Tag Archives: Douglas Perry

Granny’s Town (1973-74)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 27 October 1973 to 23 February 1974

Episodes: 18

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Pat Mills [edited to add: Mills credits the concept and direction to Gerry Finley-Day]

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Jen Young comes to the seaside town of Crone-on-Sea, also known as Granny’s Town, to help with her grandfather’s boarding house. It’s a favourite retirement place for old ladies, but so incredibly old-fashioned, with amusements, transport, accommodation and so forth that are decades out of date. Modernism seems to have bypassed it completely, and it looks like nothing ever happens there. 

However, Jen soon discovers the grannies in Granny’s Town are operating some kind of secret society/underground movement, and it’s enabling them to run the town all but in name. The movement is led by a granny known only as Her Ladyship. 

Under Her Ladyship and her granny army, the only law in town is Granny’s Law. Anyone who treats any granny rudely, crosses them in any way or interferes with them gets swiftly dealt with in mysterious ways and scared into leaving town. Innocuous granny activities such as knitting, embroidery and crochet are used as weapons to frightening effect against such people, such as sending threats or tying them up. And there are so many of them (always men) who cross the grannies. In what appears to be the first attack, which makes front page news in the local paper, a rude train conductor and businessman get tied to lamp posts with wool in a night vigilante attack, and cushions are left behind with a stitched message: “Get out of Granny’s Town”. This first attack strikes at night, but subsequent ones strike in broad daylight. Among them, an uncivil workman who won’t shut down the racket he’s making with his roadworks gets bound and and gagged and locked in a grandfather’s clock, to be near-deafened by its chiming and ordered to get out of town. A new supermarket owner threatens fierce competition against a long-standing store run by dear old Mrs Mullins; the grannies sabotage the supermarket and it soon closes down. 

There are danger signals about Granny’s Law. In one case, the grannies stake out a boorish donkey ride man on a lawn but just leave him there, with no release or keeping an eye on him. By the time Jen finds him he’s nearly dead from heatstroke. When Jen tries to investigate further, the grannies seize her, tie her to a peepshow machine, and force her head down into the machine to read a message: “Next time mind your own business, Miss Nosey Parker.” Unlike the others the grannies have forced out, that doesn’t stop Jen or drive her out. But the grannies always keep one step ahead of Jen when she tries to probe their activities.

It’s not just rudeness that brings down the wrath of the grannies. Anyone trying to modernise the old-fashioned town is also targeted. A rude developer wants to turn the movie theatre where the grannies enjoy silent movies into a bingo hall. They tie him up with film and force him to watch silents – with Charlie Chaplin as the movie projector – while tickling him to make him laugh. 

Things really heat up when the Mayor wants to enforce modernism on the town, demolish the old-style buildings, and pack off the grannies to old age homes. This brings out the granny fight military style and now they turn into a full-scale army. They send messages in code, such as using their knitting to click out out Morse, march like soldiers, organise councils of war, and rouse to Her Ladyship’s version of Winston Churchill’s famous “We shall never surrender” speech. 

Jen notices it’s not just the Mayor’s modernism the grannies are rebelling against. They’re striking against anything modern now, including football, a TV studio and cars, the last of which gets banned and the grannies take delight in the old-style horse and carriage. Things come to a head when the Mayor wants to pull down the pier and build an oil rig. The grannies’ tricks have him resigning in disgrace. After the Mayor resigns, Her Ladyship becomes Mayoress.

Now Her Ladyship is Mayoress, she swiftly becomes a cross between Queen Victoria and Hitler of the whole town. It’s unbelievably easy for her to do so. Everything just seems to turn into a police state in Granny’s Town at Her Ladyship’s command, no protest, no questions asked, no human rights issues raised. Granny’s Law shifts to making it a virtual crime to be young or modern. The grannies’ retaliation changes its focus from punishing those who are rude or abusive to grannies to those who do not support the granny rule. It begins with Her Ladyship throwing a free celebratory party and has Jen sell flags for it. Seems innocuous, but Jen discovers the party is Her Ladyship’s way of identifying anyone at the party who opposes her (by not wearing her flags) and remove them all by having them arrested – on no charge whatsoever: “It’s the orders of the new mayoress!” Jen is the only one shocked at this Gestapo-like action; the grannies just think it’s amusing and say Her Ladyship must have a very good reason for it. 

Under Her Ladyship, Granny’s Town is stripped of any remnant of modernity and reduced even further into an old-fashioned pattern that takes it right back to Victorian times. Coal and gaslights replace electricity. People are given Victorian clothes to stay warm after a power cut. Jen soon discovers the power cut is meant to be permanent. The town is mysteriously cut off from the outside world when the trains get blocked and telephone lines non-operational until after the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration. Everyone is trapped in Granny’s Town with these weird going-on. Yet nobody except Jen seems to realise something’s weird about the clock turning back to the 19th century in this town that was old-fashioned to begin with. They treat it as a joke and think what Her Ladyship is doing is just marvellous. 

Jen snoops into Her Ladyship’s house and discovers doll-sized dummies of everyone in town, with the doll of Her Ladyship rigged up as queen. She realises that is precisely how Her Ladyship intends to rule Granny’s Town. There can be no doubt it has something to do with the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration.

Jen soon discovers the dolls have another purpose – a means of terrorising people who still pose a threat to Her Ladyship. She walks into a store to get something trendy to replace her Victorian dress. The shop assistant, initially happy to help, receives the doll of himself from Her Ladyship’s house, now broken, and a note: “Greetings to you on Granny’s Day.” He screams they’re going to get him, he can’t serve Jen after all, and shuts up his shop fast. Later, Jen receives a package: it’s her own doll, now broken, and the same message. Now she really knows Her Ladyship is gunning for her. It looks like the granny retaliation, served in an underground way before, is becoming more open now the grannies are in charge. 

The elderly Misses Charity, Hope and Faith are regulars at granddad’s boarding house and have been friendly with Jen from the beginning. They are present when Jen receives the broken doll. She decides to take a chance and tell them what she’s discovered, and hope her trust is not misplaced. They give some indication they might help.

Granny’s Day is a grand celebration, with only Jen seeing the grannies lined up like an army. It is announced that Her Ladyship is going to demolish houses in certain roads as part of a new town planning scheme. Everyone, including Jen, thinks it’s just innocuous slum clearance and old houses going. Then men in terrifying oversized masks start chasing Jen. Nobody but Jen realises they are there to terrorise her; they think it’s part of the fun. 

Jen takes refuge from her pursuers in the town hall. There she finds a model of Granny’s Town, with all the dolls of the young people in town being thrown in a box and only the granny dolls on the model. Later, Jen discovers what it means and what the town planning scheme is really about: Her Ladyship has condemned all the modern buildings, just to evict the young people in them and force them to leave town, and make Crone-on-Sea the exclusive reserve of the grannies. The young people just seem to leave their homes and the town without a murmur of protest.

Misses Hope, Charity and Faith then seize Jen and say she’s coming with them. It looks like her trust in them was misplaced. She gives them the slip and disguises herself as a granny, but then it starts to rain heavily, washing off her makeup. She is discovered and taken to Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship is now on a virtual throne in the town hall. The only thing missing is the crown she wore in her model. She is now so powerful that all the grannies are under her control and doing everything she says, and she even has spies everywhere. 

She has Jen locked up to be dealt with later. While in her cell, Jen sees the rain turn into a thunderstorm. It gets so bad it weakens the sea wall, which threatens to flood the town. Misses Hope, Charity and Faith rescue Jen from her cell, saying they were secretly trying to help earlier without being detected. They realise “[Her Ladyship’s] a little silly and has to be stopped”. 

The sea wall is now cracking really badly and the water’s pouring in, but the grannies are too old and frail to do anything. There are no young people to help and no telephone to call for help, thanks to Her Ladyship. Jen starts a fire (in torrential rain!) to start a beacon that will hopefully alert the evicted people in the next town. It works, and the young and old forget their differences while they start sandbagging to stop up the wall. Jen is hit by a falling tree and knocked unconscious. 

When Jen wakes up, the town is safe and the granny rule has been dismantled. Her Ladyship fled in a hot air balloon during the storm, not to be seen again. The grannies have learned from the flooding business that they can’t live on their own and need young people. The young people are back and reconciled with the grannies. Everything is forgiven, but Jen knows she will never forget the days of Granny’s Law. 

Thoughts

In girls’ comics, one constant message has been to never underestimate a granny, whether good or evil. This message has been seen in so many stories, including Pam of Pond Hill. 

These grannies don’t just have the monopoly in Granny’s Town – they have it in the entire story itself as well. It’s always grannies in the story; grandpas never feature in Her Ladyship’s movement or on the plans for Granny’s Town. The dolls on the model are all grannies – no grandpas. In fact, the only gramps in the story is Jen’s grandfather, and even he barely appears in it. Again, it’s always a girls’ world in girls’ comics.

This story is making a particularly strong statement about ageism and Grey Power. Only it’s not doing it in a positive light, and the grannies, although they believe they are rightly striking back at abusers and threats to their old-fashioned livestyle, are not portrayed as the heroes of the story. In a humour serial, the direction the story could have taken, the granny movement would provide the readers with loads of laughs. We would all cheer the grannies on in giving these nasty types their just desserts. Instead, we all feel uneasy and creeped out about the whole thing because that’s the way Jen feels about it all. Though there is some humour to the way these nasty types are punished, it’s perverse humour and we are not laughing. There is nothing funny about being their being forced out of town by the grannies, just for one act of callousness. It’s vigilantism, and vigilantism can be very dangerous. Indeed, in several instances it does get dangerous and goes too far, such when the staked-out man nearly dies in the heat or Jen gets tied to the peepshow machine. 

Grannies are not normally people to be scared of, but you do get the creeps from these grannies and whatever they might be up to next, beginning with Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship gives Jen the chills right from the start. She never gives her name (“prefers to remain anonymous”) and never shows her face; she’s always veiled and she favours dark clothing. She’s also drawn at angles and distances that give the impression she operates at a distance and from the shadows. When she becomes Mayoress she switches from the veil to dark glasses that she never takes off, giving her a Mafia look. From the beginning to the end she never shows her face or gives her name, which makes her even more chilling. 

To make the grannies even more frightening, they remain unseen each time they strike, so we never know just who is behind the attack and it’s hard for the victim to prove anything. Panels only show groping hands reaching out to pull a trick, utensils (feather dusters, canes, hatpins, scarfs, etc) being applied to victims, the threats the grannies leave behind, and the odd clue Jen finds. Compounding the terror is that the grannies are so crafty in what they do that they always keep one step ahead and win every time. However much people really know about what’s going on, nobody does anything. After all, they are old ladies, and it’s a hard thing to rise up against old ladies. All the same, nobody has any backbone. One attack from the grannies and they run scared from town – except Jen of course. 

When the Mayor starts his campaign to modernise the town, the story goes in a vast change of direction. Up until this point it was episodic, with an unsavoury type getting a mysterious comeuppance at granny hands each week and driven out of town. Now the story structure switches to a full-scale story arc, with the grannies shifting from an underground movement to moving out more openly as an army and a political force that rises up to take over the town completely, with nobody but Jen realising. 

As the granny takeover unfolds, we wonder if Pat Mills was reading up on how Nazism came to power in Germany and why Hitler held such sway over the German people. We can definitely see the parallels. As with Hitler and Nazism, the granny movement starts off well and seems to be well intentioned; Her Ladyship does things that makes her extremely popular with her followers, just as as Hitler did with the Germans when he came to power. To her followers, Her Ladyship offers great benefits that are everything they could want and address their needs. It makes them feel like somebody, improves their lives, gives them great power, and shows everyone what Grey Power’s about. Nobody is able to touch them, and anyone who crosses them is always removed quickly, and serve them right too. As with the rise of Nazism, most people watching it all think it’s no big deal, serves good, and will benefit its subjects. At worst, the non-granny residents think it’s “a bit barmy”, but for the most part they just laugh at it. After all, these are just old biddies running the show. What harm can they do? Anyway, it’s to be expected they might be a bit dotty. As for this sudden turnback to Victorian times, aww, how quaint and nostalgic it is, the good old days are here again. Those who see the dark side of it (whether Jen or Winston Churchill) are voices crying in the wilderness. 

As with Nazi Germany, the dark side of it is how extreme it becomes and targets those who do not fit into its ideals because the person leading it all (whether Her Ladyship or Hitler) is a fanatical dictator. But nobody but an isolated few can see what a dangerous fanatic that leader is and the extremes they are capable of for their ideals, because it’s veiled as something that serves good and benefits those who follow it. Even Jen does not understand just how fanatical Her Ladyship is until she sees the models, and realises Her Ladyship is a crazy woman who is out to rule like Queen Victoria of the town and have her very own Victorian kingdom with all her granny subjects. 

The extreme led by this power-hungry fanatic is making the town exclusively granny and old-fashioned, to the exclusion of all those who are neither. Under her rule, everything in town must be how it was in the good old days, from architecture to transport. It becomes a crime to be young or modern, just as it became a crime to be non-Aryan, anti-Nazi or Jew in Nazi Germany. You don’t even have to be rude to a granny anymore to become a target of their retaliation. Simply not supporting the granny movement or not being able to do so makes you a target. Nobody but Jen seems to realise what’s going on, either because they don’t take it seriously or are blind to it. If anyone does realise it, they are likely to be too scared to speak out. Nobody puts up any fight or protest. The young people who have their perfectly sound houses condemned for no good reason just leave. There’s no picketing, demonstrations or marches on the town hall. The mod shop man just shuts up shop in terror after receiving the doll threat. The police arrest people who don’t support grannies at the party without charge or crime, because Her Ladyship ordered it. There are no human rights for anyone who isn’t a granny, but not a word is said about it. Her Ladyship has spies all over. Granny’s Town is turning into a police state right under everyone’s noses, and nobody but Jen realises. Had the storm not cut Her Ladyship’s reign short, we can just see it escalating into a reign of corruption, greed and terror for even her own subjects. Had the story been taken further, there can be little doubt Her Ladyship’s rule would have gone down this path. 

Girls’ comics have shown time and time again that when things are taken to extremes they inevitably lead to disaster and threaten self-destruction. You must learn the lessons of moderation, tolerance, and understanding that your way is not everything. This is what the grannies learn the hard way when the flood makes them realise that granny rule to the exclusion of the young is ultimately doomed to failure and destroy itself. They cannot survive on their own and need young people for things they cannot do themselves because they are too old to do it. They also need severe reminding that they were once young themselves and these young people will in turn be old people someday. Old and young must live side by side in Granny’s Town, which they do happily once Her Ladyship is gone and the emergency made them forget their differences. 

Further thoughts from Pat Mills

Pat Mills added via Twitter: “Gerry was inspired by Arsenic and Old Lace and possibly similar films. He gave me the story but because it was ‘his baby’, I did an okay job, rather than something more. Readers liked it okay, but weird mysteries were never as popular as ‘Cinderella’ stories. Great art.”

Swimmer Slave of Mrs. Squall (1974)

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Published: Tammy & June 22 June 1974 to 31 August 1974

Episodes: 11

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Sue Briggs is a difficult, underachieving girl at school. Her parents and headmaster come down hard on her and their approach – constantly compare her unfavourably with her brother Barney (sporty) and sister Muriel (studious) – is counterproductive and only makes Sue angry. 

Sue’s anger drives her to snoop into Squall House. The Squalls were once big in the area; the housing estate (Squall Forest Housing Estate) was built on their land and Sue’s school is called Squall Forest School. Following bankruptcy and widowhood, there’s only Mrs Squall now, who lives as a recluse. 

When Sue sneaks in, she is surprised to discover a swimming pool on the Squall House property. When she attempts to rescue Mrs Squall’s dog Otto from drowning in the swimming pool, she realises she dived in while forgetting she can’t swim. Now both she and the dog need rescuing, which is what Mrs Squall does.  

Although Sue cannot swim, she did an impressive dive into the pool to save Otto. This leads to Mrs Squall and her domineering, forbidding companion, Miss Gort, giving Sue some basic swimming lessons. They become convinced Sue has the makings of a champion there, though Sue does not like swimming as much she does diving, and she is struggling with it. They offer her secret swimming and diving lessons to make her a swimming champion, give her a key for Squall House, and tell her she must not let anyone see her enter Squall House for her lessons. At first Sue is reluctant to proceed with this, but she changes her mind after another clash with her family. Now she’s going to show ‘em all by becoming a swimming champion. 

The lessons go pretty well, with Sue making more headway with diving than swimming, which is pretty much dog paddle. Still, Sue senses there is something odd about those ladies: Miss Gort is cold and relentless as a trainer, while Mrs Squall seems “so nice and kind” and totally under Miss Gort’s thumb. Mrs Squall also seems to be training in the pool, under the same relentless Miss Gort coaching. At home, Sue tries to secretly train but finds it too awkward to do so with the family around. And when she foolishly tries to train in the canal, she lands in serious trouble. As punishment, she is sent to work at her strict grandfather’s shop, and now she’s miles away from Squall House. 

However, Grandfather can tell Sue something interesting about Squall House. The Squalls went bankrupt when Mr Squall set his heart on his wife becoming a swimming champion and spent a fortune on the swimming pool and fittings, but then his business failed and he suicided. Grandfather does not know whether or not Mrs Squall became a swimming champion.

Back at Squall House, Sue is shown a film of the Commonwealth Diving Championships. Sue is surprised to see Mrs Squall competing there – and even more surprised when Mrs Squall grows upset and screams for it to stop, but Miss Gort shows her no mercy there. Sue takes fright, decides these ladies are loony and tries to make a run for it. But then she finds the ladies are even loonier than she thought. They now make her a prisoner of Squall House. The key’s gone, and the tree Sue used to climb it when she first entered has had its branches sawn off to prevent further climbing. And Otto, though ageing, is quite a guard dog. Miss Gort tells Sue she will remain at Squall House until “our purpose has been fulfilled”. They lock Sue up in a barred room with no food until she cooperates, which she eventually does until she can figure out an escape. 

The diving is still going better than the swimming, but the latter finally turns into proper swimming and Sue is enjoying it more. However, the swimming training grows more and more gruelling, with Sue being only allowed to dive as a reward for swimming well. Mrs Squall, a brilliant diver, is put through the same intense training as Sue. Soon after, Mrs Squall, who seems to be dominated by Miss Gort, offers to help Sue. She says that her nerve broke at that event, causing her to fail, but Sue has the something extra that could be their ticket to freedom.

The police come door-to-door knocking in search of Sue, and Sue is quickly locked away. She finds a secret chamber and a book full of swimming photos. She finds a photograph of what looks like a younger Miss Gort who won the 1936 freestyle championship. The name is Alice Bradshaw. Sue wonders if Alice Bradshaw is Miss Gort. (Hang on, it’s Miss Gort, not Mrs Gort – what’s going on here?) 

Miss Gort tears up the photo and tells Sue she will be entered in a competition on Saturday, which gives Sue hope of escape. However, at the competition Sue finds she has been entered under the name Alice Bradshaw to elude the police search. Sue agrees to the competition when Mrs Squall says not doing so will destroy hope of her being free. Sue wins second place, which boosts her confidence.  

Afterwards the ladies show Sue a faked newspaper report to trick Sue into thinking her parents think her disappearance is one of her tricks and they intend to send her away. This eliminates all thought of escape drives Sue further into their clutches in the mistaken belief they offer her a glorious future as a champion, whereas her family think she’s good for nothing.

Sue decides to sneak into the secret chamber for more clues but gets locked in. Then Miss Gort and Mrs Squall enter, with the latter appearing to be in a hypnotic state. Miss Gort opens up a cabinet full of swimming trophies, her past triumphs, but says Mrs Squall failed to continue the success, so they are carrying on with Sue Briggs. Sue manages to slip out, taking the album with her. It confirms Alice Bradshaw/Miss Gort was a former swimming champion. Sue realises something must have gone wrong afterwards, hence the reclusiveness. Miss Gort is trying to regain her triumphs through Mrs Squall, which failed. Now Miss Gort is doing it with Sue, through some hypnotic power she has. Sue now suspects Miss Gort has the same power over her when she trains her, and there is something inhuman about her, something Sue can’t put her finger on.

Sue is entered in another event, and with Miss Gort staring at her all the time with that weird power, she knows she can’t lose. Then a reporter distracts Miss Gort, and Sue suddenly loses form and begins to lose. Miss Gort realises this and puts full power on her gaze, and suddenly Sue feels the strength again, but does not recover enough to win. After a row between Miss Gort and Mrs Squall over the distraction, Sue is convinced Miss Gort has hypnotic powers. On the way back, Sue catches a glimpse of her house, and although still fooled by the fake newspaper report, realises she misses her family very badly.

Meanwhile, the reporter is still sniffing. He gathers details on the Squalls, which are pretty what Sue’s grandfather has already said, but now we learn Mr Squall was a wealthy inventor and suicided because his wife failed to become the champion he wanted her to be. And that reporter wants to know where Miss Gort fits in. At Sue’s next event, which she wins, the reporter follows to find where they keep her. 

The reporter manages to sneak into Squall House. Sue quickly tells him what’s going on and to alert her family, but then Otto drives him off. One night the reporter returns to help Sue escape, but Mrs Squall attempts to drown him in the swimming pool. Sue saves the reporter and goes after Mrs Squall. The trail leads Sue to the truth about Miss Gort and why she’s so inhuman. The fact is, she’s not human at all – she’s a robot! 

Mrs Squall then reveals herself to be the one behind the swimmer slave gig the whole time, through the robot. She was only acting the part of helpless hypnotised victim in Miss Gort’s power and being “fellow prisoner” to Sue. She explains that she failed as a swimming champion because she did not train hard enough, leading to ruin for the family and her husband’s suicide. Before he died, Mr Squall built the robot as a last hope, to help Mrs Squall find someone to train as a champion and succeed where she had failed. All that stuff Sue found in the secret room about Miss Gort/Alice Bradshaw was planted there to mislead her (but Mrs Squall never explains who Alice Bradshaw never was).  

The robot hypnotises Sue into becoming a brilliant swimmer for the final medley, with the starting gun acting as the trigger for the hypnotic suggestion. Sue knows it’s cheating but has no control over the phenomenal way she is swimming now. 

Then the reporter escapes, appears at the pool, and gets into a fight with Mrs Squall, who opens fire on him. This shot confuses Sue, causing the hypnotic power to break and Sue to lose the medley. The shot hits the robot, causing it to malfunction and turn on Mrs Squall; they both fall into the swimming pool and the robot short-circuits. Mrs Squall is taken into mental care. Sue is happily reunited with her family, but is still grateful for the start Mrs Squall gave her in becoming a swimming champion.

Thoughts

As with other problem girl serials (such as “Black Sheep of the Bartons” and “Jackie’s Two Lives” (Jinty) and “Queen Rider” (Tammy)), Sue is pretty much the orchestrator of her own problems with her family and school. After all, she does nothing to make her family proud of her. In such serials, the protagonist fails to realise her bad attitude and wrong way of thinking were at the root of her problems. Once she wakes up and changes her attitude, things become far happier for her and those around her. We can imagine the same happened with Sue and her family once she returned home with new confidence and hugging her new ambition to be a champion. 

But from the beginning, Sue is also a sympathetic character. We can see how hard her family is on her and they are taking the wrong approach in comparing her to her brother and sister all the time. They’re not trying to find out what the problem is, or maybe try a different approach. Sue thought she was good for nothing and could not be good at anything, and this was reflected in her conduct. The fact that they never trusted her with a key – Miss Gort and Mrs Squall were the first to do so – says a lot, and Sue really responds to someone showing trust in her for once. It’s also one reason why Miss Gort and Mrs Squall were so successful in trapping Sue – they were the reversal of her family in the way they treated her: trust, praise, and seeing the potential of a champion in her and offering to bring it out, while her family tells her she’s a “no-good”. 

Stories where creepy, reclusive ladies take advantage of girls dissatisfied with their home life to lure them away, make them captive through mind games and other means, and use them for their own purpose have been seen elsewhere in girls’ comics. Examples include “Jackie’s Two Lives” and “The Gypsy Gymnast” (Tammy). As these examples illustrate, the lure can be built up over time until it’s ready to snare the girl, but in this case Sue is caught and trapped by episode three. From there, for the rest of the story, rather than focusing on escape it’s more about unravelling the mystery about what’s going on while doing what she’s told. 

Although the training is gruelling and even frightening, there are advantages that Sue thrives on (increasing strength, confidence and faith in herself), which gives her reasons to continue with it – and also to stay in the power of her captors. She is going from non-swimmer to the makings of a champion and has finally found something she is good at. She feels confidence she has never felt before and she finally feels she’s good for something. From what we glean, this is the reason why Sue was such a problem girl. She had no vocation in life until Mrs Squall and Miss Gort help her find it, in contrast to her family’s constant criticism and comparing her to her more successful siblings. Even while the ladies hold her captive they still give her what she never got from her family: boost her confidence, make her feel appreciated, and also make her feel like a somebody. 

Miss Gort’s training methods are not as over the top as in some stories. In “The Chain Gang Champions” (Tammy), for example, the Duchess’s notoriously extreme methods of training girls as athletes include forcing them to complete runs in ever-decreasing time limits while holding a man hostage to be fed to a hungry bear! All the same, it’s not only intense to the point of being inhuman; there’s something really weird about it that makes it frightening and creepy. It’s made even creepier by the fact that the hypnosis is not revealed all at once. Instead, it’s gradually revealed in stages, starting with those frightening eyes Miss Gort has that Sue suddenly notices. Eventually Sue begins to draw the right conclusions. 

Except that they turn out not to be the right conclusions at all. The truth is totally awry from what Sue and the reader have been led to believe. We’re all built up to think that Miss Gort is using her dominant personality and additional asset of hypnotic ability to make Mrs Squall every much her prisoner and puppet as Sue is. It’s a setup we’ve seen elsewhere in serials such as “Secret Ballet of the Steppes” and “Vision of Vanity Fayre” in Tammy. But in fact it’s in fact Miss Gort who is the puppet (a robot) and Mrs Squall is the real instigator. She had only been acting the part of a hapless victim in the grip of a tyrant, fooling Sue the whole time, and the clues Sue found the house were red herrings planted to mislead her. Woah, now that is a twist to take us totally by surprise! 

The twist would work better if we are told just who Alice Bradshaw really was and how she fits into the whole thing, but that’s never explained. The only conclusion is that Alice Bradshaw was the mother of either Mr or Mrs Squall and Mr Squall built the robot in her likeness. It would also explain why Mr Squall was so set on his wife becoming a swimming champion. 

Sadly, it was Mr Squall being determined his wife should become a swimming champion that led to the whole mess. Such obsession always spells trouble in girls’ comics, but in this case it’s even worse. It went tragically wrong, drove Mr Squall to suicide (now that’s a strong thing to have in a girls’ comic!), and turned Mrs Squall’s mind. She must have also felt guilty over her husband’s death, blaming herself for his suicide because she failed as a champion swimmer. As she’s led away by police, Sue feels sorry for her, and so do we. If Sue does become a swimming/diving champion, and we sincerely hope she does, it would go a long way towards peace for Mrs Squall. 

Tammy 1 January 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The First-Footer – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edit the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby) – final episode

Welcome to our first entry for 2021! And there’s no better way to begin than with a New Year’s issue from the past.

The Tammy annual was often a running gag at Christmas/New Year time during the Cover Girl era, and this cover is no exception. The advantage of the Cover Girls and regulars such as Bessie and Sue meant Tammy could make in-jokes about the Tammy annual, to the amusement of readers. 

Wee Sue, Edie, Bessie and the Storyteller all have New Year-themed stories as well. Miss Bigger finds bats in the belfry (literally) when she’s in charge of ringing in the New Year. Later, Sue needs the bells for more than ringing in the New Year – saving juniors from a nasty accident! Edie makes 16 New Year resolutions, and even she knows she won’t keep them all. Bessie’s class dress up in fairy tale costumes for a New Year party, with Bessie as Humpty Dumpty. In the Strange Story, Nina Prentice scoffs at superstitions and fortune-telling but is left wondering after something strange happens with the first-footer custom for New Year. The happy ending of Molly’s “Season of Goodwill” story with Lord Stanton willing to save the children’s home from closure rounds it off nicely as well.

Cathy is now a full actress, but all she feels is terror because of whoever is trying to drive her off, and they are very nasty about it. Their latest is switching Cathy’s makeup kit with that of her mother Constance, who’s been dead for years. Now, how did her enemy get hold of that anyway? Could it even be a clue to their identity?

Robert Le Mal’s fulfilled his threat to take control of birds, animals and people. But now he goes one further – taking control of power lines! 

Val gets a lift from Spain to Gibraltar. Now she has to cross a desert by camel train. But she doesn’t realise that some male members of the camel train are offended by her not being covered Muslim style and they fear it will incur Allah’s displeasure.

The bossy head prefect, along with the snobs, sends Babe & Co on a hare and hounds paperchase, which crosses paths with a fox hunt. When Babe hides the fox in her bag, it causes everyone to get chased, with the antagonists getting stuck in the mud.

It’s the final episode of “Olympia Jones”, and I used to read it over and over. The villainous Rotts must have been as surprised as they were shocked to meet their Waterloo at Olympia’s trial when they thought they had her stitching all sewn up. But Olympia’s old friend Amanda Fry changes everything with some detective work. Olympia is fully exonerated at the trial and goes on to win her Olympic gold after all. However, there’s no doubt the best scene belongs to lousy Linda Rott the horse-beater when she discovers she’s been caught out (below).

Linda the horse-beater destroys herself in court. From “Olympia Jones”, Tammy 1 January 1977/25 July 1981. Artist Eduardo Feito.

Personally, I’ve always wished the material in the final episode had been expanded into a story arc lasting a few more episodes. There’s so much jam-packed into the episode that so much gets short shrift or omitted, such as the final fate of the Rotts and the full story of Olympia at the Olympics. Maybe Anne Digby intended to develop things further with more episodes but ye Editor wouldn’t agree. 

Replacing Olympia next week is a non-Bella John Armstrong serial, “Katie on Thin Ice”. Bella tended to start in the second quarter and finish late in the year, but 1981 and 1982 were exceptions to this.

Tammy 25 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Gran’s Christmas Message – Strange Story (artist Audrey Fawley)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Kevin Rowan of “Our Kid” – feature 

The issue is actually dated 25th December. Did Tammy/Jinty readers actually get their 25th December issue on Christmas Day itself? Was the issue postdated and distributed early, before the Christmas holidays? Or did readers have to wait until after the Christmas holidays for their 25th December Tammy/Jinty to arrive? Where I come from, the Christmas issue didn’t arrive until March (that’s how long it took for girls’ comics to ship), so I wouldn’t know.

Bessie, Molly, Wee Sue and Edie all have Christmas-themed stories. I like the Bessie Christmas story so much I’ve reproduced it below.

The Strange Story is also a Christmas story. The Christmas spirit is lost on Cathy Summers, who is grieving too much for her grandmother. Then she has an accident while decorating the Christmas tree and her condition is very bad. In hospital there is a strange visitor – grandma – and Cathy makes a miraculous recovery.

No Christmas celebration for Babe of St. Woods, but she still has a ball sorting out some stuck-up boys from a boys’ school. The boys also like to play rotten pranks and eventually try pouring white paint on Babe and her friends, but Babe makes sure they hit the wrong targets – namely, the mounted police! 

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” began when Patty and Mark Stephens did a brass rubbing of an evil knight, Robert le Mal, which brought him back from beyond the grave. The ghost has powers over birds, animals, people, telephone wires and airwaves to spread his influence and make everyone do his bidding, and our heroes are being surrounded by it. He’d have influence over the Internet too if it had existed at the time. Wow, not many ghosts in girls’ comics are that powerful, and it didn’t take our medieval knight long to to discover how to use 20th century technology.

Bella spent a lot of 1976 stowing away, getting stranded in foreign countries and having all sorts of adventures in order to get to the Montreal Olympics. Now Val in “Towne in the Country” is doing the same while trying to join her father’s veterinarian expedition in Africa. Right now she’s stranded in Spain and is shocked at the cruelties of bullfighting. 

In “Curtains for Cathy”, Cathy Harley is the daughter of a famous actor but wants to make her own way as an actress, right down to working under another name. But she has an enemy trying to stop her. Whoever it is has left a dummy of her to frighten her. It doesn’t stop her from a brillant performance, which gets her four curtain calls.

Olympia Jones has just made it to the Olympics team, only to face her darkest hour (what a cruel irony in the Christmas issue). She’s under arrest for horse theft and (in effect) animal cruelty, she’s lost her horse Prince, and her hopes of getting to the Olympics look dashed. It’s all a frameup and conspiracy, hatched by her old enemies, the Rotts, to get their hands on the fortune Prince is now worth. Olympia hasn’t got one iota of evidence to prove she’s telling the truth and everything looks hopeless to her. However, the last panel of the episode should make things obvious to readers how that’s all going to change and they’ll all be hankering for the next issue to see exactly how it all pans out.

Tammy 18 December 1976

Artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The Family Feud – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece – Joe Collins

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill – first episode

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Christmas craft feature

Tammy really is gearing up for Christmas now. Her Christmas craft feature is on how to make Christmas decorations. Edie is writing out her Christmas present list (with the Tammy annual included of course). Wee Sue’s class is putting on A Christmas Carol with Sue cast as Tiny Tim, and she takes quick action to stop a Christmas tree from starting a fire. Miss Bigger was cast as Scrooge (perfect role for her) and is given an offer of a role in a pantomime. Sue doesn’t tell Miss Bigger what kind of role it will be in case she turns into the Christmas grinch. As part of Christmas Bessie & Co are repairing old toys for the children in hospital, but a rocking horse leaves Bessie champing at the bit. Stanton Hall is being decorated for Christmas – but trust Pickering to act the grinch. Then Molly discovers the local children’s home is facing closure, and Pickering, of all people, gives her an idea on what to do about it.

Babe at St Wood’s goes to the fair but falls foul of a conman. He leaves her and her friends stranded on the roller coaster with the help of the snobs before going off on business of his own – stealing silverware. Then he falls foul of Babe and her gangster-taught skills. Babe proceeds to take revenge on the snobs, who have unwisely hidden themselves in the human cannonball cannon…

Val puts her vet skills to good use on the ship she stowed away from when she cures their mascot dog of an illness. In return they don’t hand her over to the authorities. Unfortunately a storm blew them off course and now Val is stranded in Spain.

A shot makes Cathy faint, but it didn’t come from the gun she bought – so where did it come from? Back at the theatre, Cathy again hears that voice telling her to leave the stage, and that person knows her real name. To make their point clear, they throw down a dummy placard of her, and it’s hanging by the neck. We have to wonder along with Cathy – is this a sick joke or a final warning?

In the Strange Story, dressing up as a cavalier (the brother) and Puritan girl (the sister) for a pageant has them arguing – which is nothing unusual for them. Then they have an encounter with a real cavalier whose brother became a roundhead. The brothers recognised each other too late in a cavalier/roundhead fight and ended up killing each other. The cavalier has regretted ever since that he never got the chance to make things up with his brother. After this, the brother and sister patch up their quarrel very quickly and become good friends.

Mark is still sceptical about Patty’s claims that the evil Robert Le Mal is back in business despite what is happening, including finding Robert Le Mal’s coffin open, chains broken and his body gone. However, Mark is finally convinced when a gang of brainwashed fisherman in the grip of Le Mal start attacking their refuge in Le Mal’s castle, chanting “Seek! Seek! Seek and destroy! … We must do our master’s bidding!” These guys have really got our heroes trapped. Can they find a way out?

A way out is something Olympia could really do with right now against the Rotts’ frameup. She does succeed in a temporary escape from the Rotts’ first attempt to seize her beloved horse, which lasts just long enough for them to make the last qualifying event for the Olympics team. The Rotts are now forced to go through police, a court case and “a lot of fuss” to get their hands on the horse and the fortune he’s worth when they expected a quick and easy killing handed to them on a plate. Still, they think it’ll be just an inconvenience to their plot, not a threat. Couldn’t possibly become their Waterloo. After all, there is nothing Olympia can prove. And Olympia fears the same when she’s arrested on the Rotts’ trumped-up charge of horse theft.  

Tammy 11 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Ring in the New Year with a New Bike – competition

The Charioteer’s Dream – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Countdown to Christmas – feature

Oops, looks like the Cover girls are having a little trouble with what is probably an early Christmas present. Inside, Tammy adds a Christmas/New Year competition to her buildup towards Christmas. Her Christmas crafts feature this week is how to make gifts for little children. 

The school rowing teams are out in Babe at St Woods this week, and a rival school team is not playing fair. But of course they haven’t counted on Babe and her gangster skills. This week Babe draws on motorcycling skills the mob taught her. 

In this week’s episode of “Towne in the Country”, the whole focus of the story shifts from an “All Creatures Great and Small” theme to a journey theme. Val even gets a new hairstyle especially for it – a bob – much to her father’s consternation. Dad accepts a job in Africa, but Val is not accepting that she has to stay behind at boarding school. Oh, no, she’s going to follow him to Africa. In fact, she stows away on his ship. Then she finds out it’s the wrong ship and worse, she’s been caught.

Gee, now what was the thinking behind this abrupt change in the direction of the story – someone inspired by the 1976 Bella story where she stows away all the time and ends up in all sorts of places to get to the Montreal Olympics? Personally, I feel it would have been more logical to just end the current story with this episode and start the Africa saga with a sequel under a different title. Besides, “Towne in the Country” was the perfect title for the original story theme, but I don’t think it really suits the change in direction.

Cathy was warned there was a dark side to theatre: jealous types, dodgy types, mean types, etc. Now the reality must be sinking in. Trixie hates Cathy and is making her life a misery. She gets even worse when Cathy jumps from assistant stage manager to take Trixie’s part in the production. At least Cathy will get some money now. There is a second girl, Hermia, who looks like she’s out for trouble too. Added to that, there’s this other enemy out to make things curtains for Cathy and they look a lot more dangerous than Trixie and Hermia. But Cathy’s day is really ruined when she is sent out to find a rifle for the play and thinks the gun is unloaded. All of a sudden there’s a bang and she’s lying on the ground!

In the Strange Story, a Roman charioteer keeps having a recurring dream and goes to a soothsayer about it, who advises him to get a golden talisman if he is to win the event. He thinks he has found it in a slave child and buys her. Then he has to make an agonising decision between his desire to win and his conscience over slavery.

Edie goes to a fancy dress party dressed as Molly Mills – but a bully goes dressed as Pickering, and Edie does not have Molly’s talent for getting the last laugh over Pickering. She comes back with a black eye. Poor Edie.

Bessie tries to keep the boiler from being repaired in order to stall an exam. The boiler gets repaired in the end, but for once Bessie foils an exam and the other girls are pleased with her.

The seal saga ends this week for Molly Mills. Claire goes in to the lake to rescue Smiley after he gets tangled in fishing wire, but he ends up saving her. After this, Claire is allowed to keep Smiley and it’s a relief they no longer have to hide him.

Sue agrees to collect an animal from the zoo for a youth club fete – but nobody told her it was going to be a baby elephant! She is drawing a lot of laughter and hijinks as she tries to get him to the youth club, but a mouse scares him right back to the zoo. A toy shop manager comes to the rescue and allows Sue to take a giant toy elephant instead. Much easier to manage.

In “Nightmare on Grimm Fen” we finally get the backstory of Robert Le Mal. He had black magic powers, which he used to make dark birds terrorise everyone. The people eventually rose against him and killed him. But even as they did so, he said he would return, and watch out, because when he does, he will control all birds, animals and men, who will make him ruler of the land. And here come the birds already!

“We’ll handle it all with discretion” said animal welfare guy when he agreed to take Olympia Jones’ horse off her (without police involvement) on behalf of the Rotts after being tricked into thinking she mistreated the horse and then stole him from the Rotts. Well, that’s not how would describe how he’s handled it. “Professional”, “well planned” and “knows what he’s doing” are not descriptions I would use either. In fact, he’s bungled it so badly that he ends up chasing a fleeing Olympia and horse down the road, right in front of everyone. So much for discretion.

Tammy 4 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Countdown to Christmas – feature 

Lucky Heather – Strange Story (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Molls – A Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

It’s the first Tammy December issue for 1976, and Tammy sure isn’t wasting time building up to Christmas. She has a feature on how to make Christmas presents for the men in your family for the benefit of readers who are a bit cash-strapped for presents. It is the first instalment of a Christmas countdown feature.

Babe hasn’t taken much interest in athletics so far at St Wood’s, and now she’s got to contend with a head prefect who is running it all like an army drill sergeant – with help from Babe’s archenemies the snobs of course. The episode also gives us more of the Olympics theme that’s been running through Tammy during 1976. 

Speaking of the Olympics, what’s up with Olympia Jones?

Uh-oh! Olympia Jones doesn’t realise her hopes of an Olympic gold are under threat from the evil Rotts. They’re out to get their hands on the fortune her horse Prince is now worth as an Olympic prospect through their mug from LOLA (animal welfare society). They tricked LOLA guy into thinking Olympia mistreated Prince (it was themselves). Now they’ve tricked him into thinking she stole Prince as well, and is he able to please, please, get Prince back for them, as they don’t want the police involved.

LOLA guy says no problem, we’ll just walk into her next event, take Prince and drop him off to you, no need for the police. Groan…looks like LOLA guy will do anything for the Rotts. He should be asking serious questions about all this – like what the heck were the Rotts thinking in allowing this (as LOLA guy thinks) animal abuser to just make off with the very horse she was abusing in the first place and do absolutely nothing about it until now? He also says “we’ll handle it all with discretion”. But LOLA guy’s first move at the event isn’t exactly discreet – or smart – and puts Olympia on the alert before he’s even made his real move.

In “Towne in the Country”, that pesky pedlar who’s been selling fake animal medicine and cheating a lot of people finally gets cornered – by the tiger everyone else has been trying to find! Val, the only one who has gained the tiger’s trust, is going to step in.

Cathy starts her new job as assistant stage manager. She has already made an enemy, Trixie, who suspects where she has really come from. Worse, Cathy is nearly broke after being forced to use up so much of the allowance her father gave her. Well, it was her idea to do that assistant stage manager job for nothing! And now this other enemy who made that threatening phone call to Cathy’s father is now making whispered threats to Cathy herself. And it looks suspiciously like they nearly made her fall off a train as well.

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” is intensifying. It reaches the point where everything breaks down and Grimmford is cut off. Patty blames the evil knight, Robert Le Mal, she and her brother Mark unwittingly brought back to life. Mark is still sceptical about Le Mal, but then their father claims to have seen him.

Miss “Stackers” Stackpole is giving a lesson on the 21st century and anticipates that robots will be doing more and more of the things that used to be done by people. This has Bessie drifting off into a dream of what that would be like…robots bringing her grub and doing her lines for her, a robot Stackers teaching her class…well, her dream soon turns into a nightmare. Bessie’s dream sequences are among my favourite Bessie Bunter episodes. 

The Storyteller asks us if we believe in fairies. Heather Silver is wondering about that after an encounter with a strange woman who claims to have fairy descent. This is followed by curious events that get Heather’s redundant father a new job and Heather fulfilling her dream of going to vet college.

Miss Claire and Molly find a helper to help hide Smiley the seal, but keeping him secret is still proving problematic and Pickering is still on the hunt for him. And now it looks like a couple of fishermen have caught Smiley.

In “Wee Sue”, two girls have a fallout over netball on the eve of a netball final, so it’s vital to make them see sense fast. Unfortunately Sue’s efforts to patch things up only seem to make it worse. So she has to resort to a bit of cunning, which has the bonus of bringing extra custom to a coffee bar.

Tammy 27 November 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry) – first episode

The Unseen Hand (Strange Story) – artist Robert MacGillivray

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and a Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t)) – first episode

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Two new stories begin this issue: “Curtains for Cathy” and “Nightmare at Grimm Fen”.

In the former, Cathy Harley wants to make her own way on the stage, not because she’s the daughter of a famous actor. She’s even willing to do it the hard way and take all the hard knocks she’s been warned about. So she takes an assistant stage manager job under an assumed name at a rundown theatre, and she even agrees not to be paid for it. But no sooner has Cathy gone when Dad receives a threatening phone call saying he won’t see Cathy again and the curtains are coming down for her! We don’t think Cathy counted on that as part of the hard knocks she was willing to risk – but can she take it anyway when whoever it is starts their game?

In the latter, Mark and Patty Stephens make a brass rubbing of an evil medieval knight, Robert Le Mal. Then there are warning signs they shouldn’t have done that and they return to the place to reverse the damage. But as they do so, the weather grows stormy and there’s a horrible flapping sound.

It’s unusual for Robert MacGillivray to draw a historical story, but he does so with this week’s Strange Story. The story appears below for those who like MacGillivray artwork.

The snobs are cooking up trouble for Babe – literally – this week. It must be said that the gangster know-how she pulls to foil their scheme really does stretch credibility. 

There’s a hunt for a loose tiger in “Towne in the Country”, and there’s a hunter after it with safari ideas. Val spots it first and, realising it’s hurt, decides to risk herself to treat it. 

Miss Claire is trying to hide a baby seal with Molly’s help, but of course it’s a load of trouble for them both. Now there are further complications. The first is Pickering, who mistakes the seal for a monster and has all the staff hunting it. The second is another man finding the seal – and Molly doesn’t like the look of him! 

Sue plans a party. Unfortunately Mum accidentally scratches the new LP she was going to use for it, and the stores are sold out because it’s so hot. Then a stroke of luck and Sue’s habit of doodling bring her to the pop star himself, who agrees to perform live at her party after she does him a favour. 

Bessie Bunter pulls a crooked raffle to raise more food for herself, but of course she gets caught out. Her punishment is a notebook to be filled with lines. She never seems to get expelled for those naughty schemes of hers.

In this week’s episode of “Olympia Jones” it’s the long-awaited (and dreaded) return of her archenemies, the Rotts. We get the satisfaction of seeing that sacking Olympia for Linda Rott’s animal cruelty to escape prosecution from animal welfare has rebounded on them: “Takings down again…Sometimes I regret sacking Olympia Jones. She certainly knew how to train the animals.” They overlooked that Olympia was too valuable as animal trainer for Linda’s horse act, and her absence has caused the circus to suffer.

Then the Rotts discover the circus horse they mistreated has now become a show-jumping Olympic prospect under Olympia – which makes him worth a fortune. Now new cruelty is underway as the Rotts plot how to get their hands on that money.

The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.

Tammy 4 September 1982

Cover artist: Eduardo Feito

A Horse Called September (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Saving Grace (artist Juliana Buch, writer Ian Mennell)

Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Malcolm Shaw)

The Grand Finale (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – complete story

Cross on Court (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Gerry Finley-Day)

Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)

A Gran for the Gregorys (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – final episode

Slave of the Clock (artist Maria Barrera, writer Jay Over)

It’s September, so it feels appropriate to look back at some September issues, I think. And what better to start things off than with a cover that profiles a story with “September” in the title?

Some publications started life as a girls’ serial. Such is the case with “A Horse Called September”, a serial that reunites the creative team from Tammy horse classic, “Olympia Jones”. The serial was originally published in June as a text story, with the spot illustrations drawn by the ever-popular Shirley Bellwood. In the 1980s writer Anne Digby published it as a book, and Tammy adapted the serial as a picture story serial to tie in with the publication. 

In the story, Mary Wilkins and Anna Dewar have always been best friends on Mr Dewar’s farm. But when Mr Dewar gets big ideas about Anna winning a huge riding championship, things turn sour. Mr Dewar is so obsessed with it that he’s driving September the horse too ruthlessly, and now September’s lost his nerve because of it. Moreover, Anna’s been sent to a top riding school, which is changing her for the worse and she’s neglecting her friendship with Mary.

In “Saving Grace”, Sue Blackstone’s friendship with Grace Clark has also soured because Grace changed for the worse while Sue was abroad, and Sue can’t figure out why. Grace has driven a girl to run away with pony Jackson from the school pets club, which faces closure. Now Grace appears to have snaffled Jackson and her classmates are out for blood.

Bella has lost her memory and Jed and Gert are taking advantage. A runaway named Jenny, who is hiding in the Barlows’ shed, has discovered this and she tells Bella the truth. Will this bring Bella’s memory back?

“The Grand Finale” features an egotistical magician whose conjuring is nowhere near as good as he thinks. As a matter of fact, he’s so awful he doesn’t even maintain his props properly and they just fall apart in front of the spectators. Personally, I find the story as lousy as the magician.

Tammy had a number of stories where protagonists have terrible temper trouble. This time it’s Sarah Cross of “Cross on Court”, who blows her top each week, and each time she does she is left with one huge regret over it.

Pam of Pond Hill and her class have been set a challenge – an adventure course in Aberdaffy to prove their self-reliance – and the reward is a new playing field. The latest test – self-catering, is turning into disaster, but this week they turn things around. But the tests are only part of the difficulties. There is also a secret saboteur at work to destroy things because her father wants the same field for development.

It’s the final episode of “A Gran for the Gregorys”. The creative team (Phil Townsend and Alison Christie) already have a long line of emotional stories from Jinty, but this is the first story to credit the team. Ruth and Charlie Gregory are looking for a gran to adopt because the family badly need one. So far every single prospect has fizzled out and things are getting desperate. The only old lady to appear in the episode, Mrs Crabb, is as crabby as her name suggests. Surely she can’t become the gran – or could she?

In “Slave of the Clock”, Madame Margolia has hypnotised Alison Thorne into doing ballet exercises whenever she hears a clock ticking. This is a (misguided) measure to make Alison more dedicated to ballet, and clearly Madame Margolia did not foresee other consequences – like someone abusing the “power of the clock” as she calls it. This is what Alison’s ballet teacher Miss Dempster proceeds to do so she can become private tutor to a wealthy pupil. Miss Dempster vows this is the only time she will “deliberately use the power”. Oh, yeah? We know Miss Dempster has burning ambitions to get one of her pupils into the international ballet school and thinks the power of the clock could be the way to do it.

Tammy 17 June 1978

Cover artist John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Prince of the Wild (artist Veronica Weir)

Betta to Lose (artist Tony Coleman)

Tuck-In with Tammy (feature)

Down to Earth Blairs (artist José Casanovas)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills (artist Douglas Perry)

The Weather-Cock – The Strange Story (artist Angeles Felices)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Wee Sue (artist Mike White)

Circus of the Damned (artist Diane Gabbot(t))

Edie’s Hobbyhorse – Archery 

It’s Father’s Day where I am, which for some reason is celebrated the first Sunday in September instead of 20 June as it is in Britain. So I have pulled out this Father’s Day issue from Tammy in honour of the occasion. The cover appears to both acknowledge and satirise how adults, including Dads, like to read Tammy and other girls’ comics as much as the girls themselves. 

The Wee Sue story could have used a father theme to celebrate Father’s Day, but the emphasis is more on mothers when Sue and her friends offer to advertise washing powder, with a free supply of a year’s washing powder for their mums in return. Then old Bigger has to interfere, but quick-brained Sue finds a way to turn it to their advantage and make their advertising even better. 

Bella’s new job in Australia has gone badly, especially as Mr Cox, who made the offer, has been trying to back out of it and now says it’s off for good. It doesn’t help that Bella has arrived in a sorry state. Her idea of cleaning herself up is to swim in the sea, clothes and all (really, Bella!). Then the Cox children goad Bella into surfboarding for the first time, which almost gets Bella killed.

In “Prince of the Wild”, Agnes Croft is known for her big imagination, so she is finding hard to get people to believe her when she befriends a wild horse on the moors and names him Prince. We are also introduced to Colonel Powell’s snooty twin daughters, who look like they’re going to be the antagonists of the piece. Agnes finds it very suspicious that the Powell twins are frequenting the moors. Could it have something to do with Prince?

Betta’s latest attempt at self-sabotage (playing with a dud hockey stick) to escape sports slavery at school rebounds on her, and in the end her trick is discovered. The sports mistress has already grown suspicious as it is, so is the game up for Betta? 

In “Down to Earth Blairs”, the Tammy version of “The Good Life”, snooty Mrs Proctor, who is always gunning for the Blairs because she disapproves of their self-sufficient lifestyle, has a flea infestation in her house and blames the Blairs’ animals. However, the animals test negative for fleas when Sanitary Department inspects them, so where did the fleas come from?

The Strange Story features a weather-cock, which “Badger” Browny insists should be left alone when the church committee decide to remove it. He claims it has the power to warn of upcoming accidents by pointing in their direction. Karen, who believes him, follows the direction of the weather-cock, where she discovers a road collapse and saves an oncoming bus from it. After this, the weather-cock is allowed to stay.

It had to happen – Bessie’s so fat she gets stuck in a chair. To make things more awkward, it’s the head’s chair, so if Bessie can’t get unstuck fast, she could be in serious trouble if “Stackers” finds out.

This week’s episode of “Circus of the Damned” focuses on the use – and abuse – of exotic animals in circuses. Their use in the episode comes across as even more distasteful today in an age where using exotic animals in circuses has become un-PC and the move is on to phase it out. Circus owner Yablonski is so obsessed with creating the greatest show on earth that he blackmails his performers into dangerous stunts. This week’s episode shows how the blackmail makes the animals suffer as well. This week they and their trainers actually try to rebel, but Yablonski cracks his whip – literally – to bring them into line. Or has he? At the end of the episode, someone releases the tiger Yablonski mistreated earlier and it’s on the loose. 

The Molly Mills strip has been nothing but crime, fugitives and running from the law ever since arch-enemy Pickering framed Molly for a theft he committed himself. Molly, still on the run from that, has returned to Stanton Hall, now under the ownership of Mrs Powell. But it turns out the money Mrs Powell used to buy the hall came from her half-brother’s bank robbery. He escaped prison and went after her to get the money back. Now he’s caught up and is holding the whole hall hostage to force Mrs Powell to resell the hall to get the money back. Both Molly and maidservant Jodie are trying to smuggle messages for help to the estate agent – without consulting each other. Molly’s worried things could go wrong.