It’s New Year, and Jinty celebrates with part one of a pullout calendar, in verse, which also takes the cover spot this week. Starting “Winning Ways”, a feature on sports tips, was also fitting to start at New Year, and part one is this issue. “Winning Ways” was written by Benita Brown, who is thought to have written “Spirit of the Lake”, Jinty’s only ice-skating story. No new stories can begin for New Year in this issue, as the current ones still have a way to go, and “The Perfect Princess” is only on its second episode.
Jinty sure has been getting bigger on sports over the December–January period. She now has sports pages, “Winning Ways”, and three sports serials: “Spirit of the Lake” (ice-skating), “Toni on Trial” (athletics), and “White Water” (canoeing).
There are disco problems in “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”, in the form of a ghost jester. When Sir Roger unwittingly upstages him at the disco, he’s riled and is going to lodge an official complaint.
Sally Smith steals a girl’s identity to get into the contest for “The Perfect Princess” to replace Victoria, the princess who’s been deemed unfit to inherit the throne because she’s a real terror. Knowing girl’s comics, Sally can only get away with that deception for so long, and she’s had one narrow escape already. Meantime, Sally has an even bigger problem – Victoria is trying to get rid of her and the other candidates, and she’s got rid of one already. But Victoria may find Sally is not so easy to get rid of.
Another terror, Terry, threatens trouble in Pam of Pond Hill. Pam is helping her form teacher, Miss Peeble, to find her feet. She’s lacking in confidence and assertion, has a lot of unruly kids in her class and other pupils walk over her, and now she’s in charge of the school disco. But Terry is bringing in even more larrikins with him to the disco and says it’ll be a riot. Disco dread for Pam, and will it be disco disaster for Miss Peeble?
And speaking of terrors, terror really ups the scale in this week’s episode of “When Statues Walk…”. A statue walks all right – right into Laura’s flat for the pendant in her possession! Thanks to Laura’s dog, it doesn’t succeed. And now there’s a very tearful call for help coming from the pendant.
Published: Tammy 6 February 1971 (first issue) to 17 July 1971
Artist: Desmond Walduck
Writer: Gerry Finley-Day
Translations/reprints: None known
In World War II, Kate Dennison’s parents are killed in the Blitz and she is evacuated to a farm in the Lake District run by Ma Thatcher. Ma Thatcher is ostensibly a benefactor offering a good home to war orphans, but Kate soon discovers she is a monster. Together with Ned and Benskin, she operates a racket using war orphans and evacuees as slave labour. She also makes a profit out of the money the government sends for the children’s upkeep. The children are forced to sleep in a barn, all their belongings are taken for her use, and they are used as slave labour in Benskin’s quarry. Ma gets a nice sum for the slave labour she supplies him. Other farmers seem complicit in the racket, and even help to bring back escaped children. Their reasons are not clear. Perhaps it’s because they benefit from it too, as Ma hires the children out to work on their farms as well as slave in the quarry.
Ma has terrible punishments for rebellious children, but her specialty is the animal cage. Children are locked in it overnight, regardless of weather or state of health, to be exposed to all the elements. There are beatings too, and as the story goes on, other unbelievable tortures and punishments are added that has you wondering why none of these children are maimed or dead.
Kate is the only one willing to stand up to Ma and never waver from trying to escape and seek help, no matter how many times she fails – which is often. She prompts the other slaves to fight back and do something, something they weren’t doing before she arrived because they think nothing can be done. She also tries to get help for weak or sick children, and acts of rebellion and sabotage against the work. One ruse is rigging up a water flask as an unexploded bomb in a pool in the frequently flooded quarry. Of course the slavers discover the trick eventually, but it’s given the children a break from the quarry labour.
Kate’s rebellion against Ma singles her out for extra-cruel treatment intended to break her will, such as being forced to stand still for hours with vicious guard dogs all around her, threatening to tear her apart if she moves.
When Kate arrived, the number of slaves was small, but as time goes on it grows with more arrivals. Things get worse when one, Bonnie Sykes, becomes the flunky, collaborator and under-guard. In exchange for better treatment, which includes sleeping in the farm house instead of the barn, she helps Ma with the slavery, acts as watchdog over the other children, and joins in the cruelties.
Sadly for them, the children are still prone to gullibility and have to learn the hard way about that. When, all of a sudden, Ma starts treating the kids nicely, they refuse to have anything to do with Emma, suggesting that she’s trying to spoil their now happy family. Of course it’s all a ruse. Evacuation inspectors are coming to the farm, so Ma needs to give the impression that all is well. Even Kate is largely fooled, though still suspicious. She tries to escape in the inspectors’ car, but finds Ma there, waiting for her in case of tricks like that. She’s kept tied up while the inspectors visit and see the happy, unsuspecting children. By the time the children discover they’ve been fooled, it’s too late and their rescue is gone. At least Kate, once untied, gives them the satisfaction of seeing her rip up the money their slavers have just received from the inspectors.
In time, another character appears. She is Mad Emma, a woman who always conceals her face, and she’s the only person who scares Ma. Emma secretly helps the children, such as smuggling things in to help, throwing scares into the slave drivers and messing things up for them, and then moves up to helping some of the sicker children escape.
Kate and Emma progressively spirit three of these children away, and they are hidden in a nearby evacuated village. But after the third escape, Ma decides it’s time to get rid of Kate. So she forces Kate to work alone in the quarry, with Benskin to arrange a few ‘accidents’. Despite Kate watching him closely, he comes close to killing her until Emma sends him plunging, and he is knocked out. She then takes Kate to the evacuated village.
There is still the matter of how to free the remaining children, and now the mystery of Emma is revealed. It turns out she is the owner of the farm. When she wouldn’t sell to Ma, Ma stole the farm and started a fire to drive Emma off. Emma escaped, badly burned, and wandered in a state of shock until she stumbled across the abandoned village. She had lived there ever since, hiding her badly scarred face. She had taken a long time to start helping the children because she was living in seclusion, suspicious of strangers. Then one day she decided to take a look at her farm and discovered what was going on.
Back at the farm, Ma learns Kate has escaped, but she has something more pressing to worry about. She has received a letter informing them that the bombing is easing up, so the children will now be sent home. Realising the children will tell people about their treatment, Ma decides to silence them by locking them in the barn and burning it down.
Bonnie draws the line at murder and has a change of heart. She runs away and bumps into Kate and Emma, and explains things. She covers for them while they dig the tunnel into the barn and help all the children escape through it. Ma almost shoots Kate as she makes her escape, but Bonnie causes her to miss and follows Kate into the woods. Now Ma knows Bonnie has turned against her.
With all the children safe, Emma decides it is (long overdue!) time to get the police. But after several hours there’s still no sign of activity. Kate goes in search of her and again gets captured by Ma Thatcher, who has also captured Emma and Bonnie. She uses them as hostages to force Kate to flag the police away.
Ma then locks Bonnie and Kate in the barn and sets fire to it, keeping Emma back to make her tell where the other children are. Emma breaks free and rushes into the barn to save Kate and Bonnie. Ma is forced to go after Emma, as she’s the only one who can tell her where the other children are. Ned panics at all this and makes a run for it. When Kate hears Ma crying for help, she goes back to rescue her. Her reward? Ma tries to kill her again, with the shotgun Ned dropped.
However, the other children, who got worried at the delay, have brought in the police themselves. The police arrive in time to catch Ma in the act of trying to shoot Kate. Ned is soon rounded up, and joins Ma in custody. The farm is restored to Emma, and the children are very happy when the authorities allow them to stay with her.
Well, here we go with Tammy’s most famous (or infamous) tale of all, and one of the most pivotal stories in girls’ comics. This is the one that really made Tammy’s mark from the first issue, and its impact lingers on today. If one serial were the jewel in Tammy’s crown, it would have to be this one. But what a dark jewel it is. It has been deemed the cruellest of Tammy’s tales, perhaps the cruellest of all in the history of girls’ comics. Of all the dark, misery-laden tales Tammy was known for, this one is the reigning queen.
And the readers lapped it up. Its length alone – a staggering 29 episodes – shows how popular it was with readers. Its formula proved a guaranteed hit, copied countless times at IPC, and spawned what became known as the slave story. Or perhaps, more accurately, the slave group story (as distinct from the single slave story). The slave story was one of the lynchpins in the new trend of grittiness Tammy set. Said Pat Mills of the slave story: “slave stories were always very popular, and I think a psychologist might have a field day, not just with the people who wrote them, but with the readers! … We actually would sit down and say, when we were constructing a girls’ comic or revising an existing one, ‘Right, let’s have the slave story’, and the reason was because they were so popular with the readers!” (Interview with Jenni Scott, 26 September 2011, https://comiczine-fa.com/interviews/pat-mills).
“Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’” was the one that set the template for it all in Tammy and her sister comics. The template ran as follows:
1: The protagonist falls foul of a racket, evil person or cruel institution where others are held captive for a sinister purpose or used as slaves. Settings have included workhouses, harsh boarding schools, factories, remote environments and prison camps.
2: The protagonist is the only one to rebel against it (and in some cases, even realise what is going on, as the evil purpose is sometimes disguised) and try to break them all free from it.
3: Her rebellion singles her out for extra-harsh treatment or puts her in more danger than the others.
4: There is a flunky type (not always used) working with the antagonist against the protagonist.
5: A helper often, though not always, emerges to help. The helper can either work in secret and disguise, or come in to investigate and sense something’s wrong. Sometimes the protagonist herself is the secret helper, either donning a disguise or pretending to be the flunky to help the slaves. Examples of this are “Lady Sarah’s Secret” (Judy) and “Hateful Hattie” (Mandy).
It could not have been the formula alone that made the serial its mark. It would also have been the lengths it took with its cruelties, which have made it regarded as the cruellest of them all (with “Merry at Misery House” running a very strong second). The scale of violence and torture must have been unprecedented and shocking, and the levels it went to have been seldom seen since: Kate being constantly bludgeoned, dangerous labour in a flooded quarry, the animal cage, fox traps, even attempted shootings, and so much else. The story stops at showing blood, broken bones and other injuries (except for one child getting her leg caught in a fox trap) or outright death, but it’s always dancing on the edge of it, and the only reason it doesn’t happen is, well, this is girls’ comics.
Also adding to its impact was Tammy clearly naming the villainess after an unpopular figure: Margaret Thatcher, then known as “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher” for her cuts on free milk given to children when she was Secretary of Education. And Ma Thatcher is a villainess with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one of the evil baddies ever created in girls’ comics. Nowhere is this shown more where Kate saves Ma’s life – twice – in the story. But there’s no gratitude from Ma, only more of the same from her, even trying to kill Kate in return for having her life saved. She ought to be running a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, what with the tortures she inflicts (vicious dogs, fox traps, the animal cage, beatings, atrocious working conditions, etc.). She’d feel right at home with those brutal SS guards.
As well as no redeeming qualities, Ma Thatcher has no nuances to her character. There’s no dashes of humour, backstory, redeeming qualities, or even sprinkles of the human touch to her. The only thing that gives her a little roundness is how brilliant she is at pretending to be the kind grandmotherly benefactor when the authorities come calling. But essentially, Ma Thatcher is just cruel, evil and unredeemable.
The hatching and crosshatching in the Desmond Walduck artwork give it ruggedness against a softer edge of linework, which makes it not only a perfect fit for the harshness of the story but for the country setting and the time period as well. Not surprisingly, Walduck has been a popular choice for other period stories with a hard edge to them, such as “The Shadow in Shona’s Life” from Tammy and “The Worst School in the World” from Judy.
“Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was not strictly the first in the line of (group) slave stories. The aforementioned Worst School in the World from Judy was one also, and predated it by two years. There were probably others at DCT that also predated “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm”. But at IPC, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was more than enough to be the first to matter.
Treasures from the Seashore (Chris Lloyd) – feature
For 1982 in our Tammy August month round, we profile the final issue in that month. It’s the seventh issue since the new look Tammy was launched. The credits, a little uneven in the relaunch issue, now seem to have been ironed out more. As with a new comic, the relaunch is a little experimental, with some stories and features quickly canned and replacements tried, while other stories prove to be popular and played for all they’re worth.
A new Mario Capaldi story, “Cross on Court”, replaces his previous one, “Come Back Bindi”. Bindi was Jenny McDade’s swansong; it only lasted six episodes when it could have been played for longer. Was it meant to be short, or did it get cut short for some reason? “A Gran for the Gregorys”, a story I liked, lasted eight episodes (ending next issue), but I felt it could have had more episodes and ended too soon. Nanny Young’s story ends this week, presumably to make way for something else, but she returns later.
“Saving Grace” and “Slave of the Clock” are definite hits, and the latter is remembered as a classic. The current Bella story had me hooked when it appeared; Bella loses her memory, and the unscrupulous Barlows are taking advantage of course. Interestingly, it was written by Malcolm Shaw, whereas all the other credited Bella stories were written by Primrose Cumming. “A Horse Called September”, an adaptation of the book by the same name, started later than the relaunch. It is guaranteed to be a smash with Anne Digby as the writer and the gorgeous equestrian artwork of Eduardo Feito. The Pam of Pond Hill story has a story arc that will keep it going for quite a while, and with a secret saboteur as the antagonist, it will definitely keep readers riveted.
Bella at the Bar (second Bella story) (artist John Armstrong, writer Jenny McDade) – final episode
Waifs of the Wigmaker (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Bill Harrington)
Ella’s Ballet Boat (artist Jim Eldridge)
Aunt Aggie (artist J. Badesa, writer Pat Mills, creator Gerry Finley-Day)
Carol in Camelot St. (artist Douglas Perry)
Typewriters for Writer Types! – competition
The Truth about the Treasure (artist John Armstrong) – Strange Story
Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)
Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
Now we come to 1975 in our Tammy August month round.
Inside, Bella’s second story comes to an end, and readers finally see how she clears her name after being framed and publicly disgraced by the jealous Natalia Orlov. This Bella story drew lots of letters from readers, including ones trying to guess how Bella would win out against Natalia. As it turned out, they were not bad guesses. But none of them anticipated Bella damaging her back (while saving Natalia, and Natalia confessing in return) and becoming wheelchair-bound as the cost of clearing her name. And so the scene – Bella’s road to recovery – is set for her third story, which readers are informed will be starting soon. So now Bella is on her way to becoming a recurring regular in Tammy instead of a serial. Meanwhile, readers will get a new tennis story, “Backhand Billie”.
Aunt Aggie (the TV star with the sweet persona on screen, the scheming one in real life) is also doing another sequel. In this week’s episode, how much does it take to get Aunt Aggie jealous? It’s Helen getting a bit of fan mail of her own. Just a few letters for Helen, and Aunt Aggie brings out her big guns. But, as usual, Helen finds a way to make it all rebound on awful Aunt Aggie.
In “Waifs of the Wigmaker”, there’s no more slaving in the wig factory for Moira, says Ma Parting. She’s training Moira up for something bigger, and Moira is to take on another identity for it. Sounds ominous. On the plus side, while dodging the authorities, Ma Parting was forced take Moira through a secret tunnel to the factory. Moira’s got the escape route from the wig factory at last, and Ma Parting showed it to her herself!
This week’s Strange Story is a treasure hunt story, which leaves the hunters with a moral: there is more than one kind of treasure. In “Ella’s Ballet Boat”, the floating ballet company is dogged by more sinister treasure hunters, in search of a treasure chart hidden on their boat.
Carol Clancy finds King Arthur is being taken a bit far at her new school in Camelot Street. Her school carries on the Round Table and the Camelot tradition, complete with quests and defending the weak and poor against fairytale threats of dragons, ogres, robber barons and such. You couldn’t possibly find things like that in the modern world? Well, they are up against “dragons” this week – a motorcycle gang by that name. But there’s a more pressing threat from Mordred. No, not the witch – the deputy head who wants the head’s position, which would bring down the Round Table.
In the Tammy regulars: Bessie takes advantage of bob-a-job week, but it all blows up in her face. She also meets a boy scout who’s just like her. Miss Bigger’s cousin is giving a lecture about his game hunting in Africa. Sue badly wants to see it, but Miss Bigger won’t let her. When Sue wins in the end, “even that hyena [on photo slide] don’t look so wild as Miss B.” Molly is the only one standing by a new tenant farmer, Mark Travers; everyone else has turned against him because of claims he’s a fraud. Even his wife has doubts. And now Pickering swings by with an invitation that sounds like a plan to catch him out altogether.
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.
Aunt Aggie (artist J. Badesa, writer Pat Mills, creator Gerry Finley-Day)
The Cat’s Eye on Katy (artist Douglas Perry) – final episode
The Making of Mary (“Wild Horse Summer” artist from Jinty)
The Sea Spirit (artist Juan Escandell Torres)
A Special Tammy Portrait – Rod Stewart
Simple Simona (artist Julio Bosch?)
The Secret of the Stables (artist Reginald B. Davis)
No Love for Liza (artist Jaume Rumeu)
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – new story
We now turn to 1973 in our Tammy August month round, and the letters from readers in the issue are insightful reading. Two letters indicate Tammy could have been overusing the misery-laden formulas she had been renowned for since her first issue and she still had to strike a better balance with complementary material:
“Nearly all your stories are sad, they’re about orphans and blackmail, cripples and cruel parents, beatings and imprisonments…I get enough horror at school. Can’t you help make the world a happier place by printing more stories like Aunt Aggie…”
“It seems you think all you require to hold us readers spellbound are heroines with not-so-well-off and exceedingly nasty parents and grandparents or guardians…I think you should take all these horrible people out of your comic, or send them to Stanton Hall and Mr. Pickering – for some of their own medicine!”
Eventually the horrible people and sad stories did fade from Tammy, but for now, they continue. Among them is Juliana Buch’s first story for Tammy, “Jumble Sale Jilly”. Jilly Burridge is struggling to be an artist in the face of a family who scorn such things and don’t treat her so well either. This week, it looks like the fairy godmother figure to help Jilly has arrived in her life. In “No Love for Liza”, Liza Bruce also battles to be an artist against the odds piled on by a nasty stepfamily. And we have yet another nasty family in “The Making of Mary”. Mary Regan is forced to live with her horrible Uncle Ernie, who wants to take over her grandfather’s business. To add insult to injury, Uncle Ernie has also framed her grandfather and now he’s in prison. Imagine having to live with the very man who set up your grandfather!
On the same page, there is more on the long-standing Molly Mills debate that made her the most polarising character in Tammy. Some readers liked her:
“I disagree…that Molly Mills is rubbish. She’s great. My Mum and I both read it every week and if you take her out we won’t buy Tammy anymore!”
And others didn’t:
“Is [Molly Mills] going to be in the paper forever? She drives me mad. Please do something about her!”
Meanwhile, the nasty Kitty and Betty have already done something about Molly in her new story this week – they’ve pulled a spiteful trick on her, and now poor Molly faces the sack! But such things are hardly new in Molly. She’s bound to bounce back in the end, and then there’ll be the next time.
Tammy started off lacking humour to help balance her dark material. Two years on, she is building up a stronger presence of humour with strips like “Aunt Aggie”, a rotten schemer acting as a sweet figure on TV who gets her comeuppance every week, and “Simple Simona”, a clueless girl who is always the victim of her scheming cousins without even realising it, but she always triumphs over them in the end – again without even realising it.
Elsewhere, it’s the final episode of “The Cat’s Eye on Katy”, and the letters page indicates it was a popular, gripping story. The witch doctor’s curse is broken by the good ol’ amor vincit omnia (love conquers all), when Katy saves the life of the cat he bewitched into doing evil against her in revenge for his imprisonment. Though he’s thousands of miles away, he knows what’s happened, and he’s still stuck in prison, doing cursing of a different sort: “Cursed white magic has won! My power over cat beast is gone!”. “The Sea Spirit”, which started in the same issue as “The Cat’s Eye on Katy”, is now on its penultimate episode.
Girls love a good mystery story, and there’s a mystery about Silver Star, the horse at Penny Lane’s stable, which she is salvaging from neglect. The mystery deepens when Silver Star responds to a strange whistle, and in the middle of the night, Penny spots him galloping off. Is it that whistle again?
Belinda Black-Sheep (artist Mario Capaldi) – first episode
Miss High-an’-Mighty (artist Julio Bosch?)
The Lame Ballerina (artist P. Montero, writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
The Uxdale Urchins (artist Eduardo Feito)
Swim for Your Life, Sari (artist Juan Garcia Quiros, writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
Skivers’ School (artist J. Badesa)
Dog Paddle Doris (artist Carlos Prunes, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
The Greek Girl (artist John Armstrong, writer Bill Harrington?) – first episode
Here Comes Trouble (artist Luis Bermejo)
Lonely Romy (artists Luis Bermejo and Miguel Quesada (inks))
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
A Special Tammy Portrait – Don McLean
We come to 1972 in our Tammy August month round, and in this issue, two new stories start: “Belinda Black-Sheep” and “The Greek Girl”. Mario Capaldi, who went on to become one of the longest-standing stalwarts on the Tammy team, starts his first story for Tammy, “Belinda Black-Sheep”. Belinda McRea and her father become outcasts in their fishing village after Dad commits a seeming act of cowardice that led the deaths of his fellow fishermen in a storm. But did he really? Or did he lose his mind in some way and was not responsible for his actions? Or did something else happen? He seems to recall saving them, but he’s become so addled we don’t even know what to think, much know where to start working out what happened.
In the second new story, “The Greek Girl”, Rose Banks has no confidence in herself, and it shows in her appearance (scruffy) and schoolwork (“appalling”). She wishes upon the statue of Penelope, the Greek goddess of confidence, to become more confident. (Incidentally, there really is a Greek goddess of confidence, but her name is Flaunta, and she is the second cousin of Aphrodite.) Soon after, a girl and a cat who are dead ringers for the goddess and her cat come into Rose’s life. Oops, is it the old “be careful what you wish for” again? Incidentally, this was one of the John Armstrong Tammy stories chosen for reprint in the Misty annuals, and a number of them were written by Bill Harrington.
Miss High-an’-Mighty, a spoiled, arrogant Victorian girl named Ursula Thorndike, has to be the hardest nut of all to crack in redemption stories. Bill Fletcher, a convict made good, is taking her on a tour to see how the other half live in the hopes it will change her. Ursula’s had to agree, as it is the only way to save her family from bankruptcy, but so far none of it is making any impression or improvement on her.
Molly’s in a really complicated fix. She’s taken in an amnesic girl named Lorna, and then a Lady Lancton claims Lorna stole jewellery from her. Lorna is indeed scared shitless of Lady Lancton, but is it for that reason? Molly’s attempt to get Lorna’s side of things is soon putting her in danger.
In “Lonely Romy”, another Cinderella story, Romy hits the road after her spiteful stepsister frames her for stealing a watch. The truth is discovered later, but by this time Romy’s found a new venue for her paintings.
In “Here Comes Trouble”, the trouble for Mitzi Trouble comes from spiteful Katy Dennison. First Katy dopes her horse, and now she’s started a grass fire that’s raged out of control, just to get Mitzi into trouble, but it’s put lives in danger.
Girls’ comics often had some bizarre premises, and “Dog Paddle Doris” is one. Doris Farrell is making her name as…the best dog paddle swimmer around. Although it’s the only stroke she can do, she’s joined a swimming club and is competing in races, against girls who are doing freestyle. She even wins a freestyle event, but she was doing dog paddle, not freestyle. Aren’t there any grounds for disqualification here?
“Swim for Your Life, Sari” is another swimming story, about a long-distance relay swimming race for Sari Marsh and her team. But Sari soon finds there is more danger than just the risks of the race – something sinister is afoot, and it looks suspiciously like the relay race is a setup for it.
Jill Hudson discovers Louisa “The Lame Ballerina” isn’t that lame, but thinks there’s a medical problem and wants to be friends. The truth is, Louisa is faking lameness to avoid the ballet she’s being pushed into, and now she sees a glorious opportunity to take advantage of Jill.
“Skivers’ School” looks like it’s riding on the success of “School for Snobs”. But instead of teaching snobs a lesson, the special school teaches ill-mannered girls to behave. Flo and Ethel Binns have been sent to it to learn how to be ladies. The hijinks have their skivvying backfiring on them and being foiled by the headmistress Miss Meake. We’re always left wondering as to whether Miss Meake does this without realising it or not, which is probably a running gag.
The Uxdale Urchins win the semi-finals despite problems along the way, but now there’s a real hurdle – the finals are in London, and they can’t afford a horse box.
Now we come to the 1983 issue in our Tammy June month round. As it so happens, the issue has a feature about popular British folklore in June (below), which makes it even more flavoursome for our June month theme. At this time, Tammy liked to run a feature on a particular month and the folklore that went with it.
We are now in the era where Tammy ran credits and her covers used story illustrations taken from the panels inside. Jinty did the same thing for several years before she changed to Mario Capaldi covers on 21/28 June 1980. This era of Tammy also had a new logo.
This issue has a gorgeous Phil Gascoine cover, which heralds Gascoine’s new story, “Backhand Play”, the last tennis serial Tammy published. A number of tennis stories appeared in Tammy over the years, such as “Backhand Billie” and “Double – Or Nothing!”. But the one that has to be the classic is “Becky Never Saw the Ball”, about a tennis player making a comeback after going blind.
Bella and Pam of Pond Hill continue as the regular characters. There are two other regulars strips that appear now. One is a weekly complete story, with themes ranging from the supernatural to romance. Some of these completes reprint old Strange Stories, with text boxes replacing the Storyteller. The other is “The Button Box”. The Button Box is a storyteller theme (minus the supernatural), with Bev Jackson bringing a story every week from her button box. Each button has a story to tell, and often a moral along with it. This week’s moral: if you show a little kindness, it will be rewarded. Like having your life saved, which is what happens with the only man who showed kindness to a beggar girl who is bullied by everyone else in an Italian village.
Tammy has had a higher number of serials since she dropped a lot of old regulars on 17 July 1982. And now she has credits, we can not only see who is behind the stories but also the types of stories some of her writers favoured. For example, we can see from the credits that Alison Christie favoured heart-tugging emotional stories and Charles Preston spooky completes. Perhaps Preston used to write on Strange Stories, Gypsy Rose and Misty. Other writers, such as Malcolm Shaw, Ian Mennell and Charles Herring, wrote on a wider variety of genres.
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.
The Secret of Trebaran – (artist Giorgio Cambiotti) – final episode
Maisie’s Magic Eye – artist Robert MacGillivray
Little Miss Nothing (artists Miguel Rosello, Luis Bermejo, Miguel Quesada, writer Alan Davidson) – first episode
Betina at Ballet School
Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
Sara’s Kingdom (artist Bill Mainwaring)
The Girls of Liberty Lodge (artist Dudley Pout)
“Our Janie” – Little Mum (artist Colin Merrett)
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
For the month of June we are having another Tammy round, which will profile a Tammy issue from the month of June for each Tammy year. We begin with the first June issue of Tammy in 1971.
In this issue, it’s the final episode of “The Secret of Trebaran”, one of the first stories from the first Tammy lineup. Its replacement next week is “Gandora the Golden”. Others from the first Tammy lineup, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”, “Betina at Ballet School”, “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”, “Glen – A Lonely Dog on a Quest”, “No Tears for Molly”, and “’Our Janie’ – Little Mum” are still going strong, and it’s been four months since they started. Molly went on to become one of the longest-running regulars in Tammy, which showed she was the most powerful of the first lineup. Beattie, who joined later, is still going strong, and is the first Tammy strip drawn by John Armstrong. Cat Girl, “Maisie’s Magic Eye” and “Sara’s Kingdom”, which came over from Sally, are still going happily as well.
Douglas Perry artwork appears in Tammy for the first time – and on the first page – with the start of Perry’s first Tammy story, “Neville’s Island”. Thirty girls from St Edburgha’s are lured to a mysterious island. And we all know what happens when girls are lured to an island in girls’ comics – it’s a trap! To make things even more mysterious, the plot is being engineered by a ominous-sounding elderly woman in a wheelchair who won’t show her face. Once the unsuspecting girls are in the trap, she says, “Now they shall begin to suffer. All of them.” But why? From the sound of it, it’s revenge for being bullied at the school, but there’s probably more to it than that. It all adds to the mystery that has to be solved if the girls are to escape.
Also starting this issue is the first episode of “Little Miss Nothing” (written by Alan Davidson, not Pat Davidson aka Anne Digby, as has been sometimes stated). This story is noted for setting the “Cinderella” template that so many Tammy stories were to follow, the most famous of which was Bella Barlow. Update: an entry on this story has now been posted here.
“Little Miss Nothing” Annabel Hayes is regarded by her family as a nobody and they treat her as a drudge. It’s her younger sister Dora who gets the lion’s share in everything. Annabel shines at dressmaking, but her hopes of making a career out of it are dashed when the family move to be closer to Dora’s modelling school. Dad illegally yanks Annabel out of school to slog all day at the family market stall to pay for Dora’s school fees, makes her sleep in an attic, and not a word about her treatment or she’ll suffer. Wow, things are really piled on our Cinderella in the first episode alone. But then Annabel spots something in the attic that could turn things around.