Sunday, July 13, 2008
Flashback: This week in July 1965
Ready for another journey back in time to the newsagent's counter of decades past? This time, here's a few of the many comics that were available 43 years ago this week, cover dated 17th July 1965...
TV Comic No 709, TV Publications Ltd. 16 pages. Price 6d
This title had started life in the 1950s aimed at quite a young, practically pre-school readership but by 1965 it had shifted its focus towards the traditional 7 to 11 age group. That said, it's still "younger" in tone than most comics of that period.
I can quite clearly remember laughing out loud at the Popeye strip on this cover during a train journey to Blackpool. For some reason Jib Boom's catchphrase "Put up yer dukes" tickled me. (I was only six and easily amused.)
Inside the issue, Neville Main's Doctor Who was in "the magic wonderland" encountering the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Even as a child I realized this was far too immature a concept for a Doctor Who story and wasn't particularly taken by TV Comic's version of the character.
Over the page, the TV Terrors (an original strip not based on any show) take a trip in the TARDIS themselves. I've scanned the page here as a curiosity piece for any Doctor Who fans reading this.
TV Comic's full colour centre pages at the time were given to Space Patrol, a strangely unsettling Saturday teatime puppet series that always seemed a bit colder and darker than its Gerry Anderson-produced rivals. The strip version by Bill Mevin reflects this a little but lacks the sheer creepiness of the puppet show.
Other strips in TV Comic in July 1965 included The Tellygoons, Beetle Bailey, Foo Foo and Go Go, and The Dickie Henderson Family!
Valiant (un-numbered) Fleetway, 40 pages. Price 7d
Fleetway's comics always seemed confident and professional and in 1965 their main titles had expanded to 40 pages an issue, - over twice as many pages as some comics of the period. The expanded page count meant that Valiant padded itself out with some European reprint (an edited version of Jean Giraud's Fort Navajo, and a Franquin strip) but the content was mostly all new. Favourites such as Kelly's Eye, The Wild Wonders and The Steel Claw continued to thrill the readers, as did Mytek the Mighty.
A typically eccentric British strip, Mytek was a giant mechanical ape controlled from inside its head by a fiendish dwarf. All played perfectly straight of course. The page shown above features one of those nightmarish scenes that UK comics excelled in: Mytek stares directly at the reader as a hatch slides shut in his chest imprisoning screaming human captives begging for mercy. A perfect horror moment drawn by Eric Bradbury.
On a lighter note, Captain Hurricane featured the usual German-bashing antics of the Royal Marine with a short fuse. Sometimes the simplest things set Hurricane off on a "Ragin' Fury". This week, a pigeon lands on his head and the next moment the Captain is kicking a door down and punching Nazi faces in.
Jack O'Justice was a nicely drawn two pager by Tom Kerr that appeared at the back of Valiant. Fleetway strips often played with the supernatural (or what appeared to be supernatural) as the atmospheric page above demonstrates.
The Dandy No.1234, D.C. Thomson, 16 pages. Price 3d.
All the usual top quality material in this issue, kicking off with Charlie Grigg drawing Korky the Cat stealing a fish and avoiding the gamekeeper. Figures of authority were always prime targets for Dandy characters, whether it be Dads, schoolteachers, or Colonel Grumbly in Corporal Clott.
Inside, one of the Desperate Dan serials was in full swing. This particular story about a "Man from Mars" ran for several weeks. The "Martian" turned out to be Danny and Katey, - not unexpectedly, but it was entertaining nevertheless thanks to Dudley Watkins' considerable talent. On the opposite page, Winker Watson and his pals pursue a Gypsy for stealing their clothes, but the real thief (Winker's brother Wally I seem to recall) wouldn't be revealed for a few weeks.
The main attraction of The Dandy for me at the time was the adventure serial The Stinging Swarm. The figurework of artist Jack Glass had a certain stiffness about it but that proved ideal for this strip about a swarm of insects that paralysed their victims.
This issue of The Dandy featured an advertisement for the 1965 Dandy Summer Special. I had the special at the time but it's long since gone. However, there's the ad above.
TV Century 21 No.26 City Magazines, 20 pages, price 7d.
There's been a lot of praise written about this title over the years, and deservedly so. (Check out the superb Technodelic website for in depth features.) Back in 1965 this was the favourite comic of many kids (including myself). The cover of this issue actually states "In its first six months of existence, TV CENTURY 21 has pulled ahead of every other children's comic being sold in Great Britain". (See here how demand for the comic outstripped supplies, much to the consternation of the retail trade.)
TV21 (as we all called it, and it later officially became) was a relatively intelligent comic which often featured plots with more sophistication than the various tv series it was based on. Having said that, it was the artwork that was its major attraction. Mike Noble's Fireball XL5 was always more visually exciting than the tv show.
The main strip in TV21 that year was considered to be Stingray, stunningly drawn by Ron Embleton. Bear in mind that children were watching Stingray and Fireball XL5 on black and white televisions at the time so these colour strips were a revelation.
As this edition appeared months before Thunderbirds hit the screens there's no Frank Bellamy in this issue. However, there was a Lady Penelope strip that had been running in the comic since issue one. As readers we were curious to who this character was, particularly as a photo of a puppet we'd never seen on tv appeared beside the logo. Like a posher and less violent version of Modesty Blaise, Lady Penelope and her own Willie Garvin, Parker, fought the robots of Mr.Steelman for much of the year. Again, top class artwork, this time by Eric Eden.
Much as I relished practically every page of TV21, my favourite strip was the one on the back cover: The Daleks, drawn by Richard Jennings. Whilst TV Comic had the rights to run a Doctor Who strip, they didn't have the rights to The Daleks, and vice versa. Therefore this Doctor-less series focused on The Daleks' plans for conquering the galaxy and the struggles of the people they face.
As in The Dalek World annual of the previous year, the TV21 strip featured the pepperpots ruled by the Emperor Dalek. Although the Doctor Who tv series has since adopted a few aspects from the comics (such as the Dalek's flying saucer design) it's never quite gotten the golden spherical-headed Emperor right. (Although Remembrance of The Daleks came close.)
Finally, back to that Blackpool holiday mentioned at the top of this blog. Here's a photo of me aged six, 43 years ago today, sitting outside the "digs", chuffed to bits because I've managed to get TV21 whilst on holiday. (That's my late father and my Aunt with me. Photo taken by my Mum.) There I am clutching the very comic shown above. Happy days!