Tag Archives: Four Friends at Spartan School

Tammy & Sally 1 January 1972 – first New Year issue

Tammy cover 1 January 1972

  • Gina – Get Lost (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
  • Halves in a Horse (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Lulu (cartoon)
  • Skimpy Must Ski! (artist Tom Hurst)
  • The Four Friends at Spartan School (artist “B. Jackson”, writer Terence Magee)
  • Maisie’s Magic Eye (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • The Secret Ballerina (artist Roy Newby)
  • Bernice and the Blue Pool – final episode (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Talk It Over with Trudy (problem page)
  • Alison All Alone
  • Cinderella Spiteful (artist Jose Casanovas)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

This is Tammy’s first New Year issue. The girl on the cover has a nice touch of mystique with her mask at a New Year’s party. Molly Mills finishes her current story with a Christmas party for all the orphanage kids, despite Pickering’s attempts to ruin things for them. Heck, he even tried to tie up the kids’ dog and leave it on the roof to freeze to death! Anyway, Molly will have a new story in the New Year.

Gina – Get Lost must be wishing she could get lost. A phoney child welfare officer has sent her to a sadistic children’s home where, among other things, she has been forced to crop her own hair. And their idea of punishment is to leave her in a freezing room all night with a vicious dog barking and snarling at her all the time.

“Bernice and the Blue Pool” ends this issue, so there will be a new story for the New Year. “The Four Friends at Spartan School” is on its penultimate episode, so there will be another new story helping to kick off New Year in two weeks. The four friends have successfully escaped Spartan School, but now they find an avalanche is threatening the school. Well, an avalanche may the best thing for the most horrible school in the world, but let’s face it – there are lives at stake up there, after all.

“Halves in a Horse” is near its end too. Pauline’s cruelty goes too far. She sends Topper bolting and now he’s in danger of drowning in a river. The Major, who had figured out Pauline’s bullying and tried to get Pauline’s victim Kay to stand up to her, is the only one on hand to help, but he doubts the horse can be saved. When Pauline hears this, she is suddenly struck with conscience.

Skimpy is determined to show her grandfather she is not an invalid anymore and can tackle skiing. By the end of the episode he has got the message and decides to help her with skiing. Excellent! Now the story can move more smoothly, though we are sure there are still bumps in the road ahead, and not just the tumbles Skimpy will take on the ski slopes.

Beattie has been cribbing lessons in secret at the school she has been squatting in while keeping up her athletics. Now she has a chance to be properly enrolled, but she has to pass exams.

Maisie tells a fat, gluttonous girl that she’s an awful pig. She never learns to watch what she says while wearing that damn brooch, does she? The girl instantly turns into a pig. Needless to say, she isn’t so greedy after Maisie finally gets her back to normal.

In “The Secret Ballerina, Karen finally makes it to the locked room – only to find nothing but Aunt Edith crying over someone named Karen, but Karen realises it’s not her. So who is this other Karen? Everything begins to point to Karen’s mother, but what’s it got to do with Aunt Edith not allowing Karen to dance?

Alison seems to be having more success in unravelling her own mystery. The clue she has uncovered leads her to Fengate Hall and she is going in. But the boys who have accompanied her are worried she is going to desert them once she finds out her true identity. Oh, surely not? After all, none of them really know what is waiting inside for Alison.

“Cinderella Spiteful” tries to ruin cousin Angela’s party. But in the end she is glad she failed to do so as she misjudged Angela over who she was going to invite, and she likes the look of the guests.

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Tammy & Sally 25 December 1971 – first Christmas Tammy issue

Tammy 25 December 1971

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Gina – Get Lost (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
  • Halves in a Horse (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Lulu (cartoon)
  • Skimpy Must Ski! – first episode (artist Tom Hurst)
  • Bernice and the Blue Pool (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Talk It Over with Trudy (problem page)
  • The Secret Ballerina (artist Roy Newby)
  • The Four Friends at Spartan School (artist “B. Jackson”, writer Terence Magee)
  • Maisie’s Magic Eye (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Cinderella Spiteful (artist Jose Casanovas)
  • Alison All Alone
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • A Tammy Outfit Idea for Christmas (feature)

 

This is Tammy’s first Christmas issue. Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (John Armstrong’s first Tammy story) does the honours on the cover. The back cover has a Christmas how-to-make. In Molly Mills, Lord Stanton wants to bring Christmas cheer to orphanage children, but he has reckoned without the cruel butler Pickering. The issue also advertises Tammy’s first-ever annual. Lulu is trying to find Christmas presents for Dad but keeps getting foiled.

You’d think this week’s episode of Maisie’s Magic Eye would be Christmassy too, but no. It’s a regular episode, where Maisie and her friend Lorna try to break bounds and sneak off to the circus. Hijinks with the brooch ensue, with a lot of monkey business when Maisie unwittingly turns the circus strong man into a gorilla and the brooch stops glowing before she can change him back.

Normally new stories are reserved for New Year, but one does begin in the Christmas issue,  “Skimpy Must Ski!” Skimpy Shaw, a convalescent girl, is sent to live with her grandfather who looks a real sourpuss. Time will tell if he has a heart under there. Meanwhile, Skimpy is inspired to ski, and she thinks she has a natural talent for it.

Gina – Get Lost has been left to look after herself when her parents emigrate, which is not going down well with the welfare authorities. And it sounds like there is worse to come. She has already fallen foul of blackmailers and it looks like she will fall foul of potential guardians out to exploit her.

Before Bella Barlow, John Armstrong drew “Beattie Beats ‘Em All!” for Tammy. Beattie Brown is a promising athlete. Unfortunately she has no fixed abode either, so she and her stray cats live in a boiler room at a girls’ college.

In “Halves in a Horse”, two cousins are left with half shares in a horse, Topper. The cousin who wins the most prizes with him will acquire full ownership. As might be expected, one cousin (Pauline) is not playing fair and making the other cousin (Kay) suffer. Now the cousins have almost equal shares, Pauline is using blackmail against Kay.

Bernice and the Blue Pool was Tammy’s first swimming story and also the first story Douglas Perry drew for Tammy. It was the start of a regular Tammy run for Perry that lasted into 1981. The Blue Pool has a supernatural theme, which ranges from beneficial (curing our protagonist of her fear of water) to ominous – wearing Victorian swimming costumes that were worn by a pioneering Victorian swimming team that drowned.

The Secret Ballerina, Karen Jones, has to practise in secret because her aunt is against ballet for some reason. This is, of course, the mystery that needs to be unravelled. Compounding the mystery is a locked room in auntie’s house. But now Katie has discovered the room has been unlocked and someone is inside. She is heading to the attic to investigate. Will she find the key to the mystery next week?

Surprise, surprise – Miss Bramble’s henchman, er girl, Siddons helps the four friends at Spartan School to escape from the school where sadism is the rule. But of course they should have known it would be a setup. Mind you, they didn’t expect Siddons to actually attempt to kill them! When they survive that, they discover Miss Bramble and Siddons have concocted a plan to get them arrested instead.

Cinderella Spiteful – now that’s a very unusual title for a Cinderella story, you think. Actually, the story has nothing to do with Cinderella. Emma is jealous of her cousin Angela because Angela is good at everything while Emma is not. Next week it sounds like it will be more spiteful than Cinderella, because Emma reaches her limit in this episode.

Alison All Alone is on the run after being imprisoned by her guardians for many years. The question is: why did they keep her locked up like that? The three runaway boys who helped her escape are helping her to find out. This week they uncover a clue about her past – a crook who says he will be finished if Alison finds out who her true parents are!

 

 

 

 

Rebellion’s Ben Smith on the forthcoming new Misty collection

The recent news that Rebellion will be reprinting a volume of material from Misty has caused a lot of excitement. It’s not only fans of Misty that are excited about this news; as fans of the excellent, thrilling, and often subversive stories from girls’ comics of the time we are glad to know that fresh eyes are being cast over these publications. And as keenly interested readers, we are prone to asking ourselves how those stories would fare in today’s publishing market, if done properly (unlike the nostalgia-focused recent outings that a small selection of content has had). This republication promises a lot of interest therefore, in many ways!

I caught up with Ben Smith, Head of books and comic books for Rebellion Publishing, who kindly answered the below questions.

Can you tell us a little more about how you chose the two stories you did? ‘Moonchild’ and ‘The Four Faces of Eve’ are known to be favourites of Pat’s, of course, but coming to them as both a fresh pair of eyes and as an experienced publisher, what qualities would you highlight in particular?

In selecting the stories for this collection these two are the obvious big hitters; my understanding is that at the time the Four Faces of Eve and Moonchild would regularly to top the readers’ polls. Kids were encouraged to fill out a small form in the back of the comic and post it back to the publisher so that the editorial team know what was going down well with the readers.

This material was created for a very different publishing market and in different times. Do you see there being any/many adjustments needed, either in production terms (do today’s readers demand colour rather than black and white?), or in elements of the story itself?

As with all our collections of archive material, we aim to produce as stunning a book as possible. This year we have gone back to the same era as Misty with the Dan Dare strips from 2000 AD, producing the definitive volume of that material on high quality paper and after painstaking reprographics work on each individual page to ensure the arts looks at good as possible. We’re applying the same techniques here. Although this will be a paperback release, the quality of the book and the design work that goes into it will be set to our highest standards. Simply put, there’s no point putting something second rate into today’s busy marketplace. We won’t be introducing anything new, like colour or altered lettering, as we have found that presenting the work as it was originally conceived always delivers the strongest result and is what is expected by today’s readers.

The intriguing words ‘The first volume of Misty material’ are used in the press release. What results would you say could lead to this establishing itself as a publishing line – critical success, sales success, perhaps even current creators who are inspired to produce similar material?

We won’t know until this volume is out, but the response to the announcement has been great and if the book does perform well I’m sure we’ll be looking further into the archives. As for inspiring new creators, that’s down to the material itself, but I already know from chatting to Jonathan Ross at the San Diego Comic Con that Jane Goldman, one of the most successful screenwriters in the UK currently and Ross’s wife, that Misty was a big influence on her.

The first two stories chosen are ones where we know both writer and artist, which is not the case in many of the stories printed at the time in girls’ titles, whereas 2000AD has credited creators from the start. For any future stories chosen, would it be important to you as publishers to identify all the creators? Would certain editorial selections be discouraged if that information is not forthcoming?

We would certainly want to credit the creators, but sad to say it’s not always possible. 2000 AD’s editorial team led the way in the 1970s in getting creator credits into the comic but that was just nine months after 2000 AD launched, and even now we sometimes cannot find out who authored some of the very early material, simply because no records were kept and if there is no memory of it among the other creators we speak to then that information is, sadly, gone. If the stories are strong enough, not knowing the creator would certainly never prevent us from including the material, no.

Would you see any possible horizon stretching out ahead where you would look at the content in other titles beyond Misty, or would you consider the historic and thematic linkage of that title with 2000AD as a key reason to stick to Misty in particular?

I am happy to say there will be another announcement shortly about another non-2000 AD collection, so keep a look out for that. Naturally when we look at material and consider if we can publish successfully, existing links with 2000 AD makes that task easier.


Many thanks again to Ben Smith for this email interview.

Unknown Artist (Merry)

A number of the artists on Jinty remain as yet unidentified. One of the main artists we would love to identify is the person who drew one of the Jinty stories in the very first issue, “Merry at Misery House”. For convenience in this article, I will use the pronoun ‘her’ for this artist, and refer to her as ‘Merry’. (Of course, I have no knowledge at present as to whether she really was a female artist, or anything much about her. I like to think she may have been a British artist; somehow I get a vibe of classic British style, as if her art would be right at home in a Bunty or Girl annual from a previous decade. I also like to think she may be female, but if asked to substantiate my feeling I would have to go down some route of gender essentialisation, pointing to the delicate lines or similar, so I shall avoid doing that. That is, any guesswork is all supposition and imagination!)

6 March 1976 page 1
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6 March 1976 page 2
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6 March 1976 page 3
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‘Merry’ seems to have been particularly associated with Terence Magee at various points in time: she drew “Merry at Misery House” in Jinty, but also “Four Friends At Spartan School” (published in Tammy in 1971-72), and “Slave of the Trapeze” (published in Sandie in September 1972, but originally commissioned for Tammy). The Jinty stories attributable to her are as follows:

  • Merry at Misery House (1974)
  • Hettie High-And-Mighty (1975)
  • Friends of the Forest (1976)
  • Miss Make-Believe (1979)
  • Casey, Come Back (1979)
  • Tale of the Panto Cat (1979)

The post about “Merry at Misery House” also includes artwork from “Four Friends at Spartan School”. In these earlier stories, the composition of individual panels is mostly based around a middle distance view: the characters are seen full body, or three-quarters, and you get lots of interaction between them. The slightly later story “Friends of the Forest” (above), in particular, gives a ‘closer up’ feel, with tight focus on the faces of the characters. In this example there are fewer panels on a page, too, giving a more open feel. It is really nice to see an artist changing the way they work as they go along and experimenting with new looks; as a reader you feel that it wasn’t just a treadmill or a grindstone, despite the busy schedule that many of the artists must have put in to create so many pages of amazing art.

I should also add that some of the stories attributed above to ‘Merry’ have previously been attributed to other artists: “Hettie High-And-Mighty” to Jordi Badia, and “Miss Make-Believe” tentatively to Sarompas. I am however confident of this attribution to ‘Merry’; there is a typical stance that she draws with hands in a specific position that is unmistakable. I will feature it when I come to illustrate “Miss Make-Believe” later; it can also be seen in the bottom-left panel of this page from “Hettie High-And-Mighty”:

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Any information leading to a positive identification of this artist will be very gratefully received.

Edited to add: other stories drawn by this artist include

(Other IPC titles)

  • The School of No Escape (Sandie, 1972)
  • Slave of the Trapeze (Sandie, 1972)
  • Fiona and the Fighting Finsters (Sandie, 1972)

(D C Thomson titles)

  • Bess’s Secret Brother (Judy, 1984)

Merry at Misery House (1974-1975)

Sample images

Merry at Misery House final 1

 

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Merry at Misery House final 2

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Merry at Misery House final 3

Publication: 11 May 1975 to 30 August 1975

Episodes: 62
Artist: Unknown artist ‘Merry’
Writer: Terence (Terry) Magee

Tammy may have been the first in a new breed of girls’ comics that revelled in dark stories that tortured their heroines. But from the first, Jinty proved she could torture hers just as cruelly. And not even Tammy tortured a heroine as long as Merry Summers here. Merry at Misery House was Jinty’s longest running serial – starting in the very first issue and running for over 60 episodes! Despite this, Merry never appeared in the Jinty annuals, which seems strange.

Merry was borne from one of the most popular formulas in girls’ comics – the slave story. The slave story was so popular that if readership was taking a dip, they would bring out the slave story. The slave story was frequent in the IPC titles in the 1960s and 1970s but had faded by the 1980s. However, it carried on in the DCT titles.

In a slave story, a group of girls are being used as slaves or held prisoner in an establishment with harsh and cruel conditions. It may be a factory, a workhouse, a school, an underground racket, a quarry, an island, or other settings. The protagonist is the one who rebels against the conditions and out for escape, and so is in for the harshest treatment from the gaolers. Often there is a “toady” character, a prisoner who curries favour with the gaolers and helps to administer the cruelty on her fellow inmates. Sometimes the toady has a change of heart, which is crucial for the resolution of the story, and sometimes not. Frequently, though not always, there is a mystery tied in as well, such as what are the gaolers up to in the secret room or who is the mystery person that keeps popping up to help the girls? Yes, sometimes there is a mystery helper, such as Emma in Tammy’s most infamous slave story, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. Whenever there is a mystery of any sort in the slave story, unravelling it is the key to freedom for the prisoners.

Jinty seemed to have fewer slave stories than Tammy. But then she hardly needed to when she had a resident slave story in the form of Merry.

In the year 1920, Merry Summers is wrongly convicted of theft (circumstances of which are never explained – we are not even told what Merry was accused of stealing) and sentenced to two years in a reformatory. The reformatory is called Sombre Manor, but it is better known as Misery House for its harshness and sadistic staff. Everything about Misery House is designed to break and torture the spirits of its inmates, right down to intimidating signs everywhere with messages such as “Behave Or Be Sorry”, “No Smiling” and “Nothing Is So Bad It Can’t Get Worse”. The Warden, Miss Ball the guard, and Adolfa, the resident toady of the story, reserve their worst treatment for Merry because she refuses to let the cruelties of Misery House break her spirit, change her chirpy ways, or stop her smiling – not to mention her plans to escape and expose the cruelties of Misery House. The cruelties include being shackled in drip dungeons, pillories, enforced ostracising from other inmates, working a sick girl to the point of death, being farmed out as slave labour, beatings, lousy food, bedding removed in freezing conditions, and a zoo-like enclosure where prisoners are abandoned in wretched conditions to run savage and ragged.

One of the greatest strengths of the story is that the Warden and Miss Ball must rate as two of the most brilliantly-conceived villains ever in girls’ comics. Sure, they are cruel, heartless, hypocritical, corrupt and brutal – yet at the same time they are subtle caricatures, a parody of prison brutality, which stops their cruelty from going to utter excess. They are not set out as implicitly evil sadists who are just there to torture and exploit their victims, though of course that is what they do all the time.

Of course, there are friends to help Merry along. The most notable of them is Carla Flax, Merry’s best friend. Carla is on her second sentence at Misery House. We have to wonder why she has ever been in a reformatory at all because she does not come across as the delinquent type. Others include girls who have been inspired by Merry’s courageous cheerfulness. Some of them, such as Violet, have been won over from causing Merry trouble to becoming friends with her. The reader of course, is inspired too, and must take great heart from the girl who refuses to stop being merry despite everything that is thrown at her.

About half way through the story, we get an exciting change of pace when Merry finally escapes from Misery House. Her motive for escaping is to expose the cruelty of Misery House – nothing about proving her innocence, which is the usual case with serials about with wrongly convicted persons. But fate turns against Merry; she has an accident and gets amnesia, and then gets blackmailed by a criminal. During her time on the run she is almost adopted by a rich couple, but in the end she is returned to Misery House.

Back to square one then? Not quite – it is here that the mystery element creeps in, with signs that the Warden and Miss Ball are up to something. For example, the Warden and Miss Ball send the girls out to work for a cruel farmer and make a profit. This is illegal, but there’s worse. They try to blackmail the farmer’s stepson into signing over the farm to him by threatening to have him arrested on trumped up charges. They are foiled in the end but take off smartly with the girls before any authorities are onto them.

Eventually the girls discover that the Warden and Miss Ball have been illegally selling off the good food supplies that they should have been receiving and foisting substandard food onto them. This incites them into rebellion and they barricade themselves in. The Warden responds with a plot to kill Merry. When Adolfa finds out, she becomes one toady with a change of heart. She saves Merry – and takes a horrible crack on the head from Miss Ball for doing so – and joins the rebels. The Warden tries to smoke them out, but the fire rages out of control and the girls cannot escape because the gates are locked.

But wouldn’t you know it – here come the police in the nick of time. They’ve had their eye on Misery House for a while and arrest the Warden and Miss Ball. They also tell Merry that her name has been cleared (no details on how she has been cleared, just as there were no details on just how she came to be wrongly convicted), and her parents are here to collect her. As for Misery House, it is finished in more ways than one – the fire has destroyed it.

Merry is still worried about what will happen to her friends. The parents think their sentences will be remitted. Merry’s friends tell her they will never forget the example she showed them in how to handle oppression.

Addendum: included 23 May 2014

The Terry Magee story “The Four Friends at Spartan School” (Tammy 23/10/71-8/1/72) clearly foreshadows Merry. It even has the same unknown artist, though of course it is a much earlier example of his/her artwork.

Spartan School is a special school in Switzerland run by Miss Bramble. The school is designed to instil discipline and compliance into problem pupils. Unfortunately, Miss Bramble’s ideas of discipline go too far and turn into torture and abuse. They include beatings, feeding the pupils poor food, and locking them in dungeons, the pillory, and even iron masks. It is no wonder that the pupils either end up as scared, broken down zombies or joining in the cruelty. Like the Warden, Miss Bramble and her crony, Siddons the prefect, go as far as attempted murder when the girls they especially want to break are making a bid for freedom. But unlike Adolfa, Siddons does not have a change of heart. On the contrary, she is far more evil than Adolfa – in fact, she is the one who suggests the murder while Adolfa draws the line at Merry’s.

Judy Jenkins, the heroine of this story, could well be the predecessor of Merry. She likes to play jokes to liven things up a bit. Unfortunately she keeps doing it in class, which gets her into the trouble that sends her to Spartan School. But like Merry, Judy refuses to be broken and her courageous defiance singles her out for the worst treatment.

And as with Misery House, Spartan School is physically destroyed (by an avalanche) as well as being shut down by the authorities.

Spartan School was Magee’s first serial, and Merry certainly shows the advances he had made in his storytelling and characterisation since then. For example, while the villains in Spartan School are just plain cruel and nasty in the name of discipline, the villains in Merry show subtle nuances; Miss Ball, for example, displays a sardonic, cruel sense of humour.  There are Orwellian touches too, as shown in the omniscent signs plastered all over Misery House. There is also a fascist look about the Warden, who is is always clad in a dark uniform and glasses. The Warden never takes off those dark glasses, so we never see her full face. This has a dehumanising effect on her that makes her all the more frightening – except to Merry, it seems.

Sample images

Spartan School 6a

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Spartan School 6b

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Spartan School 6c

Addendum 2: 26 March 2018

Ten years after finishing Merry, Terry Magee was writing “The Nightmare” for Battle. The influence of “Merry at Misery House” can be seen in this long-running saga (January 19th 1985 to October 11th 1986). Ian Wilson is kidnapped by SS Hauptmann Grappner and imprisoned in a Hitler Youth camp (at least it’s not a concentration camp). Like Merry, Ian refuses to give in and resolves to escape. He does, and it turns into a far more fugitive story than Merry. But instead of fighting back with smiles and jokes as Merry does, Ian uses the survival and combat skills he has learned. Along the way Hitler himself joins the campaign against Ian after the indignity Ian inflicts on him (below). Congratulations, Ian! Not many protagonists in British comics can say they have Adolf Hitler for a personal enemy. Art by Jesus Redondo (the original artist of the strip was Mario Capaldi).

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