Becky Never Saw the Ball – artist John Armstrong, writer Joe Collins
Wee Sue – artist John Richardson
Nell Nobody – artist Miguel Quesada
A Dog’s Best Friend (Strange Story) – artist Jim Eldrige
Dirty Trix – artist unknown
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (final episode) – artist Robert MacGillivray
Secret Ballet of the Steppes – artist Douglas Perry, writer Gerry Finley-Day?
No Tears for Molly – artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon
Town Without Telly – artist José Casanovas
It’s Guy Fawkes season, so we bring out the first Tammy Cover Girls cover with a Fifth of November theme. Oh dear, looks like a mishap struck the younger Cover Girl this time; usually it’s the older one. Hopefully they will come up with a brainwave to cover those ruined fireworks.
Bessie does not appear this week. Wee Sue could be out celebrating Bonfire Night, but she’s out playing soccer and rugby instead. This keeps striking trouble with Miss Bigger, who is looking for a missing consignment of school blazers.
It’s the final episode of Uncle Meanie – for now, anyway. At long last, he finishes off a world cruise that he’s constantly bedevilled with his penny-pinching tricks. The poor captain of that cruise ship will never be the same again. Home sweet home, all bracing for the return of Uncle Meanie to Tammy later on.
Many readers kept writing in demanding why the heck Molly doesn’t strike back at that bully butler Pickering. They must have cheered when her double, come to Stanton Hall in her place, finally does the job this week. Pickering is left utterly floored – literally.
This week’s Strange Story is drawn by what looks like a very early Jim Eldridge. So could it be an early Strange Story reprinted from June? Enough time has passed for such reprints to start appearing in Tammy. The story is about the ability of dogs to sense things people can’t.
Dirty Trix senses her cheating at athletics has finally been detected, and eavesdropping on the club coach Miss Wood confirms her fears. “I ain’t finished yet, not by a long chalk!” is her response. Don’t be so sure about that, Trix – the blurb for next week says the evidence against you is going to stack up.
Nell Nobody shows she’s a real trouper by proving this week that when disaster strikes, she can think on her feet and come up with ways to deal with the situation. She figures a way around her horrible uncle smashing the legs of her puppet by incorporating the puppet’s disability into a new act. She also creates a companion puppet (Lola) for him despite the gruelling demands of the hot dog stand she’s forced to slog at to pay for her spoiled cousin’s acting fees. Now an important-looking lady has lined up for the show Nell’s secretly using the hot dog stand for. Is Nell about to get her big break?
“Secret Ballet of the Steppes” is reaching its climax. Judith manages to get back to the palace, braving wolves, suspicious-looking men who try to drug her, and snowstorms to do so, to avert the upcoming attack against the revolutionaries. Then she discovers there’s more to it than that when she overhears the villainous Berova planning something sneaky.
Joy and Recepta’s plan to cure Boxless town of TV addiction is to bore viewers stiff with long-winded broadcasts featuring Lady Boxless. So far the results look good – Lady Boxless already has someone throwing a loafer at the screen.
Elspeth was forcibly separated from Becky after being wrongly accused of driving her too hard at tennis. Becky ran away in search of Elspeth and now she’s at a tennis match promoting ice cream in the hopes of finding her. Sure enough, Elspeth, who runs an ice cream truck, is now arriving at the same event. Will they reunite?
Nell Nobody (first episode) – artist Miguel Quesada
Wee Sue – artist John Richardson
Unscheduled Stop (Strange Story) – artist John Armstrong
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie – artist Robert MacGillivray
No Tears for Molly – artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon
Town Without Telly – artist José Casanovas
Autumn covers are also good to profile in Halloween month, and I just dug this one out from 1974.
The issue begins another Cinderella story, “Nell Nobody”. Nell must have been popular, as her run (18 episodes) was even longer than the first Bella Barlow story (12 episodes). Nell Ewart is badly treated by her aunt and uncle (confusingly, they are actually her step-parents), who only have eyes for her spoiled stepsister/cousin Rosie. They yank Nell out of school to slog at a hot dog stand to pay for Rosie’s acting fees, which dashes her hopes of pursuing drama and stagecraft at school when she’s just discovered her talent for it. At least she still has her puppet Willoughby, and we know things will somehow start from there. And could Nell’s uncle have unwittingly helped her by establishing the hot dog stand across from the TV studio and theatre?
Imagine putting Coppelia together in three days! That’s the task facing our slave dancers of the Steppes from the slave-driving Berova. Incredibly, they pull it off, but Judith collapses from the strain. Princess Petra allows them to take a sleigh ride over the Steppes for a break, but Judith smells something fishy about their drivers.
Recepta, once a TV addict herself, is now trying to stop her father from turning the town of Boxless into a town full of TV addicts. It’s a battle of wills between them now, with Dad going as far as to bind and gag Recepta and force her to watch television.
Miss Bigger feels confident she’s put Sue in her place this time after lumbering her with the awful task of pumping the organ for choir practice. Little does she know Sue’s had one of her brainwaves to get out of it.
Bessie Bunter is off like a shot when Miss Stackpole says there’ll be refreshments at St. Prim’s School – without stopping to hear there’ll be a hockey match there first. And to her chagrin, she’s lumbered as goalie. She tries to wriggle out of it and to the grub, but it backfires so badly on her that she gets tangled in the goal net and unable to get to the refreshments before the others finish them. Poor Bessie.
In the Strange Story, “Unscheduled Stop”, Jenny Shaw is reaching breaking point because her parents are always arguing. Then the train they’re on makes an unscheduled stop – back in time – which shows Jenny the younger versions of her parents and what started the trouble between them.
The Stanton Hall staff, egged on by the militant Miss Byrdy, have gone on strike to get rid of Pickering. But it’s gone too far and Miss Byrdy is arrested. The strike collapses without her, but Lord Stanton sees the point of it after catching Pickering taking a horrible revenge on the staff, and orders him to apologise. No dismissal for him though, or any real improvement in how he treats the staff. At least the staff get raises out of it, and Miss Byrdy is soon released, all charges dropped.
Uncle Meanie’s round-the-trip cruise lands the family in California and at the doorstep of another McScrimp relative, Tex McScrimp. And from the looks of the signs and barbed wire fences he has put up, he is every bit as mean, unwelcoming, and eccentric about it as Uncle Angus. The miser gene definitely runs right through the McScrimp family; Jeannie’s generation is the only one known to have skipped it.
Becky Bates is making a comeback as a tennis player after losing her sight. But keeping her blindness a secret is causing problems. This time it’s having another accident and collapsing because of it, and her coach/Aunt Elspeth is accused of driving her too hard.
Two-Faced Teesha (artist José Casanovas) – first episode
School for Snobs (artist J. Badesa) – first episode of sequel
A New Leaf for Nancy (artist John Armstrong) – first episode
Back-Stab Ballerina (artist Miguel Quesada) – first episode
Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi) – first appearance
Win a Winter Wardrobe (competition)
The Girls of Grimley’s Grammer (artist Leo Baxendale) – first episode
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner) – first appearance
Granny’s Town (artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills) – first episode
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – new story
This is the issue where Sandie merged with Tammy. The Sandie merger is one of the most pivotal in Tammy’s history. It is also one of the most far-reaching as it resonated for many years in Tammy.
First of all, it is the first appearance of The Cover Girl covers drawn by John Richardson. The Cover Girls would be a mainstay on Tammy’s cover right up until 11 October 1980, the same month they started way back in 1973.
Second, it is the first appearance of Wee Sue – and her arch-enemy Miss Bigger – in Tammy, and she would remain a popular Tammy regular until 1981. Wee Sue came over from Sandie, but Sandie readers must have been surprised at the way she appeared in Tammy. Her original Sandie story, drawn by Vicente Torregrosa Manrique, was a serial. Sue was a scholarship girl at exclusive Backhurst Academy, which had emphasis on sport, and she was trying to save it from closure. She also came up against other problems, such as prejudice over being a scholarship girl.
But here Sue is given a complete overhaul, from her location to her very appearance. Sue moves to the industrial town of Milltown, where she attends a comprehensive school. On her first day she meets new teacher Miss Bigger, who’s a bully teacher. And on the first day it is established how Wee Sue became the biggest bane of Miss Bigger, which would be the mainstay for the rest of Sue’s run in Tammy. Sue changes from a serial to a weekly regular played for light relief. Sue was always known for big brainstorms, and in this format she would use them to come up with ways to get out of various scrapes, foiling the meanness of Miss Bigger, or sorting out someone’s problem. Sue also acquires freckles and a spiky bob. Later the freckles disappear and her bob softens into the wavy one she retains for the rest of her run.
Everything in the merger starts new or fresh. No half-finished or nearly finished serials here, which have often been the case with girls’ mergers and annoyed many readers. It’s a delight to have everything start on episode one.
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie have come over from Sandie as well, and they lasted in Tammy for two years. Like Sue, Uncle Meanie has been given some changes. He shifts from his castle in Scotland to a suburban house in England and is now married to Aunt Martha. We have to wonder why the heck she married him in the first place as she is constantly infuriated by his extreme penny-pinching. However, we are told why Uncle Meanie moved from Scotland although he misses it – his meanness made him so unpopular there. As if the same thing is not going to happen in his new neighbourhood and he’ll have a bad reputation in town. He’s as mean and scheming as ever and Jeannie constantly has to outwit him. Uncle Meanie still has his original nose from Sandie and has not yet acquired the big bulbous nose he would have later on. The same nose would later be given to Miss Bigger when MacGillivray drew her.
We have a new regular cartoon, “The Girls of Grimley’s Grammer” (shouldn’t that be “Grammar”?). Artist looks like Leo Baxendale, who drew “The Kids of Stalag 41” from Jet/Buster. The premise must have been borrowed from Stalag 41 as well: the girls of Grimley’s Grammer give their headmistress a terrible time, just as the Kids of Stalag 41 give their Kommandant “Schtinky” a terrible time. But from the looks of the first episode, the girls will not always come out on top each week as the Kids of Stalag 41 do. Now that’ll make the cartoon even more interesting!
Molly Mills continues from Tammy. Molly starts a spooky story in honour of Halloween, which the staff are gearing up for with carved pumpkins and a witch guy for Bonfire Night. Lord Stanton has unwisely developed a craze about psychics and invited a group over for seances. After they do so, unnerving stuff starts to happen, and a tarot reading predicts sadness and danger coming to the hall, with dark forces targeting bully butler Pickering in particular. It soon has the old misery running scared, though he would never admit it.
School for Snobs also returns from Tammy. Like Wee Sue, it shifts from serial format to regular “story of the week” format with loads of laughs for the readers. School for Snobs is a reform school designed to knock snobbery out of girls, and in the new format it shifts to a “snob of the week” where a new snob arrives each week to be cured by the end of the episode. Each snob and her form of snob are different each time, illustrating that snobbery comes in all shapes and sizes. First in for the treatment in the sequel is Lucille Hornsby-Grant, who attempts to have the school closed down. However, the inspector is so impressed he wants to send his own snobby daughter there to sort her out. After this, Lucille is beaten.
Maybe School for Snobs should be the place to send “Two-Faced Teesha”. Teesha Tate is a spiteful rich girl who has been removed from a string of schools for her nasty conduct. Instead, she and her father move to a new house, which Dad hopes will help to sort her out. Teesha does not like the down-to-earth people who reside there. However, she is looking forward to playing tricks on the daughter, Gail.
In “A New Leaf for Nancy”, Nancy Kay and her parents have to move to a rundown house, which they’re not happy about, because Dad has lost his job. School gets off to a bad start too. But things start looking up after Nancy hears a tree in her garden is said to have strange powers, and when a leaf gets caught in her hair, she gives a tough teacher a flash of brilliance that surprises even herself.
The new Douglas Perry story, “Granny’s Town”, might as well have been called “Revenge of the Grannies”. Jen Young is off to Crone-on-Sea for a holiday, where she comes across indications that the old ladies of the town have formed some sort of secret society that conducts vigilantism against those who insult or displease them. First to get the treatment are a bully businessman and a rude train conductor, who get tied to lamp posts with knitting wool during a night attack. The attackers leave a message embroidered on a cushion: “Get out of Granny’s Town!”
The lineup wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, and there is no exception here. June Day and Rita Radley have been such close friends they are called “The Inseperables”, but starting ballet school changes that. Rita soon becomes June’s worst enemy and “Back-Stab Ballerina” because everyone says June is better than her.
No merger is complete without a competition. In this one, you are in to win a winter wardrobe if you can spot the differences between two story panels.
Ella on Easy Street (artist Jose Casanovas, writer Charles Herring) – final episode
Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
Make Your Mind Up, Maggie (artist Juliana Buch)
Mrs Nimmo’s Ninth Life (artist Douglas Perry) – complete story
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray)
Photo – Marty Kristian
Crystal Who Came in from the Cold (artist Douglas Perry)
Competition – Win a Sewing Machine!
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – story ends
Common Cathy (artist John Armstrong)
In part 4 of Tammy round robin, the issue that came out two weeks before June merged with Tammy on 22 June 1974 has been selected for 1974. With only two weeks until the merger, with totally new serials starting all through the issue, it is not surprising that Tammy is gearing up for the merger in finishing all her current serials as fast as possible. The serials in this issue are either on their final or penultimate episodes. June must have been doing the same.
What is surprising is that Tammy is scheduled for another merger in two weeks – but she still hasn’t dropped the logo from her previous merger! Why is the Sandie logo still on the cover with only two weeks to another merger? Currently it cannot be confirmed whether or not Tammy dropped the Sandie logo the following week, 15 June 1974. If anyone can confirm, please leave a comment.
Another surprise is that The Strangest Stories Ever Told is not going to join Tammy for another two weeks, yet Tammy is already running complete mystery stories. These have no narrator, only text box dialogue that seems to be in lieu of one. The story, “Mrs Nimmo’s Ninth Life” is about a bullying, cold hearted dancer, Monica Fleming, who grows worse when she is cast as an evil witch (suits her all right) in a production. When Monica bullies a pedlar, Mrs Nimmo, she becomes plagued by a mysterious white cat, which ends in both of them being hurt, after which she is much nicer to Mrs Nimmo. The other dancers are spooked by hints that Mrs Nimmo and the white cat are one and the same.
The Molly story ends this week and we are promised another next week. But the Molly story in the merger issue is totally new, so what does Molly do in the issue in between? Is it a complete story or is there an error here?
“Ella on Easy Street”, which is fondly remembered by Pat Mills, is about Ella Rutt, who lied about her family to win sympathy and make things easy for herself. But her lies have led to a teacher being sacked and now she’s having conscience pangs. Ella makes the decision to confess to the headmistress. Now what action is the school going to take?
“Crystal Who Came in from the Cold”, “Make Your Mind up, Maggie” (which I know finished with a six-page spread the following issue) and “Common Cathy” are on their penultimate episodes.
Maggie Miller’s problem is not so much that she can’t make up her mind whether to pursue ballet or horse riding but that she is torn between keeping herself fit for ballet and keeping her beloved horse from being sold to cruel owners. And now Maggie has another problem – Nadia is going to get her expelled. No, not because Nadia is jealous. It’s because she mistakenly thinks it is horse riding Maggie wants. Oh, for God’s sake Nadia – mind your own business! Incidentally, this story was reprinted by popular demand in 1983.
Crystal is a girl from the Arctic who is cursed with the power to bring cold and ice with her. Now it’s got a witch-hunting mob after her. Plus there is a Snowman who wants Crystal to return to the Arctic. Will this be the course of action Crystal decides to take in the final episode?
Common Cathy is the John Armstrong story in Tammy before Bella takes over in the merger. Like Bella, Cathy Sampson wants to pursue a dream (athletics) but her horrible parents keep blocking her. In this case they do so by lies, deceit, and stealing the money for Cathy’s entrance fees from her coach Mrs Mirren. But in this episode they take an unbelievable step further – binding and gagging Cathy to prevent her from speaking to Mrs Mirren. Now that is a shocker! Despite being tied up, Cathy manages to discover her parents’ deceit. But the problem Cathy must surmount in the final episode is finding Mrs Mirren and explaining it to her. Not to mention how to sort out her nasty parents and be able to pursue her dream at last.
Wee Sue and Uncle Meanie, the regulars that came over from Sandie, will continue in the June merger and be Tammy offerings to former June readers.
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.
Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner)
Noelle’s Ark (artist “B. Jackson”)
Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix)
Sandie’s Pop Special – Geordie
The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez)
Dancing to Danger – last episode (artist Tom Kerr)
Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway)
Sister to a Star (artist Joan Boix?)
Cinderella Superstar (artist Joan Boix?)
The issue begins with part two of the first print of the “Angela Angel-Face” story that will be reprinted in Jinty 1980 and Tammy 1984. It is generally agreed among Jinty readers that the less said about that one the better, so we move on to other things in the issue.
Sandie sure had a big thing for circus stories. There are not one but two of them running, plus one with a fairground theme. The first, “Cherry in Chains”, stars a heroine who’s an escape artist, which is a real delight to have. There are not many Houdinis in girls’ comics who can get themselves out of being tied up. There are many scenes I can recall in girls’ comics where they sure could have done with that. But Cherry’s unknown enemy is making her escapes even more dangerous and escape-proof than normal because he or she is using them to kill her. Who could be doing it? Everyone’s a suspect because everyone thinks Cherry’s father is a traitor. But there really can only be one person – the one who framed him.
In the other circus story, Mary Suza in “Sister to a Star” is a trapeze artist. She has defied her overstrict guardian in running away to the circus. In this episode she loses her nerve, gets it back, but the ageing trapeze star, Sue Suza, will have not have Mary in her act. No, she is not bloody well getting too old, she says! Meanwhile, the fortune teller sees tragedy in the cards, which will no doubt have bearing on the final episode next issue.
The fairground story, “Bridie at the Fair”, looks like it was reprinted from an earlier title, maybe School Friend. Amnesiac girl Bridie Donovan joins a travelling fair to find her true identity. Now Bridie has finally discovered her old nursemaid, Mrs Kerry – only to find the poor old woman was being taken advantage of by a nasty fortune teller. No wonder when it’s revealed that a nasty relative is out to steal Bridie’s estate, and then Bridie’s enemies, led by the fortune teller, close in to stop her claiming it!
“Dancing to Danger” also has the impression it was reprinted from an earlier title. Pat White is a ballerina who is in fact an undercover secret agent in occupied France. It’s the final episode and Pat has now earned a medal in addition to her bouquets, but that has to be kept secret until after the war. Right now, it’s more undercover work while dancing with those pointe shoes.
Sandie also had two ballet stories running at the same time. In the second ballet story, Ellie Villiers wants to be a ballerina, but her Aunt Stella and cousins do everything they can to stop her. It’s not just a matter of treating her like Cinderella. It’s also something to do with a locked room, which Ellie has found is full of tutus and other ballet paraphernalia, and they once belonged to a ballerina named Sylvia Coral. What’s more, Aunt Stella says weird things that sound like she thinks she’s being haunted by Sylvia’s ghost or something. Sylvia’s diary holds the answer, but Aunt Stella is trying to stop anyone from reading it.
“The Golden Shark” looks like another reprint from elsewhere as its lettering is not the same as Sandie’s. Perhaps it originally appeared in June. Like “Barracuda Bay” (a June reprint in Jinty), it’s an underwater sea adventure, and it’s got underwater exploration, pirates, a treasure hunt in a sunken galleon, and a giant octopus.
“The House of Toys” is “and then there were none” story. Jill Small and nine girl gymnasts have somehow found themselves on a mysterious island when they were headed for another, and the only house on it has nothing but strange toys. Now the girls are disappearing one by one. Even the food is disappearing into thin air, and we don’t mean eating. Is it because these toys have strange powers or is someone pulling a fast one on them? In this episode the girls discover there are definitely two people on the island, but now another girl vanishes!
Uncle Meanie is running for Parliament, would you believe? His campaign is to stop needless spending and save, save, save. In other words, he would issue tight-fisted McScrimp-style black budgets given half the chance. As nobody in their right mind would vote for him, he is turning to dirty tricks to sabotage the other candidates. And then his ideas begin to grow in popularity once he learns to appeal to the miser in people. Can Jeannie find a way to stop him?
Like “Fran of the Floods“, “Noelle’s Ark” was ahead of its time in anticipating rising sea levels and worldwide flooding. This week Noelle encounters a mystery boat that carries a deadly fungus. She manages to get rid of the fungus, but it’s had a weird effect on her – she’s turning so nasty she’s on the verge of pushing her friends overboard!
In “Slaves of the Sorcerer” Beth Williams finally gets the police onto Caspar. But when they arrive at the fairground there’s no sign of him. The lead they have been given is in fact another trap for Beth set by Caspar, and he’s waiting to pounce.
Boys are admitted to Wee Sue’s school. They get quite a shock when the titch they tease turns out to be brilliant at footy. Then Sue finds one of the football boys stuck on a ledge and climbs up to the rescue.
“Odd Mann Out” is now leading a demonstration against the tyrannical way things are run at her school. But why the hell is the headmistress smiling about it instead of looking worried?
Trudy loses Silver – to the rag-and-bone man. And everyone knows how cruel he is to animals. Can Trudy get him back?
In “Friends and Neighbours” Ann Friend and her family have moved into a new house. The neighours haven’t been friendly but now Anne believes they are worse than she thought – they are trying to scare her family out of the house with a ruse that it’s haunted. They deny it angrily and mean to prove it by sitting up with them.
Two-Faced Teesha (artist José Casanovas) – final episode
School for Snobs (artist J Badesa, artist John Wagner)
Ballerina in Blue Jeans (artist Escandell)
Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray)
Little Lady Jane
The Chain Gang Champions (writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
Granny’s Town (artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills)
Here we go with an entry on the latest addition to my collection. I wonder if the grey paint or whatever it is that got spattered on the cover actually adds some character to it.
Tammy is quite a few weeks into her merger with Sandie. Although the Cover Girls were touted as Tammy and June (from the June merger) by the 1980s, their origins can be traced to the Sandie merger in 1973.
Two-Faced Teesha, one of the stories that started with the merger, ends this week. Two-Faced Teesha finds her dad does not believe her when she says she is trying to turn over a new leaf, so she has one final round of spite before the girl she targeted in particular helps her to convince him.
Miss Bigger gets an ally in her bullying of Wee Sue – new girl Sophie Scandel-Monger. The name says it all, as do Sophie’s repulsive, weasel-like looks. But Sophie’s scheme against Wee Sue backfires so much that she gets a huge ticking off from Miss Bigger. That’s the end of that evil alliance, thank goodness.
Uncle Angus stoops to whole new heights (or should that be lows?) in scrounging to save money. This time it’s at the cinema, much to the embarrassment of Jeannie and her aunt. And when Uncle Angus sets up his own cinema where he passes off his home movies as a blockbuster movie, Aunt Martha is so embarrassed she takes to her bed. However, once the audience catches on to what a cheap cheat Uncle Angus’ cinema is, they pelt him with his own vegetables from his garden.
School for Snobs is a special school designed to cure girls of snobbery. The headmistress is Hermione Snoot, who wears a nightie and slippers with a mortar board, is seldom seen without a cigarette, and talks Cockney. This week Hermione’s in charge of curing a practical joker. I’m not quite sure what that has to do with snobbery, but turning the tables on the girl with practical jokes until she’s cured is right up Hermione’s street. After all, she pretty much does that with every snob every week.
“The Chain Gang Champions” are kidnapped athletes. The Duchess subjects them to training methods that are as bizarre as they are sadistic. This week it’s finish gruelling cross-country training runs in record time – with ever-shortening time periods with each run – or the Duchess will feed her old enemy, the Minister for Sport, to a hungry bear!
As if Pickering weren’t bad enough, Molly has a new enemy plotting her downfall. It is guest Cynthia Swingleton, who is after her fiancée’s money. Molly’s rumbled Cynthia’s game, so now she’s is trying to frame Molly for stealing!
“Ballerina in Blue Jeans” impresses her ballet school with her dancing. Unfortunately her streetwise ways, like turning up at ballet school in a leather jacket and impersonating a motorbike rider as a demonstration of mime, have the teachers just about fainting. It’s not endearing her to the pupils either, and she has one spiteful enemy already. Well, whoever heard of a pupil in a ballet school serial who didn’t have one?
“Granny’s Town” appears to be a take on ageism, but a very sinister one. “Her Ladyship” has become Mayoress of a retirement spot, Crone-on-Sea. She is introducing new measures that look suspiciously like they are striking at the young people of the town and putting old people on top. This week she has the police throwing young people in the nick for no crime other than they are not carrying one of Her Ladyship’s flags, unlike the elderly people. “It’s the orders of the new mayoress!” Gee, whatever happened to human rights in this town?
Following the interview of John Wagner which ran on this blog a few days ago, I thought I would dig out my few issues of Sandie (only four, acquired somewhat at random). Because I have so few issues, and none of them are significant ones such as the first or last ones published, it didn’t seem worth reviewing them individually. Here therefore is something of an overview of this short-lived title – limited in scope by having so few originals to draw on directly, but I have tried to also bring together other relevant comments on this site and elsewhere, to give a wider context.
Let’s start with the contents of the four issues I do have:
Sandie 17 March 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee), Supergirl Sally (artist A. E. Allen), Isla and the Ice Maiden, Anna and the Circus, Brenda’s Brownies (artist and writer Mike Brown), Dawn at Dead-End Street (artist Bill Baker), Pop portrait: Paul Newman, Lindy and the last Lilliputians, The Nine Lives of Nat the Cat (artist José Casanovas), Quiz Kid Queenie (artist Luis Bermejo)
Sandie 28 July 1973: Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix), Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – last episode, Sink or Swim, Sara! (artist Eduardo Feito), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee) – last episode, Dancing to Danger (artist Tom Kerr), Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice, Sisters in Sorrow (artist Roy Newby)
Sandie 11 August 1973: The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – first episode, Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Dancing to Danger, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice , Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)
Sandie 29 September 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Dancing to Danger – last episode, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), Sister to a Star, Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)
There’s lots of good stuff in these issues, though I did find the covers rather old-fashioned, with mostly very blocky designs. Some of the inside content is rather old-fashioned too, and/or show possible signs of being reprinted from elsewhere. “The Golden Shark” is hand-lettered, and “Dancing to Danger” and “Bridie At The Fair” are lettered using a different font or technique to the other strips. The latter two are also only two pages long per episode, and have a painted aspect to the title element – I take these to have been reprinted from much earlier titles where there may have been an option to use more sophisticated colour printing.
Some of my interest in this title is in how it might have influenced, or been influenced by, work that is more directly related to Jinty. For instance, “Isla and the Ice Maiden” has an orphaned girl learning how to ice skate as she is taught by a mysterious woman: both the basic plot set-up and the visual design of the mystery woman is quite reminiscent of the Jinty story “Spirit of the Lake”. Likewise, “Lindy and the Last Lilliputians” has some wee travellers from Lilliput travel to stay with Lindy, a descendant of Lemuel Gulliver – who they claim must look after them. It sounds like the story has quite a lot of differences from Jinty‘s “A Girl Called Gulliver”, but there are certainly some big overlaps too.
In terms of the artists included, there is a fair amount of overlap with the slightly later titles I am more familiar with – with representation from José Casanovas, Rodrigo Comos, Douglas Perry, Santiago Hernandez, and the unknown artist who drew “Merry at Misery House” and so many other stories. Obviously there are many artists unknown to me, also: the very striking Joan Boix, who drew “The Slaves of the Eye”, is very well represented inside these pages. There are a couple of stories where it’s hard to decide if the art is by Joan Boix’s, or by Cándido Ruiz Pueyo’s. These are “Cinderella Superstar” and “All Against Alice”. I would be inclined to think these both contained Boix’s art if not for the fact that this would imply that there might be as many as four stories by the same artist in one issue! I suppose this is not impossible but still. On balance, I think that “Cinderella Superstar” is likely to be Boix’s work (though it is not signed in any of the issues I have, unlike “Cherry in Chains” and “Slaves of the Eye”). “All Against Alice” is not close enough for me to assign to Boix – it looks more like Pueyo’s work, though again not really definitively enough for me to say so for sure.
On the post with the interview with John Wagner, I asked for people’s impressions of the title compared to others from that era. Mistyfan commented to say that “Sandie had more regulars than Tammy, particularly “Wee Sue”. She also had a lot of circus themed stories such as “Sister to a Star”, “Cherry in Chains” and “Slave of the Trapeze”. Far more than either Tammy or Jinty. She followed the in vein of Tammy in having Cinderella and slave stories.” I haven’t got enough issues to have much representation of regular strips – there’s the start of “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie”; “Nat the Cat” was so long-running as to perhaps count; and I do have two separate Angela Angel-Face stories in this short sample.
The circus theme is absolutely inescapable even in just these few issues, though! “Anna and the Circus” is in the March issue above, and the August and September issues include “Cherry in Chains” and “Sister to a Star”. There are very few circus-themed stories in Jinty, and not many in Tammy either, so this feels like a real unique selling point for this title. Of course there are also plenty of cinderella stories, ballet stories, and the like – a lot of what’s in the pages wouldn’t look out of place in Jinty or Tammy (and indeed some was reprinted in annuals and summer specials).
Mistyfan also previously posted on this site about the launch of Sandie and about issue 7 of the title – representing the earlier issues of the title. But after the title came to an end it still continued to make something of an impact as stories had a life after death. Quite a few of the stories were translated into the Dutch market: for instance “Sandra Must Dance”, “The Return of Rena”, “Lorna’s Lonely Days”, “Anna’s Forbidden Friend”, and “Peggy in the Middle”. Of course “Wee Sue” and “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie” had an ongoing life in the pages of other comics titles thereafter, as did others (more briefly). “Angela Angel-Face” was reprinted in Jinty but generally reckoned to be a very weak offering in that title, and “School of No Escape” was reprinted in the Misty 1980 annual.
So Sandie feels a little old-fashioned to me, and a little quirky with its love of circus stories (quite why so many of them were used, I’m not sure – they make for a good story backdrop but aren’t quite as flexible a story theme as the sports or SF themes that Jinty readers liked, or of course the spooky tales of Misty). It has quite a bit of overlap of stories or of artists with the titles I am more familiar with, and some cracking content – I’d like to read more of the exciting “Noelle’s Ark” which I give below (and which again has some overlap with a classic Jinty story – “Fran of the Floods”). At this point it feels to me a bit like a fore-runner of the more fully-developed, stronger Jinty/Tammy/Misty stable – but at the same time, I know readers who have only found this title recently and have become real converts. I will seek out more…
John Wagner is known to have worked on girls’ comics and written girls stories in the 1970s. I didn’t know of any previous interviews which had focused on this part of his career in particular: many thanks to him for answering the questions below in this brief interview.
1 I’d love to know how you got started in writing for girls’ comics, and what you did during that part of your comics career. What stories did you write? How did you balance writing comics alongside being an editor – or was that all part of what the editor was expected to do?
The girls’ comic side of my career started with Romeo, the DC Thomson romantic comic/mag, the poor sister of Jackie. Girls’ romance was just a step up from normal girls’ fare with the addition of boys. We never touched on lesbian love back then! Then when I left to go freelance with Pat Mills, girls’ stories was one of our target markets. We were given “School of No Escape” (was that in Sandie or Tammy? [that was in Sandie]) by the managing editor, John Purdie. The story had already been started, was running, but either the writer had quit, or been sacked. In any case editorial didn’t know quite how to handle it. It was quite a challenging first assignment but we made a pretty good fist of it. I helped Pat devise “School for Snobs” and write the first couple of episodes before we split up and I went to work in the IPC office in London. My only girls’ comic story after that was “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie”.
2 We’re always on the lookout for information on other creators of girls comics from the time. I have already asked you for any suggestions on the name of the artist on “Slave of the Trapeze” and “School of No Escape”, which sadly for us you weren’t able to recall. Are there stories by other people that you particularly remember from that time, which you would be able to help us to credit the creators on? For instance, anything written by any of Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring, Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon?
Malcolm Shaw was my sub on Sandie for a while, quite a good, reliable one. I’m afraid I don’t remember any particular stories any of the people you mention wrote, though Gerry would have done two or three for me. Never heard of Jay Over or Benita Brown and assume Maureen then went by another surname that I can’t remember.
3 Pat Mills has fond memories and a lot of respect for specific girls’ comics titles and the hard-hitting gritty stories that ran in them. What kind of comparisons would you draw between the world of girls’ comics and that of the boys’ titles you worked on?
They were pretty different, up until Pat and I started work on Battle Picture Weekly. I refer to the IPC boys’ stories, as DC Thomson boys’ comics had some excellent stories and were almost the equal of their girls’ titles. But IPC boys’ titles had stagnated, with stories that were formulaic, repetitive, barely credible and carried very little emotional power. They paled in comparison to the stories in Judy, Mandy and especially Bunty – clever, meaty, affecting.
4 You started your comics career working for DC Thomson before moving south to IPC/Fleetway. Were there things about creating comics that you learned at DC Thomson which you were keen to bring with you to IPC, or perhaps keen to move away from? Or other memories of differences between the two publishers?
I was keen to move away from poverty! The key lesson I learned there was self-criticism. Nothing you write can’t be better. Always question yourself – am I getting the best out of that scene, those characters, is there a better way of doing things?
5 Finally, anything you can tell us about your time at Sandie would be good to know. It was a fairly short-lived title, only lasting for 89 issues. What do you think that was down to? Did you leave it as it finished, or earlier? Who else worked on it that you can recall?
My memory is that they closed it down – or merged it – on a circulation of about 180,000 (though that figure may be inflated in my mind). In any case the low cover price meant that they had to sell enormous numbers. I was told the comic was going under and that they wanted me to move on to Princess Tina (which was also dying) and revamp it in an attempt to save it. Norman Worker (I think) was brought in to see Sandie laid to rest. In turn I made an awful hash of Tina, whereupon I quit journalism to become caretaker of an estate in Scotland, never to return (I thought!).
I’ve already mentioned [in email] some of the names of Sandie staff – subs Kyra Clegg, Rhoda Miller, Malcolm Shaw. Ally McKay was assistant art man for a while, and John…John…ah, I forget, but he was art editor.
Many thanks again to John Wagner for this interview. I have a small number of issues of Sandie, which I looked at in this post. Catawiki has details on a few Sandie issues also, and the Great News for All Readers blog has posted in detail about two issues in 2016. Mistyfan also wrote a post about the advert for Sandie’s launch, and another on issue 7 of Sandie in 1972.
Pat Mills is someone who has already contributed lots to our knowledge of girls comics of this era, but even so there are still some gaps in our knowledge of what he wrote, and always plenty more questions to be asked. With thanks to him for his contributions now and in the past, here is a brief email interview.
1) In previous discussions you’ve identified the following stories in girls’ comics as having been written by you. Are there any stories missing from that list that you can remember? Some other stories have been attributed to you – also listed below – which you’ve either specifically said you didn’t write, or which haven’t been included in those previous discussions. It would be great to clarify this once and for all, if we can.
You have also said before that you wrote a horse story, without identifying which one it was. Might it be “Horse from the Sea”? Or perhaps “Wild Horse Summer“?
Pat Mills: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s possible I did the horse story for Tammy, but it wasn’t very good.
Ella on Easy Street?
Glenda’s Glossy Pages?
Pat Mills: Charles Herring wrote Ella which I hugely admire. I wrote Glenda. Also – Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, and Granny’s Town, but not all episodes.
Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts)
Pat Mills: Think “Red Knee” was mine if it was the spider story. Also “Hush Hush Sweet Rachel” – art by Feito.
And some Jinty stories you didn’t write but which are often attributed to you: “Knight and Day” (now confirmed as not yours), “The Human Zoo” (I think this is thought to be Malcolm Shaw’s), “Wanda Whiter Than White“, “Guardian of White Horse Hill” (you’ve previously thought this is likely to be Malcolm’s too).
Pat Mills: No, none of those are mine.
2) I appreciate that it’s harder to remember which stories were written by other people, if you even knew these details at the time. If there are any stories that you know the writers of, we are always up for adding to our store of attributions! We know that co-workers of yours such as John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring wrote for girls comics, in case that helps to trigger any memories. Did you also perhaps know Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon? (Some of those names are listed in the era when Tammy printed creator credits between 1982 and 1984, meaning we do have some story credits already in hand for that time.)
Pat Mills: Charles Herring was great – Ella and similar stories. Pat and Alan Davidson wrote stories like Little Miss Nothing – Sandie and the equivalent in Tammy. They were top writers and that style of ‘Cinderella” story was hugely popular, but I don’t think they ever worked for Mavis. [In fact we do know that Alan Davidson wrote for Jinty, though Pat Davidson did not.]
John Wagner created and wrote “Jeanie and her Uncle Meanie” for Sandie, I think. John was an editor on Sandie, but Gerry was the founding editor.
I wrote “Captives of Madam Karma” in Sandie.
John Wagner and I wrote “School of No Escape” in Sandie. (That was not bad) And “The Incredible Miss Birch” for Sandie. (Not our finest hour!) And I must have written at least one other story of this kind for Sandie.
I also wrote “Sugar Jones” and other stories for Pink, and “9 to 4” for Girl.
3) In Steve MacManus’ new book on his time in IPC / Fleetway, he talks about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story: so for instance at one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. Is this something that you too remember from your time at IPC Fleetway? Did it happen at DCThomson too? I was interested in this because it seemed like a surprising way to think about comics, rather than in terms of page count.
Pat Mills: Yes. Steve is spot on. It’s a big subject. A thirty picture story in girls comics would theoretically deliver a lot of story. But it would be crammed and old fashioned. So I changed all that on 2000AD with less images on the page and started to apply it to Misty.
4) You’ve talked before about girls comics working differently from boys comics, and Steve MacManus recalls you saying that in a girls story the heroine would beat a bully, ride in a gymkhana, and still get back home in time to make her motherless family a hearty tea. Clearly girls comics were very full of plot! And you were a big part of rewriting a bunch of boys stories to make them fit the girls comics model more closely. Can you talk in a bit more detail about how this worked, in other words, what the mechanism was, more exactly? Is it a case of using fewer action sequences, more surprise reveals, lots of scene changes…?
Pat Mills: The big principle of girls comics that I applied to boys comics was “emotion”. Sometimes this worked well, but it needed applying in a different way. More “cool”, perhaps. Some girls principles didn’t adapt well: jealousy for instance. Girls loved stories involving jealousy – boys didn’t. Hence “Green’s Grudge War” in Action wasn’t a hit. Similarly, mystery stories work well in girls comics, boys didn’t give a damn about mystery. Hence my “Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain” in Battle, boys didn’t care what the terror was. It wasn’t a failure, but not the hit we hoped for.
However, where girls comics scored ENORMOUSLY was in having realistic stories that didn’t talk down to the reader. My “Charley’s War” is really a girls comic in disguise. Its popularity lies in it applying girls comic principles NOT boys comic principles – e.g. emotion is allowable in the context of World War One.
I was never that sold on “girls adventure” where there wasn’t a strong “kitchen sink”/Grange Hill factor. I think when Jinty went in for science fiction adventure it led the field, but not so sure about regular adventure which could seem “old school” – to me, at least. This was a factor everyone battled with on girls and boys comics, avoiding “old school” and creating stories that were “cool”. Thus I would describe “Cat Girl” in Sally as uncool and old fashioned. Some of the Misty stories fell into that category – historical stories, for example.
Many thanks again to Pat Mills for his time, and for his memories and thoughts on this.