Molly Mills and the Festive Season (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
The Trickling Sand (artist Peter Wilkes) – Strange Story
Boomtown Rats – feature
Wee Sue (Hugh Thornton-Jones)
Tuck-In with Tammy – feature
Christmas is coming and Tammy is gearing up for it in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This is part 3 of her Christmas collection feature, which is on making things for Christmas. This was one of the last Christmas-themed covers with the Cover Girls.
The Bessie Bunter story (below) looks like it was originally written to advertise the (very rare) June Comic Annual of Strange Stories where the Storyteller got his own book, judging by all these spooky references to the book in question and Strange Stories. In the reprint here, it’s been bodged to advertise the Tammy annual. The Tammy annual was a common gag on the Cover Girls covers around the Christmas period. Molly also has a Christmas-themed story to tie in with the festive season. It is now on its penultimate episode and will conclude in the Christmas issue. It was reprinted in the 1985 Tammy annual.
The Wee Sue story this week isn’t tied to the Christmas theme. Instead, it’s a football theme. Meanwhile, the Storyteller takes us on a historical tale in the Highlands. Soldiers sent to seize a Scottish rebel against James II try to force his whereabouts from his daughter, but help comes from – spiders?! We’re told the Storyteller will bring us a Christmas story next week.
Around Christmas time, it was common for some serials to end to make room for new stories in the New Year period. The one about to make way for the New Year lineup is “My Terrible Twin”, now on its penultimate episode. Bella has finished for the year, and as she won’t appear again until the second quarter, there’s more room for serials.
However, “Cindy of Swan Lake”, now on its second episode, will carry on into the New Year. Feedback in the letters page and Cindy’s appearance in Tammy’s 10th birthday issue indicate it was a very popular story. Cindy Grey has started ballet school, but her jealous rival, Zoe Martin, has come along as well, and now she’s seized her chance to play really dirty. She’s taking advantage of Cindy being constantly worried about her swan friends, who are being poisoned by pollution.
“Make Headlines, Hannah!” (an overshadowed girl is trying to prove herself, but her spiteful sisters keep sabotaging her) and “Daughter of the Desert” (a school is plagued by strange phenomena that are making it revert to a desert pattern) look like they still have some episodes to go yet.
Molly Mills and the Gipsy’s Curse – final episode (artist Douglas Perry, Maureen Spurgeon)
The Sea Dragon – Strange Story (artist Julio Bosch)
Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
Guitar Girl (artist Angeles Felices)
Tuck-In with Tammy – feature
For Halloween, we profile the Tammy Halloween issue for 1979 (though it is dated Novemer and not October). It is the last time the Cover Girls celebrate Halloween on the cover. This time the following year, they were gone.
Inside, Wee Sue and Bessie Bunter are going to Halloween parties. Things don’t exactly go without a hitch for either of them, but everything works out in the end. Less so for Edie, who goes to a Halloween party in a cat costume but finds herself being chased by dogs! Molly’s tale, “The Gipsy’s Curse”, has a spooky theme to it, which adds to the Halloween theme. Gipsies have put a spell on Pickering to make him do what they want, but now it’s making him too nice for his own good. Molly decides Pickering has to be returned to normal, bullying and all.
The Storyteller could have gone with a Halloween theme, but instead he gives a cautionary tale about not meddling with things you don’t understand. Two sisters on the island of Cumba resurrect the costume of the Sea Dragon of Cumba, ignoring warnings that they don’t understand its power or what it is supposed to be used for – which is not exactly for attracting the tourism their father wants.
Guitar Girl Jacey Jones also has a party theme. She has been hired to entertain at a posh girl’s birthday party but soon discovers it’s no party for her. The snobbish mother disapproves of her presence and – horrors! – has hired her nasty arch-rival Sabrina to entertain as well! If that weren’t bad enough, Sabrina pulls a dirty trick on Jacey to make her look a thief and snobby mum’s screaming for the police. How can Jacey prove her innocence?
Bella has been fostered by a rich couple, but they have a real thing about gymnastics for some reason, which is the mystery of the story. Their disapproval has driven her to go to a gymnastics club behind their backs, under a false name, but this week Bella’s jealous rivals at the club have found her out. Uh-oh, looks like blackmail is about to be added to Bella’s problems.
“Temper, Temper, Tina!”, now on its penultimate episode, and “Sarita in Uniform” also have girls driven to do things in secret. Sarita, a gypsy girl, is going to school behind her gypsy guardians’ backs. They don’t approve of education or even gypsy traditions. Tina, a brilliant athlete with a short fuse, has been dodging school for ages. But why is she doing it, and where has she been in all that time? Everyone’s about to find out in the final episode next week, as things are clearly coming to a head now.
“My Terrible Twin” is the sequel to an earlier serial by the same name. Moira and Lindy are fraternal twins. In the first story (reprinted by popular demand in 1984), Lindy was the terrible twin. She had served time for shoplifting but had still not reformed or learned responsibility, with the long-suffering Moira trying to keep her on the straight and narrow. But this time the terrible twin is Moira, who accidentally winds up on the ship where Lindy has a job and is playing tricks Lindy because she mistakenly thinks Lindy has developed a snobby attitude over her job. And, as the story carries on, this proves to be only the beginning of a long line of misunderstandings that have Moira making Lindy’s life a misery.
Published: Tammy 6 February 1971 (first issue) to 17 July 1971
Artist: Desmond Walduck
Writer: Gerry Finley-Day
Translations/reprints: None known
In World War II, Kate Dennison’s parents are killed in the Blitz and she is evacuated to a farm in the Lake District run by Ma Thatcher. Ma Thatcher is ostensibly a benefactor offering a good home to war orphans, but Kate soon discovers she is a monster. Together with Ned and Benskin, she operates a racket using war orphans and evacuees as slave labour. She also makes a profit out of the money the government sends for the children’s upkeep. The children are forced to sleep in a barn, all their belongings are taken for her use, and they are used as slave labour in Benskin’s quarry. Ma gets a nice sum for the slave labour she supplies him. Other farmers seem complicit in the racket, and even help to bring back escaped children. Their reasons are not clear. Perhaps it’s because they benefit from it too, as Ma hires the children out to work on their farms as well as slave in the quarry.
Ma has terrible punishments for rebellious children, but her specialty is the animal cage. Children are locked in it overnight, regardless of weather or state of health, to be exposed to all the elements. There are beatings too, and as the story goes on, other unbelievable tortures and punishments are added that has you wondering why none of these children are maimed or dead.
Kate is the only one willing to stand up to Ma and never waver from trying to escape and seek help, no matter how many times she fails – which is often. She prompts the other slaves to fight back and do something, something they weren’t doing before she arrived because they think nothing can be done. She also tries to get help for weak or sick children, and acts of rebellion and sabotage against the work. One ruse is rigging up a water flask as an unexploded bomb in a pool in the frequently flooded quarry. Of course the slavers discover the trick eventually, but it’s given the children a break from the quarry labour.
Kate’s rebellion against Ma singles her out for extra-cruel treatment intended to break her will, such as being forced to stand still for hours with vicious guard dogs all around her, threatening to tear her apart if she moves.
When Kate arrived, the number of slaves was small, but as time goes on it grows with more arrivals. Things get worse when one, Bonnie Sykes, becomes the flunky, collaborator and under-guard. In exchange for better treatment, which includes sleeping in the farm house instead of the barn, she helps Ma with the slavery, acts as watchdog over the other children, and joins in the cruelties.
Sadly for them, the children are still prone to gullibility and have to learn the hard way about that. When, all of a sudden, Ma starts treating the kids nicely, they refuse to have anything to do with Emma, suggesting that she’s trying to spoil their now happy family. Of course it’s all a ruse. Evacuation inspectors are coming to the farm, so Ma needs to give the impression that all is well. Even Kate is largely fooled, though still suspicious. She tries to escape in the inspectors’ car, but finds Ma there, waiting for her in case of tricks like that. She’s kept tied up while the inspectors visit and see the happy, unsuspecting children. By the time the children discover they’ve been fooled, it’s too late and their rescue is gone. At least Kate, once untied, gives them the satisfaction of seeing her rip up the money their slavers have just received from the inspectors.
In time, another character appears. She is Mad Emma, a woman who always conceals her face, and she’s the only person who scares Ma. Emma secretly helps the children, such as smuggling things in to help, throwing scares into the slave drivers and messing things up for them, and then moves up to helping some of the sicker children escape.
Kate and Emma progressively spirit three of these children away, and they are hidden in a nearby evacuated village. But after the third escape, Ma decides it’s time to get rid of Kate. So she forces Kate to work alone in the quarry, with Benskin to arrange a few ‘accidents’. Despite Kate watching him closely, he comes close to killing her until Emma sends him plunging, and he is knocked out. She then takes Kate to the evacuated village.
There is still the matter of how to free the remaining children, and now the mystery of Emma is revealed. It turns out she is the owner of the farm. When she wouldn’t sell to Ma, Ma stole the farm and started a fire to drive Emma off. Emma escaped, badly burned, and wandered in a state of shock until she stumbled across the abandoned village. She had lived there ever since, hiding her badly scarred face. She had taken a long time to start helping the children because she was living in seclusion, suspicious of strangers. Then one day she decided to take a look at her farm and discovered what was going on.
Back at the farm, Ma learns Kate has escaped, but she has something more pressing to worry about. She has received a letter informing them that the bombing is easing up, so the children will now be sent home. Realising the children will tell people about their treatment, Ma decides to silence them by locking them in the barn and burning it down.
Bonnie draws the line at murder and has a change of heart. She runs away and bumps into Kate and Emma, and explains things. She covers for them while they dig the tunnel into the barn and help all the children escape through it. Ma almost shoots Kate as she makes her escape, but Bonnie causes her to miss and follows Kate into the woods. Now Ma knows Bonnie has turned against her.
With all the children safe, Emma decides it is (long overdue!) time to get the police. But after several hours there’s still no sign of activity. Kate goes in search of her and again gets captured by Ma Thatcher, who has also captured Emma and Bonnie. She uses them as hostages to force Kate to flag the police away.
Ma then locks Bonnie and Kate in the barn and sets fire to it, keeping Emma back to make her tell where the other children are. Emma breaks free and rushes into the barn to save Kate and Bonnie. Ma is forced to go after Emma, as she’s the only one who can tell her where the other children are. Ned panics at all this and makes a run for it. When Kate hears Ma crying for help, she goes back to rescue her. Her reward? Ma tries to kill her again, with the shotgun Ned dropped.
However, the other children, who got worried at the delay, have brought in the police themselves. The police arrive in time to catch Ma in the act of trying to shoot Kate. Ned is soon rounded up, and joins Ma in custody. The farm is restored to Emma, and the children are very happy when the authorities allow them to stay with her.
Well, here we go with Tammy’s most famous (or infamous) tale of all, and one of the most pivotal stories in girls’ comics. This is the one that really made Tammy’s mark from the first issue, and its impact lingers on today. If one serial were the jewel in Tammy’s crown, it would have to be this one. But what a dark jewel it is. It has been deemed the cruellest of Tammy’s tales, perhaps the cruellest of all in the history of girls’ comics. Of all the dark, misery-laden tales Tammy was known for, this one is the reigning queen.
And the readers lapped it up. Its length alone – a staggering 29 episodes – shows how popular it was with readers. Its formula proved a guaranteed hit, copied countless times at IPC, and spawned what became known as the slave story. Or perhaps, more accurately, the slave group story (as distinct from the single slave story). The slave story was one of the lynchpins in the new trend of grittiness Tammy set. Said Pat Mills of the slave story: “slave stories were always very popular, and I think a psychologist might have a field day, not just with the people who wrote them, but with the readers! … We actually would sit down and say, when we were constructing a girls’ comic or revising an existing one, ‘Right, let’s have the slave story’, and the reason was because they were so popular with the readers!” (Interview with Jenni Scott, 26 September 2011, https://comiczine-fa.com/interviews/pat-mills).
“Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’” was the one that set the template for it all in Tammy and her sister comics. The template ran as follows:
1: The protagonist falls foul of a racket, evil person or cruel institution where others are held captive for a sinister purpose or used as slaves. Settings have included workhouses, harsh boarding schools, factories, remote environments and prison camps.
2: The protagonist is the only one to rebel against it (and in some cases, even realise what is going on, as the evil purpose is sometimes disguised) and try to break them all free from it.
3: Her rebellion singles her out for extra-harsh treatment or puts her in more danger than the others.
4: There is a flunky type (not always used) working with the antagonist against the protagonist.
5: A helper often, though not always, emerges to help. The helper can either work in secret and disguise, or come in to investigate and sense something’s wrong. Sometimes the protagonist herself is the secret helper, either donning a disguise or pretending to be the flunky to help the slaves. Examples of this are “Lady Sarah’s Secret” (Judy) and “Hateful Hattie” (Mandy).
It could not have been the formula alone that made the serial its mark. It would also have been the lengths it took with its cruelties, which have made it regarded as the cruellest of them all (with “Merry at Misery House” running a very strong second). The scale of violence and torture must have been unprecedented and shocking, and the levels it went to have been seldom seen since: Kate being constantly bludgeoned, dangerous labour in a flooded quarry, the animal cage, fox traps, even attempted shootings, and so much else. The story stops at showing blood, broken bones and other injuries (except for one child getting her leg caught in a fox trap) or outright death, but it’s always dancing on the edge of it, and the only reason it doesn’t happen is, well, this is girls’ comics.
Also adding to its impact was Tammy clearly naming the villainess after an unpopular figure: Margaret Thatcher, then known as “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher” for her cuts on free milk given to children when she was Secretary of Education. And Ma Thatcher is a villainess with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one of the evil baddies ever created in girls’ comics. Nowhere is this shown more where Kate saves Ma’s life – twice – in the story. But there’s no gratitude from Ma, only more of the same from her, even trying to kill Kate in return for having her life saved. She ought to be running a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, what with the tortures she inflicts (vicious dogs, fox traps, the animal cage, beatings, atrocious working conditions, etc.). She’d feel right at home with those brutal SS guards.
As well as no redeeming qualities, Ma Thatcher has no nuances to her character. There’s no dashes of humour, backstory, redeeming qualities, or even sprinkles of the human touch to her. The only thing that gives her a little roundness is how brilliant she is at pretending to be the kind grandmotherly benefactor when the authorities come calling. But essentially, Ma Thatcher is just cruel, evil and unredeemable.
The hatching and crosshatching in the Desmond Walduck artwork give it ruggedness against a softer edge of linework, which makes it not only a perfect fit for the harshness of the story but for the country setting and the time period as well. Not surprisingly, Walduck has been a popular choice for other period stories with a hard edge to them, such as “The Shadow in Shona’s Life” from Tammy and “The Worst School in the World” from Judy.
“Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was not strictly the first in the line of (group) slave stories. The aforementioned Worst School in the World from Judy was one also, and predated it by two years. There were probably others at DCT that also predated “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm”. But at IPC, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was more than enough to be the first to matter.
Artist: Updated: Miguel Rosello, Miguel Quesada and Luis Bermejo credited by David Roach
Writer: Alan Davidson
Translations/reprints: None known
Annabel Hayes is the drudge of her family. Her parents say she’s nothing and have eyes only for her younger sister Dora. Everything goes on Dora, including Annabel being forced to slave on her father’s market stall, and he doesn’t care that it makes Annabel late for school. At school, Annabel is brilliant at sewing. Her sewing teacher, Miss Turner, says she could make a real career out of fashion and design, and gifts her a book on dressmaking.
Then the family moves to be closer to Dora’s modelling school. Dad yanks Annabel illegally out of school to work full time to help pay Dora’s fees and tells her to lie about her age if anyone asks questions. Dad even rips up Annabel’s dressmaking book when she tries to rebel against his latest ill-treatment, but she manages to salvage the pieces.
At her new home, Annabel is forced to sleep in an attic, but this works in her favour when she finds an old sewing machine there. Later, she discovers an evening dress and design class she could go for. After finding some materials and thread, she is in business.
As Annabel works at her sewing, she bemoans how she must everything for herself, from the nothing her parents say she is, while the spoiled Dora gets everything handed to her on a plate for her modelling and doesn’t lift a finger for herself. Well, at least Annabel has the talent. Does Dora have the talent too? We haven’t been shown that part yet.
Annabel’s first day on the market stall goes badly, as she is forced to work on it alone with no experience in sales pitch, and she’s up against Tom, who really knows how to sell stuff on his own stall. Dad’s furious at Annabel not making any money and clouts her. And now Dora’s been recommended to the De Vere fashion house, so the pressure on Annabel to make money at the stall is worse than ever.
Next day, Tom, who saw the way Dad treated Annabel for making no money, gives her a hand, and she makes more money on the stall. She has used some material left behind on the stall to make some items, which she hopes to sell on the stall and raise her own money for the evening sewing classes. None of them sell until towards closing time, when a Mrs Crawford, seeing the flair and design that went into making them, scoops up the lot and places an order for six bags in dark red.
Unfortunately, Dad grabs the money Annabel had just raised, leaving her with nothing to buy the red material for the bags. All the money has gone for expensive material to make Dora’s new dress – which happens to be dark red. When Dora takes the material in to be made up, Annabel makes a grab for the scraps (getting herself into a few scrapes along the way) and makes up the bags, but just as she brings them to the stall, Dad finds them. He throws the bags away – but happens to pick the moment when Mrs Crawford arrives and sees everything. She puts Dad very firmly in his place, “you dreadful man”, and forces him to apologise to Annabel.
Mrs Crawford says she wants to have tea with Annabel to discuss things. Sensing what a rich friend Annabel’s suddenly got, Dad realises he could take advantage, especially for Dora.
All of a sudden, Dad goes all nice to Annabel at home, and tags along with her to the tea. Mrs Crawford says she wants Annabel to work for her in the fashion business and needs a guardian’s consent. Dad gives it, and then he puts on a great “poor man act” to cadge some junk for the stall. While doing so, he helps himself to some more valuable items Mrs Crawford bought at auction. Annabel discovers this and runs off to return them, with Dad giving chase. She manages to get them to Mrs Crawford, but Dad tries to put the blame on her. It looks like the end of Annabel’s job with Mrs Crawford, and Dad’s furious at how Annabel has wrecked his chance of a fortune. Unknown to them both, Mrs Crawford is not convinced Annabel took the paintings.
Annabel is now so heartbroken and fed up that she just runs away, leaving the market stall unattended. Dad’s livid when he discovers this. When Mrs Crawford returns to the market stall to make further enquiries about the paintings, Dad tells her about Annabel’s disappearance and yells at her for interfering.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Dora’s modelling audition at the De Vere school. We’re finally shown just how good Dora is at modelling, and no, she definitely does not have what it takes. Dora overhears Miss De Vere say she was the only one she was not impressed with.
But Dora gets an even bigger shock when she sees the row between Mrs Crawford and Dad at the market stall – Miss De Vere and Mrs Crawford happen to be the same person! (Later, they find out De Vere is Mrs Crawford’s professional name.) So Dad and Dora really need Annabel now, to pull strings with her “rich friend”, if Dora is to get the modelling job.
The hunt for Annabel begins, with the family all anxious, and all nice and making a big fuss when they find Annabel injured and save her from drowning at the embankment. Saying things are sorted out with Mrs Crawford, they have Annabel bring her over to tea, and Dora tearfully asks Annabel to say the reason she didn’t do so well at the audition was because she was worried about her disappearance. Annabel falls for it despite the show of phony niceness they had shown before. The end result is Mrs Crawford taking on Annabel as a trainee designer and Dora as a model, and both are to report to her fashion house. Unknown to them, Mrs Crawford is not entirely fooled, but is not sure just who to believe.
But of course Dora doesn’t want Annabel coming with her to their appointment at the fashion house. So, as they set off to report, Dora “loses” Annabel, and makes sure she is the one with the address. Annabel had no idea what the address was to begin with and can’t find it herself (no doubt, something else they made sure of). At the fashion house, Dora tells Mrs Crawford Annabel has changed her mind and not coming. The family make sure Mrs Crawford and Annabel don’t meet up when Mrs Crawford comes around asking questions and spin them both lies about the other. Annabel is left thinking Mrs Crawford now thinks she’s unreliable and wants nothing more to do with her; Mrs Crawford still has her suspicions but not sure what to think. As Dad planned, Annabel’s back on the market stall, thinking she’s Little Miss Nothing again.
Meanwhile, Dad’s received a crooked offer from a friend of his, Harry Marks, and there’s an ominous hint it has something to do with Mrs Crawford. Dora doesn’t want it, saying she now has everything she needs to advance in modelling without “any crookery”. But then there’s a further development that could change her mind…
By now, Mrs Crawford has seen enough of Dora to confirm her earlier impressions that she is not modelling material. Her suspicions have also deepened as to why Dora is at her school and Annabel is not. Mrs Crawford confronts Dora over it all, shows her the bags Annabel had a natural talent for making, and says it’s Annabel she wants at the school, not her. At this, Dora’s jealousy overboils. She says she made the bags, not Annabel. Her proof? Her dress, which is made from the same material, and she claims she made the bags from the scraps. Sceptical, Mrs Crawford decides to test her by telling her to bring in something else she designed.
Of course, Dora cons Annabel into doing the design for her, saying it’s home-based design work Mrs Crawford is offering as preliminary for a second chance at the fashion house. This time, Mrs Crawford really does fall for Dora’s trick and now thinks Annabel is a liar and a cheat. She is also so impressed with the design that it’s going into her autumn collection, Dora will model it, and the design is soon made up.
Meanwhile, Annabel finally finds the address for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house and nips along to see how things are going with her design. The results are the whole truth blowing up right there and then right in front of everyone. Mrs Crawford sacks Dora, throws her out, and Dora angrily rips up the dress to spite her.
Annabel finally gets her job at the fashion house, but then loses the roof over her head. Her family throw her out because of what happened. Not knowing where else to go, she heads for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house, now locked up, and slips in for the night. Unfortunately for her, she has left a window open, which unwittingly sets the stage for the Hayes’ next move.
Burning with rage and thirsty for revenge, Dora is now all too eager to listen to that earlier proposition from Harry Marks. This entails stealing Mrs Crawford’s fashion designs for his buyer, a rival fashion designer. They find it easy to break in through that open window, and then Dora discovers Annabel fast asleep there. Dora seizes her chance for revenge on Annabel by planting one of her shoes at the scene of the crime and then tipping off the police about the break-in. The frame-up works, and now Mrs Crawford is back to believing Annabel is the cheat. Dora’s crowing over this, convinced she can now worm her way back into Mrs Crawford’s favour. Annabel tearfully makes a run for it.
Annabel soon guesses who was behind it all. But she can’t prove anything. Her only chance is to confront her family. First stop is back home, and after she confronts her mother, she realises she must check out the market. She arrives in time to see Dad and Dora hand over the designs to Marks. Dora is promptly interested in working for Marks’ buyer as a model, and all three head for his fashion house. They don’t realise Annabel is desperately hanging on at the end of their car. The designs are handed over to the fashion designer, a man looking as shady as Marks, and he agrees to take Dora on as a model. He’s doing so on the spot, by looks alone and no audition, which shows how professional he is in comparison to Mrs Crawford.
Unwilling to report even her horrible family to the police, Annabel decides to just burst in and grab the designs to return to Mrs Crawford. When they try to block her, she escapes by window, but takes a fall and damages her knee. Despite it, she manages to run to Mrs Crawford’s before her knee gives way. She desperately rings the doorbell for help, only to find nobody in; Mrs Crawford, still thinking Annabel took the designs, had decided to go away for a bit. Dad and Dora catch up, but rather than hand the designs over, Annabel rips them up. At this, Dad starts thrashing Annabel, as the buyer said the deal is off without the designs. He is caught red-handed by Mrs Crawford, who had suddenly decided to return. She has seen enough to realise who really had stolen the designs and who to believe now.
Dad is jailed for his role in the theft. Dora is let off because of her age, but it’s the end of her modelling hopes. Now she is the one miserably and bitterly slogging on the market stall (how this fits in with her being even more underage to work on it than Annabel is not explained), and she is humbled.
A month later, Annabel’s design receives the loudest applause at Mrs Crawford’s fashion show, and she’s on her way to a brilliant career in fashion and design. Mrs Crawford finds out Annabel is not the Hayes’ natural child. They adopted her in infancy but went off her when Dora arrived. Mrs Crawford, who had always wanted children, now adopts Annabel as her own. Annabel takes pity on Dora after seeing her plight at the market stall. She arranges for Mrs Crawford to take her in at the fashion house, and they are reconciled.
“Little Miss Nothing” is one of Tammy’s most pivotal stories and definitely in her Top 10 of the best. In fact, Pat Mills is one to regard it as one of the most ground-breaking serials ever in girls’ comics: “it was the first of its kind” in establishing the template of the Cinderella stories for other Cinderella stories to follow. And they followed big style! Among them in Tammy were “Jumble Sale Jilly”, “Nell Nobody”, “Sally in a Shell”, and “Sadie in the Sticks”. Cinderella-based Jinty stories, such as “Make-Believe Mandy” and “Cinderella Smith”, also owe their roots to “Little Miss Nothing”, as does the 1983 “Cinders on Ice” in Princess II. Most significant of all, the Cinderella template set by “Little Miss Nothing” led to the creation of Bella Barlow.
Mind you, “Little Miss Nothing” was not quite the first of its kind. The text story version of “The Sad Star”, an even grimmer Cinderella story from Mandy, predated it by a few months, and went on to become Mandy’s most popular text story ever and enjoy several reprints, in both text and picture story form. There may be other Cinderella stories at DCT to predate Tammy’s ground breaker here, but there is currently no confirmation. Was it a case of “Little Miss Nothing” being the first of its kind to matter? Or it being the first of its kind at IPC? Or was it the template it set for others to follow?
In his Millsverse blog, Pat Mills said on “Little Miss Nothing”:
“Little Miss Nothing by Alan Davidson in Tammy (1971) was hugely popular – equivalent in success at the time to Judge Dredd in 2000AD. It was the first of its kind and it was such a massive hit that it was meticulously studied and analysed by the editorial staff. They identified its vote winning ‘formula’ and then endlessly duplicated it with subsequent remarkably similar serials. I recall there were at least ten ‘begats’ of this ground-breaking story.”
Wow, a pioneering girls’ serial with success the equivalent of Judge Dredd is serious stuff!
The template of the Cinderella serial “Little Miss Nothing” can be seen as follows:
The protagonist is treated as a drudge by cruel guardians.
The protagonist is also exploited to feed the indulgences of a wicked stepsister type. This element is not always used in a Cinderella serial, as in the case of Bella Barlow.
The protagonist has a talent/secret to keep her spirits up. It is her only joy in life, and she fights to keep it up against all odds.
Her talent is spotted, enabling her to find a fairy godmother figure and friends to help her, achieve her dream, and ultimately help her to break free of the ill-treatment. But in between there are still obstacles and ill-treatment from the cruel guardians, which often include their causing a fallout between the protagonist and her fairy godmother.
Cinderella has always been a popular fairy tale, told in many versions and cultures throughout the eons. So Tammy was guaranteed a hit if she used the Cinderella theme as a ground-breaker. Modelling, fashion and design have always been popular in girls’ comics, so throwing those into the mix were guaranteed to make it even more popular. Plus there is the growing undercurrent of criminal conduct in addition to the abuse to make it even more exciting. Readers would be on the edge of the seats to see how that unfolds.
The writing is mature, well-paced, and well-constructed, particularly in how it keeps the ill-treatment of Annabel within the bounds of realism. We can easily imagine a real-life child being treated that way. It does not go over the top or taken to excess, which has happened in some Cinderella serials. For example, Annabel is not kept frequently underfed, as in the case of Bella Barlow, or put in chains, as in the case of Cinderella Smith. The reasons behind the Hayes’ increasing exploitation of Annabel are also well-grounded in realism: she was not their own flesh and blood as Dora was; they were unfit guardians and unprincipled people by nature; and they would never be able to afford Dora’s modelling on their own income, so they need Annabel to generate the income required.
Also realistic is how so many key people, from Miss Turner to Tom, do sense the Hayes are unfit guardians, but although they are helpful and sympathetic, none of them take any action against the abuse itself. This has been an all-too-common phenomenon for many years.
It is also credible in how the contrasting upbringings Dora and Annabel have had have shaped the ways in which one will get to where she wants and the other not. Dora, even if she did have the talent for modelling, has been too spoiled to learn the lesson that to achieve your dream, you must work hard and have guts, determination and persistence against obstacles and challenges, and be grateful for all the help and encouragement you can get. In fact, Dora never learned to work at all, as everything was just handed to her on a plate by her parents. The only thing she works hard at is being nasty. When she ends up on the market stall, she is working for the first time. But she is not making any effort to work her way out of it as Annabel did. Instead, she’s wallowing in bitterness, jealousy and misery as she works on the stall. It takes yet another thing handed to her on a plate – Annabel’s kind offer – to help her out of it.
Annabel, by contrast, won’t give up her dream, but she has to do everything for herself against all obstacles set down by her family. This includes the constant knocks to her self-esteem as her parents call her a nobody while they hit her. The saving grace is the good people who raise Annabel’s confidence by telling her she has talent and could go far and offer various means of help. But everything, whether good or bad, all helps to give Annabel far more tools to get where she wants than Dora.
The reconciliation between Dora and Annabel at the end of the story is typically fairy tale, very sweet, and in line with Cinderella. But it is a bit hard to understand how Dora could ever go back to the fashion house all. Surely Mrs Crawford would not want her anywhere near it after what happened. And what could Dora do at the fashion house anyway, as she has no talent for modelling or fashion?
Would just leaving Dora on the market stall have made more sense as well as give us more satisfaction? Dora’s counterpart in “Nell Nobody” meets a similar comeuppance, and it gives readers great satisfaction to see her just left there to slog and hate every minute of it. On the other hand, the final panel between Dora and Annabel is very moving, as Dora sheds tears for the first time in the story. It leaves us wanting to think things will work out between Dora and Annabel somehow.
The Return of Splat! (photostory sequel) – first episode
Olly Decides! (artist Trini Tinturé) – complete story
Let’s Go Pop! – feature
Wham! – Pullout
Village of Shame (photostory)
Patty’s World (artist Purita Campos)
The Final Curtain (photostory) – final episode
Help Me! – Problem Page
For the final issue in our Tammy August round, welcome to the Girl and Tammy non-merger issue on 25 August 1984. This is the issue where Tammy would have properly merged with Girl if not for the strike that cut her off on 23 June 1984.
Instead of a proper merger, all that appears is the Tammy logo. There is no Tammy content anywhere in the issue. It’s business as usual for Girl. Girl readers must have wondered what the Tammy logo was doing there, and where the hell Tammy was inside if she was merging with Girl. On the cover here, something is written in pencil: “first combined issue”. From this, it is confirmed the official cancellation of Tammy was set for 18 August 1984 with issue 699. A new photo story starts this issue, possibly to replace whatever had been planned from Tammy.
What the final issue of Tammy would have looked like can only remain forever in speculation. As there was not much room in Girl for the Tammy merger, it is fair to deduce that everything in Tammy would have finished by the final issue, with probably Bella Barlow and/or Pam of Pond Hill carrying on in Girl. How long either of them or anything else from Tammy would have lasted in Girl is anyone’s guess, especially as Girl was given a total makeover on 6 October 1984.
The Tammy logo appeared on the Girl cover, denoting the token merger, until 29 September 1984. Then a new look Girl was launched.
Namby Pamby (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Ian Mennell)
Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
Welcome, Stranger! (artist Douglas Perry, writer Chris Harris) – Pony Tale
Room for Rosie (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Alison Christie)
Holiday Miss Title! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – Quiz
Fate – or Fortune? (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – complete story
The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
Backhand Play (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Ian Mennell)
Make Your Mind Up, Maggie (artist Juliana Buch)
Pretty Tidy (Chris Lloyd) – feature
We had this issue before, but the post disappeared for some reason. So here it is again for 1983 issue in our Tammy August month round.
Inside is one of the most historic moments in the saga of Bella Barlow – the moment when her arch-antagonists, Jed and Gert Barlow, make their final bow and disappear from her strip for good. We never thought we’d see the day. This was an astonishing move for Tammy to take, and we have to wonder what was behind it. Did ye Editor get tired of them or something? Anyway, good riddance to them. Our only regret is that although they had their karmic low points (including prison), they were never really punished for their treatment of Bella.
In our other stories, Pam’s ridiculously overprotective mother does it again in “Namby Pamby”. The moment she hears Pam’s in a swimming match, she races to the pool, barrelling through the crowd and screaming hysterics, just because she thinks her precious little baby’s catching a chill. Oh, for crying out loud! Pauline Wheeler thinks she’s found “Room for Rosie” pretty quickly, but the new home falls through, so back to square one. No doubt this will be the first in a long string of failed homes before Rosie finds the One. “Backhand Play” is now on its penultimate episode, and it sets the stage for the final one: showdown between the tennis club and their backhand-playing tennis officer, Terry Knightly’s uncle, who’s now making an utter mockery of tennis. And the complications over juggling between riding and ballet get even worse for Maggie in “Make Your Mind Up, Maggie”.
Tammy’s complete stories are now the Button Box series, a Pony Tale series, and a self-contained complete story, a number of which had a supernatural theme. Some of them were reprints of Strange Stories, others were totally new and credited, giving us insight as to who might have written the spooky completes of the past.
Linda’s Fox (artist and writer Ron Tiner) – final episode
Are You Set for Summer? (artist John Johnston, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz
The Look of Things (artist Jaume Rumeu) – Strange Story from the Mists
Tune-in (pop and TV gossip feature)
Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)
No Love for Lindy (artist Eduardo Feito) – first episode
Stella Stirrer (artist Tony Coleman)
For the first Tammy issue for August 1981, Bella takes over the cover spot after Sandy finished last week. Oh dear, no sooner is Bella back on the cover when she’s really put her foot in it by thinking circus tricks (learned from the circus she is staying at) would impress the judges at a gymnastics competition. Now she realises it was one of her worst mistakes, never, ever to be repeated. It not only makes her lose badly but also causes terrible trouble when the audience reacts angrily to the marking. Still, anyone who’s read Bella for long enough will know that when a competition goes badly for her, it means she’s about to undergo a new course in plot direction. Sure enough, somebody comes to the circus wanting to speak to her. Whether for good or bad, it’s definitely the upcoming plot change.
Bessie’s appearances have grown more intermittent since the Misty merger, but she appears this week. Stackers has the pupils making calendars for a sale of work, but soon finds out Bessie is about as good at making calendars as she is at classwork.
Tammy’s August issues always had a focus on getting us primed for summer and holidays. Sure enough, her first August issue for 1981 has a summer quiz. The Strange Story from the Mists has a holiday theme, with the Carstairs family on holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, daughter Geraldine is spoiling things with her rudeness towards anything or anyone she does not consider attractive. She even throws a stone at a tortoise, calling it “such an ugly-looking brute”. Geraldine’s parents don’t look like they are doing much to crack down on her conduct, but punishment comes, of course. Geraldine is cursed to see nothing but the face of a mysterious old lady she didn’t find attractive. The curse lifts by the time Geraldine returns home, but it would surely have been otherwise if the story had appeared in the original Misty. August is also time for shopping. Wee Sue goes Christmas shopping in August while she has the money, but eventually she uses her Christmas shopping to help some hard-up kids who want to celebrate a birthday, and they hold an August Christmas birthday party. Now, that’s the Christmas spirit! And Tammy is offering holiday coupons.
The new story, “No Love for Lindy”, looks like it could be following similar lines to Sandy Rawlings; perhaps it is the same writer. As with Sandy, the protagonist (Lindy Allen) tells her own story and there’s a boyfriend figure. He’s the only thing making staying at the Westons (who turned out to be no better than the countless failed foster families Lindy’s had already) worthwhile.
“Linda’s Fox”, written and drawn by Ron Tiner, finishes this week. It sounds like writing a girls’ story was a new experience for Tiner, but he did very well on it, and it must have been a popular story. It was one of my favourites, anyway. The ending is well crafted and thought out in how it handles the clearing of Linda’s father, what happens once he’s out, and keeping Linda’s friendship with Ross the fox intertwined. Tiner ought to be proud of it. Its replacement next week is a repeat of a popular 1976 Giorgio Giorgetti story, “Tag Along Tania”.
Speaking of Giorgetti, his current story, “The Breaking of Faith”, is now on its penultimate episode. Faith discovers the truth about her friend Claire after (finally) checking things out at the home Claire was staying at. Now she has to decide what to do. Her decision will certainly involve what to do about Claire running away, terrified of her finding out the truth.
“Stella Stirrer” saves her friend Katie from drowning in the school swimming pool although she can’t swim. Later, she’s back to stirring things up for snobby Harriet when she discovers Harriet has stolen the credit for the rescue!
The Loneliest Girl in the World (artist Jaume Rumeu)
Wee Sue (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
Molly Mills and the Green-fingered Runaway (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode
Edie and Miss T – (artist Joe Collins)
The House Mouse (artist Mario Capaldi) – Strange Story from the Mists (Part 2 of 2)
Plain as Pearl (artist Juliana Buch)
Now we come to 1980 in the Tammy August month round. In this issue, Tammy has some Golly giveaways to celebrate Golly’s 50th. How times have changed for Golly in increasingly PC times since then.
Bella concludes her bid to reach the Moscow Olympics. A shipwreck brings it all to a head, putting her in hospital with a busted ankle, so no Moscow. That’s the second time poor Bella has missed out on the Olympics, and unlike her Montreal story she didn’t even get there this time. Maybe a rebooted Bella will finally get to compete at the Olympics. At least the rescuers brought her back to Britain for treatment, so she’s home and no longer stranded in the US. We’re promised a new story next week while Bella is recuperating.
In Molly’s new story, it’s time for Lord Stanton’s summer fete. We are introduced to Charlie’s sister Cathy, who has run away from a harsh orphanage, and the police are hunting for her. Molly and Charlie are very surprised when she turns up at the fete, helping Lord Stanton’s gardener. Oh boy, this is going make for one very interesting fete!
Since Misty joined, several Strange Stories from the Mists have appeared in two or three parts. The current two-parter, “The House Mouse”, has to be the most frightening of them all and is guaranteed to stick with you for years to come (it does me!). The House Mouse is far from a cute, cuddly mouse – it is an evil, possessed monster that drives off prospective buyers of its fanatical master’s house with “accidents”, outright attacks and even murder, as he has vowed the house will never leave his family.
There are a lot of “court” jokes and puns in this week’s Wee Sue story when Miss Bigger ropes Sue into helping her with tennis practice. This ends up “courting” trouble. Ultimately, they find themselves more successful at cricket.
In a later issue ye Editor informs us “Plain as Pearl” is a very popular story, and there is a lot in it to make it so. Pearl Kent has taken a job as a model to raise money for her sick mother’s holiday. Trouble is, she has to do it in secret because she senses Clare, the daughter of the foster family she is staying with, will be jealous. The secrecy is leading to problems of course, like Pearl not having a guardian’s consent for the job.
“Running Rosie Lee” turns into the bionic woman once she’s had a cup of tea, to the consternation of the snobs at her new boarding school. But this week it is established that the tea must be stirred, or failing that, shaken to get things going.
Karen Chalmers, “The Loneliest Girl in the World”, doesn’t know where she’s coming or going with the weird things that are happening to her, except now confirming that her parents are indeed robot imposters. But all this does is get her committed to a psychiatric hospital. The robot parents say she must never discover the truth, even if she has to stay at the hospital all her life. Now what can the truth be, and is it connected with her nightmares about her house burning down and nobody left except her?
Cut-Glass Crystal is finding out – the hard way – why her mother refused to come to Dad’s hometown of Pitedge after his business collapsed. Pitedge is worlds away from the upbringing she has had, adapting to life in Pitedge is hard for her, the house they live in doesn’t even have proper commodities, she doesn’t fit in, and now she doesn’t even know her own father anymore. Instead of being sympathetic and trying to help – or even grateful Crystal chose to come with him when Mum didn’t – he’s become very harsh with her. Can things possibly sort themselves out, or did Crystal’s mother have the right idea?
Vision of Vanity Fayre (artist Mario Capaldi) – final episode
Maggie’s Menagerie (artist Tony Coleman)
Double – or Nothing! (artist Diana Gabbot(t))
The Juicy Mackerel (artist Peter Wilkes) – Strange Story
Wee Sue (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
A Bus in the Family (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
Heraldry – Edie’s Hobbyhorse
Now we come to 1978 in our August Tammy month round, with one of my favourite Tammy covers.
“Your future’s assured” says the cover, but not for Bella in introducing gymnastics to Port Tago, Australia. The way things are going, she must have wondered if she should have stayed home. And now, just when things finally seem to be looking up, an enemy strikes. They tried to sabotage Bella’s public demonstration, and now they’ve sent her a death threat, telling her to get out of Port Tago, or else!
Currently, there is no Molly Mills (she returns in the following issue), which was a definite change after her artist changed from Tony Thewenetti to Douglas Perry. In the Thewenetti run, Molly appeared without pause from the first issue of Tammy to the end of Thewenetti’s run on 20 August 1977. But when Perry took over on 31 December 1977, Molly took more breaks until the end of her run in 1981 (barring her spot appearances in the “Old Friends” strip in 1982). This would have given some relief to the readers who did not like her so much and allowed more room for serials.
In the Strange Story, you wouldn’t think a fish could help a man escape? It does when he gets pressganged and his twin sister comes to the rescue after sensing his danger through the twin link.
Tony Coleman is drawing his second story for Tammy. Maggie Crown is living on her gran’s barge while her parents are away. Animal-loving Maggie is accumulating a secret hoard of stray animals on the barge – what a thing to hide on a barge! As gran is no animal lover, the fur will really fly if she finds out, and that can only be a matter of time.
“Vision of Vanity Fayre” concludes, and a TV production crew are free to carry on with the shoot of the life of a famous authoress without interference from the monstrous conduct of the authoress, which was threatening to destroy it. It turns out she was an imposter (surprise, surprise!) who was holding the real authoress a virtual prisoner while profiteering from her fame. And talking of TV, it leads to trouble for Bessie this week, who ends up under punishment again.
As nobody will partner with Kate Winter because of her terrible temper, she has roped Pam Doggett into a doubles team with her. This week they go into action, but Pam’s insufficient training and constant arguing with Kate are having predictable results. At least someone sees Pam does have potential as a tennis player, but with the way things are going, would Pam be better off in the singles?
Rosie Banks’ father is taking her class on a continental tour in the bus he’s just bought. Things aren’t going smoothly, sometimes in hilarious ways, sometimes in more serious ones. This week it’s really serious, as the brakes suddenly fail, and at the worst possible location – the Pyrenees. Adding to the seriousness is the mystery of why the previous owner, Dodger Wilkins, is so determined to get it back and sent his flunky after it. Is there more to the bus than meets the eye? At least Rose is alerted to his shadowing this week.
Sue enters a sponsored cycle race, but there is a cheat pulling dirty tricks on her. Sue decides to pull her own trick on the cheat, who ends up taking a well-deserved dunking.
Sharon’s Shadow (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – Strange Story serial – first episode
Melanie’s Mob (artist Edmond Ripoll)
Molly Mills – the final episode (artist Tony Thewenetti)
Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)
Maisie of Mo Town (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
Shadow of the Fire God (artist Manuel Benet) – Strange Story
Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)
Wee Sue (artist Mike White)
Daughter of the Regiment (artist Mario Capaldi)
Now we come to 1977 in our August Tammy month round. And there’s another reason to bring out this August issue – it is the issue with the final episode (below) of Molly Mills. Yes, the great Molly Mills debate has finally come to a head. On the letters page (below), ye Editor makes an open call for letters – with monetary incentives of course – on whether or not to bring her back. But really, this would have been a whole lot more fair and representative of readers’ wants if the final episode had ended with a definitive conclusion (Molly sailing off to India with the others). Indeed, if this really was to be Molly’s final bow, they should have done that. Instead, it’s a tantalising cliffhanger (Pickering’s infamous frame-up of Molly at the docks, which makes her a fugitive, on the run from the law). This would surely have skewed the response from readers in favour of Molly’s return, to see how she sorts out her predicament. Indeed, ye Editor later informs us that the response was overwhelmingly in favour of Molly’s return, and return she did, on 31 December 1977. Would the response have been the same if Molly had been given a proper send-off? Incidentally, seeing as Molly returned with a different artist (Douglas Perry), I suspect the clincher for this sudden end of Molly was not the Molly Mills debate – it was Tony Thewenetti no longer able to continue with Molly for some reason.
Meanwhile, Bella is at a Russian gymnastics school on a scholarship, and it’s good to see she’s getting a lot out of it this time (last time she was at a Russian gymnastics school, she was wrongly expelled before she’d hardly begun). Of course the school not without problems, and boy, does her strict Russian coach have a face to remember! John Armstrong must have had a great time drawing inspiration from gargoyles or something. This week, Bella loses her memory after an accident in the gym and strays from the school.
Tammy takes us into the world of politics with the new Strange Story serial, “Sharon’s Shadow”. Joe Brown, outraged by the rundown housing conditions in Leechester, which led to the death of his grandfather, is running for MP so he can turn things around. But his chances of election could come under threat when his sister Sharon challenges a witch’s curse at her grave and then has a strange accident there. Never, ever, challenge the supernatural, Sharon. Meanwhile, in the regular Strange Story, the horrors of human sacrifice in pre-Christian days threaten to resurface with an erupting volcano, and superstition and hysteria get the better of people.
In “Maisie in Mo Town”, it’s been a barrel of laughs (though maybe a bit un-PC today) with Maisie pretending to increasingly exasperated kidnappers that she’s a dumb wild girl from Africa who doesn’t know the first thing about civilisation and can only speak pidgin English. But now things take a very serious turn as the kidnappers make plans to smuggle her out of the country. To this end, they lock her in the attic, ready for someone to collect at midnight!
“Daughter of the Regiment” Tessa Mason has recruited a gang of mudlarks to help clear her father, who was shot for cowardice at the Charge of the Light Brigade. But one, Dick, has been bribed to help lead her into a trap! And Melanie has recruited her own gang, “Melanie’s Mob”, to train as athletes. Dad would have a fit if he knew they were the Canal Mob, and now someone has reported something to the police about it.
At a regatta, Stackers is finding a mermaid costume problematic, and it leads to hijinks. In the final panel, Bessie doesn’t think much of mermaid costumes either, as she can’t raid the grub in the one she’s forced to wear.
Nobody in class believes Miss Bigger when she shoots a big line about how her big WAAF days in World War II helped to win the Battle of Britain. So nobody’s surprised when she comes unstuck at a Battle of Britain exhibition at a flying club: “Bigger? We had a waitress of that name in the mess. Butter-fingers Bigger we used to call her…she was always dropping the crockery.” Miss Bigger’s looking very red, and then she’s green, as she can’t take a flight in a WWII plane without feeling airsick. The real heroics belong to Sue, who scares off robbers at the club with a phoney WWII bomb.