Tag Archives: Norman Lee

Judy & Tracy 19 January 1985, #1306

Judy and Tracy cover.jpeg

Cover artist: Norman Lee. Judy is on the left. Tracy and her budgie Elton are on the right.

  • Big ‘n’ Bertha – cartoon
  • Sandra of the Secret Ballet (artist Paddy Brennan) – first episode of a reprint
  • Little Amy
  • Georgie and the Dragon (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Junior Nanny (artist Oliver Passingham) – first episode of a return appearance
  • Twin Trouble (artist Paddy Brennan) – first episode
  • Microgirl (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones) – first episode of a sequel
  • Hard Times for Helen (artist Bert Hill)
  • Debbie at the School for Horses (artist Oliver Passingham)
  • Find the Hidden Headphones Competition
  • Harvey – Go Home!

Here’s another dip into DCT. This time we are going to take a look at the issue where Tracy merged with Judy on 19 January 1985. Judy is also celebrating her 25th Jubilee, which makes the issue even more significant. Her competition is being run because of the Jubilee, not because of the merger. It is not surprising that Judy is also looking back on her past. This week she begins to repeat one of her very first stories, “Sandra of the Secret Ballet”. She also brings back another established Judy favourite: “Junior Nanny”.

The merger is unusual in that the merger issue came out the same week Tracy published her final issue. Well, at least Tracy readers didn’t need to wait a week to see their stories continue in the merger. Or rather, more than a week, considering that Tracy came out on Saturday and Judy on Thursday. Perhaps it was done out of consideration to the readers.

However, one odd and annoying thing about the last issue of Tracy is that she began a new story in it, “Little Amy”. Why the first episode of Amy couldn’t wait until the merger issue so all readers could read the serial in its entirety is something I don’t understand.

Other Tracy stories that came over were: “Harvey – Go Home!”, where a lost dog has adventures while trying to find his owner; “Georgie and the Dragon” a humour story about a baby dragon; and “Microgirl”, which is a sequel to an earlier Tracy story about an evil scientist who can shrink people. Tracy’s budgie, Elton, also came over, and he appeared on Judy’s covers for quite some time.

Judy also begins a completely new story, “Twin Trouble”. The trouble is about an accident girl who causes trouble for her twin sister because she blames the twin for the accident – quite wrongly, of course. Judy’s other stories are “Hard Times for Helen” and “Debbie at the School for Horses”. In the former, Helen Shaw suffers not only from the fallout of an over-busy mother but also from bully teachers who constantly compare her unfairly with the mother and make unjust accusations of bad behaviour against her. In the latter, Debbie Marsh is on a steep learning curve on how to look after horses at a riding school.

Rhoda Miller – Interview

Rhoda Miller was a subeditor at DC Thomson and at IPC, working on girls comics and magazines between 1966 and 2008. In answer to my questions, she wrote the biographical piece below, which I am very happy to be able to publish. Many thanks, Rhoda!

I began work in August 1966 on Diana magazine in Dundee. Editor was George Moonie, Chief sub Ken Gordon. There were two other men subs and about four girls. From day one I was expected to write features and was sent out, (untrained!) to interview people such as The Walker Brothers, Amen Corner, Davy Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Titch (?). Story ideas were discussed at “story sessions” and ideas sent out to script writers. The subs’ job was to prepare them for publication. Sometime, this meant a complete re-write! In 1970, I was in a one-way love affair and decided to move to London. A bit drastic, but there you go!

When I applied to IPC they had just paid off a lot of people and the unions wouldn’t let them take anyone new on. But John Purdie was keen to have someone from Thomsons, he took me on as a free lancer, but I was to work in the office full time, and if anyone asked, I was to tell them I was a “visiting free lancer”.

I was put in Desmond Pride’s old office with Annie Deam, who had recently been removed from her post of School Friend editor, and like me, was working on projects. Eventually I went onto Sandie and worked as a sub. My days of working there are very hazy, and I wasn’t there very long before personal circumstances propelled me back to Dundee. I do remember the art editor, though. His name was John Jackson, and he had come from Eagle, and I remember the artists agent, Jack Wall, and his best mate, an artist whose surname was MacGillivray (can’t recall his first name) [Robert MacGillivray] but MacGillivray’s nephew was the legendary Ali McKay who also worked for IPC for quite a few years.

Back in Dundee, I rejoined DC Thomsons, and went to The Bunty, where Harold Moon was editor, Ian Munro chief sub. These were amongst the happiest days of my working life. I was there for several years, writing scripts for “The Four Marys” among others. At this time, the company still employed several long-standing script writers. One of the most prolific was a lady called Olive K Griffiths. Her scripts needed a lot of re-writing, as I recall. In the weekly comic we didn’t have features, but we did in the annuals, and these the staff were required to write.

After that, it was Spellbound with Ken Gordon editing, and David Donaldson chief sub. By this time, some of the subs were writing more and more of the scripts, and the company was employing fewer outside script writers. Spellbound, a spooky magazine, only ran a few years before it ran out of steam. I remember we had a lot of interference from Norman Fowler, who was one of our managing editors.  He was keen to have horse racing stories in all the magazines!

After Spellbound, it was Mandy under Alan Halley, but when I objected to him wanting to run a horrible story about a wealthy couple planning to kidnap a poor girl and use her as a blood donor for their ill daughter, we fell out and I went to Nikki, where I wrote “The Comp”. As I say, my memory is not great for dates, or how long I was on each magazine, but in 1997, I was chief sub editor on Animals and You. Frances O’Brien was editor.

“Luv, Lisa” was my idea, and was quite an innovative idea, as it was a “dear diary” photo story rather than an illustrated one. Richard Palmer was the photographer (he also worked for IPC). After Animals and You, Frances and I moved to work on a new project, of which nothing came, but we did come up with the concept of The Goodie Bag Mag, and I worked on that with her, until I took early voluntary severance in 2008.

The artists who worked for us (that I remember ) were Claude Berridge, George Martin, David Matysiak, and Norman Lee. Spellbound had an amazing Spanish artist drawing one of our stories, but again the name escapes me! [I assume this may have been Romero who drew Supercats; if Rhoda is able to confirm then I will update.]

[Edited to add the following further additions from Rhoda, below. I had asked why she felt that the publishing industry moved from story-heavy titles to ones that were more focused on features or freebies, and about credits for artists and writers.]

I really cannot explain why the comics became less content and more free gifts, except to suggest that research showed children were less inclined to read great screeds of type and preferred more pictorial and less copy. The free gift phenomenon was very much a case of “the opposition are doing it, so should we.”

As to naming the script writers/artists, it was certainly a DC Thomson policy not to allow anyone to be credited. But some of the Spanish artists sneaked their names on and a blind eye was turned. Mainly because they were indispensable. Indeed, it was only in the past twenty years that Thomson allowed their newspapers reporters and columnists to get bylines!