic was 32 pages, which included 3 pages of editorial material or features (intro page, letters page, back cover) and the front cover – so 28 pages of comics, normally divided up into 8 stories of three or four pages each. The book doesn’t say specifically, but presumably as with Jinty there would normally be a couple of single-page strips to make up the 28 pages of comics.
  • It was pretty clear beforehand that comics at the time were fairly blokey. Of course MacManus was talking about working on boys comics, but almost all the names he mentions were of men, apart from Jan Shepheard. The office staff, the colleagues he socialised with, the management – just about everyone he mentions was male. The magazine publishing side was more mixed, with columnists such as Julie Burchill coming in for a mention alongside female editorial staff on titles.

There were some points mentioned that weren’t totally new to me, or to other readers of this blog, but which have had new light shed on them:

  • The Juvenile Group had separate departments for boys’ comics, girls’ comics, nursery comics, and humour comics. It’s clear from this book that these departments were a lot more separate from each other in terms of culture and networking than we might have imagined. The girls comics and the boys comics were very much separated from each other – they were located on separate floors, for instance – and there is little evidence in MacManus’ book of much fraternization between the two. (Gerry Finley-Day was one of the exceptions – he was the deputy managing editor of the girls’ comics line at the same time as he was writing stories for the initial line up of Battle.) So much so that when talking about Jim Baikie coming aboard to 2000AD wagon (for “Skizz” in 1982), MacManus was seemingly totally unaware of Baikie’s background in drawing girls comics, knowing him only as a Look-In artist! I asked MacManus via Facebook whether he really had been entirely unaware of the crossing-over from girls comics to boys comics that Baikie, Ron Smith, and Phil Gascoine had done, and he confirmed that he didn’t think he knew it then and was surprised to hear it now. At the same time, there must have been some awareness of what was happening in the other area, as MacManus appreciated the notable successes that were happening with Tammy and Jinty.
  • The running order of the stories in each 32 page issue was closely tied to the popularity of the stories in question. In Valiant, the most popular story appeared at the front of the comic, and the second most popular one at the back, which makes sense. But MacManus also says that the least-liked heroes would be marked for the chop in ‘an end-of-term edition in which all the current serials concluded’, which surprised me! I don’t remember noticing that lots of stories normally came to an end at the same time, in Jinty at least – but I will certainly look at the story list by date to see if there are patterns for when stories tend to end or start.
  • Not really known beforehand but not surprising as such: MacManus gives us a little bit of detail about the taglines at the top of each cover – ‘the pithy phrases known as toplines’. These were apparently produced ahead of time – ‘several of these to last us the next few issues’.
  • I knew that there was quite a lot of active creative work required of those working as in-house staff at IPC (no doubt the same was true of DC Thomson too): we hear of Gerry Finley-Day writing umpteen stories at the same time as being a staffer, and we know about the script conferences held in the editorial offices of the comics. I was surprised, though, to understand quite how hands-on those creative processes were at all levels of the publishing process. MacManus was required to do quite a lot of writing as a normal part of his job, and he talks about the specific encouragement to write scripts and features. Art duties likewise were an important part of the in-house staff work: the bodger or art assistant would redraw elements that had been perhaps misunderstood by the main artist, or which needed amending for other reasons (such as to tone down a shocking scene, or to touch up old artwork that was to be reprinted in a different format). The art editor was responsible for the overall look and feel of the comic; we’ve heard elsewhere about how much of an effect Jan Shepheard had on early 2000AD for instance. A high level of creative endeavour was expected and required: MacManus’ interview with IPC turned at least partly on his ability to spell, and everyone on staff knew that there were a lot of parental and media eyes focused on the comics, ready to spot any errors or grammatical flaws. But at a basic level of comics publishing, too, the editorial role included the creative element of subbing the dialogue written by the author so that it fitted into the space left by the artist, while continuing to respect ‘the dramatic “beat” of the pictures so that the story flowed seamlessly for the reader’.
  • We’ve heard before from Pat Mills that women were generally uninterested in working on the comics because they wanted to work on the women’s titles, as proper journalists. I’m sure that was a real thing, but what Pat’s narrative doesn’t include is the fact that other people working on the comics also wanted to be ‘proper journalists’ too – MacManus recounts the attraction of the idea of working on a magazine and holding your head up in the queue for the staff lunch! It was also an area of the business with a lot more budget to play around with. Between this relatively greater respect accorded to journalists working on consumer magazines, and the blokey background of many parts of the publishing company, it’s perhaps not that surprising that many women may have been a bit uninterested in working on the comics.
  • It’s clear from MacManus that Scottish rival DC Thomson were immensely important not only in providing a competitor to race against, but also in the transfer of knowledge and methods to the better-paying London publisher. MacManus attended an in-house training course on scripting picture strips for girls, run by John Purdie, the managing editor of the girls’ department and an import from DCT. Writers Pat Mills and John Wagner, were similarly trained in the DCT writing style – but with particular expertise in writing girls comics, which was described by Pat Mills as being particularly plot-driven, with four sizeable things happening in the space of a single 22-panel episode. This brought in a professionalism and strength into IPC’s boys’ comics writing by explicitly teaching staffers how to write and edit tightly. MacManus contrasts this with the common technique of starting an episode with last week’s cliffhanger, resolving it, doling out a smidgen of plot development, before ending on another, often spurious, cliffhanger.
  • MacManus talks about the dummy issue of Battle being produced six weeks ahead of the first issue going on sale, and this six-week lead time crops up at other points in this book. (Amongst other things it means that ‘For a new weekly title the soonest you could end a strip was around issue twelve’.) Of course there would have to be some sort of publication lead time but it’s nice to have it nailed down fairly specifically. I’d like to have heard exactly how far in advance the advance copies were printed – we’ve heard elsewhere that there are around 30 ultra-rare copies of the issue of Action printed just before the order came to stop the presses and re-jig the level of violence in the title. Does that mean that an advance copy of Tammy‘s last issue, with the final episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”, might have been produced or even printed? You’d think someone would have mentioned it by now, but who knows… Or if not a printed copy of the issue, could there be any remaining scrap of the ‘make-up book,which listed the status of scripts and artwork for each issue going forward’?

And then there were some points that surprised me quite a lot:

  • MacManus says right at the beginning that when he joined Valiant in 1973 he was surprised to see the same characters he’d followed a decade earlier, when he read it as a boy. Captain Hurricane, The Wild Wonders, The House of Dolmann, Raven on the Wing, Kelly’s Eye, Jason Hyde, The Steel Claw: that’s a lot of ongoing characters! I don’t know Valiant enough to have a feel for how many of those were really long-running but clearly a number of them were – many more than was the case in Jinty or even Tammy. Jinty only had one or at maximum two ongoing characters at a time, while Tammy had the long-running Bella and Molly Mills of course. But neither girls’ title was chock-full of long-running stories in the way that MacManus sees as the norm in boys’ comics.
  • MacManus talks a few times about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story. At one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. There are two things that surprise me about this. One is the terminology, using ‘pictures’ or ‘frames’ instead of panels (likewise he uses ‘speech bubbles’ instead of ‘word balloons’). it’s subtly different from the terminology I’m used to – I suppose my vocabulary for this has been influenced by US comics, and I’d never noticed the small differences. It makes sense of the many references to ‘picture-stories’ instead of ‘comics’ though, I guess.
  • But the thing that surprises me most about this is the idea of measuring stories in pictures or frames, rather than in what I would never have questioned as the key unit of a story – the page. Of course, the page has to still be considered a very important unit – you have to fill up 32 pages in each issue, and the physical page is what the reader turns over to see something surprising that has been hidden from them until that page turn. The real lightbulb moment associated with this, for me, was when MacManus explained the thinking behind running only five stories in the early 2000AD – he credits Pat Mills with the notion of leaving out the most-unpopular two or three stories out of eight, and going straight to only printing five stories in each issue, with more pages allocated. MacManus specifically says ‘Each story still had the usual number of pictures, but the extra pages allowed the pictures to be drawn larger’. Wow! Yes, this is clearly what is happening, not only in 2000AD but also to a certain extent in Misty.

Available from Rebellion £9.99 for the print edition (ISBN 978-1-78108-475-5).

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights

The British comics internet was buzzing yesterday with news that Rebellion, who publish 2000AD, have bought the whole IPC list of comics from Egmont (covering all comics and characters first published after 1970 – the earlier material is owned by another company). The most detailed report is the Down The Tubes one, but it has also been announced on the BBC, Bleeding Cool, and even on Wired, so there are lots of excited people!

The quotes from Rebellion’s Ben Smith make it clear that both reprints and new stories are now possibilities – though of course with such a wide range of material having been bought, there’s no telling what will be the company’s main focus – or initial focus. The list that has been bought includes boys comics such as Roy of the Rovers, Action, and Battle, but also humour comics (which aren’t a big part of the announcement but have been part of the excited internet discussion, with calls to look at Oink and at the Ken Reid material in particular). And of course on this site our particular thoughts are on what it could mean for the girls comics – which were even specifically mentioned by Rebellion owner Jason Kingsley, very hearteningly.

If you had a say in the matter, what would you want to happen with the girls comics material in this haul? Clearly, reprinting specific stories would be an option – after all, Rebellion are already bringing out a reprint of “Moonchild” and “Four Faces of Eve” from Misty (published on 8 September). What stories would you choose to bring back as reprints, across the IPC list of girls titles? I think you’d have to make sure they weren’t chosen just for nostalgia reasons – they’d have to be really great stories that stand the test of time and don’t look dated, even though clearly there is a ‘bringing back classic comics’ element to this sort of publication. What would be your top five picks, and why?

What about other uses of the material? Merchandising, using some of the lovely design and images? Dare we think about re-worked stories, or characters extended in their life span? Would Bella, or Fran and her zany fixing, still work with new artists? Translations into other markets and languages? I would love to hear your ideas. Who knows, maybe they can happen!

[Edited to add: Down the Tubes have published a useful summary of the titles and characters that are now owned by Rebellion.]

Tammy and Princess merger: 7 April 1984

Tammy and Princess cover

  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Rusty Remember Me – from Princess (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Day and Knight – from Princess (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Diana – A Queen’s Dream – complete story (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Maureen Spurgeon) Adapted from Maureen Spurgeon’s “For Love of Elizabeth” in her book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”
  • Cassie’s Coach (writer Alison Christie, artist Tony Coleman)
  • What Kind of Fool Are You? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone – from Princess (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

Princess (series II), no connection to Princess/Princess Tina, was the last comic to merge with Tammy. It had been another short-lived title, lasting 28 issues. In terms of Jinty history, Princess is significant for reprinting some serials from her and Tammy. One, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, carries over into the merger here. It is known from Jinty’s letter page in 1981 that there had been a huge demand in the 1980 Pam’s Poll to reprint the story. But the Editor was still asking readers if they wanted Stefa to be repeated – as if he was hesitating to do it for some reason.

Other stories carrying on from Princess are “Day and Knight” and “Rusty Remember Me”. After some flashbacks filling Tammy readers in on how Dad’s remarriage has brought bully Carrie Knight into Sharon Day’s home, the story moves to its climax with Sharon being driven out of her own home because of the bully. There are also quick flashbacks to fill new readers in on “Rusty Remember Me” as well. But the story looks like it has more to go. Mum now knows the children are hiding a fox, but her fur allergy is complicating things. Dad left home to find work, but when the children see him, he is in a bad way. “Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy story to continue in the merger. It does so without any flashbacks for new readers’ benefit, and it’s taken a nasty turn – Cassie has suddenly collapsed from overwork.

The merger does away with “The Crayzees”. Instead, Tammy is taking over Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. In so doing, it brings us Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering from “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. But while Pickering was a cruel, bullying slave driver, Grovel is more of a nuisance, in the way he sucks up to his employer, Princess Bee. Most often this leaves Princess Bee annoyed and Grovel in trouble. But like Pickering, Grovel is capable of scheming to get his own way.

Bella and Pam start afresh in the merger. There is a brief introduction to Bella and her back story that enables new readers to get to grips with her immediately, before her new story starts in earnest. Bella the wanderer decides it’s time to make another move, but it doesn’t look like a good one. Bella’s new location has no gymnastics club, so Bella is trying her hand at sports acrobatics instead. The trouble is, the coach is not very pleasant to her. And she’s not welcome in the home she is boarding in – someone has wrecked her room and left a message telling her to get out!

The Pam story is an introductory one, in which Pam introduces new readers to her school and friends through back issues of “The Pond Hill Printout”. This is a clever way to familiarise the new readers with Pam. Pam’s proper story starts next week.

The story “Diana – A Queen’s Dream” is a curious one. It is adapted from “For Love of Elizabeth” in Maureen Spurgeon’s book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”. In the story, Queen Elizabeth I takes a hand in a forbidden romance in the Spencer family. At the end, she dreams of a Lady Diana Spencer – who is realised as Princess Diana in the 20th century.

 

Last issue of Jinty merger: Tammy & Jinty 10 July 1982

Tammy and Jinty cover 10 July 1982

  • Bella – final episode (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Destiny Dolls – final episode (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Molly Mills and the Ghosts – complete story (artist Douglas Perry) – last appearance
  • Bessie Bunter – last appearance
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Human Zoo – final episode (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • Can You Spread a Little Sunshine? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Punchinello’s Dance – The Strange Story (artist Mario Capaldi) – last appearance
  • Di and the Dolphins – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito)

This is the last issue of the Tammy and Jinty merger. Next issue will be a clean break that is most notable for starting credits in Tammy! (Thank you, Wilf Prigmore, for starting them!) Of course the centre pages are full of the “great news” and the stories and gifts that will be present next week.

So this issue is filled with a lot of endings, including the end of features that have been in Tammy for years. This is the last time the Jinty logo appears. Curiously, there is a small ampersand beside it instead of the usual “and”. Molly and Bessie make their last-ever appearances in Tammy. They both end on regular stories, which in the case of Molly is a complete story. There is nothing to say they have ended. There is no Wee Sue either. This is the last issue to feature a Strange Story. But it is only labelled a Strange Story; the Storyteller himself is nowhere to be seen. And there is no Monster Tale. But there will be several monster-themed stories running for a while yet, so there must have been some scripts left over from the series.

All of Tammy’s running serials, including the current Bella story, end in this issue to make way for the clean break next issue. The reprint of “The Human Zoo” from Jinty had an episode or two cut out so it could end in this issue. It was announced last issue that Pam would take a break in this issue, no doubt to make some room for clearing out more material here.