Tag Archives: Douglas Perry

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.

Slaves of the Hot Stove (1975)

Sample Images

Slaves of the Hot Stove 1aSlaves of the Hot Stove 1b

Published: Tammy 22 March to 14 June 1975

Episodes: 13

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/Reprints: None known

Plot

Madam Mange runs “The Hot Stove”, a brand-new and most exclusive restaurant in town. But the cooking is not done in the kitchens the customers see – it’s done in a secret kitchen below, which runs on slave labour. Madam Mange has been kidnapping top cooks (their disappearances have made big news) and makes them slave in the secret kitchen. The slaves also have to do all the cleaning in the restaurant. Madam goes as far as to make them dress in dirty rags (how hygienic) while they work and keeps them chained to the stove – literally. The food is sent up by dumb waiter shaft and Madam communicates with the slaves via stovepipe. When she appears in person, it is through the ventilator shaft. The guards are dumb waiters. In fact, they’re so dumb they don’t speak a word, and they don’t appear to be all that high on the brains department either. But they are frightening because they have the hulks and faces of gorillas – and at times, the temperament of gorillas.

The slaves are all resigned to their fate and believe it is hopeless to escape. Madam is also very cunning at playing head games with them. One is to play on their snobbish pride at being top cooks, such as putting them to such lowly work as floor cleaners that they are only too happy to be in the kitchen. On another occasion she saddles them with a cooking task she sells as “exciting news that offers a challenge to your skills”.

Madam Mange sets out to kidnap a schoolgirl, Carole Cook, who’s the most brilliant in her cookery class, and lures her in by special invitation. But the invitation mistakenly goes to another girl in the class who has almost the same name – Carol Cook. As a result, Madame unwittingly kidnaps the worst pupil in the cookery class. The nearest Carol can manage at serving restaurant-quality dishes is prepping chips in the family chippie. Carol decides not to tell either Madam or the slaves about the mistake, and just muddle through somehow while trying to figure out an escape before Madam finds out.

The police are sent to the restaurant to investigate Carol’s disappearance but don’t do much because Madam distracts them with delicious restaurant food. Carol hears all this through the stovepipe. Later, the slaves are sent out to buy food at the market but are kept attached to Madam with nylon strings. The policeman reappears and Carol recognises his voice. Madam gives him a special invitation to the restaurant. Carol manages to slip a secret message on it written in lemon juice. But nothing more is heard about it in the story, so it must have failed.

Carol can’t do more in the kitchen except chip spuds. She tries to hide it from Madam, but she can only get away with it for so long. Meanwhile, she gets to work on an escape through the ventilator shaft by removing one of the bars and uses a sausage to disguise it. But at the other end, the restaurant floor itself, she finds glass so thick she can’t break through or shout for help through it.

Another slave, Shirley Sands, collapses because she is a diabetic and needs sugar. Carol gives her the sugar she was planning to use for the escape. In return, Shirley covers for Carol’s lack of cookery skills. She also saves Carol’s life when Carol tries the old dustbin escape, not realising the bins were bound for the incinerator.

Now Carol and Shirley work together on the ventilator shaft escape. They break through the glass with an eggbeater and make a run for it. Carol is recaptured and Shirley gets away, but later Madam shows Carol a newspaper report saying Shirley has been found with amnesia. The amnesia was caused by drugged food Madam had sent to the slaves. This means Shirley can’t raise help.

Madam discovers the other slaves have eaten the same drugged food, which has turned them into glazed-eyed zombies who can’t remember a thing – and that includes how to cook. Carol, who is a hopeless cook, now has to cook a big lunch for a local business meeting single-handed, with only the dumb waiters to help her. Carol turns to the only thing she knows: fish and chips. Madam is mortified at this, but fortunately the businessmen are the type to enjoy it, so it’s a success. Later, Madam brings the other slaves back to normal with an antidote.

During the cooking, Carol saves a dumb waiter from being badly burned. Later, he slips something into her oven glove. He doesn’t even report her when he sees her in the ventilation shaft (which has not been sealed off although they replaced the glass at the other end). The note the waiter left informs Carol that a local health inspector is going to pay a visit. So her next plan is to make things look wrong health-wise at the restaurant and bring down a huge inspection that will surely find them.

On the night the inspector visits, Madam makes Carol work as waitress and has her teeth stuck together with special truffles so Carol can’t speak. The health inspector leaves satisfied, apart from the fake mouse Carol tried to pull. But the other slaves almost suffocate because the lift got blocked. Carol hopes that this will make them rally more with her in an escape.

One slave, Monique, helps Carol do just that when a wedding reception is held at The Hot Stove. She makes the wedding cake large enough to hide Carol in it and smuggle her out. This time, Carol succeeds in escaping.

Unfortunately, the police are finding Carol’s story hard to believe, and by the time she arrives back at The Hot Stove with them, the place is in flames. Carol believes Madam did it to destroy the evidence, and there is no trace of her or the slaves.

Carol goes back to her normal life, but nobody seems to believe her. She visits Shirley in hospital, who is still a glass-eyed zombie from the drug, and only Madam has the antidote.

Then Madam’s goons, disguised as onion johnnies, start tailing Carol. She tries to run, but Shirley’s father, Colonel Sands of Kentooky Chicken (yes, we can see what inspired that one) shows up. He believes Carol’s story and asks her to let herself be recaptured, as he has a plan to capture Madam Mange. So Carol lets the heavies take her.

Madam’s new hideout is “The Cooks Cauldron”. It’s in the back of beyond and the slaves are being held in a deep pothole. At least it’s not for long, as Madam soon returns to her old haunt. The secret kitchen was left unscathed by the fire (and not found by the police for some reason), so the slaves are back to the old slavery in a pop-up Hot Stove rising from the ashes of the old one.

Madam is all excited about an upcoming national cooking contest in the paper. However, one look at the paper and Carol realises the contest is Colonel Sands’ plot to trap Madam, and she informs the other slaves of this. They give Carol a crash course in cookery to make sure she is chosen for the contest, which finally has Carol turning out decent cookery. She is chosen. At the stadium, Carol smuggles a note to Colonel Sands that all the gang from The Hot Stove are here.

Then Carol discovers that Madam has smelt a rat. If anything happens, she will seal the place up and it will explode like a pressure cooker. And Carol can see the police closing in. She starts a pie fight as a distraction.

Madam whisks Carol and the trophy away (without winning it) to her new hot stove prison: a restaurant boat, with which she proceeds to make her getaway, slaves and all, to start all over again.

Carol uses the self-raising flour in the hold to create a giant Yorkshire pudding. It’s growing into the size of a house and will swamp the boat unless it’s burst. However, Carol has the only thing that can puncture it, and she’s not handing it over until Madam releases them and gives them the antidote for Shirley.

Madam gives in to Carol’s demands and leaves them ashore with the antidote. But she still gets away, along with her stolen trophy, and is already cooking up new schemes “to prove her greatness…the world would hear from Madam Mange again!” Or maybe not, as she never reappeared in Tammy. If a sequel with her was planned, it didn’t eventuate.

Thoughts

There have been many “slave stories” with bizarre concepts, but this one could well be the one to top them all. Nowhere is it more bizarre than the giant Yorkshire pudding escape at the conclusion. Many readers must have found this…well, let’s say…controversial. Or maybe they just burst out laughing. As it is, it’s something only the funnies can get away with, and we’re move on.

The story doesn’t go for sadistic tortures piled on thick and over the top as some slave stories do e.g. Tammy’s “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. Nor does Madam go for horrible punishments for Carol because of her constant escape attempts. She doesn’t do much more than throw Carol back into the kitchen. It’s probably because she thinks Carol is of value to her as a top cook, which is all the more reason for Carol to keep her from discovering the truth. All the same, the story is pushing things towards going over the top with keeping the slaves in actual rags and chains, and these great ape dumb waiters who don’t speak a word and look more like bouncers.

Madam’s motive for it all seems to be feeding her ego and making herself the biggest name in the culinary world. Even while she is forced to release the slaves she isn’t dwelling on it; as she makes her getaway, her mind’s already cooking up new ideas for proving her greatness. Not even the trophy (which she didn’t win by right) is enough for her. Her arrogance is so great she doesn’t even seem to be bothered by the long arm of the law catching up to her once her freed slaves get back to the police and Colonel Sands turns everything upside-down to find her. Plus, she gets the bonus of saving money with her racket, as she gets everything cheap by using slaves instead of proper staff, not just for the cooking but also all the cleaning of the restaurant and, at times, the waitressing. Only the dumb waiter goons are the hired help.

Madam Mange gets away with a lot because once Carol escapes, the police just don’t believe it, nor does anyone else except Colonel Sands. Furthermore, the police don’t really put their backs into finding Carol when they first show up at the restaurant to investigate. Nor do they do a proper search of the burned-out ruins, which would surely have turned up the secret kitchen, as the story later establishes it is still intact. Not even Carol’s parents seem to listen and don’t seriously ask Carol where she’s been once she returns. Where the heck do they think she’s been – Hell’s Kitchen or something? Ultimately, Madam gets away with it altogether as she sails off into the sunset on her boat. No arrest, prison term or public exposure for Madam Mange. We can only hope the law will ultimately catch up with her.

Like many protagonists in slave stories, Carol is the only one putting her back into trying to escape and not giving up. The other slaves are pretty much resigned to it, and Madam’s head games help to keep them that way. Carol is more immune because, ironically, she isn’t a brilliant chef like them. Ultimately, she progressively succeeds in getting them to help with escaping, but we never see any outright rebellion.

As with other slave stories, we get a string of failed escapes before the successful one occurs. However, the story is unusual in which it has the successful escape come earlier than the climax of the story – only to have it become a failure in its own way because people just don’t listen. Carol is not truly free because she still has the shadow of The Hot Stove hanging over her and knows that Madam is still out there somewhere with the slaves. The story takes a more unusual take in which the protagonist not only gets recaptured but has to agree to it as well because it’s part of a plan to catch Madam. It is here that we get to the climax of the story.

There is wackiness and curious humour in the way the whole thing revolves around food: the slavery; the methods used to keep the slaves in line; the trap for Madam Mange; and all the means used for escape. Maybe it’s one reason why the story is on the whole engaging and enjoyable, and it seemed to be popular. Or maybe it’s all that punning over “being a slave to your stove”, “slaving over a hot stove”, “kitchen slave”, and “chained your stove”. Perhaps someone on the Tammy team was feeling sympathetic about real-life people who felt that way or was inspired by them.

In any case, the story certainly made one such person feel differently. On 12 April 1975 a reader wrote in to thank Tammy for the story, saying, “My mum used to go on and on about how she’s chained to her stove and started to make me feel guilty every time she cooked something. When she read your story she changed her mind – now she can’t do enough cooking” – only to start nagging about where’s the next issue of Tammy so she can read what happens next.

Secret Ballet of the Steppes (1974)

Sample Images

Secret Ballet of the Steppes 1aSecret Ballet of the Steppes 1bSecret Ballet of the Steppes 1c

Published: Tammy 14 September 1974 to 30 November 1974

Episodes: 12

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/Reprints: Tammy annual 1981

Plot

A last remnant of Tsarist Russia escaped the Russian Revolution and established itself as a Tsarism kingdom in the Steppes, where everything – including serfdom, salt mines and oppression – runs the way it was pre-1917. It has completely bypassed the Russian Revolution, Communism, Stalin, World War II, the KGB and modernity, and not even modern Russia is aware of its existence. It caters to the whims of Princess Petra, a sickly but tyrannical girl who lives only for ballet. Petra herself is in the grip of her adviser Berova, a female Rasputin type who preys on fear, oppression and superstition to keep everyone in line. Ever since Petra fell into Berova’s power, the peasants, who had enjoyed a more humane rule under Petra’s father, have suffered intolerable lives.

Petra wants to revive the ballets her court enjoyed pre-revolution, but there are no dancers. So Berova dispatches her agents to kidnap an entire British ballet company. But the agents goof up and grab a class of ballet pupils by mistake, who have never so much as danced a ballet. When the mistake is discovered, Berova is not letting the pupils go. Her mandate: perform the ballets and do them well enough to satisfy the princess, or become serfs for life.

Seeing little choice but to go along with it, pupil and main protagonist Judith Green encourages her class to start off with Carnival, as they know some of it. All the same, it is a difficult undertaking, especially as they have no proper instructors or training in organising a ballet. Moreover, they soon learn that the princess demands an exemplary performance in only a few days at the most, and has no regard as to whether they are ready or not. However, they are aided by pianist Nicolas Ikanovitch (who loses his beard very quickly for some reason) and the original choreography still on the scores.

Babs Sinclair and Clarissa Howes have no confidence in meeting the princess’ demands because they the worst dancers in the class. They try to escape but are recaptured. Judith seeks out Petra’s quarters in the hope of mercy. She discovers Petra’s passion for ballet, which Petra tries to do despite weak legs. In the hope of softening Petra she begins to teach her some ballet, which helps to strengthen her legs into the bargain. Berova discovers this and posts guards to keep Judith away from Petra.

Berova grudgingly releases Babs and Clarissa, as their imprisonment is adversely affecting the dancers. Even Babs and Clarissa perform well enough for the opening night of Carnival, which is a success. For now, the slave dancers are in favour with Petra and are safe, but one misstep could make things otherwise.

Judith finds a friend in Princess Petra’s companion, Countess Katrina. Katrina sneaks Judith into Petra’s apartments to teach her more ballet, and they hide her when Berova comes. While in hiding, Judith sees Berova has some sort of Rasputin-like hypnotic hold over Petra, and suspects the key to freedom might be breaking it.

Petra sends Judith a present in gratitude, but this makes Babs and Clarissa so jealous they demand to take the leading roles in the next performance of Carnival. This turns the performance into such a disaster that Petra faints and takes to her bed. The girls have to put on a special dance to restore her strength. Berova gives the girls only three days to prepare and present another ballet. If Petra is not happy with it, it’s the salt mines for them, the stage hands and musicians.

Nicolas advises Coppelia as the quickest to learn. It goes remarkably well all things considered, but Judith collapses from exhaustion at the end of it. Petra is persuaded to give the slave dancers a break and they are taken for a sleigh ride across the Steppes. Along the way the girls see the appalling living conditions of the oppressed serfs and how much they hate royal imperialism.

Meanwhile, there have been hints building up that Nicolas is up to something, and the girls now find out what it is: Nicolas leads them into a trap where they are captured by revolutionaries led by Igor Krof. The Russian Revolution is finally catching up to Petra.

The girls are hostages to force Petra to agree to Igor’s terms; the bargaining chip is not their lives but Petra’s obsession with ballet and Judith being her secret ballet teacher. As time passes, no news arrives and Igor and his revolutionaries vent their frustration by making slaves out of the girls.

Judith resolves to find a way to soften Igor before they are worked to death. Ironically, it’s the same as the princess: dancing. These people really love dancing. Judith conceives a ballet that incorporates the native peasant dances they are picking up and the revolutionaries’ ideals of overthrowing oppression. The revolutionaries love it and want a daily performance.

But then bad news arrives: Petra is sending the army in to crush them. The revolutionaries get ready to fight, which will mean slaughter if the two forces meet. Figuring the answer is to break Berova’s hold over Petra, Judith sets out to escape and make her way back to the palace, braving snow, blizzards and other perils of the Steppes. On the way a helicopter arrives, with a man called Joder in charge. Judith asks them for help but soon realises they are up to no good. They leave her to be torn apart by wolves, but Judith scares them off with her dancing.

Judith arrives at the Palace, and discovers Berova contacting Joder via a radio transmitter – modern technology in a place where progress stopped in 1917. She tries to warn Petra and get her to accede to the peasants’ requests, as Petra does not understand the oppression they live under. But all Petra can think of is dancing, and she orders the already-exhausted Judith to dance on and on until she collapses.

When Judith recovers she tries to speak to Petra again about the peasants, but when she speaks ill of Berova, Petra turns against her and faints in shock. Not even Katrina is listening. Judith tries again with a ballet peasant dress and uses a fusion of ballet and national dance she picked up while a hostage to get the message across to Petra that peasants are human beings too, they are being oppressed, and that is why they are rebelling. This time she makes headway.

But enter Berova, who is soon using her weird influence to frighten them all back into her power and convince them it’s all evil and Judith is “possessed by demons”. She has Judith taken away and locked up.

Back in Igor’s stronghold, the men are keyed up for a fight and getting toey and quarrelsome. Nicolas is informed about where Judith has gone and Igor thinks Judith has betrayed them. Everything is on the brink of civil war.

Judith escapes her cell and discovers Berova is planning to steal the palace treasures while everyone’s busy with the civil war. She uses Berova’s radio transmitter to call for help. A radio ham in England picks up the message – and for some reason he seems to know exactly what to do.

On the palace doorstep the soldiers are getting ready to march. Judith distracts them all with dancing. This time everyone is so impressed with Judith’s dancing that they aren’t fooled or intimidated by Berova. Now Berova’s power is finally broken, Petra sends envoys to the rebels, and civil war is averted in the nick of time. Berova tries to flee but is later picked up when help arrives from England; it seems the radio ham originated from the area. A more humane rule is established and Petra resolves to improve her country. A plane arrives to collect the ballet girls. Everyone agrees to let the Tsarist microcosm continue in secrecy from the outside world, with ballet bridging the gap between the two worlds.

Thoughts

Gerry Finley-Day, if it was indeed he who wrote this story, was certainly known for his bizarre slave story ideas. This one is no exception. A serial with slave dancers is hardly a new thing (check out The Bubble Ballerinas from Bunty for example) – but a pocket of Tsarist Russia that escaped the Russian Revolution and all the post-Revolution phases (Stalin, Communism, KGB) that should have destroyed it, and is running pre-1917 Russian oppression without the (then) Soviet Union even realising is mind-boggling.

Normally, girls’ serials, if they touched on Russian oppression, tended to focus more on Communist Russia, the Iron Curtain and the Cold War (e.g. Curtain of Silence from Jinty) than Imperialist Russia. Yet this is not Imperialist Russia; it’s a lost kingdom in Russia trapped in a microcosm that keeps it pre-1917, not only in terms of government and oppression but also in terms of development. This makes the story all the more disturbing than if it had been set in the real Imperialist Russia.

The story focuses heavily on the evils of the Tsarist oppression and the right of the peasants to rebel. For example, in one scene we see masses of starving peasants begging for food stores to be opened up to them, but the soldiers’ only answer is to open fire on them while the girls watch in horror and Berova like a vulture. A massacre in cold blood, and on hapless, starving women and children sure is disturbing, strong stuff to show in a girls’ comic. During the sleigh ride, the girls see the hovels the peasants have to live in while the princess lives in luxury.

Perhaps it is this focus on the cruelties of Berova’s regime on the peasants that keeps the story from going over the top in its cruelties to the girls. We don’t see sadistic tortures inflicted on them, particularly on the rebellious protagonist, as we see so often in other slave serials. The demands on the girls are huge and unfair e.g. being expected to piece together a ballet in five minutes flat or everyone suffers. However, it serves the purpose of the slavers to keep the girls in reasonably good nick if they are to dance for Petra. Moreover, Judith the main protagonist does not openly rebel against their situation and incur mean punishments on herself as other protagonists in similar serials have done. She sees that (for the time being) it is no use escaping because they are lost in the Steppes in the middle of deep winter. Their best bet is to do what they are told – for the time being. In so doing, they incur less harshness from their slavers than if they had openly rebelled. However, Judith is not giving up or resigning herself to her fate; she taking more of a “bide your time” sort of approach until she can figure something out – which of course she does.

Although the story does not hesitate to depict the evils of Tsarist Russia and sympathy for the revolutionaries, we don’t get a hint of Communism itself. And it’s not because the story can’t depict Communism in a sympathetic light. It’s because Communism is not the answer to ending oppression. After all, it didn’t end oppression in Russia or any other Communist country. It is not likely to have ended oppression in this Tsarist kingdom either, even if it had overthrown Berova and Petra. In fact, the story makes a strong point that rebellion and revolution are not guaranteed to free people from oppression.

If the civil war had proceeded, the rebels would most certainly have been wiped out by the army and things gotten worse than ever for the people. Simply getting rid of Berova would not help that much either. The answer is to both break Berova’s hold over Petra and for Petra to realise peasants are people too and understand it is oppression that is driving them into rebellion. It is Judith, not the rebels, who accomplishes these things. The rebels would never have done it without her. But Judith doesn’t do it through revolution. She does it by bridging the gap between Petra and the rebels with the one thing they have in common: they all love dancing one way or other. And in so doing, Judith averts a bloody civil war, frees people from oppression, and not only frees Petra from Berova’s control but also helps redeem her.

The redemption of Princess Petra is certainly atypical of many unpleasant characters in girls’ serials, but it is credible: using her love of dancing to get through to her. Although Petra is in the grip of Berova she does not come across as a weakling (despite her sickly constitution) or a puppet ruler. She is a tyrant in her own right, as evidenced when she forces a man to dance day and night because he got carried away with dance tunes. She is a haughty, cold, spoiled, self-absorbed girl who only thinks ballet and doesn’t even understand or care what’s going on in her own kingdom. In her view, people who dance for her are only there to feed her obsession with it.

Unlike most unsavoury characters in girls’ serials Petra does not change through shock treatment or hard experience. It is through using her love of ballet to teach her that other people are human beings too. By the end of the story Petra has changed into a more humane person who wants to accomplish things for her people. She still loves ballet, but we can see she will share her love of it in a more positive manner.

Of course there can be no redemption for Berova, the female Rasputin whose cruelties and power over superstitious minds almost plunge the kingdom into civil war for her own gain.