Tag Archives: John Armstrong

Tammy 16 July 1983

tammy-cover-17-july-1983

  • Namby Pamby (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Horsepower! (artist Julian Vivas, writer Chris Harris) – A Pony Tale
  • Backhand Play (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Portrait of Doreen Gray (artist Tony Coleman, writer Charles Herring)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • The Lady of Ranoch Water (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Roy Preston) – complete story
  • Make Your Mind Up, Maggie (artist Juliana Buch)

This Tammy issue contains one of my favourite complete stories, “The Lady of Ranoch Water” (a remarkably flattering name for a witch who’s a hideous old hag!). “The Lady of Ranoch Water” appears below. It was written by Roy Preston, and the Tammy credits of the period show Preston specialised in creepy complete stories, often with comeuppances. This begs the question: what spooky complete stories (Misty completes, Strange/Gypsy Rose Stories, Monster Tales) did Roy Preston write for IPC in the past?

The other complete story, “Horsepower!”, has a horse competing with progress when Pa gets ideas about getting a tractor to replace him, much to the horror of his daughter Maisie. The tractor seems to be more efficient, but in the end the weather and climate of the locality prove the horse more practical and keep horses in business there for a long time. Relief for Maisie!

Pam of Pond Hill is on summer break, which gives scope for more serials to run. No doubt one will be replaced by Pam when she returns in the autumn, as promised by the Editor.

The extremely overprotective upbringing Pamela Beeton has received since birth (her mother could give Mum in “Mummy’s Boy” from Buster a run for her money) has rendered her little more than a three-year-old in emotional and psychological development. Consequently, she acts like a baby at school, which has earned her the nickname “Namby Pamby”, and her seriously stunted growth puts her even more on a back foot than other serials where protagonists struggle with overprotective parents. At least she is trying and has found a friend, but her overprotective mother is beginning to interfere.

In “Backhand Play”, Arthur Knightly is the King of Backhanders and his motto is “Never miss a trick”. He doesn’t cross the line to anything illegal, but his backhanders are causing a lot of problems for his niece Terri, who only wants to play tennis. Terri has discovered her backhander uncle has been applying them to her tennis club to give her favourable treatment and even compel a tennis player to throw a match in her favour. She refuses to return to the club in protest and the coaches sell their cars to deal with Arthur and get her back.

The “Portrait of Doreen Gray” (yes, and the story itself makes reference to a certain Oscar Wilde story) is making shy Doreen Gray more confident, but there were hints from the beginning there was something sinister about it. Sure enough, Doreen’s confidence is threatening to turn into arrogance that could make her unpopular, and we suspect the portrait. This week, Doreen’s arch-enemy Jane Quarles begins to suspect what’s going on and starts investigating. She strikes gold – but then gets scared by a rat. Will she be scared off for good?

Oh, no! It looks like Bella is heading for another round of losing her nerve, and it’s all because of her Uncle Jed. He ropes Bella into a dangerous window-cleaning job and only Bella’s gymnastics save her from a horrible accident. But then Bella discovers the incident has affected her psychologically and she can’t perform gymnastics properly.

This week “The Button Box” brings us a romantic story about a boy and girl finding love on the beach and shells are at the centre of it all. Aww…

“Make Your Mind Up, Maggie” has been reprinted from 1974 by popular demand (the original run ended on a double episode to make way for the Tammy & June merger). Maggie is obliged to give up horse riding because it’s bad for her ballet. But this week Maggie discovers the alternative is her beloved horse Robbie being sold to the Brimstowes, who mistreat their horses (and nobody seems to call the SPCA about it). Now Maggie is in an awkward double life of doing both ballet and riding while keeping it secret from her ballet teacher. To make things even more difficult, Maggie is finding that ballet is just as bad for her riding as riding is for her ballet.

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Tammy 24 September 1977

Tammy cover 24 September 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Selena Sitting Pretty (artist Diane Gabbot(t))
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Babe at St. Woods (artist John Johnston)
  • Eye of the Beholder (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – Strange Story
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
  • Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi) – final episode

On the cover, big sis gets one over little sis for once, who not only has to do the work but also looks narked at not being the first to read the weekly Tammy.

This week’s Tammy features one of my favourite Strange Stories, “Eye of the Beholder”, plus it has ever-popular Hugo D’Adderio artwork. The story appears below. An unsavoury Babylonian empress cares only about her garden. Like the selfish giant, she won’t share it with anyone, and woe betide anyone who so much as sniffs the flowers. But it looks like the empress may have imposed this extreme meanness on the wrong person…

Bella has set up a gym club on a collective farm. Some people are finding it hard to accept this, and at the end of the episode we get a hint that someone may have resorted to sabotage, which has put a girl’s life in danger.

Speed is the new motto at Cliff House School, and Bessie is taking it deeply to heart because it’s fun. Speed is no problem for Bessie where sneaking/eating food is concerned. But putting an aristocratic visitor on roller skates to speed things up? Unless there’s a speedy turnaround, this could mean a speedy punishment for Bessie.

Rowena reaches the last of her brothers for help in aiding her father, but all she gets is another refusal: “none of us are entirely ready, yet”. Then her brother’s companion reacts so badly against this – “you have shamed us!” – that he breaks his oath of fealty to his master. Wow, looks like help at last, at least from someone. Will it prod the brother into action as well?

“Daughter of the Regiment” concludes. Tessa Mason has been battling to prove her father was innocent of the charge that got him executed at the Charge of the Light Brigade. And what does she find? Her father wasn’t executed or charged with anything, and isn’t even dead! It was all a ruse so he could go undercover to foil a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria, and Tessa’s investigation unwittingly put it in danger. Well, they should have known that no true daughter would ever accept her father was guilty and wouldn’t rest until she had discovered the truth. They should have said he was killed in action or something.

Of late, there has been dispute as to whether Tammy artist Diane Gabbot should be spelt Gabbott. Gabbott was the original spelling and we’re not sure if “Gabbot” is a misspelling that crept in or a simplified spelling Diane adopted.

Anyway, Diane’s latest Tammy story is “Selena Sitting Pretty”, and the theme is one you see more often at DCT: a girl pretends to be disabled to take advantage. Selena Smith pretends to be wheelchair-bound because she is having difficulty handling the competition at her new school. This week she hides Lorraine’s running shoes, which forces her to run in bare feet. It blows up in Selena’s face when Lorraine wins anyway and then makes a present of the shoes to Selena, not realising she’s on the verge of discovering Selena’s secret.

A stuffy Latin teacher has problems with Babe of St Woods, who always has gangsters on the brain. When she asks for prep on one of the Caesars, Babe does hers on “Little Caesar”, the 1920s gangster. Then Babe comes to the rescue when she discovers the teacher’s prescription has been written out in the wrong dosage. Teach has failed to notice this although the prescription is in Latin. Really, teach!

Miss Bigger takes the class to the seaside on the annual school trip but makes it as stuffy as the Latin teacher while another class are permitted to have all the fun of the beach. What’s more, Sue has to find a way to get one of the girls to a beauty contest and back without Miss Bigger noticing; the girl needs the prize money for her parents’ anniversary present. In the end Sue’s class have as much fun on the beach, and the girl wins third place and enough money for a present.

Melanie Newton still has to keep her sports club comprised of local toughs a secret from her snobby father, but things are looking up for it. That is, until Dad asks her to go against the gang because he wants the gang’s sports site for development. Looks like Melanie has to rebel against her father again, something she’s been doing ever since the beginning of the story because she hates how her working-class father is now a snobby, selfish rich businessman.

Eye of the Beholder 1

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Eye of the Beholder 3

Tammy 6 August 1977

Tammy 6 August 1977

Artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstong) – final episode
  • Maisie of Mo Town (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Keeping Pets – Edie’s Hobbyhorse
  • Time Trap! (artist Tony Higham)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the New Boy (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • I Wish I Was Someone Else… – Strange Story (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
  • Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi)

All this big news about quarantine and self-imposed isolation in the wake of the latest pandemic had me thinking of this Tammy cover. The Cover Girls are in quarantine, and big sister, as usual, gets the short end.

It’s the final episode of Bella’s story, but another Bella story starts next week. Bella is stranded in Canada after her journey to the Montreal Olympics without a passport. She makes a friend in Indian girl Oona Tall Tree and helps a mountaineer whose leg got crushed by a falling tree. They’re all snowed in while he recovers, so Bella will entertain them with stories of her adventures.

“Maisie of Mo Town” is mistaken for a mystery jungle girl from Africa, Bibi, in the press. Kidnappers make the same mistake and lure Maisie away, thinking she’s Bibi. Maisie plays along, pretending to be a dim-witted African girl who speaks only pidgin English and knows little of the 20th century while secretly trying to work out a plan against them. In the meantime, she is having a lot of fun with her pretence and giving them aggravation. Already they’re wondering why they bothered with the kidnapping. We can see this story will be filled with laughs. But it won’t be played for laughs. All the while there will be the serious side of the kidnapping and the mystery of why the kidnappers are after Bibi.

Melanie Newton is rejected by the snooty girls of her new school, who get her banned from their athletics club. Melanie decides to form a team with the ragged Canal Mob, but they think she’s a toff. In this episode she finds ways to test out how good they would be at athletics and seems to getting through to them. They want to have a private chat with her, but is it genuine or a setup?

It is the penultimate episode of “Time Trap!”. A past life regression experiment with Leonie has gone wrong. It’s left her trapped in a hypnotic state where she is reliving a past life as Wat Tyler’s sister on the run from the king when the Peasants’ Revolt failed. Leonie’s sister Jenny is trying to find ways to help her, but it looks like she’s given the wrong advice again – it’s caused Leonie to become stuck in the marsh. What’s more, the way ahead is blocked by the king’s soldiers.

Miss Stackpole has taken the girls to the beach, but the wind is causing problems. However, that’s nothing compared to the problems Miss Stackpole has in bumping into Bessie all the time. Miss Stackpole doesn’t know which is worse – Bessie or the wind. Still, everything blows over and it’s a happy ending.

Pickering wants to get rid of new boy Arthur Sparrow because he thinks Arthur’s being groomed to take his place. Arthur takes the hint and leaves to join the army. Molly informs the recruitment office that he’s underage, but she overlooked one thing: this would land Arthur in trouble for lying about his age. Now Arthur could be up before a magistrate on a charge of false pretences. Oops!

In the Strange Story, Catherine Bridie is your poor little rich girl. Her wealthy uncle is so strict he stifles her freedom and won’t allow her friends. She wishes she could be like village girl Connie, the girl she finds a friend in. Weird events ensue, and Catherine takes Connie’s place and finds friends and happiness.

Wee Sue’s mother wants a tumble dryer and insists Dad spend his bonus on one. Dad is not thrilled at the idea, and his hunt for a tumble dryer gets him into all kinds of trouble as well. And after all that, Mum’s not even using the tumble dryer.

Tessa Mason, the “Daughter of the Regiment”, is determined to clear her father, who was executed for cowardice during the Charge of the Light Brigade. A mysterious Mr Cregan is trying to stop her, and this week he lures her into a trap. She escapes with the help of her mudlark friends, but Cregan now has plans to “spirit her away”.

Tammy & Sandie 27 October 1973 – merger issue

Tammy cover 27 October 1973

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • 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.

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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!

The Girls of Grimley's Grammer

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.

 

Tammy & Misty 16 February 1980

Tammy cover 16 February 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • A Girl Called Midnight (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
  • Who’s Your Valentine? – Feature (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Spider Woman (artist Jaume Rumeu)
  • Misty’s House of Mystery Game – part 3
  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Sour Grapes for Sophie (artist Tony Coleman) – first episode
  • Too Close an Encounter (artist Jose Canovas) – Strange Story from the Mists

Valentine’s Day is nigh, and to commemorate I have brought out the Tammy Valentine issue from 1980. This is the last Tammy Valentine issue to have the Cover Girls honour the event. Later in 1980 they were dropped in favour of story covers.

This is not the first time Tammy used the joke of big sister feeling narked that little sis got more Valentines than her. The same gag was used on the Cover Girls’ first Tammy Valentine cover in 1974. Talk about bookends.

Also in the issue is a feature that cites old customs for finding a Valentine before presenting a “Misty-ic Messenger board”, where you can ask Valentine questions to an oracle board. Definitely influence of Misty here on this one.

This week’s episode of Wee Sue could have been used for the Valentine theme, but instead she’s going shopping for new clothes. Sounds simple, but Sue is embarrassed to have to use the toddlers department because of her size, and that’s just the start of the hijinks.

The Strange Story from the Mists, “Too Close an Encounter”, looks like it was originally written, perhaps drawn, for Misty. The story length (four pages) and artist (from the Misty team) point to this. Jackie’s grandfather claims to be in contact with aliens and they’re going to land in the garden, but nobody believes him except his granddaughter Jackie. Everyone else laughs and Mum thinks grandfather is going senile. But will grandfather have the last laugh on them?

Two stories begin this week: “Sour Grapes for Sophie” and “A Girl Called Midnight“. Oddly enough, both feature newcomers who act awkwardly towards everyone around them. In Midnight’s case it’s because nobody wants to foster her for long; her “black midnight moods” see to that. Now what can these moods be, and how will her latest foster family, the Brights, react to them? In “Sour Grapes for Sophie”, Sophie Drew starts a new school, but is rude to both classmates and teachers alike, and turns them against her. At the end of the episode Sophie has a sudden burst of repentance and explains to classmate Jackie that she does want to make friends, but only has six months. Now what can Sophie mean by that, and what’s it got to do with sour grapes? And even if she is sorry, can she undo the damage she has done on her first day?

Bella qualifies for the Moscow Olympics despite all the obstacles she has encountered in the competition. But now she finds out why her wealthy guardians didn’t show up to cheer her on: they’ve gone bankrupt. This has left her high and dry and stranded in a foreign country, with no way to return home or press on to Moscow. At least she has plenty of experience with being stranded in foreign countries, and she has something that could lead her to her next move: a note from a well-wisher.

Bullies Angela and Honey stoop to a whole new low in “Sister in the Shadows“, and it’s alarming. They’ve not only got the whole class sending poor Wendy to Coventry but get a family member help to play tricks on her too. What B.S. they fed to big brother to pose as a reporter and help trick Wendy into breaking a new school rule we don’t know. But it’s having us really dread what those two horrors have in store next for Wendy.

Spider Woman has dragged Paula off to her lair, where she brags about her latest plan to conquer the world with her specially bred spiders. Then she just lets Paula go, saying she will require Paula’s services later. Now what can she mean by that? It’s not like she is using mind control on Paula, as she did on the two girls she captured in her first story. Added to that, something is creeping up behind in the bushes behind Paula and her family. Meanwhile, the Navy find the boat Mrs Webb infested with her man-eating spiders and begin to realise Mrs Webb is up to her tricks again.

 

Katie on Thin Ice [1977]

Sample Images

Katie on Thin Ice 1

Katie on Thin Ice 2

Katie on Thin Ice 3

Published: Tammy 8 January 1977 – 9 April 1977

Episodes: 14

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

It is winter 1815 and it’s so cold the Thames has frozen. Katie Williams comes to the Port of London to greet her father, who is returning from the Napoleonic Wars. But bad news awaits her: Dad perished in the wars and now she’s an orphan. He has left a couple of things for Katie: a pair of ice skates and a bag of money.

The money bag is promptly snatched by a thief named Annie. Katie manages to catch up to Annie and demand her bag back. Then a cold-looking woman named Mrs Winter appears, saying she is a benefactor for Napoleonic war orphans and apologises for Annie. She offers to take Annie into her home for war orphans. The home looks respectable enough, but Katie senses something is strange about it.

Next day Katie tries out her skates on the frozen Thames and sees an angry mob chasing Susie, a girl from the orphanage. Katie helps Susie by leading them off, but then finds out too late why they were chasing her: she had stolen a necklace. Mrs Winter is now revealed to be a female Fagin type and she runs her orphanage as a den of thieves and pickpockets. As nobody will believe Katie was duped into helping Susie, Mrs Winter has snared Katie, blackmails her into crime, and says those skates and the frozen Thames will be the perfect getaway every time Katie steals.

Annie, Katie soon learns, is the most vicious of the thieves. She is also jealous of Katie because Katie has usurped her position as favourite after saving Mrs Winter’s life. Katie suspects Annie tried to kill her when a lamp warning of a hole in the ice got moved and she spots candle grease on Annie’s hand later on.

Katie is forced to go along with the racket; for the most part just watch helplessly and provide diversions on the ice while the thieves make their getaway. But she does not downright steal anything and is determined to find a way to stop it. In one attempted thieving she is pleased to mess up and go back empty handed, even though it means a beating. In another attempted raid she saves a girl’s life when Annie attempts to send her sliding to her doom over the edge. The girl is Claire Stern, ironically the daughter of a magistrate. The magistrate wants Katie to give Claire ice-skating lessons. Anxious to keep up her façade of respectability, Mrs Winter agrees.

The lessons start well, but Katie can see Annie following and out to rob the Sterns. She pulls a fast one on Annie when she tries it, which gets Annie a beating, but now Annie’s really out to get her.

Mrs Winter has the gang attempt to raid the ships, but it goes wrong and Susie is arrested. Katie manages to rescue Susie, but now Susie is seriously ill. And Mrs Winter says Katie must steal the money needed for Susie’s treatment – and stealing had been something Katie had been trying to avoid with Mrs Winter. Eventually Katie smashes an apothecary’s window to grab some medicine, but leaves money to pay it. When Miss Winter finds out, she beats Katie for not stealing.

By this time Katie has become known to the police as “the ice thief” and they are on the lookout for her. They almost nab her with a net as she makes her way back from the apothecary, but an amazing leap to grab an ice shard to rip her way through the net saves her.

But Inspector Hawkfinch, who has seen Katie skate as both the ice thief and Claire’s skating teacher, suspects her, and Katie knows it. At Claire’s next lesson he tries to trick Katie into replicating the leap, but she is too sore from the beating to do it. So it looks like suspicion is allayed. But now Katie has another problem: Claire says she is going to use her skating lessons to help the police catch the ice thief!

Claire is getting ready to set her trap on the Thames, but her speed skating is still not up to the ice thief’s and needs more coaching there. That night Mrs Winter forces Katie to go help stealing at a warehouse, saying they will kill Susie if she doesn’t. Katie warns them the police are on the lookout, and they say they will provide the decoys while Katie gets away on the ice. But Claire spots her and, as Katie is still weakened from the beating, Claire could well catch her. Katie uses a stolen tapestry like a sail to make her getaway.

But when Claire tells Mrs Winter she almost caught the ice thief, it puts Claire in danger from Mrs Winter. Katie tries to protect Claire by offering to steal Claire’s skates. But she fails, and she soon discovers Mrs Winter has set Annie onto Claire. Annie tries to set a coach toppling on top of Claire, and Katie saves her. Next, Annie tries to burn down Claire’s house, with her and Katie in it. Again, Katie’s quick action saves the day. Her own skates get damaged, though.

London is going to have an ice fair on the Thames, which means more pickings for Mrs Winter. At the fair they meet up with Claire, who says her skates got destroyed in the fire. It looks like Claire is now safe from Mrs Winter. But Susie is still sick and they are using her as a hold over Katie. Katie decides it’s time to make a break for it, with Susie. After tying up Annie, Katie tries to get away Susie away on a sledge on the Thames, but Claire catches her, revealing she managed to get her skates fixed. And Katie’s damaged skates left a trail from her house to Mrs Winter’s.

Claire now realises Katie is the ice thief, but thinks it’s Katie’s own operation. Katie tries to tell Claire it is Mrs Winter who is behind everything, but Claire does not listen. People think she’s a respectable woman and benefactor of war orphans. Katie and Susie are turned over to Mrs Winter, who locks them in the icehouse. Katie manages to get them out of the icehouse – and lock Mrs Winter’s crony Ena in the icehouse.

Katie discovers that Mrs Winter is planning to send the whole ice fair under the river by spreading salt on the ice. This is because there are people there, including Claire, her father, and her own pickpockets, who know or suspect too much. Katie meets up with Claire and her father and tries to tell them about Mrs Winter, and that she was forced into crime. They still don’t listen – until they see Mrs Winter’s charges at work for themselves and they finally suspect her. Then the salt takes effect, breaking up the ice. Katie and Claire go the rescue of many trapped people, including the pickpockets, on the ice. Everyone is pulled clear of the ice, and Katie and Claire have to sacrifice their own skates so they will be saved too.

Across the ice, Mrs Winter fumes at failing to kill them. Annie overhears her and, realising she was also intended to be a victim, takes revenge by throwing her cutpurse knife at the bag of salt at Mrs Winter’s feet. This breaks up the ice under Mrs Winter and sends her to her death in the icy waters of the Thames. Annie then clears out to find warmer and greener pastures for her pickpocketing.

Claire’s father promises the orphans he will arrange a better life for them.

Thoughts

Tammy’s choice of artist must have caught her readers by surprise. John Armstrong didn’t usually draw a period serial (though he did plenty of period stories for the Strange Stories). Or a skating serial for that matter, despite his aptitude for sports stories. By this time Armstrong was known more in Tammy for his Bella stories and only older readers would remember he once drew Tammy stories that had nothing to do with Bella. But when we view this story, we wonder why the hell he wasn’t given more of a chance to do more of such stories.

The story formula itself is one we see more often in the DCT titles, such as “The Courage of Honor Bright” (Mandy). An orphaned girl discovers too late she has fallen foul of a racket in the Fagin vein, but she refuses to become part of it. She is the one oasis of honesty and courage against a racket that has destroyed honest principles in the other waifs, whether by offerings of a good home, intimidation, abuse, or taking advantage of worse-natured children. She fights all the pressures to turn her into one of the criminal gang and desperately tries to find a way to escape and bring down the racket. The Fagin villain rues the day he or she ever ensnared this girl in the operation. It is unusual to see the formula in Tammy though, which makes the story even more of a surprise.

Mrs Winter comes from a long tradition of sinister villainesses who pass themselves off as respectable benefactors in girls’ comics. In reality, it’s a front for their criminal operation and maintaining a façade of respectability to the outside world. In this case, it’s entrapping orphans from the Napoleonic Wars and turning them into pickpockets to line her pockets. At first glance the home looks fine and the orphans well cared for. There are no hints of the child abuse that helps to maintain Mrs Winter’s hold over the orphans or the punishments (beatings, the ice house, threatening to expose a sick girl to the cold until she dies) for those who refuse to steal. Yet even before the protagonist realises the façade there are warning signs about Mrs Winter. She does look like a creepy, cold crone. Even her name is a warning and ties in with the running theme of cold and ice.

The ice-skating itself is also unusual in that it’s not being done for competitions or battling to keep up the skating against obstacles, as in most skating serials. Instead, the skating is the vehicle that both entraps the protagonist and provides her means of hope and escape against the nightmare she has fallen into. It’s beautifully drawn against the backdrop of the frozen Thames and the life and culture that used to develop on the Thames when it froze over. Those days must be bygone ones now in an age of global warming.

The theme of Katie running on thin ice runs throughout the story. The ice grows increasingly thinner in a metaphoric sense as Katie struggles to keep ahead of the tightening grip of the law before she can prove herself and find a way to escape the racket she has fallen into. The skating is both entrapping and assisting Katie, and we have to wonder which will get her first. When Claire wants to use her skating lessons to help catch the ice thief, Katie well and truly is caught in her forced double life and the thin ice is reaching breaking point.

Finally, the ice breaks up altogether – literally. It was only a matter of time. After all, spring will come and melt the ice on the Thames, which would put an end to the “ice thief”. But it’s Katie’s nemesis Mrs Winter who falls under it, not Katie. The only reasons Katie herself does not fall under any ice despite all the close calls are quick wits, quick reflexes, and smart moves on the ice.

The demise of Mrs Winter, cold-hearted and frosty in every sense of the word, is a shocking yet fitting one. It’s poetic justice – dying by the very means she used to try to kill everyone at the ice fair and it ties in with the thin ice thread. “You’re the one on thin ice now!” Annie mocks. We just love it. It gives us more satisfaction than Mrs Winter simply being arrested. But who would know the wanted Mrs Winter has died except Annie? Perhaps her body will be fished out of the river and they will assume she fell foul of her own scheme.

We still hope the long arm of the law will catch up to Annie eventually. After all, she is a very vicious criminal and a dangerous person, and she has a lot to answer for. Despite the period setting she belongs to the John Armstrong tradition of evil tough girls drawn like Norma Sykes from Misty’s “Moonchild“.

Tammy 21 January 1984

Tammy cover 21 January 1984

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Foul Play (artist John Armstrong, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Julie’s Jinx (artist Julian Vivas, writer Nick Allen)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • First Term at Trebizon (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Anne Digby)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie, sub-writer Linda Stephenson)
  • Fashion Flashback – feature (Ray Mutimer)
  • My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Fun Time – feature
  • Swansea Jack (artist Douglas Perry, writer Linda Stephenson)
  • Queen Rider (artist Eduardo Feito, writer A. D. Langholm aka Alan Davidson)
  • Warm as Toast! Feature (Mari L’Anson)

The issue for 21 January 1984 has been chosen for 1984 in the conclusion to Tammy round robin.

Foul Play is unusual for being a non-Bella story drawn by John Armstrong. Katie Johnson received a serious hand injury during a hockey match. Her friends and family are convinced one of her own team mates deliberately caused it because they had always resented her. Katie doesn’t believe a word of it, but now someone is doing nasty things against the team. This week one gets her room vandalised and another gets her heart broken over a hoax call that her father was going to visit. Katie takes on the job of unravelling the mystery, and it must begin with the heartbreaking task of investigating her own friends and family as suspects.

My Terrible Twin is being reprinted by popular demand. The episode this week has already been discussed here, so we will move on.

In Pam of Pond Hill, a flu strain is causing chaos in town. It only seems to target the adults, which is giving the kids a bit of a free rein at home and school. But it’s not all fun for Pam. Cherry Laurence, the big-headed bully bossyboots who was unwisely appointed as a prefect, has now been put in charge of her form!

Tammy had always been running TV and book adaptations but now she is running two at once: The First Term at Trebizon and Queen Rider. Both the authors are former writers for IPC girls’ titles.

This week’s Button Box tale is a rags-to-riches story that centres on the Mexican art of dressing fleas. Swansea Jack, probably the last story Douglas Perry drew for Tammy, gives us the story of Swansea Jack, the dog who gave his name to a tavern by saving the lives of children at the docks of Swansea.

Julie Lee (who keeps her Romany background secret) gives her friend Gloria a Romany charm, but her horse has been acting strangely ever since. A nasty girl is spreading a rumour it is a bad luck charm. Julie is trying to find a way to deal with the problem quietly while not knowing what to make of it herself. Is the gift really “Julie’s Jinx”?

Tammy 23 April 1983

ITammy cover 23 April 1983

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Different Strokes – first episode (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Charles Herring)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • This is Your Road to Fame! – Quiz (artist John Johnston, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Menace from the Moor – complete story (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Fame at Last! (artist Tony Coleman, writer Marianne Nichols)
  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • Make Your Own Container Gardens – feature (Chris Lloyd)

 

April 23 1983 has been selected for 1983 in Tammy round robin. Fame is big in this issue because of the Fame gifts attached. Tammy accompanies the Fame theme with a “Fame” quiz and the complete story “Fame at Last!” Kirsty Brown’s school is having a talent contest but she does not think she is talented at anything. But helping the other contestants gets her a special prize and they tell her she has a gift after all – for starmaking. Maybe Kirsty will become an acting agent when she leaves school?

The issue reprints “Menace from the Moor”, a recycled Strange Story. At this stage in Tammy’s run we get recycled Strange Stories where boring text boxes and drawn-in panels replace the Storyteller and his dialogue.

In new story “Different Strokes”, when teacher hears new girls Jacintha and Samantha Carwen are twins she is dismayed, as that usually means trouble. It does, but not in the way she thinks. The twins are as different as chalk and cheese. The only thing they share is an intense sibling rivalry, and they squabble and bicker all the time. Next door neighbour, Tracy Maine, who befriends the twins, is caught in the middle, and she soon suspects there is a mystery attached to the twins’ rivalry as well.

Bella keeps her savings in her suitcase instead of banking them, saying she does not understand “cheques and things” (insufficient education), despite warnings it is not wise to keep her savings like that. But at the end of the episode she pays the price when a burglar breaks in and her savings are stolen. Well, you were warned, Bella.

Goofy has been having enormous difficulty in shooting a film of Pond Hill for a competition. But now he is well out of it when the school bully vandalises his camera.

Nanny Young has been having problems with a young girl, Barbara, who is jealous of her new baby brother. But in this episode she hits on the solution: get Barbara to take an interest in the baby by allowing her to help with minding him.

In this week’s Button Box tale, Lily hates wearing button boots. Then she encounters a crippled girl who changes her mind about them; she realises she is lucky to be able to wear them because she can walk.

“The Secret of Angel Smith” was Tammy’s last circus story. Abby Fox has always resented Angel Smith, the girl who pushed her way into her father’s trapeze act while Dad won’t allow Abby in it because he does not want to lose Abby the way he lost his wife. Abby has ended up in hospital because of it all, but ironically it is Angel who talks Abby into getting fit again, saying she is going to find a way to help her into the act. When Abby gets back to the circus, she discovers this means taking advantage of Dad being absent on an international tour.

Tammy & Jinty 27 March 1982

Tammy cover 27 March 1982

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Danger Dog (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Dance of Death – the Strange Story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Little Sisters (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Bessie Bunter – Old Friends
  • The Human Zoo (artist Guy Peeters, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Sandy – A Fresh Start… (artist Juliana Buch)

 

Bella is in the finals for the Superkid Contest, and will receive advanced coaching if she wins. But she has problems with the press sniffing around her and then being asked to sign a form endorsing Superkid products. The trouble is, she has never used them and can’t in honesty sign the form.

This issue has one of my favourite Pond Hill episodes: the episode that concludes the St Dorrit’s storyline, and it appears below. Pam’s form has been temporarily housed at St Dorrit’s, a super-snob school, when Pond Hill’s foundations collapse. But from beginning to end, the snob school has made the Pond Hill pupils unwelcome and their lives a misery. In the conclusion, Pond Hill reopens and Pam & Co get their long-awaited revenge on St Dorrit’s. Mind you, I still can’t figure out how the snobs fell for the trick Fred and Terry pulled on them. Maybe the snobs can’t either.

(Click thru)

 

When Misty merged with Tammy, Strange Stories changed to “Strange Stories from the Mists” with the Storyteller alternating with Misty in narrating them. After the Jinty merger it went back to Strange Stories, with the Storyteller alternating with Gypsy Rose. It was a total delight to see that the Gypsy Rose stories during this run were 100% new material; no tired reprints from Jinty or recycled Strange Stories. This one, “Dance of Death” (or should that be “Dance with Death”?) is so creepy and atmospheric that I can’t help wondering if it was originally scripted for Misty. Anyway, the story is worth reproducing here for the Hugo D’Adderio artwork.

(Click thru)

 

It is part two of “The Human Zoo” reprint, brought about by popular demand. Presumably this included “Pam’s Poll” way back in 1980. Shona and Jenny Lewis, plus other captured people, find out what it is like to be Mary Celeste when they fall into the clutches of the aliens who are hinted to be responsible for Mary Celeste. The aliens think humans are just animals – and they treat animals like animals too. They take them away from Earth to the cattle market on their home planet. For Shona and Jenny it is extra anguish as they get sold to different owners, and are forcibly separated. Now it’s not just survival and escape but also finding each other again.

In Nanny Young, Nanny is not deemed suitable for turning Cockney girl Charity Ogden into a refined young lady. Though Nanny still has her job, the task of refining Charity has been given to a Miss Hooper, who is a real bully. But that’s only the start; Charity overhears a conversation that warns her Miss Hooper is some sort of criminal, but she can’t even convince Nanny of this.

In “Little Sisters”, gran complains that she’s hard up. Inspired by the loss of her own tooth, dear little Samantha comes up with an idea that might help: give gran’s false teeth to the Tooth Fairy in exchange for money. The trouble is, she does not advise anyone first, and gran’s in a flap when her teeth go missing. But that’s nothing on big sister Carol, who is assigned the role of Tooth Fairy to Samantha. She gets the false teeth on her arm and screams the house down!

Bessie Bunter is not keen on a cross country run until she hears that there is a feast waiting at the other end. All of a sudden she’s off at breakneck speed. Of course there are difficulties along the way, including Bessie getting stuck in an oak tree and mist arising, but she ends up saving a driver from a nasty accident. This makes the feast even more of a reward for her.

Crunch time for Beth, who is trying to keep her dog Sammy hidden from the authorities, who suspect he is contaminated from a laboratory experiment. Beth didn’t believe it, but now she finally realises it is true: Sammy causes all sorts of weird effects in humans who get too close to him for too long. He is a danger dog after all.

In the Sandy Rawlings stories, Dad has a long history of causing complications for Sandy by shoving her towards boys he thinks are suitable for her instead of giving her freedom to try things out for herself. To make things worse, his choice of ‘suitable’ boyfriends are directed by his snobbishness and business contacts, not compatibility or what Sandy wants. In this episode, it leads to such a horrible tangle of complications (no going into details) that Sandy is not only in deep trouble with Dad but with the whole school as well. Sandy, who has only just got out of being the school outcast (also because of Dad), is now the school outcast again.