Tag Archives: Mario Capaldi

Secret of the Skulls (1976)

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Published: Tammy 1 May 1976 to 17 July 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Annual 1986; Translated as ‘Het geheim van de schedels’ (The Secret of the Skulls) in Groot Tina Winterboek 1983.

Ghosts, the hauntings, the graveyards, the witches, the possessions, the evil spells, the terror and the macabre, and this Tammy story from 1976 has got the lot. And they don’t come more macabre than this one with human skulls as the gruesome stars of the show. Normally stories like these would be reserved for Halloween time, but of late there has been discussion about the possession serial in girls’ comics at Comics UK, and its close relatives, the evil influence serial and the doppelgänger serial (the latter of which neither Tammy nor Jinty used, but it was seen frequently at DCT). So we are going to look at a few, beginning with this one.

Plot

In the year 1666 Parson Sylvester and his daughter Prue run a parish at St Leofric’s, London. A lightning bolt opens up a secret crypt under the church, and the one-eyed (watch this) gravedigger Israel Quist is shocked to find it is full of human skulls. Everyone is screaming that the skull crypt is full of evil, and their advice ranges from re-sealing the crypt to destroying the skulls, but Parson Sylvester hesitates because of his religious convictions and is not sure what to do about the skulls. Even when he discovers that the skulls inexplicably give off heat and blister the skin when touched, he doesn’t take action. While he hesitates, he leaves the crypt open, which is an open invitation for weird things. 

Sure enough, weird things start to happen. It starts with the parson’s housekeeper Mrs March bringing one of the skulls into the house. Prue soon notices that Mrs March is acting strangely. She denies taking the skull, but Prue can see the tell-tale blisters on her hands, and then Mrs March falls ill and then acts totally out of character, becoming domineering, bullying and abusive. In the middle of the night Prue hears the church organ playing by itself and the door slamming on its own. On another night she sees the organ playing by itself – and images of horrible glowing skulls as well! The coffins in the crypt belonging to Sir Clive Collyngwood, a man with an evil reputation and the son of a previous parson, move around. There are rumours Sir Clive haunts the graveyard. Some of the skulls are stolen from the crypt by the roguish Rufus Doggett, who runs a novelty shop – of the macabre kind by the looks of the live skull and crossbones set on his shop sign. Prue and her father are shocked to find Doggett painting up the skulls and selling them as ornaments and candle holders to the gentry. Doggett offers one to the parson, who of course won’t touch it.

The parson goes to the Bishop of Canterbury for advice, leaving Prue on her own with Mrs March. That night Prudence hears screaming and in the church she finds strange mystical signs drawn on the floor of the church. The Collyngwood crypt seems to go up in flames, and then looks unscathed. But inside, Prue and Quist find signs of charring and Sir Clive’s coffin reduced to ash, and there is a skull from the crypt on the floor. Quist, who had been urging the crypt be sealed up again from the moment it opened, does precisely that. Prue begins to wonder if there is some connection with the evil reputation of Sir Clive, and Quist informs her that there was a book written about it somewhere. 

Meanwhile, the parson’s carriage is nearing Canterbury when the horses rear, causing a bad accident. And what do you know – there’s a skull! Added to that, he is attacked and robbed as well. Later, Mrs March gloats to Prue that her father will be delayed indefinitely. Parson Sylvester arrives at the bishop’s residence in such a ragged state that he is taken for a vagrant and roughly sent off. 

Prue looks for the skull Mrs March took, but there is no sign of it. When she tackles Mrs March over it, Mrs March attacks her and locks her in. Prue hears hammering noises from the crypt and fears it is the skulls wanting to bust out. A strange girl, Lucy Wendover, wanders in, and Mrs March says they are to be friends. But Lucy soon acts like a sadist, enjoying hurting things and cruelly mocking Prue, and taking over the place.

Prue finds the crypt ripped open and more skulls gone. Suspecting Doggett, she goes off to see him. He tells her all the skulls are gone and paid for (except for the one he reserved for the parson), but he does have information about Sir Clive. Sir Clive and an accomplice were evil witch hunters who “terrorised London” and sent hundreds of women to the stake for witchcraft until plague struck them down. He raises a hint that witches could be responsible for the weird goings-on. Later, Prue suspects Dogged knows more than he’s letting on. But as we shall see, she does not get the chance to question him further.

Back home, Prue finds Quist has no knowledge of Lucy Wendover. He shows her a grave showing that Lucy Wendover died over 50 years before and the Wendover line died with her. But in her own room Prue finds Lucy, with yet more blistering skulls, which she uses to torture Prue. Prue notes the skulls burn her but not Lucy. When Prue demands Mrs March remove the skulls, Mrs March says they will all be going all right, “and then the fun will really begin, as Rufus Doggett’s finding out…” Prue heads back to Doggett’s shop and finds it ablaze, with the unfortunate Doggett unable to escape.

The parson arrives back home in such a bad state he has to be confined to bed. Mrs March gloats over him that “it is our revenge”. She takes him to the church and shows him the organ playing by itself and skulls on the altar. She has the parish shut to worshippers. Prue finds a gravestone with her own name on it and next day’s date, but when she tries to point it out to Quist later on, the gravestone is gone and in its place is a freshly dug grave. The parson is now gravely ill, rambling about the skulls coming for him. The doctor says a witch’s curse has been put on him. 

Prue heads off to see Lord Farleigh about things. There she discovers Lord Farleigh has bought some of Doggetts’ skull ornaments and Lucy is his adopted daughter. In Lord Farleigh’s library Prue finds a book: “Stories of English Witchfinders”. It informs her that Sir Clive and his apprentice Jacob Stave were the most feared witchfinders in England who burned the innocent and the guilty alike in the name of bounty. They collected the skulls of their victims from the executions – hence the origin of the skulls. Then the plague killed Sir Clive and struck down Stave, who was also shot in the eye by a victim’s husband. After reading this, Prue realises their one-eyed gravedigger is really Jacob Stave under an assumed name. Then she is attacked by Lucy, who rips up the book and trashes Lord Farleigh’s library. When Lord Farleigh intervenes, he tells Prue the girl is indeed strange but his wife is besotted by her – as if she were under a spell. 

Prue still has a torn page from the book. It tells her that there were only one or two genuine witches among Sir Clive’s victims out of the hundreds he burned. One (Martha Rackshaw) swore vengeance on London, saying it would burn just as she had. 

Back home, Quist shows Prue that the crypt of skulls is now completely empty. All the skulls have gone. When Prue confronts him about being Jacob Stave he doesn’t deny it. He regrets his witch-hunting days and placed the skulls in the crypt as an act of remorse. He believes Mrs March has been possessed by Martha Rackshaw, who is out for revenge on London. Of course it’s to be the Great Fire of London, with the skulls themselves as the firestarters; they can grow so hot they can burst into flames when needed. 

It’s already started at Lord Farleigh’s mansion where Lucy has set the ornamental skulls ablaze to burn the mansion down. She hears her mistress calling (the possessed Mrs March) and comes to the parsonage. Quist and Prue overhear Mrs March telling Lucy the skulls have been planted at Pudding Lane and they will have their revenge. Prue finds her father under a spell and has been turned into a zombie who serves the witch. Under Mrs March’s power he planted the skulls at Pudding Lane. Mrs March tries to hypnotise Prue too, but Quist intervenes. The witch finds him familiar, but she does realise he is Jacob Stave. Quist and Prue break away. 

Quist urges Prue to head to Pudding Lane to warn them. But it’s too late – blazing skulls in the oven have started the Great Fire of London. More of them have been planted like bombs all over the city, and now they’re going off and spreading more flames. While panicking people evacuate, Parson Sylvester wanders through the flames, still in his zombie state. Lucy gloats at the sight of London burning, and Prue realises she is possessed too.

Back home, Quist informs her that Mrs March is burning down the church as well. Recalling that everything started when Mrs March took a skull from the crypt, they head back to the crypt in search of it. Sure enough, they find it there, and realise it is the true source of all the evil (Martha Rackshaw’s skull). They throw it into the flames that are burning up the church. There is a tremendous explosion, and the fire goes out. The parson, Mrs March and Lucy return to normal, and they are bewildered, as they don’t remember what happened to them. After the Great Fire of London burns out, Lord Farleigh promises Parson Sylvester that his church will be among the first to be rebuilt.

There is just one thing that worries Prue. It is not clear if there was one witch or two. What if there were two and they only destroyed one? Quist assures her there was just one and the evil is gone forever. But in the 20th century, on the old Pudding Lane site, workmen find a skull that is red-hot to the touch…

Thoughts

Phew … is your head whirling from reading all that? It ought to be. Once the weird things start happening, they come on thick and fast and just pile up, one after the after, at breath-taking speed, to send your head into a spin and confusion. So many things to confuse you as much as terrify you. The organ playing by itself, doors slamming, illusions, skulls that can burn your skin, screams in the night, the housekeeper acting crazy, a demented girl let loose in your house … the list goes on and on. Prue herself feels her head spinning about all the things that started happening when the skull crypt was opened, as there were so many of them happening.

The pervading thread through it all is those creepy death heads that just keep popping up as much as they mysteriously disappear. Wherever they go, we know something terrible will happen. Human skulls have a long association with hauntings. There are plenty of stories and legends to bear witness to that, such as Owd Nance, the Screaming Skulls of Calgarth, and the skull of William Corder the Red Barn murderer. These particular skulls have the added terror of always associated with heat and fire, from burning when touched to being used as candle holders, so it’s no real surprise to see they can burst into flames and act as firestarters. We aren’t surprised to see the story build up to the Great Fire of London either; we knew it from the period the story was set in.

Witches and victims of witch hunts wanting revenge for their burning/persecution and laying curses that are activated years later are not an uncommon thing in girls’ comics. We have seen it in stories like “The Painting” and “Sharon’s Stone” from Bunty and “Bad Luck Barbara” from Mandy. But seldom has it been done on this scale – laying waste to an entire city. Centuries before the IRA, we had Martha Rackshaw and her skulls launching a terrorist attack on London with skulls that can explode, burn and destroy. We can see the cunning behind it all, having Mrs March take Martha Rackshaw’s skull and thus possessing her. Allowing (or even influencing) Rufus Doggett to take the skulls and start selling them all around as painted up ornaments was a crafty way to distribute time bombs all set to go off when the time was right. Hypnotising Parson Sylvester into planting the rest all over London and using an oven to light the fuse were also inspired. The combined heat from the skulls and the oven was the perfect combustion. 

The motives for possessing Lucy are not so clear, and it’s never established how she became possessed. It’s a bit hard to understand what Rackshaw was trying to gain by it other than tormenting Prue and setting fire to Lord Farleigh’s house. We presume she was somehow possessed by the second witch as she was not hypnotised into being a servant like Parson Sylvester. Perhaps the possession was so Rackshaw could have a willing accomplice and one with handy access to the gentry. Whatever it is, the possessed Lucy is a riot in all the scenes she appears and she ramps up the excitement and horror even more.

Although Martha Rackshaw is evil, we might have some sneaking degree of sympathy for her, and more so for the other victims. After all, they were innocent people executed in the name of profit and superstition. The real blame lies in the evil, profiteering Sir Clive and his witch hunting. Or we might not be so sympathetic to Rackshaw, as she is inflicting revenge on innocent people, not the ones responsible for her burning. Anyway, she is evil and has to be destroyed. 

Sir Clive is also to blame for the catastrophe by collecting those skulls in the first place as much as for his witch-hunting. In so doing he unwittingly created the weapons the witches used for their revenge. What the hell was he thinking there, collecting the skulls? Was he some sort of ghoul or trophy hunter? The purpose of burning witches is to destroy their evil, so no trace of them must remain. Anyway, how was he able to collect those skulls from the burnings when they should have been burned in the fires? Did he (ulp) behead his victims before burning them? And the irony is, Jacob Stave/Israel Quist unwittingly facilitated the witches’ revenge through his act of remorse as much as his acts of witch-hunting by secretly placing the skulls in the crypt. In so doing he created a ticking time bomb waiting to be discovered. 

The story has a strong but curious message about the evils of witch hunting. Although the people believe in witches, the condemnation of Sir Clive for his witch hunting is strong and he is regarded as evil for this reason. Rufus Doggett says “may his name be forever cursed”, “stands to reason [Sir Clive’s victims] couldn’t all be witches but those two creatures made ‘em confess nevertheless” and their downfall was “the good God at work”. The book on witch hunters does not praise Sir Clive and Stave either; it says they burned the innocent and guilty alike because of the profit they made from it. We even get sceptics who don’t believe in witches. For example, Parson Sylvester always regarded such things as “foolish” and Prue believed the same until the skulls persuaded her otherwise. However, considering that this is also a witch’s revenge story with genuine witches, the message feels rather mixed.

When I first came across the story in the Girl annual reprint I thought it must be reprinted from Misty, what with all these creepy skulls being allowed to feature in gay abandon and freak out any girl to read the story. It was a surprise to learn it originally appeared in Tammy and two years before IPC’s famous queen of the screams title was launched. A story laden with skulls was certainly a bold, audacious move, and ahead of its time in being two years before Misty. It just goes to show the older IPC girls titles could rival Misty for scares when they needed to. The story is worthy of Misty herself, and the artwork of Mario Capaldi really brings off both the macabre elements, the historical setting, and the grim, dark atmosphere of the story. This story is guaranteed to both frighten and thrill any girl to read it and have any parent up in arms (the latter of which would delight the Misty team, as it was a sign they had done things right). It is a story Misty would be proud of. 

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, or 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 and Misty 5 July 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Donna Ducks Out (artist Diane Gabbot(t)) – final episode

Tina’s Telly Mum (artist Giorgio Giorgetti, writer Alison Christie)

The Sea Witches (artist Mario Capaldi)

Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)

Something in the Cellar (artist Tony Coleman) – Strange Story from the Mists in text

Peggy in the Middle (artist Tony Coleman)

Lucky by Name (artist Julian Vivas)

The Cover Girls are on a trip to the safari park, and for once the older girl has an upper hand over the younger one, with the aid of the monkeys. The monkey on the roof of the vehicle sure looks like he’s poking the Tammy logo with that stick!

Bella is trying to make her way to the Moscow Olympics, but her efforts aren’t meeting with much more success than her 1976 bid for the Olympics. She has got stranded (again), this time in the US. She has no way to get to Moscow or back to Britain, no equipment to train on, no money, and no coach. She has taken a job to help raise funds, but it’s in rhythmic gymnastics, which is not helping her usual gymnastics – and she’s entered a gymnastics tournament.

We sense there’s going to be a raft of new stories starting soon. One story finishes, one is about to, and another is reaching its climax. 

Donna Ducks Out is the one to end this week. A bathroom duck has somehow given Donna Desmond the power to swim, but she’s so dependent on the toy that she gets shot by duck hunters while trying to retrieve it when it is taken on holiday, and the duck has taken damage too. In this sorry state, she has to win a swimming championship with a sinking duck. It’s never quite clear whether the duck actually gave Donna the power to swim or just the confidence to do so, but ultimately she finds she no longer needs the duck and retains her ability to swim. The duck ends up in the hands of another non-swimmer who feels the same confidence rising. Donna will be replaced next week by the return of Molly Mills, who has been absent from the merger until now.

Lucky By Name is the one on its penultimate episode. Lucky Starr has run away with her beloved pony Fortune in the mistaken belief her father will sell him because of money troubles. Of course it doesn’t take long for the police to catch up, but there’s a bonus – it all leads to them foiling a couple of robbers and recovering stolen loot. Hmm, we smell a reward coming up that will solve everything!

The Sea Witches is reaching its climax. It looks like the witches have had enough of the American air-base interfering with their nesting grounds and they’re going to bring out their big guns. That can only mean something really bad now. Katie, the only one trying to help the situation, is being sent away at this crucial point, but we know she’ll be back to stop the witches somehow.

Tina’s Telly Mum is on part two. Tina Mason persuaded her grieving mother to take a television announcer job to take her mind off things, but now she’s beginning to regret it because it’s backfiring on her. Mum’s now too wrapped up in her job to think of anything else – including Tina, who’s been left behind, being neglected and missing Mum so much. Worse, Mum left the wrong person in charge of Tina: a nasty old bat who’s deliberately coming in between everything Tina has left of her mother or any respite Tina tries to seek. She even makes Tina do housework that she is being paid to do herself. What a cheek!

By popular demand, the Tammy & Misty merger revived the spooky text stories that Misty used to run, but it didn’t seem to last long. This week’s one is “Something in the Cellar”, about a cellar haunted by an Alsatian that got suffocated by a delivery of coal, poor thing. It leaves the babysitter so spooked she’s never going to babysit at that house again.

Peggy in the Middle is caught in a custody battle between her mother and her father and his new wife Mitzi. Peggy and Mum suspect they’re being watched as part of the custody battle, but discover the watchers were in fact burglars waiting for their moment to strike – and the burglars not only rob the place but totally trash it as well!

Miss Bigger reveals some Bigger family history in this week’s Wee Sue story. We learn the Bigger women (“dotty old birds”, “a rogue’s gallery” go Sue’s classmates) were ones for big ideas such as cycling up Mt Everest and civilising the American Indian nation (that one looks like it got a tomahawk in the head from behind). But their ideas clearly lacked common sense and invariably failed – just like the measures Miss Bigger takes to economise at school this week. Predictably, it’s all at the expense of the girls, but Miss Bigger loses out in the end, and Wee Sue puts things right.

Tammy 1 January 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The First-Footer – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edit the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby) – final episode

Welcome to our first entry for 2021! And there’s no better way to begin than with a New Year’s issue from the past.

The Tammy annual was often a running gag at Christmas/New Year time during the Cover Girl era, and this cover is no exception. The advantage of the Cover Girls and regulars such as Bessie and Sue meant Tammy could make in-jokes about the Tammy annual, to the amusement of readers. 

Wee Sue, Edie, Bessie and the Storyteller all have New Year-themed stories as well. Miss Bigger finds bats in the belfry (literally) when she’s in charge of ringing in the New Year. Later, Sue needs the bells for more than ringing in the New Year – saving juniors from a nasty accident! Edie makes 16 New Year resolutions, and even she knows she won’t keep them all. Bessie’s class dress up in fairy tale costumes for a New Year party, with Bessie as Humpty Dumpty. In the Strange Story, Nina Prentice scoffs at superstitions and fortune-telling but is left wondering after something strange happens with the first-footer custom for New Year. The happy ending of Molly’s “Season of Goodwill” story with Lord Stanton willing to save the children’s home from closure rounds it off nicely as well.

Cathy is now a full actress, but all she feels is terror because of whoever is trying to drive her off, and they are very nasty about it. Their latest is switching Cathy’s makeup kit with that of her mother Constance, who’s been dead for years. Now, how did her enemy get hold of that anyway? Could it even be a clue to their identity?

Robert Le Mal’s fulfilled his threat to take control of birds, animals and people. But now he goes one further – taking control of power lines! 

Val gets a lift from Spain to Gibraltar. Now she has to cross a desert by camel train. But she doesn’t realise that some male members of the camel train are offended by her not being covered Muslim style and they fear it will incur Allah’s displeasure.

The bossy head prefect, along with the snobs, sends Babe & Co on a hare and hounds paperchase, which crosses paths with a fox hunt. When Babe hides the fox in her bag, it causes everyone to get chased, with the antagonists getting stuck in the mud.

It’s the final episode of “Olympia Jones”, and I used to read it over and over. The villainous Rotts must have been as surprised as they were shocked to meet their Waterloo at Olympia’s trial when they thought they had her stitching all sewn up. But Olympia’s old friend Amanda Fry changes everything with some detective work. Olympia is fully exonerated at the trial and goes on to win her Olympic gold after all. However, there’s no doubt the best scene belongs to lousy Linda Rott the horse-beater when she discovers she’s been caught out (below).

Linda the horse-beater destroys herself in court. From “Olympia Jones”, Tammy 1 January 1977/25 July 1981. Artist Eduardo Feito.

Personally, I’ve always wished the material in the final episode had been expanded into a story arc lasting a few more episodes. There’s so much jam-packed into the episode that so much gets short shrift or omitted, such as the final fate of the Rotts and the full story of Olympia at the Olympics. Maybe Anne Digby intended to develop things further with more episodes but ye Editor wouldn’t agree. 

Replacing Olympia next week is a non-Bella John Armstrong serial, “Katie on Thin Ice”. Bella tended to start in the second quarter and finish late in the year, but 1981 and 1982 were exceptions to this.

Tammy 25 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Gran’s Christmas Message – Strange Story (artist Audrey Fawley)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Kevin Rowan of “Our Kid” – feature 

The issue is actually dated 25th December. Did Tammy/Jinty readers actually get their 25th December issue on Christmas Day itself? Was the issue postdated and distributed early, before the Christmas holidays? Or did readers have to wait until after the Christmas holidays for their 25th December Tammy/Jinty to arrive? Where I come from, the Christmas issue didn’t arrive until March (that’s how long it took for girls’ comics to ship), so I wouldn’t know.

Bessie, Molly, Wee Sue and Edie all have Christmas-themed stories. I like the Bessie Christmas story so much I’ve reproduced it below.

The Strange Story is also a Christmas story. The Christmas spirit is lost on Cathy Summers, who is grieving too much for her grandmother. Then she has an accident while decorating the Christmas tree and her condition is very bad. In hospital there is a strange visitor – grandma – and Cathy makes a miraculous recovery.

No Christmas celebration for Babe of St. Woods, but she still has a ball sorting out some stuck-up boys from a boys’ school. The boys also like to play rotten pranks and eventually try pouring white paint on Babe and her friends, but Babe makes sure they hit the wrong targets – namely, the mounted police! 

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” began when Patty and Mark Stephens did a brass rubbing of an evil knight, Robert le Mal, which brought him back from beyond the grave. The ghost has powers over birds, animals, people, telephone wires and airwaves to spread his influence and make everyone do his bidding, and our heroes are being surrounded by it. He’d have influence over the Internet too if it had existed at the time. Wow, not many ghosts in girls’ comics are that powerful, and it didn’t take our medieval knight long to to discover how to use 20th century technology.

Bella spent a lot of 1976 stowing away, getting stranded in foreign countries and having all sorts of adventures in order to get to the Montreal Olympics. Now Val in “Towne in the Country” is doing the same while trying to join her father’s veterinarian expedition in Africa. Right now she’s stranded in Spain and is shocked at the cruelties of bullfighting. 

In “Curtains for Cathy”, Cathy Harley is the daughter of a famous actor but wants to make her own way as an actress, right down to working under another name. But she has an enemy trying to stop her. Whoever it is has left a dummy of her to frighten her. It doesn’t stop her from a brillant performance, which gets her four curtain calls.

Olympia Jones has just made it to the Olympics team, only to face her darkest hour (what a cruel irony in the Christmas issue). She’s under arrest for horse theft and (in effect) animal cruelty, she’s lost her horse Prince, and her hopes of getting to the Olympics look dashed. It’s all a frameup and conspiracy, hatched by her old enemies, the Rotts, to get their hands on the fortune Prince is now worth. Olympia hasn’t got one iota of evidence to prove she’s telling the truth and everything looks hopeless to her. However, the last panel of the episode should make things obvious to readers how that’s all going to change and they’ll all be hankering for the next issue to see exactly how it all pans out.

Tammy 18 December 1976

Artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The Family Feud – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece – Joe Collins

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill – first episode

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Christmas craft feature

Tammy really is gearing up for Christmas now. Her Christmas craft feature is on how to make Christmas decorations. Edie is writing out her Christmas present list (with the Tammy annual included of course). Wee Sue’s class is putting on A Christmas Carol with Sue cast as Tiny Tim, and she takes quick action to stop a Christmas tree from starting a fire. Miss Bigger was cast as Scrooge (perfect role for her) and is given an offer of a role in a pantomime. Sue doesn’t tell Miss Bigger what kind of role it will be in case she turns into the Christmas grinch. As part of Christmas Bessie & Co are repairing old toys for the children in hospital, but a rocking horse leaves Bessie champing at the bit. Stanton Hall is being decorated for Christmas – but trust Pickering to act the grinch. Then Molly discovers the local children’s home is facing closure, and Pickering, of all people, gives her an idea on what to do about it.

Babe at St Wood’s goes to the fair but falls foul of a conman. He leaves her and her friends stranded on the roller coaster with the help of the snobs before going off on business of his own – stealing silverware. Then he falls foul of Babe and her gangster-taught skills. Babe proceeds to take revenge on the snobs, who have unwisely hidden themselves in the human cannonball cannon…

Val puts her vet skills to good use on the ship she stowed away from when she cures their mascot dog of an illness. In return they don’t hand her over to the authorities. Unfortunately a storm blew them off course and now Val is stranded in Spain.

A shot makes Cathy faint, but it didn’t come from the gun she bought – so where did it come from? Back at the theatre, Cathy again hears that voice telling her to leave the stage, and that person knows her real name. To make their point clear, they throw down a dummy placard of her, and it’s hanging by the neck. We have to wonder along with Cathy – is this a sick joke or a final warning?

In the Strange Story, dressing up as a cavalier (the brother) and Puritan girl (the sister) for a pageant has them arguing – which is nothing unusual for them. Then they have an encounter with a real cavalier whose brother became a roundhead. The brothers recognised each other too late in a cavalier/roundhead fight and ended up killing each other. The cavalier has regretted ever since that he never got the chance to make things up with his brother. After this, the brother and sister patch up their quarrel very quickly and become good friends.

Mark is still sceptical about Patty’s claims that the evil Robert Le Mal is back in business despite what is happening, including finding Robert Le Mal’s coffin open, chains broken and his body gone. However, Mark is finally convinced when a gang of brainwashed fisherman in the grip of Le Mal start attacking their refuge in Le Mal’s castle, chanting “Seek! Seek! Seek and destroy! … We must do our master’s bidding!” These guys have really got our heroes trapped. Can they find a way out?

A way out is something Olympia could really do with right now against the Rotts’ frameup. She does succeed in a temporary escape from the Rotts’ first attempt to seize her beloved horse, which lasts just long enough for them to make the last qualifying event for the Olympics team. The Rotts are now forced to go through police, a court case and “a lot of fuss” to get their hands on the horse and the fortune he’s worth when they expected a quick and easy killing handed to them on a plate. Still, they think it’ll be just an inconvenience to their plot, not a threat. Couldn’t possibly become their Waterloo. After all, there is nothing Olympia can prove. And Olympia fears the same when she’s arrested on the Rotts’ trumped-up charge of horse theft.  

Tammy 11 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Ring in the New Year with a New Bike – competition

The Charioteer’s Dream – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Countdown to Christmas – feature

Oops, looks like the Cover girls are having a little trouble with what is probably an early Christmas present. Inside, Tammy adds a Christmas/New Year competition to her buildup towards Christmas. Her Christmas crafts feature this week is how to make gifts for little children. 

The school rowing teams are out in Babe at St Woods this week, and a rival school team is not playing fair. But of course they haven’t counted on Babe and her gangster skills. This week Babe draws on motorcycling skills the mob taught her. 

In this week’s episode of “Towne in the Country”, the whole focus of the story shifts from an “All Creatures Great and Small” theme to a journey theme. Val even gets a new hairstyle especially for it – a bob – much to her father’s consternation. Dad accepts a job in Africa, but Val is not accepting that she has to stay behind at boarding school. Oh, no, she’s going to follow him to Africa. In fact, she stows away on his ship. Then she finds out it’s the wrong ship and worse, she’s been caught.

Gee, now what was the thinking behind this abrupt change in the direction of the story – someone inspired by the 1976 Bella story where she stows away all the time and ends up in all sorts of places to get to the Montreal Olympics? Personally, I feel it would have been more logical to just end the current story with this episode and start the Africa saga with a sequel under a different title. Besides, “Towne in the Country” was the perfect title for the original story theme, but I don’t think it really suits the change in direction.

Cathy was warned there was a dark side to theatre: jealous types, dodgy types, mean types, etc. Now the reality must be sinking in. Trixie hates Cathy and is making her life a misery. She gets even worse when Cathy jumps from assistant stage manager to take Trixie’s part in the production. At least Cathy will get some money now. There is a second girl, Hermia, who looks like she’s out for trouble too. Added to that, there’s this other enemy out to make things curtains for Cathy and they look a lot more dangerous than Trixie and Hermia. But Cathy’s day is really ruined when she is sent out to find a rifle for the play and thinks the gun is unloaded. All of a sudden there’s a bang and she’s lying on the ground!

In the Strange Story, a Roman charioteer keeps having a recurring dream and goes to a soothsayer about it, who advises him to get a golden talisman if he is to win the event. He thinks he has found it in a slave child and buys her. Then he has to make an agonising decision between his desire to win and his conscience over slavery.

Edie goes to a fancy dress party dressed as Molly Mills – but a bully goes dressed as Pickering, and Edie does not have Molly’s talent for getting the last laugh over Pickering. She comes back with a black eye. Poor Edie.

Bessie tries to keep the boiler from being repaired in order to stall an exam. The boiler gets repaired in the end, but for once Bessie foils an exam and the other girls are pleased with her.

The seal saga ends this week for Molly Mills. Claire goes in to the lake to rescue Smiley after he gets tangled in fishing wire, but he ends up saving her. After this, Claire is allowed to keep Smiley and it’s a relief they no longer have to hide him.

Sue agrees to collect an animal from the zoo for a youth club fete – but nobody told her it was going to be a baby elephant! She is drawing a lot of laughter and hijinks as she tries to get him to the youth club, but a mouse scares him right back to the zoo. A toy shop manager comes to the rescue and allows Sue to take a giant toy elephant instead. Much easier to manage.

In “Nightmare on Grimm Fen” we finally get the backstory of Robert Le Mal. He had black magic powers, which he used to make dark birds terrorise everyone. The people eventually rose against him and killed him. But even as they did so, he said he would return, and watch out, because when he does, he will control all birds, animals and men, who will make him ruler of the land. And here come the birds already!

“We’ll handle it all with discretion” said animal welfare guy when he agreed to take Olympia Jones’ horse off her (without police involvement) on behalf of the Rotts after being tricked into thinking she mistreated the horse and then stole him from the Rotts. Well, that’s not how would describe how he’s handled it. “Professional”, “well planned” and “knows what he’s doing” are not descriptions I would use either. In fact, he’s bungled it so badly that he ends up chasing a fleeing Olympia and horse down the road, right in front of everyone. So much for discretion.

Tammy 4 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Countdown to Christmas – feature 

Lucky Heather – Strange Story (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Molls – A Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

It’s the first Tammy December issue for 1976, and Tammy sure isn’t wasting time building up to Christmas. She has a feature on how to make Christmas presents for the men in your family for the benefit of readers who are a bit cash-strapped for presents. It is the first instalment of a Christmas countdown feature.

Babe hasn’t taken much interest in athletics so far at St Wood’s, and now she’s got to contend with a head prefect who is running it all like an army drill sergeant – with help from Babe’s archenemies the snobs of course. The episode also gives us more of the Olympics theme that’s been running through Tammy during 1976. 

Speaking of the Olympics, what’s up with Olympia Jones?

Uh-oh! Olympia Jones doesn’t realise her hopes of an Olympic gold are under threat from the evil Rotts. They’re out to get their hands on the fortune her horse Prince is now worth as an Olympic prospect through their mug from LOLA (animal welfare society). They tricked LOLA guy into thinking Olympia mistreated Prince (it was themselves). Now they’ve tricked him into thinking she stole Prince as well, and is he able to please, please, get Prince back for them, as they don’t want the police involved.

LOLA guy says no problem, we’ll just walk into her next event, take Prince and drop him off to you, no need for the police. Groan…looks like LOLA guy will do anything for the Rotts. He should be asking serious questions about all this – like what the heck were the Rotts thinking in allowing this (as LOLA guy thinks) animal abuser to just make off with the very horse she was abusing in the first place and do absolutely nothing about it until now? He also says “we’ll handle it all with discretion”. But LOLA guy’s first move at the event isn’t exactly discreet – or smart – and puts Olympia on the alert before he’s even made his real move.

In “Towne in the Country”, that pesky pedlar who’s been selling fake animal medicine and cheating a lot of people finally gets cornered – by the tiger everyone else has been trying to find! Val, the only one who has gained the tiger’s trust, is going to step in.

Cathy starts her new job as assistant stage manager. She has already made an enemy, Trixie, who suspects where she has really come from. Worse, Cathy is nearly broke after being forced to use up so much of the allowance her father gave her. Well, it was her idea to do that assistant stage manager job for nothing! And now this other enemy who made that threatening phone call to Cathy’s father is now making whispered threats to Cathy herself. And it looks suspiciously like they nearly made her fall off a train as well.

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” is intensifying. It reaches the point where everything breaks down and Grimmford is cut off. Patty blames the evil knight, Robert Le Mal, she and her brother Mark unwittingly brought back to life. Mark is still sceptical about Le Mal, but then their father claims to have seen him.

Miss “Stackers” Stackpole is giving a lesson on the 21st century and anticipates that robots will be doing more and more of the things that used to be done by people. This has Bessie drifting off into a dream of what that would be like…robots bringing her grub and doing her lines for her, a robot Stackers teaching her class…well, her dream soon turns into a nightmare. Bessie’s dream sequences are among my favourite Bessie Bunter episodes. 

The Storyteller asks us if we believe in fairies. Heather Silver is wondering about that after an encounter with a strange woman who claims to have fairy descent. This is followed by curious events that get Heather’s redundant father a new job and Heather fulfilling her dream of going to vet college.

Miss Claire and Molly find a helper to help hide Smiley the seal, but keeping him secret is still proving problematic and Pickering is still on the hunt for him. And now it looks like a couple of fishermen have caught Smiley.

In “Wee Sue”, two girls have a fallout over netball on the eve of a netball final, so it’s vital to make them see sense fast. Unfortunately Sue’s efforts to patch things up only seem to make it worse. So she has to resort to a bit of cunning, which has the bonus of bringing extra custom to a coffee bar.

Tammy 27 November 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry) – first episode

The Unseen Hand (Strange Story) – artist Robert MacGillivray

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and a Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t)) – first episode

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Two new stories begin this issue: “Curtains for Cathy” and “Nightmare at Grimm Fen”.

In the former, Cathy Harley wants to make her own way on the stage, not because she’s the daughter of a famous actor. She’s even willing to do it the hard way and take all the hard knocks she’s been warned about. So she takes an assistant stage manager job under an assumed name at a rundown theatre, and she even agrees not to be paid for it. But no sooner has Cathy gone when Dad receives a threatening phone call saying he won’t see Cathy again and the curtains are coming down for her! We don’t think Cathy counted on that as part of the hard knocks she was willing to risk – but can she take it anyway when whoever it is starts their game?

In the latter, Mark and Patty Stephens make a brass rubbing of an evil medieval knight, Robert Le Mal. Then there are warning signs they shouldn’t have done that and they return to the place to reverse the damage. But as they do so, the weather grows stormy and there’s a horrible flapping sound.

It’s unusual for Robert MacGillivray to draw a historical story, but he does so with this week’s Strange Story. The story appears below for those who like MacGillivray artwork.

The snobs are cooking up trouble for Babe – literally – this week. It must be said that the gangster know-how she pulls to foil their scheme really does stretch credibility. 

There’s a hunt for a loose tiger in “Towne in the Country”, and there’s a hunter after it with safari ideas. Val spots it first and, realising it’s hurt, decides to risk herself to treat it. 

Miss Claire is trying to hide a baby seal with Molly’s help, but of course it’s a load of trouble for them both. Now there are further complications. The first is Pickering, who mistakes the seal for a monster and has all the staff hunting it. The second is another man finding the seal – and Molly doesn’t like the look of him! 

Sue plans a party. Unfortunately Mum accidentally scratches the new LP she was going to use for it, and the stores are sold out because it’s so hot. Then a stroke of luck and Sue’s habit of doodling bring her to the pop star himself, who agrees to perform live at her party after she does him a favour. 

Bessie Bunter pulls a crooked raffle to raise more food for herself, but of course she gets caught out. Her punishment is a notebook to be filled with lines. She never seems to get expelled for those naughty schemes of hers.

In this week’s episode of “Olympia Jones” it’s the long-awaited (and dreaded) return of her archenemies, the Rotts. We get the satisfaction of seeing that sacking Olympia for Linda Rott’s animal cruelty to escape prosecution from animal welfare has rebounded on them: “Takings down again…Sometimes I regret sacking Olympia Jones. She certainly knew how to train the animals.” They overlooked that Olympia was too valuable as animal trainer for Linda’s horse act, and her absence has caused the circus to suffer.

Then the Rotts discover the circus horse they mistreated has now become a show-jumping Olympic prospect under Olympia – which makes him worth a fortune. Now new cruelty is underway as the Rotts plot how to get their hands on that money.

The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.

Tammy 6 November 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Sally in a Shell (artist unknown, writer Terence Magee)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills: A Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode

The Excursion – Strange Story (artist Carlos Freixas)

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

As 5th November is nigh, we are bringing out some old issues commemorating Guy Fawkes, beginning with the Tammy Guy Fawkes issue from 1976. We seem to have a very generous tramp giving a penny for the guy on the cover. Or should it be penny for the guy’s jacket? Bessie Bunter, Wee Sue and Edie the Ed’s Niece all have Bonfire Night as their theme this week. There seems to be some carryover from Halloween, with people being mistaken for ghosts and other scary things, and Wee Sue’s headmistress making Guy Fawkes masks out of Halloween masks. 

The ghost theme continues in the Strange Story, where a boring double maths period gets livened up by what appear to be ghost girls. A priest and even a psychiatrist are called in to deal with the ghost infestation. It turns out the ghosts are time-travelling schoolgirls on an educational tour: “harmless exhibits – guaranteed safe” says the ad on their coach, which looks like a space rocket. It doesn’t say anything about “boring”.

This week’s episode of “Olympia Jones” rounds off the horrible night from last week, when Mr Rott sacked Olympia for the animal cruelty he knows his daughter Linda committed, to save his hide from the animal welfare inspector. He’s now yelling at Linda for almost landing him in trouble with animal welfare. Hmmph, we notice he’s not telling her off for the cruelty she inflicted. As it is, it’s all water off a duck’s back to her.

Next morning, the Rotts are surprised and then pleased to find not only Olympia gone but the horse they mistreated too – Olympia took him to get him away from Linda’s cruelty. She’s left her gypsy wagon home as payment and insurance the Rotts won’t come after him. But we can bet our Bonfire Night party that their paths will cross again. After all, there is that false charge of animal cruelty to be cleared up and we all want to see Linda get her comeuppance. Meanwhile, Olympia lands on her feet as a pony trek instructor at an adventure centre.

Elsewhere in the issue, the rabid dog that everyone’s been trying to find over the past several episodes of “Towne in the Country” finally gets tracked down and destroyed. But no luck yet in nailing that crooked pedlar who keeps selling fake animal medicine. At least Val stops him from drowning some puppies, ironically with help from the rabid dog.

“Sally in a Shell” is now more like Sally in a sweatshop. Dad and Dora reopen Miss Hanning’s craft shop as “The Shell Shop” and keep Sally locked in a room, cranking out shell ornaments at sweatshop pace for it. To add insult to injury, Sally finds out Dora is stealing the credit for making them. That’s the last straw for her, but how can she escape?

Babe wants to see a gangster film in town, but the snobs are pulling tricks to stop her going by landing her in a series of detentions. Babe breaks detention to see the film, but the snobs discover this. Can Babe sort them out before they grass on her?

In the new Molly Mills story, Mistress Claire is acting strangely: she wants a basket of raw fish; she wants a freezing cold bath prepared; she wants Molly to to buy some toys; and a flipper appears under her blanket. Molly finally finds out what’s going on when she discovers water coming down from Claire’s room. 

Bella’s on the move for the Montreal Olympics again. This time she’s going on horseback, and we are informed she is about to face an erupting volcano.