In the 1974 issue in our Tammy August month round, three of the four serials (Bella, Sadie and Eva) that began in the Tammy and June merger issue are now on their penultimate episodes, and the fourth (“Swimmer Slave of Mrs. Squall”) finishes. That means readers will soon have a huge lineup of new stories to look forward to. It’s always great to see a big lineup of stories begin in one issue.
On the cover, one of the Cover Girls is outbouncing kangaroos with her pogo stick. But the cover’s let down a bit by how cardboard the kangaroos look, as if a kid drew them. Surely John Richardson can draw far better kangas than that?
Ghost stories in the Strange Stories are by no means unusual, but the ghost certainly is – a ghost lorry. It starts haunting Gail Hawkins when she holidays in a village where heavy traffic has been diverted after a fatal lorry accident. But why is it haunting Gail, and why is a voice telling her to get the hell out?
You would think teachers would have no problem with pupils stopping at a cafe for a coffee on the way home from school, would you? Not when the teacher’s Miss Bigger, who makes a big fuss over such a trivial thing – Sue and Co stopping for some coffee before starting homework, and turns it into yet another weekly round of Miss Bigger trouble for Sue to sort out.
Molly’s caught up in one of the complex mysteries she’s ever tackled, and the more she probes it, the more questions it raises than answers: a wounded war pilot whose face is bandaged, and he won’t speak or give his name; a community that clams up about him; a strange couple have taken over his old home, Poppy Farm, and try to hold him prisoner, as they have done with his wife Emily for years; a boy says Poppy Farm is cursed; and now nothing’s left of the pilot but his uniform and bandages. Gets weirder by the minute, doesn’t it?
Jeannie and Aunt Martha do something that is long overdue – walk out on Uncle Meanie because of his skinflint ways. Unwisely, they say Uncle Meanie will foot their hotel bills, so he’s on their tail like a shot with more scheming to get them back. He does get them back, but in the end is forced to give in the demands that sent them packing in the first place: fork out the money to replace the dilapidated furnishings he been too mean to replace.
Bessie Bunter and her class offer to help out the youth orchestra when their van breaks down by bringing the instruments to the hall. But things get horny when Miss “Stackers” Stackpole has them take a shortcut through a field, which for some reason has no “Beware of the Bull” sign on the gate. Someone should have a word with the farmer about that! Bessie, after a bit of trouble with Stackers earlier in the story, gets a happy ending by saving the day.
For the 1974 instalment of our Tammy June month round, we profile Tammy 29 June 1974, two weeks into the Tammy & June merger. Appropriately enough, June was the month June merged with Tammy in 1974, and it was one of the most beneficial mergers Tammy went through. She gained a more varied mix of serials, regulars, and now the weekly complete story.
The stage was now set for the regulars Tammy was to have for the next six years: Bella Barlow, Wee Sue, Bessie Bunter, the Storyteller, Molly Mills and the Cover Girls. After a steady, long-standing build towards regular strips in her lineup, Tammy finally had a strong core of regulars to keep her going. It took a few mergers to do it, though. Bessie Bunter and the Storyteller came over from June and Uncle Meanie and Wee Sue from Sandie. Wee Sue proved to have the strongest staying power of the two Sandie strips. Bella Barlow was not yet a regular in Tammy. At this stage she was a serial strip, but she became so popular that she turned into one of Tammy’s longest-running regular strips.
The Storyteller was now providing readers with a regular weekly dose of the supernatural story. In so doing he enabled Tammy to explore all sorts of settings, from Roman times to the future, and more fantasy and science fiction. His other benefit was bringing “complete stories” to Tammy on a regular basis. Before then, complete stories had only appeared sporadically in Tammy.
The drawback to having more regular strips was less room for serials. Nevertheless, the dark, cruelty-laden Cinderella serials and slave story serials of Tammy’s earlier years were still appearing. In the first weeks of the merger they took the form of “Swimmer Slave of Mrs. Squall”, “Sadie in the Sticks” and Bella herself. Bella proved so popular that she ensured the Cinderella story would be a mainstay of Tammy forever. “Eva’s Evil Eye” seemed to indicate the bullying serial was appearing a bit more in Tammy, and the new Molly Mills story was taking a novel approach in doing the “schemer” story, a formula seen more often in the DCT titles.
Published: Tammy & June 22 June 1974 to 7 September 1974
Artist: Charles Morgan 22 June to 3 August 1974; John Richardson 10 August to 7 September 1974
Writer: John Wagner
Translations/reprints: None known
Eva Lee and her grandmother go into Clariford Camp at Wetham, a gypsy resettlement scheme run by Councillor Hawkins, where anti-Romany prejudice is rife in the community. At her new school, Eva is bullied because she is a gypsy, led by school bully Trudy Morris. The form teacher Miss Loftus is just as bullying and constantly humiliates Eva with derogatory comments about gypsies. Eva’s only friend is Mary Miller, a girl with a bad leg.
To stop the bullying, Eva pretends to have the evil eye through a series of tricks, staged accidents, and strokes of luck. This soon has the school bullies running scared and backing off. However, Trudy is less fooled and not giving up bullying Eva that easily. She is determined to show Eva up as a fraud. Later, Eva tries the evil eye stunt on Miss Loftus to stop her bullying. The headmistress, although nicer to Eva, is not fooled about the evil eye, and warns Eva to desist. However, Trudy is still trying to have the girls gang up on her again, so Eva returns to the evil eye trick to be left in peace.
Eva soon finds it’s not just the school bullies she has to scare off with her “evil eye”. Councillor Hawkins strips all gypsies in Clariford Camp of their vardo, something he uses to cheat them and make a profit. When his workmen try to remove gran’s horses, Eva cares them off with her evil eye pretence. Later, she pulls the same stunt on Hawkins himself (pretending to turn his workmen into mice) when he tries to take the caravan and force Eva and Gran to live in a hut.
Then Eva discovers her deception is snowballing and leading to unforeseen consequences. Mary, who has also been fooled, wants Eva to use her powers to cure her crippled leg. Trudy tries to get her parents to remove Eva from the school, and when the headmistress refuses, they organise a rally, which leads to a march on the streets all the way up to the town hall. Councillor Hawkins holds a meeting at the school. It’s very heated and angry, with only the headmistress in favour of Eva, but things turn to terror when Eva shows up.
The stage where where Hawkins, Trudy’s parents and the school staff are sitting suddenly collapses. Only the headmistress is spared. The hall empties in panic. Even Eva is taken by surprise. The headmistress says she had been trying to get the education committee to strengthen those stage supports about umpteen times, but now Eva herself is wondering if she’s got powers, and Mary is now 100% convinced Eva does. Following this incident, Eva is suspended from school and Hawkins and the housing committee decide to evict Eva and her gran.
Eva and Mary head to Clariford, where Hawkins is indeed trying to evict gran. However, the other gypsies decide they’ve had enough of Hawkins and the way he’s treated them. They turn on him and his cronies. Enraged, Hawkins yells for the police to throw them in jail, and it looks like he’s out to evict them all now. Mary urges Eva to use her power. When Eva wishes for someone to come to the rescue, who should show up but a cavalry of medieval knights! They drive off Hawkins with their lances.
It turns out the knights are from an upcoming pageant. They attacked Hawkins because they ran amok. The people running the pageant have heard about Eva and offer her the part of the Witch of Wetham, which will culminate in a mock burning at the stake. Eva accepts.
Eva is still suspended from school, all the girls exept Trudy believe in her evil eye and are scared stiff of her, Trudy’s hell-bent on exposing her as a fraud and renew the bullying, but the headmistress wants to help her. She pulls some strings – school governor Sir Percival Lumsley – to get Eva back in school, but there is to be no more of that evil eye stuff. Eva, who had initially hated her school and the gypsy resettlement idea, now finds she wants to settle at the school and get a proper education, something she could not get because of her wandering life.
Unfortunately, Eva soon finds that stopping what she has started is easier said than done; The momentum’s too strong now. Mary’s now convinced Eva’s powers really have cured her of her bad leg. Even when Eva tries to tell her she doesn’t really have powers, Mary refuses to listen. Trudy is still a threat. Hawkins is going to close down the very gypsy camp he established and evict the gypsies, and this time he’s brought in real enforcements – the police. The townspeople turn up in force as well to watch the fun.
Then the knights turn up again. One lifts his visor and there is no face underneath. All of a sudden everyone’s screaming that Eva’s evil eye has summoned ghost knights, and they run away in panic. Of course there’s a simple explanation – the suit’s too big for its wearer, the dwarfish Sir Percival. The gypsies are saved and Sir Percival is confident there will be no more trouble from Hawkins. Unfortunately, Sir Percival has reckoned without Hawkins working out the truth about the ghost knights. Now he’s hell-bent on stopping that pageant, and finds an old Puritan law forbidding such activities, which can still stop it going foward.
At school, Trudy is equally hell-bent on destroying Eva. She and her gang torture Mary in the washroom with water soakings to force her to give up Eva. Eva, seeing the water mains are being worked on, takes advantage to make it look her evil eye has foiled the water soaking and then give Trudy one instead.
Trudy decides on a change of tactics – pretend to be friendly to Eva while working out a way to crush her. Eva falls for the phony friendliness, despite Trudy having just made one big threat against her and Eva knows her threats are not idle. Eva thinks it must be her evil eye. Trudy learns about Eva’s role in the pageant, and decides to show her up as a fraud at the stake scene by adding something extra to the stake – real fire. Her reasoning: if Eva really has the evil eye she should be able to put the fire out.
Hawkins comes up with the old law he’s found to ban the pageant. However, Trudy surrepticiously destroys it with a magnifying glass; she now has her own reasons for the pageant to continue. Everyone else, including Eva herself, thinks it was her powers at work there. Now Eva really believes she has the evil eye.
At the pageant, Trudy covertly sets fire to the faggots at the stake. However, the fire rages out of control, nearly burning Eva alive and then spreading dangerously towards everyone else. Eva manages to free herself and then she and her gran start a bucket chain to put out the fire. Eva is now a heroine and confesses about the evil eye fraud to Hawkins himself. Realising how he drove Eva to it, Hawkins apologises. Gran and Eva are now free to stay, the townspeople will be friends with them, and Eva can get the good education she wants. Sir Percival emerges with Trudy, whom he caught in the act of starting the fire. This being a medieval pageant, Trudy is punished medieval style – clamped in the stocks and given a good pelting.
Deception, even when it starts with the best intentions (or for reasons that are misguided or desperate), is never condoned in girls’ comics. When deception is used for such purposes, the story uses it as a vehicle for how lies can spiral out of control, leading to unforeseen consequences, and the protagonist finds herself caught in a deeper and deeper quagmire of lies and complications she finds increasingly difficult to extracate herself from gracefully.
In Eva’s case, the deception has extra-dangerous consequences. It comes ominously close to what Eva would have experienced in earlier centuries like the white witch she plays in the pageant. Or in a village where witch supersitions still persist and village idiots persecute a girl they believe to be a witch. We have seen this in serials such as “Witch!” from Bunty, “Bad Luck Barbara” from Mandy, and “Mark of the Witch!” from Jinty. The people of Wetham come so close to it, stopping just short of calling Eva a witch and going after her with torches, stones and pitchforks. They storm the streets with signs saying “Rid Us of the Evil Eye”, “Throw Out the Gipsy” and “Protect Our Children”. Protect their children from what? Do they seriously believe Eva has powers to turn their children into toads and such? It would seem so. Trudy’s parents actually fall for her claims that Eva has the evil eye and will turn her into a toad instead of telling her not to speak such nonsense.
Under normal circumstances these people would be told they’re being hysterical, superstitious idiots and ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Instead, there are only two voices of scepticism and sanity about the whole thing. The first is the headmistress, the only member of school staff to support Eva: “I wish [Eva’d] stop this idea that she can work magic. I’m worried that it could lead her to real danger.” The headmistress turned out to be more right than she thought, when Trudy’s stunt almost gets Eva burned alive. Ironically, the second is Trudy, the school bully herself. She doesn’t fall for it one bit and is constantly trying to convince her idiotic cronies that Eva’s a fake so she can bully Eva again, something even she doesn’t dare do openly while everyone else believes in Eva’s evil eye.
Similar to the aforementioned witch persecution serials, even Eva starts believing she has powers. So many things seem to happen that give the impression that it does. Coincidence, autosuggestion, manifestation, law of attraction, maybe even a genuine supernatural power from somewhere, call it what you will, it all adds to the momentum and the increasing snowballing. It can’t just stopped be stopped in an instant, though Eva realises it’s getting out of hand and does try to stop it.
The Wetham people do draw the trouble upon themselves, especially Councillor Hawkins, and it’s their attitude that drives Eva into scaring them with her evil eye pretence. It’s not just the school bullies. We see it everywhere, such as the remarks in the local community and the openly derogatory remarks Miss Loftus makes in class. Kindly ones such as Mary Miller, the headmistress and Sir Percival are exceptions – until the end of course, when Eva wins everyone over by saving their lives and become a heroine.
The only reason the gypsies are there to begin with is Hawkins’ gypsy resettlement camp. Presumably it’s for assimilation purposes, but profit comes into it as well, as we can see in how he forcibly sells the gypsies’ property for his own ends. He treats the gypsies badly, cheats them, and then, when he decides the settlement camp is no longer a good idea, he tries to close down the very camp he established and forcibly evict the gypsies. It is to his credit that he turns around after Eva saves his life and apologises for his conduct. That is more than can be said for Trudy, who feebly says the fire was only meant as a joke, to liven up the pageant.
Ironically, despite itself, Hawkins’ resettlement scheme eventually has a positive effect on Eva and the gypsies. At the beginning of the story Eva hates the resettlement scheme and her new school and wants things to stay the way they are. But eventually she finds she wants to settle, get a good education, and cover the deficiencies in her education due to her nomad life. And in episode 2, where Mary says, “I hope you’ll be happy here, Eva”, somehow we already know that’s exactly how it’s going to turn out.
Secret of the Supermarket – The Strangest Stories Ever Told (artist Douglas Perry) – first appearance in Tammy
Sadie in the Sticks (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
It’s Great Here! – Competition
Bessie Bunter – first appearance
Summer Madness! Competition
Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall (artist Douglas Perry, writer Gerry Finley-Day?) – first episode
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer Terence Magee)
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – new story
Eva’s Evil Eye (artists Charles Morgan and John Richardson, writer John Wagner) – first episode
As we have a June theme running at present, I thought I may as well discuss the issue where June merges with Tammy. The title hails it as “a great get together” and I certainly agree. In this merger, everything starts either new or anew. This makes a nice change from the usual annoyance of a merger starting with stories from both comics that are still unfinished, which left new readers irritated to start reading stories half-way through.
What comes over from June – Bessie Bunter and the Storyteller – will last for many years in Tammy. In fact, Bessie and the Storyteller are going through their second merger; they originally came from School Friend, which merged with June. Many of the Strange Stories that appear in Tammy would later make their way into Jinty with Gypsy Rose replacing the Storyteller. Some of them even turned up in June annuals during the 1980s – talk about reciprocation. Their appearance in Tammy also gave her more regulars in addition to Molly Mills and Wee Sue.
Molly Mills starts off with a great story that hooks you in immediately (well, it did me). Molly takes pity on Ada Fellows, a girl who seems to be bullied by her ex-employer and brings her to Stanton Hall for a job. Pickering the resident bully butler thinks Ada should be got rid of. And for once he has the right idea. Molly soon discovers Ada is big trouble – especially for her.
Sadly, Lucky’s Living Doll proved less durable. Although she had lasted for years in June, she did not make it to the merger. Maybe the editor decided her time was done or there was no room for her because Tammy was to retain Wee Sue and Uncle Meanie from the Sandie merger? If so, Wee Sue proved the most durable and would go through the most diverse range of artists before ending in 1982.
It would be nice to know which of the new serials were originally meant for June or Tammy; they could have appeared in either of them.
In “Eva’s Evil Eye”, Eva Lee pretends to have the evil eye to stop girls from bullying her because she is a gypsy. But what will the consequences be – especially if someone sees through Eva? “Sadie in the Sticks” belongs in the time-honoured tradition of an amnesiac girl being exploited by unscrupulous people who take advantage of her loss of memory. Sadie Wade’s only joy as she slaves in the Scraggs’ household and chippie is a talent for making matchstick models. Pretty odd considering she has a fear of fire. The start of the mystery that has to be unravelled if Sadie is to regain her memory and be free of the Scraggs. In “Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall”, Sue Briggs is a difficult pupil at school who seems no good at anything or even try. Then, when she trespasses at the reclusive Mrs Squall’s house, her talent for swimming is discovered and Mrs Squall offers to train her as a champion. But the title warns us that her motives and methods are not all that noble.
And the best for last. The Tammy & June merger issue is a milestone in Tammy history for another reason – it marks the debut of Bella Barlow. She starts off as a serial here, “Bella at the Bar”. Like Sadie, Bella is a Cinderella story (minus the mystery). Her aunt and uncle make her do all the work, both at home and at their window-cleaning business. The only thing that makes her life worth living is gymnastics. Her talent is spotted, but her mean uncle won’t agree to training unless there’s money in it. Bella is determined to find a way, but of course there will be even more obstacles. However, this would not be just another Cinderella story. Popular demand would bring Bella back again and again until she held a joint record with Molly Mills for Tammy’s longest-running character – ten years. It is appropriate that Bella is the first serial we see as soon as we open the issue. Bella is also indicative of how topical gymnastics had become at the time with Olympic champions like Olga Korbut. Up until then there had been only one gymnastics story in Tammy – the 1972 story “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”. But the popularity of Bella – not to mention the fluid, anatomical artwork of John Armstrong – would make gymnastics a regular feature in Tammy.
That’s it for my June contributions to this blog. My next entry will be back on topic with Jinty.