Tag Archives: John Armstrong

Common Cathy (1974)

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Published: Tammy 27 April 1974 to 15 June 1974

Episodes: 8

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Cathy Sampson lives for running – which she does barefoot. It’s her only joy in the miserable life she leads with her parents (or foster parents, as they referred to at one point). They treat her worse than Speed, their racing greyhound, who gets expensive steak to keep fit for racing, whereas Cathy gets a cheap diet. Living off Speed’s winnings is the only way they live, as neither of them are bothered to work. But even Speed is prone to being ill-treated.

Cathy’s ambition is to join the local athletics club and beat the local champion, Helen Douglas. Helen and her fellow athletes have heard of Cathy, but they, along with the rest of the neighbourhood, look down on her because she lives in a slum house and her parents, known as “the smelly Sampsons”, have a bad reputation. As a result, Cathy has no friends, except for Speed. Cathy also has a reputation among the athletes as a wild girl, and she is tagged with the moniker “common”, which comes as much as from her spending so much time on the common as the way she lives. 

Cathy uses her time on the common to train secretly while helping Speed to do the same; training Speed is something her parents constantly lumber her with. She has also learned how to forage for nutritious food growing there to compensate for her home diet, which is hardly suitable for training on. In the garden, she has a secret stash of money, which are her savings to join the club.

One day, Helen and the other athletes drop by Cathy on the common and tease her. Cathy gets her own back by setting Speed on Helen. She then chases after Helen herself, and discovers she is a match for Helen and could even best her. Unfortunately, Helen has realised it too, which sets the stage for what follows: not allowing Cathy to prove it to the club or overtake her as local champion. 

After her race against Helen, Cathy heads to the club to get the enrolment form for joining up. But Dad finds her secret stash for the joining fee, which all goes on steak for Speed, of course. However, after reading the enrolment form, Cathy discovers that if she can demonstrate exceptional talent, she can join without a fee. The club secretary, Mr Bennett, is a bit reluctant, as this rule is seldom applied, but eventually agrees to Cathy’s deal: if she beats Helen, she can join. What can be more exceptional than beating the club champion? The race is set for the following day. 

Helen isn’t having this, and knowing Cathy could beat her, tries to make trouble for her by reporting Speed’s attack to the police. The police warn Cathy’s parents that Speed will be destroyed if there is another complaint. This really gets their backs up as they depend on Speed for their livelihood. They go around to Helen’s place to read out the riot act to her and her family, and the scene they make gets really ugly. Mr Bennett, after seeing their conduct, is put off allowing Cathy to join, and she realises it. It looks like Cathy’s parents have ruined things for her again.

Cathy decides to go back to apologise for her parents’ conduct. There she meets Mrs Mirren, who agrees to pull a few strings. However, Dad is so angry at Cathy going back to apologise that he forces her and Speed through extra-hard training, which leaves her too exhausted to perform well against Helen, and she fails the test.

However, Mrs Mirren can’t forget Cathy and has Helen take her around to Cathy’s place. She is appalled to see the house Cathy lives in and senses Cathy is in desperate need of money to join. Cathy sees them approach. She doesn’t know if it’s jeers or second thoughts, but eventually assumes it’s the former. Meanwhile, Dad sees them both off with Speed. Mrs Mirren still won’t forget Cathy, so Helen is desperate to find a way to put her off Cathy altogether. 

Deciding money is the problem, Mrs Mirren decides to loan Cathy the money for the joining fee, encloses a note to join in time for the inter-club competition on Saturday, and has Helen deliver it. But, as Helen plans, Cathy’s parents pocket the money, which they intend to put on Speed’s race the following day. When Cathy asks questions, the parents spin a lie that Mrs Mirren doesn’t think she’d make a runner and sent 25p to feed her up as she looks skinny. Cathy’s left heartbroken and raging at Mrs Mirren for such an insult. Meanwhile, Helen tricks Mrs Mirren into thinking Cathy conned her out of the money. Now both mistakenly thinks badly of the other. 

Then, a newspaper informs Cathy that Mrs Mirren is one of Britain’s top coaches and Helen is one of her discoveries. This renews Cathy’s hopes of beating Helen and getting her chance. Meanwhile, back at the stadium, which is also used for the greyhound racing, Mrs Mirren discovers how horrible Cathy’s parents are to Speed. He’s lost the race and the money they put on him, and they’re beating him. She then overhears them rage on how they lost all that money they took from Cathy and now suspects the truth. 

Sensing Mrs Mirren has overheard them, the parents make fast tracks for home and silence Cathy, fearing Mrs Mirren will come asking questions. But Cathy overhears Mrs Mirren asking what happened to the money she sent for the joining fee. The parents try to fob Mrs Mirren off with more lies, which she doesn’t believe, but she can’t do much without seeing Cathy. Cathy, of course, now realises her parents have tricked her and is desperate to explain to Mrs Mirren, but doesn’t know where to find her. After making enquiries, Cathy realises her only hope of finding Mrs Mirren is the championship on Saturday. But when Cathy sees the crowds at the event, she realises finding Mrs Mirren will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Then, when Cathy sees Helen running in the 800 metres, she gets a crazy idea on how to get Mrs Mirren’s attention. There’s nothing to lose, anyway. She jumps straight in and races after the competitors. The spectators are initially angry at Cathy gatecrashing the race, but they soon start cheering at her amazing speed, how she’s narrowing the gap and “going through them like a hot knife through butter” – and doing it barefoot! And this time, Cathy beats Helen.

Of course, Cathy’s win isn’t official, so the medal goes to Helen. But it’s a hollow victory for her because she’s been beaten at last, and Cathy is the hero of the event. She’s made her point, gotten Mrs Mirren’s attention, and soon explains what her parents did. Mrs Mirren replies that she guessed as much. Mrs Mirren not only takes over Helen’s training but her welfare too, so Cathy leaves her horrible parents forever. Sadly, Speed’s still in their clutches, and Cathy can only hope he wins enough to keep safe from ill-treatment.

Thoughts

This story was published in the weeks leading up to the June merge with Tammy on 22 June 1974 and ended, along with all the other running Tammy serials, the week before the merger. Yet it does not give the impression it is intended as a filler story, even if it was. The length of eight episodes feels right, and the pacing is good. Nothing feels rushed or underdeveloped. It would have worked well as a reprint in an annual somewhere.

Common Cathy was one of many serials to follow the Cinderella format, but it does have some differences from the formula, which makes it refreshing. The main one is that there is no wicked stepsister/cousin who gets the lion’s share in everything at the expense of our ill-used Cinderella protagonist. Instead, there’s a dog who gets the lion’s share of the food expense, but he’s far from spoiled. In fact, he’s as liable to be as ill-treated as Cathy herself. He’s only there for profit and income, and the parents don’t care any more for him than they do for Cathy. His racing is the only means of income for the parents, who are too lazy to work, but his winnings are subject to hit and miss, and he suffers if it’s a miss. And he serves not only as Cathy’s friend but also in helping her to become the speedster that she hopes will be her salvation from her miserable life. 

Cathy does not seem to be as much of a drudge as other Cinderella protagonists, such as Bella Barlow. For example, we don’t see her being forced to do all the work her parents are too lazy to do. The drudgery seems to be more focused on training Speed, as her father is too lazy to do it, and getting the leavings of the food expense. She is also very innovative in how she makes up for the poor diet she gets at home, so she is not underfed as some Cinderella protagonists are. But there is no question she is not well treated, and the RSPCA ought to have serious concerns about Speed too. 

The parents’ nickname, “the smelly Sampsons”, sure makes us laugh. It’s not quite clear if it’s their B.O., their slum house or what, but there is no denying they are stinkers in everything they say and do. They would live better than they do if they made their own income instead of depending on Speed’s racing, but they are too lazy for that. It’s surprising they are not involved in any criminal activities, given the type of people they are. 

Again, we have abusive parents that are not punished in any way for how they treated Cathy. But what’s even more concerning is that they still have Speed. Mrs Mirren has seen for herself that they mistreat the dog, but nothing is done in that regard. Being left on the hope Speed will win enough to stay safe is not very reassuring, especially as Cathy is no longer there to train him. The story would have ended on a much happier note if Speed had been removed from his abusive owners and maybe come along with Cathy.

A race to win is always an exciting resolution to any serial, and making it unofficial, with Cathy crashing the race out of desperation rather than being officially entered, makes it even more so. Seeing Helen seething over a hollow victory and a medal that means nothing while Cathy is cheered as the real winner gives us a whole lot more satisfaction than seeing Cathy claim an official victory and the medal. Moreover, Cathy not being officially entered in the race gives Helen no time for dirty tricks, as she’s been taken by surprise. Readers would be reading Cathy’s race to win over and over. 

Tammy 10 November 1979

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Temper, Temper Tina! (artist Giorgio Giorgetti) – final episode

Sarita in Uniform (artist Diane Gabbot(t))

The Fire’s Warning (artist Tony Highmore) – Guy Fawkes Strange Story

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

Molly Mills and the School for Servants – first episode (artist Douglas Perry, Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)

My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Guitar Girl (artist Angeles Felices) – final episode

Spring To It! – Edie’s Hobbyhorse

We now come to the Tammy Guy Fawkes issue for 1979. This was the last Guy Fawkes cover for the Cover Girls. This time the following year, they were gone.

Inside, Bessie, Wee Sue, Edie, the Strange Story and the Tammy Talk page all honour the 5th of November. Even the last episode of Guitar Girl does the same, but in a more frightening way. The spiteful Sabrina tries to burn Jacey’s guitar on the bonfire climaxing the birthday party they are both entertaining at. Jacey nearly gets herself burned alive clambering the bonfire to retrieve it! 

Tina’s story ends, with her learning that trying to conceal her family (in a derelict house?!) was a very foolish, misguided way to keep them from being split up when her mother fell ill, and her actions were only bringing her troubles on herself. Once everyone helps her to handle the problem the right way, everything is far better for her, including the temper that has been her bane since the beginning of the story. 

Sarita in Uniform is evidently nearing its end, for her secret is out! What’s going to happen now? Meanwhile, Bella dodges another close shave in keeping her own secret safe, but here comes another threat to it – blackmail!

Molly Mills starts a new story, “The School for Servants”. What school for servants? So far we haven’t see any school for servants, just some new guests at Stanton Hall – but Molly suspects there’s something odd about them. 

Just when Moira and Lindy have sorted out their misunderstanding, along comes another one – Moira thinks Lindy’s tricked her into a lousy kitchen job on the ship. Oh dear, here we go again – one very angry Moira out to make trouble for Lindy! Is Moira going to be “My Terrible Twin” for Lindy with all these misunderstandings right up until the final episode? It could well be the case.

Tammy 3 November 1979

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)

Sarita in Uniform (artist Diane Gabbot(t))

Temper, Temper, Tina! (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

Molly Mills and the Gipsy’s Curse – final episode (artist Douglas Perry, Maureen Spurgeon)

The Sea Dragon – Strange Story (artist Julio Bosch)

Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Guitar Girl (artist Angeles Felices)

Tuck-In with Tammy – feature 

For Halloween, we profile the Tammy Halloween issue for 1979 (though it is dated Novemer and not October). It is the last time the Cover Girls celebrate Halloween on the cover. This time the following year, they were gone. 

Inside, Wee Sue and Bessie Bunter are going to Halloween parties. Things don’t exactly go without a hitch for either of them, but everything works out in the end. Less so for Edie, who goes to a Halloween party in a cat costume but finds herself being chased by dogs! Molly’s tale, “The Gipsy’s Curse”, has a spooky theme to it, which adds to the Halloween theme. Gipsies have put a spell on Pickering to make him do what they want, but now it’s making him too nice for his own good. Molly decides Pickering has to be returned to normal, bullying and all. 

The Storyteller could have gone with a Halloween theme, but instead he gives a cautionary tale about not meddling with things you don’t understand. Two sisters on the island of Cumba resurrect the costume of the Sea Dragon of Cumba, ignoring warnings that they don’t understand its power or what it is supposed to be used for – which is not exactly for attracting the tourism their father wants.

Guitar Girl Jacey Jones also has a party theme. She has been hired to entertain at a posh girl’s birthday party but soon discovers it’s no party for her. The snobbish mother disapproves of her presence and – horrors! – has hired her nasty arch-rival Sabrina to entertain as well! If that weren’t bad enough, Sabrina pulls a dirty trick on Jacey to make her look a thief and snobby mum’s screaming for the police. How can Jacey prove her innocence? 

Bella has been fostered by a rich couple, but they have a real thing about gymnastics for some reason, which is the mystery of the story. Their disapproval has driven her to go to a gymnastics club behind their backs, under a false name, but this week Bella’s jealous rivals at the club have found her out. Uh-oh, looks like blackmail is about to be added to Bella’s problems.

“Temper, Temper, Tina!”, now on its penultimate episode, and “Sarita in Uniform” also have girls driven to do things in secret. Sarita, a gypsy girl, is going to school behind her gypsy guardians’ backs. They don’t approve of education or even gypsy traditions. Tina, a brilliant athlete with a short fuse, has been dodging school for ages. But why is she doing it, and where has she been in all that time? Everyone’s about to find out in the final episode next week, as things are clearly coming to a head now. 

“My Terrible Twin” is the sequel to an earlier serial by the same name. Moira and Lindy are fraternal twins. In the first story (reprinted by popular demand in 1984), Lindy was the terrible twin. She had served time for shoplifting but had still not reformed or learned responsibility, with the long-suffering Moira trying to keep her on the straight and narrow. But this time the terrible twin is Moira, who accidentally winds up on the ship where Lindy has a job and is playing tricks Lindy because she mistakenly thinks Lindy has developed a snobby attitude over her job. And, as the story carries on, this proves to be only the beginning of a long line of misunderstandings that have Moira making Lindy’s life a misery.

Tammy 20 August 1983

Cover artist: John Armstrong

Namby Pamby (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Ian Mennell)

Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)

Welcome, Stranger! (artist Douglas Perry, writer Chris Harris) – Pony Tale

Room for Rosie (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Alison Christie)

Holiday Miss Title! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – Quiz 

Fate – or Fortune? (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – complete story

The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)

Backhand Play (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Ian Mennell)

Make Your Mind Up, Maggie (artist Juliana Buch)

Pretty Tidy (Chris Lloyd) – feature 

We had this issue before, but the post disappeared for some reason. So here it is again for 1983 issue in our Tammy August month round. 

Inside is one of the most historic moments in the saga of Bella Barlow – the moment when her arch-antagonists, Jed and Gert Barlow, make their final bow and disappear from her strip for good. We never thought we’d see the day. This was an astonishing move for Tammy to take, and we have to wonder what was behind it. Did ye Editor get tired of them or something? Anyway, good riddance to them. Our only regret is that although they had their karmic low points (including prison), they were never really punished for their treatment of Bella. 

In our other stories, Pam’s ridiculously overprotective mother does it again in “Namby Pamby”. The moment she hears Pam’s in a swimming match, she races to the pool, barrelling through the crowd and screaming hysterics, just because she thinks her precious little baby’s catching a chill. Oh, for crying out loud! Pauline Wheeler thinks she’s found “Room for Rosie” pretty quickly, but the new home falls through, so back to square one. No doubt this will be the first in a long string of failed homes before Rosie finds the One. “Backhand Play” is now on its penultimate episode, and it sets the stage for the final one: showdown between the tennis club and their backhand-playing tennis officer, Terry Knightly’s uncle, who’s now making an utter mockery of tennis. And the complications over juggling between riding and ballet get even worse for Maggie in “Make Your Mind Up, Maggie”.

Tammy’s complete stories are now the Button Box series, a Pony Tale series, and a self-contained complete story, a number of which had a supernatural theme. Some of them were reprints of Strange Stories, others were totally new and credited, giving us insight as to who might have written the spooky completes of the past.

Tammy 28 August 1982

Cover artist: John Armstrong

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

Saving Grace (artist Juliana Buch, writer Ian Mennell)

Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Malcolm Shaw)

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

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

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

Camping Sights (Mari L’Anson)

Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode

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

Treasures from the Seashore (Chris Lloyd) – feature

For 1982 in our Tammy August month round, we profile the final issue in that month. It’s the seventh issue since the new look Tammy was launched. The credits, a little uneven in the relaunch issue, now seem to have been ironed out more. As with a new comic, the relaunch is a little experimental, with some stories and features quickly canned and replacements tried, while other stories prove to be popular and played for all they’re worth. 

A new Mario Capaldi story, “Cross on Court”, replaces his previous one, “Come Back Bindi”. Bindi was Jenny McDade’s swansong; it only lasted six episodes when it could have been played for longer. Was it meant to be short, or did it get cut short for some reason? “A Gran for the Gregorys”, a story I liked, lasted eight episodes (ending next issue), but I felt it could have had more episodes and ended too soon. Nanny Young’s story ends this week, presumably to make way for something else, but she returns later.

“Saving Grace” and “Slave of the Clock” are definite hits, and the latter is remembered as a classic. The current Bella story had me hooked when it appeared; Bella loses her memory, and the unscrupulous Barlows are taking advantage of course. Interestingly, it was written by Malcolm Shaw, whereas all the other credited Bella stories were written by Primrose Cumming. “A Horse Called September”, an adaptation of the book by the same name, started later than the relaunch. It is guaranteed to be a smash with Anne Digby as the writer and the gorgeous equestrian artwork of Eduardo Feito. The Pam of Pond Hill story has a story arc that will keep it going for quite a while, and with a secret saboteur as the antagonist, it will definitely keep readers riveted. 

Tammy and Misty 1 August 1981

Cover artist: John Armstrong

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

The Breaking of Faith (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Wee Sue (artist Mike White)

Linda’s Fox (artist and writer Ron Tiner) – final episode

Are You Set for Summer? (artist John Johnston, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz

The Look of Things (artist Jaume Rumeu) – Strange Story from the Mists

Tune-in (pop and TV gossip feature)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

No Love for Lindy (artist Eduardo Feito) – first episode

Stella Stirrer (artist Tony Coleman)

For the first Tammy issue for August 1981, Bella takes over the cover spot after Sandy finished last week. Oh dear, no sooner is Bella back on the cover when she’s really put her foot in it by thinking circus tricks (learned from the circus she is staying at) would impress the judges at a gymnastics competition. Now she realises it was one of her worst mistakes, never, ever to be repeated. It not only makes her lose badly but also causes terrible trouble when the audience reacts angrily to the marking. Still, anyone who’s read Bella for long enough will know that when a competition goes badly for her, it means she’s about to undergo a new course in plot direction. Sure enough, somebody comes to the circus wanting to speak to her. Whether for good or bad, it’s definitely the upcoming plot change. 

Bessie’s appearances have grown more intermittent since the Misty merger, but she appears this week. Stackers has the pupils making calendars for a sale of work, but soon finds out Bessie is about as good at making calendars as she is at classwork. 

Tammy’s August issues always had a focus on getting us primed for summer and holidays. Sure enough, her first August issue for 1981 has a summer quiz. The Strange Story from the Mists has a holiday theme, with the Carstairs family on holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, daughter Geraldine is spoiling things with her rudeness towards anything or anyone she does not consider attractive. She even throws a stone at a tortoise, calling it “such an ugly-looking brute”. Geraldine’s parents don’t look like they are doing much to crack down on her conduct, but punishment comes, of course. Geraldine is cursed to see nothing but the face of a mysterious old lady she didn’t find attractive. The curse lifts by the time Geraldine returns home, but it would surely have been otherwise if the story had appeared in the original Misty. August is also time for shopping. Wee Sue goes Christmas shopping in August while she has the money, but eventually she uses her Christmas shopping to help some hard-up kids who want to celebrate a birthday, and they hold an August Christmas birthday party. Now, that’s the Christmas spirit! And Tammy is offering holiday coupons.

The new story, “No Love for Lindy”, looks like it could be following similar lines to Sandy Rawlings; perhaps it is the same writer. As with Sandy, the protagonist (Lindy Allen) tells her own story and there’s a boyfriend figure. He’s the only thing making staying at the Westons (who turned out to be no better than the countless failed foster families Lindy’s had already) worthwhile. 

“Linda’s Fox”, written and drawn by Ron Tiner, finishes this week. It sounds like writing a girls’ story was a new experience for Tiner, but he did very well on it, and it must have been a popular story. It was one of my favourites, anyway. The ending is well crafted and thought out in how it handles the clearing of Linda’s father, what happens once he’s out, and keeping Linda’s friendship with Ross the fox intertwined. Tiner ought to be proud of it. Its replacement next week is a repeat of a popular 1976 Giorgio Giorgetti story, “Tag Along Tania”.

Speaking of Giorgetti, his current story, “The Breaking of Faith”, is now on its penultimate episode. Faith discovers the truth about her friend Claire after (finally) checking things out at the home Claire was staying at. Now she has to decide what to do. Her decision will certainly involve what to do about Claire running away, terrified of her finding out the truth.

“Stella Stirrer” saves her friend Katie from drowning in the school swimming pool although she can’t swim. Later, she’s back to stirring things up for snobby Harriet when she discovers Harriet has stolen the credit for the rescue!

Tammy & Misty 16 August 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong) – final episode

Running Rosie Lee (artist José Casanovas)

Cut-Glass Crystal (artist Tony Coleman)

Golly! It’s Pressie Time! – Competition 

The Loneliest Girl in the World (artist Jaume Rumeu)

Wee Sue (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)

Molly Mills and the Green-fingered Runaway (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode

Edie and Miss T – (artist Joe Collins)

The House Mouse (artist Mario Capaldi) – Strange Story from the Mists (Part 2 of 2)

Plain as Pearl (artist Juliana Buch)

Now we come to 1980 in the Tammy August month round. In this issue, Tammy has some Golly giveaways to celebrate Golly’s 50th. How times have changed for Golly in increasingly PC times since then.

Bella concludes her bid to reach the Moscow Olympics. A shipwreck brings it all to a head, putting her in hospital with a busted ankle, so no Moscow. That’s the second time poor Bella has missed out on the Olympics, and unlike her Montreal story she didn’t even get there this time. Maybe a rebooted Bella will finally get to compete at the Olympics. At least the rescuers brought her back to Britain for treatment, so she’s home and no longer stranded in the US. We’re promised a new story next week while Bella is recuperating. 

In Molly’s new story, it’s time for Lord Stanton’s summer fete. We are introduced to Charlie’s sister Cathy, who has run away from a harsh orphanage, and the police are hunting for her. Molly and Charlie are very surprised when she turns up at the fete, helping Lord Stanton’s gardener. Oh boy, this is going make for one very interesting fete! 

Since Misty joined, several Strange Stories from the Mists have appeared in two or three parts. The current two-parter, “The House Mouse”, has to be the most frightening of them all and is guaranteed to stick with you for years to come (it does me!). The House Mouse is far from a cute, cuddly mouse – it is an evil, possessed monster that drives off prospective buyers of its fanatical master’s house with “accidents”, outright attacks and even murder, as he has vowed the house will never leave his family.

There are a lot of “court” jokes and puns in this week’s Wee Sue story when Miss Bigger ropes Sue into helping her with tennis practice. This ends up “courting” trouble. Ultimately, they find themselves more successful at cricket. 

In a later issue ye Editor informs us “Plain as Pearl” is a very popular story, and there is a lot in it to make it so. Pearl Kent has taken a job as a model to raise money for her sick mother’s holiday. Trouble is, she has to do it in secret because she senses Clare, the daughter of the foster family she is staying with, will be jealous. The secrecy is leading to problems of course, like Pearl not having a guardian’s consent for the job.

“Running Rosie Lee” turns into the bionic woman once she’s had a cup of tea, to the consternation of the snobs at her new boarding school. But this week it is established that the tea must be stirred, or failing that, shaken to get things going.

Karen Chalmers, “The Loneliest Girl in the World”, doesn’t know where she’s coming or going with the weird things that are happening to her, except now confirming that her parents are indeed robot imposters. But all this does is get her committed to a psychiatric hospital. The robot parents say she must never discover the truth, even if she has to stay at the hospital all her life. Now what can the truth be, and is it connected with her nightmares about her house burning down and nobody left except her?

Cut-Glass Crystal is finding out – the hard way – why her mother refused to come to Dad’s hometown of Pitedge after his business collapsed. Pitedge is worlds away from the upbringing she has had, adapting to life in Pitedge is hard for her, the house they live in doesn’t even have proper commodities, she doesn’t fit in, and now she doesn’t even know her own father anymore. Instead of being sympathetic and trying to help – or even grateful Crystal chose to come with him when Mum didn’t – he’s become very harsh with her. Can things possibly sort themselves out, or did Crystal’s mother have the right idea? 

Tammy 4 August 1979

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

The Stand-in (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Proud as Punch (artist Tony Coleman)

The Happiest Days (artist Mario Capaldi)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

Molly Mills and the Charleston Contest (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode

Pictures from the Past (artist Audrey Fawley) – Strange Story

Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)

The Wolf at Our Door (artist Bob Harvey)

Edie’s Hobbyhorse: Why Not Make a Shell Collage – feature 

For 1979 in our Tammy August month round, there is a particular reason for profiling this August issue. At times, Tammy made in-jokes about the Tammy team, and the cover makes reference to comic book artist Mario Capaldi coming from a family of ice-cream vendors. Is the ice-cream man on the cover Mario Capaldi? Maybe someone can enlighten us. At any rate, there is a resemblance to Mario the ice-cream man, drawn by Capaldi himself, in a “Life’s a Ball for Nadine” episode. The episode appeared Jinty 27 December 1980.

The cover also brings a seaside flavour to the issue. This ties in with the craft feature on the back cover (making a shell collage) and the Wee Sue story. Miss Bigger informs the class that “an important coastal company have appointed me as their chairman!” Translation: she’s taken an extra job as a deckchair attendant. Too bad for her Wee Sue was taking a holiday at the same beach. Hijinks ensue, of course, but things end happily for them both. Two serials, “Proud as Punch” and “The Stand-in”, also tie in with the seaside/holiday theme. Perhaps they were published for the very purpose.

We mentioned Mario Capaldi a moment ago, and his current Tammy serial is “The Happiest Days”. It’s an evil influence story, except it’s played for laughs instead of scares, which makes it different. A frightful portrait of a school founder casts such a pall over a school it’s the most miserable school in Britain. The school is due to close because of falling numbers, but how to recruit more pupils with that portrait around?

Molly Mills’ new story is actually the second Molly story titled “The Charleston Contest”. The first appeared in the Thewenetti era. In the first, Molly enters a Charleston Contest to win money for her family (with Betty and Kitty playing dirty tricks, but there’s a last minute surprise save from Pickering). This time, Molly’s doing the Charleston Contest for the crippled Miss Claire.

Bessie’s also being a performer this week, in honour of Stackers’ birthday. Her conjuring act is a real performance, with some things not going quite right, but in the end she pulls one out of her hat. Of course her best trick is making food disappear. 

The Bob Harvey story, “A Wolf at Our Door”, now hits its climax. Jenny discovers who is trying to help her with the wolf pack – the aristocratic Rowena Rufley – and why. It’s because of an ancient prophecy. And now it looks like the prophecy is coming true. 

This week’s Strange Story (below) has a modern photographer meet a Victorian one. The artwork is by the ever-popular Audrey Fawley.

Bella is being fostered by the rich Courtney-Pikes, and it’s nice to see her being spoiled and loved for a change. But when they try to turn her into a lady…well, Eliza Doolittle had nothing on Bella, especially as she can’t resist any opportunity to break into gymnastics!

Tammy 12 August 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

Vision of Vanity Fayre (artist Mario Capaldi) – final episode

Maggie’s Menagerie (artist Tony Coleman)

Double – or Nothing! (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

The Juicy Mackerel (artist Peter Wilkes) – Strange Story

Wee Sue (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)

A Bus in the Family (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Heraldry – Edie’s Hobbyhorse

Now we come to 1978 in our August Tammy month round, with one of my favourite Tammy covers. 

“Your future’s assured” says the cover, but not for Bella in introducing gymnastics to Port Tago, Australia. The way things are going, she must have wondered if she should have stayed home. And now, just when things finally seem to be looking up, an enemy strikes. They tried to sabotage Bella’s public demonstration, and now they’ve sent her a death threat, telling her to get out of Port Tago, or else! 

Currently, there is no Molly Mills (she returns in the following issue), which was a definite change after her artist changed from Tony Thewenetti to Douglas Perry. In the Thewenetti run, Molly appeared without pause from the first issue of Tammy to the end of Thewenetti’s run on 20 August 1977. But when Perry took over on 31 December 1977, Molly took more breaks until the end of her run in 1981 (barring her spot appearances in the “Old Friends” strip in 1982). This would have given some relief to the readers who did not like her so much and allowed more room for serials. 

In the Strange Story, you wouldn’t think a fish could help a man escape? It does when he gets pressganged and his twin sister comes to the rescue after sensing his danger through the twin link. 

Tony Coleman is drawing his second story for Tammy. Maggie Crown is living on her gran’s barge while her parents are away. Animal-loving Maggie is accumulating a secret hoard of stray animals on the barge – what a thing to hide on a barge! As gran is no animal lover, the fur will really fly if she finds out, and that can only be a matter of time.

“Vision of Vanity Fayre” concludes, and a TV production crew are free to carry on with the shoot of the life of a famous authoress without interference from the monstrous conduct of the authoress, which was threatening to destroy it. It turns out she was an imposter (surprise, surprise!) who was holding the real authoress a virtual prisoner while profiteering from her fame. And talking of TV, it leads to trouble for Bessie this week, who ends up under punishment again.

As nobody will partner with Kate Winter because of her terrible temper, she has roped Pam Doggett into a doubles team with her. This week they go into action, but Pam’s insufficient training and constant arguing with Kate are having predictable results. At least someone sees Pam does have potential as a tennis player, but with the way things are going, would Pam be better off in the singles?

Rosie Banks’ father is taking her class on a continental tour in the bus he’s just bought. Things aren’t going smoothly, sometimes in hilarious ways, sometimes in more serious ones. This week it’s really serious, as the brakes suddenly fail, and at the worst possible location – the Pyrenees. Adding to the seriousness is the mystery of why the previous owner, Dodger Wilkins, is so determined to get it back and sent his flunky after it. Is there more to the bus than meets the eye? At least Rose is alerted to his shadowing this week.

Sue enters a sponsored cycle race, but there is a cheat pulling dirty tricks on her. Sue decides to pull her own trick on the cheat, who ends up taking a well-deserved dunking. 

Tammy 20 August 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Sharon’s Shadow (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – Strange Story serial – first episode

Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)

Molly Mills – the final episode (artist Tony Thewenetti)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

Maisie of Mo Town (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Shadow of the Fire God (artist Manuel Benet) – Strange Story

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Wee Sue (artist Mike White)

Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi)

Now we come to 1977 in our August Tammy month round. And there’s another reason to bring out this August issue – it is the issue with the final episode (below) of Molly Mills. Yes, the great Molly Mills debate has finally come to a head. On the letters page (below), ye Editor makes an open call for letters – with monetary incentives of course – on whether or not to bring her back. But really, this would have been a whole lot more fair and representative of readers’ wants if the final episode had ended with a definitive conclusion (Molly sailing off to India with the others). Indeed, if this really was to be Molly’s final bow, they should have done that. Instead, it’s a tantalising cliffhanger (Pickering’s infamous frame-up of Molly at the docks, which makes her a fugitive, on the run from the law). This would surely have skewed the response from readers in favour of Molly’s return, to see how she sorts out her predicament. Indeed, ye Editor later informs us that the response was overwhelmingly in favour of Molly’s return, and return she did, on 31 December 1977. Would the response have been the same if Molly had been given a proper send-off? Incidentally, seeing as Molly returned with a different artist (Douglas Perry), I suspect the clincher for this sudden end of Molly was not the Molly Mills debate – it was Tony Thewenetti no longer able to continue with Molly for some reason. 

Meanwhile, Bella is at a Russian gymnastics school on a scholarship, and it’s good to see she’s getting a lot out of it this time (last time she was at a Russian gymnastics school, she was wrongly expelled before she’d hardly begun). Of course the school not without problems, and boy, does her strict Russian coach have a face to remember! John Armstrong must have had a great time drawing inspiration from gargoyles or something. This week, Bella loses her memory after an accident in the gym and strays from the school. 

Tammy takes us into the world of politics with the new Strange Story serial, “Sharon’s Shadow”. Joe Brown, outraged by the rundown housing conditions in Leechester, which led to the death of his grandfather, is running for MP so he can turn things around. But his chances of election could come under threat when his sister Sharon challenges a witch’s curse at her grave and then has a strange accident there. Never, ever, challenge the supernatural, Sharon. Meanwhile, in the regular Strange Story, the horrors of human sacrifice in pre-Christian days threaten to resurface with an erupting volcano, and superstition and hysteria get the better of people.

In “Maisie in Mo Town”, it’s been a barrel of laughs (though maybe a bit un-PC today) with Maisie pretending to increasingly exasperated kidnappers that she’s a dumb wild girl from Africa who doesn’t know the first thing about civilisation and can only speak pidgin English. But now things take a very serious turn as the kidnappers make plans to smuggle her out of the country. To this end, they lock her in the attic, ready for someone to collect at midnight!

“Daughter of the Regiment” Tessa Mason has recruited a gang of mudlarks to help clear her father, who was shot for cowardice at the Charge of the Light Brigade. But one, Dick, has been bribed to help lead her into a trap! And Melanie has recruited her own gang, “Melanie’s Mob”, to train as athletes. Dad would have a fit if he knew they were the Canal Mob, and now someone has reported something to the police about it.

At a regatta, Stackers is finding a mermaid costume problematic, and it leads to hijinks. In the final panel, Bessie doesn’t think much of mermaid costumes either, as she can’t raid the grub in the one she’s forced to wear.  

Nobody in class believes Miss Bigger when she shoots a big line about how her big WAAF days in World War II helped to win the Battle of Britain. So nobody’s surprised when she comes unstuck at a Battle of Britain exhibition at a flying club: “Bigger? We had a waitress of that name in the mess. Butter-fingers Bigger we used to call her…she was always dropping the crockery.” Miss Bigger’s looking very red, and then she’s green, as she can’t take a flight in a WWII plane without feeling airsick. The real heroics belong to Sue, who scares off robbers at the club with a phoney WWII bomb.