Tag Archives: Tammy

Top 10 Tammy Villains

We have had my lists of the Top 10 Jinty Villains and the Top 10 Misty Villains. Now it makes sense to conclude with Top 10 Tammy Villains. In compiling this list I found Tammy was relatively low on supernatural or SF villains. I believe this is because Tammy had a high emphasis on cruel, abusive villains who tortured and exploited the protagonists, particularly in her early years. Jealous rivals, scheming employers and gold diggers were also frequent.

As always, I have tried to be as broad as possible in the types of villains that appeared in Tammy, and acknowledge that the list may be subject to second guessing and alternative suggestions. Please express your views in the comments below.

Now, the countdown will begin…

10: Sir Edgar Whitland

Story: The Fairground of Fear

Creators: Diane Gabbot (artist); writer unknown

Tammy Villain Whitland

Although Sir Edgar was not initially set up as the villain in the story he turns out to be the true one, and it is his ruthless acts that are responsible for why “the fairground of fear” is bringing such trouble to the village of Baychurch. He is such a snob and a hard-hearted man, and holds the good name of Whitland so high above all else that there is nothing and nobody he won’t destroy in order to uphold it. He is capable of wrecking the lives of innocent people, even those of his own family, just to uphold the name of Whitland. He ruined his own daughter’s marriage to Alan Barker by having Barker sent to prison on a false charge, just because he could not stand the thought of “that nobody” being part of the “great Whitland family”.

When Barker returns for revenge and clearing his name, Sir Edgar absolutely refuses to bow to Barker’s coercion to make a confession because he will not destroy the great name of Whitland. He even destroys the evidence that would have cleared Barker. He does not care squat that the village is suffering because of his refusal to confess or even when it puts the life of his adopted daughter/granddaughter Julie in danger. Instead, he abandons Julie to her fate and won’t make any confession to save her. All he cares about is the great name of Whitland. He does not even make any effort to help Julie. It’s no wonder Julie never wants to see him again after that. Sir Edgar Whitland is one of the most despicable characters ever to appear in Tammy. Not many Tammy villains would arouse the same repugnance that readers would have for this ruthless snob with a heart of stone.

9: Aunt Aggie

Story: Aunt Aggie

Creators: J Badesa (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Tammy Villain Aggie

You know those serials about a girl who seems so sweet and angelic but in reality is a dirty schemer who takes advantage of people? Aunt Aggie is the adult version. Aunt Aggie is the star of a famous down to earth chat show and famous for her kind, generous personality and helping people. However, her adopted daughter Helen Gray knows all too well that off-screen, Aunt Aggie is a hard-hearted, selfish, scheming woman. She only gets involved in charity events in order to pull dirty tricks to turn the event to her own advantage. However, Helen always comes up with the answer to thwart those schemes of Aunt Aggie’s and give her would-be-victims the last laugh without them even realising it. Aunt Aggie was so popular that she even spawned her own competition where readers had to send in ideas of schemes of her to pull and Helen to foil.

8: The Crystal Aliens

Story: E.T. Estate

Creators: Guy Peeters (artist); Jake Adams (writer)

Tammy Villain AliensTammy Villain Aliens 2

Space aliens were not common villains in Tammy, but these gaseous crystal aliens are ones to dread far more than most alien invader serials. They are body snatchers who feed off the life forms they replicate (and keep trapped in their crystals). They spell doom for any planet they land on because they will continue to feed off all its life forms until the planet is stripped bare and all life on it becomes extinct. In other words, it’s genocide and mass extinction on a planet-wide scale. Then they will go back into outer space and drift for so many years until they find another suitable planet.

7: Bert

Story: It’s a Dog’s Life!

Creators: Phil Townsend (artist); Alison Christie (writer)

Tammy villain Bert

There aren’t many boy villains in girls’ comics, but this one is a worthy rarity for the villains list. The animal cruelty Bert (no last name given) is capable of is so sickening and brutal he goes straight into the Top 10 list.

Bert is being paid to mind a dog, Riley, as his owner is away so much. Now, you’d think that one look at this thuggish-looking boy should alert Riley’s owner as to what sort of carer Bert is and he would be wiser to take Riley to the kennels, but no. Bert’s list of cruelties against Riley include starving him, constantly kicking him like a football, putting him on a chain that is too short, no proper shelter, and having him pull a shopping trolley that is way too heavy for him. It’s a wonder Riley hasn’t died under Bert’s charge. It would not be at all surprising if Bert is also the worst bully in the school and notorious for beating up other children.

6: The Rotts

Story: Olympia Jones

Creators: Eduardo Feito (artist); Anne Digby (writer)

Tammy villain Rotts

Much of why Olympia Jones is such a well-remembered Tammy classic is due to its two villains: Mr Rott and his daughter Linda. In fact, it’s their scheming that gives the story far more excitement and thrills than Olympia’s quest to win an Olympic gold. Rott sacked Olympia for cruelty (brutal whippings) to one of his circus horses, Prince, when he knows very well his daughter Linda was the one responsible. He did it to cover up for Linda and worm his way out of trouble with animal welfare officer, Horace Phipps. The Rotts don’t mind when Olympia runs off with Prince afterwards because they have gotten a good exchange out of it.

But some time later the Rotts discover Olympia has turned Prince into an Olympic prospect, which makes him worth an even bigger fortune. Seeing their chance, the Rotts take advantage of Phipps, his animal welfare society, and then the police to get Prince back for them. They trick these poor mugs into laying false charges of horse theft and animal cruelty against Olympia, and she ends up in court. Poor Olympia looks done for because she has absolutely no case to offer against what the Rotts have concocted to destroy her. And Prince looks set to face the same cruelty yet again at the hands of the Rotts…

5: Miss Bigger

Story: Wee Sue

Creators: various artists and writers

Tammy Villain Bigger 2Tammy Villain Bigger

Bully teachers and old dragons cropped up regularly in school stories as teachers/headmistresses that readers just loved to hate. The best remembered and longest running of them all is Miss Bigger, the nemesis of Wee Sue. Miss Bigger is a real tartar of a teacher who specialises in “whacking great helping[s] of homework”. And the girls dread the moment when Miss Bigger is in a foul mood, for she will take it out on them. Miss Bigger is also vain, conniving, and forever trying to ingratiate herself with the higher levels in society and taking undeserved credit. She often ropes the girls into doing the donkey work in one of her grand schemes, of which she plans to profit from.

Miss Bigger’s biggest dislike is the smallest girl in her class, Sue Strong. Sue is always coming up with schemes to get the girls out of Miss Bigger’s monstrous amounts of homework or whatever she has lined up for them, and Miss Bigger finds it most infuriating that the midget’s brains are too mighty for her. Still, Miss Bigger is allowed to win now and then, and there are times when she and Sue both lose. There are also plenty of occasions when Miss Bigger finds herself in desperate need of Sue Strong when she is in a jam, or even outright danger. In fact, there are some stories where Miss Bigger and Sue are almost friends. It is a curious love-hate relationship between Miss Bigger and Sue, which is played for light relief and to delight the readers.

Continued next page…

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The Black and White World of Shirley Grey [1981]

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 7 February 1981 to 23 May 1981

Episodes: 16

Artist: Diane Gabbot

Writer: Jake Adams?

Translations/reprints: Tammy annual 1986

Plot

Shirley Grey’s best friend, Trisha Morris, has an accident and ends up in a coma because she defied orders and warnings in practising her diving at a dangerous cove, which tempted fate once too often. Although she was acting on Trisha’s instructions, Shirley blames herself because she had covered up about Trisha’s whereabouts to Mrs Morris. Mrs Morris also blames Shirley for the same reason (she does not know Shirley was only obeying Trisha) and lashes out at her whenever their paths cross.

In the wake of the accident Shirley swears never to lie again, but is taking it the extreme of not telling even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. So what happens? A whole raft of circumstances where this gets Shirley gets into ever-increasing trouble as either a tattletale or a very rude girl. They are summarised as follows:

  1. Shirley twice insults the boss’s wife by giving a too-honest opinion on her clothes (hideous and don’t fit her properly because she’s too fat). As a result, Shirley’s father loses his promotion and his job is on the line, and Shirley’s parents are up in arms against her. Mum is having hysterics because they needed money from the promotion to buy a place away from the estate, which has been terrible ever since a gang of troublemakers moved in.
  2. Shirley begs a nurse to go against the Morris parents’ instructions (no visitors for Trisha except immediate family) and let her see Trisha. When Shirley is caught and the matron demands to know if the nurse let Shirley in, she says the nurse did. The nurse throws Shirley out, raging at how Shirley has repaid her – by getting her into trouble.
  3. Shirley falls foul of the school bully Evie Moore when she tells on Evie for stealing from a teacher because she can’t lie. Evie ruins Shirley’s blazer and demands menaces money of £1 a day, which Shirley can’t possibly pay, of course. When Shirley fails on her first payment Evie and her gang threaten to do something terrible to her. Shirley’s friends find their courage and rise up against the bullies, but Evie gets hurt. When the teacher asks Shirley who did it, Shirley says who it was without explaining why. Furious at how Shirley got them into trouble when they were trying to help her, the girls have everyone at school send her to Coventry. Even the teachers feel the effects of this.
  4. Evie’s final revenge against Shirley is to frame her for shoplifting. Shirley is convicted and the court is awaiting a social worker’s report before passing sentence.

All the while everyone is trying to tell Shirley she is being ridiculous, both in the way she is blaming herself and in thinking she can go through life without telling a lie because everyone has to one way or other. “You’ve got to pack it in,” says Shirley’s friend Hannah. “You can’t go through life without telling a lie – it’s not possible!” Even Evie tells Shirley she is mad about never lying, and around the district Shirley is soon derogatorily dubbed the girl who never tells lies. But Shirley says she can’t help not lying and won’t stop blaming herself. As things get progressively worse, Shirley comes to think it is all a punishment for Trisha’s accident. She fails to realise the trouble all stems from her blaming herself.

The final straw comes when Shirley overhears Mum having yet more hysterics that she can’t take any more of this and is going to have a nervous breakdown. Mum has been having nothing but these hysterics ever since Dad has lost his promotion. But when the false shoplifting charge came up Mum has been extremely selfish about it. Although she and Dad believe Shirley innocent, neither of them show her any sympathy, support or concern about it and treat her harshly. All Mum can think of is the shame of it all, that she’ll be struck on this dreadful estate, what everyone will think and how she won’t be able to hold her head up, etc, etc.

At any rate, Mum’s hysterics have Shirley decide that the only answer is to run away, which she does blindly. Shirley’s disappearance has the parents finally showing concern about her and they call the police.

Shirley finds herself back at the cove where it all started and the very cliff edge where the accident occurred. This gets very dangerous for Shirley when she falls asleep there and then the parents and police shine a blinding light in her eyes. She falls off the cliff, nearly drowns in the sea below, and takes a head injury that fractures her skull. She is rushed to hospital, and when Mum hears that it was her hysterics that made Shirley run off, she realises how selfish she has been.

Shirley finds herself in the next bed to Trisha, and still blaming herself for Trisha’s accident. The medical staff suggest Shirley talk to Trisha about their times together in the hope this will bring Trisha out of the coma. But Mrs Morris, who still blames Shirley for the accident, won’t allow Shirley near Trisha. However the same nurse from before helps Shirley to talk to Trisha secretly, and forgives what happened last time. After two weeks this brings Trisha out of the coma. Shirley finally stops blaming herself and the grateful Mrs. Morris apologises for her conduct. Shirley discontinues her vow never to tell even a white lie because she now understands “that things aren’t all black-and-white”.

But there is still the little matter of the problems Shirley created for herself with that guilt complex, and there is now a wrongful conviction hanging over her head as well. What about those?

Shirley finds most of these problems are now sorting themselves out, albeit in a somewhat contrived manner. Shirley’s remarks shocked the boss’s wife into slimming and a complete makeover. She is so grateful to Shirley that Dad gets his promotion after all. There is new hope that Shirley will be cleared of the shoplifting once the social worker get the courts to reconsider Shirley’s side of things because she was going to such extremes about not lying. What Shirley started about standing up to Evie has continued, despite her “dropping [the girls] in it”. As a result, Evie has lost her power as a bully and is no longer her “cocky, obnoxious self”. However, the girls have not forgiven Shirley. Trisha and the more forgiving Hannah try to persuade them, but they remain unmoved until they see Shirley covering up for them and telling the teacher the Coventry thing was just a misunderstanding that’s been sorted out. They go along with it and are reconciled with Shirley.

Thoughts

Essentially, Shirley has the same problem as Wanda White in Jinty’s Wanda Whiter Than White—she is taking truth-telling to extremes that causes problems both for her and for everyone around her, and it all stems from a huge guilt complex. In the end, Shirley, like Wanda, realises things aren’t all black and white and uses a white lie to help redeem herself. Unlike Wanda though, Shirley knows she is hurting people with all this extreme truth telling and feels terrible about it. But to her mind she can’t help it and she’s got to tell the truth at all times.

Again unlike Wanda, Shirley is a totally sympathetic character. She is tortured by guilt, keeps getting herself and others into constant trouble over her extreme truth-telling, becomes a victim of vicious bullying, a frame-up that gets her wrongly convicted, and nearly gets herself killed.

Like so many protagonists in girls’ comics who are suffering from a massive guilt complex, Shirley is blaming herself over something that is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is to blame, it is Trisha herself. That’s what everyone tells her, but they’re not getting through. This girl needs serious counselling and psychiatric help. But despite initial concerns about how badly Shirley has reacted to the accident and some talk of getting a doctor involved to help sort Shirley out, her parents never do so. Instead they degenerate into the common theme of parents handling things badly in girls’ serials. This is because they’re thinking too much about how the effects of it all are having on themselves. They’re not thinking about Shirley at all until her disappearance shocks them out of their selfishness.

The story also makes a serious statement about bullying and harassment, and ineptness in handling it effectively. It’s not just the vicious bullies at school that Shirley falls foul of. There is also a gang of delinquent girls who have been causing nothing but trouble ever since they moved in and turned a once-great estate into a nightmare for everyone. For example, they set fire to a lady’s washing. But nobody seems to do anything about them and by they end of the story they go unpunished. That’s pretty much how Evie Moore went too with her bullying until Shirley’s extreme truth-telling got her reported for the very first time. However, unlike Evie, they don’t add much to the story. The only time they really do so is when they chase Shirley while she is running off because she shoved one of them over. But she is too fast for them – hurrah! For the most part though, they are just distracting. Perhaps their purpose in the plot is to explain why Mrs Grey is so desperate to get away from the estate and keeps having hysterics that she’s going to be stuck there once Dad loses his chance of promotion.

Evie gets some punishment in that she loses her power and her bullying days are over at that school. But it feels she got off too lightly considering what she’s done, particularly to Shirley. She is not even expelled for stealing from the teacher. The headmaster just gives her a final warning and will expel her next time. “He’s too soft,” says one girl. “He should’ve expelled her now!” We certainly agree, and we feel the story is making a comment about schools not cracking down on bullying hard enough.

Betta to Lose [1978]

Sample Images

Betta to Lose 1aBetta to Lose 1bBetta to Lose 1c

Published: Tammy 13 May 1978 – 15 July 1978

Episodes: 10

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #24 as “Wonder Girl” (abridged)

Plot

Betta James is subjected to a harsh regime to make her the top athlete of St Mary’s School: endless training, and the sports mistress Miss Pearce has no hesitation to lay on extra training sessions where she sees fit; a diet that is so strict that Bella is not even allowed a piece of her own celebratory cake; and no social life whatsoever,  with films, disco dances and even parties all banned. And the other girls are assigned as her watchdogs to see she sticks to it all. It’s nothing but sleep, eat and breathe constant sports practice to beat Deepdale all the time. Added to that, Bella’s education is suffering and she is way behind classwork because she is excused too many lessons for sports practice. But the headmistress does not care about that. All she cares about is beating Deepdale and crowing over her old school rival, who is the headmistress there. And they can’t beat Deepdale without Betta. Betta’s parents are no help either; they are just as win-crazy and beating Deepdale as Miss Pearce and the headmistress.

Betta gets fed up with this life and wants out. She tries going on strike and expressing her feelings to Miss Pearce, but Miss Pearce blackmails her out of it with a threat of extra-hard school exams, which Betta has little chance of passing because she is so behind on schoolwork. So Betta tries another tactic: deliberately losing sports matches against Deepdale in the hope she will be released from the “sports trap” as she calls it.

However, Betta soon finds that losing is not that easy when you are by nature a winner. Plus, her training has made her reflexes too strong to simply louse up. So Betta resorts to sabotage: greasing up a baton exchange; slicing studs off her shoes to lose balance; weighting her swimsuit with lead; and playing with a useless hockey stick.

With tricks like that, it is not long before beady-eyed Miss Pearce gets suspicious. But it is the ironically jealous Leonie Mather who catches Betta out when she mistakenly thinks one of Betta’s tricks was aimed at her and Betta is forced to explain the truth. She does not realise Miss Pearce and the headmistress have overheard her.

The headmistress decides to grant Betta’s wish. She drops Betta from all the teams and Leonie takes her place. However, she is furious over what she perceives as disloyalty to the school (not being able to crow over her Deepdale rival, she means!) and is out to make Betta pay for it. And when the school starts suffering extremely humiliating losses against Deepdale because they are hopeless without Betta, the headmistress’s anger towards Betta turns into downright spite.

And remember that hint Miss Pearce made to Betta about the school exams? That is precisely what the headmistress does – she makes them extra-extra-hard just to spite Betta, who has been slaving hard to catch up on her schoolwork (and because of this, has not found time for the social life she hoped for without her sports life). The headmistress even supervises the exams herself so she can gloat over Betta in person. The headmistress spites Betta even further when she tells her that she failed the maths exam, although she hasn’t even marked the paper. She just assumed Betta failed because Betta handed it in after one hour. On this basis alone the headmistress withdraws Betta from the exams and schoolwork and puts her back into sport. Hmph, more likely that’s just their excuse to start beating Deepdale again with Betta. In any case, the headmistress and Miss Pearce express delight that they are about to beat Deepdale again.

However, Betta’s form teacher Miss Johnson intervenes. She had marked Betta’s paper and says Betta scored 100%. She has always disapproved of how Betta has been made to miss so much classwork because of sport and hints that the education officer won’t approve either. She also says that Betta has exhibited near-genius in how she has caught up on schoolwork to the point where she could pass those exams.

Unfortunately this puts the idea into the headmistress’s head of beating Deepdale with brain matches instead of sports matches, and she goes “overboard” with them – “just as she did with sport”. And guess who she puts in charge of these brain matches? Yep, you guessed it. Before long, poor old Betta is right back at square one: a strict, slave-driving, nonstop training regime to beat Deepdale with no allowances for a life of her own. The only difference is that it’s “the brain drain” instead of the sports trap and with the equally bad Miss Johnson instead of Miss Pearce. This time Betta does not see any way out of it.

Thoughts

This was the first serial Tony Coleman drew for Tammy. From then on Coleman became a regular Tammy artist. His Tammy serials included “Maggie’s Menagerie”, “Nurse Grudge”, “Stella Stirrer”, “The Destiny Dolls” and “Spell of Fog”. Coleman’s run in Tammy ended with “Cassie’s Coach” in 1984.

There have been plenty of stories were brilliant girls start deliberately failing at things, but it’s either because they are being blackmailed into it or have been intimidated by bullies. This time the protagonist does it of her own free will because she is desperate to escape her life of sports slavery. We can see the misery that Betta is suffering because of her harsh sports regime and we worry for her future because she is missing out on too much classwork. But the people who subject her to it don’t, and Betta’s parents are just as bad. All they care about is winning, and all the headmistress cares about is beating Deepdale and lording it over her old school rival. The headmistress and sports mistress have no thought for Betta, her feelings, or her future. The headmistress has the nerve to call Betta selfish when it is she who is the selfish one in the way she treats Betta, just to constantly get one over her old rival all the time. And her conduct with the exams just to spite Betta is just inexcusable.

The headmistress is asking for a serious lesson. Unfortunately, it does not happen. And because of it, Betta ends up back where she started, only in a different form. So this is one of the less common serials that do not end happily for the protagonist. The only way to give it a really happy ending is for the adults in the story to wake up to how miserable they have made Betta in the name of winning and beating Deepdale. That, or have fate intervene and put Betta out of sports events altogether without the headmistress holding a grudge against her.

The story is certainly making a serious statement on how many real-life schools make their sports stars suffer academically and socially the way Betta does by ruling their lives with too much sports practice in the name of winning. We sympathise with Betta all the more because there are so many school sports stars like her.

What makes Betta even more sympathetic is her dialogue, which has a more witty way of expressing things, even in her miserable moments, than protagonists usually do. For example: “Bang goes my freedom bid! Now I’ll probably get ten years of sport without remission!”, “Ignore [Leonie]! Stay losing, kid! Stay losing!” and “Missing swimming’s no punishment for me! I spent so much in that darned pool I started to grow gills!” In so doing, Betta provides the only streaks of humour in the story. We also admire Betta for her ironic determination to win – in terms of beating the sports trap and not giving the headmistress the satisfaction of seeing her fail the extra-hard exams. The same determination must have also applied to her sports once before the harsh training made her lose all enjoyment with sport and winning at it.

So many girls’ serials carry the moral that winning is not everything. The moral comes from Betta herself, who constantly thinks, “Would the world have ended if we’d lost?” or something similar while everyone else at St Mary’s is ecstatic about beating Deepdale yet again. For Betta there is no satisfaction in winning against Deepdale anymore because of the price she is forced to pay for it. Sadly, nobody else in the serial learns that lesson and they remain as bad as ever.

The Fairground of Fear [1976]

Sample Images

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Publication: Tammy 14 February 1976 to 24 April 1976

Episodes: 11
Reprints/translations: Tammy annual 1983; Tina #24 as De wraak van een clown [The Wrath of the Clown]
Artist: Diane Gabbot
Writer: Unknown

Plot

Julie Whitland was adopted as a baby by Sir Edgar Whitland, landowner of Baychurch. But her home life is miserable because Sir Edgar is a dreadful snob who keeps himself aloof from the villagers (who call him the snob on the hill) and expects Julie to do the same. She feels a virtual prisoner in her own home where she is never allowed any freedom or mix with people that Sir Edgar considers too lowly for Whitlands. Whenever she tries, Sir Edgar always drags her off, so she does a lot of going behind his back. He is always telling her that she is a Whitland and must live up to her name by keeping aloof from common people. Also, Julie has always wondered who her natural parents were. But whenever she asks questions, she is always told to leave well alone.

Fraser’s Fairground arrives in Baychurch. It looks a golden opportunity for Julie to have some fun. The clown puts on a special display for her. A brief encounter with the fairgound owner’s daughter Carla looks like another chance for friendship. But as usual, Sir Edgar pulls Julie away. In addition to the usual admonishings about being expected to be a Whitland, Sir Edgar shows her a picture of his late daughter. He tells Julie that he adopted her when his own daughter, and a baby she had, both died. When Julie asks what happened to her husband, Sir Edgar snaps that he is dead and forgotten. Hmm, did Julie hit a nerve there?

That night Julie sneaks off to the fair. But this time it looks sinister. She goes into the House of Memories (“The past will come alive before your very eyes”) and the woman from the photo appears to her in a huge crystal ball. The woman warns Julie to leave well alone, and that the fairground is evil. Then the clown comes up from behind. But this time he looks evil and frightening – and he seems to hypnotise Julie. Julie blacks out, and when she recovers she has no memory of what happened.

The fairground is soon in full swing and the whole village seems to have gone crazy about it – even the adults. Julie sneaks off to enjoy it as well. But the fairground is soon showing a sinister side; for example some people on the ghost train seem to go crazy and start attacking each other and the clown seems to be enjoying it. Carla explains that the ride does not use props but technical gadgets that produce holographic ghosts. A malfunction must have caused the people to see each other as ghosts and monsters. Then the machine malfunctions again, causing Julie to have an accident. Sir Edgar is furious and is determined to shut the fairground down. He sends a magistrate to do the job. But the clown imprisons the magistrate in a weird holographic trap in the Hall of Mirrors. Sir Edgar is annoyed when the magistrate is reported missing, because this means he cannot close down the fairground.

Julie recovers enough from the accident to sneak off to the House of Memories for more clues about her past. There she remembers what happened before. The House of Memories tells her that the only people who know the truth are Sir Edgar, Dr Pearson the village doctor, and Miss Edna Grey, his former nurse. Then it gives her a message: “You must find the fairground’s secret to find yourself.” On the way back, Julie overhears Mr Fraser and the clown talking and it sounds like the clown has a hold over Mr Fraser. The clown says they have a busy day, “a grey day” tomorrow. She races back home, against the tigers the clown has ordered to be set loose as watchdogs.

Next day, Miss Grey is arrested for pickpocketing at the fair. After speaking with Miss Grey’s sister, Julie realises what the clown meant by a “grey day” – he used a hypnotist performance to hypnotise Miss Grey into stealing. When she tries to tell Carla what her father is helping the clown to do, Carla gets angry and throws Julie out. The clown takes advantage by luring Julie back into the fairground with a holographic image of Carla, and hypnotises her once more. While in a trance, she leads Sir Edgar to the unconscious magistrate and there is a note: “Don’t try to get rid of me again, Sir Edgar. We’ve a score to settle. There’s just you and the doctor left.” The signature is a clown’s head.

This note prompts a lengthy discussion between Sir Edgar and the doctor, but Julie cannot hear what they are saying. Afterwards the doctor tells Julie that Sir Edgar is a hard man who means to destroy the fairground. He gives her a key to his house and says that if anything happens to him she must retrieve a file from his desk and give it to the newspapers.

Sir Edgar tries a petition against the fairground; the clown responds by hypnotising the villagers into attacking his home, and Sir Edgar has extra security installed. The doctor is summoned to the fairground because Carla has fallen sick. When the doctor tries to leave, the clown strikes with more holograms and then terrors in the Crazy House. He causes the doctor to have an accident. Following the doctor’s instructions, Julie heads to his house to retrieve the file.

The file reveals that fourteen years earlier the doctor had sent the clown (whose name is now revealed as Alan Barker) to prison on a false charge. Sir Edgar arrives and tells Julie that the doctor was acting on his instructions. Barker was the man who married Sir Edgar’s daughter. The trouble was, the snobby Sir Edgar considered Barker too low for a fit son-in-law: “I couldn’t stand to have that nobody part of the great Whitland family.” So he set out to destroy the marriage by framing Barker, and now Barker has returned for revenge. Sir Edgar then burns the file to prevent Barker’s name being cleared – for if it is, the great name of Whitland will be destroyed and Sir Edgar is not having that. But an image of the clown appears in the flames. Julie realises that Barker knows what Sir Edgar just did and now things are going to get a whole lot worse.

Knowing the clown is planning something against the village, Julie bravely confronts him. For the first time, she catches him without his makeup, and is surprised to find that without it he does not frighten her. She tries to plead with him but fails. The clown says that Sir Edgar can stop it by clearing his name, but Julie knows Sir Edgar will never do that. On the way out she speaks with Carla and learns that the clown is the virtual owner of the fairground; Mr Fraser got into debt and the clown bought out his bills. The clown can take over the fairground at any time and Mr Fraser is powerless against him.

Next day, Miss Grey appears in court for pickpocketing, and Sir Edgar and Julie attend the trial. Julie now realises that Miss Grey knew about the clown’s frameup and this was his revenge on her. The charge is unexpectedly thrown out when the clown strikes again with one of his machines that causes the working age men to act like children. The judge and barristers start playing leap frog, bus drivers play football, the local police play cops and robbers, engineers play cowboys and Indians, and Sir Edgar’s cook reads comics. Of course, the men all end up on the rides at the fairground. The romping men have cut the outside phone wires, and when Sir Edgar drives out to seek help he is blocked by a force field. The clown has cut Baychurch off from the outside world.

The village is in chaos and cut off. Nonetheless, Sir Edgar is unmoved. “That clown can’t beat a Whitland!” And he still refuses to clear the clown’s name, because it would mean destroying the name of Whitland. He heads out the fairground to tell the clown that “nothing he can do to this village will make me give in!” Julie now realises that Sir Edgar is an utterly selfish, ruthless man, and there is nothing or nobody that he will not destroy in the name of Whitland.

Then the doctor arrives and tells Julie that she is the only one who can stop the clown. He explains that she is the baby from the ill-fated marriage and the clown is her true father. It had only been the mother who died. She was leaving home with her baby after a quarrel with Sir Edgar over Barker, only to be killed by a falling tree. Sir Edgar faked the baby’s death to prevent Barker from claiming her. Julie heads out to the fairground to tell the clown.

There she finds Sir Edgar confronting Barker, and telling him that nothing he will do will make him confess. Barker makes one last desperate attempt to make Whitland confess. He starts the merry-go-round at high speed while Julie is standing on it. He shouts to Whitland that the merry-go-round will go faster and faster, putting Julie in ever more danger, until Sir Edgar confesses. But Sir Edgar just says, “I can’t destroy the name of Whitland. I’ve nothing to say!” He stalks off, without lifting a finger to save Julie or waiting to see what happens to her. Barker, finding the machine has jammed, risks his life to save Julie.

Upon learning that Julie is the daughter he thought was dead, Barker becomes a changed man. He stops his revenge, uses his machines to make the villagers forget what happened (though how that is going to explain away all the damage he caused is not discussed), and returns the fairground to Mr Fraser. Julie decides to leave Sir Edgar forever – his conduct at the merry go round showed her just how much he really cares for her. She is going with her father and the fairground and start a new life with them, and refuses the chance to go back to Sir Edgar as they pass by his house when they depart. Barker promises Julie that he will now use his scientific expertise to help people.

Thoughts

Like Jinty, Tammy did not use the circus theme much in her serials. “The Fairground of Fear” is one of the exceptions, though it is more fairground than circus. It can also be regarded as one of Tammy’s best stories and worthy of reprint in a Tammy volume.

“The Fairground of Fear” has the distinction of being the first serial Diane Gabbot drew for Tammy. From then on Gabbot became a regular Tammy artist, ending her run with “Rosie at the Royalty” in 1981. Her other Tammy stories included “Circus of the Damned”, “Selena Sitting Pretty”, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey” and “Donna Ducks Out”.

“Creepy” was what one Doctor Who companion once said about clowns, and eventually he agrees with her that clowns can be creepy. So do we after the first episode of this story. After initially conveying the impression he is harmless and amusing, the clown is quick to demonstrate that clowns can be creepy and scares the living daylights out of the girl who was so thrilled with him the first time they met. It’s not so much his incredible powers but that makeup of his that makes him so frightening.

Fairground and circus stories also have a long history of demonstrating that they can be as sinister and frightening as much as they are entertaining, and this one is no exception. Even before the fairground demonstrates its strange powers, seeing it in the dead of night makes it so scary. From then on the story is filled with thrills, chills and drama that are delivered at a cracking pace. Everything that is supposed to entertain people in the fairground is instead used to scare, hypnotise, imprison or manipulate them, even from a distance. Sometimes it is in perversely amusing ways, such as when the courtroom staff play leap-frog. Other times it is frightening, such as inciting a mob to attack Sir Edgar’s home. The only beneficial element in the fairground is The House of Memories.

There are also plenty of mystery elements to keep readers engaged. Girls just love mystery, and in this case there are not one but three mysteries here: the mystery of the fairground, the mystery of Julie’s parents, and the mystery of how and why they are linked. Although everyone tells Julie to leave the mystery of her parents well alone, we know the fairground won’t allow that once the House of Memories tells Julie she must unlock its secret to find out who she really is. Julie’s true identity is going to come out, and readers are riveted to find out where it will lead and how it will help with the mystery of the fairground.

The story also has plot twists that take us by surprise as much as shock us. One is where the relationship between Julie and Sir Edgar ends up at the story’s conclusion. When we first see it, Sir Edgar appears to be just an overly strict, over-protective parent who does have his daughter’s interests at heart – in his snobbish way – but is totally misguided, blinded by snobbery, and does not understand how he is stifling his daughter’s freedom and growth. However, we expect the fairground will somehow help him to come around by the end of the story, he will be less snobby, and Julie will be on far happier terms with him. It’s been seen so many times in overprotective problem parent serials such as “The Four-Footed Friends”. However, in this case that does not happen at all. Sir Edgar is not the well meaning but misguided parent he seems to be. Little by little he reveals his true colours (snob, unpopular, arrogant, hard-hearted) until he is finally exposed as the monster he really is. He, not the clown, is the true villain of the story. He would rather his own granddaughter die than dishonour the name of Whitland, and does not lift a finger to save Julie. He is totally beyond redemption and will never change, no matter what. Julie has no hope of getting anywhere with him. In fact, she must get away from him altogether or he could destroy her the same way he destroyed her parents.

The story takes the unconventional step of ending on a bittersweet note. Barker does get his daughter back and can start a new life with her. He also changes into a much nicer man who is not so consumed with hate and revenge that he is capable of terrorism, blackmail, and even physically hurting people. But unlike other wrongly convicted people in girls’ stories, he does not get his name cleared because Sir Edgar just won’t budge on that, no matter what. At least Julie and the fairground people know the truth and the skeleton is out of the closet. But if there is any exoneration for Barker, it will have to wait until after Sir Edgar dies, and the doctor and Miss Grey will be free to tell the truth.

For all the powers the clown has unleashed through the fairground, none of them really bring about comeuppance for Sir Edgar. Sir Edgar returns home to uphold the name of Whitland, the only thing he really cares about. And it’s all he has now. He has no heirs and unless that changes fast, the name of Whitland will die with him, and good riddance to it. Clearly, nobody will miss “the snob on the hill” when he dies.

Perhaps comeuppance will come in another form. After all, being the man he is, Sir Edgar must have made a lot of enemies and likely to have destroyed others. It would not be surprising if his life ends with him being murdered in his bed or something similar.

 

Christine Ellingham – Interview

With many thanks to Christine Ellingham for sending through such detailed and interesting answers to the interview questions below – and of course also thanks to her for getting in contact in the first place!

Question 1 – Can you please give a bit of background context to your time in comics – when did you start doing work for picture strips / comics titles, and what got you into them in the first place? You say that your time as a strip artist was short – what led you to cut it short, if there was anything specific?

As with a lot of the jobs I have done over the years, I arrived at IPC, then Fleetway Publications, purely by accident and good luck.

I had been a staff layout artist plus fashion illustrator on a girls’ teenage magazine called, Go Girl! (This is where I first met Malcolm Shaw.) Go Girl! was part of City Magazines, the magazine division of The News of the World. This was in 1968.

Unfortunately, Go Girl! folded after a very short life and it was suggested that I approach Leonard Matthews, the then Director of Juvenile Publications, not sure of his correct title, at Fleetway. I did, and was offered a job there. In those days it was relatively easy to move around from one job to another.

Initially, I was placed in a department with several other people, not a specific title, where we did odd jobs for different papers, i.e. illustration, lettering, pasteup and, in the case of Alf Saporito, cartoons. I remember John Fernley being one of us, possibly Tony Hunt, though I’m not sure.

After a short period I was moved to the Nursery group, under the managing editor, Stuart Pride, and there I worked on a new publication called Bobo Bunny. This had come from Holland and needed adjusting size wise and certain content adaptation making it suitable for the UK market.

By now John Sanders was the overall editor of the juveniles. I have a feeling I wasn’t the first to be offered the position of art editor of a new girls’ paper called Tammy but I accepted it nevertheless and moved from juvenile to teenage. John Purdie was the editor and Gerry Finley-Day and Iain MacDonald made up the editorial team.

Under John, we gathered writers and artists and the aim was to compete with D.C. Thomson’s Bunty and maybe other titles of that type. I remember John and I made a trip to Rome to talk to the Giorgetti stable of artists and we were wined and dined by Giorgio Giorgetti and his American wife. We also attracted all the relevant artist’s agents, Danny Kelleher and his son Pat of Temple Arts, Linden Artists and Bardon Art for example, and collected together a group of strip artists, writers and balloon letterers.

Eventually, Tammy was launched and did very well. I was able to contribute a small amount of artwork, the back cover of the first edition is mine, but really my job was to get it all together, see the agents and in one case, the artists themselves (I remember Roy Newby used to deliver his own work) but usually the agents would deliver the artwork.

I have to admit, I was not entirely happy in the role of art editor. I had studied illustration at Hornsey College of Art and that was what I wanted to do. I left Fleetway 1971/72. Barry Coker and Keith Davis of Bardon Art represented mainly Spanish strip artists. I thought that maybe I could ‘have a go’ at doing this as a freelance and doing it from Spain. Barry and Keith took me on and my then partner and I moved to Spain. Just like that! This was 1972. Amazing really.

Christine Ellingham, 1973/74
Christine Ellingham, 1973/74

First of all my work was for D.C. Thomson; they waited for a whole series to be complete before publishing so as I was a novice and slow, this suited me. Fleetway needed an episode completed in a week, too much for me then. I am hazy about the titles, there may have been something called, “Warning Wind Bells” and another with an Egyptian theme with a character or a cat called Nofret, or these could have been later for IPC. I have a few old diaries of that time and one story I worked on I have only the initials of the title, S.O.S. I wonder what that stood for! 1972. There was “Topsy of the Pops”, “Vet on the Hill” and “Lindy Under the Lake”, all for Thomson’s circa 1973. (This is the date that I drew them, not necessarily of publication.)

As agents, Barry and Keith were superb. They made sure I was never without work, one story followed immediately after another, that I was paid promptly and they gave me such good advice regarding page layout, technique and story interpretation.

While I was still working on Tammy I started to have problems with my right hand (I am right handed), it not functioning properly. This continued to get worse when we were in Spain and instead of speeding up and refining my style the opposite was happening, my work deteriorated. Bardon Art kept me going but eventually we had to return to England in 1974, where I continued to struggle depressingly.

During the Spanish time I illustrated at least two Annual covers, Tammy 1972, including the front endpapers depicting National Costumes and Sandie Annual 1973, plus various spot illustrations. I still have these annuals. Or I could have done these before Spain.

After inconclusive tests that found nothing terribly wrong with my hand or me generally, the GP at the time suggested I learn to use my left hand. After thinking initially, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I realised this was my only option. I remember one ten-part story for Thomson’s started with me using my right hand and gradually with training, ended using my left hand. I can’t remember which story that was.

From then on things got better. I speeded up and developed my style. Bardon got me the first IPC job.  I’m not one hundred percent sure but it could have been, Cove of Secrets or Secret Cove, something like that, for the Jinty Annual possibly 1974. Also The Whittington’s Cat Princess, DCT, around the same time. To this day, I draw, paint and write using my left hand.

“Concrete Surfer” came later. That particular story stands out for me because it was such fun to do. It was all action with hardly any background, it was very modern and I love doing figure work. I remember we bought a skate board so that I could see what it looked like from all angles, a helmet too, still got them!

I cannot remember how many strip stories I worked on after “Concrete Surfer” but at some point I felt the need to move on, that I wasn’t being stretched any more. Bardon Art were no longer able to represent me, as strip was their speciality, and sadly, we parted company. I started contributing illustrations to Oh Boy, Loving and other IPC papers for older teens.

After a few years I moved on again and, as an illustrator, contributed to national newspapers, women’s magazines, house magazines, mail order publications, coin design, greetings cards and so on.

The work was still there after my retirement but the need to move on again got the better of me and now I paint, back in Spain.

 

Question 2 – On the blog we are always very keen to try to establish any creator credits for artists and writers, as these are otherwise very likely to get lost in the mists of time. As far as we can tell from the art style, it looks like you drew three stories for Jinty (“Race for a Fortune” (1977-78), “Concrete Surfer” (1978), and “Dance Into Darkness” (1978) plus some covers and spot illustrations, as well as a story in the Lindy Summer Special (1975) and in the Jinty Annual 1978. It may be asking too much at this distance in time, but what other work do you recall doing and in which publications?

I would have to look at these stories that you mention to verify that I actually drew them! As I have said, Concrete Surfer stands out because for me it was a joy to do. The others, some I have managed to see on line and they do look vaguely familiar. At the time I used my partner as a model. I found men more difficult to draw than women and girls and I have noticed him in certain frames even though I tried hard to make them not look like him! When I see him I know that I did that one!

Cover 19780708
Jinty 8 July 1978: cover shows “Dance Into Darkness”

Question 3 – At the time it was very usual for artists and writers to work quite separately from each other, particularly freelance creators. Was this the case with you, or did you know others working in the same area? I ask partly in case there are any interesting stories or anecdotes that you can relate at this distance in time, but also in case you remember any names of people on the creative or publishing side that can feed in to our information of who did what.

Yes, this was the case for me. Artists do lead a solitary life and being freelance meant I would be at my desk not wanting to be interrupted. The deadlines, especially for IPC, were pretty tight. In my case the work would be delivered to Bardon Art and they would take it to the publication in the case of Fleetway, a few minutes walk away. Though in Spain I posted it directly to DCT. Nevertheless, Barry and Keith were very much involved and would add their comments sometimes.

While we were in Spain the work was rolled into a tube and posted. The tubes had to be open at both ends, some string threaded through and tied and a description of the contents had to be stuck to the outside, or left with an official at the post office.

I did meet one artist in Spain, Miguel Quesada. It was he who told me how to send artwork to England. He and some of his very large family, (a lot of mouths to feed), visited us unexpectedly. He was one of Bardon’s and a contributor to Tammy. I never met any of the other artists apart from Roy Newby, but that was before I was a contributor myself.

I did meet John Jackson when he was the art editor of Jinty and of course, Mavis Miller.

Question 4 – I am keen to understand more about the creative and publishing processes of the time. Presumably the writer supplied a script, and the editor chose the artist, but I don’t know how everything interacted. Did you get any guidance (say as part of the written script) or conversely any interference from the editor or art editor, or was the published page pretty much under your design control including the composition of the page?

Yes, the editor would choose the artist, art editors didn’t have much say in the matter, (Though this is just from my experience of working on Tammy.) And I think the editorial team would have suggested an idea for a story to the writer, again, this is how it happened on Tammy.

The artists were given a lot of guidance. Before even starting, we would be briefed on the content and theme of the story, to get to know the main characters. In the case of IPC the scripts would come one at a time, having only just been written, probably. The artist would receive a document containing the dialogue for each balloon and the positioning of the balloons had to be in that same order in the frame, also, there would be instructions on the action and mood in the frame, i.e. the heroine to look sad, the bad girl to look vindictive; a closeup and so on. The composition of each frame would be influenced by the order and size of the balloons and the overall design of the page would have had input from the editor. Quite a lot to work out, now I come to think of it! [An example of a script has been previously sent in by Pat Davidson, wife of Jinty story writer Alan Davidson: see link here.]

I always had to submit pencil roughs that would be shown to the editor for his/her comments. In Spain there were many visits to the post office, pencils going off to Stan Stamper in Dundee, coming back with comments, a finished, inked episode flying off, the two passing each other on the way. Also, we artists had to work ‘half up’ so there was a lot of ground to cover. [‘Half up’ means using a larger piece of art paper – half as much again as the finished size, so that for instance if the finished publication is 10 inches by 12 inches, half up would be 15 inches by 18 inches – with the artwork being photographically reduced in size during the production process.]

 

Question 5 – A slightly self-indulgent question but with a point to it – how did you come across the Jinty blog? Was it a case of happening to suddenly remember something you worked on years ago and searching for it, or being sent to it? (I ask because I would love to hear from other creators from the time, and if there is anything I can do to increase the chances of someone posting a comment saying that they wrote or drew a story from the time, I will certainly consider it.)

I’m trying to think. How did I find it? I get carried away on the internet sometimes. I think  I was looking up an old friend of my now husband’s, the two of them used to work together on Eagle, Swift, Robin and Girl papers, as balloon letterers and layout artists. I started looking at Girl artwork as I do have a couple of Girl Annuals, No.3 and No.5. I noticed that the writers and artists all got a credit; one name I recognised was the artist Dudley Pout, I wonder if he contributed to any of the Jinty stories? Though he was probably of another generation.

The friend of my husband had died but in reading his obituary I found links to other sites and by then I was interested to see if any of my work was featured anywhere, the only title I could think of was, “Concrete Surfer”!

First episode of the 1978 story “Concrete Surfer”

Sally in a Shell [1976]

Sample Images

Sally in a Shell 1Sally in a Shell 2Sally in a Shell 3

Published: Tammy 4 September 1976 to 20 November 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Juan Garcia Quiros?

Writer: Unknown. Terence Magee

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

At Eastport holiday resort, the Shores run a deckchair hire business – with the younger daughter Sally doing all the work. Sally is the family drudge, mistreated and unloved by her father and her elder sister Dora. Although Dad metes out the abuse, Dora is the one at the root of it. She is a glamour puss who looks on Sally a nobody who is only fit to be the source of money that pays for her luxuries (posh clothes, ritzy social life, hobnobbing with the upper class etc). She is too lazy to lift a finger to pay for it herself – or do any work around the place, for that matter. In Sally’s words: “She gets all the gravy and I do all the donkey work.” The donkey work to pay for all the gravy.

Dora has Dad wrapped around her little finger and he does everything she tells him, including lumber Sally and hit her when she tries to speak out. For example, when Dad briefly protests against having Sally work nights in his new arcade in addition to the day work she does with the deck chairs, Dora tells him not to be so soft and it will make even more money. If she were his wife instead of his daughter, he would be the henpecked husband. In any case, like Dora, Dad has ambitions of making more money, rising to bigger things, and becoming somebody in this town.

So Sally is now forced to work nights at Dad’s new arcade as well as days as deckchair attendant. Her only friend is Mr Cliff, who runs the donkey rides.

As with other girls in similar serials, Sally has a talent to help keep her spirits up. In Sally’s case it is making ornaments and jewellery out of seashells. She tries to keep it a secret from her abusive family and find ways to fit it around all the drudgery. She hopes to make a living out of it in time and be able to leave her horrible home life. When Dora spots a new craft shop, “Nick Nacks”, she realises it could be the place to sell her wares.

The owner, Miss Hanning, agrees to take a look at Sally’s shell-craft. This does not please the shop assistant Edwina, a snooty, unpleasant type who looks on Sally as a scruff. Unfortunately it is at this point that Dad and Dora discover Sally’s shell-craft and smash it to pieces. Fortunately, people, including Mr Cliff, rally around to provide Sally with more shells. Sally uses them to make a sample for Miss Hanning. She is impressed and wants more for the shop.

Meanwhile, Dad tricks Mr Cliff into signing a contract that hands his donkey business over to him. Mr Cliff wrongly assumes that Sally was in on the plot to cheat him when in fact Dad and Dora took advantage of their friendship. Really, it’s his own fault for signing the contract without reading it first because he foolishly extended his trust of Sally to her family. As it is, Sally has now lost her only friend.

On the bright side, Sally discovers a secret cove that is crammed full of shells, which is a real treasure trove for her. Sally’s shell-craft starts selling at Nick Nacks, and it’s doing well. Sally takes the money from it to Mr Cliff to start a fund to buy his business back. This convinces him he misjudged Sally and they are friends again.

Unfortunately Dora soon discovers what Sally is doing with her shell-craft, and naturally wants to take advantage of it. She pretends to be nice to Sally in order to get Sally to make shell-craft for her, but Sally still wants to sell her shell-craft at Nick Nacks. Discovering Edwina’s dislike of Sally, Dora recruits her help in forging a letter from Miss Hanning that she is terminating her business with Sally. Sally falls for the trick while Miss Hanning thinks Sally has played her for a fool when she sees the Shores selling Sally’s shell-craft at a stall opposite her shop and stealing business from her.

Sally soon realises that Dora is only out make money out of her shells. Indeed, Dora and Dad have seized upon Sally’s shell-craft as the means to fulfil their ambitions to make their mark on the town. It isn’t long before Sally discovers the letter trick either (later still, she discovers Edwina’s role in it). And she finds out something else – Dad and Dora mean to buy out Miss Hanning’s shop. It’ll be easy pickings because she’s losing business because of the stall and, being asthmatic, her health is deteriorating because of it. In fact, she collapses altogether and is put in hospital.

Sally tries to warn Miss Hanning, but two thugs that Dad and Dora have hired stop her. Dad takes advantage of Miss Hanning’s weakened condition to have her sign her shop over to him. And Miss Hanning still thinks Sally is to blame for her troubles. Miss Hanning is put in a convalescent home and Sally has no idea where, so she can’t straighten things out with Miss Hanning.

Dad and Dora now keep Sally a prisoner in a squalid room, making shell-craft for them at a sweatshop pace. They even force her to work around the clock if necessary. The two thugs are her guards and the Shores plunder Sally’s secret cove for shells. Nick Nacks now reopens as “The Shell Shop”, a shop exclusive to Sally’s shell-craft. To add insult to injury, Sally discovers that Dora is stealing the credit for the shell-craft. And of course the exploitation is crushing Sally’s talent and making her lose her enthusiasm for it.

Mr Cliff assures Sally that the greed of her father and sister will catch up to them, and indeed it had started even before he said it. The new flush of money has Dora really going to town on buying extremely expensive items for her to show off in Eastport. Dad blanches at the bills rolling in for Dora’s new mink coat, valuable jewellery and the like. But Dora won’t listen to Dad’s protests that not even Sally’s shell-craft can make that kind of money and she will drive them into debt and bankruptcy at this rate.

Sally tries to make a run for it, but the thugs come after her. They set a pile of deck chairs on her with such force that her hands are all but crushed. Seeing this, Dora sacks the thugs. But she forces Sally to carry on with her shell-craft regardless of her damaged hands, although of course Sally’s hands are too now totally unfit for that.

Meanwhile, Edwina realises the Shores just used her, and now they have what they want from her they shove her out the door, without a job. She is annoyed that the “scruff” is still around; she had thought the purpose of the letter was to help achieve her desire to get rid of the “scruff”. She gets revenge by going to the convalescent home and setting the record straight with Miss Hanning herself (without confessing her role in it) and informing her that the Shores are abusing Sally.

Although Miss Hanning has not fully recovered, she bravely returns to check things out. When Miss Hanning shows up on the Shores’ doorstep, Dad quickly takes Sally out of the way to get more shells – but not before Sally leaves a message in shells saying “Help” for Miss Hanning to find. When Miss Hanning does, and sees the room Sally has been forced to work in, she becomes even more convinced the Shores are mistreating Sally. Dora shoves her out the door.

Miss Hanning heads for the cove, and soon finds Dad, Sally and Mr Cliff. Sally’s injured hands tell her all she needs to know, and Mr Cliff says he can act as a witness. Miss Hanning threatens Dad with the law for stealing shells from her privately owned cove (probably a bluff there!) unless he stops abusing Sally. The threat of the police scares him into agreeing to her demands. Without Sally bringing in the money, and what with Dora’s bills defeating the whole point of the exercise anyway, Dad is obliged to sell the arcade and shop to avoid bankruptcy. This enables Miss Hanning to get her shop back.

Sally gets a rather mealy-mouthed apology from Dad, who says: “It was your sister’s fault – she made me.” Yeah, like Dora actually forced him to constantly hit Sally, make her a drudge, and exploit her talent sweatshop-style.

A few days later, it’s back to square one with the deck-chair business for Dad. He blames Dora’s greed and has her working as the deckchair assistant now, although she finds it a great comedown: “Well you can bloomin’ well help me for once.” Well, at least Dad has finally found some backbone in how he handles Dora.

Sally’s hands are on the mend. She is eager to resume her shell-craft, and the first thing she wants to do with it is help Mr Cliff buy back his donkey business.

Thoughts

“Sally in a Shell” was one of the last Tammy stories to use the Cinderella theme, which had abounded in Tammy since her early days. From the mid-1970s onwards the Cinderella theme faded from Tammy, never to return. The exception was Bella Barlow, as her Cinderella story made her a regular character in Tammy.

The reasons for making Sally a drudge are better defined than some Cinderella serials. It’s all to indulge and pay for the high life her sister Dora wants to lead. Moreover, Dad and Dora have big plans to rise above the deckchair hire business and make themselves big in their hometown, and are ready to pounce on the first opportunity they see in order to get it. And it just happens to be Sally’s talent.

Dora’s domineering personality and control of her weak father makes it easy for her to exploit Sally in the name of her indulgences. She is totally ruthless about how she treats her own sister and there is nothing she won’t stoop to in order to wring every penny she can out of Sally’s labour.

Although Dora dominates her father, it’s clear that he is every bit as bad as she is. He won’t hesitate to play dirty to raise money; he’s got no scruples, for example, about the way he cheats Mr Cliff out of his business. The only difference is that he is weak while Dora is strong. He caves into her all the time and does not stand up to her. Even when Dora is running up bills they can’t possibly afford, he pretty much caves in to it despite his protests. It’s the way he belatedly stands up to Dora in the end and demands she help him with the deckchair business that redeems him somewhat. Certainly more so than that feeble and unconvincing apology he gives Sally in the final episode.

Compounding the problem is the absence of Mrs Shore. Although there is no way of telling what role she would have played in the story had she been around, her absence is clearly a factor in the abuse Dora and Dad inflict on Sally. Miss Hanning is the nearest thing Sally has to a loving mother figure in the story.

Another problem with Sally is that in the early episodes she can be easily duped by her sneaky family when she should have been more wary, and this helps to trap her in her predicament. When she receives the phony letter from Miss Hanning she can’t understand the reason for it at all, but believes it must be true. She does not take it to Miss Hanning and ask, “Please, Miss Hanning, what’s the meaning of this?”, which would have exposed the trick immediately. When Dora suddenly comes all over nice to Sally she is taken in and not at all suspicious although she has seen them pull phony niceness before. Doesn’t she remember them doing that with Mr Cliff in order to trick him into signing away his business to them? Nope. Sally is even fooled by Dora’s assurances that she will speak to Dad about giving Mr Cliff his donkeys back, and she hopes the money from the stall will go towards that. Sally does not realise the truth until it slaps her right in the face – with Dora taking all the money she raised from the stall right off her and pocketing it.

Sally’s talent becomes a double-edged sword for her. Her talent for shell-craft, which she hoped would help her escape her drudgery, traps her in even worse drudgery once her abusive father and sister discover the profit they can make from it. What’s more, they can do so at extremely low cost, which would inflate their profits even more. After all, the shells themselves are free, and easy to obtain in a seaside town.

It’s ironic that Dora and Dad are the ones who unwittingly set in motion the events that unravel everything, rather than Sally succeeding in running off and getting help. The first is their double-cross of Edwina, who takes revenge by recalling the only person who can help Sally and bring the story to its resolution. The second is those thugs they hired; the heavies go too far with Sally and damage her hands, which just about kills the goose that lays the golden eggs for Dora and Dad. The final factor is Dora herself – her vanity goes to her head and she runs up crippling debts on indulgences that would have ultimately destroyed the very enterprise they had built out of Sally. So Sally’s rescuer got there first and forced them to give it up, but it would have been interesting to see just how far they would have gone in destroying themselves. Let’s hope they emerged from it all with a bad reputation in Eastport.

 

Amanda Must Not Be Expelled [1972]

Sample Images

Amanda 1Amanda 2Amanda 3

Published: Tammy 15 January 1972 to 18 March 1972

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Amanda Blay has a real attitude problem. She has deliberately gotten herself expelled from every boarding school she has attended because she wants the comforts of home (why don’t her parents send her to day school instead?). She lives for gymnastics though, and when her parents send her to Haybury Boarding School, Jane and Marty immediately spot her talent. They realise they won’t win the inter-school gymnastics trophy without her.

Amanda is tempted by the thought of winning the trophy; it would help her career in gymnastics. But she’s too selfish to do anything for the school there and has no team spirit at all. She just wants to get expelled and enjoy her home comforts.

So it isn’t long before Amanda is up to her tricks to get herself expelled from Haybury. But Jane and Marty don’t want her expelled because they need her for the trophy. So they do everything they can to foil all her tricks to get herself expelled.

Marty and Jane soon suspect Miss Trice (initially Tring), the games teacher, is quietly helping them there, for the same reason they don’t want Amanda expelled. Indeed, it is not long before Miss Trice is obliged to explain matters to the headmistress. Afterwards, Miss Trice tells Marty and Jane that she begins to wonder if Amanda is worth the trouble. Covering up for and foiling Amanda certainly does cause problems for Marty and Jane, including taking punishments for her. Not surprisingly, the other girls turn against Amanda because of her selfish attitude and tell Jane and Marty they are nuts to even bother with her.

Amanda is also totally selfish with her gymnastics. The school puts on a gymnastics display for parents day, but Amanda refuses to participate. As far as she is concerned, she does gymnastics to please herself, not others. Miss Trice has to persuade Amanda – with the threat of being banned from the school gym for a month if she does not take part in the display. For that, Amanda says, she’ll perform badly at the display on purpose. But when it comes, Amanda just can’t do it because she loves gymnastics too much, and does a brilliant job instead. She surprises herself so much she hates herself for it, and even refuses to accept a trophy she won for it.

But of course the girls can’t always keep Amanda from getting herself expelled, and eventually she succeeds. The girls are shattered at losing their best hope of winning the trophy. Amanda doesn’t care about that and is turning somersaults for joy that she has finally gotten expelled.

However, Amanda has reckoned without her father’s wrath.  Mr Blay is determined to really teach her a lesson this time and does something that should have been done a long time ago – he confiscates her gymnasium. And it will stay confiscated until Amanda mends her ways at school. This has the desired effect of getting Amanda to regret what she did, because gymnastics are what she lives for.

Mr Blay hopes he can find a way to get the school to reinstate Amanda. Miss Trice tries to persuade the headmistress to do so because they need her for winning the trophy, but the headmistress will have none of it. Then a remark the headmistress made about raising money for a new laboratory gives Marty and Jane an idea: Mr Blay pays for the new laboratory if the headmistress takes Amanda back. Mr Blay and the headmistress agree to the deal, but Mr Blay is not happy at paying out £10,000 to keep Amanda on at Haybury. And he tells Amanda that if she gives any more trouble at school he will have her home gym demolished!

Amanda realises there is no point in being expelled because there is no gym at home now, so she better make do with the school one. She even begins to consider the trophy more seriously and agrees to join the team.

However, the other Haybury girls are not impressed at what was, it must be said, bribery to get Amanda back. In their view, Amanda deserved to be expelled and should stay expelled. So when Amanda returns they send her to Coventry. Marty and Jane stand beside Amanda, so the prefects sentence them to Coventry along with her.

Amanda is not much bothered at being in Coventry, but Marty and Jane are suffering from it more. Miss Trice sees how the Coventry business is affecting the gym team with nobody but Marty and Jane wanting Amanda there. The other gym team members boycott the team, leaving only Amanda, Marty and Jane in it. But the contest rules state there must be at least four girls in the team. And just when Amanda was starting to think of the gym team for a change! However, the staff cannot interfere with the prefects’ decision to put the girls in Coventry.

Realising it is all her fault, Amanda does something unselfish for the first time: resign from the team so Marty and Jane will be freed from Coventry and the other team members will return. She sends a letter of resignation to the head girl. Yet the head girl realises they will not have a chance without Amanda. Besides, Miss Trice refuses to enter a team without Amanda. But if the team remains at three girls, they can’t enter. Catch 2-2!

In view of the circumstances, the prefects release Amanda, Marty and Jane from Coventry. However, the other gym team members are still unforgiving and remain on boycott. Determined to win the trophy, Marty and Jane are all for carrying on training for the contest regardless, and hope they get a fourth member.

Then a new girl, Liz Davis, arrives, and the girls notice something odd about her. She keeps hanging around the gym, and watching them in action all the time. Amanda even catches Liz at the gym one night. Yet when they approach Liz, she keeps running off, saying she hates gym.

One night Amanda catches Liz at the gym. To get Liz to open up, she makes a deliberately poor vault. Liz starts telling Amanda how to do it right, then demonstrates it herself. From there Liz admits she was a brilliant gymnast but lost her nerve after breaking her shoulder on the vault. Amanda helps Liz to regain her nerve and she becomes the fourth team member. Marty and Jane comment on how Amanda has really changed by helping Liz.

The Haybury team face extremely stiff competition from Oakdean, the school that has won five years running. But with Liz and Amanda on the team, Haybury wins for the very first time. The judges say they are very impressed that Haybury managed to win despite only four members in the team: “A remarkable feat, if I may say so.” Amanda is now glad Marty and Jane did not let her get herself expelled.

Thoughts

This was Tammy’s first gymnastics story. It came out two years before Bella Barlow, when Olga Korbut popularised the sport. Tammy published no other gymnastics story in between Amanda and Bella. But Amanda fell into obscurity while Bella is remembered as Tammy’s answer to gymnastics. It is tempting to compare Amanda with Bella, but I will refrain from doing so and concentrate on the serial itself.

Amanda definitely comes from a long line of spoiled brats who are always in trouble/get constantly expelled because their brattiness leads to difficult behaviour. Then they finally someone who prompts them to change their ways one way or other. A.D. Langholm’s “Queen Rider” is actually a novelisation of this. I suspect “Queen Rider” was based on “Bad Bella” from Tammy annual 1976, which has a very similar plot. There is a good chance “Bad Bella” was reprinted from June, and probably retitled. It could well be it was the same writer.

There is no doubt that the trouble comes from Amanda being spoiled. As always, the parents are to blame for that. They have spoiled her with so many home comforts that she gets herself expelled from boarding school all the time for no other reason that she can enjoy them again. Now that really is pathetic. Indeed, one reader wrote in to say: “…it’s a bit silly that a girl should want so much to be expelled from school. Why should she want to be expelled?”

In addition, Mrs Blay has never had the backbone to discipline her daughter. She is way too soft. Although she calls it a “disgrace” when Amanda is expelled for the fifth time, she does not come down on Amanda as she should have. In fact, she thinks her husband is being way too hard on Amanda: “maybe she just didn’t fit in at that school.” Mr Blay rightly pours scorn on that and takes the correct approach in taking a much tougher line with Amanda to get her to behave at school. However, he definitely has a snobby attitude, which he expresses when he sees Miss Trice’s car: “What a dreadful old car!” A snobby father would not have helped Amanda’s bratty behaviour much.

Marty and Jane come from a long line of unenviable girls who strive to keep a bratty (or sometimes nasty) girl from getting herself expelled. The difference is that they do it voluntarily because they need Amanda for winning the trophy. More often, such girls are lumbered with the job (blackmail, deals etc). But Marty and Jane sure pay the price for it, especially when they are sent to Coventry because of Amanda. However, they show they are true friends to Amanda and are not just putting up with her because of the trophy. Indeed, they must have been the first friends Amanda has ever had. A selfish, spoiled brat like her would hardly have made friends at her previous schools.

Mr Blay’s new approach with Amanda (no home gym if she does not behave at school) has the desired effect of stopping Amanda getting herself expelled all the time. But this is only the first step towards reforming her. Amanda is still selfish and still has a way to go before she can redeem herself. Being sent to Coventry is the thing that snaps Amanda out of her selfishness, and it’s because she is thinking of others in how being in Coventry is affecting Marty, Jane and the team. She is also being self-sacrificing with her resignation because gymnastics mean so much to her.

It is a cruel irony that the other girls do not appreciate Amanda’s selfless act, forgive her and return to the team. Carrying on with preparing for the competition in the face of that and no fourth member becomes a sheer act of courage. Getting the fourth member is the final act of redemption for Amanda. For the first time she is helping someone, a fellow gymnast, who needs help in regaining her nerve. The remark from the judges at how impressed they are at Haybury winning despite only having four girls is the final testament to the reform and redemption of Amanda Blay.

 

Roy Newby (1912-2011)

Roy Newby is thought to have drawn only only a few stories in Jinty, but he was certainly a long-running artist in other girls’ comics titles, particularly Girl, where he drew “Robbie of Red Hall” for many years. I do not yet have a fuller comic bibliography to list in this post, but on the UK Comics Forum, mention is also made of a story in the second Girl Annual which is specifically credited to him as artist: “Late For Dancing”, written by George Beardmore. Additionally, comics newssite Down The Tubes states that Newby worked on stories that appeared in other titles such as Tammy, Poppet, Judy, and Valentine.

Newby died relatively recently, having lived to the age of 98; the obituary in the Guardian, written by his son Mike, can be seen here. Mike Newby has likewise created a dedicated site showing his work (though not including many examples of comics, unfortunately for us). Finally, the Lambiek Comiclopedia has a little more on him here.

List of stories attributable to Roy Newby in Jinty:

Stories in Tammy:

  • The Secret Ballerina (1971-72)
  • Tina on a Tightrope (1972)
  • Minions of the Mine (1972)

Stories in Lindy attributable to him:

  • Nina Nimble Fingers (1975)
  • Poor Law Polly (1975)

Stories in Girl: many, including:

  • Robbie of Red Hall
  • Late for Dancing

When researching this post, I got in contact with Mike Newby and his sister Clare, who shared some memories with me. Mike told me that “…Dad’s original artwork for his comics was destroyed by the publishers as soon as they’d done the necessary for a print-run. (What a shame!) But Dad kept pretty much everything in printed form. He’d go and buy that week’s edition of whatever comic he’d drawn and stick it in a scrapbook.”.

Clare told me more details of her father’s time as a comics creator and her time as a reader of comics: “Through the late 50s and 60s, Friday afternoon was comic day! After school, I got School Friend, Girl’s Crystal and one other; Jackie/Tammy/or whatever.  I saw Dad’s stuff free! Whenever I was ill in bed, I used to look at the scrapbooks of mostly Girl. Dad said he preferred girls papers as they didn’t have as many technical, fiddly buttons and switches (spaceships) as boys. Also, he used to get any scripts set in dancing schools as he could use me for reference (I studied ballet which I went on to do professionally). He particularly liked historical costume stories.  As I got older, he worked on Valentine and Roxy. I was about 13 and wasn’t allowed to read them, so I would sneak into his studio when he was out and read about teen life. I put everything back and thought I’d got away with it, but he told me years later, he always knew!”

Courtesy of Clare Newby, here are two images of her father’s work – a photograph of some of the scrapbook pages, and a beautiful little sketch of herself reading them in bed, when ill at one time. Many thanks indeed to her for sending those in!

Further reprints from Rebellion: “Bella” and two Jinty stories

You will perhaps have already seen the latest exciting information on the internet: Rebellion Publishing is bringing out two volumes of girls comics reprints from Tammy and from Jinty respectively.

bella

Bella at the Bar” is billed, appropriately, as “A modern day Cinderella story”. At 96 pages it is the right length to include the first two “Bella” stories but the blurb is fairly general and gives little away to the aficionado as to exactly what the contents are. It seems unlikely that it includes Bella’s later struggles to reach the Moscow Olympics or travels to mysterious Arab countries where she tutors princesses – or at least not yet, as this is billed as Book One. May there be many more!

Rebellion have chosen a strong pair of stories from Jinty to launch what is again billed as Volume One of (hopefully) a series: “The Human Zoo” and “Land of No Tears”. No cover is shown on the initial announcement on the Simon & Schuster website, but there are plenty of great images that could be used, of course. As with the Misty volumes, they have made sure to link the two stories in some clear way – this time rather than choosing the same author, they have gone for the same artist. Guy Peeters is an under-recognized girls’ comics artist and I am glad to see him get more attention.

Jinty cover 19 August 1978

Where possible, I am keen to link to the original publisher’s site. I see that the Bella book is listed as being one of the “Treasury of British Comics” line, but it is not yet mentioned on the specific website for that imprint. I found it on the Simon & Schuster website: I think that Rebellion have a distribution deal with them, which is presumably why it is listed there. I’m not quite sure why the Jinty volume is listed as being one of Rebellion’s Graphic Novels (a list that on searching seems to include “Charley’s War” and “Marney the Fox”, but also some less all-ages titles such as “Bleach”). It would be nice to see all the announced titles listed clearly on the Treasury of British Comics site, which is a good dedicated shopfront that is easy to navigate and use.

Finally, a word of warning to other sites announcing these two new titles  and future ones in the series – be careful to attribute the creators and the stories correctly. “Bella” is correctly credited as being by Jenny McDade as writer and John Armstrong as artist, but in future Bella stories it will be harder to be sure of the writer. During Tammy’s era of printing credits, Primrose Cumming is known to have been the writer of the time – hopefully the publishers will check with erstwhile editor Wilf Prigmore in case there was any other writer in between those two times, but certainly Jenny McDade did not write all the Bella stories over the ten years that it ran.

“The Human Zoo and Land of No Tears” is billed as being by Pat Mills as writer and Guy Peeters as artist. The sharp-eyed reader of this blog will spot straight away that “The Human Zoo” is known not to have been written by Mills – although the writer is not definitively established it is thought likely to have been one of Malcolm Shaw’s. That uncertainty presumably makes it harder for the publishers to be clear about the authorship: in the circumstances they can’t just say straight out that it is by Malcolm Shaw I suppose. However, that lack of clarity will muddy the waters for others and I fear it will lead to a perpetuation of the unexamined notion that Pat Mills wrote the vast majority of girls comics – something which he does not himself claim, but which others not infrequently do on his behalf.

The Four Friends at Spartan School [1971-72]

Sample Images

Spartan School 7aSpartan School 7bSpartan School 7c

Published: Tammy 23 October 1971 to 8 January 1972

Episodes: 12

Artist: Unknown artist – Merry

Writer: Terence Magee

Translations/reprints: None known

Special thanks to Robert Gairey for scans

Plot

Judy Jenkins is a bit uncontrollable at school and likes to play pranks to liven things up and relieve the boredom of school. She isn’t a bad kid; it’s just that her home life is neglectful and unguided what with Mum being dead, Dad being away on business so much, and a housekeeper who looks like she’s pretty much in loco parentis. When Dad gets the latest note from school, he decides that what Judy needs is discipline (not a parent who gives her proper time and attention, saying he can’t do that because of his work). So he sends her to “Spartan School”, a Swiss school that is very strong on discipline, and says it’ll do Judy “a power of good”.

We aren’t so sure about that when Judy and three other new girls (Amanda Rogers, Liz Orton and Sarah Williams) meet school prefect Siddons. Siddons is a cold fish who treats them with such severity she would make a heckling army sergeant look lovable. She says that they are all to take orders from her, and her sharp tongue is nothing compared to what awaits them at Spartan School, which will be “much worse things”. Amanda, who is a weaker character physically and emotionally, is quickly subdued by Siddons’ conduct. But Judy stands up to Siddons and says she won’t be downtrodden by such bullying, and neither Siddons nor the school will frighten her. The foreshadowing of how things are going to go in this story, obviously.

When they arrive at the school, Judy sees some pupils who have just finished their term and are going home. Although they do look disciplined, Judy is disturbed at how frightened and lifeless they are. Siddons tells the new arrivals that they will be just the same by the time Spartan School has finished with them.

Next, Judy meets headmistress Miss Bramble, who has been warned by Siddons that Judy will be troublesome. Miss Bramble tells Judy that she is a disciplinarian who doesn’t hold with “modern soft teaching methods”. She goes on to say rebels do not last long at Spartan School, and Judy will emerge from it a very different person. Siddons has already made it clear this means Judy will emerge just like the broken girls she just saw. The story’s subsequent text boxes say Miss Bramble runs the school like one from the Victorian era, with harsh punishments. Now that has to be an understatement. As we shall see, not even Victorian schools went to the lengths that Miss Bramble does.

Siddons shows the girls their dormitory, and continuing her ruthless army-like grind to break them into the Spartan School discipline. Once alone, the new girls tell Judy disturbing rumours they have heard about Spartan School. Amanda relates a story about a friend who was sent to it. Previously a wild girl, she never laughed or smiled again once she returned from Spartan School.

And the parents? Apparently they have no idea of what the school is like (or don’t believe it). Later we learn that Miss Bramble censors all the girls’ correspondence to their parents regarding her methods. The girls are to write glowing letters saying how happy they are at the school and learning to behave better. And what happens when they go home and tell their parents? By that time, says Miss Bramble, they are completely different people: “obedient and with a respect for authority”. In other words, too frightened to tell anyone.

Judy still isn’t fazed by her first impressions of Spartan School, and neither is Liz, who starts larking around. Unfortunately she accidentally breaks a lightbulb. When Siddons returns, she assumes Judy broke it and Liz doesn’t own up. Judy realises this is because Liz is more scared of the school and Miss Bramble than she is admitting.

In punishment, Judy is forced to stand in the dinner hall with her hands on her head and get no food. The food isn’t bread and gruel as you might expect, but it is bad quality food all the same. From the way the other girls look at Judy while she undergoes this humiliation, she gets the impression that niceness and kindness are unknown qualities at the school. But Judy’s punishment doesn’t end there. When Miss Bramble enters the hall (all pupils have to stand when she does), she inflicts the icing on the cake: Judy has to share a table with Miss Bramble where she gets a meal of bread and water while Miss Bramble gets a gourmet dinner.

Afterwards, Judy says she has never been so humiliated. The other girls are angry with Liz for not owning up and being responsible for what Judy went through. Judy herself is more understanding about Liz being too frightened to own up. Liz feels so guilty about it all that she sneaks to the kitchen to smuggle some proper food to Judy. Liz is disgusted to see how Cook feeds Jason, Miss Bramble’s cat, better than she does the pupils (a plate of the best chicken). Jason’s a real tiger though, and Liz has to run the gauntlet with him in order to get the chicken.

Judy is thrilled with the food and Liz is forgiven. The girls decide to band together in a friendship for standing up against Miss Bramble and Spartan School, and not let it break them.

The first test comes immediately when Miss Bramble and Siddons arrive about the stolen cat’s supper. This time Liz does own up. The girls rally behind her, saying they are all involved, as they do not want Liz to face the punishment alone. Realising the friendship that has formed, Miss Bramble tells them that she does not allow close friendships because these are bad for discipline, and is going to turn them all against each other. To make things even worse, the whole school, teachers and all, have turned against Judy because Miss Bramble is taking her rage over Judy’s defiance out on all of them, even the teachers.

However, Judy is more concerned about Amanda, whose health and nerves aren’t strong. Amanda was sent to Spartan School because her parents thought it would toughen her up, but instead it is making her ill. But the teachers are as cruel as Miss Bramble and show her no compunction or medical attention at all.

In the courtyard, Miss Bramble’s plan to break up the friendship gets underway. She has the girls toss a heavy medicine ball, and the one to drop it will be the victim for the punishment. As the weakening Amanda is bound to be the one, Judy saves her by dropping the ball deliberately and taking the punishment herself. The punishment is putting Judy in the pillory, with the whole school throwing rotten fruit at her. They are only too happy to do so as they have turned against Judy. Siddons orders the three girls to do the same, or Judy will be put in solitary confinement. Their response is to throw the rotten fruit at Siddons. Surprisingly, this results in the whole school rioting against Siddons and the school discipline while the three friends release Judy. But when reinforcements arrive, the other girls go back to their subservient selves and put the blame on the four friends. The four friends are put in solitary confinement, which means being imprisoned in cramped, freezing, rat-infested cells. Amanda emerges even weaker but recovers after a rest, and the others are even more defiant, angry and determined to stick together. Seeing this, Miss Bramble is even more anxious to destroy the friendship because in her view it impedes discipline. This time Siddons offers to have a go at it.

Siddons takes the four friends out for a skiing lesson. There are only enough skis for three, so Judy is excluded. She is directed to go down the slope to check it is clear. She finds it is clear, but when Sarah skis down, a branch hidden on the slope causes Sarah to take a fall. She accuses accuses Judy of putting it there on purpose and turns on her. Judy soon realises Siddons is behind it, and spots the proof – a glove Siddons dropped while taking the branch from the tree – but needs to sneak out and retrieve it if she is to convince Sarah. She succeeds, although she narrowly escapes being caught by Siddons.

Siddons soon realises her trick has failed, but soon has another one brewing: tricking the other friends into distrusting Judy. She forces Amanda to clean windows, despite Amanda telling her that she cannot climb ladders on medical grounds, and her health is worsening. Amanda ends up falling off the ladder, with Judy breaking her fall. Judy covers for Amanda by cleaning the windows herself while the others take Amanda to the dormitory. But she does not realise Siddons is watching and had planned it that way all along. After Judy cleans the windows, Siddons dirties them up again so Amanda will think Judy lied to her. And when Judy sees the look on Amanda’s face when Amanda sees the dirty windows, it looks like Siddons’ trick is going to succeed!

Realising Siddons’ trick, Judy pulls a smokescreen (literally) to cover up the windows looking like they were not cleaned. This succeeds in foiling Siddons and regaining Amanda’s trust. Unfortunately this also earns Judy the punishment that “never fails” at Spartan School – the Iron Mask!

Yes, a real-life iron mask that is straight out of the Middle Ages. Judy is to be locked into this ghastly contraption for two days, with no respite whatsoever. Out of all the tortures that have been inflicted on her so far, this is the one that is the most telling on Judy’s strength. It also makes Judy a target for bullying and cruel tricks from all the other girls, who have grown as heartless and cruel as Siddons because Miss Bramble’s ‘discipline’ has destroyed all sense of humanity in them.

Later, the girls rescue a pigeon from being clubbed to death by Siddons. After they help it to recover, they use it to carry a message for help and hope the message makes its way to a school inspector.

Next day, Judy is almost collapsing under the weight of the iron mask. It makes her so faint that she breaks a flask in science class and sets poisonous fumes off. While the class evacuates, Judy makes her way into the laboratory storeroom in the hope of finding something that will help her get the mask off. She succeeds, and then throws the iron mask down the mountain so Miss Bramble can never use it again.

Terrible punishment for this is inevitable. Sadistic Siddons suggests that the girls be allowed to choose the punishment as they all think Judy set off the poisonous fumes on purpose so she could get rid of the iron mask. Of course Miss Bramble thinks it is a marvellous idea. The girls’ punishment is a hockey match where they all take turns in fouling and brutalising Judy.

But just as this punishment ends, a helicopter arrives. The carrier pigeon did get through and the helicopter has brought in a school inspector, Miss Craig. Miss Craig indeed suspects something is wrong with the school after witnessing the inhumane hockey match and sees Miss Bramble for explanations. Miss Bramble says Jenkins must have goaded them but they will all be punished, while Judy tells Miss Craig that Miss Bramble put them up to it and it’s all part of how she runs the school through terror. Miss Bramble tries to cover up with smooth talk in how her school prides in discipline that turns unruly girls around. Nonetheless, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that in view of the note she has received about brutal treatment at the school, she will make a thorough inspection of the school.

The four friends realise Miss Bramble will try to pull the wool over Miss Craig’s eyes – and eventually it looks like she could succeed. They are desperate to find a way to find a way to make her see the truth. They get their chance when Miss Bramble gives the school a film show of documentaries to impress Miss Craig. Judy plants a Charlie Chaplin film (gee, how did that get to Spartan School in the first place?). She shows Miss Craig how the girls are reacting to the film: not laughing or smiling at all. She tells Miss Craig the girls are too cowed and scared to laugh because that’s what Spartan School does to its girls. Miss Craig understands what Judy is driving at, and when Miss Bramble lashes out at Judy in anger, Miss Craig wises up to her at last. She tells Miss Bramble her school will be closed down by tomorrow and gets ready to take Judy away from it immediately.

Miss Bramble is not having that and orders Siddons to get the cine-camera. She then threatens to beat Judy, and Siddons films Miss Craig holding the cane after she snatches it from Miss Bramble to make it look like it was Miss Craig beating Judy. They use it to blackmail Miss Craig into dropping her threat to close down the school. Appalled at how this frame-up could destroy her career. Miss Craig leaves without a murmur. While she leaves, Miss Bramble says to her, “These girls need the treatment I give them. It’s the only thing they understand.”

Afterwards, Miss Bramble gives the four friends an ultimatum: sign a document promising they will never defy her again or face terrible punishment the following day. Naturally, Liz, Judy and Sarah refuse to sign. Unfortunately Amanda’s weak nerves have reached breaking point and she feels she doesn’t have the strength of the others in continuing to defy Miss Bramble. Next day she signs the document while the others get a hosing for refusing. Amanda regrets signing, but has been brought up to keep her word and refuses to go back on it, even if it was forced. Later, the girls notice how Amanda is becoming more and more like the browbeaten, terrified girls.

That night, Amanda runs away. She is in serious danger because a blizzard is looming, but hard-hearted Miss Bramble refuses to organise a search for her. She locks up the three girls in a shed for the night when they try to force her to do so. Later, Miss Bramble grows worried that the girls might report her for refusing to search for Amanda, and Siddons hatches a plan to deal with this.

Next morning, Siddons offers to help the girls escape, claiming that she has seen how wrong Miss Bramble is and sends them off down the mountain in the cable car. When the cable car is half way down the mountain, Siddons cuts through the cable to kill the girls. Miraculously, they survive, and soon discover what Siddons did with the cable.

They make their way to the police station to tell their story and get help for Amanda. But they soon discover that Miss Bramble and Siddons have arranged another nasty surprise for them: they told the police a concocted story about the girls having run away after stealing money, and Siddons had planted the money on them before they left. The police escort the girls to the cells, but Liz helps Sarah and Judy escape by distracting the police with a ‘fainting fit’. Sarah and Judy make a fast getaway on a sleigh and head across the country to shake off the police.

They check out a hotel in the hope the guests found Amanda on the slope. Instead, they find Amanda herself! She says she found a calf on the slopes and they helped keep each other warm in the shelter of some rocks. After the blizzard eased, a farmer found Amanda when he came looking for his calf. He brought Amanda to the hotel, where she has made a good recovery. She phoned her father about Spartan School, who in turn contacted Judy and Sarah’s parents, and Mr Rogers is on his way to collect Amanda.

Just then, the police catch up to the girls, and they have brought Liz as well. But before the police can do anything, there is a sudden alert that an avalanche is imminent and will sweep Spartan School away. They cannot warn the school because the school phone has been cut off. What’s more, another blizzard has started. The girls decide to head back to Spartan School to warn them, making their way through the blizzard.

They make it back to the school. Knowing Miss Bramble is unlikely to listen to them, they decide to sound the old fire bell instead. But Siddons has seen them return and alerts Miss Bramble. They lock the girls in the bell tower. Miss Bramble does not listen to the girls’ warnings about the avalanche. Fortunately, Siddons does.

The girls manage to break down the door by using the bell as a battering ram. The noise the bell makes while they do so rouses the school, which enables Siddons to warn them about the avalanche. The school evacuates, and on the way down the slope, they bump into the rescue party consisting of the police, Judy’s father – and Miss Craig, who found the courage to report Miss Bramble to the authorities. The schoolgirls say they don’t know where the four friends are.

Meanwhile, the four friends have found Miss Bramble knocked out and unconscious on the bell tower steps. They pull her away with a sledge and eventually meet up with the search party. While they do so, the avalanche gets underway and destroys Spartan School.

Miss Bramble regains consciousness and cannot understand how these “wicked girls” were capable of saving her life. The police tell Miss Bramble how Miss Craig has told them about her “strange ideas of discipline”. When Miss Bramble says she was certain discipline would be good for the girls, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that discipline is good, but her “harsh tyranny” is not. However, seeing as Spartan School is no more, Miss Craig has little doubt the authorities will take no further action in the matter (whaatt?!?). Nonetheless, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that her teaching days are over – “over for ever!” Meanwhile, Siddons slinks away and is not seen again.

The four friends return to England and stay together at a much better and happier school.

Thoughts

This was the first story Terence Magee wrote for girls’ comics. It was also the first to pair up Terence’s writing with the artwork of the unknown artist who is nicknamed “Merry”. This pairing would occur again and again, most prominently in Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”. Other occasions included the extremely popular Sandie story, “Slave of the Trapeze”.

Girls’ comics often made comment on progressivism vs. authoritarianism in education, particularly on how evil authoritarianism could be if it was taken too far. In so doing, it was linked with the bully teacher/principal theme, which was frequently used to illustrate what not to do in the classroom (or for the creators to purge their own memories of bully teachers?). The theme of tyrannical headmistresses going to extremes with discipline and reacting against modern teaching methods was in Tammy from the first issue with “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”. Here Miss Steele runs her school with such bizarre and harsh discipline that she stages show trials for girls in the school hall in front of the whole school. However, Miss Steele’s nemesis is not a pupil but a teacher, Miss Valentine. When Miss Steele reprimands Miss Valentine for showing a pupil kindness (so kindness is not allowed at this school either) Miss Valentine responds by quitting and establishing a progressive school, Liberty Lodge, in reaction against Miss Steele. From then on, Miss Steele pulls every trick in the book to destroy Liberty Lodge.

Jinty also used the theme on occasion. In one of her holiday specials she ran “The Spoof of St. Elma’s”, where the “cold and unfeeling” Miss Reed takes great pride in making St Elma’s “the harshest and strictest school in the country” (grim teachers and appointing the hardest girls as prefects are among her methods) and has no tolerance whatsoever for modern progressive teaching methods. She vows not to retire until she can find someone who can run the same way, and eventually tries it with a computer named Miss Steele. But it all blows up in her face when the computer malfunctions. As a result, her harsh, unfeeling legacy is completely swept away and progressive, caring teaching comes in with the new headmistress.

A variant Jinty had on the theme was “Children of Edenford”. Headmistress Miss Purity Goodfellow uses drugs to turn her pupils into brainwashed paragons of virtue in the name of perfection – with the full blessing of the girls’ parents.

Jinty’s most striking, and best thought-out example of the theme was “Dracula’s Daughter”, where authoritarian Mr Graves is determined to turn free-and-easy Castlegate into an old-fashioned grammar school. He rams it down everyone’s throats, even the teachers’, saying that he’s the headmaster so everything he says goes, and the teachers are to shape up to it or ship out. Mr Graves also believes fun and play belong in the home and not the classroom, and imposes this on the school too. However, unlike Miss Bramble or Miss Reed, Mr Graves is not a cruel, unfeeling sadist who subjects pupils to mock trials or ladles over-the-top torture with a shovel in the name of discipline. He is a bigot, not sadistic or insane like the headmistresses mentioned here. Ironically, he does have a heart and he shows he can be human when he believes it is appropriate for him to do so. Moreover, Mr Graves ends up becoming less rigid in his beliefs about education and learns to respect progressive education more. Still, everyone at Castlegate is relieved when Mr Graves leaves and goes back to his old grammar after discovering its discipline has slipped to the point of the boys becoming delinquent.

Spartan School is no doubt the most intense and excessive example of progressivism vs. authoritarianism in girls’ comics. Nothing is beyond Miss Bramble in her crusade to turn ‘unruly’ girls into her models of obedient and disciplined girls. However, we suspect discipline is just her excuse and the real motive behind her methods is that she’s a sadist who likes to torture girls emotionally, physically and psychologically. We suspect this even more when Miss Bramble says she has to stop the girls reporting her to the authorities because they would not understand her methods.

The text boxes say that Miss Bramble runs the school as if it were Victorian, but surely not even Victorian schools went as far as Miss Bramble. The girls either emerge as emotionally and psychologically traumatised zombies or like Siddons – unfeeling, bullying monsters with no trace of kindness or humanity to be seen. It is not just unruliness that is beaten out of girls but all trace of kindness, humanity and friendship as well. This is clearly because Miss Bramble does not tolerate tender emotions as she does not have any, and she does not allow friendships because they are building blocks to conspiracy against her discipline. She wants all her girls to be turned into models that are based on her personality. It could well be that Siddons came to Spartan School as an ‘undisciplined’ girl herself, and Miss Bramble’s ideas of discipline turned her into the stone-hearted monster and flunky that she is. As a result, Siddons is capable of anything, even murder. Or maybe she was a genuine badass kid in serious need of straightening out, but just got a whole lot worse at Spartan School. In any case, the four friends are the only oasis of kindness and courage we see in the entire school. Nowhere else is it to be seen.

Miss Bramble seems to ride on the shoulders of neglectful / useless parents who don’t seem to pick up on what’s going on at Spartan School or what their girls have become after they return from the school. Some may even approve of it. Rumours about the school’s cruelty circulate, Amanda herself has seen a damaged girl returning from Spartan School, and girls go home from Spartan School looking broken and frightened, yet nobody seems to step up and look into things. Parents still send their girls to it, believing it will do their girls a world of good. It’s not until Amanda manages to bring an inspector in that the cruelty of the school finally begins to get out. At least the four friends’ parents redeem themselves somewhat when they come in person to form part of the rescue party.

It is a bit annoying that Miss Bramble seems to get off a bit too lightly at the end of the story. Miss Craig takes the view that the authorities will not do much because Spartan School has been destroyed. Oh, come on, this is a woman who’s not only committed physical and psychological abuse against girls but is guilty of attempted murder as well! Shouldn’t there be at least a full public inquiry before deciding what should be done with Miss Bramble? Don’t the parents and pupils get a say in the matter? A lot of readers must have wished Miss Bramble had died in the avalanche or broken her neck on the staircase after reading Miss Craig’s view on what will happen to her. As for Siddons not being seen again after she disappears…well, it does suggest she might have come to a sticky end off-panel. Readers must have hoped for that anyway.

When Judy arrives at Spartan School, it’s where Miss Bramble finally meets her match, much in the way that Misery House does with Merry Summers. Like Merry, Judy refuses to be broken by the cruelties of the institution, finds strength in the only friends she has, and uses her quick wits to get out of the scrapes and dirty tricks that Miss Bramble and Siddons pull on her. As with Merry, Judy’s defiance takes the form of something that flies in the face of Spartan School and defies all attempts to break it. In the case of Merry, it is keeping on smiling and joking, no matter what. In the case of Judy, it is maintaining the four-friend friendship against all of Miss Bramble’s attempts to destroy it. And like Merry, Judy is determined to get word out about the cruelties of Spartan School and get it shut down. Unlike Merry, Judy succeeds on her very first try, although it takes time for help to arrive because of the blackmail Miss Bramble pulls on Miss Craig.

On this blog, Spartan School has been regarded as a forerunner of “Merry at Misery House”. For one thing, it is the same creative team. Parallels between the two stories have been noted above. The cruel institutions are physically destroyed (fire in Misery House, avalanche in Spartan School) as well as being shut down by authorities that have been finally been alerted by unsettling reports. Misery House also resorts to beatings, pillories, unhealthy isolation cells, poor food and other cruelties (but no iron mask, thank goodness) in order to break the protagonist. As with Judy, they also pull blackmail and other dirty tricks in order to isolate the protagonist from her friends and turn them against her. Character-wise, Judy could well be a predecessor of Merry; she likes to play jokes to liven things up a bit, but unwisely does them during class time. Liz is a bit like Merry too; our first impressions of her are that she is a chirpy girl, just like Merry.

In some ways, Spartan School does Judy a lot of good, albeit in spite of itself. Her energies, which went into practical jokes at her previous schools, are rechanneled into bringing down Spartan School and foiling all the tricks that are pulled to destroy the friendship. At the beginning we see a stubborn streak in Judy; once she puts her mind to something, she does it. This would have helped Judy immensely once she became determined not to let anything at Spartan School crush her. We get the impression that Judy emerged as a more toned-down and mature girl. No doubt she emerged as a much stronger and courageous one.