Tag Archives: Primrose Cumming

Tammy turns 12: 5 February 1983

Tammy 5 February 1983

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Romy’s Return (artist Juliana Buch, writer Charles Herring)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Bridge of Heart’s Desire (artist Trini Tinturé) – complete story
  • In the Fourth at Trebizon (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Anne Digby) – first episode
  • The Witch Wind (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – complete story
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Cuckoo in the Nest (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Step Lively! (feature)

Tammy turns 12 this issue, and Bella is flying high on the cover to celebrate. Only the cover celebrates Tammy’s 12th birthday though; there isn’t so much as a competition inside to commemorate. This was Tammy’s last birthday issue. She did turn 13 (which was indeed an unlucky year for her, what with her untimely disappearance from a strike), but did not celebrate it.

What is perhaps given even more commemoration is the start of a new Trebizon adaptation. Anne Digby was one of Tammy’s best writers; her best-remembered story was “Olympia Jones”. So it is not surprising that Tammy ran several adaptations of Digby’s books.

Tammy reprints two Strange Stories as complete stories, replacing the Storyteller with less appealing text boxes. “Bridge of Heart’s Desire” appeared in June and was reprinted in Jinty as a Gypsy Rose story. A Jinty reader wrote in to say her school adapted the story for a play and the teacher was very impressed. Now it appears in Tammy, but not as a Strange Story per se. Liu is upset because the Mandarin won’t let her marry her betrothed. She is told to make a wish to marry her betrothed while crossing the Bridge of Heart’s Desire, but must not speak until she is across or there will be no wish. Does the wish get granted? In a very convoluted and surprising way it is, due to Liu indeed not speaking while on the bridge.

The other story, “The Witch Wind” has an infuriating mixed message about the persecution of suspected witches. It starts out with Widow Dorrity being accused of raising storms to wreck ships, using a magical device known as a witch rope. A lynch mob goes to Dorrity’s house while Sal, who has been raised to scorn such superstitions, tries to warn her. However, Dorrity says she’s too old to run and passes on her witch rope to Sal for safekeeping. So it seems Dorrity really does have the power the mob accused her of, yet Tammy still calls her an “unfortunate old woman” for being burned alive in her own house by the mob. As for the witch rope, it eventually destroys the Spanish Armada in 1588 – something Dorrity herself seemed to prophesise to Sal.

Bella’s in a Muslim country teaching gymnastics to royal princesses. Not surprisingly, this is offending conservative Muslims, the Queen among them. The Queen does not realise her brother Suliemen is taking advantage her opposition to Westernisation to overthrow her husband and make himself the Shah. As part of his plan he has framed Bella for stealing the sacred “Tears of the Prophet”, and this week Bella nearly walks into his trap to plant them directly on her.

The formula where a girl plays dirty tricks on a friend to keep her in the background and herself in the limelight has been used less often at IPC than DCT, but “Romy’s Return” is one of the cases where it has been. This is the penultimate episode of it all, where it looks like Linda’s tricks to sabotage Romy have pushed Romy to breaking point. She snaps and starts doing things she shouldn’t have and gets into terrible trouble at school. Then Linda hears a bombshell from Romy’s father that has her realise that her sabotage may have been far more damaging than she thought.

In “E.T. Estate”, the aliens try to silence Jenny when she tries to tell everyone that there are alien doubles taking over the estate. They needn’t have bothered; nobody’s listening and they just think Jenny’s crazy. As it is, the aliens’ attack puts Jenny in hospital.

Tess just won’t stop boasting about her synchro swimming. It’s not only getting on everyone’s nerves; it also costs her the allies who had helped her to get into the swim baths after the manager wrongly banned Pond Hill pupils for vandalism.

In Nanny’s latest job, her employer, the Honourable Lady Louise Fanshawe, could lose the estate she means to pass on to her great-niece, Matilda, because of mounting debts. She managed to stave off her creditors with a “poor old dying woman” act, but by the end of the episode it looks like they are still in danger of losing the estate.

“Cuckoo in the Nest” is one of the most bonkers stories ever to appear in girls’ comics. The protagonist is a boy! Moreover, Leslie (that’s his name) is a boy who has to disguise himself as a girl (how many times have you seen that in girls’ comics?). It’s for the sake of his uncle, who is trying to cover up that he used funds an aunt sent for boarding school fees to treat Leslie instead. To make things even more complicated, the aunt had the mistaken belief that her nephew was a niece and the school was for girls. Hence the (not very good) girl’s disguise, which the nosy Sarah Mullins discovered when the school broke up for holidays. Fortunately a measles quarantine has delayed Sarah’s return to school where she is just dying to tell everyone about their having a boy disguised as a girl. But of course the quarantine won’t last forever.

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Tammy and Princess 28 April 1984

Tammy 28 April 1984

Cover artist: Maria Barrera

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Cassie’s Coach (artist Tony Coleman, writer Alison Christie)
  • Open an Easter Egg! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz
  • The Horse Finders – A Pony Tale
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch) – final episode
  • Easter Parade – feature
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, main writer Alison Christie)
  • Easter Fun Spot – Easter jokes
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito) – final episode
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Picture Yourself! – feature

 

We finish off our spread of Tammy Easter issues with the very last Tammy Easter issue in 1984. Easter is celebrated here with Easter features, an Easter quiz, Easter jokes, and a beautiful spring cover drawn by Maria Barrera.

It is four weeks into the Tammy and Princess merger, and two of the stories that came over from Princess end this week. In “Day and Knight”, Sharon now realises the only way to make her heartbroken father happy is to allow her bully stepsister Carrie a second chance. However, her wounds from all that bullying are making it very hard for her to do so, and she does not understand that her bully stepsister is now genuinely sorry. So it’s a real dilemma. Meanwhile, helping Rusty to get his leg fit again is what finally gets Donna to stop depending on her leg brace and work on improving that leg with exercise.

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, which Princess reprinted from Jinty, carries on, as Stefa has still not learned that a heart of stone is not the answer. Ruth, who now realises Stefa’s game, has the girls rally around for a “Melt Stefa” campaign to soften that stony heart. But so far all this gets is rude rebuffs from Stefa. Next week is Stefa’s birthday. Will this make things any different?

Bella has persuaded Benjie to join the sports acrobatics group as her partner. Pity the instructress is so unfriendly to Bella because she is a former gymnastics champion. An encouraging coach would really help the partnership to flourish more.

“Cassie’s Coach” reaches its penultimate episode, and it’s a tear-jerking plot development. Mr Ironside has been such a father figure to the Lord children ever since their mother was wrongly imprisoned. There is so much they could not have done without him – like find the old coach that became their home. But this week they lose him because he has to give up his business (can’t afford to replace his horse) and go work at his cousin’s farm. Can the Lord children survive without him?

“The Horse Finders” are commissioned to find 60 of the near-extinct black Zarah horse breed. They find 50 readily enough, but the final 10 are proving elusive, and time is running out. And time has just about run out when they are one short. But the 60th appears in a most surprise manner.

In this week’s Button Box story, Bev hears a church button story that is instructive in the evolution of hassocks. They started out as tufts of grass for poorer parishioners to kneel on. Unfortunately tufts of grass also made a mess on the church floor. So they became the more practical, decorative and non-messy cushions.

A Pond Hill girl, Catherine Bone, is being terrorised by a secret society known as “The Group” because she had been such a sneak. While Pam is appalled at what “The Group” is doing, others are unsympathetic and say it’s Catherine’s just desserts for sneaking. Di is one of them – but then Catherine turns up on the doorstep, dripping with paint that “The Group” threw all over her. What do you say to that, Di?

Tammy 9 April 1983

Tammy 9 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, (sub)writer Ian Mennell)
  • Spring into Summer! (artist Joe Collins, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • Princess and the Bear (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Pair Up for ‘Champions All’! – gymnastics freebie
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Take-Away Fashion for Spring – feature

 

Tammy’s spring issue for 1983 immediately follows her Easter issue. It merits inclusion in our spread of Tammy Easter issues because of its colourful cheery cover, which is a very Easter-like cover with those cute little chicks and field full of daisies. It looks like one of the chicks is about to find out that bees are not for eating, though! Tammy also has a spring quiz. When she ran credits, we learnt it was Maureen Spurgeon who wrote the quizzes. She might have written Jinty’s quizzes too.

“It’s a Dog’s Life” and “E.T. Estate” are on their penultimate episodes. When Rowan runs away from the bullying with Riley, she finds the refuge she was aiming for is no longer available, and there’s nowhere else to go. Of course it is not long before the police catch up. It looks like back to the bullying for Riley and Rowan – or maybe not, as the final episode is next week. Meanwhile, other policemen are called in to investigate the goings-on at ET Estate, but the aliens quickly get rid of them with their hypnotic powers. Jenny and Dora are still tied up. Can nothing stop the aliens’ pod from reaching maturity? If it does, it will spell doom for all life on Earth, including the human race.

Abby, getting nowhere with her father over what she knows about “The Secret of Angel Smith” because he’s been led to believe it’s jealousy, decides to play Angel at her own game and act ruthless to get what she wants. Her plan is to force Dad to watch her on the trapeze and let her into the act – but then the trapeze snaps and Abby looks badly injured from the fall! Could Dad’s fears about losing Abby the way he lost his wife (from a trapeze fall) be prophetic after all?

This week’s Button Box tale is a sad, cautionary tale about seeking revenge without getting your facts straight first. So many revenge-seekers in girls’ comics have found out they had persecuted innocent people because they had misjudged them (or had been misled about them). And the girl in the tale (Ann Freeman) suffers for her error far more than they do. She has spent a whole year in shame, tears and guilt, and too ashamed to even write to the girl – her best friend – whom she had hurt so badly in her mistaken revenge. But it doesn’t sound like she has owned up or apologised to her friend, which is the first true step in the healing.

Bella discovers her Uncle Jed’s trick over the gym he had her believe he was renting for her when the gym owner finds her and kicks her out. (Oh, come on, Bella, you really should know have known better!) Sure enough, it was another of Jed’s schemes to make money out of Bella. Now there is a new mystery over the woman who owns the gym – she wears a mask. Bella is drawn back to her, and discovers the mysterious masked lady is a brilliant gymnast.

Nanny is still having problems over Barbara, who is jealous over her new baby brother because it seems that he’s stealing all attention from her. At least Nanny now fully understands the problem.

This week’s complete story is a cautionary tale about showing consideration to both animals and people. The officers of the Second Hussars do not heed Princess Elena’s advice to treat their soldiers considerately, as she does with the mascot bear that they mistreat. The soldiers mutiny in protest of their treatment, and when they take Elena prisoner, the bear repays her kindness by helping her escape.

In the new Pond Hill story, Goofy enters a film competition that requires a short documentary about your school. A film about Pond Hill? Now that sounds even more dramatic and problematic than a soap opera! Yep, it sure is. Goofy finds that even the stern Mr Gold goes gaga when he is in front of the camera!

Tammy 2 April 1983

Tammy 2 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • Strawberry Delight! Competition
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Thief by Night (artist Eduardo Feito) – complete story
  • Easter Bonnets – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)

The cover of this Tammy Easter issue has always had me craving for a yummy Easter egg.

But anyway, Wee Sue, Bessie Bunter and even the Storyteller have been dropped by this stage, so how does the issue commemorate Easter? There is a feature on how to make an Easter bonnet, Easter jokes, and Easter hijinks with the Crayzees. Miss T tries a spell to enlarge Easter eggs and thinks she’s succeeded, but finds that what she has really done is shrink herself and Edie so the Easter eggs just look big to them. And when she tries to reverse a spell, she ends up turning herself and Edie into giants, so now the eggs look like mini eggs to them.

You’d think there would be an Easter tale somewhere in “The Button Box”. Instead, it’s shades of “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” with the tale of “ ‘Tough Nut’ Tara”. New girl Tara is a hard case who snubs all offers of friendship. But when it’s her birthday she gives in. She admits to Bev that, like Stefa, she reacted badly to grief and tried to harden her heart so she would not be hurt that way again, but now she realises her mistake. Thank goodness tough nut Tara was not as hard to crack as Stefa!

The complete story slot could have been used for an Easter story. Instead, it’s a reprint of a Strange Story. By this time Tammy was running reprints of Strange Stories, but the Storyteller has been replaced with text boxes.

In the serials, Abby Fox can’t help but be jealous of Angel Smith, the girl who wants to enter the family’s trapeze act while Abby is excluded because Dad does not want to lose her the way he lost her mother. Now Abby suspects “The Secret of Angel Smith”, whatever that is, and Stalky the clown could help her there. But Stalky has oddly clammed up and Abby thinks it’s because the circus boss has been at him over it.

In “It’s a Dog’s Life”, Rowan Small is bullied in the children’s home, and the bullying she gets shares some parallels with the ill-treatment Riley the dog gets next door. Both Riley and Rowan have been making progress in striking back at their abusers, but this week the bullies bring in reinforcements, which trebles the bullying for both of them. Rowan decides it’s time to run away – with Riley in tow, of course.

Bella is so badly out of training that she has to go through the basic tests to get back into gymnastics. It’s a bit of a come-down for an ex-champion like her, but at least she gets through. But Bella should have known better than to believe her devious Uncle Jed would have genuinely been hiring the private gym he found for her. And in the final panel it looks like she is about to find out the hard way…

Nanny Young is in charge of a baby this time, and there are suspicious signs that his older sister Barbara is jealous of him. Nanny tries to reach out to Barbara while looking for the solution, but so far it’s evasive.

The current Pam of Pond Hill story concludes this week. Fortune-seekers have been out to steal Goofy’s inheritance from his great-aunt, which they believe is hidden in the doll’s house that was bequeathed to him. They tear the doll’s house to pieces to find it and leave in haste when they turn up empty. It turns out they didn’t look hard enough.

In “ET Estate”, the alien invaders finally catch up with Jenny and Dora. They hold them prisoner while explaining the next stage of their plan – which will make all life (humans included) on Earth extinct, just to keep them fed!

 

Tammy and Princess merger: 7 April 1984

Tammy and Princess cover

  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Rusty Remember Me – from Princess (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Day and Knight – from Princess (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Diana – A Queen’s Dream – complete story (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Maureen Spurgeon) Adapted from Maureen Spurgeon’s “For Love of Elizabeth” in her book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”
  • Cassie’s Coach (writer Alison Christie, artist Tony Coleman)
  • What Kind of Fool Are You? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone – from Princess (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

Princess (series II), no connection to Princess/Princess Tina, was the last comic to merge with Tammy. It had been another short-lived title, lasting 28 issues. In terms of Jinty history, Princess is significant for reprinting some serials from her and Tammy. One, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, carries over into the merger here. It is known from Jinty’s letter page in 1981 that there had been a huge demand in the 1980 Pam’s Poll to reprint the story. But the Editor was still asking readers if they wanted Stefa to be repeated – as if he was hesitating to do it for some reason.

Other stories carrying on from Princess are “Day and Knight” and “Rusty Remember Me”. After some flashbacks filling Tammy readers in on how Dad’s remarriage has brought bully Carrie Knight into Sharon Day’s home, the story moves to its climax with Sharon being driven out of her own home because of the bully. There are also quick flashbacks to fill new readers in on “Rusty Remember Me” as well. But the story looks like it has more to go. Mum now knows the children are hiding a fox, but her fur allergy is complicating things. Dad left home to find work, but when the children see him, he is in a bad way. “Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy story to continue in the merger. It does so without any flashbacks for new readers’ benefit, and it’s taken a nasty turn – Cassie has suddenly collapsed from overwork.

The merger does away with “The Crayzees”. Instead, Tammy is taking over Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. In so doing, it brings us Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering from “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. But while Pickering was a cruel, bullying slave driver, Grovel is more of a nuisance, in the way he sucks up to his employer, Princess Bee. Most often this leaves Princess Bee annoyed and Grovel in trouble. But like Pickering, Grovel is capable of scheming to get his own way.

Bella and Pam start afresh in the merger. There is a brief introduction to Bella and her back story that enables new readers to get to grips with her immediately, before her new story starts in earnest. Bella the wanderer decides it’s time to make another move, but it doesn’t look like a good one. Bella’s new location has no gymnastics club, so Bella is trying her hand at sports acrobatics instead. The trouble is, the coach is not very pleasant to her. And she’s not welcome in the home she is boarding in – someone has wrecked her room and left a message telling her to get out!

The Pam story is an introductory one, in which Pam introduces new readers to her school and friends through back issues of “The Pond Hill Printout”. This is a clever way to familiarise the new readers with Pam. Pam’s proper story starts next week.

The story “Diana – A Queen’s Dream” is a curious one. It is adapted from “For Love of Elizabeth” in Maureen Spurgeon’s book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”. In the story, Queen Elizabeth I takes a hand in a forbidden romance in the Spencer family. At the end, she dreams of a Lady Diana Spencer – who is realised as Princess Diana in the 20th century.

 

Last issue of Jinty merger: Tammy & Jinty 10 July 1982

Tammy and Jinty cover 10 July 1982

  • Bella – final episode (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Destiny Dolls – final episode (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Molly Mills and the Ghosts – complete story (artist Douglas Perry) – last appearance
  • Bessie Bunter – last appearance
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Human Zoo – final episode (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • Can You Spread a Little Sunshine? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Punchinello’s Dance – The Strange Story (artist Mario Capaldi) – last appearance
  • Di and the Dolphins – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito)

This is the last issue of the Tammy and Jinty merger. Next issue will be a clean break that is most notable for starting credits in Tammy! (Thank you, Wilf Prigmore, for starting them!) Of course the centre pages are full of the “great news” and the stories and gifts that will be present next week.

So this issue is filled with a lot of endings, including the end of features that have been in Tammy for years. This is the last time the Jinty logo appears. Curiously, there is a small ampersand beside it instead of the usual “and”. Molly and Bessie make their last-ever appearances in Tammy. They both end on regular stories, which in the case of Molly is a complete story. There is nothing to say they have ended. There is no Wee Sue either. This is the last issue to feature a Strange Story. But it is only labelled a Strange Story; the Storyteller himself is nowhere to be seen. And there is no Monster Tale. But there will be several monster-themed stories running for a while yet, so there must have been some scripts left over from the series.

All of Tammy’s running serials, including the current Bella story, end in this issue to make way for the clean break next issue. The reprint of “The Human Zoo” from Jinty had an episode or two cut out so it could end in this issue. It was announced last issue that Pam would take a break in this issue, no doubt to make some room for clearing out more material here.

Last Tammy Ever Published: 23 June 1984

Tammy cover 23 June 1984

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • No Use to Anyone! (Eduardo Feito)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Secret Sisters – first episode (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • A Walk in the Country – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Jemima and the Arabian – a Pony Tale (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Top Girls! – Feature (Mari L’Anson)
  • I’m Her – She’s Me! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Cora Can’t Lose (artist Juliana Buch)

This is the last issue of Tammy ever published – for the wrong reason in that Tammy simply disappeared after this, leaving all the stories inside unfinished. In particular, former readers are still frustrated to be left dangling on the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”. The final episode was set for the next issue, but there never was a next issue. Only a few months later did Tammy reappear, but in logo only, which appeared on a few issues of Girl.

What happened? From what another Tammy enthusiast, Marionette, has pieced together from former IPC, Tammy was due for cancellation anyway, but not until August. Presumably, Tammy was then to merge with Girl. Then, after this issue was published, there was a strike that took many weeks to settle. By the time it was, the Tammy editors decided not to pick up where they left off, because it would have taken even longer to finish the stories. So everything here was dropped and left unfinished.

Tammy was not the only title to disappear because of the strike. The same went for “Scream!”, which was only on its 15th issue when the disaster struck. (Despite this, “Scream!” has become a cult favourite and its issues can command high prices.) But unlike Tammy, “Scream!” was allowed to continue in Eagle and finish things off. Presumably Girl did not have the room to complete Tammy’s stories, because she was nearly all a photo-story comic. But IPC still had a duty to the Tammy fans to let them know how the stories ended, which they did not meet. Unlike “Scream!”, there is no evidence of the unpublished material appearing in Tammy’s holiday specials. Tammy’s remaining annuals did not take the opportunity to publish any of the material either, except perhaps the Button Box stories; instead, they went for reprints. Another possibility could have been a special final issue that included the last episode of Cora and potted summaries for the other stories, but that wasn’t done either.

It is also telling that Tammy has dropped the Princess logo all of a sudden. Princess had only merged with Tammy in April, so dropping the logo of a merging comic in such a short space of time is disturbing. It hints at the direction Tammy was going with her sales and what was in store for her had the strike not intervened.

So just what inside was left dangling? First, Bella finds a coach who offers to get her back into proper gymnastics – on condition that she quit the acrobatics she has done with Benjie. But this will mean letting Benjie down. Bella is left with a tough choice to make, but we never find out what she decides. Ironically, it is virtually 10 years to the day here that Bella started: she first appeared on 22 June 1974.

In “No Use to Anyone!”, Kirsty gets some tips on how to train her puppy, Clumsy. But now the blind Clumsy has been trapped by a herd of cows, and Kirsty is terrified of them too. We never find out how she rescues Clumsy.

“Sadie in Waiting” had come over from Princess, and it brings Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering of “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. Grovel is out to win the “Servant of the Year” award in his usual fashion, which does not include working hard or honestly.

Sadie

In Tammy’s reprint of “The Forbidden Garden”, Gladvis has started blackmailing Laika over her water theft. This is about to include forcing Laika to do a dreadful job in the dreaded industrial zone, with water instead of money for wages. Perhaps the reprint of “The Forbidden Garden” had something to do with Princess, which had reprinted several old serials from Tammy and Jinty in her final issues, including “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, “Horse from the Sea” and “The Dream House”. However, it is a bit surprising that Tammy chose to start reprinting a long serial when she was set for an August cancellation, and it is unlikely that Girl would have had the room to finish the story. So one wonders how the reprint would have been finished off. In the previous issue, the story had a double-up spread, but that is not the case here. Perhaps once Cora was finished, there would have been more double-ups until the merger.

“Secret Sisters” starts in this issue, but sadly never got beyond episode one. Jill Paget is an adopted child who wishes she had siblings. Then she finds out she has three sisters who were adopted separately and wants to find them. Next week is supposed to include a “surprise move”, but we never find out what it is.

In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Pam is set to move on to Tess Bradshaw, the third classmate she is going to stay with while Pam’s family are away. But all of a sudden Tess says she can’t have Pam and even slams the door in her face. The blurb for next week tells us that we are going to find out what is wrong with Tess, but we never do.

(Click thru)

Incidentally, Pam’s various sleepovers with her classmates have developed their characters and home lives in surprising ways. During her stay with Goofy, Pam was surprised to find that Goofy could be extremely determined when he fixed his mind on beating something. The trouble is, that determination could take him to obsessive levels. Pam’s stay with Di (Diana) has changed the life of Diana’s mother for the better. She is going to be less house-proud, just to satisfy the demands of her husband, while he is going to be less demanding of her.

There is no Button Box story in this issue. Instead, we have the last Pony Tale ever published, “Jemima and the Arabian”. The Arabian is proving a bit too spirited for the stablehands until the horse strikes a surprise friendship with a cat called Jemima. Next week we are promised a complete tennis story, but we never get it.

“I’m Her – She’s Me!” is Phil Gascoine’s last, and incomplete, story for Tammy. Nice Paula Holmes and nasty Natalie Peters have somehow switched bodies after a strange lightning strike. Natalie is all set to explore new avenues of nastiness under her new identity while Paula is desperate to get help. She finally does so in this episode, where she manages to convince her ballet teacher of what happened. But then they strike new problems – Natalie has now gone and broken one of the legs in Paula’s body, and then Natalie’s unfit father shows up and is trying to drag Paula, in Natalie’s body, back home, where he has something unpleasant in mind for her. We never find out if the ballet teacher manages to rescue her, how the girls get their bodies back, or, for that matter, just how that bolt of lightning caused them to switch bodies in the first place.

(Click thru)

And now we come to the most frustrating part of Tammy’s sudden disappearance – the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose” with no final episode ever coming after. When this story came out, it really had me hooked and I was anxious to find out what was going to happen in the final episode. From the sound of comments on the Internet, so were a lot of other readers.

Cora Street has gone on an obsessive sports cup-winning frenzy to win the respect of her parents, who kept sneering at her for not winning sports trophies as they did when they were at school. But this is putting Cora’s life in danger, because she cares more about winning the trophy her mother failed to win than seeking treatment for a head injury that is currently affecting her vision and hearing and will ultimately kill her if left untreated. Not even the identikit issued by the hospital in this episode brings her to her senses. And now the injury is causing another problem: it may have caused Cora to unwittingly spike her main rival during an event. If she’s right, she could face disqualification and be out of the running for the cup.

Final note: The ending of “The Forbidden Garden” is known because it is a Jinty reprint, and a summary of the story can be found on this site. If anyone has any information on how the other unfinished stories would have ended, they are welcome to drop a line here.

 

 

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

Right now I am sorry to say that I haven’t had great success with the computer program that I was hoping would help us to identify unknown writers. I’m by no means declaring it to be impossible or unrealistic, but I think I will need to ask for help from the experts who wrote the program and/or who do more of this sort of analysis on a day to day basis.

My initial trials were to see if I could test a Jay Over script known to be by him against another one known to be by him, so as to see if the program could pick out a ‘known good’ example. It did do that pretty well, but it may be that I calibrated the program options too closely against Jay Over. I haven’t got to the stage of being able to say that this series of tests, done in this way, gives you a good chance of identifying this text by a known author. (Unless that known author is Jay Over, she says slightly bitterly.) And if I can’t do this reasonably reliably, there is no point (as yet, at least) in moving on to trying out unknown author texts.

In my last post about this computer program, I ran a series of 10 tests against a Jay Over text, and the program reliably picked out Jay Over as the most likely author of that text out of a supplied set of 4 test authors. It was much less reliable in picking out a test Malcolm Shaw text out of the same set of test authors: only 5 of the 10 tests suggested that Malcolm Shaw was the best fit. I have now tried the same 10 tests with an Alan Davidson text (“Jackie’s Two Lives”), and with a Pat Mills text (“Girl In A Bubble”). This means that all four of the test authors have been tested against a text that is known to be by them.

  • Unfortunately, in the test using an Alan Davidson text the program was even worse at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result: it only did so in 2 of the 10 tests, and in 4 of the tests it placed him in last, or least likely to have written that test text.
  • In the test using a Pat Mills text, the program was rather better at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result, though still not great: it did so in 4 out of 10 tests, and in 3 of the remaining tests he was listed second; and he was only listed as ‘least likely/worst fit’ in one of the tests.

The obvious next step was to try with a larger group of authors. I tried the test texts of Jay Over (“Slave of the Clock”) and of Malcolm Shaw (“Bella” and “Four Faces of Eve”) against a larger group of 6 authors (Primrose Cumming, Anne Digby, Polly Harris, Louise Jordan, Jay Over, Malcolm Shaw).

  • With the Jay Over text, only 7 of the 10 tests chose him as the ‘best fit’, so the attribution of him as the author is showing as less definite in this set of tests.
  • With the Malcolm Shaw texts, only 1 and 3 tests (for “Bella” and for “Eve” respectively identified him as the ‘best fit’ – not enough for us to have identified him as the author if we hadn’t already known him to be so. (He also came last, or second to last, in 4 of the first set of tests, and the same in the second set of tests.)

I should also try with more texts by each author. However I think that right now I will take a break from this, in favour of trying to contact the creators of the program. I hope they may be able to give me better leads of the right direction to take this in. Do we need to have much longer texts for each author, for instance? (We have generally been typing up just one episode for each author – I thought might be too much of an imposition to ask people to do any more than that, especially as it seemed sensible to try to get a reasonably-sized group of authors represented.) Are there some tests I have overlooked, or some analytical methods that are more likely to be applicable to this situation? Hopefully I will be able to come back with some extra info that means I can take this further – but probably not on any very immediate timescale.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following list of texts that people have kindly helped out with. You may find (as I have) that just looking at the texts themselves is quite interesting and revealing. I am more than happy to send on any of the texts if they would be of interest to others. There are also various scans of single episodes sent on by Mistyfan in particular, to whom many thanks are due.

  • Alison Christie, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (typed by Marckie)
  • Primrose Cumming, “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Alan Davidson, three texts
    • “Fran of the Floods” (typed by Marckie)
    • “Jackie’s Two Lives” (typed by me)
    • “Kerry In the Clouds” (typed by me, in progress)
  • Anne Digby, “Tennis Star Tina” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Gerry Finley-Day, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Polly Harris, two texts
    • “Monkey Tricks” (typed by Mistyfan)
    • “Midsummer Tresses” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Louise Jordan, “The Hardest Ride” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Jay Over, two texts
    • “Slave of the Clock” (typed by me)
    • “The Secret of Angel Smith” (typed by me)
  • Malcolm Shaw, five texts
    • “Lucky” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 1 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 2 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Four Faces of Eve” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Pat Mills, two texts
    • “Concrete Surfer” (typed by me)
    • “Girl In A Bubble” (typed by me)
  • John Wagner, “Eva’s Evil Eye” (typed by Mistyfan)

 

 

Jay Over

Jay Over is one of the few Jinty writers we know the name of; this is really down to the fact that Tammy started printing artist and writer credits in its pages at a time overlapping with the long-running “Pam of Pond Hill“. Thanks to those credits, we also know that Over wrote at least three serials in Tammy: “Lonely Ballerina”, “The Secret of Angel Smith”, and “The Slave of the Clock”.

Pam 1

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Stories credited to Jay Over:

  • Pam of Pond Hill (1979 – 81 in Jinty, continued in Tammy until 1984)
  • Slave of the Clock (Tammy, 1982; artist Maria Barrera)
  • The Secret of Angel Smith (Tammy, 1983; artist Juliana Buch)
  • The Lonely Ballerina (Tammy, 1983; artist Maria Barrera)

“Pam of Pond Hill” was one of the longest strips that ran in Jinty, though not to be compared with Tammy‘s regular character Bella Barlow, still one of the most well-known characters in girls’ comics. We know that Bella was written by more than one person – credited authors include Primrose Cumming, Jenny McDade, and Malcolm Shaw – but all the credits we have for “Pam” indicate that this story seems to have been written by Jay Over throughout all that time.

Mistyfan writes at length about how well the character and voice of Pam comes across in her serial: the dialogue is vivid and the stories are realistic. Re-reading a number of the stories, I also was struck by how much variety is packed into the short story arcs that this serial is made up of, and how humane the stories are. Tess Bradshaw is the class fat girl but she is given a backstory that is considerably more nuanced than something just relating to her size or appetite. Indeed, in one of the Tammy stories Tess is given the chance to shine while still keeping to her old self rather than slimming down or similar: a frustrated ballerina, she becomes a genuinely triumphal synchronized swimming star. Likewise, Pam’s boyfriend Goofy, who is a funny-looking clumsy kid as you’d expect from his nickname, has real musical talents and a kind heart which he allows to be shown, at least sometimes. Of course sometimes Pam is unrealistically able to pull a solution out of the bag in the way a real 11 year old would find it hard to do, but hey, she’s the heroine of her own story – and even then she’s not always a winner.

If not for those printed credits, I think not many people would make a connection between the soap-opera comedy of “Pam” and the angsty mystery of “Slave of the Clock”. The three serials that Jay Over is credited with in Tammy are focused on mystery and on the athletic arts of ballet and trapeze. The only one of those three stories that I have read fully is “Slave of the Clock”; Mistyfan’s entry on 1979 Jinty story “Prisoner of the Bell” briefly summarizes the plot of the later Tammy story and draws parallels between the two. Could they both have been written by Over? Certainly we know that writers for a comic often wrote more than one for the same title, and multiple stories at the same time. Over could easily have started a career in girls’ comics writing rather earlier than the 1979 “Pond Hill” debut. If only there was a way to analyse the story writing itself rather than relying on very incomplete records and memories that are hard to elicit…

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Tammy, 19 Feb 1983

Female writers in a girls’ genre

This is my 100th post! To celebrate, a thinky piece of the sort I particularly enjoy having the space to do here on this blog. Comments and further information very welcome indeed, as ever, but especially useful for this sort of wider coverage article.

For a genre based around a female readership, you could be forgiven for thinking there were hardly any women involved in producing British girls comics. In 1998 I first started writing about Jinty, and looking back at that article (published in feminist ‘by women for people’ zine GirlFrenzy), the few names mentioned were of men: Jim Baikie, Casanovas, Pat Mills. These were the only creators I recognized from having seen them, their work, or their commentary in the fairly male world of British mainstream comics.

Some years later I met Pat Mills in person, and he subsequently attended the Oxford-based comics festival CAPTION2004, during which I interviewed him about his editorial and authorial role in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. Some more creator names were added to the pot, but really only two female names stood out – those of Mavis Miller and of Pat Davidson, of which Pat Davidson was the only name of a writer. (I was by then aware of Trini Tinture’s work, too.) Additionally, I’d also managed to ask Phil Gascoine who wrote “Fran of the Floods”, but he could remember no names, just that it was a female writer.

As recently as early last year, therefore, there was so little information readily available that it was still possible for Adi Tantimedh’s post on Bleeding Cool to attribute the authorship of the vast majority of stories in girls comics to Pat Mills or to ‘the creators of Judge Dredd and 2000AD’. (He subsequently corrected the article text to read ‘his fair share of the series in Jinty were written by Pat Mills.’) This isn’t helped by the fact that when in that interview Pat M did give us Pat Davidson’s name, it was linked to a fairly sweeping assessment of women writers: “Generally, it was male writers in this field. I think Pat Davidson is the only woman I can think of who genuinely had a better touch in the way she did this, she wrote far more from the heart, the rest of us were 23-year-old guys killing ourselves laughing as we wrote this stuff, but she wrote from the heart, and it was quite genuine.”

We’re now in a position where we can bring together more information so that we can bring a more nuanced analysis to bear. Alison Christie is now known to have written not only a great swathe of Jinty stories, but also to have written many stories for other titles before, afterwards, and simultaneously (very literally!). We also have heard that Veronica Weir wrote at least one story for Jinty. (We also know that one of the writers was Len Wenn, then only a few years away from his retirement age and hence also quite far from the demographic highlighted by Mills.) Generally we now know what could have been guessed before, which is that creating comics was quite a good profession for women at the time: drawing or writing comics is something that a young mother can do from home! We also know that the same people worked for a range of comics; we could have guessed that from the artists, but a writer can be working on more than one script at the same time more easily than an artist can, so they are if anything more likely to be working for multiple titles.

To try to get a view on the historical context, we can note that there are a couple of titles that ran credits for at least some of their time. Girl was the first title to be dedicated to a readership of girls: it ran from 1951-64 and included creator credits (I don’t know whether the credits continued throughout the whole run though). Towards the other end of the main period of publication of girls’ comics, Tammy also ran creator credits for a little while from the middle of 1982. I haven’t got access to any very complete information about the stories and creators in Girl, but looking at the Wikipedia page for it I found a couple of names I’m unfamiliar with – Ruth Adam and Betty Roland, who wrote a number of stories between them. These included the nursing strip “Susan of St Bride’s” and the adventure strip “Angela Air Hostess” respectively, both of which were popular stories featuring resourceful, independent female characters. Looking at Catawiki’s entries on Girl would take more time to do properly than I currently have available, but I note that a sample issue from 1955 picked randomly includes these two female writers plus two others (Valerie Hastings and Mollie Black).

Of more immediate applicability to the subject of this blog, the women who wrote for Tammy may well have done so for Jinty too; luckily for me, there is more information available to me on who did what there, as co-writer Mistyfan has kindly sent me an index of Tammy stories. We can therefore look in some detail at the comics stories running in Tammy during the second half of 1982, where we find:

  • “Bella” written by both Malcolm Shaw and by Primrose Cumming
  • “The Button Box”: created by Alison Christie, specific individual episodes written by Ian Mennell or Linda Stephenson
  • “Nanny Young” written by Tom Newland and Maureen Spurgeon
  • “Rae Rules OK”written by Gerry Finley-Day
  • “Come Back Bindi” written by Jenny McDade
  • “Saving Grace” written by Ian Mennell
  • “A Gran for the Gregorys” written by Alison Christie
  • “Slave of the Clock” written by Jay Over
  • “Tomorrow Town” written by Benita Brown
  • “Cross on Court” written by Gerry Findley-Day
  • “Cuckoo In the Nest” written by Ian Mennell
  • “Romy’s Return” written by Charles Herring
  • Out of the 12 complete stories on the Tammy index I am referring to, two seem to be uncredited while three were written by Roy Preston, four by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Chris Harris, one by Ray Austin and one by Barry Clements

That’s fairly evenly spread; there are more male writers than female overall but not by that much. A count by number of pages printed might show a different picture, but then I also haven’t included the writers of text stories (in particular Anne Digby). We can also have a quick look at the Catawiki entry for an individual issue from the time (I chose issue 600) which lists stories by Benita Brown, Anne Digby, and Maureen Spurgeon – I assume that the Anne Digby is an illustrated text story rather than a comic. Another issue, 609, has more stories by female writers: two stories by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Alison Christie, and one by Primrose Cumming. In the absence of a concerted effort to count the number of pages written by women over a few representative issues (any volunteers?) I’d estimate that some 15% – 40% of the comic at a time might have been written by women: under half of the content for sure, but a substantial section.

Clearly we only have two very solid data points here – Girl in the 50s and 60s, and Tammy in the early 80s – but the fact they corroborate each other is strongly suggestive that yes, over the decades of comics published for a readership of girls, female writers have always been present, and in reasonable numbers rather than as the odd exceptional talent. They have written popular stories both in their own right and as jobbing writers taking on someone else’s initial creation. Can we say anything else about that, for instance about what sort of stories they wrote? Now that is rather more difficult, because we have to factor in individual preferences of writers. Alison Christie is clearly a writer of heart-tugging stories, so we can attribute a female writer to a number of stories in that style. That doesn’t mean that other female writers have the same preferences: Benita Brown is credited as the writer of a science fiction story, and Veronica Weir’s one known outing as writer was on a story with spooky overtones but mostly concerned with loneliness and survival. I don’t know the Tammy stories list above well enough to say what themes they represent, but in the list of Jinty stories we just don’t know enough about who wrote what to say anything much more concrete.

Likewise, can we say anything much to compare how well the stories worked with the gender of the author – could we say that the stories made by young men killing themselves laughing were better or more effective than those by women or indeed by older men such as Len Wenn? One difficulty is that in judging effectiveness or memorability, individual reader preferences will come strongly into play – my own list of top stories is skewed to the spooky, mystical, and science fictional and away from the heart-tuggers. Mostly though I think we just don’t know enough about who wrote what, in Jinty at least, to be able to say whether the the most popular, longest-running, most memorable, or otherwise most effective stories tended overall to be written by one group of writers versus another. We have examples written by women (“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”) and by young men (“Land of No Tears”, “The Robot Who Cried”), but the vast majority still lie in the camp of ‘unknown writer’.

Writing this post has sparked off other thoughts that felt a bit tangential to the main point of this piece; I will follow up with more on ‘What makes a story work’ (and indeed how can we tell that it does work).

Edited in Aug 2015 to add: subsequent discussion on the Comics UK Forum leads me to add another known female writer to the list of names acquired to date: Jenny Butterworth, writer of the long-running series “The Happy Days” in Princess Tina (amongst other stories).

Edited in December 2015 to add: we now know that “Fran of the Floods” was not written by a female writer; it can be attributed to Alan Davidson per his wife’s recent comments. At the time of writing, Davidson was a family man who also did not fall in the category of “23 year old guy killing himself laughing” at what he was writing.

Edited in January 2016 to add: Anne Digby has sent in an interview with information about writing comic stories for titles such as Tammy. It is noteworthy that she did not only produce text stories for this title, but also comics adaptations of her previously-published novels.

Edited in March 2016 to add: Phoenix on the Comics UK forum scanned and uploaded a snippet from the Guardian of a letter from one Mary Hooper, writer for Jackie in particular, but perhaps also for other titles?

Edited in January 2017 to add: clarification that Alison Christie (Fitt) created “The Button Box” and was the main writer on the story, though some individual stories were farmed out by editor Wilf Prigmore to Ian Mennell and to Linda Stephenson.