Tag Archives: John Armstrong

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, staff and pupils alike, did not make the Pond Hill pupils welcome and did everything possible to make their lives miserable and uncomfortable. 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 actually fell for the trick Fred and Terry pulled on them. Maybe they 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.

Tammy & Misty 26 January 1980

Tammy cover 26 January 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Cindy of Swan Lake (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Spider Woman (artist Jaume Raumeu)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • The Witch in the Window – Strange Story from the Mists (artist Tony Higham)
  • Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Make the Headlines, Hannah! (artist Tony Coleman) – final episode
  • Daughter of the Desert (Mario Capaldi)

Part two of the Tammy & Misty merger has been chosen for 1980 in the Tammy round robin. For the second – and last time – Misty shares the cover with the Cover Girls. Afterwards the cover returned to the Cover Girls and Misty never occupied a cover spot again. Poor Misty.

To further commemorate the merger, next week we are getting the House of Mystery game, where we become one of our favourite Tammy characters (Molly, Sue, Bessie or Bella) and try to escape from the House of Mystery. Which Tammy character would you pick for this game? Misty readers would probably go for Sue or Bella as they haven’t seen Molly or Bessie yet in the merger.

Tammy is working on clearing out her older stories so she can make way for the new ones she has already indicated are waiting in the wings. “Make the Headlines, Hannah!” finishes this week. Hannah not only succeeds in making a name for herself at long last but also gets on television. Funny – the possibility of appearing on television was something she fantasised about way back in part 1. And it wasn’t for the money her Uncle promised as her mean sisters thought. It was winning respect and proving to everyone she was not a born loser.

“Daughter of the Desert” looks like it is heading for its conclusion. The episode itself says as much: the protagonists reckon everything is coming to a head and they are about to find out why the school has been plagued by strange desert phenomena ever since the Arabian princess Aysha arrived. What makes them think that? The mystery “Arab” behind it has cut off the water’s school supply for 24 hours and now they are all going as dry as the desert.

“Cindy of Swan Lake” still has longer to go, though its conclusion can’t be far off either. Jealous Zoe Martin is still playing on Cindy Grey’s worries about her sick swan, who is dying from pollution. This week she allows Cindy to get the lead in Swan Lake. Why? She calculated Cindy would get too upset at doing the Dance of the Dying Swan in it to continue with the role and she would get it, and she was right…oh for #^%@’s sake! Will someone please tell the Tammy editor the Dance of the Dying Swan is not in Swan Lake? It’s a separate solo dance!

Like Hannah, Wendy the “Sister in the Shadows” is overshadowed by a successful sister (Stella) and trying to prove herself against comparisons, bullies, lack of self esteem and sabotage. This week, Wendy’s debut is on stage is a disaster because of nasty tricks from the bullies, but there is insult to injury as well. Wendy’s parents totally forgot to come and watch her, but as far as they are concerned, Stella phoning to say she might visit for the weekend (which she doesn’t) was far more important anyway. Not exactly making things up to Wendy for letting her down, are they? From this, we can see Hannah definitely had it easy compared to Wendy in proving herself and winning respect. And at least Hannah had some friends to help. Wendy has none at all.

Bella has a long history of getting stranded in foreign countries. She’s only two episodes into her new story and it’s happening again: she is stranded in the US, trying to win a championship to qualify for the Olympics, but her wealthy guardians fail to show up. They abruptly cancel and don’t even send a message to Bella to explain why or arrange help. Now this is really irresponsible, even if something bad happened to them back there. They’ve really left her in the lurch and Bella is not getting much help from the coaches either. It’s no wonder she gets off to a bad start when the event gets underway. The vault, which was never her strong point, is already down – in flames.

Spider Woman has discovered witnesses have stumbled onto her evil plan. To deal with them she strands them on a deserted island that used to be a leper colony. Too late they discover it was a trap. And they have to live in rundown huts. As if that weren’t bad enough, the former occupants were the lepers and there are rumours their ghosts still haunt the huts. Then they discover the boat Mrs Webb used to bring them to the island is now covered with spiders, so there is no getting off the island with it. But what about Mrs Webb herself? Where has she got to? Did she get off the island on another boat…or what?

In Wee Sue, it’s charity fundraising time at Milltown Comprehensive. Sue’s idea is bash up one of the old bangers from the council tip and see who can guess the correct number of parts. Of course Miss Bigger and Wee Sue get into all sorts of scrapes towing the old banger to the event, but they do foil bank robbers with it before finally getting it to the banger-bashing ceremony.

In Strange Story from the Mists, the Witch in the Window makes a profitable living out of causing bad luck to girls unless they give her money. She meets her match in one girl and flies off in a rage. But beware – there are plenty of other girls in the windows out there for her to take her revenge out on.

 

 

 

 

 

Tammy 18 September 1978

Tammy cover 18 September 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (John Armstrong)
  • Maggie’s Menagerie (Tony Coleman)
  • Crawl, Carrie, Crawl (artist Juan Escandell Tores)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Double – Or Nothing! (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Tuck-in with Tammy
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Maid of Mystery (artist Douglas Perry)
  • The Telly Fan – the Strange Story
  • Wee Sue (artist Barrie Mitchell?)
  • A Bus in the Family (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

 

September 18, 1978 has been chosen for 1978 in the Tammy round robin. The cover has the Cover Girls doing what the letter column sometimes commented on what readers do with their old Tammys – build up a pile of them and put them in storage. One reader actually said she discovered someone else’s pile of old Tammys while helping her father do renovations. Even today there must be old piles waiting to be cleared out or rediscovered, and be put up on eBay for eager collectors.

Bella has to do well in a gymnastics competition in Sydney in order to keep her job as a gymnastics coach in Port Tago. Sometimes we wonder why she even bothered with that job, much less keep it, as it has been fraught with difficulties from the start that still resonate. Her employer, Mr Cox, made the job offer without thinking and realised he didn’t actually want it in the first place, but couldn’t back out. Mrs Cox tried to drive Bella off because she is a disgraced gymnast. Mrs Cox and Bella have made peace, but Mrs Cox is not the coach who can bring out the best in Bella because she is a real stick in the mud who does not realise how gymnastics have advanced since her day. So Bella is already handicapped before she even starts at the contest, and there would have to be ominous signs of trouble from an old rival as well.

“Maggie’s Menagerie” is a story about a girl (Maggie Crown) who is hiding secret pets. Her problem is not just that her gran does not like animals. It’s also because she has to hide her menagerie on gran’s barge! Maggie’s managed to get them all safely hidden on board. But how long can she keep them hidden from gran? It sounds like even she realises she can’t keep it up indefinitely.

Carrie Smith is despised as a crawler at school because of the tactics she uses, including sucking up to the new strict teacher, to keep out of detention. But the reason is she can’t afford detention – she has to run swimming lessons before and after school to keep her parents afloat while Dad is jobless. On top of that she has a sprained back but is not seeking treatment because she doesn’t want to worry her parents. Dad’s just sent off a job application and Carrie hopes to God he gets it so she can stop all this crawling.

Kate Winter is a tennis player who can’t keep a tennis partner because of her foul temper. She finally finds one in Pam Doggett, the granddaughter of the tennis club’s charlady. However, a row with her parents has Kate realise she is beginning to care for Pam. She chooses pairing with her in a tournament over a cruise, much to her snooty parents’ consternation. Dad brings Mum along to the tournament to show her what a “little grub” Pam is. But something else upsets Mum and she leaves in an awful hurry. Hmm, do we have a little mystery here?

Speaking of mystery, Molly has one in the “maid of mystery”, though this week the mystery unravels. A Mrs Bowden has framed Molly for ransacking because she has mistaken her for the new maid, Victoria. This week Victoria explains why: to get her inheritance she has to prove herself in “gainful employment”, and Mrs Bowden will get the inheritance if she fails. Lord Stanton has sent Molly away from the hall for her own protection, but not even that is stopping Mrs Bowden, who still thinks she is Victoria. At least the mistaken identity will keep the real Victoria safe, and Molly is far more capable of handling Mrs Bowden than Victoria is.

There is a definite mystery about “A Bus in the Family” as well, but nobody is investigating it. “Dodger” Wilkins, the man who sold Dad the bus he is using to take his daughter Rosie’s class on a school trip on the Continent, is so desperate to get it back that he is chasing them all the way across the Continent! Dad and Rosie didn’t know that before, but now they do because Dodger and his crony Harry seized and searched Dad. They also suspect those creeps of sabotaging the bus. Pity Rosie and her father weren’t there for the glorious scene where the crooks meet their match (below) in Rosie’s form teacher! Despite this, the chase is going on to Gibraltar next week, with nobody looking into why Dodger is going to such extremes. But from the sound of things, it’s because something is hidden on the bus – or maybe Dodger just thinks there is, as he didn’t find it.

Bus in the Family 1
Crooks get clobbered. From “A Bus in the Family”, Tammy 18 September 1978. Art by Giorgio Georgetti.
Bus in the Family 2
Continuing the clobbering of the crooks in “A Bus in the Family”, Tammy 18 September 1978. Art by Giorgio Georgetti.

Bessie is seeking homemade beauty treatments, but of course her food inclinations and tendency for naughtiness take over. She ends up with 1000 lines. Meanwhile, Sue is trying to find a way to stop her father’s home movie parties because the catering is too much work for her and her mother. She knows Dad’s mates don’t really enjoy his movies either; they’re mediocre at best. The solution: make her own movie of Dad’s outtakes when he is shooting his lousy movies and show it to his long-suffering audience!

This week’s Strange Stories, one of my particular favourites, is a moral about the dangers of TV addiction. Norma gets so engrossed in television she neglects her studies. Her parents’ efforts to sort her out meet with little success. Then Norma finds herself in the television drama she was watching and becomes the heroine who saves the day. In the process she scrapes her leg and a bandage is put on. Norma wakes up and thinks it must have been all a dream – but then she finds her bandaged leg. Dad is very surprised when Norma suddenly seems to be less keen on television and starting on homework.

Tammy 10 September 1977

Tammy cover 10 September 1977

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Selena Sitting Pretty (artist Diane Gabbot) – first episode
  • Sharon’s Shadow – Strange Story serial (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • The Other Side of the Coin – Strange Story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece – cartoon (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist John Armstrong)
  • Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Edie’s Hobbyhorse: Cycling

 

The issue for 10 September 1977 has been chosen for 1977 in the Tammy round robin. By this time Tammy is taking the shape that defines her 1970s look. “Bella at the Bar” is now just plain Bella. We now have “Reader’s Cover Idea!”, where readers send in suggestions for a Tammy cover, and the winner receives money. The regular cartoon is the Joe Collins “Edie the Ed’s Niece”, who also has a feature called “Edie’s Hobbyhorse” where Edie discusses a particular activity for a hobby or sport.

Tammy is running another Strange Story serial. This time it is about Sharon Brown, who unwisely challenged a long-dead witch (never challenge the supernatural!) and gets her shadow cursed. Anything or anyone her shadow crosses meets with disaster, and it’s upsetting her brother Joe’s campaign to win the local election. Sharon learns only love stronger than the curse can break it, but where the heck are they going to find love when the curse has made things go so badly wrong for Joe that the whole town has turned against him?

In the regular Strange Story, Gilly Bentley looks set to lose her horse, Amulet. Amulet, being a proud horse, seems to get his pride deeply hurt at that and strange things start happening, including Gilly having dreams where a centurion is riding Amulet. It climaxes in Amulet finding Roman coins, which show the same centurion riding him. All of a sudden, the question of selling Amulet is dropped.

One of the curious differences between DCT girls’ titles and IPC girls’ titles is the frequency at which they ran stories about protagonists/ antagonists pretending to be disabled. At DCT such stories appeared so often they were almost a feature. At IPC (well, in Tammy and Jinty anyway) they were sporadic. So the new story this week, “Selena Sitting Pretty”, is an exception to the rule; if she had appeared in, say, Mandy, she would be par for the course. In the story, Selena has always been top girl in class. But when her school combines with another, she comes up against serious competition for top of the class and can’t take it. Then, by fluke, they see her in a wheelchair and think she has been in a road accident. All of a sudden the big fuss is pushing out her rivals and Selena thinks she has found the way to be sitting pretty at school again.

Bella is attending a famous Russian gymnastics college (which is thankfully lasting longer for her than the one she was wrongly expelled from in 1975). The school has ordered Bella to attend a ballet because they think it will teach her some valuable lessons. But we don’t think they meant the one Bella learns the hard way: don’t lean too far out of the balcony! Fortunately Bella’s gymnastics has her landing on her feet on the stage when she falls, and it’s such a hit with the audience that she does not get expelled. And the experience does teach her some useful tips for improving her floor exercises, which is what the school wanted after all.

“Rowena of the Doves” is a medieval swords-and-sorcery sort of tale, with a protagonist who looks like a young woman and hints of alleged white magic that have many of her enemies running scared. Rowena must have brought the Tammy readers up short and it’s no wonder Rowena had a sequel. Her original story was also reprinted in Princess II. Rowena’s father, King Guthlac, has dispatched her to fetch her brothers to help him face his old enemy, the Black Earl. Rowena’s companions are her doves and her horse Silvermane. In this episode she rescues a girl who was to be sacrificed, but now the girl is seriously ill. And when Rowena finds her first brother, he refuses to help, saying he’s got problems of his own defending his stronghold. Will the other two brothers be more helpful?

Bessie is chosen to lead a paper chase. Of course her paper chase leads all the way to the kitchen, and then it starts pouring with rain. Some quick scheming has Bessie emerging on top, and she has the sneaky feeling she will not be lumbered with paper chases again.

Melanie Newton hates her new snob school and the snooty girls looking down on her former lower class origins. She turns to secretly training a gang of rough girls as an athletics team but they turn on her, much to the glee of the snooty girls. Then one of the rough girls gets stuck on the lock gates at the canal and Melanie is going to the rescue.

Another high-class girl is having better luck with street urchins in “Daughter of the Regiment”. Tessa Mason’s father has been executed for cowardice in the Charge of the Light Brigade. Tessa is out to clear his name but a Mr Cregan keeps blocking her. Tessa has found helpers in a gang of mudlarks, and this week she turns to the waxworks museum for help in getting into Windsor Castle for an audience with Queen Victoria.

Wee Sue’s Dad is not pleased to spend his day off cooking meals and doing housework because Mum is sick. Sue is not sure he can manage it either. Her mind is running riot over the horrors it must be causing and she eventually runs home in a panic to check up. At home, it looks like she was worrying over nothing and Dad has cooked a lovely dinner for the family. But then Sue opens the kitchen door…and what she finds is best not described.

Tammy 14 August 1976

Tammy cover 14 August 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong)
  • Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Storm over Jerra Island – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Tag Along Tania (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the General Strike (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Wee Sue – artist John Armstrong
  • Drawn to Destiny – Strange Story serial (artist Tony Higham)
  • Odds on Patsy – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito)

The issue for 1976 in the Tammy round robin is 14 August 1976. The cover is one of my favourites. The Star Trek reference makes it particularly funny if you like Star Trek. It’s a change having a pesky kid brother (or is it a cousin?) instead of a kid sister for the Cover Girl to deal with. And there is another in-joke with the reference to Dan Dare, the famous space adventurer from Eagle. Tammy did not go for SF as much as Jinty – you see SF more often in the Strange Stories than Tammy’s serials – so it’s great to get an SF reference on the cover.

The Olympics featured heavily in Tammy in 1976, which was the year of the Montreal Olympics. Bella has an Olympics-themed story, complete with the Olympics rings being added to her logo. Bella is trying to reach the Montreal Olympics although she has no passport and was passed over for the British team thanks to Jed and Gert Barlow. Right now she is stranded in France with an acrobatics team. They are stringing her along with false promises of getting her to Montreal, and Bella has not yet realised their game. Moreover, her desperation to find gym equipment to train on has landed her in a sticky situation. Later the same year Tammy ran her Olympics-themed classic, Olympia Jones.

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Another thing to run strongly in Tammy in 1976 was stories published at readers’ requests, by open invitation from Tammy. One starting next issue is “Dumbells Academy”, about a school run by the most incompetent staff in the world. This story appeared at the suggestion of one reader: “I’d like to see a story about a school where all the staff are really nutty.” It replaces “Odds on Patsy”, a horse story where Tammy opted for a story on horse racing and jockeys, which makes a nice change from show-jumping. Could the same writer have written “Gail at Windyridge”, another story on jockeying that appeared in Tammy later on?

Expanded Strange Stories also appeared at readers’ requests, which ran for several episodes. The current one is “Drawn to Destiny”, about Diane Hudson, a girl who is jealous of her twin sister Sylvia. And when Diane takes up drawing, her jealousy takes a sinister turn when whatever she draws seems to come true. It starts really scaring her and she doesn’t know what to think, but her jealousy is intensifying too.

Although we have a Strange Story serial, the regular Strange Story continues. This week’s mystery is how the villagers of Jerra Island managed to evacuate from a volcanic island in the 19thcentury. According to legend, the pastor had a vision of it, but how did that happen? And how did Brenda’s church snowstorm souvenir get encased in lava for over 100 years near the site where the pastor saw the vision? She only bought it that day!

Girls’ serials did not often delve into politics, but Molly gets badly tangled in local politics when Lord Stanton has her and Pickering running a bus service during a nationwide strike in support of miners demanding better conditions. This does not please the strikers because it’s blacklegging. It is quite funny seeing the bully butler Pickering in a bus driver’s outfit though! However, Molly has worse problems now than the strike and blacklegging – she is trapped in a crumbling mine with Pickering and Lord Stanton.

Local politics are also a feature in Wee Sue. The council is building an old people’s centre but the oldies don’t want it because they don’t think it’s sound enough. Meanwhile, Sue and her friends would have loved the same site for a roller skating rink. Sue’s suggestion to the council: turn it into a community centre and convert the roof into a skating rink. Now everybody’s happy.

Tania Foster has always been the muggins and dumping ground of the gang of she hangs out with. Now she realises it, she is trying to stand up for herself. The trouble is, they keep finding ways to keep her put upon, including blackmail and dirty tricks. This week they push her into doing all their maths homework for them at the disco while they enjoy themselves and laugh at her. Too bad for them they forgot a noisy disco was not the best place for Tania to concentrate on maths and they end up in detention for “disgusting” homework. It is one of many instances where their treatment of Tania backfires. But Tania is still the muggins of the gang and finding a way to get them to treat her with respect is proving elusive.

“Towne in the Country” is a period story where All Creatures Great and Small meets “Cathy’s Casebook”. Valerie Towne and her vet father have moved to a new post in the country. Valerie soon realises she is going to be deeply involved in her father’s work, but she is not all that confident around animals. And there are other problems such as their vet’s clinic being a mess and queues of kids lining up with pets, expecting Valerie to cure them. And now Valerie and her father have a jumbo-sized problem – treating a sick circus elephant!

Bessie and her class go to the fair. After a series of mishaps, hijinks and getting messed up, everything ends happily for Bessie – with lots of food, of course.

Tammy & June 14 June 1975

Tammy cover 14 June 1975

Cover artist: John Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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