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Volume 12 No. 5 February 2011 Issue 149

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 February 2011 Issue 149
 Reviews

Adult fiction

History, Nostalgia & Nonfiction

Children's books

 Stories

The Honey Bird Sang

 Art

Owen Owen

 Features

A Tammy Top Ten

Magbooks

 

NEW FROM JESSIE KEANE: THE MAKE (Headline PB)

 

Life is good for Gracie Doyle – running her Manchester casino keeps her busy. Until the police turn up at her door one day and her world is turned upside down. She is given news that her two estranged brothers have been viciously attacked. George is in hospital on a ventilator and, worryingly, Harry is missing.Gracie has no option but to leave the good life and dip her toe into the murky waters of her East End past. She leaves for London in an attempt to avenge her brothers – and in doing so she uncovers some unsavoury secrets about the lifestyle they’ve been leading. Their little games have got them into big trouble with the wrong people…and Gracie must keep her wits about her and try and find Harry, or it could prove fatal….

A Tammy Top Ten

By Robert Gairey, Briony Coote and Debra Lockhart

Special thanks to David Roach for assistance with the credits and dates of publication, and to Pat Mills for inspiration and for his memories

Images copyright Egmont UK Ltd and IPC Media

With interest surging in the genre of British girls‟ comics, and with the 1970s IPC comic Tammy having been recognised as spearheading a revolution in comics storytelling, we present the ten stories we see as the most significant in the history of this popular girls' paper, which was published on a weekly basis between 1971 and 1984. In compiling this list we've taken account of those which we feel have lasted longest in the memory, those seen as the most controversial and hard-hitting for their time, those representative of particular themes, and those which had the greatest influence on what came later. Also presented are the dates in which these stories appeared, which may help those with an interest in collecting. Of course, if you would like to challenge the choices below, please feel free to let us know at Robert Gairey rgairey@btinternet.com your own personal favourites and why you think they should be included! So, counting down….

 

10 The Button Box

Writer(s): Alison Christie; Ian Mennell; Linda Stephenson Artist: Mario Capaldi Publication: 20 November 1982 to 23 June 1984

Synopsis: The button box is a Jackson family heirloom, and every single button in the box has a tale to tell. When Beverley “Bev” Jackson becomes confined to a wheelchair after a road accident, Gran gives her the box so Bev can use the stories to occupy her mind and cheer herself up whenever she is feeling down. Bev knows all the stories by heart and every week she dips into the box for a story to tell. The stories have accumulated not only over the years but the centuries as well – and they are still growing as Bev makes her own additions from her assorted holidays, friends, teachers, pen-pals, and even celebrities. Some new additions are being made as the episode unfolds; in which case the narrator is the donor, who narrates the button story of the week before donating the button to the box.

Significance: Anthology “storyteller” stories have been a regular staple of any girls' comic. Tammy's best-remembered example was The Strangest Stories Ever Told (22 June 1974 to 10 July 1982). However the Button Box stories were structured far more ingeniously than a storyteller simply telling a story to entertain, frighten, or to teach morals. Here they were framed by a linking story which leads Bev into her button tale of the week; for example, a transgression on someone's part has Bev dipping into the box and finding a button that teaches a moral about that transgression. In effect, this makes Bev herself central to two stories – the button story and the linking story – so the button stories are far more personal, interesting and open to variation than the typical “storyteller” story. We generally take buttons for granted, but after we read the Button Box stories we can never look at buttons the same way. We would never think that buttons could tell stories about romance, war, rivalries, animals, cookery, friendship, family relationships, adventure, “rags-to-riches”, careers; teach morals about snobbery, procrastination, stealing, telling lies, being judgemental, selfishness, greed, kindness, courage, and more; even make social commentaries and whip us back in time to bygone days to teach us history lessons. However the Button Box shows that since buttons are so versatile because they come in all walks of life, they can touch on all these subjects and more; and judging by the size of Bev‟s collection, hundreds of button stories were sadly left untold when Tammy was cancelled.

 

9 The Clock and Cluny Jones

Writer: Bill Harrington. Artist: John Armstrong. Publication: 27 January 1973 to 14 April 1973. Reprint: The 1985 Misty Annual as Grandfather’s Clock

Synopsis: Cluny is a school bully – terrorising fellow kids at her school and  exploiting her aunt's kindness. When she inherits a grandfather clock from her late grandfather, she despises the fact that her inheritance is not money. However, when the clock strikes thirteen, Cluny is pitched into a harsh parallel world – where she's the victim, her aunt is a tyrant, and she is the "swot" of the school. But things don't end there. The world she has been pitched into is different in many ways, and circumstances lead to her being sent to a tough women's prison. Who can save her? And, in this parallel world, is her grandfather actually still alive?

Significance: Science fiction stories were much more prevalent in Tammy's stable-mate Jinty, but Tammy had its fair share, many of them illustrated by John Armstrong, and The Clock and Cluny Jones is by far one of the best. It is unusual to see an out-and-out bully in the central role, and even more so since problem girls in the central role are more often snobby, conceited, spoiled or selfish rather than downright nasty. Moreover, there is a nice twist that sees her position in the parallel world, as victim of the school, as being very similar to that endured by the heroines of other stories. The story's eerie and well drawn, and it moves at a cracking pace, hurling Cluny into ever more desperate scenarios, until she finds herself in prison (there being no juvenile court in this harsh universe) – and eventually a reluctant participant in a dangerous break-out. Other science fiction serials illustrated by John Armstrong included A New Leaf for Nancy (27 October 1973 to 5 January 1974), in which Nancy discovers that her luck, as well as that of her recently impoverished family, changes for the better when leaves from a old tree in her back yard fall on her shoulder only there's a price to be paid. Also Sit it out, Sheri (14 February 1976 to 24 April 1976) in which sitting in an antique chair transports Sheri back into the life of Marie Antoinette. And not forgetting The Clothes Make Carol (2 February 1974 to 27 April 1974) in which down-at-heel Carol, who is used as a doormat by her grasping family, is given renewed confidence by an enchanted blazer, and uses this to turn the tables… until things go too far and she becomes a megalomaniac!

Other well-remembered science fiction stories from Tammy include The Fairground of Fear (14 February 1976 to 24 April 1976 and reprinted in Tammy Annual 1983) where a scientist uses a fairground for revenge against the heartless aristocrat who ruined his life; Tomorrow Town (11 September 1982 to 13 November 1982), a very topical and somewhat advanced story about computer dependency in an age when desktop computers were still in their infancy; and E.T. Estate (15 January 1983 to 9 April 1983), an alien invasion story with disturbing hints of genocide and mass extinction.

8 Secret of the Skulls

Writer: Unknown Artist: Mario Capaldi Publication: 1 May 1976 to 17 July 1976. Reprint: Girl Annual 1986

Synopsis: Prudence Sylvester and her pastor father reside in a small parish in London. A winter storm unearths a crypt in the graveyard filled with skulls. Israel Quist the parish gravedigger tells Prudence the story of the skulls. They are the skulls of witches executed by the parish witch-finder, and Quist is really Jacob Stave, the witch-finder's apprentice who buried the skulls in the crypt as an act of remorse. One of the two true witches burned in the witch hunt swore that the people of London would burn as she had. The Sylvesters' housekeeper Mrs. March is possessed by the spirit of the executed witch and seeks that retribution. The skulls placed all over London cause the Great Fire of London until the skull of the true witch is found  and destroyed. But what happened to the skull of the second witch?

Significance: Remembering that girls liked to be scared as much as they liked to cry, supernatural stories made a regular appearance in Tammy. From the first issue, Tammy's interest in the supernatural started with The Secret of Trebaran (6 February 1971 to 5 June 1971), continued through her merger with Misty in 1980, and Jinty in 1981. Once Tammy merged with June in 1974, each week the Storyteller would produce The Strangest Stories Ever Told. For elements of the supernatural Secret of the Skulls had all the creepy accessories: graveyards, possession, witches, ghosts, and something gruesomely audacious at a time when Misty was still two years in the future – skulls. In Glenda’s Glossy Pages (13 September 1975 to 15 May 1975 and reprinted 1 October 1983 to 10 December 1983), Glenda Slade receives a mysterious mail order catalogue, everything she circles arrives on her doorstep and she never has to pay. Of course everything has a price and Glenda almost pays with her life. Additionally, Crystal Who Came in from the Cold (20 April 1974 to 15 June 1975), Crystal, a girl found frozen in ice in the Arctic, is brought back to Britain and brings unseasonable cold with her. Rona’s Rainstones (14 December 1975 to 15 March 1975) Stones found in a cave on the island of Skegg cause water catastrophes until they are returned to their sacred home. In Drawn to Destiny (24 July 1976 to 28 August 1976), jealous of her twin sister Sylvia's success, Diana Hudson's drawings take a sinister turn.

7 Olympia Jones

Writer: Anne Digby (Pat Davidson) Artist: Eduardo Feito . Publication: 2 October 1976 to 1 January 1977. Reprint: 25 April 1981 to 25 July 1981

Synopsis: Teenager Olympia Jones is the daughter of an equestrian Olympic medallist, now disabled from a riding accident, and she is determined to follow him and win an Olympic gold herself. After her parents are killed in a crash she is reduced to animal trainer at Rotts' circus where she is exploited by Rott and his daughter Linda. Eventually the Rotts frame and dismiss Olympia for the ill-treatment Linda inflicted on her favourite horse, Prince, so they can escape prosecution from Animal Welfare. However, Olympia cannot abandon Prince to the mercy of the Rotts, so she does a midnight flit with the horse, leaving an antique caravan in exchange. Her adventures are only just beginning, as Olympia faces new challenges to keep herself and Prince surviving, and eventually finds employment as a riding instructor at an adventure centre. But, when she becomes short-listed for the Olympic team, the Rotts see the opportunity to seize the fortune Prince is now worth and they – as well as Animal Welfare and the police – close in….

Significance: Horse-related stories were of course a favourite theme of girls' comics, and horse stories with a cruel streak have remained popular in Tammy ever since her classic Palomo (24 July 1971 to 9 October 1971 and reprinted in Penny Annual 1980), and many of Tammy's were drawn by the same artist, Eduardo Feito. This story, though, benefits from an impressive script by author Anne Digby, and some of Feito's best artwork for Tammy. The character of Olympia is well-drawn, and again the story moves in interesting directions, exploring her somewhat miserable life at the circus, and then going on to cover her experiences with the snooty clientele of a riding school. The excitement mounts as the Rotts have Olympia arrested for horse-theft, and poor Olympia finds herself in court with everything looking hopeless – until.... There's an element of redemption too, as one of Olympia's spoilt pupils whose own ill-treatment of her pony was cured by Olympia at the adventure centre holds the key to her freedom. For her cruelty to Prince however, there can be no redemption for Linda Rott! Other horse-related stories illustrated by Feito included Halves in a Horse (23 October 1971 to 8 January 1972), The Stables Slave (28 October 1972 to 13 January 1973) and Odds on Patsy (29 May 1976 to 14 August 1976). The theme of many of these was very much the same – plucky girl faces challenges in fulfilling her show-jumping or horse-racing dream, often in the face of the laziness or outright cruelty of the owners of the stable in which their beloved horse is housed!

6 Cuckoo in the Nest Writer: Ian Mennell

Artist: Tony Coleman (credited as George Anthony). Publication: 20 November 1982 to 26 February 1983

Synopsis: Leslie Dodds is the happiest boy around because his Uncle Fred showers him with treats, but there is a mystery as to how Uncle Fred can afford them. Then Leslie learns that the money comes from Great-Aunt Hermione who expects the money to be paid on Leslie‟s school fees at Nesterfield, “the Nest”. Now Hermione is going to visit Leslie at Nesterfield at the end of term – which will mean prison for Uncle Fred when his misappropriation is discovered. So Uncle Fred must now enrol Leslie at Nesterfield – but when they arrive, they are shocked to discover that Hermione mistakenly thinks her nephew is a niece called “Lesley” and Nesterfield is a girls’ school! How can Uncle Fred enrol Leslie as he is a boy? Simple – Uncle Fred disguises Leslie as a girl, and for a whole term Leslie must pass himself off as such at Nesterfield; a “cuckoo in the Nest”. But can Leslie pull off the deception in the face of his natural boyish ways, lack of experience and ability in girls' ways, a strict headmistress with decidedly pre-feminist ideas, a hot, sweaty, uncomfortable wig, and the growing suspicions of the nosey Sarah Mullins?

Significance: Simply, there can be no other story like this in the entire history of British comics. It is extraordinary enough for a boy to star in a girls' serial instead of a regular boys' comic – but for that boy to disguise himself as a girl?!? Moreover, the story touches on feminist ideals, something oddly rare in girls‟ comics. As Leslie steps up the rocky learning curve in “thinking girl”, his lapses into boys' ways help to break the mould for the Nesterfield girls who suffer from a strict headmistress with “oldfashioned ideas of what girls should do”, or sexism in general, such as when Leslie surprises a local soccer team with his fantastic footwork when they taunt him for being a girl, or when Leslie launches a less than successful all-girls' soccer team at Nesterfield. He only succeeds in getting the girls all muddy, wet, and fed up. Poor Leslie forgot that girls take less relish in getting mucky than boys do. The hilarity of the steep learning curves, the lapses, and maintaining the deception in the face of sexism on top of all the other obstacles against a successful deception, make for an extremely funny yet tender story that provides a real eye-opener for a boy (and any other boy reading this story) into the world of the opposite sex and a whole new light upon their own boys' world. Tammy produced a great deal of “oddball” stories that could be regarded as completely silly and unbelievable, and deserve to be included as the worst of Tammy. Or they could be considered parodies, or even social commentaries. One classic example is Town without Telly (14 September 1974 to 30 November 1974); is this story so silly that it is a turkey, or is it a satire on television addiction? Another is Granny’s Town (27 October 1973 to 23 February 1974); too unbelievable or a commentary on ageism? It depends on your point of view. This serial no doubt belongs to Tammy's ranks of “oddball” stories, but the beauty of it is that its premise is believable enough, it is funny without being silly, it cleverly and hilariously insinuates a social commentary on sexism, and it delights readers with something they have never seen before or since in girls' comics – a boy as the star of the serial.

5 No Tears for Molly

Writer: Maureen Spurgeon Artist(s): Tony Thewennetti and Douglas Perry. Publication: 6 February 1971 (1st issue) to Tammy‟s merger with Jinty (1981)

Synopsis: In 1926, Molly Mills travels from the East of London to take up a maidservant post at the Devonshire home of Lord and Lady Stanton. On arrival, she inadvertently makes an enemy of the cruel butler Pickering and from then on endures all manner of hardship in her struggles to keep her job and send enough money home to her large family. At all times Molly maintains her honesty and integrity, although in addition to Pickering's scheming, jealous maids Betty and Kitty try to humiliate her at every turn. Help and consolation are at hand though from her friends the Cook and Charlie the boot-boy, as well as Claire, the wheelchairbound daughter of Lord and Lady Stanton.

Significance: Molly Mills was one of Tammy's most enduring and longest-running characters, and over ten years (in stories ranging from one to seven episodes in length) engaged in all manner of adventures – the setting for the stories having been inspired by the popular series Upstairs Downstairs. Some tales were domestic: Molly falling foul of Pickering's schemes to have her demoted or sacked, or Molly coming to the rescue of another member of staff being unfairly treated. Others involved the Stanton family: a miracle cure being found for Claire for example – only to see Claire end up permanently crippled, or Lady Stanton undergoing drastic personality changes after falling from her horse. And a significant number took turns into adventure – Molly becoming involved for an example in a kidnap plot involving a visiting professor, swapping places with a lookalike aristocrat, or thwarting dangerous theft plots both at Stanton hall and in London. The supernatural element was not excluded either, Molly facing off at various times against a succession of both real and imaginary ghosts, and at one point almost losing her life to some enchanted firewood. Opinions in the letters page were always divided on Molly, with some readers complaining about the never-changing status of Molly in the household, and the continuing threat posed by Pickering as butler despite his unscrupulousness, bullying and occasionally downright criminal behaviour. So it was that, on 20 August 1977, readers were asked to write in and vote as to whether or not Molly should continue in the pages of Tammy – although the eventual positive result must have been influenced by the choice to end the last episode on a massive cliff-hanger, with poor Molly framed for theft by Pickering and forced to go on the run while the rest of the household boarded ship for India. So it was that Molly returned in early 1978, with a new artist and, after six months, after several adventures as a fugitive from the law, she was able to resume her place at the Hall with the recently returned Stanton family.

4 Ella on Easy Street

Writer: Charles Herring Artist: Jose Casanovas. Publication: 16 March 1974 to 8 June 1974

Synopsis: Ella Rutt paints to school friends and teachers a bleak picture of her home life in Easy Street – that she is forced to do all the housework while her parents and sister just lie around idle. As a result, she is excused for her lateness, and has not bothered with homework in an age. The true picture is very different and, when her struggling parents aspire to better themselves and move house, Ella realises that her indolent, idle existence is at risk.

Significance: This story has been held up as one of the most groundbreaking in the history of Tammy, providing incisive social comment and a controversial subject matter. Ella purports to be the “Cinderellatype”, but in actuality she is much more complex – despite loving her family, she's an outright schemer and goes to ever more devious lengths as she struggles to keep things as they are. She schemes both her parents out of more decent jobs, tells a web of lies in order to keep her perfectly healthy sister bedridden and, after inadvertently writing a prizewinning essay, tries to destroy it – leaving her classmates to take the rap. Most controversially, when her sympathetic but inquisitive teacher Miss Mackie gets to close to the truth, she engineers a situation whereby she's slapped by the teacher in sight of the headmistress – thus getting Miss Mackie suspended. Not, therefore, the ideal role-model for readers of the comic at the time, though certainly an intriguing character. And one who eventually redeems herself by finding her conscience. Furthermore, the story lent a depth and richness by Spanish artist Jose Casanovas, whose level of background detail and the care in which he develops the facial expressions of his characters are all the more impressive when his considering his massive level of output, both for Tammy and for other comics of the time. Casanovas' central characters moreover tended to be spirited individuals, and not always the whiter-than-white heroines of many other girls' tales. Orphan Emma in Cinderella Spiteful (23 October 1971 to 4 March 1972), for example, resents being taken in by her affluent London relatives, and acts against what she sees as the smugness of her kindly cousin Angela with petty acts of spite. And in Two-Faced Teesha (27 October 1973 to 26 January 1974) rich girl, Teesha Tate undertakes every dirty trick in the book (and then some) to destroy the happiness of poor Gail, whose parents work for Teesha's businessman father, for no other reason than she cannot fathom how someone that poor can be so content.

3 Slaves of War Orphan Farm

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day Artist: Desmond Walduck (credit of Colin Merritt in Great British Comics 2006 is incorrect). Publication: 6 February 1971 (1st issue) to 17 July 1971

Synopsis: At a lonely farm in 1942, Kate Dennison and a group of war orphans find themselves prisoners of the evil owner, Ma Thatcher, and her cronies, and forced to work all day in a dangerous quarry while spending every night locked in a barn. Dangers threaten at every turn, with attempts at defiance or escape punished by periods of starvation and confinement in cages; treacherous swamps surround the area, and a couple of vicious Doberman guard dogs are at hand to be sent after any fugitive. Despite this, however, nothing can break Kate's spirit, and her minor victories against the villains – helped by a mysterious masked figure Mad Emma – help raise the morale of the other children. It's not long however before Ma Thatcher decides that something needs to be done about Kate once and for all….

Significance: Controversial, bleak and hard-hitting, this was the story that changed the shape of girls‟ comics forever. Readers opening up the comic from its “happy smiley girl” cover would have found a dark tale of endurance, danger and even torture, as Kate and the others undergo indignity after indignity, and are forced to “work „til they drop” at the harsh quarry. The artwork only serves to accentuate the bleakness of the setting and the harshness of the villains, with Ma Thatcher depicted as the ultimate in villainy and cruelty, and not above engaging in acts of physical violence, treachery, blackmail and even conspiracy to murder when things get tough. In contrast, Kate Dennison epitomises the noble spirit of the innocent heroine, holding her head high and refusing to let Ma Thatcher have things all her own way. In fact, Britain's indomitable wartime spirit personified! Stories of slavery and endurance continued certainly throughout Tammy's early years, with settings as diverse as a holiday camp (The Camp on Candy Island – 28 October 1972 to 19 May 1973), a kitchen (Slaves of the Hot Stove – 22 March 1975 to 14 June 1975), a  boarding school with sadistic punishments (The Four Friends at Spartan School – 23 October 1971 to 8 January 1972), and a grim nineteenth century wig factory (Waifs of the Wigmaker – 21 June 1975 to 6 September 1975). But it's Slaves of War Orphan Farm that stands as the benchmark for all that followed, and a major influence on the future of comics storytelling history.

2 Little Miss Nothing

Writer: Anne Digby (Pat Davidson) Artist: Miguel Quesada. Publication: 5 June 1971 to 4 September 1971

Synopsis: Annabel Hayes longs to be a dressmaker, but is forced by her family to toil all day at her father‟s market stall, while spoilt sister Dora gets all the encouragement (and money) she needs for her modelling ambitions. When Annabel takes a risk by selling on the stall some handbags she has made, she receives the opportunity to work at a grand fashion house. However, the Hayes family do everything they can to sabotage things, while scheming to advance Dora's ambitions at Annabel's expense.

Significance: When IPC first canvassed opinions as to what girls would like to see in comics, the response received was, apparently, that girls “loved to cry”. And so were born a whole series of “Cinderella-type” stories, in which a young girl with dreams of making it with a particular craft, hobby or talent has her ambitions continuously thwarted (or exploited) by her grasping family, and is forced into virtual slavery. Little Miss Nothing was the first of these, and the story is strong on character and memorable in incident, becoming all the more involved and ending with a tense race against time as Annabel, having been framed for industrial espionage, and on the run, risks life and limb to expose, to the one person who had faith in her talents, the true villains – her own father and sister. This story proved massively popular with readers and was held up as a template for further tales of woe. Later that year came Gina Get-Lost (13 November 1971 to 13 February 1972), about a girl who loves making toys similarly exploited by her family while also running the gamut of a swindling shop assistant and a blackmailing neighbour – at one point even getting herself locked up (and having her head shaved!) in a cruelly run children‟s home after her family skip off to Australia without her. Then there followed many more, including Jumble Sale Jilly (7 July 1973 to 20 October 1973), Sadie in the Sticks (22 June 1974 to 7 September 1974), Sally in a Shell (4 September 1976 to 20 November 1976) and the one that would go on to become one of the longest-running regulars in Tammy, Bella at the Bar (22 June 1974 to 7 September 1974). The 1974 serial Nell Nobody (19 October 1974 to 8 March 1975) is, with a few minor differences, the same story as Little Miss Nothing  demonstrating that these stories were eminently recyclable, yet perennially popular with readers

1 Bella at the Bar (later just Bella)

Writer: Jenny McDade. Subsequent Bella writers: John Wagner; Primrose. Cumming; Malcolm Shaw Artist: John Armstrong. Publication: 22 June 1974 to 7 September 1974, and periodically thereafter to 1984. Reprint: Bella’s Book of Gymnastics 1981.

Synopsis: Bella Barlow slaves away cleaning windows for her uncle's business and doing all the housework on poor feeding and occasional beatings. However it won't stop Bella's passion for gymnastics and she snatches every moment she can to practise. She demonstrates her skill secretly by breaking into a local sports club but, even after her talents are spotted, nothing seems to go easily. Not only does she have to cope with the criminal machinations of her Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, but also the interference of welfare officers, as well as a succession of snooty rivals who are only to willing to take opportunities to scupper Bella's chances.

Significance: Stories featuring gymnastics were almost unheard-of in Tammy and there had been only one predecessor, Amanda Must not be Expelled (5 January 1972 to 18  March 1972), starring a problem girl whose love of gymnastics holds the key to her redemption. So when gymnast Bella arrived in 1974, she not only raised eyebrows but struck a chord with a readership familiar with the accomplishments of then champion Olga Korbut, and who followed Bella's progress – along with many setbacks – with great interest. Thanks to engaging and strong characterisation, she became, along with Molly, the most enduring of Tammy's characters, and certainly – judging by the recollections of one-time readers – the most popular. John Armstrong's skill at presenting Bella in action on the bar and other gymnastic feats also made this story stand out from other sporting “Cinderella” tales and, when Bella achieved sponsorship to join a Russian sports academy in the last episode, people wanted more. And so, on 22 March 1975, Bella returned and, in that episode, was framed by a jealous rival and expelled from the academy. She was forced to go back to her window cleaning round in the face of public disgrace and hatred – but as determined as ever to pursue her gymnastics. In the years that followed, Bella used her prowess in a variety of circumst ances: rescuing people from fires, becoming a sports queen, foiling dastardly kidnap plots, being a target of harassment and even attempted murder, and adapting her gymnastic skill to settings as varied as the circus and the ballet. She was hindered and exploited in equal measure by the grasping Jed and Gert – when they weren't in prison that is – and when they were, Bella had the added problems of evading Welfare and avoiding being sent to a children's home. And as if Jed and Gert weren't bad enough, Bella suffered exploitation from others as well; in her first story she finds the Stones, owners of a seaside show, exceed even Uncle Jed for slave-driving. At one point Bella is wrongly imprisoned in a remand home and faces injustice and public disgrace for the second time. On another occasion, a serious back injury (from saving the jealous rival who made a confession in return) leaves her with the prospect of never being able to compete again – the episodes depicting her gradual recovery serving to move the story away from the usual themes, although Jed and Gert treat her just as badly. Alas, Bella never got to compete in the Olympics, though she did, in a very roundabout way (getting on the wrong boat, engaging in adventures in France and Denmark, getting shipwrecked and facing the hostile environment of Iceland) make it to Montreal just in time to take part in the 1976 opening ceremony. Bella was still going strong in 1984, when Tammy merged itself out of existence, and was obviously much missed. John Armstrong's artwork was utilised to particular effect on other sporting stories, including Katie on Thin Ice (8 January 1977 to 8 April 1977), set in a frozen 1815 London and in which young orphan Katie is finds herself a thieves' den and forced to use her speed skating skills in a series of robberies and escapes from the police, and the memorable Becky Never Saw the Ball (14 September 1974 to 7 December 1974) – about a blind tennis player! However, it was Bella who vaulted high above the others in the popularity stakes, and is most fondly remembered by previous readers – and indeed by those who worked on Tammy back in the 1970s.

 

 

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