Tag Archives: Gerry Finley-Day

Granny’s Town (1973-74)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 27 October 1973 to 23 February 1974

Episodes: 18

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Pat Mills [edited to add: Mills credits the concept and direction to Gerry Finley-Day]

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Jen Young comes to the seaside town of Crone-on-Sea, also known as Granny’s Town, to help with her grandfather’s boarding house. It’s a favourite retirement place for old ladies, but so incredibly old-fashioned, with amusements, transport, accommodation and so forth that are decades out of date. Modernism seems to have bypassed it completely, and it looks like nothing ever happens there. 

However, Jen soon discovers the grannies in Granny’s Town are operating some kind of secret society/underground movement, and it’s enabling them to run the town all but in name. The movement is led by a granny known only as Her Ladyship. 

Under Her Ladyship and her granny army, the only law in town is Granny’s Law. Anyone who treats any granny rudely, crosses them in any way or interferes with them gets swiftly dealt with in mysterious ways and scared into leaving town. Innocuous granny activities such as knitting, embroidery and crochet are used as weapons to frightening effect against such people, such as sending threats or tying them up. And there are so many of them (always men) who cross the grannies. In what appears to be the first attack, which makes front page news in the local paper, a rude train conductor and businessman get tied to lamp posts with wool in a night vigilante attack, and cushions are left behind with a stitched message: “Get out of Granny’s Town”. This first attack strikes at night, but subsequent ones strike in broad daylight. Among them, an uncivil workman who won’t shut down the racket he’s making with his roadworks gets bound and and gagged and locked in a grandfather’s clock, to be near-deafened by its chiming and ordered to get out of town. A new supermarket owner threatens fierce competition against a long-standing store run by dear old Mrs Mullins; the grannies sabotage the supermarket and it soon closes down. 

There are danger signals about Granny’s Law. In one case, the grannies stake out a boorish donkey ride man on a lawn but just leave him there, with no release or keeping an eye on him. By the time Jen finds him he’s nearly dead from heatstroke. When Jen tries to investigate further, the grannies seize her, tie her to a peepshow machine, and force her head down into the machine to read a message: “Next time mind your own business, Miss Nosey Parker.” Unlike the others the grannies have forced out, that doesn’t stop Jen or drive her out. But the grannies always keep one step ahead of Jen when she tries to probe their activities.

It’s not just rudeness that brings down the wrath of the grannies. Anyone trying to modernise the old-fashioned town is also targeted. A rude developer wants to turn the movie theatre where the grannies enjoy silent movies into a bingo hall. They tie him up with film and force him to watch silents – with Charlie Chaplin as the movie projector – while tickling him to make him laugh. 

Things really heat up when the Mayor wants to enforce modernism on the town, demolish the old-style buildings, and pack off the grannies to old age homes. This brings out the granny fight military style and now they turn into a full-scale army. They send messages in code, such as using their knitting to click out out Morse, march like soldiers, organise councils of war, and rouse to Her Ladyship’s version of Winston Churchill’s famous “We shall never surrender” speech. 

Jen notices it’s not just the Mayor’s modernism the grannies are rebelling against. They’re striking against anything modern now, including football, a TV studio and cars, the last of which gets banned and the grannies take delight in the old-style horse and carriage. Things come to a head when the Mayor wants to pull down the pier and build an oil rig. The grannies’ tricks have him resigning in disgrace. After the Mayor resigns, Her Ladyship becomes Mayoress.

Now Her Ladyship is Mayoress, she swiftly becomes a cross between Queen Victoria and Hitler of the whole town. It’s unbelievably easy for her to do so. Everything just seems to turn into a police state in Granny’s Town at Her Ladyship’s command, no protest, no questions asked, no human rights issues raised. Granny’s Law shifts to making it a virtual crime to be young or modern. The grannies’ retaliation changes its focus from punishing those who are rude or abusive to grannies to those who do not support the granny rule. It begins with Her Ladyship throwing a free celebratory party and has Jen sell flags for it. Seems innocuous, but Jen discovers the party is Her Ladyship’s way of identifying anyone at the party who opposes her (by not wearing her flags) and remove them all by having them arrested – on no charge whatsoever: “It’s the orders of the new mayoress!” Jen is the only one shocked at this Gestapo-like action; the grannies just think it’s amusing and say Her Ladyship must have a very good reason for it. 

Under Her Ladyship, Granny’s Town is stripped of any remnant of modernity and reduced even further into an old-fashioned pattern that takes it right back to Victorian times. Coal and gaslights replace electricity. People are given Victorian clothes to stay warm after a power cut. Jen soon discovers the power cut is meant to be permanent. The town is mysteriously cut off from the outside world when the trains get blocked and telephone lines non-operational until after the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration. Everyone is trapped in Granny’s Town with these weird going-on. Yet nobody except Jen seems to realise something’s weird about the clock turning back to the 19th century in this town that was old-fashioned to begin with. They treat it as a joke and think what Her Ladyship is doing is just marvellous. 

Jen snoops into Her Ladyship’s house and discovers doll-sized dummies of everyone in town, with the doll of Her Ladyship rigged up as queen. She realises that is precisely how Her Ladyship intends to rule Granny’s Town. There can be no doubt it has something to do with the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration.

Jen soon discovers the dolls have another purpose – a means of terrorising people who still pose a threat to Her Ladyship. She walks into a store to get something trendy to replace her Victorian dress. The shop assistant, initially happy to help, receives the doll of himself from Her Ladyship’s house, now broken, and a note: “Greetings to you on Granny’s Day.” He screams they’re going to get him, he can’t serve Jen after all, and shuts up his shop fast. Later, Jen receives a package: it’s her own doll, now broken, and the same message. Now she really knows Her Ladyship is gunning for her. It looks like the granny retaliation, served in an underground way before, is becoming more open now the grannies are in charge. 

The elderly Misses Charity, Hope and Faith are regulars at granddad’s boarding house and have been friendly with Jen from the beginning. They are present when Jen receives the broken doll. She decides to take a chance and tell them what she’s discovered, and hope her trust is not misplaced. They give some indication they might help.

Granny’s Day is a grand celebration, with only Jen seeing the grannies lined up like an army. It is announced that Her Ladyship is going to demolish houses in certain roads as part of a new town planning scheme. Everyone, including Jen, thinks it’s just innocuous slum clearance and old houses going. Then men in terrifying oversized masks start chasing Jen. Nobody but Jen realises they are there to terrorise her; they think it’s part of the fun. 

Jen takes refuge from her pursuers in the town hall. There she finds a model of Granny’s Town, with all the dolls of the young people in town being thrown in a box and only the granny dolls on the model. Later, Jen discovers what it means and what the town planning scheme is really about: Her Ladyship has condemned all the modern buildings, just to evict the young people in them and force them to leave town, and make Crone-on-Sea the exclusive reserve of the grannies. The young people just seem to leave their homes and the town without a murmur of protest.

Misses Hope, Charity and Faith then seize Jen and say she’s coming with them. It looks like her trust in them was misplaced. She gives them the slip and disguises herself as a granny, but then it starts to rain heavily, washing off her makeup. She is discovered and taken to Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship is now on a virtual throne in the town hall. The only thing missing is the crown she wore in her model. She is now so powerful that all the grannies are under her control and doing everything she says, and she even has spies everywhere. 

She has Jen locked up to be dealt with later. While in her cell, Jen sees the rain turn into a thunderstorm. It gets so bad it weakens the sea wall, which threatens to flood the town. Misses Hope, Charity and Faith rescue Jen from her cell, saying they were secretly trying to help earlier without being detected. They realise “[Her Ladyship’s] a little silly and has to be stopped”. 

The sea wall is now cracking really badly and the water’s pouring in, but the grannies are too old and frail to do anything. There are no young people to help and no telephone to call for help, thanks to Her Ladyship. Jen starts a fire (in torrential rain!) to start a beacon that will hopefully alert the evicted people in the next town. It works, and the young and old forget their differences while they start sandbagging to stop up the wall. Jen is hit by a falling tree and knocked unconscious. 

When Jen wakes up, the town is safe and the granny rule has been dismantled. Her Ladyship fled in a hot air balloon during the storm, not to be seen again. The grannies have learned from the flooding business that they can’t live on their own and need young people. The young people are back and reconciled with the grannies. Everything is forgiven, but Jen knows she will never forget the days of Granny’s Law. 

Thoughts

In girls’ comics, one constant message has been to never underestimate a granny, whether good or evil. This message has been seen in so many stories, including Pam of Pond Hill. 

These grannies don’t just have the monopoly in Granny’s Town – they have it in the entire story itself as well. It’s always grannies in the story; grandpas never feature in Her Ladyship’s movement or on the plans for Granny’s Town. The dolls on the model are all grannies – no grandpas. In fact, the only gramps in the story is Jen’s grandfather, and even he barely appears in it. Again, it’s always a girls’ world in girls’ comics.

This story is making a particularly strong statement about ageism and Grey Power. Only it’s not doing it in a positive light, and the grannies, although they believe they are rightly striking back at abusers and threats to their old-fashioned livestyle, are not portrayed as the heroes of the story. In a humour serial, the direction the story could have taken, the granny movement would provide the readers with loads of laughs. We would all cheer the grannies on in giving these nasty types their just desserts. Instead, we all feel uneasy and creeped out about the whole thing because that’s the way Jen feels about it all. Though there is some humour to the way these nasty types are punished, it’s perverse humour and we are not laughing. There is nothing funny about being their being forced out of town by the grannies, just for one act of callousness. It’s vigilantism, and vigilantism can be very dangerous. Indeed, in several instances it does get dangerous and goes too far, such when the staked-out man nearly dies in the heat or Jen gets tied to the peepshow machine. 

Grannies are not normally people to be scared of, but you do get the creeps from these grannies and whatever they might be up to next, beginning with Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship gives Jen the chills right from the start. She never gives her name (“prefers to remain anonymous”) and never shows her face; she’s always veiled and she favours dark clothing. She’s also drawn at angles and distances that give the impression she operates at a distance and from the shadows. When she becomes Mayoress she switches from the veil to dark glasses that she never takes off, giving her a Mafia look. From the beginning to the end she never shows her face or gives her name, which makes her even more chilling. 

To make the grannies even more frightening, they remain unseen each time they strike, so we never know just who is behind the attack and it’s hard for the victim to prove anything. Panels only show groping hands reaching out to pull a trick, utensils (feather dusters, canes, hatpins, scarfs, etc) being applied to victims, the threats the grannies leave behind, and the odd clue Jen finds. Compounding the terror is that the grannies are so crafty in what they do that they always keep one step ahead and win every time. However much people really know about what’s going on, nobody does anything. After all, they are old ladies, and it’s a hard thing to rise up against old ladies. All the same, nobody has any backbone. One attack from the grannies and they run scared from town – except Jen of course. 

When the Mayor starts his campaign to modernise the town, the story goes in a vast change of direction. Up until this point it was episodic, with an unsavoury type getting a mysterious comeuppance at granny hands each week and driven out of town. Now the story structure switches to a full-scale story arc, with the grannies shifting from an underground movement to moving out more openly as an army and a political force that rises up to take over the town completely, with nobody but Jen realising. 

As the granny takeover unfolds, we wonder if Pat Mills was reading up on how Nazism came to power in Germany and why Hitler held such sway over the German people. We can definitely see the parallels. As with Hitler and Nazism, the granny movement starts off well and seems to be well intentioned; Her Ladyship does things that makes her extremely popular with her followers, just as as Hitler did with the Germans when he came to power. To her followers, Her Ladyship offers great benefits that are everything they could want and address their needs. It makes them feel like somebody, improves their lives, gives them great power, and shows everyone what Grey Power’s about. Nobody is able to touch them, and anyone who crosses them is always removed quickly, and serve them right too. As with the rise of Nazism, most people watching it all think it’s no big deal, serves good, and will benefit its subjects. At worst, the non-granny residents think it’s “a bit barmy”, but for the most part they just laugh at it. After all, these are just old biddies running the show. What harm can they do? Anyway, it’s to be expected they might be a bit dotty. As for this sudden turnback to Victorian times, aww, how quaint and nostalgic it is, the good old days are here again. Those who see the dark side of it (whether Jen or Winston Churchill) are voices crying in the wilderness. 

As with Nazi Germany, the dark side of it is how extreme it becomes and targets those who do not fit into its ideals because the person leading it all (whether Her Ladyship or Hitler) is a fanatical dictator. But nobody but an isolated few can see what a dangerous fanatic that leader is and the extremes they are capable of for their ideals, because it’s veiled as something that serves good and benefits those who follow it. Even Jen does not understand just how fanatical Her Ladyship is until she sees the models, and realises Her Ladyship is a crazy woman who is out to rule like Queen Victoria of the town and have her very own Victorian kingdom with all her granny subjects. 

The extreme led by this power-hungry fanatic is making the town exclusively granny and old-fashioned, to the exclusion of all those who are neither. Under her rule, everything in town must be how it was in the good old days, from architecture to transport. It becomes a crime to be young or modern, just as it became a crime to be non-Aryan, anti-Nazi or Jew in Nazi Germany. You don’t even have to be rude to a granny anymore to become a target of their retaliation. Simply not supporting the granny movement or not being able to do so makes you a target. Nobody but Jen seems to realise what’s going on, either because they don’t take it seriously or are blind to it. If anyone does realise it, they are likely to be too scared to speak out. Nobody puts up any fight or protest. The young people who have their perfectly sound houses condemned for no good reason just leave. There’s no picketing, demonstrations or marches on the town hall. The mod shop man just shuts up shop in terror after receiving the doll threat. The police arrest people who don’t support grannies at the party without charge or crime, because Her Ladyship ordered it. There are no human rights for anyone who isn’t a granny, but not a word is said about it. Her Ladyship has spies all over. Granny’s Town is turning into a police state right under everyone’s noses, and nobody but Jen realises. Had the storm not cut Her Ladyship’s reign short, we can just see it escalating into a reign of corruption, greed and terror for even her own subjects. Had the story been taken further, there can be little doubt Her Ladyship’s rule would have gone down this path. 

Girls’ comics have shown time and time again that when things are taken to extremes they inevitably lead to disaster and threaten self-destruction. You must learn the lessons of moderation, tolerance, and understanding that your way is not everything. This is what the grannies learn the hard way when the flood makes them realise that granny rule to the exclusion of the young is ultimately doomed to failure and destroy itself. They cannot survive on their own and need young people for things they cannot do themselves because they are too old to do it. They also need severe reminding that they were once young themselves and these young people will in turn be old people someday. Old and young must live side by side in Granny’s Town, which they do happily once Her Ladyship is gone and the emergency made them forget their differences. 

Further thoughts from Pat Mills

Pat Mills added via Twitter: “Gerry was inspired by Arsenic and Old Lace and possibly similar films. He gave me the story but because it was ‘his baby’, I did an okay job, rather than something more. Readers liked it okay, but weird mysteries were never as popular as ‘Cinderella’ stories. Great art.”

Swimmer Slave of Mrs. Squall (1974)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy & June 22 June 1974 to 31 August 1974

Episodes: 11

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Sue Briggs is a difficult, underachieving girl at school. Her parents and headmaster come down hard on her and their approach – constantly compare her unfavourably with her brother Barney (sporty) and sister Muriel (studious) – is counterproductive and only makes Sue angry. 

Sue’s anger drives her to snoop into Squall House. The Squalls were once big in the area; the housing estate (Squall Forest Housing Estate) was built on their land and Sue’s school is called Squall Forest School. Following bankruptcy and widowhood, there’s only Mrs Squall now, who lives as a recluse. 

When Sue sneaks in, she is surprised to discover a swimming pool on the Squall House property. When she attempts to rescue Mrs Squall’s dog Otto from drowning in the swimming pool, she realises she dived in while forgetting she can’t swim. Now both she and the dog need rescuing, which is what Mrs Squall does.  

Although Sue cannot swim, she did an impressive dive into the pool to save Otto. This leads to Mrs Squall and her domineering, forbidding companion, Miss Gort, giving Sue some basic swimming lessons. They become convinced Sue has the makings of a champion there, though Sue does not like swimming as much she does diving, and she is struggling with it. They offer her secret swimming and diving lessons to make her a swimming champion, give her a key for Squall House, and tell her she must not let anyone see her enter Squall House for her lessons. At first Sue is reluctant to proceed with this, but she changes her mind after another clash with her family. Now she’s going to show ‘em all by becoming a swimming champion. 

The lessons go pretty well, with Sue making more headway with diving than swimming, which is pretty much dog paddle. Still, Sue senses there is something odd about those ladies: Miss Gort is cold and relentless as a trainer, while Mrs Squall seems “so nice and kind” and totally under Miss Gort’s thumb. Mrs Squall also seems to be training in the pool, under the same relentless Miss Gort coaching. At home, Sue tries to secretly train but finds it too awkward to do so with the family around. And when she foolishly tries to train in the canal, she lands in serious trouble. As punishment, she is sent to work at her strict grandfather’s shop, and now she’s miles away from Squall House. 

However, Grandfather can tell Sue something interesting about Squall House. The Squalls went bankrupt when Mr Squall set his heart on his wife becoming a swimming champion and spent a fortune on the swimming pool and fittings, but then his business failed and he suicided. Grandfather does not know whether or not Mrs Squall became a swimming champion.

Back at Squall House, Sue is shown a film of the Commonwealth Diving Championships. Sue is surprised to see Mrs Squall competing there – and even more surprised when Mrs Squall grows upset and screams for it to stop, but Miss Gort shows her no mercy there. Sue takes fright, decides these ladies are loony and tries to make a run for it. But then she finds the ladies are even loonier than she thought. They now make her a prisoner of Squall House. The key’s gone, and the tree Sue used to climb it when she first entered has had its branches sawn off to prevent further climbing. And Otto, though ageing, is quite a guard dog. Miss Gort tells Sue she will remain at Squall House until “our purpose has been fulfilled”. They lock Sue up in a barred room with no food until she cooperates, which she eventually does until she can figure out an escape. 

The diving is still going better than the swimming, but the latter finally turns into proper swimming and Sue is enjoying it more. However, the swimming training grows more and more gruelling, with Sue being only allowed to dive as a reward for swimming well. Mrs Squall, a brilliant diver, is put through the same intense training as Sue. Soon after, Mrs Squall, who seems to be dominated by Miss Gort, offers to help Sue. She says that her nerve broke at that event, causing her to fail, but Sue has the something extra that could be their ticket to freedom.

The police come door-to-door knocking in search of Sue, and Sue is quickly locked away. She finds a secret chamber and a book full of swimming photos. She finds a photograph of what looks like a younger Miss Gort who won the 1936 freestyle championship. The name is Alice Bradshaw. Sue wonders if Alice Bradshaw is Miss Gort. (Hang on, it’s Miss Gort, not Mrs Gort – what’s going on here?) 

Miss Gort tears up the photo and tells Sue she will be entered in a competition on Saturday, which gives Sue hope of escape. However, at the competition Sue finds she has been entered under the name Alice Bradshaw to elude the police search. Sue agrees to the competition when Mrs Squall says not doing so will destroy hope of her being free. Sue wins second place, which boosts her confidence.  

Afterwards the ladies show Sue a faked newspaper report to trick Sue into thinking her parents think her disappearance is one of her tricks and they intend to send her away. This eliminates all thought of escape drives Sue further into their clutches in the mistaken belief they offer her a glorious future as a champion, whereas her family think she’s good for nothing.

Sue decides to sneak into the secret chamber for more clues but gets locked in. Then Miss Gort and Mrs Squall enter, with the latter appearing to be in a hypnotic state. Miss Gort opens up a cabinet full of swimming trophies, her past triumphs, but says Mrs Squall failed to continue the success, so they are carrying on with Sue Briggs. Sue manages to slip out, taking the album with her. It confirms Alice Bradshaw/Miss Gort was a former swimming champion. Sue realises something must have gone wrong afterwards, hence the reclusiveness. Miss Gort is trying to regain her triumphs through Mrs Squall, which failed. Now Miss Gort is doing it with Sue, through some hypnotic power she has. Sue now suspects Miss Gort has the same power over her when she trains her, and there is something inhuman about her, something Sue can’t put her finger on.

Sue is entered in another event, and with Miss Gort staring at her all the time with that weird power, she knows she can’t lose. Then a reporter distracts Miss Gort, and Sue suddenly loses form and begins to lose. Miss Gort realises this and puts full power on her gaze, and suddenly Sue feels the strength again, but does not recover enough to win. After a row between Miss Gort and Mrs Squall over the distraction, Sue is convinced Miss Gort has hypnotic powers. On the way back, Sue catches a glimpse of her house, and although still fooled by the fake newspaper report, realises she misses her family very badly.

Meanwhile, the reporter is still sniffing. He gathers details on the Squalls, which are pretty what Sue’s grandfather has already said, but now we learn Mr Squall was a wealthy inventor and suicided because his wife failed to become the champion he wanted her to be. And that reporter wants to know where Miss Gort fits in. At Sue’s next event, which she wins, the reporter follows to find where they keep her. 

The reporter manages to sneak into Squall House. Sue quickly tells him what’s going on and to alert her family, but then Otto drives him off. One night the reporter returns to help Sue escape, but Mrs Squall attempts to drown him in the swimming pool. Sue saves the reporter and goes after Mrs Squall. The trail leads Sue to the truth about Miss Gort and why she’s so inhuman. The fact is, she’s not human at all – she’s a robot! 

Mrs Squall then reveals herself to be the one behind the swimmer slave gig the whole time, through the robot. She was only acting the part of helpless hypnotised victim in Miss Gort’s power and being “fellow prisoner” to Sue. She explains that she failed as a swimming champion because she did not train hard enough, leading to ruin for the family and her husband’s suicide. Before he died, Mr Squall built the robot as a last hope, to help Mrs Squall find someone to train as a champion and succeed where she had failed. All that stuff Sue found in the secret room about Miss Gort/Alice Bradshaw was planted there to mislead her (but Mrs Squall never explains who Alice Bradshaw never was).  

The robot hypnotises Sue into becoming a brilliant swimmer for the final medley, with the starting gun acting as the trigger for the hypnotic suggestion. Sue knows it’s cheating but has no control over the phenomenal way she is swimming now. 

Then the reporter escapes, appears at the pool, and gets into a fight with Mrs Squall, who opens fire on him. This shot confuses Sue, causing the hypnotic power to break and Sue to lose the medley. The shot hits the robot, causing it to malfunction and turn on Mrs Squall; they both fall into the swimming pool and the robot short-circuits. Mrs Squall is taken into mental care. Sue is happily reunited with her family, but is still grateful for the start Mrs Squall gave her in becoming a swimming champion.

Thoughts

As with other problem girl serials (such as “Black Sheep of the Bartons” and “Jackie’s Two Lives” (Jinty) and “Queen Rider” (Tammy)), Sue is pretty much the orchestrator of her own problems with her family and school. After all, she does nothing to make her family proud of her. In such serials, the protagonist fails to realise her bad attitude and wrong way of thinking were at the root of her problems. Once she wakes up and changes her attitude, things become far happier for her and those around her. We can imagine the same happened with Sue and her family once she returned home with new confidence and hugging her new ambition to be a champion. 

But from the beginning, Sue is also a sympathetic character. We can see how hard her family is on her and they are taking the wrong approach in comparing her to her brother and sister all the time. They’re not trying to find out what the problem is, or maybe try a different approach. Sue thought she was good for nothing and could not be good at anything, and this was reflected in her conduct. The fact that they never trusted her with a key – Miss Gort and Mrs Squall were the first to do so – says a lot, and Sue really responds to someone showing trust in her for once. It’s also one reason why Miss Gort and Mrs Squall were so successful in trapping Sue – they were the reversal of her family in the way they treated her: trust, praise, and seeing the potential of a champion in her and offering to bring it out, while her family tells her she’s a “no-good”. 

Stories where creepy, reclusive ladies take advantage of girls dissatisfied with their home life to lure them away, make them captive through mind games and other means, and use them for their own purpose have been seen elsewhere in girls’ comics. Examples include “Jackie’s Two Lives” and “The Gypsy Gymnast” (Tammy). As these examples illustrate, the lure can be built up over time until it’s ready to snare the girl, but in this case Sue is caught and trapped by episode three. From there, for the rest of the story, rather than focusing on escape it’s more about unravelling the mystery about what’s going on while doing what she’s told. 

Although the training is gruelling and even frightening, there are advantages that Sue thrives on (increasing strength, confidence and faith in herself), which gives her reasons to continue with it – and also to stay in the power of her captors. She is going from non-swimmer to the makings of a champion and has finally found something she is good at. She feels confidence she has never felt before and she finally feels she’s good for something. From what we glean, this is the reason why Sue was such a problem girl. She had no vocation in life until Mrs Squall and Miss Gort help her find it, in contrast to her family’s constant criticism and comparing her to her more successful siblings. Even while the ladies hold her captive they still give her what she never got from her family: boost her confidence, make her feel appreciated, and also make her feel like a somebody. 

Miss Gort’s training methods are not as over the top as in some stories. In “The Chain Gang Champions” (Tammy), for example, the Duchess’s notoriously extreme methods of training girls as athletes include forcing them to complete runs in ever-decreasing time limits while holding a man hostage to be fed to a hungry bear! All the same, it’s not only intense to the point of being inhuman; there’s something really weird about it that makes it frightening and creepy. It’s made even creepier by the fact that the hypnosis is not revealed all at once. Instead, it’s gradually revealed in stages, starting with those frightening eyes Miss Gort has that Sue suddenly notices. Eventually Sue begins to draw the right conclusions. 

Except that they turn out not to be the right conclusions at all. The truth is totally awry from what Sue and the reader have been led to believe. We’re all built up to think that Miss Gort is using her dominant personality and additional asset of hypnotic ability to make Mrs Squall every much her prisoner and puppet as Sue is. It’s a setup we’ve seen elsewhere in serials such as “Secret Ballet of the Steppes” and “Vision of Vanity Fayre” in Tammy. But in fact it’s in fact Miss Gort who is the puppet (a robot) and Mrs Squall is the real instigator. She had only been acting the part of a hapless victim in the grip of a tyrant, fooling Sue the whole time, and the clues Sue found the house were red herrings planted to mislead her. Woah, now that is a twist to take us totally by surprise! 

The twist would work better if we are told just who Alice Bradshaw really was and how she fits into the whole thing, but that’s never explained. The only conclusion is that Alice Bradshaw was the mother of either Mr or Mrs Squall and Mr Squall built the robot in her likeness. It would also explain why Mr Squall was so set on his wife becoming a swimming champion. 

Sadly, it was Mr Squall being determined his wife should become a swimming champion that led to the whole mess. Such obsession always spells trouble in girls’ comics, but in this case it’s even worse. It went tragically wrong, drove Mr Squall to suicide (now that’s a strong thing to have in a girls’ comic!), and turned Mrs Squall’s mind. She must have also felt guilty over her husband’s death, blaming herself for his suicide because she failed as a champion swimmer. As she’s led away by police, Sue feels sorry for her, and so do we. If Sue does become a swimming/diving champion, and we sincerely hope she does, it would go a long way towards peace for Mrs Squall. 

Wee Sue (1972-1982)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 to 20 May 1972

Tammy 27 October 1973 to 21 November 1981

Tammy & Jinty merger in “Old Friends”, 26 December 1981 to 10 July 1982

Artists: (Sandie) Vicente Torregrosa Manrique. (Tammy) Mario Capaldi, John Richardson, Robert MacGillivray, Richard Neillands, Mike White, Hugh Thornton-Jones, John Johnston, Jim Eldridge

Writers (known): Terry Magee, Maureen Spurgeon, Iain MacDonald; Gerry Finley-Day also involved

We are now going to take a look at Sue Strong, better known as Wee Sue, and her development from her debut in Sandie to her final years in Tammy.

Wee Sue was one of the first stories to appear in Sandie. Sandie was launched on 12 February 1972 and ran until 20 May 1972, and was drawn by Vicente Torregrosa Manrique. Tammy readers would have been surprised to see how Wee Sue looked back then, as it was radically different to the Tammy version. It was a serial, not a regular weekly feature, and it was played for drama, not light relief. There was no “story of the week” format where Sue’s famous big brains would come up with ways to get out of various scrapes, being the bane of the bullying Miss Bigger, or sorting out someone’s problem. In fact, there is no Milltown, no Milltown Comprehensive, and no Miss Bigger. The logo was different too.

Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie
Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie
Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie

Instead, Sue is a scholarship girl at exclusive Backhurst Academy, which has emphasis on sport. But it is facing closure, so Sue is trying to come up with a way to save it. Sue has other problems too, such as facing prejudice because she is a scholarship girl. Sue’s appearance is also different from the one Tammy readers are more familiar with. She is still a midget, but she has freckles and a more rigid bob style than the tousled one she would acquire in her later stories.

Still, the elements Sue became known for in Tammy were there from the beginning. She is always proving you should not estimate her because she is small. Indeed, her size often comes in handy. She has that reputation for brilliant ideas, particularly when she had to pull something out of her hat to save the day. Sometimes she moves in mysterious ways to do so, but she always knows what she is doing. She is always willing to help others, even more unsavoury types. She even sacrifices herself for them, often at the price of taking a dent in her popularity. She is not afraid to stand up to bullies and sort out nasty types. She is always kind, brave, thoughtful and generous.

The first Wee Sue story ended in Sandie on 20 May 1972. More than a year later Sandie merged with Tammy on 27 October 1973. Wee Sue and “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie” were the only Sandie stories to cross over into the merger. Considering that the first Wee Sue story had ended in Sandie over a year before with no known sequels, the choice of reviving her for the merger is a surprising one. Were there plans for a Wee Sue sequel in Sandie that didn’t get off the ground but made their way into the merger? Or did the editor trawl through the issues of Sandie until he found something he thought had potential for the merger besides Uncle Meanie?

On the Jinty site Iain MacDonald has commented “…The other character I wrote and helped create was Wee Sue. Gerry Finlay Day suggested the character. I wrote most of the early ones.” It is not clear if MacDonald is referring to the original Sue from Sandie or the reboot in Tammy, but the reference to Finley-Day does suggest the latter.

Whatever was behind bringing Sue into the merger, it was an inspired choice. Sue became one of the most popular and enduring characters in Tammy. But for this, a sweeping overhaul of Wee Sue was undertaken. Former Sandie readers must have been taken aback to see it. 

In her debut episode in Tammy (below), Sue began to take on the form familiar to Tammy readers. She is now a regular strip with self-contained episodes (in later years she occasionally had two-parters and even mini-story arcs). She now has the logo familiar to Tammy readers, and she would retain it for the rest of her run. She has moved to Milltown, a poor industrial town. Instead of the posh academy she attends Milltown Comprehensive. There is more emphasis on her living in poverty, such as her patched uniform. The poverty angle disappears later in the strip, though her parents clearly remain working-class people. Sue still has her freckles from her original story, but her bob has a spiky look. The bob would later take on a softer style and the freckles disappeared. 

First Wee Sue episode in Tammy, 27 October 1973
First appearance of Wee Sue in Tammy, 27 October 1973
First episode of Wee Sue in Tammy, 27 October 1973

It is also the episode where Miss Bigger makes her first appearance. She, along with Miss Tuft the games mistress, are new to the comprehensive, and they make it clear they are both bully teachers. This is definitely the Tammy influence (dark stories laden with misery and cruelty) on Sue. Both of these teachers hate Sue from the moment they meet her. In the first episodes there is a harder edge to their nastiness. For example, in one episode Miss Tuft is determined to get Sue into trouble for theft although she knows Sue is innocent. The teachers also bully an autistic girl, who gets diagnosed thanks to Sue (very advanced for 1973!). Miss Tuft soon disappeared, leaving Miss Bigger to carry on as the arch-nemesis of Wee Sue. Well, there is room for only one arch-nemesis in a regular strip after all. 

Despite the harder edge, there are elements of humour. For example, in Sue’s first Tammy episode, she gets the better of Miss Bigger with the help of an onion johnny. As time passed, the cruelty, though still present in the form of Miss Bigger, would be reduced as the comedy took more of a front seat. Wee Sue evolved into a lightweight strip as she became more cheeky, wise-cracking, even mischievous, and often getting into slapstick scrapes. 

Miss Bigger remained as mean and pompous as she had been in her first episode, but she soon took on a more comic presence as well. As she did so, her features evolved from the rather flat, slim look in her first episode to becoming more wryly grotesque and tartar-looking. Mario Capaldi, Miss Bigger’s first artist, eventually gave her the distinctive jagged choppers that would gnash furiously whenever she shouted – which was often. Her nose changed too, becoming more distinctive, in a comical way. Under Robert MacGillivray it became an overgrown bulbous nose, similar to the one he eventually gave Uncle Meanie when he came over to Tammy. 

One reason why Miss Bigger’s appearance became more caricaturised was that Wee Sue passed into the hands of several artists who were strong on slapstick, caricature and humour. John Richardson, who took over from Mario Capaldi, was the first to take Wee Sue into this area, and his run on Sue was a long one. In fact, he took over in the same episode of Sue as Capaldi, on 14 September 1974, giving the readers the best of both worlds (or a lot of confusion, with the same episode switching from one artist to another). When Richardson took over, Sue took on a sharper, more clever look.

Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.
Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.
Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.

Over time other artists continued the humour, though some brought it off better than others. Other artists to draw Wee Sue were John Johnston, Hugh Thornton-Jones, Richard Neillands, Jim Eldridge, Mike White and Robert MacGillivray.

Despite the grotesque comic looks she acquires, Miss Bigger is so vain beyond imagining that she actually believes she is beautiful. Her vanity extends to her abilities as well; she believes she is capable of any feat that borders on superhuman, including being a better ballerina than Margot Fonteyn or winning World War II single-handed. In one episode we see this vanity runs in the Bigger family: Miss Bigger shows Sue her illustrious family album of Bigger women, who all look like her and come up with grand schemes that make no sense and don’t look at all successful (below). We frequently see Sue take advantage of Miss Bigger’s vanity, either to get what she wants out of her or to fix Miss Bigger’s sneaky schemes or mountains of homework. 

The history of the Bigger family

There is also confusion about Miss Bigger’s first name. It was first established as Lillian, but later in the run it was Amelia.

From the first episode Miss Bigger gives the impression she is not a very good teacher; the onion johnny, for example, makes it clear that Sue’s French is better than hers. In another episode, Miss Bigger gives a German lesson, but her accent is terrible. Some episodes on Miss Bigger’s own days at school imply she has a dark past there: bullying and lousy school reports. 

Unfortunately Miss Bigger is also notorious for giving out such great big piles of homework that we suspect she does it to deliberately torture her class. She is also known for making the girls’ lives a misery if she’s in a filthy mood. For example, in a Valentine-themed episode she lumbers the girls with extra homework when they’re set to go to a Valentines Day party because she’s upset she didn’t get a Valentine. Frequently Sue has to come up with schemes to keep Miss Bigger in a good mood or placate her when she’s in a bad one, or the class suffers.

How the Allies won WW2 according to Miss Bigger

In the earliest episodes Miss Bigger wore a formal outfit. But later in the Capaldi run she acquired the more casual outfit that would stay with her for the rest of the strip: skirt and sweater (later a cardigan or jacket) and black blouse. This outfit became her trademark. In fact, in one episode Miss Bigger’s trademark outfit inadvertently starts a new fashion in Milltown called “the old frump look” after a rack full of her outfits (all the same outfit!) gets mixed up with a clothes rack bound for a fashion show.

Because Sue was the bane of Miss Bigger she was sometimes branded a troublemaker by school authorities. But what Sue was really known for was her big ideas to save the day. She could always be counted on to come up with a brainwave to fix any situation, such as helping her classmates and parents, coming to the rescue of people in trouble, foiling tricksters, bullies, criminals, and Miss Bigger’s mean schemes, raising school funds, and sometimes helping Miss Bigger. 

However, sometimes Sue really was naughty. In one episode, she takes a satchel to school that is so full of sweets it’s a wonder she doesn’t give herself diabetes, and she eats them in class. The sweets land her in so many sticky situations (including her toffee bar ripping Miss Bigger’s skirt and exposing her undies!) that she is right off sugar by the end of the day. It was in episodes like these that Miss Bigger was allowed to triumph against Wee Sue, so the bully teacher did win on occasion. But for the most part, Sue is a nice girl.

Miss Bigger frequently steals the credit for Sue’s big ideas whenever she sees the way to take advantage of it. This is something she gets away with a lot, but at least there is always a consolation for Sue, such as money, and in one instance, a trip to Spain.

Wee Sue remained a popular regular in Tammy, even having a special story to commemorate Tammy’s 10th birthday (below). Miss Bigger, for once having an inspired idea, takes the class on a tour at King’s Reach Tower for a behind-the-scenes look at Tammy. Sue falls asleep over the Tammys in the copy room, where she dreams of past and present Tammy characters. They all come together for a big birthday party, including Miss Bigger.

Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981

Then Jinty merged with Tammy on 28 November 1981. This was the beginning of the end for Sue. After a few weeks of not appearing in the merger, she reappeared as part of an “Old Friends” feature, which she shared in rotation with Bessie Bunter, Molly Mills and Tansy of Jubilee Street (the last of which being a surprise revival, having officially ended in the last issue of Jinty). In fact, Sue was the old friend to lead off the feature on 26 December 1981. Except for her first Old Friends episode, the Wee Sue appearances were entirely new material, as were the appearances of Tansy and Molly. This made them more refreshing to see. Only Bessie was on repeats. But it was clear that all four were on their very last legs. Sure enough, Old Friends disappeared with a revamped Tammy launched 17 July 1982, so Wee Sue was buried in the same grave as Tansy, Bessie and Molly. However, Sue continued to make appearances in the Tammy annual to the very end, though it was with repeats. 

Sue lasted in Tammy for a proud nine years, including her Old Friends appearances. But if you include the Sandie year, Sue ran for 10 years, which means she holds a joint record with Bella for longevity and one year behind Molly at 11 years.

Tammy 4 September 1982

Cover artist: Eduardo Feito

A Horse Called September (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Saving Grace (artist Juliana Buch, writer Ian Mennell)

Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Malcolm Shaw)

The Grand Finale (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – complete story

Cross on Court (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Gerry Finley-Day)

Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)

A Gran for the Gregorys (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – final episode

Slave of the Clock (artist Maria Barrera, writer Jay Over)

It’s September, so it feels appropriate to look back at some September issues, I think. And what better to start things off than with a cover that profiles a story with “September” in the title?

Some publications started life as a girls’ serial. Such is the case with “A Horse Called September”, a serial that reunites the creative team from Tammy horse classic, “Olympia Jones”. The serial was originally published in June as a text story, with the spot illustrations drawn by the ever-popular Shirley Bellwood. In the 1980s writer Anne Digby published it as a book, and Tammy adapted the serial as a picture story serial to tie in with the publication. 

In the story, Mary Wilkins and Anna Dewar have always been best friends on Mr Dewar’s farm. But when Mr Dewar gets big ideas about Anna winning a huge riding championship, things turn sour. Mr Dewar is so obsessed with it that he’s driving September the horse too ruthlessly, and now September’s lost his nerve because of it. Moreover, Anna’s been sent to a top riding school, which is changing her for the worse and she’s neglecting her friendship with Mary.

In “Saving Grace”, Sue Blackstone’s friendship with Grace Clark has also soured because Grace changed for the worse while Sue was abroad, and Sue can’t figure out why. Grace has driven a girl to run away with pony Jackson from the school pets club, which faces closure. Now Grace appears to have snaffled Jackson and her classmates are out for blood.

Bella has lost her memory and Jed and Gert are taking advantage. A runaway named Jenny, who is hiding in the Barlows’ shed, has discovered this and she tells Bella the truth. Will this bring Bella’s memory back?

“The Grand Finale” features an egotistical magician whose conjuring is nowhere near as good as he thinks. As a matter of fact, he’s so awful he doesn’t even maintain his props properly and they just fall apart in front of the spectators. Personally, I find the story as lousy as the magician.

Tammy had a number of stories where protagonists have terrible temper trouble. This time it’s Sarah Cross of “Cross on Court”, who blows her top each week, and each time she does she is left with one huge regret over it.

Pam of Pond Hill and her class have been set a challenge – an adventure course in Aberdaffy to prove their self-reliance – and the reward is a new playing field. The latest test – self-catering, is turning into disaster, but this week they turn things around. But the tests are only part of the difficulties. There is also a secret saboteur at work to destroy things because her father wants the same field for development.

It’s the final episode of “A Gran for the Gregorys”. The creative team (Phil Townsend and Alison Christie) already have a long line of emotional stories from Jinty, but this is the first story to credit the team. Ruth and Charlie Gregory are looking for a gran to adopt because the family badly need one. So far every single prospect has fizzled out and things are getting desperate. The only old lady to appear in the episode, Mrs Crabb, is as crabby as her name suggests. Surely she can’t become the gran – or could she?

In “Slave of the Clock”, Madame Margolia has hypnotised Alison Thorne into doing ballet exercises whenever she hears a clock ticking. This is a (misguided) measure to make Alison more dedicated to ballet, and clearly Madame Margolia did not foresee other consequences – like someone abusing the “power of the clock” as she calls it. This is what Alison’s ballet teacher Miss Dempster proceeds to do so she can become private tutor to a wealthy pupil. Miss Dempster vows this is the only time she will “deliberately use the power”. Oh, yeah? We know Miss Dempster has burning ambitions to get one of her pupils into the international ballet school and thinks the power of the clock could be the way to do it.

Slaves of the Hot Stove (1975)

Sample Images

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

Published: Tammy 22 March to 14 June 1975

Episodes: 13

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/Reprints: None known

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Ballet of the Steppes (1974)

Sample Images

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

Published: Tammy 14 September 1974 to 30 November 1974

Episodes: 12

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?

Translations/Reprints: Tammy annual 1981

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tammy & June 14 June 1975

Tammy cover 14 June 1975

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong, writer Jenny McDade)
  • Slaves of the Hot Stove – final episode (artist Douglas Perry, writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
  • Red Letter Rosie
  • Last Laugh for the Jester – the Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)
  • Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Lill Waters Runs Deep – final episode (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Picture – Alan Merrill-Arrows

The issue for 14 June 1975 has been chosen for 1975 in the Tammy round robin. Bella’s second story, where she has to cope with unjust public stigma after being wrongly expelled from a Russian gymnastics school, definitely must rank as her darkest. Bella has managed to overcome the stigma enough to be chosen for the British team at a European championship. But the cloud is always hanging over her, and it shows in the cold way her coaches and fellow team members treat her. It gets worse this week when another team member, Jill, gets injured trying to copy Bella and blames her. Then, when Bella is on the bars, something goes wrong. Bella can’t get a grip and now she is about to take a bad fall. And we have a sneaky suspicion Jill is behind it.

“Lill Waters Runs Deep” and “Slaves of the Hot Stove”, the two other stories that began in the same issue as the new Bella story, both end this week.

“Slaves of the Hot Stove” has been a bizarre slave story from the start. Everything, from the racket to the escape plans, revolves around food. Madam Mange runs a secret kitchen in a restaurant with kidnapped top cooks as slave labour, complete with chains and rags. Its ending this week must rank as one of the…weirdest ever published in girls comics. To break all the slaves free from Madam Mange altogether, protagonist Carol Cook scares her to death with a giant Yorkshire pudding that grows so huge it threatens to smother her. Er…yes…most believable…quite how the chemistry should work. Madam Mange escapes, already plotting to cook up more evil somewhere else, and the world will hear from her again. But if Tammy was planning a sequel with Madam Mange, it didn’t eventuate for some reason.

Lill Waters has been a crafty schemer and so far gotten away with everything until two men who saw her true self show up at her home. How does the family react when they hear about Lill’s scheming? They laugh their heads off! They always thought she was a shy little thing, and here she is all clever and crafty, and tell her that her scheming didn’t matter because it was herself she really hurt. Well, that is one way to deal with it, and it really works. After that, Lill changes her ways, and the family gives her a new makeover to match.

Laughter has surprising results in this week’s Strange Story too. Mary Barnes is a swot and a nerd who wouldn’t know what funny is if she wrote a thesis on it. Then, during a school trip to an old castle Mary picks up a jester’s stick – and all of a sudden she’s playing practical jokes on the school party. Later, holding the jester’s stick enables her to save the guide’s life, and those practical jokes also had a hand in saving him.

Red Letter Rosie is now at its climax. Rosie’s horrible stepsister Gloria has been part of a scheme to kidnap Rosie’s pen friend Sarah Wilson, take her place, and rob the Wilson family. The crooks succeed with the robbery, but that’s not the worst of it. Sarah has grown ill because of her kidnapping and it looks very serious. Rosie’s horribly afraid for Sarah’s life.

The School for Snobs is in open war against a snob (Serena) who plays soldiers with everyone, even her father. Serena soon proves a tough one to crack and Hermione has to bring out her big guns. They take the form of the girls dressing up as a robot army to show Serena the logical conclusion of where her army discipline will lead. After this, Serena waves the white flag of surrender.

Miss Bigger’s out to impress the mayor. But it turns out to be in the wrong way when the mayor turns up incognito, realises what a tartar she is, and sets up a trap to teach her a lesson. So Wee Sue wins over Miss Bigger without even trying this week.

Bessie plays tricks with a Halloween mask and roller skates, but her scheme unravels and “Stackers” the headmistress confiscates the skates. But things come right for Bessie in the end when Stackers tries the skates herself and gets in trouble.

Mistress Claire has entered Molly in a Servant of the Year Award, but catty Betty and Kitty are out to make sure she doesn’t win. The journalist testing Molly for the award has discovered their tricks but decides to let them continue in order to test Molly’s true worth for the award.

 

 

Tammy & Sandie 10 November 1973

Tammy cover 10 November 1973

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Two-Faced Teesha (artist Jose Casanovas)
  • Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • The Chain Gang Champions (artist Juan Garcia Quiros? writer Gerry Finley-Day?) – first episode
  • A New Leaf for Nancy (artist John Armstrong)
  • Back-Stab Ballerina (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • School for Snobs (artist J. Badesa, writer Pat Mills)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Granny’s Town (artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

 

It’s part 3 of our Tammy round robin, and 10 November 1973 has been selected for 1973. It is three weeks into the Sandie merger. The happy, pretty girl covers Tammy had since her first issue have gone. In their place are the start of the humorous Cover Girl covers that would remain on the cover until late 1980. At the moment we only seem to have one Cover Girl. The cover gives the impression the Cover Girls are still in the early days compared to how they ran later on, but the cover is still funny with the joke of getting splashed by a dry cleaning company car.

Wee Sue was one of the stories to come over from Sandie. It is a surprising choice because the original Sue story finished a long time ago and no sequel appeared in Sandie. Moreover, Sue has had a complete overhaul, shifting from a posh academy as a scholarship girl to a comprehensive in an industrial town, Milltown. Bully teacher Miss Bigger is another change from the original, in which she didn’t appear at all.

In the Wee Sue episode, Sue has lost the freckles she had when she first debuted in the merger. Her spiky bob is starting to loosen a bit, but makes her look like an unmade bed. In the story, Miss Bigger thinks Wee Sue is encouraging the girls into hunger strike over school dinners and tries to stop it by force-feeding Sue! Then Sue runs amok in the canteen, smashing the dinners. What the heck’s gotten into her? Her nose has told her that there is an outbreak of food poisoning afoot, and the school is full of praises for Sue saving everyone. Well, nearly everyone. Miss Bigger ate some of the tainted food and now she’s in bed, and Sue besting her again is making her even sicker.

Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie also came over from Sandie. Uncle Meanie still has his original nose from Sandie and has not yet acquired the bulbous nose that Robert MacGillivray will later give to Miss Bigger when he takes over the Wee Sue strip. Uncle Meanie now has a wife, Jeannie’s Aunt Martha, who really has to put up with his meanness. And in the story this week? Hoots! Uncle Meanie has been knocked off his perch as Britain’s Number 1 meanie! The title has been awarded to a Miss Pincher. When the family meet Miss Pincher, they are forced to admit she outstrips even Uncle Meanie for meanness. Uncle Meanie is not having that. He’s in shock and deeply jealous, but why is he all nice and gentlemanly to Miss Pincher? Is he taking it better than the family think – or is he plotting something to reclaim his title?

We have a new story this week, “The Chain Gang Champions”. Rella Aston is a promising athlete like her father before he was crippled. They haven’t the money for proper training or an operation to cure her father. A woman named Stein has overheard, and goes to “The Duchess”, who offers Rella the chance to join a group of British champions. Rella thinks it is a miracle, but from the looks of Stein and what she’s thinking, Rella should have remembered the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

“Granny’s Town”, “Two-Faced Teesha”, “Back-Stab Ballerina” and “A New Leaf for Nancy” (reprinted Misty annual 1980) are new stories that began with the merger.

Two-faced Teesha is a devious, spiteful girl. She has just moved to the country. She surprises her father when she opts for the country school over a snob school, the type of school she used to attend in the past. Her reason? She has met some of the girls and thinks it will be easy to stir up trouble for them.

Nancy’s family have made a depressing move to a rundown house after Dad loses his job, but Nancy discovers a tree in the garden that has powers to make things better for her. The trouble is, its power does not seem to be reliable and sometimes makes things worse.

The “Back-Stab Ballerina” is Rita Radley, who secretly makes trouble for her old friend June Day when they go to ballet school. This week Rita gets June into trouble with the other girls because they have started sticking up for her.

In “Granny’s Town”, grannies rule and anyone who crosses them is soon forced to leave quickly. This week it’s the turn of the donkey man who won’t allow the grannies to enjoy themselves on the beach. Their response is to stake him out on the croquet lawn and leave him to roast under the sun. Jen Young, the only one who refuses to be intimidated, rescues him, but later gets a nasty warning from the grannies to back off. The blurb for next week warns she will have to watch out even more.

“School for Snobs” and “No Tears for Molly” are the Tammy stories that have continued into the merger. In the Molly story, something or someone is putting the wind up bully butler Pickering. He’s convinced it’s a ghost and he’s running scared. He even faints in the cellar!

“School for Snobs” is a special school designed to cure girls of snobbery. This week it is curing a snob who drives off servants with her bullying. After being served by Hermione Snoot, the headmistress of the school, the snob is wishing she hadn’t driven those servants off.

Tammy & Sally 1 May 1971

Tammy cover 1 May 1971

  • Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
  • Our Jane – Little Mum (artist Colin Merrett)
  • My Father – My Enemy!
  • The Cat Girl (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • The Secret of Trebaran
  • The Girls of Liberty Lodge (artist Dudley Pout)
  • Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” (artist Desmond Walduck, writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
  • Betina at Ballet School
  • Action Girl
  • Glen – Loney Dog on a Quest (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Maisie’s Magic Eye (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Sara’s Kingdom (artist Bill Mainwaring)
  • Castaways on Voodoo Island (artist Ken Houghton)
  • 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.

 

Scream! #12, 9 June 1984

Scream cover 12

  • The Dracula File (artist Eric Bradbury, writer Ken Noble)
  • The Nightcomers (artist John Richardson, writer Tom Tully)
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artist José Ortiz, writer Ian Holland)
  • Tales from the Grave: The Escape – first episode (artist Jim Watson, writer S. Goodall)
  • A Ghastly Tale – The Final Cut!
  • Library of Death: Terror of the Tomb (artist José Casanovas, writer Simon Furman)
  • Fiends and Neighbours – cartoon (artist Graham Allen)
  • Monster (artist Jesus Redondo, writer Rick Clark)

More attempts at Ghastly’s face, and another clue is dropped. The fourth entry is the one that is paying more attention to the clues already dropped, but Ghastly makes no acknowledgment of it. Nobody is in the London Dungeon this week.

Ghastly Faces Scream 12

Here we have another wrap-around cover, this time of this week’s Library of Death story. The story is rendered by the ever-popular José Casanovas. Well, we don’t often see Casanovas drawing ancient Egypt and walking mummies, so here is the story for Casanovas fans.

(click thru)

 

 

Dracula is using some surprising tactics in his quest for blood tonight: first he turns bus driver (now where did he get his HT licence?) and later he lies in wait in a post box. But he’s also rumbled that vampire hunter Stakis survived his trap, and it’s rousing memories of another vampire hunter. Woo…has our Dracula actually been traumatised by his experiences with Van Helsing?

The Nightcomers make their way into Raven’s Meet and discover the first evidence of why it is so horribly haunted. Someone was clearly messing around with the supernatural and unleashed forces they couldn’t control, and it could only have been that Simon Cutler. Beforehand, they found a very unhappy woman haunting the well, and think she might be the key to the mystery. But now there is a more pressing problem they haven’t seen yet – a bony hand reaching for Rick…

Max is at it again. This time it’s with a pompous housing official, Mr Bullock, who made a blunder in the booking for new tenants, the Sopers, and is not exactly anxious to correct his mistake. Instead, the remedy he offers splits the Soper family up and he doesn’t care squat. The punishment of the Thirteenth Floor has Bullock washed up on a raft and headed for a desert island, with sharks right behind him. Not quite sure how this punishment fits the crime, but let’s see how it plays out next week.

The Leper begins a new story about another nasty undertaker, Old Jeb, who likes taking rich pickings off corpses and counting them each night (talk about Scrooge!) and his ill-used apprentice, Billy White. But don’t spare any sympathy for Billy; he’s just as bad and greedy as Old Jeb. So bad in fact, that he murders Old Jeb, takes his pickings, and puts himself into a client’s coffin, which is intended to carry the corpse away on a ship. It looks like a great way to escape, but we suspect this will only have grave consequences for Billy…

In “Monster”, a bounty hunter has a go at Uncle Terry with a rifle. The result is another death at Uncle Terry’s hands and Ken being shot. Uncle Terry carries the injured Ken to a house in search of help. Unfortunately for him he has no concept of what “Beware of the Dogs” means and can’t read the warning sign because he has never been taught to read – and the dogs are lunging for him already.

We also get an Uncle Terry type in the Ghastly Tale, who takes the film director’s call to “cut” a bit too literally…

Next issue is #13, and for a comic like this, that’s a call for a special celebration. Indeed, we have a half-page blurb on how Scream will celebrate its 13th.