For those that don’t know, Tammy and Jinty were two of Britain’s best-loved girl’s comics in the 1970s and ’80s – and that was a pretty packed field, with Bunty, Sally, Girl, Nikki, and many more producing comics delights that featured female-led strips with a huge range of subjects. Sadly, the tradition of these ground-breaking comics, as well as much of the rich history of the girls’ comics field seemed lost, with the last survivor, at least to my limited knowledge, Bunty, bowing out in 2001.
However, with Rebellion’s acquisition of the extensive catalogue of comics making up the Treasury of British Comics, we’re finally seeing all-new girls’ comics hitting the stands at the end of June in the Tammy & Jinty Special 2019.
(Cover by Lisa Henke)
Edited by Lizzie Boyle, the new special features a mix of completely new comics and some old names, retooled for the 21st Century. It’s both a tribute to those that went before and a clarion call to comics to introduce a whole new generation of readers, all too often overlooked today.
(art from Bella at the Bar by Vanessa Cardinali, written by Rachael Ball)
Inside, you’ll find old favourites such as Bella at the Bar, Justine the Winged Messenger, and Maisie’s Magic Eye alongside new strips covering such diverse subjects as football, with the all-new, perfectly timed for the Women’s World Cup, Rocky of the Rovers, epic roller derby adventures, archeology, code-breaking, spectacular space action, and much more, all beneath that fabulous cover by Lisa Henke.
(art by DaNi from The Enigma Variation, written by Grainne McEntee)
JUSTINE: MESSENGER OF JUSTICE – Emma Beeby & PJ Holden, colors by Dearbhla Kelly, letters by Jim Campbell
Just six pages but Beeby and Holden tell a great origin tale, throw in a first adventure, and manage to provide a few laughs along the way. Great opener.
Justine helping out an old lady at the school museum trip ends up changing her life, as that old lady turns out to be Athena herself.
But a cool new job can’t help her get a date, especially after the object of her affection turns into a Minotaur.
Armed with the magical mirror, winged sandals and crown of Hermes, and golden bow of Hypnos, Justine comes up with a very modern way to trap this Minotaur – in her local Ikea… come on, we’ve all been there, right? Perfect labyrinth.
ROCKY OF THE ROVERS – Rob Williams & Lisa Henke, colors by John Charles, letters by Jim Campbell
A major debut for a new star, perfect timing with the Women’s World Cup happening through June and into July. We’ve already seen Rocky Race, younger sister of the newly famous Roy Race, Melchester Rovers’ new star striker, Roy of the Rovers, in the prose novels and graphic novels. But here, she’s stepping into the spotlight herself in a great little footie tale from Williams and Henke.
Rocky plays for local women’s team, Sowerby, but she’s every intention to eclipse her annoying brother’s fame. Truth be told, according to those in the know, she’s a better footballer than Roy. She just has to become her own footballer first. And this is the moment she finds out just what that means.
Henke’s art is the star here, with a fabulously kinetic style that’s perfect at capturing the action on the pitch.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION – Andy W. Clift, letters by Mike Stock
Clift’s popping art style is just a perfect fit for this sort of outer-space adventure, where lowly Val Vox discovers a strange artefact giving her amazing powers and abilities.
It’s Val versus the Overlord with a twist in the tale and some fabulous artwork and colors.
IN THE COLD DARK – Matt Gibbs & V.V. Glass, letters by Mike Stock
Archaeology leads to something very dark and mysterious in this one, as Leela and Aimee accidentally disturb something ancient and threatening and make the mistake of taking a souvenir from a burial site.
Again, it’s another strip that really gets the mix just right, adding some horror into it all. That moment above is dark sure, but it’s cut against a little comedy with the turning of the heads to soften it just enough for the audience. And VV Glass’ art has such a crisp fine line, almost an animated style to it.
MAISIE’S MAGIC EYE – Kate Ashwin & Kel McDonald, letters by Mike Stock
Another one of the rebooted strips, played for laughs, and seeing Ashwin and McDonald riffing so well off each other.
As with a lot of the strips, in one way or another, it’s a case of the put upon, even picked on protagonist coming good, through some bizarre method, a standard of the girl’s comics.
Maisie sees a strange shooting star and next thing you know, she’s got a magical bit of jewellery that makes people do just what she wants. But, in the end, it’s all about friendship and standing up to the bullies in the right way, a great message delivered in a fun way.
SPEED DEMONS – Sarah Millman, letters by Jim Campbell
Back in the old girls’ comics, there were sport strips, but they tended to reflect the attitudes of the time, with ballet, horse-riding and the like. Here, quite rightly, we’ve got sports to reflect girls of today. First, we had football and here we get roller derby.
The Speed Demons roller derby team do well enough, but one of them, Mel-O-Die (yes, they’ve all got great nicknames… Anthrax Amy, Mary Murder!) decides to get herself a little extra help, bringing the demonic to the Speed Demons.
The greatest thing about Millman’s roller derby tale? Just throwing in the line “I went online and found a stupid spell. It was supposed to summon a spirit to help you achieve your goals“. Just throwing that in there as a completely normal thing… that’s very much the spirit of the old girl’s comics right there!
DUCKFACE – Rachael Smith & Yishan Li, letters by Jim Campbell
A classic outsider tale, where Lottie is a really unpopular girl at school and takes her frustrations out creatively with her blog, where she writes and makes poetry. It’s a clever exploration of isolation and the solace so many youngsters find online. Again, something that will definitely ring true with so many of the target audience.
But, in typical wonderful girl’s comics style, a wish that the most vapid girl at school would stick in that stupid duckface pose ends up causing her trouble.
Smith and Li turn it around in a couple of pages, but do so in a sweet, perfect way. There’s nothing wrong at all with a story giving you a moral lesson as long as it’s done as well as Duckface is.
Now, to be honest, every strip in here works and every strip in here looks and reads wonderfully well. But, there’s always going to be favourites and I’ve got to highlight two that I thought were the absolute standouts of the issue for very different reasons.
THE ENIGMA VARIATION – Grainne McEntee & DaNi, letters by Jim Campbell
It looks absolutely unlike anything else in here. I’d seen DaNi’s work before but here, with an almost chiaroscuro style of deep blacks and red highlights, it’s something absolutely gorgeous to behold. In many ways it’s the strip that most evokes the detailed and magnificent artwork from the original comics, but it goes beyond that to deliver something truly lovely.
The story is a different one as well, with a school trip to Bletchley Park serving as both a springboard to a fantastical time-travelling tale and a wonderful acknowledgement of the work of the women and men who worked, mostly unheralded, in code-breaking during WWII to save millions of lives.
It’s a wonderful thing, story and art in perfect harmony. And I’d love, absolutely love to see more of this.
BELLA AT THE BAR – Rachael Ball & Vanessa Cardinali, letters by Jim Campbell
Finally, the strip that may well divide a lot of those picking the Tammy & Jinty Special up for nostalgia. Bella at the Bar is perhaps the best known of all the girl’s comic strips and much loved for the incredible artwork of John Armstrong.
So to reboot it with such a radically different art style really is doing something a little risky. Some may hate it, but not me. I thought the choice was brave and definitely one that paid off.
Cardinali’s art might be very different on first look, but it carries on the spirit and style of the original. The sequences of Bella performing her dance moves are every bit as kinetic and graceful as they should be. Likewise, Ball’s story captures everything that was in the original yet updates it for the now. It’s an excellent strip, full of fun, full of joy, respectful to the work of writer Jenny McDade and artist John Armstrong yet not afraid to alter it to suit a modern audience.
And finally… a couple of rather delightful pin-ups to end this incredibly special Tammy & Jinty Special
Pin up by Mike Collins
Pin up by Kit Buss…