No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
Hello, everyone. For something a bit different in the issue entries, we are going to have a round robin of Tammy, where one issue will be selected and profiled from each year Tammy was running.
Leading off in 1971 is the 1 May issue. We are now three months into Tammy’s run. How is it all going? Many of the stories from Tammy’s first issue are still going strong, though three look like they are near the end.
We are some weeks into the Sally merger and Sally’s contributions are still going too. The Cat Girl and Maisie’s Magic Eye are providing some light relief against the grimness of the Tammy stories that focus on cruelty and misery.
And what’s going on the stories?
Beattie wins a sports event despite dirty tricks from jealous rivals. But she is still on the run from the orphanage and her past is threatening to catch up, as she discovers when she is shown a newspaper.
Our Janie Little Mum has been saddled with an additional problem to looking after her younger siblings – helping to hide a carthorse that has been earmarked for the slaughterhouse! And on the top floor of the apartment block too!
“My Father – My Enemy!” looks like it is on its penultimate episode. Father has been critically injured from violence during the miners’ strike, and his ramblings inform Julie just why he is so horrible to them – he blames them for his wife’s death. And quite wrongly, of course. Julie is now anxious to reconcile with him, but he has one foot in the door of death.
Glen looks like he is on his penultimate episode too. After a long, epic journey, he finally tracks down his mistress June. But she has been cornered by a vicious dog, and it’s a killer!
The Castaways of Voodoo Island looks like it is approaching its conclusion too. Jackie is cornered by the dreaded Devil God, but the blurb for next week says we will learn the truth about him.
The Cat Girl discovers her father has been set up to look like an enemy spy. She’s got to get to him before the British agents do.
On Trebaran, Abel the evil sorcerer (come to think of it, he was the only evil sorcerer Tammy ever had) is after a stone in Trudy’s possession. Surprisingly, he disappears when Trudy’s friends appear, but when she wakes up the following morning, it’s her friends have disappeared. Where have they got to?
The Girls of Liberty Lodge and their headmistress Miss Valentine are in a barge race against the rival school, Hardington School, which is run along the harsh, sadistic lines of Miss Steele, who hates Miss Valentine’s guts . As usual, Hardington plays dirty tricks against Liberty, but it backfires with Liberty finding helpers who get them to the finishing line first. And they have a new pupil – Lady Angela.
Kate frees one of the slaves of War Orphan Farm with the help of “Mad” Emma. Kate declines the offer to come too, because she wants to stay on and free more slaves. But nasty Ned and the evil Ma Thatcher have spotted the escape. What can Kate do to stop them?
Molly is also helping to liberate mistreated orphans, this time at an orphanage. The cruel staff look like they’ve conned Binks the chauffeur into helping them, but when they attack Mistress Clare he lashes back at them, and they get arrested. Well, that’s the end of the cruel treatment at the orphanage.
Betina is suspended from ballet lessons after being wrongly accused. Her confidence is so shattered that she has decided to pack her bags.
Sara is one step closer to finding the ruby that will cement her claim to the throne of Hunzir, but is warned to beware “the fat bearded one”. By the looks of things, he is the one heading up the mountain in a jeep to cut her off.
With many thanks to Christine Ellingham for sending through such detailed and interesting answers to the interview questions below – and of course also thanks to her for getting in contact in the first place!
Question 1 – Can you please give a bit of background context to your time in comics – when did you start doing work for picture strips / comics titles, and what got you into them in the first place? You say that your time as a strip artist was short – what led you to cut it short, if there was anything specific?
As with a lot of the jobs I have done over the years, I arrived at IPC, then Fleetway Publications, purely by accident and good luck.
I had been a staff layout artist plus fashion illustrator on a girls’ teenage magazine called, Go Girl! (This is where I first met Malcolm Shaw.) Go Girl! was part of City Magazines, the magazine division of The News of the World. This was in 1968.
Unfortunately, Go Girl! folded after a very short life and it was suggested that I approach Leonard Matthews, the then Director of Juvenile Publications, not sure of his correct title, at Fleetway. I did, and was offered a job there. In those days it was relatively easy to move around from one job to another.
Initially, I was placed in a department with several other people, not a specific title, where we did odd jobs for different papers, i.e. illustration, lettering, pasteup and, in the case of Alf Saporito, cartoons. I remember John Fernley being one of us, possibly Tony Hunt, though I’m not sure.
After a short period I was moved to the Nursery group, under the managing editor, Stuart Pride, and there I worked on a new publication called Bobo Bunny. This had come from Holland and needed adjusting size wise and certain content adaptation making it suitable for the UK market.
By now John Sanders was the overall editor of the juveniles. I have a feeling I wasn’t the first to be offered the position of art editor of a new girls’ paper called Tammy but I accepted it nevertheless and moved from juvenile to teenage. John Purdie was the editor and Gerry Finley-Day and Iain MacDonald made up the editorial team.
Under John, we gathered writers and artists and the aim was to compete with D.C. Thomson’s Bunty and maybe other titles of that type. I remember John and I made a trip to Rome to talk to the Giorgetti stable of artists and we were wined and dined by Giorgio Giorgetti and his American wife. We also attracted all the relevant artist’s agents, Danny Kelleher and his son Pat of Temple Arts, Linden Artists and Bardon Art for example, and collected together a group of strip artists, writers and balloon letterers.
Eventually, Tammy was launched and did very well. I was able to contribute a small amount of artwork, the back cover of the first edition is mine, but really my job was to get it all together, see the agents and in one case, the artists themselves (I remember Roy Newby used to deliver his own work) but usually the agents would deliver the artwork.
I have to admit, I was not entirely happy in the role of art editor. I had studied illustration at Hornsey College of Art and that was what I wanted to do. I left Fleetway 1971/72. Barry Coker and Keith Davis of Bardon Art represented mainly Spanish strip artists. I thought that maybe I could ‘have a go’ at doing this as a freelance and doing it from Spain. Barry and Keith took me on and my then partner and I moved to Spain. Just like that! This was 1972. Amazing really.
First of all my work was for D.C. Thomson; they waited for a whole series to be complete before publishing so as I was a novice and slow, this suited me. Fleetway needed an episode completed in a week, too much for me then. I am hazy about the titles, there may have been something called, “Warning Wind Bells” and another with an Egyptian theme with a character or a cat called Nofret, or these could have been later for IPC. I have a few old diaries of that time and one story I worked on I have only the initials of the title, S.O.S. I wonder what that stood for! 1972. There was “Topsy of the Pops”, “Vet on the Hill” and “Lindy Under the Lake”, all for Thomson’s circa 1973. (This is the date that I drew them, not necessarily of publication.)
As agents, Barry and Keith were superb. They made sure I was never without work, one story followed immediately after another, that I was paid promptly and they gave me such good advice regarding page layout, technique and story interpretation.
While I was still working on Tammy I started to have problems with my right hand (I am right handed), it not functioning properly. This continued to get worse when we were in Spain and instead of speeding up and refining my style the opposite was happening, my work deteriorated. Bardon Art kept me going but eventually we had to return to England in 1974, where I continued to struggle depressingly.
During the Spanish time I illustrated at least two Annual covers, Tammy 1972, including the front endpapers depicting National Costumes and Sandie Annual 1973, plus various spot illustrations. I still have these annuals. Or I could have done these before Spain.
After inconclusive tests that found nothing terribly wrong with my hand or me generally, the GP at the time suggested I learn to use my left hand. After thinking initially, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I realised this was my only option. I remember one ten-part story for Thomson’s started with me using my right hand and gradually with training, ended using my left hand. I can’t remember which story that was.
From then on things got better. I speeded up and developed my style. Bardon got me the first IPC job. I’m not one hundred percent sure but it could have been, Cove of Secrets or Secret Cove, something like that, for the Jinty Annual possibly 1974. Also The Whittington’s Cat Princess, DCT, around the same time. To this day, I draw, paint and write using my left hand.
“Concrete Surfer” came later. That particular story stands out for me because it was such fun to do. It was all action with hardly any background, it was very modern and I love doing figure work. I remember we bought a skate board so that I could see what it looked like from all angles, a helmet too, still got them!
I cannot remember how many strip stories I worked on after “Concrete Surfer” but at some point I felt the need to move on, that I wasn’t being stretched any more. Bardon Art were no longer able to represent me, as strip was their speciality, and sadly, we parted company. I started contributing illustrations to Oh Boy, Loving and other IPC papers for older teens.
After a few years I moved on again and, as an illustrator, contributed to national newspapers, women’s magazines, house magazines, mail order publications, coin design, greetings cards and so on.
The work was still there after my retirement but the need to move on again got the better of me and now I paint, back in Spain.
Question 2 – On the blog we are always very keen to try to establish any creator credits for artists and writers, as these are otherwise very likely to get lost in the mists of time. As far as we can tell from the art style, it looks like you drew three stories for Jinty (“Race for a Fortune” (1977-78), “Concrete Surfer” (1978), and “Dance Into Darkness” (1978) plus some covers and spot illustrations, as well as a story in the Lindy Summer Special (1975) and in the Jinty Annual 1978. It may be asking too much at this distance in time, but what other work do you recall doing and in which publications?
I would have to look at these stories that you mention to verify that I actually drew them! As I have said, Concrete Surfer stands out because for me it was a joy to do. The others, some I have managed to see on line and they do look vaguely familiar. At the time I used my partner as a model. I found men more difficult to draw than women and girls and I have noticed him in certain frames even though I tried hard to make them not look like him! When I see him I know that I did that one!
Question 3 – At the time it was very usual for artists and writers to work quite separately from each other, particularly freelance creators. Was this the case with you, or did you know others working in the same area? I ask partly in case there are any interesting stories or anecdotes that you can relate at this distance in time, but also in case you remember any names of people on the creative or publishing side that can feed in to our information of who did what.
Yes, this was the case for me. Artists do lead a solitary life and being freelance meant I would be at my desk not wanting to be interrupted. The deadlines, especially for IPC, were pretty tight. In my case the work would be delivered to Bardon Art and they would take it to the publication in the case of Fleetway, a few minutes walk away. Though in Spain I posted it directly to DCT. Nevertheless, Barry and Keith were very much involved and would add their comments sometimes.
While we were in Spain the work was rolled into a tube and posted. The tubes had to be open at both ends, some string threaded through and tied and a description of the contents had to be stuck to the outside, or left with an official at the post office.
I did meet one artist in Spain, Miguel Quesada. It was he who told me how to send artwork to England. He and some of his very large family, (a lot of mouths to feed), visited us unexpectedly. He was one of Bardon’s and a contributor to Tammy. I never met any of the other artists apart from Roy Newby, but that was before I was a contributor myself.
I did meet John Jackson when he was the art editor of Jinty and of course, Mavis Miller.
Question 4 – I am keen to understand more about the creative and publishing processes of the time. Presumably the writer supplied a script, and the editor chose the artist, but I don’t know how everything interacted. Did you get any guidance (say as part of the written script) or conversely any interference from the editor or art editor, or was the published page pretty much under your design control including the composition of the page?
Yes, the editor would choose the artist, art editors didn’t have much say in the matter, (Though this is just from my experience of working on Tammy.) And I think the editorial team would have suggested an idea for a story to the writer, again, this is how it happened on Tammy.
The artists were given a lot of guidance. Before even starting, we would be briefed on the content and theme of the story, to get to know the main characters. In the case of IPC the scripts would come one at a time, having only just been written, probably. The artist would receive a document containing the dialogue for each balloon and the positioning of the balloons had to be in that same order in the frame, also, there would be instructions on the action and mood in the frame, i.e. the heroine to look sad, the bad girl to look vindictive; a closeup and so on. The composition of each frame would be influenced by the order and size of the balloons and the overall design of the page would have had input from the editor. Quite a lot to work out, now I come to think of it! [An example of a script has been previously sent in by Pat Davidson, wife of Jinty story writer Alan Davidson: see link here.]
I always had to submit pencil roughs that would be shown to the editor for his/her comments. In Spain there were many visits to the post office, pencils going off to Stan Stamper in Dundee, coming back with comments, a finished, inked episode flying off, the two passing each other on the way. Also, we artists had to work ‘half up’ so there was a lot of ground to cover. [‘Half up’ means using a larger piece of art paper – half as much again as the finished size, so that for instance if the finished publication is 10 inches by 12 inches, half up would be 15 inches by 18 inches – with the artwork being photographically reduced in size during the production process.]
Question 5 – A slightly self-indulgent question but with a point to it – how did you come across the Jinty blog? Was it a case of happening to suddenly remember something you worked on years ago and searching for it, or being sent to it? (I ask because I would love to hear from other creators from the time, and if there is anything I can do to increase the chances of someone posting a comment saying that they wrote or drew a story from the time, I will certainly consider it.)
I’m trying to think. How did I find it? I get carried away on the internet sometimes. I think I was looking up an old friend of my now husband’s, the two of them used to work together on Eagle, Swift, Robin and Girl papers, as balloon letterers and layout artists. I started looking at Girl artwork as I do have a couple of Girl Annuals, No.3 and No.5. I noticed that the writers and artists all got a credit; one name I recognised was the artist Dudley Pout, I wonder if he contributed to any of the Jinty stories? Though he was probably of another generation.
The friend of my husband had died but in reading his obituary I found links to other sites and by then I was interested to see if any of my work was featured anywhere, the only title I could think of was, “Concrete Surfer”!
Ann’s South Sea Adventure (artist Dudley Pout, writer Jason Alan)
Emma In The Shade (artist Juan Solé)
Bijli in the Dark (text story)
Bessie Bunter (writer Ron Clark)
Shirley’s Showdate – feature on Ian Carmichael
Sindy and her Friends in Boomerang! (artist Phil Townsend)
The Champions: sports feature on Emma ‘Maid Marian’ Gapchenko
Lucky’s Living Doll (artist Robert MacGillivray)
Nature’s Wonderful Ways (artist Helen Haywood)
Strange Story: The Island of Mystery (attributed to artist Shirley Bellwood)
My Brother’s a Nut!
Dottie Doogood (gag strip)
Double for Danger (artist Leslie Otway)
Star Special “The Darwin Adventure”
For this last issue of June & School Friend of the three that I acquired, I looked through the credits listed on Catawiki to be able to list artists (and even some writers) that I didn’t otherwise know. I am very grateful to that site for its detailed information. I was rather surprised to see Shirley Bellwood credited with the art on the Strange Story (The Island of Mystery, which was reprinted as a Gypsy Rose story in the Jinty Annual for 1980) as it looks much scrappier than Bellwood’s normal lovely art, but I have gone with this attribution rather than doubting it.
[By request, here is the Strange Story – click through for large, more readable pages]
“Gymnast Jinty” has escaped the confines of the school environment and is into thrilling spy-story stuff. Jinty is on a modelling assignment on a tropical island during a coup d’état; she gets embroiled in a rebellion against this wrongdoing. In this episode we see her scattering two thousand leaflets across the capital city – during a parachute drop! But we are promised that next week, she is thrown in jail. An exciting story!
“Oh, Tinker!” this week is a fun story about a magpie who stole an engagement ring from a young woman whose fiancé is very angry about it – the ring is returned in time for it to be clear that it wasn’t from carelessness that it was lost, but due to the thieving magpie. The best bit though is when the young lady in question gives her fiancé the heave-ho for having been such a git about it all.
[By request, here is the Tinker story – click through for large, more readable pages]
We have a single page of what looks art-wise like a rather earlier story: “Ann’s South Sea Adventure”. Ann Pilgrim travels to the South Sea Islands. Lots of action and danger with natives who speak broken English, hmm.
This is a much later episode of “Emma In The Shade” – her and her mother are living in poverty on a barge and just scraping by. Her mother is failing to make a living at painting, until an accident transforms one of her naturalistic paintings into a modernist success. (A well-worn joke that seems to have been used several times as the basis of an episode of one or other comic story.) She also makes a success of singing in a talent contest, once she takes Emma’s advice to not make the songs too ‘highbrow’.
The Sindy story features a fire at the sheep station where she is staying in Australia – and a secret that the daughter of the house is hiding from her father. It is simply that she is a talented violinist, but her father disapproves.
I reproduce here the page of “Nature’s Wonderful Ways”, which was often reprinted in Jinty issues and annuals. There is a signature at the bottom of the page, so we are able to credit it to Helen Haywood.
“Double for Danger” is the dramatic story of the issue. Gail Dawson is asked to become a body double for ballet soloist Karen Grant – a request which seems innocent enough, just embarrassing if she is found out. I suspect it will end up as rather more than it seems, though! I like the way the logo is done in one large vertical panel that runs from top to bottom of the page: it is shaded as if it might have been intended for colour reproduction originally.
I notice some differences between this title and the way things worked a bit later in Jinty‘s day. Primarily it’s rather longer – this issue is 36 pages rather than the 32 I am used to seeing – but looking at Catawiki I see that this figure is down from 44 pages in around 1968. I also see that the lettering in the stories is not done via typewriting as in Jinty et al – it’s hand-lettered throughout, sometimes more neatly than others, so presumably it was not done in house by a central resource. Interesting! Often the lettering was very nicely done too.
The Secret of Trebaran – first episode (artist Giorgio Cambiotti)
The Girls of Liberty Lodge – first episode (artist Dudley Pout)
Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” – first episode (artist Desmond Walduck, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
Dawn and Kerry Double for Trouble – first episode (artist Giorgio Letteri, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
“Our Janie” – Little Mum – first episode (artist Colin Merritt)
Betina at Ballet School – first episode
My Father – My Enemy! – first episode
Courier Carol – first episode (artist Jean Sidobre)
Glen (later called Glen – A Lonely Dog on a Quest) – first episode (artist Jim Baikie)
Tammy Club Page – Feature
Castaways on Voodoo Island – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
No Tears for Molly – first episode (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
Cats and Kittens – Feature
Recently we had an entry for the last Tammy ever published. So it is seems appropriate that there should be one for the first Tammy as well.
The cheery blond girl who greets us on the cover (which has far better colouring than its 2009 facsimile reprint) belies the content that is waiting inside. For Pat Mills and Gerry Finley-Day intended that Tammy would revolutionise girls’ comics, which more typically went for stories about ballet, school and ponies. Instead, Tammy would lead a revolution by going for the dark side of comics. She would print stories filled with suffering, misery, cruelty, and pushing the envelope with over-the-top ways to torture the heroines. Parents and teachers hated it, which was a sure sign it was working.
Tammy’s welcome to her readers stated: “…for the whole gang of us here have tried to make it the kind of picture-story paper we think you want…I just hope we’ve succeeded and that you’ll go on reading and enjoying Tammy every week”.
They must have succeeded – sales of Tammy skyrocketed, and it would blaze the trail for the early Jinty, and Action and Battle.
The first story that readers see when they open the issue is a supernatural story, “The Secret of Trebaran”, which is quite a blend of time travel, evil sorcerer and period story. Trudy Smith thinks her holiday in Cornwall is as dull as ditch water – until she comes across a mysterious medallion that sends her travelling back in time to when the island of Trebaran was a thriving community instead of the ruin it is today, and nobody knows why it ended up that way. Trudy is about to become part of that mystery, of course. But it’s already threatening to get her burned at the stake for witchcraft when Puritans encounter her tape recorder and hear what it can do!
The next story is the first of the stories in the pioneering dark side, “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”. We meet Miss Steele, the bully headmistress of Hardington Hall, whose ideas of discipline are put girls on ‘trial’ in a kangaroo court in front of the whole school. Good grief! Miss Valentine, the only kind teacher in the whole school, is so appalled that she quits to start her own school, Liberty Lodge, which is set up as the antithesis of Hardington Hall. But Miss Steele is not having that, and is determined to bring down Liberty Lodge any way she can.
Story three is the Queen of Cruelty in Tammy’s lineup – “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. This story is regarded as perhaps the cruellest strip ever in girls’ comics. Ma Thatcher (named for the future Prime Minister) takes in war orphans, ostensibly to give them a home for the duration of WW2. In reality, she forces them to work in a quarry and contracts them out as slave labour to other farmers.
“Dawn and Kerry” takes a break from the cruelty with two good friends who turn into sleuths when they get caught in a storm and have to take shelter in a creepy hall, Whispering Heights. They meet a girl who seems to be a prisoner of the place, and now they are prisoners themselves!
The fourth story, “‘Our Janie – Little Mum!’”, returns to the suffering. Janie Greaves has been mother to the family since Mum died, but now more tragedy is tearing the family apart. Dad has been landed in hospital with serious injuries, social welfare is threatening to split the family up, and now her brother’s being arrested!
The first lineup of a new girls’ comic just wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, and “Betina at Ballet School” is it. Betina Brooks wins a scholarship to a ballet school. But snobbery is against her – and it’s coming from the teachers. This story would spawn an early Tammy sequel, “Betina and the Haunted Ballet”.
“My Father – My Enemy!” delves into the horrors of Victorian exploitation and child labour with Mr Jeffries, who cares nothing for the suffering of his miners and their families. But his daughter Julie is more compassionate and she goes against her own father to do what she can to help them.
“Courier Carol” is the only story in the Tammy lineup to have any humour. Carol Jones and her uncle run a coach tour with a difference – a vintage coach that picks up a lot of laughs on the way. But they pick up trouble too, in the form of a rival coach business run by the man who had tried to buy them out.
Humour and hijinks are definitely short in the first lineup; there isn’t even a cartoon feature starring a “funny”. If there is one problem with the first Tammy stories, it is that they lean too heavily towards stories filled with suffering, hardship and cruelty. There is little counterbalance in the form of laughs and light relief. The first Jinty, though she would have her share of dark, cruel stories with tortured heroines (especially “Merry at Misery House”), she would include more humour and slapstick in her first lineup than the first Tammy lineup did.
And it soon gets back to it with “Glen” (later called “Glen – A Dog on a Lonely Quest”). Glen is an abused dog (yes, more cruelty) who sets out to find the girl who saved him when his abusive owner tried to drown him. And the girl’s name is June – coincidence or what?
The facsimile reprint reproduces only page one of the Tammy Club from the original. The editor knew readers would want one, and Susie is the secretary who presents the details on how to join and what to expect.
The reprint also omits the next story, “Castaways on Voodoo Island”, for some reason. Perhaps it is because this story is considered a weak one. Girls find themselves castaways on an island where they fall foul of a weird witch doctor. At least it makes a change from being tortured and abused by bullies and slave drivers.
Finally, we come to the story where the heroine would endure no less than 10 years of cruelty, abuse, bullying and suffering in Tammy. These would include being tied up and beaten, locked in a flood dungeon, freezing cold duckings in a lake, and being clamped in the stocks, would you believe? She would end up holding a joint record with Bella Barlow as Tammy’s longest running character. This is, of course, Molly Mills, a 1920s maidservant. She has the bad luck to arrive at the same time as bully butler Pickering, who would become her arch-nemesis at Stanton Hall. Her strip was originally entitled “No Tears for Molly” and the title would stick several years, despite the fact that it is a complete misnomer. Right from the very first episode we see Molly crying. No tears for Molly, huh? And now she’s been sacked too, because of a dirty trick from the other two maids who are destined to give her more trouble in the years to come. As if Pickering wasn’t bad enough!