Snoopa – cartoon strip (artist Joe Collins)
Tales of Katy Jane – first episode (artist Ugolino Cossu)
Blunder Girl! – first episode (artist Edward J. Oliver)
Look Out Secret Seven! – adapted from Enid Blyton (artist John Armstrong)
Ginny and Shep – first episode (artist Osvaldo Torta? Signed “Marck”)
Tansy of Jubilee Street – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
Penny Arcade – feature
The Village Clock – first episode (artist Peter Wilkes)
Little Women – adapted from Louisa M. Alcott
Sad Sal and Smiley Sue – first episode (artist S.D. Duggan)
Waifs of the Waterfall – first episode (artist Jesús Peña)
Care for Your Cat – feature
Penny’s Pet Profile No. 1 – cats
Continuing with our month of April theme, we present the first issue of Penny, the second title to merge with Jinty, which it did on 12 April 1980. Penny debuted 28 April 1979. The free gift with the first issue was a mouse-in-cheese pendant. The pendant can be viewed at:
As Penny explains, the mouse in the pendant was none other than her pet mouse Snoopa, who was also the protagonist of the resident Joe Collins cartoon strip. Later, Snoopa went through not one but two mergers, the first with Jinty and the second with Tammy. As Snoopa was drawn by Joe Collins, it was easy to incorporate him into Tammy’s own Joe Collins strip, Edie and Miss T, which thereafter became The Crazyees.
The first episode of the other cartoon strip, Wonder Woman spoof Blunder Girl!, appears below. Blunder Girl is a lesser-known Edward J. Oliver strip and could do with more attention (at least from Wonder Woman historians). It was a shame she did not carry on in the Jinty merger, which would have given her more exposure, as Jinty was a more well-known title than Penny. After all, Alley Cat had already had three years in Jinty and could have been retired to make way for Blunder Girl.
Penny’s run started on the same newsprint as Lindy in 1975 and Princess II in 1983, which was similar to the newsprint used with Girl II. Later on, Penny switched to the same newsprint as Jinty and Tammy, and Princess II would follow suit. Penny was also numbered, just as Lindy was, and Princess II would be the same. All three titles were absorbed into mergers within a year, with Penny having the longest run before the end came.
Penny was the second title to merge with Jinty, the first being Lindy in 1975, and proved the more successful of the two mergers. Even when Jinty herself merged with Tammy, there was still something of Penny (Snoopa and Tansy of Jubilee Street) to continue with.
The Penny fare was aimed at a younger readership than usual for girls’ comics, but definitely not a Twinkle readership. The target readership appeared to be in between Twinkle and Jinty. Pixie, which merged with June, was another such title. Penny herself, the cover girl, and some of the protagonists in her strips look more junior than usual in girls’ comics, and her features and book adaptations of Secret Seven and Little Women also look as if they were intended for a younger readership.
You certainly don’t get the hard edge in Penny that you see in Tammy, Jinty or Misty. The stories were lighter, with animals, friendship and book adaptations. Penny was also high on humorous regular strips, with Snoopa, Blunder Girl!, Sad Sal and Smiley Sue (best friends, polar opposites gag strip) and, above all, Tansy of Jubilee Street.
Tansy was the best Penny strip to carry on in the merger, and she did so right until the final issue of Jinty, plus some Old Friends appearances in the Tammy & Jinty merger. There was so much to make Tansy last so well, including quirky characters, a pesky practical joker, and pain-in-the-neck brother hijinks. Tansy also had the advantage in that, unlike most Penny fare, she was not aimed exclusively at a younger audience. She could be equally enjoyed by an older girls’ readership. Her humour was also zany, which made her a perfect fit in Jinty, who had always indulged in wacky humour strips such as The Jinx from St. Jonah’s and Fran’ll Fix It! Plus she was drawn by the ever-popular Ken Houghton, whose style was the perfect match to bring her to life.
The first Tansy story is presented below. The final Tansy story in the last issue of Jinty pays homage to this story by revisiting it in flashback when Tansy goes into panic mode from losing her diary – again.
The greater emphasis on junior fare means there isn’t anything in Penny to throw a scare or chill into her readers. We do get the supernatural with The Village Clock, which has the power to transport a modern girl into earlier times and back again. But there are no narrators of creepy tales or serials filled with ghosts or lurking evil in the shadows. There is nothing in the Penny lineup that should not be read at night.
However, the more junior fare does not neglect the emotional tear-jerker side of girls’ comics. For example, Ginny and Shep have been inseparable since they were toddler and puppy, but after Shep has an accident, Ginny’s upset that he may be put down. And in Waifs of the Waterfall, Fiona adopts an orphaned fawn, which she names Fingal. Another inseparable pair who look set to face a rocky road to stay together.
The best strip in the lineup could well be Tales of Katy Jane, a doll created by a Victorian gardener for his employer’s spoiled daughter. Katy Jane has been made with such love that she has been infused with emotion and can tell her own story. She is upset when the spoiled rich girl rejects her. She is taken up by another girl who loves her to bits, but is heartbroken again when the girl is forced to leave her behind. And so begins the saga where Katy Jane will pass through time and a string of future owners, some good, some bad, and readers wondering where her wanderings will end.
It’s a surprise to see no ballet story here. A ballet story is almost obligatory in the first issue of a girls’ comic. There’s no horse story either, another staple in a girls’ comic. Still, neither can be far away and will certainly appear after the first ejections from the initial lineup.