Tag Archives: Pat Mills

How do you know who’s the hero (in British girls comics)?

I have been thinking about how you can tell who is the hero, or at least the main character, in British girls comics. I’m sure that as readers most of us can tell who’s the hero most of the time, but there are always some odd cases that test the boundaries. Perhaps we will learn something about some underlying rules of British comics storytelling if we have a deeper look?

Below I suggest five key tests to check who is the main character in a story. These tests aren’t anything to do with how nice or kind the person is – they would apply to an anti-hero as much as to the most perfect hero. Rather, they should tell us whether or not the story is about that person.

Reference in title

You would think the title of the story would be a dead giveaway as to who the story is about – but it’s not always as simple as that, of course. The main villain might be the one featured in the title (“Angela Angel-Face“, “Wanda Whiter Than White“) or, particularly in the case of Jinty, the title may be fairly allusive (“The Valley of Shining Mist“, “Waves of Fear” and many others).

For most stories, though, it’s true – the title does give away who the main character is. Often her name is right up front as the first element of the title along with the key struggle of the story: “Gwen’s Stolen Glory“, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, “Glenda’s Glossy Pages“, “Cora Can’t Lose“. But is Amanda Blay the main character in “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled“? And in “The Slave of Form 3B“, is the main character weak-willed Tania or the villainous (and rather more interesting) Stacey?

Hearing their words

A more important test than the title of the story seems to me to be whether we know what the character thinks and says. Do we see the character’s words (spoken or thoughts) directly on the page or not?

  • The sample episode of “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” has Amanda’s words showing (in speech or word balloons) in only 10 out of 28 panels in the episode. Her antagonists, Jane and Marty, have their words or speech reported in 22 of the 28 panels (including ones where Amanda also speaks).
  • The sample episode of “The Slave of Form 3B” does not include any words or thoughts of Tania’s, but only those of Stacey (in the 26 panels shown, we hear Stacey’s thoughts or words in all bar 5).

amanda must not be expelled crop

Seeing their face

Similarly to the test above of whether we hear their words directly, do we follow them on the page and see what they do, in each panel or the majority of the page?

  • You might think that it comes to a fairly similar outcome if you check how many panels the person appears in;  I would expect the main character in a British girls comic to be in most of the panels (and that, by some way). However, in the same episode of “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”, Jane and Marty are visible in 23 of the 28 panels while Amanda is in 18 of the 28 panels. Amanda is visible in quite a lot more panels (18 panels) than just the ones where she says or thinks something (10 panels): she is a focus of the reader’s attention without actually being the main person that you put yourself in the place of.
  • In the sample episode of “The Slave of Form 3B”, Stacey appears in slightly more panels than she speaks in – there are only 3 panels that she does not appear in, compared to the 5 that she does not speak in.

 

Active doer, or passive done-to?

This can be a bit harder to determine, I think. Does the hero (or the person who might be the hero) kick off the actions and make things happen, or is she ‘done-to’ rather than actively ‘doing’? In girls comics there is a definite theme of the downtrodden underdog hero, whose heroism lies in her endurance and persistance rather than in solving the world’s woes, so this may be a less definitive way of singling out the hero of the story. What happens if we look at the two sample stories to check how active the characters are?

  • Jane and Marty ensure that Amanda gets back to the dorm without being spotted and expelled (foiling her intent), and even sneak back the gown and mortar board that Jane dressed up in, to remove all evidence of what they were up to. But Amanda is pretty active too, by the end of the episode: she takes a pair of scissors from the needlework room and sets out to pick herself a bouquet of the headmistress’s prized tulips, as a way to get herself expelled. Honours are relatively even, though I think that on the showing of this single episode, Jane and Marty feel like the initiators of more action than Amanda does.
  • In “The Slave of  Form 3B” Tania is unconscious throughout the whole sample episode and therefore as passive as she could possibly be. Stacey initiates the action throughout: she hides Tania out of sight of possible rescuers, and she makes it look as if Tania has run away. The teachers initiate a search of the grounds, but again Stacey’s action is the decisive one as she lies to the other searchers to decoy them away from where she has hidden Tania.

Slave of Form 3B pg 1 crop

Who has the emotional journey?

Pat Mills is currently writing a series of blog posts on storytelling, and one of the recent entries is on the Emotional Journey. Many thanks to him for this post, as it was something I nearly overlooked in this series of tests. We can sensibly ask, is there a shape to the story and if so, who does that story-shape belong to? There are a number of fairly well-worn story ‘shapes’ and these also help to identify the main character. ‘Spoilt girl redeems herself’ is one of them, and ‘brave girl beats her bullies by enduring’ is another – and by phrasing the story in this way you immediately understand who the hero is. But another way to think of it is, who undergoes the emotional journey – who is changed by the end of the story? Not all stories necessarily have change as part of their core structure, but many do, and it can provide an interesting contrast to the answers derived from the other tests.

  • To answer this question you need to think about the story as a whole, not just individual sample episodes, so it can be harder to determine unless you know the story reasonably well. I don’t know “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” very well but Mistyfan has provided a detailed synopsis. From this it does look very much to be the case that it is Amanda who has the emotional journey – going from desperately wanting to be expelled to being glad she never managed it, and from hating even being at school to being proud of it and wanting her team to win. Jane and Marty do not obviously seem to change throughout the story, their motives and psychology remain pretty consistent.
  • In “Slave of Form 3B” then again, when we look at the overall story, the sense of who is the hero is rather different from when we look at the details. Tania, who starts off the story weak-willed and very passive indeed, ends up still pretty ‘done-to’ rather than actively bringing about Stacey’s downfall. It is Tania who is acclaimed by her schoolfellows due to her persistence and survivorship, so at least she is changed from being a timid outcast to being someone that all her fellows know and think well of. Stacey, in contrast, has not changed her motivation or aims at all; if anything she has just become more fixed in her ambitions. The arc of Tania’s emotional journey is rather tacked-on in the final episode or two though, which dilutes the effect considerably.

 

Summary

I called the above ‘five key tests’ but of course most of the time it’s hardly necessary to apply a series of tests to determine who is the hero or main character in a story. For more unusual cases like the two stories chosen here, it can however shed some interesting light on aspects of the story.

  • Is Amanda the main character in “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”, or are Jane and Marty the real heroes? If you just look at the sample episode then Jane and Marty are acting much more like the main characters – they are the ones that the reader sees and hears, and the ones who move the action forward more substantially. But taking the story as a whole, especially when you consider the intention signalled by the story title, it is Amanda who the story is most ‘about’, as the person who has the significant emotional journey.  Perhaps if we re-ran the tests on who we see and hear, and who initates the action, based on a later episode, she would be more obviously marked as the main character?
  • Is Timid Tania, who is the Slave in question, the hero of “The Slave of Form 3B”, or is it wicked Stacey? Stacey is by far the most active and most visible character throughout the story, though there may be other episodes where she does not dominate the action quite as fully as in this sample epsiode. The final part of Tania’s emotional journey feels very tacked on at the end, though there are earlier points in the story where she stands up for herself to some extent. Even taking the story as a whole it does not feel like Tania is ‘really’ the main character; possibly the writer intended her to be so, but had much more fun writing the frankly rather evil Stacey instead!
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Tammy 5 November 1983

Tammy cover 5 November 1983

  • Lucky By Name… (artist Juliana Buch, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages (artist Tony Highmore, writer Pat Mills)
  • Room for Rosie (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Alison Christie)
  • Remember November… (artist Len Flux, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie, sub-writer Ian Mennell)
  • The Dawn Horse – a Pony Tale (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Spell of Fog (artist Tony Coleman, writer Jake Adams)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)

This was the last Guy Fawkes issue Tammy ever published, and it is bang on 5 November. Tammy dropped Bessie and Wee Sue in 1982, so they are no longer able to provide any special stories for Guy Fawkes. We have a Guy Fawkes feature, “Remember November…” and in “The Crayzees” we learn Miss T does not like fireworks because they are so noisy. So what is in that mystery parcel she has ordered for 5 November? Joe Collins was always one for incorporating the Fireworks Code into his Tammy cartoons and this one is no exception. It is written all around the border of the full-page cartoon. We also have a recipe for a Bonfire cake in “Tammy’s Tasties”.

Room for Rosie had her Guy Fawkes story in the Halloween issue, but there is some carryover this week. Rosie has taken damage from the bonfire party, so her chances of a home have been reduced. Can Pauline find a way to restore her?

A new Pam of Pond Hill starts. It would have been nice if Jay Over had written a Pam of Pond Hill Guy Fawkes story, which is something Pam never had. Instead, Pam and her friends find themselves being roped into a cookery contest by Jenny Bates, who is using the excursion to see her favourite pop group, the Phonees. Moreover, Jenny has chosen them more for their good nature than their talent for cooking. They decide to go along with it because they are under the impression Jenny’s days are numbered and it’s her dying wish. Actually, it looks suspiciously like Jenny’s playing on their sympathy. Anyway, Jenny’s reason for entering them all in the contest is selfish and not giving any thought to winning for the school – which they don’t have much chance of.

In “Lucky By Name” everyone is now thinking Lucky the foal has some strange power over animals. Snobby Amanda and her father demand the foal be examined by a research institute but Lucky’s owners refuse because the institute has an unsavoury reputation for animal experimentation. Now someone is stealing Lucky, and we strongly suspect Amanda and her father are behind it. Lucky, if you really do have a power over animals, now might be a good time to use it…

This week’s episode of “Glenda’s Glossy Pages” was drawn by Tony Highmore instead of Mario Capaldi. Capaldi must have been unavailable for some reason, but he returns in the next episode. In the story, the power of the glossy pages drives off the police who think Glenda stole the items she mysteriously got from the catalogue, but they warn she hasn’t heard the last of them. Next, it looks like the catalogue is helping Glenda by giving her the confidence to swim against her arch-enemy Hillary. But when Hillary suddenly develops cramp, Glenda finds herself just swimming off instead of helping. What the hell has come over her? Well, it’s not hard to guess, especially as Glenda is at a loss to explain it herself but just can’t help it. We rather suspect the same thing is behind Hillary’s cramp too.

The Button Box gives us more Jackson family history this week. This time it’s a World War II story on how gran’s sister met her husband – all through one of the buttons in the box, of course.

This week’s pony tale is a sad one and based on fact. It discusses the last of the Tarpan horse breed in the Ukraine. Sonja and her father travel to the Ukraine in search of the Tarpan breed – only to find the Tarpans are on the brink of extinction and two parent Tarpans being shot by farmers pushes them over the edge.

In “Spell of Fog” Sally is convinced the mysterious rising mist is Alice Compton’s angry response to the sensationalised, historically inaccurate filming of her persecution for witchcraft. But the filming continues, so the mist intensifies. It’s got everyone scared and has even shattered a window.

Beforehand, we are introduced to Alice’s sad-looking self-portrait, the only one of her pictures to survive her burning at the stake. It seems her “extremely modern, natural style” was too far ahead of its time; people called it “the Devil’s likeness” and it sounds like this is one of the reasons why she was branded a witch. The self-portrait is clearly a plot thread to be followed up, but will it be in a way that tells us anything about the mist?

Tammy 29 October 1983

Tammy cover 29 October 1983

  • Lucky by Name… (artist Juliana Buch, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Pat Mills)
  • The Nightingale’s Song – complete story (artist Douglas Perry, writer Roy Preston)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, sub-writer Linda Stephenson)
  • Spell of Fog – first episode (artist Tony Coleman, writer Jake Adams)
  • Room for Rosie (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Alison Christie)
  • Lonely Ballerina – final episode (artist Maria Barrera, writer Jay Over)
  • Make a Mask for Halloween! – feature (writer Chris Lloyd)

Halloween is coming up. So I am bringing out the last Halloween issue Tammy ever published. The cover is very nice, and the girls look like Trick-or-Treaters or organising their Halloween party. Inside, we have instructions for making a Halloween mask and the Crayzees go to a Halloween fancy dress ball. Miss T and Edie are rather chagrined when the human-sized Snoopa wins first prize for dressing up as Miss T!

In last week’s issue, Tammy had a blurb about a spooky story starting this issue in commemoration of Halloween. It is “Spell of Fog”. A film crew arrives at the village of Wolfen to make a film about Alice Compton, a girl who was burned at the stake for witchcraft and rumoured to haunt the spot where her ashes were scattered.  So when the film producer announces his plans to do a historically inaccurate, sensationalised film where Alice is truly evil and an agent of the Devil instead of one of the hapless victims of witch hunts, it really is asking for trouble. Sure enough, a mist is soon arising on the spot where Alice is said to haunt, and it’s clearly blowing in the opposite direction of the wind…

Surprisingly, “Room for Rosie” is celebrating Guy Fawkes one week early and passing over Halloween altogether. Pauline Wheeler is trying to honour her dying gran’s last request to find a good home for her beloved pram, “Rosie”, but so far no luck. Meantime, Rosie is being put to more of the 101 uses that she was so famous for with Gran. This week it’s carrying the Guy for the penny-for-the-routine. Rosie does not do much to sort out the problem of the week, which is where to have the bonfire after the kids lose their regular lot for it.

You’d think there would be a Halloween story in the Button Box. Instead, it’s a story to reassure you that a representative will always be on hand to sort out any problems you may have when you are on holiday abroad.

The complete story is about a promising singer, Suzy Nightingale, who loses her power of speech and singing from the shock of her mother’s death. She nurses her namesake back to health when it is injured, and notices that the nightingale has remained silent all the while, just like her. But all of a sudden the nightingale regains its power of song, which prompts Suzy to regain hers.

“Lonely Ballerina” reunites the creative team from ballet story Slave of the Clock. This was the last ballet story Tammy ever published (not counting “I’m Her – She’s Me!”, although it does have ballet in it). Tanya Lane arrives at Mary Devine’s ballet school, only to find it’s nothing but a mess, she’s the only serious pupil there, and there is a mystery to unravel. The reveal (not very credible and does not make the story one of Tammy’s best) is that Mary’s sister Betty has been struggling to keep the ballet school going after an accident rendered Mary catatonic. This was a foolish thing to do, as Betty knows nothing about ballet. Even more unwisely, she tried to conceal Mary’s condition instead of explaining the situation, getting help, and keeping the school closed until her sister recovered. Mary did not do so until the final episode. In the meantime, the school fell apart, efforts to hide the secret from the governors have now failed, the story is all over the newspapers, and the school faces closure. But of course, being a girls’ story, things end happily.

“Lucky by Name” is a foal named Lucky who seems to have powers over other animals. Unfortunately more and more people are beginning to notice. Now Lucky has made two rich and powerful enemies over it, and they look like they are threatening serious trouble.

Glenda gets a really freaky sign that her “glossy pages” have supernatural powers that could be dangerous. Mum lights a fire where Glenda hid her glossy pages and elsewhere, the bike she got from them catches fire! Yet there’s not a trace of damage on the bike or glossy pages. Then there’s even more trouble when the police come around and demand to know where Glenda got that nice stuff that is way beyond her means, and are not going to believe it came from those glossy pages. What can Glenda do? Or, more to the point, what are those glossy pages going to do?

The latest Pam of Pond Hill story ends this week. Dad has been facing down a supermarket rival whose cut-price fruit & veg have been threatening his greengrocer business. But just when that problem looks all sorted out, the supermarket gets vandalised and Pam is suspect because of the recent bad blood between the two businesses and an item, which was given to her, was found at the scene of the crime.

Jinty: Land of No Tears! and The Human Zoo review by Olivia Hicks

Guest post: many thanks to Olivia Hicks for reviewing the Rebellion reprint edition of Land of No Tears and The Human Zoo

I have a somewhat fond, nostalgic relationship with Jinty, considering how little of it I have read. I had never (prior to this volume) read a complete Jinty story, and the real reason that Jinty occupies such a place in my heart is because it was the favourite comic of my mum, back when she was buying comics. So I was excited to see Jinty back in print, even if, on paper, neither of the stories particularly appealed to me. Land of No Tears! Uhm, ok. The Human Zoo? If we must. This was not, on the surface, the bizarre cruel science fiction that Jinty, through word of mouth and internet blog culture, had been distilled into for me. I wanted a Worlds Apart reprinting!

I had read about half of Land of No Tears! in the British Library, and had found it semi-engaging. The Human Zoo I had deliberately avoided. From the brief blurbs I had read, I had no interest in the story. So I settled down with my copy of the new Rebellion reprint, with my expectations quite muted. Warning: major spoilers for both stories follow (although I assume most of you have either read the stories or are aware of the plot!).

Land of No Tears! is written by Pat Mills and has art by Guy Peeters, and is about Cassy Shaw. She was born with one leg shorter than the other, and she uses her disability to manipulate those around her.  One day, whilst undergoing an operation to lengthen her leg (which Cassy is dreading, because she will no longer be able to use her disability to get what she wants), the anaesthesia somehow sends her through time to a future where humanity has achieved physical perfection and a lack of emotion, and those like Cassy (with Grade One Deformities) are forced to work as slaves for the benefit of the Alphas.

The story is in many ways quite typical; there is, of course, a mystery to be solved (what is the secret of Cassy’s new friend Miranda, and her mother), a lesson to be learned (with hard work you can overcome), and a problem which can, conveniently, be solved with sports; in this case, winning a sports championship will result in the complete overhaul of an entire society’s social structure! Cassy is an interesting main character because she resists the ‘victim-heroine’ coding of many girls’ comics characters. In fact, at the beginning, Mills goes out of the way to make her cynical and quite unsympathetic. This is, of course, to make her character arc more striking; the selfish, cynical, bratty lone wolf has to become an inspirational team leader and motivator who works and trains hard, and thus redeems herself. I’ve read quite a few girls’ comics stories now where villainous characters are shown using disability as a cover for their actions, so there seems to be a thread of problematic treatment of disability running throughout these comics, which Land of No Tears! falls into. The idea of a society divided by physical and emotional ability is a solid science fiction trope, but I think it is telling that the only disabilities Mills shows are: wearing glasses, being overweight and having a bald patch. The comic really skirts over disability (apart from in the beginning, when we see Cassy monopolising it for her own benefit; something which Teresa May and her cronies in the Department of Work and Pensions already think is widespread). ‘But Olivia!’ you say, ‘It’s a comic from the 1970s, how in depth can it be?’ Well, when you consider what Malcom Shaw achieves with the topic of animals rights in the accompanying tale, I think it’s fair to critique Mills for not really engaging with how society demonises disability.

Upon rereading (and finishing) Land of No Tears! in this collection, my favourite bit was definitely the passage where we see how Miranda lost her hair. The image of the robot nurse singing to the screaming baby who is being burned was pretty affecting and grim, and definitely will stay with me. It was an excellent example of horror being utilised in girls’ comics.

I also enjoyed the character arc of Perfecta. Her battle with those dreaded emotions was quite well done. I felt the ending, where Perfecta damaged her spine was a bit too literal and on the nose as punishment for her actions within the text. I also felt that the central mystery of Miranda and her mother was quite an easy one to solve, but then I’m in my mid-twenties, so definitely not the target audience of a youngster reading it week to week!

Whilst I enjoyed both stories, I definitely preferred The Human Zoo to Land of No Tears! This one was a cracker! Written by Shaw, with art again by Peeters, The Human Zoo is about twins Shona and Jenny, who are abducted by aliens. Jenny is experimented on in an allegory of animal testing, and Shona is sent to a zoo with some other captives. There is more than a little ‘Planet of the Apes’ vibe in this comic, and the way Shaw explored human nature in this story was exceptional. At one point Shona becomes a pet for alien girl Tamsha, but is sent back to the zoo for being too rebellious. Tamsha then replaces her with a more ‘docile’ human, another school girl who is more than happy to ‘act the pet’ in order to secure a cushy life. Another excellent scene was when the aliens starve the humans in order have the equivalent of a Chimpanzee’s Tea Party. Shaw’s central message, that we ‘dehumanize’ animals in order to profit off them and entertain ourselves, was, yes, preachy, but he dramatized it so skilfully that it worked. He also showed tension well, by allowing us to understand both the aliens and the humans, but never letting them understand each other.

The Human Zoo crammed quite a lot into its sixty pages: animal testing, animals rights activists, the morality of having pets, the morality of zoos, religion, forgiveness; all this and more gets thrown into the blender, and some of the threads (such as when Shona inadvertently becomes a god to the humans who have escaped captivity) are a little underdeveloped. There’s also a suggestion that the aliens are responsible for such mysterious mass disappearances as the Mary Celeste, which was interesting but I would have liked worked out just a bit more.

Both stories end with a ‘was it a dream….?’ resolution. In Land of No Tears!, Cassy learns from her mistakes and takes her lessons forward into her old life. However, much more poignantly, Shaw has Shona and Jenny completely forget their adventures, erasing their character growth and dooming them to continue in their ways. I’m a bit of a Shaw fan, as this review evidences!

To conclude, I was sceptical at first about the two stories, but ended up thoroughly enjoying them: I think this tells us that girls’ comics are far more than the sum of their plot synopsises! Malcolm Shaw was a top tier talent; I’m glad that the Rebellion reprints are reintroducing people to his work. The volume itself is quite beautiful, and the use of blue and yellow spot colouring on the back cover is effective (although I wish they had kept the original trippy colours for the cover of Jinty #1). My minor gripe is that it towers over both my 2000 AD and Misty trade paper backs. The sight of a single Jinty volume peeking over all the others irritated me enough that I had to relocate Jinty and Misty to a new section of my bookshelf. Such is the price of bookshelf perfection.

Tammy & Sandie 26 January 1974

Tammy 26 January 1974

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Two-Faced Teesha (artist José Casanovas) – final episode
  • School for Snobs (artist J Badesa, artist John Wagner)
  • Ballerina in Blue Jeans (artist Escandell)
  • Wee Sue (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Little Lady Jane
  • The Chain Gang Champions (writer Gerry Finley-Day?)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Granny’s Town (artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills)

 

Here we go with an entry on the latest addition to my collection. I wonder if the grey paint or whatever it is that got spattered on the cover actually adds some character to it.

Tammy is quite a few weeks into her merger with Sandie. Although the Cover Girls were touted as Tammy and June (from the June merger) by the 1980s, their origins can be traced to the Sandie merger in 1973.

Two-Faced Teesha, one of the stories that started with the merger, ends this week. Two-Faced Teesha finds her dad does not believe her when she says she is trying to turn over a new leaf, so she has one final round of spite before the girl she targeted in particular helps her to convince him.

Miss Bigger gets an ally in her bullying of Wee Sue – new girl Sophie Scandel-monger. The name says it all, as do Sophie’s repulsive, weasel-like looks. But Sophie’s scheme against Wee Sue backfires so much that she gets a huge ticking off from Miss Bigger. That’s the end of that evil alliance, thank goodness.

Uncle Angus stoops to whole new heights (or should that be lows?) in scrounging to save money. This time it’s at the cinema, much to the embarrassment of Jeannie and her aunt. And when Uncle Angus sets up his own cinema where he passes off his home movies as a blockbuster movie, Aunt Martha is so embarrassed she takes to her bed. However, once the audience catches on to what a cheap cheat Uncle Angus’ cinema is, they pelt him with his own vegetables from his garden.

School for Snobs is a special school designed to cure girls of snobbery. The headmistress is Hermione Snoot, who wears a nightie and slippers with a mortar board, is seldom seen without a cigarette, and talks Cockney. This week Hermione’s in charge of curing a practical joker. I’m not quite sure what that has to do with snobbery, but turning the tables on the girl with practical jokes until she’s cured is right up Hermione’s street. After all, she pretty much does that with every snob every week.

“The Chain Gang Champions” are kidnapped athletes. The Duchess subjects them to training methods that are as bizarre as they are sadistic. This week it’s finish gruelling cross-country training runs in record time – with ever-shortening time periods with each run – or the Duchess will feed her old enemy, the Minister for Sport, to a hungry bear!

As if Pickering weren’t bad enough, Molly has a new enemy plotting her downfall. It is guest Cynthia Swingleton, who is after her fiancée’s money. Molly’s rumbled Cynthia’s game, so now she’s is trying to frame Molly for stealing!

“Ballerina in Blue Jeans” impresses her ballet school with her dancing. Unfortunately her streetwise ways, like turning up at ballet school in a leather jacket and impersonating a motorbike rider as a demonstration of mime, have the teachers just about fainting. It’s not endearing her to the pupils either, and she has one spiteful enemy already. Well, whoever heard of a pupil in a ballet school serial who didn’t have one?

“Granny’s Town” appears to be a take on ageism, but a very sinister one. “Her Ladyship” has become Mayoress of a retirement spot, Crone-on-Sea. She is introducing new measures that look suspiciously like they are striking at the young people of the town and putting old people on top. This week she has the police throwing young people in the nick for no crime other than they are not carrying one of Her Ladyship’s flags, unlike the elderly people. “It’s the orders of the new mayoress!” Gee, whatever happened to human rights in this town?

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 and Sally 1 April 1972

Tammy & Sally 1 April 1972

  • Lori Left Behind (artist Luis Bermejo)
  • School for Snobs (artist J. Badesa, writers Pat Mills and John Wagner)
  • Rona Rides Again (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Lulu (cartoon)
  • Skimpy Must Ski! (artist Tom Hurst) – final episode
  • The Long and the Short (artist Antonio Borrell)
  • Steffi in the Swim (artist Victor Ramos?)
  • No Hope for Cathy (artist Victor Hugo Arias)
  • Maisie’s Magic Eye (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • A Special Tammy Portrait – Ryan O’Neal
  • Talk It over with Trudy – problem page
  • The Champion from Nowhere (artist Tom Hurst)
  • Paula on a String
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Easter is coming, so I am bringing out some Easter-themed Tammys from my collection. This is the earliest one I have, and it’s from 1972. It has a very cute cover on making decorated Easter eggs. The date coincides with April Fool’s Day, so it’s not surprising to see Lulu (Tammy’s cartoon strip at the time) play April Fool’s jokes with Easter eggs. But she’s the one who becomes the fool because her April Fool’s jokes all rebound on her. At least the one Mum plays on Lulu is a good-natured one that gives Lulu a happy ending, in the form of a ticket to the circus. Tammy also has an Easter-themed competition. Just find the two Easter eggs that are identical and you are in the running to win a mini-mod wrist watch!

It is part two of “Lori Left Behind”. Lori Danby’s father did not make a wise choice in leaving her in the care of the Jimsons – they are making her an unpaid slave in their café. Lori is trying numerous ways to escape. So far she’s not had any success, but by the end of this episode she has come up with an idea that sounds like a winner. Let’s see if it is next week.

“School for Snobs”, one of Tammy’s classic stories, is on part two as well. Two ultra-snobby sisters, Cynthia and Pamela Masters, have been sent to a special school that reforms snobs. It does so in wacky ways that provide loads of laughs for the readers. Cynthia and Pamela aren’t giving up their snobbish ways that easily, but by the end of the episode headmistress Hermione Snoot is confident that her school is starting to take effect on them. Don’t be too sure about that, Hermione – you’re only on part two, after all!

“Rona Rides Again” was reprinted in Jinty annual 1982. Rona Danby is regaining her nerve for riding with the aid of her new horse Flo. The trouble is, Flo is prone to strange fits, which messes up her gymkhana performance with Rona in this episode. It also has people saying she is a rogue horse that must be destroyed, so Rona has to keep Flo protected from that.

It’s a double helping of Tom Hurst artwork. The first is in the final episode of “Skimpy Must Ski!”, where Skimpy Shaw must win a big ski race. Unfortunately her rival is pulling all sorts of dirty tricks to get ahead. The other is “The Champion from Nowhere”. Ma Sload takes advantage of the protagonist losing her memory to entrap her with lies, make her a slave, and give her the false identity of Mary Spinks. Ma is even using “Mary’s” talent for tennis to enslave her. “Mary” is now beginning to suspect that Ma Sload has told her a load of lies about her identity, but it looks like Ma Sload is about to pull another trick to foil that one.

“Maisie’s Magic Eye” makes Miss Morphit (“Morphy”), the tyrannical sports mistress of the piece, jump in the river after saying “Oh, go jump in the river, Morphy!” to an early gym session. This backfires in the end because it gives Morphy the idea of making the class go swimming in the river instead of gym. Brrrr!

On the subject of swimming, “Steffi in the Swim” is an odd swimming serial. Steffi James is terrified of swimming after a childhood incident, but she’s receiving swimming lessons from a coach who is so mysterious that she keeps in the shadows while giving Steffi swimming lessons and Steffi does not even know her name. Even more oddly, she’s starting Steffi off with backstroke instead of freestyle. As it is, Steffi is now beginning to swim, but now bullies are getting suspicious of her secret.

“The Long and the Short” are two cousins, one tall (Debbie) and one short (Vally), who are in an athletics team. Vally gets dropped because the wrong shoes make her perform badly. She gets reinstated with Aunty Nan’s help, but Debbie is worried because she has not heard from her parents. Then a telegram arrives. Will it have good or bad news about Debbie’s parents?

“Paula on a String” is being forced by her uncle and aunt to pretend to be a long-lost granddaughter in order to cheat Mrs Morley out of money. Paula decides to stop the charade and leaves Mrs Morley a note about it. However, her scheming relatives aren’t giving up and are planning something even worse to get what they want out of Mrs Morley. But what is their plan?

Pickering, the cruel butler in Molly Mills, is convinced a ghost is haunting him (the bully does betray a superstitious streak now and then). Meanwhile, Molly is convinced that the caretaker, Carter, is acting suspiciously. Things take a really bizarre turn when Pickering sacks Carter – and then disappears from Stanton Hall. His note says he is quitting Stanton Hall because he can’t stand that ghost any longer.

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.

Jinty and Penny 7 March 1981

Jinty cover 7 March 1981

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Farah’s Three Wishes (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Just the Job – feature with Leo Sayers and Rod Stewart – first episode
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Winning Ways 47 (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

This week’s sports cover has Mario Capaldi drawing gymnastics, a sport we seldom see him depicting in girls’ comics. “Just the Job” replaces “Behind the Screen” this week, and its job is to inform us what’s behind the world of pop music. Alley Cat takes the spot as the humour cartoon this time. Snoopa must have been on holiday.

The Gypsy Rose story is another recycled Strange Story, and it’s a morality tale in “be careful what you wish for”. A genie grants Persian girl Farah three wishes – but warns her to think carefully before making a wish because he can only grant exactly what she asks for. This means granting her wishes literally, as Farah finds out when she blows her first two wishes because she jumped the gun and did not heed the genie’s warning. Will she think carefully about the third wish and make it the right one? Or will she end up wasting three perfectly good wishes – and maybe have an even deeper regret than that?

Ferne’s plan to help Jolie get over her dancing block is to dress up in her mother’s Firebird costume and pass herself off as “The Ghost Dancer”, which the girls all think is haunting the school. The plan does help Jolie’s dancing – but then blabbermouth Jolie tells everyone, so now the ghost rumour is worse than ever.

In “Land of No Tears”, the Gamma girls beat the odds and make it through the preliminary rounds in the Golden Girl award. Unfortunately there’s now a lot of heat on them, especially as the authorities are astonished to find no record of Cassy in their computer (well, there wouldn’t be as she’s an unwitting time traveller from the 20th century!). The dreaded Hive Inspector is being called in, and Perfecta is on the trail of the Gamma girls’ secret trainer.

Miss Simon – after a taste of what asthmatic Paul goes through – agrees to Marie’s request to let her have Simon Hall a year earlier because Paul is deteriorating so badly. Even so, it’s still nine months off. Will Paul last the distance?

Pam’s still stuck on the school magazine and Miss Peeble tries to help, but not very successfully. Miss Larks is definitely not under arrest, but she is on leave, and it’s linked to what Pam thinks is a blackmailer. She spots someone in Miss Larks’ apartment who could be the miscreant and gets the gang organised to catch him.

Sir Roger answers a “ghost for hire” ad. Sounds reminiscent of the old “Rent-a-ghost” strip from Buster. Tansy tries all sorts of nutty tactics to avoid “Dismal Dee” – but she’s the one who ends up dismal, because it cost her the chance of a concert ticket to see her current favourite pop group.

As well as having to fend off the cheating Syreeta and Selena, who are out to cheat her out of a disco contest (Syreeta) and netball match (Selena), Nadine now has to choose between the two events. For the first time she shows team spirit and chooses netball over disco. Stuffy Betty has had a change of heart too, and she wants to help Nadine against the two cheats.

Jinty and Penny 28 February 1981

Jinty cover 28 February 1981

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Golden Touch (artist Peter Wilkes) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Behind the Screen – Worzel Gummidge
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

There is no “Winning Ways” this issue, but we have Snoopa back. The letter column reveals another covert male Jinty reader, and this time it’s a dad. Dad let his secret slip when he suddenly asked his daughter if Roz got rid of her guardian angel and she realised he was referring to “Her Guardian Angel”. He was a bit embarrassed to be caught out in having had a sneaky peek into his daughter’s Jintys.

In the stories, Pam is still struggling to get the school newspaper together while the headmaster is nagging her about its progress. Meanwhile, the mystery about what’s bothering Miss Larks really deepens when Pam and Trace overhear her saying on the phone that she could be in trouble for aiding and abetting – and then the police actually take her away! Good grief, could she actually be under arrest?

Jolie is actually calling upon the ghost of Ferne’s mother for help with her dancing. After realising what is wrong with Jolie’s dancing, Ferne hatches a plan to help her. However, it looks like it’s going to play on the rumour Ferne accidentally started that her mother’s ghost is haunting the school. Unwise move – even if the plan does help Jolie, it is certainly going to fuel the rumour even more.

Marie snaps at Miss Simon (about time!) when she assumes Miss Simon has sent her chauffeur to keep tabs on her and make sure she wins no medals. But then she discovers that she was mistaken and the chauffeur was there for a different reason. Has she blown her chance of Simon Hall for her sick brother?

Talk about fighting fire on two fronts! Nadine discovers there are two cheating sisters (Selena and Syreeta) out to nobble her at both a disco competition and a netball match. And they are succeeding in putting a lot of nasty bruises into her legs to make her unfit for both.

Things get off to a very bad start for the Gamma girls because of the hostile spectators booing at them – who are then taken by surprise when Cassy beats the Alpha girls at the swimming event. Then there’s a shock for Cassy when she’s disqualified – but why?

This week, Tansy and Simon are revealed to be so terrified of going to the dentist that Mum and Dad resort to underhand tactics to make sure the appointment is kept. The folks tell Tansy they want her help to get Simon to the dentist – but Simon seems to be under the impression that the folks want his help to get her there…

Sir Roger conjures a potion that makes Gaye invisible, but he’s the one who ends up needing invisibility when she discovers the trick he played on her – withholding the secret to making her visible again.

It’s another recycled Strange Story, from Ireland, for Gypsy Rose this week. Sheena Murphy and her grandmother are so badly hit by crop failure that they need a crock of gold from the leprechauns. Knowing the leprechauns, even getting that wish could have a lot of impish humour attached.