Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nothing interesting

I have a cold or something, which is keeping me in bed, sniffling into tissues, so no post of any consequence for a few days.

When I get back to it, expect something on the early days of Tammy as I've started reading it from the beginning.

But while I'm here, I would like to say if you know of any other blogs or websites that deal with similar topics, ie. British girls' comics, please comment with a link as I'd like to connect with other people who have similar interests.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

In 2009 as part of a promotional thing in The Guardian newspaper, they gave away a free copy of Tammy number 1, describing it as a "facsimile".

It looked like this:
It was 32 pages long.

The only slight problem is that the original was 36 pages long and looked like this:

I mean it's the same image, but it's missing the richness and warmth of the original.

As for the missing pages, one was the second page of the Tammy Club article, mostly taken up with a long departed competition, but the other three were the first episode of a story entitled Castaways on Voodoo Island, which at first glance appears to be a female version of Lord of the flies, but then it isn't. Which is a shame, as I think an all girl version of Lord of the Flies would be a very different story.

So not exactly the dictionary definition of a facsimile, then.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good News Bad News

Good News: I received the big box, well, two big boxes of early Tammys I'd been waiting for today. Enough to keep me reading for a long time.

Bad News: I am reminded I have an allergy to paper dust, of which these old and tatty comics have a generous supply.

Things I'd do if I had a time machine #17

I just received a box of early Jintys. They are generally in quite reasonable condition except where some child has inexpertly coloured one specific serial with felt tips for the entirety of its run in issues 1 to 11.

If I had a time machine, I'd travel back to 1974 and give that child a slap.

And take away all her felt pens.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Without a bang or a whimper

I just got a bunch of late edition Tammys, and I was quite excited because this included the last ever issue of the comic. There's this weird feeling of well, I've got the first issue and the last issue; now I just have to fill in the ones between.

But is it the final issue? It's dated June 23rd 1984, which is the date everyone gives for the last issue, but there's no "Great news for all our readers"[1] message. None of the stories reach their conclusion. In fact one story, Secret Sisters begins in this issue. So what's going on?

I did a bit of digging, asked a few knowledgeable folk, and as far as I can piece it together, what happened was this: Tammy was scheduled for the chop, but not until late August. Then there was a printers' strike[2], and IPC couldn't print any comics for several weeks. And rather than delay the cancellation, as they would have had to do if they had kept going, in order to complete all the stories, they opted to cut their losses and leave everything unfinished. So Tammy disappears at the end of June, and then two months later the Tammy masthead gets added to Girl for a handful of issues before Girl gets a makeover and is relaunched with a new look.

I'm told that none of the strips are carried over to Girl. It seems they didn't even bother using the merge to complete the unfinished ones. But I need to check on that as I haven't found anyone who has actually got those comics yet.

Another odd thing is that Tammy was supposed to be part of a comics promotion by KP Skips[3] in the following weeks. In fact it was the only girls' comic taking part. Which led to a slightly entertaining notice being posted in the other comics to cover Tammy's last minute exclusion, suggesting that ex-Tammy readers might like to pick one of the other titles in the promotion. Roy of the Rovers[4] perhaps? Battle Action Force, maybe?

So with a certain poetry, and a dash of irony, Tammy, which was created due to a strike, is ultimately felled by one, too. We'll never know if Bella betrayed a friend to join the acrobatics club, whether Paula and Natalie ever got their right bodies back; we'll never even know whether Cora [4] would win the Victory Cup, or succumb to a brain haemorrhage and die before crossing the winning line. With Tammy, it could have gone either way...

1) The way cancellation in British comics of the period was usually heralded. More about that another time.
2) Yes, another one.
3) A popular snackfood of the time. Prawn cocktail flavour.
4) A football comic.
5) With only one more episode to go, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prologue to Tammy

Comics don't just appear in a void; they are the products of their times. And Tammy was perhaps the side effect of a strike.

In 1971 IPC's popular title Sally had a break in publication of several weeks. I don't know the cause of this, and as it is both obscure and pre-internet, it's not something you can just look up on Wikipedia. The assumption is that this was due to a strike, since the 1970's were plagued with them. Every other week someone was striking about something.

I also don't know how long the break lasted, but it was long enough to have a cover celebrating its return, and a message from the titular Sally apologising for her absence.

Says comics buff Phil Rushton:
When it first appeared in June 1969 IPC had great ambitions for Sally which, as far as I'm aware, was the first title to reflect Gerry Finlay-Day's fresh approach to girls' comics (though the original editor was listed as Lennox Wenn). Unfortunately, such a long absence from newsagent's shelves must have had a crippling effect on the circulation of this relatively new comic (no doubt many readers had long since jumped ship to DC Thomson's more reliable Bunty). As a result, the very issue that saw Sally's return also featured an advert for a brand new weekly that was to be released the following week with all the advantages of free gifts and a high-power publicity campaign. This, of course, was Finlay-Day's own Tammy.
And that was pretty much the death-knell for Sally, promoting the very comic that would not only replace it, but which would absorb it within a couple of months, becoming the first of five titles that would merge with Tammy over its thirteen year history. Given the schedule, it's hard to believe that this wasn't the plan all along, and that the break in circulation doomed Sally.

Did anything of Sally survive long in Tammy, once they'd merged? I don't know, though I expect to find out shortly. I do know that Sally didn't get to share Tammy's masthead for long. It needed the room for the next comic it claimed....

Thanks also to Phil for the images from Sally used here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Indexing for fun and (not) profit

I've started indexing Tammy at the Grand Comic Book Database, which is very good for American comics, but chronically short of British titles.

It's a slow process, but by the time I've finished (at some distant point in the future) you'll be able to look up any story or character and find what issues they appeared in.

I'm also planning to do the same for Misty and Jinty.

I encourage any fan of British comics to contribute to this work.

Cover story

The problem with not having many issues yet is that it's difficult to find much to say about them. But one thing I have been noticing is the change in cover styles Tammy went through.

The early issues have a fairly generic composition, although the style places it firmly in the early 1970's, with its sub-psychodelia influences. It's colourful but bland, inevitably showing a generic girl in the foreground and a simply realised scene behind her. It makes me think of a posed photo, only redrawn in a simplified paint-by-numbers style.

Then at some point we get a change of direction, and by 1975 we have two cover girls, who  appear regularly, often doing some Tammy-related activity. These covers often have some comedic element, or even meta-commentary. The odd thing, though, is the way their hair changes colour. Generally the short one with bunches is blonde, and the taller one with shoulder length hair is a brunette, but sometimes one of them is a very orangey redhead, and occasionally their hair colouring is completely reversed. I'm told they even had a story entitled The Cover Girls in one issue, but I don't have that one yet.

I believe they are supposed to represent Tammy and one of the various comics that Tammy swallowed up, but I'm not sure which one.

Then there's a period where they have a story starting on the cover. I don't know much about that as I don't have any examples from that era yet.

The Final cover style that took over in the last couple of years, along with a new title logo, was a fairly straightforward spotlighting of one of the features in the comic, often the popular Bela Barlow. I can't help feeling that the comic loses some of its warmth and individuality with the passing of the Cover Girls. Instead of giving you a fun little scene with the comic-obsessed duo, it's just an advert, sometimes even reusing art from inside the comic. Even the logo has gone rather bland.