Tag Archives: John Johnston

Wee Sue (1972-1982)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 to 20 May 1972

Tammy 27 October 1973 to 21 November 1981

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The history of the Bigger family

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

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

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

How the Allies won WW2 according to Miss Bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tammy 24 September 1977

Tammy cover 24 September 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eye of the Beholder 1

Eye of the Beholder 2

Eye of the Beholder 3

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.

Princess II, #18, 21 January 1984

Princess cover 18

  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Ghostly Ballerina (photo story) – final episode
  • Fairy Tale (artist Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?)) – final episode
  • School of Dark Secrets (artist Carlos Cruz)
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Lena Lends a Hand… (artist John Johnston) – complete story

Issue 18 was the last Princess II to use the Girl II format and newsprint that the series had used since #1. From #19, Princess II switched to the same format, newsprint and page count as Tammy. She dropped the photo stories and the colour pages and became an exclusively picture story comic like Tammy. In so doing, she broke away from being the sister comic to Girl II and became more like the sister comic to Tammy, though she did not say so. She hailed the new look as “great news”, but it was clearly anything but. In fact, it was a sign that she was in trouble and cutting costs. This is particularly telling in her reprinting old serials from Tammy and Jinty. Years later these reprints had the benefit of enabling some of the original artwork from IPC girls’ comics to survive, of which very little has. But at the time, a new comic falling back on reprints from older titles was a very, very bad sign.

Princess great news

As Princess II drops the photo stories this issue, naturally this is the last episode of “The Ghostly Ballerina”. Clare finds a way to lay the troublesome ghost of Arabella Hood and free herself from Arabella’s power: create a ballet about Arabella’s life to give her the fame that her premature death deprived her of.

Also ending this issue is “Fairy Tale”, our tale of mixed-up fairy tales. It gets even crazier with a genie who grants two wishes instead of three, and he is so deaf he often mishears your wishes – to the cost of the evil Morgana when she calls upon him for wishes. The greedy Angie does not emerge from the adventure much improved once the girls return home, though she does get a comeuppance for it.

“Lena Lends a Hand…”, the complete story, is clearly a filler story to mark time until the whole new lineup begins in the new look Princess next issue. Lena tries to follow the Brownie motto and lend a hand one Saturday, but her efforts always keep going wrong – until she unwittingly lends a hand to catch a thief.

Judy Marshall is beginning to unravel the mystery of “The School of Dark Secrets”. The school staff are in some sort of secret occult, and they say their thirteenth sister has arrived, which completes the coven. They are referring to a portrait, and when Judy gets a look at it, she finds it is of a girl who looks just like her!

Grovel is taking delight in spooking everyone with the ventriloquism he has learned from a book. But it isn’t long before Sadie learns to fight fire with fire.

A club called the Treetoppers has formed around Sheena’s treehouse. But someone is spying on them. Is it the snobby Beverley Sneed, who’s already suspicious, or someone else? Sheena soon finds that somebody has definitely been around the treehouse, and they’ve stolen her bike too.

Tammy Annual 1986

Tammy annual 1986

  • Cover artist: Mario Capaldi
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic (feature)
  • The Bell – Strange Story (artist Jaume Rumeu aka Homero Romeu)
  • Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Wish Upon a Star (feature)
  • The Black and White World of Shirley Grey (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Jake Adams?)
  • Party Pieces (feature)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Yule Tide – text story (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Snow – poem (writer Deborah Pfeiffer)
  • What’s Your Resolution? (quiz)
  • Sally’s Secret – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Animal Magic
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Second Sight – Button Box story in text (artist John Johnston, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Animal Magic
  • ‘Make It’ a Great Year! (feature)
  • Flutter by, Butterfly! (feature)
  • Sweet Eats (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Snowy, the Christmas Snowman (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Molly Mills and the Sporting Life (artist Douglas Perry)

This was the last Tammy annual, with a gorgeous cover from Mario Capaldi. Capaldi had illustrated several covers for the Jinty annual and one for the Misty annual, but this was his first – and last – cover for the Tammy annual. Could it well be the last cover Capaldi ever produced for any girls’ annual as well? By this time the IPC girls’ titles had faded and DCT had taken more of a centre stage.

Pam of Pond Hill leads off the annual with her last Christmas story. Pam and Goof are sent to collect the Christmas tree for the school. Sounds simple and foolproof? Pam and Goof find out it’s anything but.

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Pam 1 Pam 2Pam 3Pam 4

The two text stories, “Yule Tide” and “Second Sight” take the unusual step of crediting the writer, Ian D. Mennell. “Second Sight” is unique for being the only Button Box story ever published as a text story, and it is a story that I have always enjoyed. Carmal, an Oriental girl, starts out as a selfish rich girl. Not surprising, considering that her uncle is a rogue. She mistreats a blind busker by putting buttons in his bowl instead of coins. But karma strikes when the uncle’s victims take a revenge attack that leaves Carmal blind and alone, and she is taken in by the very same busker she had mistreated. She learns his trade, and also learns what it is like to have mean people throw worthless rubbish in your busking bowl instead of money. In the process she becomes a more considerate and kind person – and so has the uncle, once he has tracked her down.

Meanwhile, Capaldi’s picture Button Box story is about a housemaid who hates her job because she is an outdoor type. When she foils a robber (realising he left a loose button from his jacket at the scene of the crime), it opens up a new career for her as a policewoman and enjoying the great outdoors on the beat.

Talking of housemaids, the last Molly Mills annual story reprints “The Sporting Life”, an annual sports event between the villagers and the Stanton Hall staff. Normally the villagers get on well with Stanton Hall, but when it comes to sports day it is far from a friendly match. It’s a needle event, and the needles are sharper than usual because the villagers have Olympic hopefuls on their team, and then spoilsport Pickering bans the staff from training after he gets caught up in mishaps from it.

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molly1molly2molly3

The poem “Snow” is also given a credit. The writer is Deborah Pfeiffer. This is the only work in Tammy credited to Pfeiffer.

The reprints are taken from 1981, including Diane Gabbot’s second-to-last Tammy story, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”. The original run had the honour of starting in Tammy’s 10th birthday issue. Shirley Grey refuses to tell lies in the wake of an accident she irrationally blames herself for. But Shirley is taking it to such extremes that she refuses to tell even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. You can imagine what that leads to, and it starts with the boss’s wife asking Shirley what she thinks of her dress (which is hideous!).

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shirley 1 shirley 2shirley 3

The annual is the one that stops the Bessie Bunter appearances. I find this a bit sad as I have always been a big fan of Bessie. Maybe there was no room for Bessie, or the editors decided she had had her day? If they did, it may reflect what happened in the regular comic. Bessie’s days became numbered in 1980 after Tammy swallowed Misty. During the merger Bessie was demoted from regular appearances to “from time to time” appearances while Wee Sue and Molly were still going strong.

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bella

The Bella story is more intriguing in that Tammy is taking a serious attempt to giving the colouring more of a 3-D look in the use of the hues and tones. In the previous annuals this was only applied to skin toning, but now it is being applied to everything. The story has Bella losing her confidence because she is under a cloud that she won a medal by default when her rival withdrew. Bella’s coach is handling her badly, which only makes matters worse. But of course things turn around and it ends with Bella all set to make the coach eat his words. And it’s nice to see Bella’s last annual story focus on her gymnastics and not the machinations of Jed and Gert, which were the most frequent basis of Bella’s annual stories.

In the last Wee Sue story in the annual, Sue’s final word is “’bye!.” I wonder if this is meant to be a double meaning as this is the last-ever Tammy annual, and this particular reprint chosen for this reason.

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sue 1sue 2sue 3a

Tammy Annual 1985

Tammy annual 1985

  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Animal Magic
  • The Town Crier – Strange Story (artist John Johnston)
  • Fun Time
  • Animal Magic
  • Molly Mills and the Festive Season (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Are You Really Nice to Know? (quiz)
  • Animal Magic
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Indian Blanket – Strange Story (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • The Price of Fame – text story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • The Crazyees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Stick with Us! (feature)
  • Fun Time
  • A Girl Called Steve (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Be a “Wise Owl” and Decorate a Plant Pot (feature)
  • Christmas Exchange – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Lend a Helping Hand (feature)
  • Choose Chocolate (feature)
  • Who’s a Pretty Boy, Then? (feature)
  • Odds and Ends (feature)
  • Polar Bears and Arctic Hares – feature (artist John Johnston)
  • Fun Time
  • Animal Magic
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Be a Cover Girl! (feature)
  • Hidden Melody – Strange Story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)

Continuing the theme of Pam’s appearances in the Tammy annual, this Pam story takes a break from the Christmas theme where everything’s gearing up for a Christmas celebration but fate threatens to throw a Grinch into the works. Instead, the story focuses on exam nerves. It’s the history exam that’s the biggest worry of all for Pam, and considering that she has never been strong academically, what will the results be?

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This annual is the last Tammy annual to have Bessie Bunter. One story has a guest appearance from Billy Bunter (below), so at least Bessie ends on a high. Meanwhile, this is the first annual to have The Button Box, and the button Bev selects tells an anti-fox hunting story and a harsh squire who is shocked into changing his ways after his fox traps nearly kill his own niece.

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The serial reprinted for the 1985 annual is the 1979 story, “A Girl Called Steve” (short for Stephanie). It’s a mystery story, but is unusual in that Steve gets two mysteries to solve, one after the other. The first comes when Steve joins her father’s archaeological dig in the caves at Clambourne Bay. Even on the journey up there, it becomes blatantly obvious that there are some very sinister types out to scare her away. Things get even worse when the superstitious locals tell Steve that the Acum (a monster said to haunt the cave) has cursed the village in retaliation for the archaeological dig, and they join the campaign to get rid of Steve and her father. But is there really a monster behind it all, or is whatever in the caves more to do with human greed? Once the Clambourne mystery is solved and Steve returns home, she soon embarks on mystery number two when the council wants to bulldoze the old tram lines and weird things start happening there.

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In the Bella story, Jed and Gert embark on one of their most idiotic dodges to make money – Gert running aerobics classes, despite the fact that she is overweight, out of condition, has no training or qualifications, and is no spring chicken. But it’s poor Bella who ends up carrying the can and fleeing the angry aerobics class once they realise they’ve been conned. However, this is Christmas, so the Bella story has to resolve that way.

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The text stories are new, but the reprints increase. The Christmas-themed Molly story is a repeat. It looks like nowhere for the Stantons to have Christmas because Pickering wrecked the hall by lighting a match in a kitchen full of gas. Claire suggests London’s East End where Molly’s family are, but are the Stantons too posh for a Cockney party? The Wee Sue stories and Strange Stories are more repeats. And it could be the cover is a reprint as well, possibly taken from Princess Tina, as the Katy covers were. Still, the annual and its content are solid and can be read again and again.

Tammy Annual 1984

Tammy annual 1984

  • Cover: John Richardson
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Fun Time
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Vassilya’s Doll – Strange Story (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • Bessie Bunter
  • The Lucky Sixpence – text story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Calendar of Events – feature (artist John Johnston)
  • Bella – artist John Armstrong
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Victim of Vesuvius – Strange Story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Knights of the Road – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Fun Time – feature
  • ‘Sleigh’ Them, Father Christmas! – feature
  • Mask for Melissa – artist Angeles Felices
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • The Christmas Visitor – text story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • What a Cover-Up – feature
  • On with the Show… – feature
  • Quite a Puzzle – feature
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Room of Shadows – Strange Story
  • Wee Sue – John Richardson
  • Fun Time – Feature
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills – artist Douglas Perry

Tammy annuals would not normally feature on the Jinty blog. But the last three do feature Pam of Pond Hill, so they will have entries here for this reason.

Tammy annual 1984 takes over the Pam of Pond Hill appearances in the annuals, leaving the Jinty annual for that year somewhat reduced in pure Jinty content because she clearly could not have Pam. The Pam story (reproduced here in full) incorporates the Orwellian 1984 theme that was big in that same year, for obvious reasons. Here we get a twist on the Big Brother theme.

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This was the last Tammy annual to have the Cover Girls on the cover. The Cover Girls disappeared from the regular comic in late 1980 after a run that can be traced back to 1974. They are certainly enjoying themselves in the snow.

The annual has a lot of reprints, many of which I am pleased to see. The Strange Story “Room of Shadows” was one of my favourites when it first came out, so I am delighted to have it again.

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There does seem to be some new material as well; the Molly Mills story, for example, is not a reprint (unlike the next two annuals). Unwanted puppies are dumped on the doorstep, and Molly has to find a home for them fast because Pickering has nasty ideas about drowning them.

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Theatre is a big theme in this annual. One feature, “On with the Show”, discusses what goes on behind the scenes during a performance. The theatre theme is probably why they reprinted the 1978 story, “Mask for Melissa”, in which aspiring actress Melissa Mappin gets such an enormous chip on her shoulder from a facial disfigurement in a road accident that she can’t look at herself in a mirror. She resumes her career by hiding behind a facial mask and changing her name to Gaye Traynor. But the deceit is bringing its own problems – like not able to have people touch her face because they’ll find out it’s a mask – which leads to misunderstandings and unpopularity.

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Cinderella is also a running theme as well, starting with the Strange Story on page 14, “Vassilya’s Doll”. Two jealous aunts go out to more extremes than most wicked stepmothers when they plot to send their drudge to her death because they can’t ruin her looks with hard work. But they did not count on a babushka doll and (despite herself) a witch. Yes, perhaps the moral of that story is that fairy godmothers can come in all shapes and sizes – and surprises. And it’s a moral that continues in the Bella story, where Bella finds herself a Cinderella, both in a panto production and in the children’s home where she has taken a job, because of the bullying orderlies who are also cast as the wicked stepsisters. When they try to put Bella out of the panto altogether, fairy godmother arrives in a most unexpected form – Aunt Gert, who is usually Bella’s wicked stepmother. And Bella is now appearing in full colour after several annual appearances in the usual black-and-white, sometimes with red colouring. She is the only character in the annual to appear in full colour, apart from Edie and Miss T. Does this say something about her status?

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And in one Wee Sue story, the school Cinderella panto looks like a shambles when Miss Bigger sticks her oar in with her casting ideas, and then more disasters strike just before the first performance.

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In one Bessie Bunter story, Miss Stackpole is conducting a lesson on what life will be like in the 21st century, which prompts another dream sequence for Bessie. It’s the 21st century now, so how close did the Bessie story get? Well, there are still another eight-and-a-half decades left in the 21st century, so maybe it’s too early to tell yet?

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Jinty Annual 1983

Jinty annual 1983

Jinty annual 1983

  • Little Sisters (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Do You Doodle? Feature
  • Carnival of Flowers – Gypsy Rose story (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Where Do You Fit In? Quiz (artist John Johnston)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Mystery of Martine (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Growing Pains – text story
  • For the Love of Horses – feature
  • Make Music – feature
  • Desert Island Bookshelf – feature (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Picture of the Past (artist and writer Keith Robson)
  • Make Your Own Cards – feature
  • Pond Hill Bazaar – feature (artist Bob Harvey)
  • The Thirteenth Hour – Gypsy Rose story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Box of Tricks – feature
  • Chance to Say Sorry – text story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Call of the Sea – Gypsy Rose story
  • Perils of Babysitting – feature
  • It’s the Custom! Feature
  • Alley Cat
  • How to Make a Fortune Teller – feature
  • At the Top of the Tree – feature
  • No Place Like Home – Gypsy Rose story (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Nothing to Wear – feature
  • Strawberry Handkerchief – Gypsy Rose story (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Snoopa
  • Percy’s Christmas – text story
  • A Puzzle to Make – feature
  • All Around the World – feature
  • The Jigsaw Puzzle – text story (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Snowbound! Gypsy Rose story (artist Keith Robson)
  • Christmas with Dickens – feature (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Netball Quiz – feature

This could well be the annual where Jinty comes into her own, because she is no longer printing serials from older comics for the long story sections. Instead she is reprinting one of her own serials, “The Mystery of Martine“, in which an actress who plays a dangerous, obsessive woman who eventually burns down a house starts behaving exactly like the psycho. The story is reprinted in yellow colouring, which makes a nice change from the usual red to set off some black-and-white pages, or the blue that Jinty used for a while.

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The number of recycled Strange Stories as Gypsy Roses has been reduced (a couple of them were omitted from the Table of Contents for some reason); the rest are reprints of Gypsy Rose’s own stories this time. One Gypsy Rose story, “Picture of the Past” is unusual in that it is both written and drawn by the same person, Keith Robson. This is the second instance we have come across of stories being written and drawn by the same person in Jinty. Or girls’ comics for that matter.

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The cover is one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen in girls’ annuals. The artwork from Mario Capaldi is mouth-watering, but what really sets it off and makes it memorable is the use of the colouring. And don’t you just love exquisite pictures of Victorian times – oh, wait, is that a car and garage we see in the background, in subtle grey tones? Ah, we have very enterprising carol singers here who must have made a few extra quid by using Victorian costume.

Capaldi’s artwork continues on the first page with “Little Sisters”. This story appeared in the Tammy & Jinty merger, but the fact that it has an appearance in a Jinty annual suggests it was originally conceived for Jinty. “Little Sisters”, a popular story about a teenage girl, Carol, who finds her little sister Samantha “Sam” exasperating at times (yes, a lot of girls can relate to that) also continues the Christmas theme on the cover. Sam wants to know what is meant by “goodwill” at Christmas. She misunderstands when the family explain (not very well), but ends up sending a whole new message to them about the meaning of Christmas.

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The presence of “Little Sisters” may be the reason “Pam of Pond Hill” was reduced to a feature instead of its own story. But we get a whole new side to Pond Hill when we are shown what Pam & Co did for the school bazaar, complete with instructions on the items and games. Yes, it’s a different take on the obligatory craft-and-make features in any girls’ annual.

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In “Growing Pains” a quilting party is not Betsy’s idea of growing up. But quilting takes on a whole new meaning when her boyfriend Nathan leaves and his parting gift is a patch to sew into her quilt. This text story should have you thinking about quilting in a different light as well. And “A Chance to Say Sorry” reminds us that you are given a chance to make amends, take it. Ruth Oldham the youth drama group secretary is due to retire, but nobody likes her except Keith because she is a “bossy-boots, thinks she’s the greatest, and never lets anyone else get a word in edgeways”. Sounds like Verna from “Tale of the Panto Cat”. But unlike Verna, she turns out to be a sympathetic character with a problem. And “Percy’s Christmas” brings us the story of a know-it-all seagull who is havng trouble grasping the ways of humans and Christmas.

Some of the text features are really strong, informative, and you will read them over and over. “For the Love of Horses” tells us about Dorothy Brooke, a woman who went to track down the former World War I Army horses and mules and started rescuing them from animal abuse in Egypt. The end result was the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Cairo. I just had to show the feature to my World War I lecturer at university and she took a copy. I still wonder if the annual became a source in somebody’s essay or thesis because of this.

“I’ve Got Nothing to Wear” reminds us how lucky we are in being able to acquire clothes in comparison to clothes manufacturing in the past. Clothes had to be handmade, often from scratch, no patterns until Victorian times, and made to last because many people were lucky to have a second set of clothes.

Finally, “Christmas with Charles Dickens” rounds off the Christmas theme by telling us how Dickens celebrated Christmas. Not to mention how fit he must have been with the long walks he took all over London, sometimes covering as much as 15 miles. And he would return home ready for more while his friends were ready to collapse. The feature might have been even better if it had told us that A Christmas Carol revived Christmas at a time when it had fallen on such evil days many people didn’t bother with it. But I guess you can only put in so much into a two-page spread, plus spot illustration.

This annual definitely ranks as one of Jinty’s top annuals, one of her very best. It is well worth collecting. It is sad that the quality did not last – the next annual, though still good, reduced the Jinty content (no Gypsy Rose or Pam of Pond Hill), and the last two Jinty annuals contained just reprints of older material from other comics.