Tag Archives: Molly Mills

Tammy 4 November 1978

Tammy 4 November 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Upper Crust – first episode (Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Dancer Entranced (artist Angeles Felices)
  • Tuck in with Tammy – food ideas for Bonfire Night
  • One Girl and Her Dog… (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Tender Trap (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Strange Story – The Pied Piper
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece – cartoon (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • TEAM in Action (artist Carmona)

Guy Fawkes is coming, so I am taking time out from Scream to discuss fireworks issues, courtesy of Tammy.

This one, from 1978, had the regulars Edie the Ed’s Niece, Wee Sue and Bessie Bunter available to provide Guy Fawkes-themed stories, and they all do so. Tammy’s recipe page, “Tuck in with Tammy”, also has some recipes for Bonfire Night.

In Bessie Bunter Miss Stackpole won’t allow the girls to have Guy Fawkes because it clashes with a concert she booked for the girls for the same night. “Mean rotter!” says Bessie, and we totally agree. Naturally, the girls don’t look very happy at the concert, and Bessie is taking a more proactive stance – sneaking out of the concert with her friend Mary to let off fireworks secretly. As it turns out, this leads to a chain of events that have the girls enjoying a Guy Fawkes celebration after all.

Wee Sue and her friends are on the Penny-for-the-Guy routine, but some boys steal their Guy and leave them with an inferior model. Surprisingly, it’s Miss Bigger who gives the boys their comeuppance when they mistake her for an even better Guy.

Now here’s a twist on The Pied Piper legend in this week’s Strange Story. The Pied Piper turns up at the scene of an accident near Hamelin where a hit-and-run driver forces a coachload of kids off the road. And would you believe it, the Pied Piper helps the injured driver and drives the kids to safety at a carnival in Hanover. But was it really the Pied Piper or just someone dressed up? There was a carnival going on, after all.

Toni, Ellie, Anthea and Maggie (TEAM) have formed the school newspaper editorial team for their boarding school, with the scrapes they get into becoming fodder for the paper. This week it’s Ellie’s turn, with some water gypsies stealing her sacred talisman for good luck. Ellie believes the loss is causing her to suffer terrible misfortune as she tries to recover the talisman, to the extent where the police have nabbed her for her failed bike lights.

Bella is in Australia and has joined Limber, a promotional team for gymnastics equipment. The trouble is, her latest coach, Sergeant Marks, has too much of a military and masculine view of gymnastics, which not only causes clashes between him and Bella but is also detrimental to the way he coaches the team for a competition. When the day comes, Bella is not confident that Sarge’s style of coaching will lead them to victory. His latest is setting the floor routines to military marches, despite Bella’s protests they won’t fit. Fortunately she has managed to set her floor routine to different music secretly. Will it make a difference?

It’s part one of “The Upper Crust”, where the Carrington-Crusts arrive in High Hills, the super-snob area of Cherryton. The daughter, Clara Carrington-Crust, immediately clashes with snobby Mavis Blunt, but in a very odd way. One minute she seems to be taking Mavis down a peg or two, the next she’s as snobby as the rest of them at High Hills. Nobody knows what to make of Clara and she’s baffling everyone at school, even the caretaker. Meanwhile, the Blunts decide there is something about these Carrington-Crusts that they’re determined to get to the bottom of.

A ballerina is under the influence of hypnotism in “Dancer Entranced”. It’s not in the same way as “Slave of the Clock”, but when you think about it, there are some hallmarks. Trina Carr is obliging her father’s dream for her to become a top ballerina like her late mother but she has no talent and doesn’t want Dad to know. Then a hypnotist seems to give her the ability to dance, but only while his metronome is ticking. The metronome has now gotten Trina into a top ballet school, where she is striking problems with a jealous rival and keeping that damn metronome ticking because she believes she can’t dance without it.

In “One Girl and Her Dog…” Kim Robinson is hoofing it all the way to London to claim an inheritance because her daft dog Rumpus ate her train ticket. They’re getting into all sorts of scrapes along the way. Among them is Harry Whelkes, a flunky a relative hired to stop them claiming the inheritance. They have just met Harry in this episode but don’t realise what he is up to. Rumpus almost scared him off for good when he tried out growling for the first time, but the promise of double the money has lured Harry back into the game.

You wouldn’t think anyone could seriously fall in love with that bully butler Pickering in Molly Mills, would you? Well, the district nurse Miss Key has after a misunderstanding has her thinking he is in love with her, and she doesn’t realise his true nature. All Pickering’s attempts to get rid of her have failed. Now the daft woman thinks he has proposed to her, and she has accepted!

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Tammy 10 March 1979

Tammy cover 10 March 1979

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Nurse Grudge (artist Tony Coleman)
  • A Girl Called Steve (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
  • The Moon Stallion (artist Mario Capaldi) – final episode
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Portrait Painter (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode
  • Unlucky for Some (artist John Armstrong) – Strange Story
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Thursday’s Child (artist Juan Solé, writer Pat Mills)
  • Just Jogging Along! (feature)

It’s Friday the 13th (did you know there is a Friday 13th in a month that begins on a Sunday?). So this issue of Tammy is being profiled to commemorate. It’s not just because the theme on the cover – Dracula vs Tammy – should make it a Halloween issue but isn’t. It’s also because the number 13 is the theme of this issue’s Strange Story, which appears below. Could the mysterious 13th floor in the story have been one inspiration for “The Thirteenth Floor” in Scream!, perhaps? It is a bit like how Scream’s 13th floor works in the way it teaches arrogant Annette a lesson. All that’s missing is Max the computer. Oh well, judge for yourself. It sure looks like Bella Barlow’s Aunt Gert was the inspiration for the workhouse matron anyway.

Click thru

 

There is no Bella yet. Instead, the first story is part two of “Nurse Grudge”. It was extremely rare for Tammy to have a nursing story (the same went for Jinty). It’s also a revenge story, where Greta Jones starts as a student nurse at her dad’s old hospital to get revenge on the staff who got him dismissed 20 years ago. His old notebook is full of the details of their turning against him – but no details at all on why they turned against him or just what he was dismissed for. Now why did he leave that part out of his journal? Greta has noticed the omission but not looked into it at all before starting her vendetta against the hospital – and perhaps she should have done…?

Tammy’s adaptation of “The Moon Stallion” TV series ends this week. Next week is “The Outcast of Oakbridge”.

Bessie sneaks into town after Miss Stackpole, who is going to a dance. Hijinks ensue with Miss Stackpole and Bessie ending up in the same farmer’s truck and then having to use an old raincoat and sacking against pouring rain while trudging into town. Miss Stackpole finds she has missed the dance because she got her dates muddled, but the raincoat wins her first prize at a tramps’ ball instead.

It’s a real turnabout for Molly Mills in her new story, but it’s one she could well do without. Lady Stanton turns against Molly when a painter prefers to paint Molly than her. Then Molly is very surprised to find her arch-enemy Pickering suddenly coming over to her side and being supportive against Lady Stanton’s jealousy. Now he couldn’t possibly be doing that unless there’s something in it for him – but what? Is he hoping for a group portrait with Molly or something?

From the moment Stephanie “Steve” Sutton has arrived at her father’s archaeological dig, it has been looking more and more like enemies are trying to scare her away. They certainly are doing a very good job of scaring her in this episode. Now she’s being dragged into a terrifying magician’s act.

“My Terrible Twin” is beginning to turn around – but just as she does, her remand home past begins to catch up. First, an unreformed girl from the remand home wants Lindy to help her shoplift, and then swears revenge when Lindy refuses. Then Lindy’s enemy Helen discovers her past and is going to tell the boss!

Sometimes Wee Sue had two-part or even three-part stories, and this is the final episode of one of them. So far her class’s skiing holiday abroad has been disappointing because the whole setup looks a cheat. It turns out to be a troubled business with the owner reduced to running it as a one-man-band (chef, ski instructor, DJ etc) while not having the slightest idea how to do all the roles. Does one of Sue’s famous brainstorms save the day? No, it’s more a lucky fluke (and extremely improbable one) that turns everything around.

Thursday’s legs are mysteriously paralysed after her fall. However, Thursday has no doubt that the evil Union Jack and Julie’s strange grudge against her, which caused the fall, are behind this. Then comes a turning point: Julie is now willing to explain just what her problem is with Thursday.

Tammy 9 April 1977

Tammy cover 9 April 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Witch Hazel (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Copper’s Kid (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Elephant and Castle Case (artist John Armstrong) – Strange Story
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the War Games (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode
  • Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
  • Katie on Thin Ice (artist John Armstrong) – final episode
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White)

We continue honouring the upcoming Easter season with Tammy’s Easter issue from 1977. Strangely, we have just one Cover Girl this week. Her daydream is about to send sticky goo from her Easter egg all over her head, and big sis is not around (for once) to handle the situation – or laugh at it, maybe?

Poor Bessie Bunter does not fare much better. To her mind, Easter is “Feaster”, but what she gets is far from feasting. She does not have enough money for a decent Easter egg. She tries to run away to Easter Island in the mistaken belief she would find one there. But all she gets in the end is a boiled egg because she missed her tea.

Edie goes egg-rolling, and her egg ends up going all over Farmer Grump, who really is a grump. Moreover, she forgot to hard-boil it, so he’s even grumpier. But not Edie, who still has her chocolate Easter egg.

Sue’s school is chosen to appear on a community singing TV programme at Easter. But Miss Bigger is threatening to ruin it and not only with her terrible singing voice – she’s also over-dressed herself in an Easter outfit.

There is no Bella Barlow. Instead, John Armstrong has been drawing a period story, “Katie on Thin Ice”, probably because ice-skating is such a feature in the story. Katie Williams has fallen foul of a Fagin-style racket run by Mrs Winter, who also forces her to use her ice-skating skills to commit crimes. And now Mrs Winter is out for murder by sending the whole ice fair under the ice with salt. Katie has to stop Mrs Winter and save her imperilled friends while keeping ahead of the authorities who are out to arrest her. Katie is replaced by a ballet story next week, “The Dance Dream”, so still no Bella.

John Armstrong is also drawing this week’s Strange Story, which has some reference to Easter, but even more to Sherlock Holmes. Joan Watson is sent to take her mother’s necklace to Baker Street for re-stringing, but she loses it. Then she gets knocked down by a car, and goes into a garbled dream (or something) where Sherlock Holmes himself offers his services to help locate the necklace. When Joan wakes up, the dream has given her enough clues to track down the necklace.

“Witch Hazel” is a Catweazle-type story where a 16th century witch named Hazel comes to the 20th century to learn witchcraft, and does not understand that she’s in the wrong century for witchcraft. Hazel’s first day in a 20th school is taking the science teacher by surprise: she demonstrates alchemy! Then Hazel reacts with horror at the sight of the school gym. Does she think it’s a torture chamber or something?

“Towne in the Country”, which had started out as Tammy’s answer to “All Creatures Great and Small”, took a jarring change of tack when Val Towne sets out to find her father, who had failed to return from an African expedition. This would have been better as two different serials. At any rate, Val and her companions have now been captured by a hostile African tribe. And from the looks of the idol they have been brought to, they are to be sacrificed to the tribe’s god.

Gill Warden has been having a hard time being accepted in the village her policeman father has been transferred to. They call her “copper’s kid”, but now there’s another reason for their hostility: they are hiding a secret from her, and they will only show it to her if she agrees to be blindfolded while they escort her.

Stanton Hall has been taken over by soldiers – but then Molly finds out they are criminals planning to spring their buddies out of jail. It’s Molly’s quick wits and resourcefulness to find a way to outwit them.

“The Dream House” was reprinted in Princess II. It is far from dreamy, though – it’s an evil doll house that is progressively taking away all the older members of the household, and the two youngest children are helping it for some reason.

Tammy 24 April 1976

Tammy 24 April 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Sarah in the Shadows (artist Mario Capaldi) – final episode
  • Sit It out, Sheri (artist John Armstrong) – final episode
  • Luck of the Draw (artist Juliana Buch) – Strange Story
  • Claire’s Airs and Graces (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Secret Offer (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
  • The Fairground of Fear (artist Diane Gabbot) – final episode
  • A Lead through Twilight (artist Douglas Perry) – final episode

 

This is Tammy’s Easter issue from 1976. You might feel sorry for the younger Cover Girl, who gets a much smaller egg than her big sister. But on many covers she is the one who is the bane of her older sister. Inside, Tammy commemorates Easter with an Easter competition, “Easter Fun Parade” (Easter-themed jokes on the back cover), and Bessie Bunter. Cliff House revives old Easter customs: pie scrambling and orange rolling. Bessie wants to get in on the action, but of course it’s for eating rather than participating. Bessie’s classmates roll her lemons to teach her a lesson, and she cops a mouthful of lemon before she realises what they are. However, Miss Stackpole takes pity on Bessie’s miserable lemon face and rolls her a huge Easter egg to give her a happy ending.

In the Strange Story, Joanne Lyons is taught a lesson about greed, but not for Easter eggs. After Joanne takes a horseshoe (she mistakenly thought it was stealing), she finds herself oddly haunted by horseshoes, especially when she tries to cheat or gets greedy.

In Tammy’s 5th birthday issue she started a lineup of five new stories over three issues as “birthday gifts”. In this issue four of them end, which opens up a lineup of four new stories in the next issue. Not surprisingly, Bella Barlow is in the lineup.

Throughout “Sarah in the Shadows”, Sarah Cole has been using her talent for paper cut-outs to get out of all sorts of scrapes. In the final episode this week it includes saving the life of music hall star Tilly Travers and bringing down Tilly’s evil partner, Mr Ford, who is in cahoots with the corrupt debtors’ prison governor. For reasons that are not satisfactorily explained, they are both determined to destroy Sarah and keep her unfortunate uncle in debtors’ prison. But now they are exposed, Tilly says she will make sure they never work again, and gives Sarah and her uncle jobs.

John Armstrong’s current story, “Sit it out Sheri”, makes extremely liberal use of the myth of Marie Antoinette as a haughty, hard-hearted woman who single-handedly started the French Revolution with the way she treated the lower orders. A soothsayer bewitched Antoinette’s chair in the vain hope it would help her see the light before it was too late. Centuries later the same chair helps Sheri Soames overcome her shyness, but at the cost of giving her all the arrogance of Marie Antoinette, and this has gotten Sheri into terrible trouble. For a moment, Sheri even looks decapitated when she relives the moment where Antoinette is guillotined! Fortunately, enough people become convinced about the chair for Sheri to get out of trouble. Sheri retains her confidence, and the soothsayer is pleased he had more success with her than Antoinette.

Alan Barker uses all the powers of “The Fairground of Fear” to get Sir Whitland to confess that he framed Barker on the charge that sent him to prison, just because he regarded Barker as too low to marry into his family. But Barker finds out the hard way that nothing he does will get the hard-hearted Whitland to do that. Barker settles for a surprise reunion with his daughter, whose death Whitland had faked to prevent him from claiming her.

In the final episode of “A Lead through Twilight”, farmers are after Twilight because they think he’s a sheep worrier. Fortunately they all see Twilight tackle the real sheep worrier, and Twilight is cleared. The scientific research used on Twilight is used to give Carol her sight back.

“Claire’s Airs and Graces” is the only ‘birthday gift’ story that is still running. Claire Weston-Jones has her classmates thinking she has a more privileged home life than she actually does because she fears the derision of her more snobby classmates if they discover the truth. As expected, living the lie causes all sorts of complications, and this week Claire’s parents could have been really hurt for it. They make the effort to provide a spread for Claire’s classmates, but nobody turns up because Claire doesn’t want them to see her house is not the palace they have been led to believe.

This week’s Wee Sue story also has a moral about living a lie. Sue’s classmate Ann spun a big yarn to her French penfriend Louis about her interests, and even sent a picture of Sue, saying it was herself, because Louis is a small person. Now Louis is visiting, so Ann wants Sue to help keep up the pretence. But the pretence unravels when it turns out Louis is much taller than Ann thought (got metrics and imperials mixed up).

Molly Mills has received an offer for a change of employment. Spiteful Kitty and Betty try to sabotage it by planting Lady Stanton’s hat on a snowman and looking like Molly did it, so it looks like it’s the end of that chance. But everyone is taken by surprise when Lord Stanton’s response is promote Molly to head chambermaid!

Tammy 17 February 1979

Tammy cover 17 February 1979

Cover artist: Giorgio Giorgetti

Contents

  • Mouse (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • A Girl Called Steve (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Shadow on the Stage (artist Tony Coleman)
  • The Moon Stallion (artist Mario Capaldi) – adapted from TV series
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Haunted Hall (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • The Holden Hunt – Strange Story (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Make a Valentine Card…and Cookies – feature
  • Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
  • Thursday’s Child (artist Juan Solé, writer Pat Mills)
  • Have a Hearty Party! – feature

 

In honour of Valentine’s Day we profile Tammy’s Valentine issue for 1979, which I have just acquired.

The cover leads off the Valentine theme. Unusually, it is drawn by Giorgio Giorgetti instead of the regular cover artist, John Richardson. Tammy is the great lover on the cover instead of boys for the Cover Girls.

Inside, there are two Valentine features: one gives instructions for making Valentine cards and cookies, and the other gives tips on throwing a Valentine’s Day party. Inside, Wee Sue honours the event – in spite of Miss Bigger, who lumbers the whole class with a monstrous homework paper on Valentine’s Day because she’s upset at not getting a Valentine. Sue comes up with a solution once she acquires a box of reject Valentine cards – send them to Miss Bigger. Eventually this teaches a tight-fisted manager a lesson into the bargain when Miss Bigger takes him for the lover who sent her the Valentines. When you think about it, he and Miss Bigger would make a perfect match.

Tammy could have used Bessie Bunter and the Storyteller to enhance the Valentine theme as well. There are plenty of Bessie Valentine episodes they could have recycled and the Storyteller could have given a Strange Story with some romance in it. Instead, the Cliff House heating is busted and the caretaker is ill. Bessie ‘helps’ Miss Stackpole to fix it while trying to take advantage to swipe food from the kitchen, but it rebounds in the end. The Strange Story has an anti-fox hunting message. Lee Parsons is wearing a fox fur while running through a wood during an emergency. All of a sudden it feels and sounds like there is a fox hunt after her, and it’s terrifying. It mysteriously stops when Lee drops the fur, and later she finds out the date is the anniversary of the old annual Holden fox hunt.

You may have noticed from the lineup above that there is no Bella Barlow. Yes, she’s on hiatus. In a few weeks we learn she has been sailing home to Britain after two years of adventures and misadventures in various countries abroad, including Canada (Montreal Olympics) and Australia. Of course trouble isn’t far away once she docks, which sets the stage for her 1979 stories…but we’re getting a bit far ahead.

Tammy did many adaptations from books and TV series. This time she’s running an adaptation of “The Moon Stallion”. It is in the picture story format but uses story text in each panel instead of dialogue balloons.

“Mouse” is really ahead of its time for portraying child abduction, international custody disputes and girls being sold into forced marriages years before “Not Without My Daughter” and “Sold”. Mary “Mouse” Malloway is kidnapped by her father and brought to Sicily, where her tyrannical grandmother intends to sell her into a forced marriage in exchange for a vineyard. But in this episode, after Mouse makes it clear to her father how unhappy she is about that, he seems to be discreetly teaching her a few things that could be useful for an escape. Could he be actually helping her to do so?

“My Terrible Twin” was reprinted by popular demand in 1984. Lindy is on parole from a remand home. She has stopped the shoplifting that got her convicted, but she is having lapses of thoughtlessness and irresponsibility, and her sister Moira suffers for it. By the end of this episode Moira has had enough and she’s in tears, but she is failing to see that what Lindy is doing now could be considerate this time.

Jan Gregg is being harassed by a shadowy figure at Olivia Oldborne Memorial Stage School. It’s even made several attempts on her life. Now the Shadow has come right on stage and cornered Jan, saying “Little fool, to think you could ever rival the great Olivia Oldborne!” Hmmm, now that sounds like a clue!

Stephanie “Steve” Sutton is also being harassed while accompanying her father’s archaeological dig at Clambourne Bay. The villagers round on Steve, saying the dig has brought a curse on the whole village because it disturbed a monster called “the Acum”. But it isn’t long before we see clues that the Acum is a hoax and enemies are responsible for whatever’s going on.

Despite the title for the latest Molly story, the hall is not haunted. The ghost is a cover story for Molly’s high-spirited kid brother Billy, whom she’s trying to hide in Stanton Hall while her family visits a sick relative. But Molly will be fired if she is found out, and Pickering, who suspects what she is doing, will be very happy to see that. And this time it looks like Pickering really is going to catch Billy.

“Thursday’s Child” was one of Pat Mills’ most popular Tammy stories and one of her very best. Life has been good to Thursday Brown until she decides to use a Union Jack flag for a bedspread, despite her mother’s warnings that there is something about that flag. Soon after, a girl named Julie appears in Thursday’s bed, who claims to be Thursday’s daughter from the future. But for some reason Julie has nothing but hate for her future mother and makes her life a misery. The reason for Julie’s hatred seems to be linked to being paraplegic – and at the end of this episode, Thursday suddenly finds she has lost the use of her legs for no apparent reason, and Julie is gloating over her.

Tammy 20 May 1978

Tammy cover 20 May 1978

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Down to Earth Blairs (artist José Casanovas)
  • Mask for Melissa (artist Angeles Felices)
  • Get Set for Chess
  • Betta to Lose (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and a Life of Crime (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • The Samaritan – Strange Story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Edie (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
  • Circus of the Damned (artist Diane Gabbot)

 

Do you remember the first Jinty, Misty, 2000AD or other favourite comic you ever bought from the shelves? Well, this was the first Tammy I ever bought, and it was from here that my attraction to Tammy and other girls’ comics began.

I suspect even the British bobbies would get a laugh out of the joke on the cover and maybe even pin it up at the station. Perhaps Tammy knew that the UK police slang for traffic warden is “Gestapo”.

Bella has received a new job offer from a Mr Cox to introduce gymnastics to Port Tago, Australia. But when she tries to enter his hotel she gets barred because of her scruffy appearance (yes, they do have a point there Bella, and I for one would love to give you an Oubapo makeover!). So she resorts to breaking into the hotel, which gets her taken for a burglar. Can she get Mr Cox before the hotel gets the police onto her?

“Down to Earth Blairs” is Tammy’s answer to “The Good Life”. Redundancy has made the Blair family resort to a life of self-sufficiency, which they’ve come to enjoy, but there are still problems in how to make ends meet. This week it’s how to raise money to pay the rates. A gift from a gypsy gives the daughter Betsy the solution – homemade dolls made out of gypsy clothes pegs.

Melissa Mappin uses a mask to hide facial scars and works under the alias Gail Traynor in a London stage production. But hiding her face and true identity is causing problems, including giving the false impression she is stuck up. Worse, a girl who knew Melissa before the accident that scarred her face has shown up and is getting suspicious of her.

School sports star Betta James decides to start deliberately losing because she is tired of how the school and parents make her win sports all the time at the cost of social life, education, time for herself, and even being able to eat what she likes. But Betta is finding out that deliberately losing is not that easy because she is the winning kind by nature, so now she is resorting to sabotage. Unfortunately another girl is wrongly blamed for Betta’s self-sabotage. What can Betta do?

Miss Stackpole’s lesson on ancient Egypt sends Bessie off into one of her dream sequences. In the dream, she and Miss Stackpole are slaves in ancient Egypt and try to make a run for it. This leads to hijinks in the tomb of King Tut. The dream sequences in Bessie Bunter were always a favourite of mine because seeing the characters get so mixed up and put into different contexts was so funny.

Molly Mills has been on the run ever since Pickering framed her for theft from her employers, the Stantons. Now Molly’s sister Peggy is going off the rails and turning to actual crime. Molly has to resort to some shrewd measures to get Peggy straight again. Now that’s done, Molly is heading back to Stanton Hall, of all places.

There is nothing supernatural in this week’s Strange Story, although the superstitious fools in the story think otherwise. False accusations of witchcraft are levelled against a 17th century French charity worker, Marie Bisset, because her enemies want her out of the way. Fortunately Marie receives warning, and her uncle is also there to help her flee. Their escape has their pursuers actually thinking Marie has made herself disappear by witchcraft.

It’s fund-raising time for Wee Sue this week, and her big idea is the greasy pole challenge. Although it raises plenty of funds, it leads to a sticky situation in the end.

Carla Keble has been taken for tightrope star Princess Astrid and brought to Yablonski’s circus. Yablonski wants to make his circus the greatest show on Earth, which he does by blackmailing his performers into dangerous stunts, with no regard for their lives. How many people has he killed because of this? He also holds them prisoner with electric fences, guards and guard dogs, as Carla finds out when she tries to escape that night.

Tammy’s 5th Birthday Issue 7 February 1976

tammy-cover-7-february-1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Sarah in the Shadows – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Return of the Silver Mare – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Lights Out for Lucinda – last episode (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Aviator – first episode (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • A Monumental Detective – Strange Story (artist Tony Higham)
  • Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)
  • A Lead Through Twilight – first episode (artist Douglas Perry)

It is now 46 years since Tammy was first launched, on 6 February 1971. The first Tammy and Tammy’s 10th birthday issue have already been covered on this blog, so we will commemorate the anniversary with Tammy’s 5th birthday issue.

The Cover Girls are the first to honour the occasion, in their usual humorous style. Let’s hope they managed to sort out that little glitch with the birthday cake. Or maybe the Tammy team saw the funny side, just as the readers did.

As soon as we open the cover we see the first of Tammy’s “birthday gifts” to us, which is the first episode of “Sarah in the Shadows”. Tammy is celebrating her 5th with five new stories, two of which start this week, two next week, and the fifth the week after that. In Victorian times Sarah is thrown out into the street after her unfortunate uncle is thrown into debtor’s prison. All she has to survive on is her gift for paper cutouts and shadow play. The other birthday gift story, “A Lead Through Twilight”, is the last story in the issue (talk about bookends!). Carol Trent is losing her sight but won’t speak up about it or seek treatment because she is terrified her sourpuss uncle will send her away. But can she seriously expect to get away with hiding the fact that she’s going blind? And if the uncle finds out, will he do what Carol fears? Carol befriends a dog, Twilight, who could be her guide dog, but there is a definite mystery about him.

The birthday gift stories starting in the next issue are “The Fairground of Fear” (Diane Gabbot’s first serial for Tammy) and “Sit It Out, Sheri” (which will give John Armstrong a change from Bella). To make way for them, “Lights Out for Lucinda” is being finished off with a double episode. Lucinda has discovered the reason for the bizarre town of Blackmarket where everyone is being drugged into thinking it is still World War II and being forced to live that way. This peculiar ruse is all so the commander can provide a cheap workforce that are being paid 1940s rates instead of modern ones – to none other than Lucinda’s father! Fortunately for Lucinda it turns out he was a dupe and then a victim of blackmail before he finally manages to help put things right.

The last “birthday gift” story, starting 21 February, is a Hugh Thornton-Jones story, “Claire’s Airs and Graces”. Claire pretends to come from a posh background because of the snobby girls at her new school. This was the only Thornton-Jones serial in Tammy; his artwork was otherwise confined to Wee Sue episodes and Strange Stories.

It looks like the Storyteller is celebrating too because he is presenting two Strange Stories this week. Molly apparently is celebrating with a new story, but the title really should say “aviatrix”, not “aviator”. Although Bessie’s caption says “Bessie celebrates our birthday in her own special way”, her story has no bearing whatsoever on the celebrations or even on birthdays. She’s trying to help catch bank robbers but has forgotten the licence plate number of their vehicle. The police are trying to jog her memory but of course she is more interested in eating. Wee Sue’s story also has nothing to do with the celebrations. It’s all hijinks when Miss Bigger gets herself locked in a ball-and-chain because she disregarded a “do not touch” sign: “I’m a teacher. It doesn’t apply to teachers.” Silly woman!

Of course there is a competition to mark the occasion too, but this won’t be until next week.

Pre-Misty merger: Tammy 12 January 1980

tammy-cover-12-january-1980

Cover artist – John Richardson

Contents

  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Cindy of Swan Lake (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Daughter of the Desert (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Important News for All Readers! (merger announcement)
  • The New Girl – Strange Story
  • Edie the Ed’s Niece (Joe Collins)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills and the Promotion – last episode (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Make the Headlines, Hannah! (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Everything in the Garden – Strange Story (artist Tony Higham)
  • Edie’s Hobbyhorse – Tie ‘n’ Dye

tammy-and-misty-ad

This is the Tammy that came out the same week as the final issue of Misty. So what did the issue have to say about the Tammy & Misty merger and how did it prepare for it?

The first hint of it comes on the cover, with the Devil in a sandwich sign announcing “there’s exciting news in Tammy – on sale now!” I’ve always been struck at how that Devil character bears a striking resemblance to Pickering, the bully butler in Molly Mills. Is Tammy having a bit of an in-joke here?

As far as room goes, there is not much space to make room for a reasonable proportion of Misty stories. All the serials are still running and one, “Sister in the Shadows”, is only on its second episode. The announcement about the merger informs Tammy readers that not only will all their regular favourites be there but there will also be a new Bella story starting. In other words, Tammy isn’t reducing any of her own features to make room for more features from Misty, such as “Beasts”, “Nightmare!” and (we suspect) “Monster Tales”. There must have been great disappointment among former Misty readers that the proportion of Misty was miniscule compared to the Tammy one. I myself hoped that once the current Tammy stories finished more Misty stories would take their place, but I was disappointed there. Why couldn’t Tammy have done some double episodes of Hannah, the serial closest to finishing, so she would be finished off by the time of the merger and there would be more space for Misty stories in the merger issue?

In discussion of the stories, in part two of “Sister in the Shadows” Wendy continues to have what must rank as one of the worst first days at school in history. On top of the king-sized collywobbles she came with, she is encountering constant embarrassment and humiliation as teachers keep comparing her to her sister Stella, who was once the star pupil at the school, and Wendy can’t live up to their expectations. It’s not endearing her to her fellow classmates either and the stage is clearly set for some bullying.

“Daughter of the Desert” features a school that is strangely reverting to a desert pattern after an Arabian princess comes to the school. In an exciting but very odd episode, the two protagonists find themselves in a quicksand trap, which is supposed to be part of the strange desert pattern. Then the quicksand mysteriously disappears into a hard concrete road when the girls return with their headmistress to investigate.

Cindy decides to throw away her ballet career for the sake of her swans, who are being poisoned by chemical pollution. Despite the pollution the swans find the strength to persuade Cindy to continue, much to the chagrin of Cindy’s jealous rival Zoe. Now Zoe is now back to scheming against Cindy to become the star dancer of their village.

Molly Mills gets promoted but deliberately sets out to lose it once she decides she was happier with the status quo as a servant. Miss Bigger buys a sedan chair for charity – but trust her to lumber Wee Sue and her friend with the job of carrying it to her place! Then thieves steal the chair, and it’s up to Wee Sue’s big brain to sort them out. The promise of a hamper lures Bessie out for ice-skating practice, but of course there have to be hijinks.

Hannah’s latest attempt to hit the headlines fails again because her prop got vandalised. At first she suspects her sisters, who have been sabotaging her every effort so far, but now she isn’t so sure. Sounds like a mystery to tie up, and will it have any bearing on Hannah’s campaign to prove herself?

There is a double-up of Strange Stories this week. The first is about a new girl named Stella who is perfect at everything. But Tracey Roberts thinks there is something odd about it all, and about the star on the bracelet Stella always wears. Then, when the star falls off Stella’s bracelet she falls mysteriously ill and Tracey gets strange visions from her parents urging her to find the star. The second is a parable about how beauty can be found even in the most unexpected places. Once Chris Dale learns this lesson she agrees to have the eye surgery she had refused before.

Incidentally, the blurb announcing the new Bella story says she will have a crack at the Moscow Olympics (which of course will be a “struggle”). Older Bella readers would know that she had never succeeded in competing at the Olympics. Her 1976 Montreal bid only got her as far as performing in the opening ceremony. Will Bella succeed in competing at the Olympics this time?

‘The Mighty One’ by Steve MacManus (2016)

The Mighty One - cover

This is a review (of sorts) of Steve MacManus’s autobiography “The Mighty One”, in which he covers his time working at Fleetway / IPC between 1973 and 1991. It’s not your usual review though, as it is also intended as a way to highlight some material mentioned in the book that either gives us new information on how the comics publishing of the time actually worked, or re-confirms information we already knew (but which it’s always good to have from more than one source.) (Some write-ups that are more ‘review’-y can be found here: GNFAR, Colin Noble at Down The Tubes, Lew Stringer.)

MacManus started work at Fleetway Publications in 1973, as a sub-editor on Valiant, which was part of the Juvenile Group of comics and magazines aimed at young people. He was part of a team of four people: an editor and a sub-editor, an art editor and an art assistant (often referred to as a bodger). He subsequently worked on Battle Picture Weekly, and although he wasn’t part of the core team working on Action he got involved in some elements of that title too. Starlord was his next step and when that merged with 2000AD he went to that title, eventually becoming Editor in 1979. In 1986 he moved sideways and relinquished the editorship to stay involved with the Judge Dredd universe, with the creation of titles for a more mature audience – Crisis (in 1988), the short-lived but beautiful Revolver, and the much longer-lasting Judge Dredd the Megazine. The book ends in 1991 with the collapse of the Maxwell Communication Corporation (which had bought IPC’s remaining comics line in 1987) and the subsequent sale of the titles to Gutenbergus (later Egmont), though the last chapter of the book, effectively an epilogue, races through the aftermath of the subsequent years through to 2011.

During this book he talks about working with key staff contacts such as art editor Doug Church, editor Dave Hunt, art editor Jan Shepheard; and with well-known freelancers like Pat Mills, Alan Grant, John Wagner, Tom Tully. The names we are familiar with from girls comics publishing – Mavis Miller, Wilf Prigmore, Terence Magee – mostly don’t get a look-in but there are certainly some folks mentioned who crossed over that significant divide as we will see – Gerry Finley-Day, Jim Baikie, and of course Pat Mills again (who seems to get everywhere). If you want to read anecdotes of those days, or find out how a boys’ comic of the time was conceived, written, drawn, put together, printed, and marketed then you couldn’t ask for a better book than this, and a fun read to boot. I’m sure it will get people digging out their old issues of the comics mentioned, or looking out for reprints of stories they missed (it’s certainly had that effect on me!).

My interest in getting the book in the first place, however, was to see what light it might shed on the creation and publishing of Fleetway / IPC’s girls comics. It did not disappoint. As mentioned above, some of the information in the book is material that we already know or had a good idea was the case, but it’s good to have it corroborated in a printed source that can be referenced in the future. Some of the information, however, is stuff I’d never dreamed of, and which has got me thinking of new things to look at and analyse in Jinty and other comics.

What did we already know that is corroborated here?

  • There are some basic facts that are repeated here about things like the target age of the readership (8-12 years), and the sales figures of the time (around 80,000 copies per week normally, with 2000AD achieving noticeably strong sales of 100,000 copies per week, but still being out-sold by Tammy which was selling 200,000 copies a week).
  • The expectation was that any given child would be reading the comic for a maximum of four years before going on to other things (it states in the book that a boy might give up his weekly comic in order to save up for something bigger and more grown up). So the rule of thumb, as we’ve heard before from Mistyfan, was that stories from a specific title could be reprinted in that title after some 5 years had passed.
  • The normal format of a comic was 32 pages, which included 3 pages of editorial material or features (intro page, letters page, back cover) and the front cover – so 28 pages of comics, normally divided up into 8 stories of three or four pages each. The book doesn’t say specifically, but presumably as with Jinty there would normally be a couple of single-page strips to make up the 28 pages of comics.
  • It was pretty clear beforehand that comics at the time were fairly blokey. Of course MacManus was talking about working on boys comics, but almost all the names he mentions were of men, apart from Jan Shepheard. The office staff, the colleagues he socialised with, the management – just about everyone he mentions was male. The magazine publishing side was more mixed, with columnists such as Julie Burchill coming in for a mention alongside female editorial staff on titles.

There were some points mentioned that weren’t totally new to me, or to other readers of this blog, but which have had new light shed on them:

  • The Juvenile Group had separate departments for boys’ comics, girls’ comics, nursery comics, and humour comics. It’s clear from this book that these departments were a lot more separate from each other in terms of culture and networking than we might have imagined. The girls comics and the boys comics were very much separated from each other – they were located on separate floors, for instance – and there is little evidence in MacManus’ book of much fraternization between the two. (Gerry Finley-Day was one of the exceptions – he was the deputy managing editor of the girls’ comics line at the same time as he was writing stories for the initial line up of Battle.) So much so that when talking about Jim Baikie coming aboard to 2000AD wagon (for “Skizz” in 1982), MacManus was seemingly totally unaware of Baikie’s background in drawing girls comics, knowing him only as a Look-In artist! I asked MacManus via Facebook whether he really had been entirely unaware of the crossing-over from girls comics to boys comics that Baikie, Ron Smith, and Phil Gascoine had done, and he confirmed that he didn’t think he knew it then and was surprised to hear it now. At the same time, there must have been some awareness of what was happening in the other area, as MacManus appreciated the notable successes that were happening with Tammy and Jinty.
  • The running order of the stories in each 32 page issue was closely tied to the popularity of the stories in question. In Valiant, the most popular story appeared at the front of the comic, and the second most popular one at the back, which makes sense. But MacManus also says that the least-liked heroes would be marked for the chop in ‘an end-of-term edition in which all the current serials concluded’, which surprised me! I don’t remember noticing that lots of stories normally came to an end at the same time, in Jinty at least – but I will certainly look at the story list by date to see if there are patterns for when stories tend to end or start.
  • Not really known beforehand but not surprising as such: MacManus gives us a little bit of detail about the taglines at the top of each cover – ‘the pithy phrases known as toplines’. These were apparently produced ahead of time – ‘several of these to last us the next few issues’.
  • I knew that there was quite a lot of active creative work required of those working as in-house staff at IPC (no doubt the same was true of DC Thomson too): we hear of Gerry Finley-Day writing umpteen stories at the same time as being a staffer, and we know about the script conferences held in the editorial offices of the comics. I was surprised, though, to understand quite how hands-on those creative processes were at all levels of the publishing process. MacManus was required to do quite a lot of writing as a normal part of his job, and he talks about the specific encouragement to write scripts and features. Art duties likewise were an important part of the in-house staff work: the bodger or art assistant would redraw elements that had been perhaps misunderstood by the main artist, or which needed amending for other reasons (such as to tone down a shocking scene, or to touch up old artwork that was to be reprinted in a different format). The art editor was responsible for the overall look and feel of the comic; we’ve heard elsewhere about how much of an effect Jan Shepheard had on early 2000AD for instance. A high level of creative endeavour was expected and required: MacManus’ interview with IPC turned at least partly on his ability to spell, and everyone on staff knew that there were a lot of parental and media eyes focused on the comics, ready to spot any errors or grammatical flaws. But at a basic level of comics publishing, too, the editorial role included the creative element of subbing the dialogue written by the author so that it fitted into the space left by the artist, while continuing to respect ‘the dramatic “beat” of the pictures so that the story flowed seamlessly for the reader’.
  • We’ve heard before from Pat Mills that women were generally uninterested in working on the comics because they wanted to work on the women’s titles, as proper journalists. I’m sure that was a real thing, but what Pat’s narrative doesn’t include is the fact that other people working on the comics also wanted to be ‘proper journalists’ too – MacManus recounts the attraction of the idea of working on a magazine and holding your head up in the queue for the staff lunch! It was also an area of the business with a lot more budget to play around with. Between this relatively greater respect accorded to journalists working on consumer magazines, and the blokey background of many parts of the publishing company, it’s perhaps not that surprising that many women may have been a bit uninterested in working on the comics.
  • It’s clear from MacManus that Scottish rival DC Thomson were immensely important not only in providing a competitor to race against, but also in the transfer of knowledge and methods to the better-paying London publisher. MacManus attended an in-house training course on scripting picture strips for girls, run by John Purdie, the managing editor of the girls’ department and an import from DCT. Writers Pat Mills and John Wagner, were similarly trained in the DCT writing style – but with particular expertise in writing girls comics, which was described by Pat Mills as being particularly plot-driven, with four sizeable things happening in the space of a single 22-panel episode. This brought in a professionalism and strength into IPC’s boys’ comics writing by explicitly teaching staffers how to write and edit tightly. MacManus contrasts this with the common technique of starting an episode with last week’s cliffhanger, resolving it, doling out a smidgen of plot development, before ending on another, often spurious, cliffhanger.
  • MacManus talks about the dummy issue of Battle being produced six weeks ahead of the first issue going on sale, and this six-week lead time crops up at other points in this book. (Amongst other things it means that ‘For a new weekly title the soonest you could end a strip was around issue twelve’.) Of course there would have to be some sort of publication lead time but it’s nice to have it nailed down fairly specifically. I’d like to have heard exactly how far in advance the advance copies were printed – we’ve heard elsewhere that there are around 30 ultra-rare copies of the issue of Action printed just before the order came to stop the presses and re-jig the level of violence in the title. Does that mean that an advance copy of Tammy‘s last issue, with the final episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”, might have been produced or even printed? You’d think someone would have mentioned it by now, but who knows… Or if not a printed copy of the issue, could there be any remaining scrap of the ‘make-up book,which listed the status of scripts and artwork for each issue going forward’?

And then there were some points that surprised me quite a lot:

  • MacManus says right at the beginning that when he joined Valiant in 1973 he was surprised to see the same characters he’d followed a decade earlier, when he read it as a boy. Captain Hurricane, The Wild Wonders, The House of Dolmann, Raven on the Wing, Kelly’s Eye, Jason Hyde, The Steel Claw: that’s a lot of ongoing characters! I don’t know Valiant enough to have a feel for how many of those were really long-running but clearly a number of them were – many more than was the case in Jinty or even Tammy. Jinty only had one or at maximum two ongoing characters at a time, while Tammy had the long-running Bella and Molly Mills of course. But neither girls’ title was chock-full of long-running stories in the way that MacManus sees as the norm in boys’ comics.
  • MacManus talks a few times about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story. At one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. There are two things that surprise me about this. One is the terminology, using ‘pictures’ or ‘frames’ instead of panels (likewise he uses ‘speech bubbles’ instead of ‘word balloons’). it’s subtly different from the terminology I’m used to – I suppose my vocabulary for this has been influenced by US comics, and I’d never noticed the small differences. It makes sense of the many references to ‘picture-stories’ instead of ‘comics’ though, I guess.
  • But the thing that surprises me most about this is the idea of measuring stories in pictures or frames, rather than in what I would never have questioned as the key unit of a story – the page. Of course, the page has to still be considered a very important unit – you have to fill up 32 pages in each issue, and the physical page is what the reader turns over to see something surprising that has been hidden from them until that page turn. The real lightbulb moment associated with this, for me, was when MacManus explained the thinking behind running only five stories in the early 2000AD – he credits Pat Mills with the notion of leaving out the most-unpopular two or three stories out of eight, and going straight to only printing five stories in each issue, with more pages allocated. MacManus specifically says ‘Each story still had the usual number of pictures, but the extra pages allowed the pictures to be drawn larger’. Wow! Yes, this is clearly what is happening, not only in 2000AD but also to a certain extent in Misty.

Available from Rebellion £9.99 for the print edition (ISBN 978-1-78108-475-5).

Combining Tammy serials and regulars in Tammy’s Christmas Issue 1977

Art: John Armstrong

Bella Game 1Bella Game 2

Art: Robert MacGillivray

Tammy Christmas feature
Tammy 1977 Christmas celebrations

I was perusing through the Tammys and came across these features that appeared in the issue for 24 December 1977. I put them up to show how Tammy sometimes brought characters from her serials and regulars together in special features and how fascinating it was to see so many characters and features from Tammy combined together. Recent or running serials team up with the Tammy regulars for these special features in the 1977 Christmas issue. This never happened with Jinty.