Sunday, May 30, 2010
40 Year Flashback: COR!! No.1
Forty years ago today IPC Magazines followed up the success of their first humour title Whizzer and Chips with a companion weekly: Cor!! The 32 page comic was priced 7d, the standard cover price for most IPC comics of the time, which immediately made it almost twice as expensive as its main competitors Dandy and Beano.
Nevertheless, Cor!! had twice as many pages as its two rivals, - something it didn't really capitalize on strangely enough. Perhaps IPC felt the content itself was strong enough to compete, and it certainly boasted a good line up of creators with Joe Colquhoun, Mike Lacey, Frank McDiarmid, Terry Bave, Reg Parlett and more.
Kicking off with a distinctive logo, the eye-catching cover of issue one was drawn by Mike Lacey (who also drew the Gus Gorilla vignette which resided beside the masthead for years). The free "10 glasses of fruit drink" was in the form of a sachet of flavoured powder (raspberry as I recall) which you added to water. A similar free gift had been given with Buster five years previously.
Inside, the comic was packed with numerous new characters. Some of them would endure for years whist others, such as Mike Lacey's Whacky (a bit like Chips' Shiner but with a sore arse instead of a sore eye), would eventually vanish into obscurity.
One of Cor's most popular strips was Hire-A-Horror by Reg Parlett. Reg's Rent-A-Ghost had been a success in Buster so presumably group editor Bob Paynter felt it was time to repeat the concept.
The problem I often had with IPC strips was their concept was too narrowly focused. Whilst the tomboyish aspects of The Beano's Minnie the Minx were only part of her character, Cor!! presented us with the less subtle Tomboy. Nice artwork by Brian Lewis on this opening strip though.
Cor!! had a refreshing number of female characters although unfortunately Harriet and her Horse was another case of a strip with a narrow focus and it didn't last very long. Les Barton was the artist, although he'd adopted a simpler style to that which he'd used on I-Spy for Thomson's Sparky.
The strip with the most longevity was Ivor Lott and Tony Broke. This comedy of class war ran throughout Cor's run and into Buster for many years. Another contribution by Reg Parlett, a veteran of humour comics whose style was always perfectly clear to follow and pleasantly amusing. Flawless cartooning. Curiously in this first episode it's Ivor who gets the last laugh, going against the usual comic formula of the underdog getting the winning hand.
The centre pages of Cor!! were a real treat with the adventure serial Kid Chameleon illustrated by Joe Colquhoun. The artist had already earned respect amongst readers and his peers on strips such as Paddy Payne for Lion and Football Family Robinson for Jag, so his appearance in Cor!! was a definite plus. Unfortunately the reproduction on the new comic wasn't as good as it perhaps could have been for Colquhoun's colour work, with his finer detail dropping out.
Graham Allen, who had contributed many pages to the Odhams comics, was also part of Cor's team with two strips; Eddie (gimmick: he's always bored) and Spoilsport (a bully who picks on kids playing sport, hence he spoils sport, - geddit?). Great cartooning despite another limited concept, but looking at it now I think it may have had a subliminal influence on my Tom Thug character.
Mike Noble, who had produced glorious colour pages for TV21 in the Sixties, was on board to illustrate Four Alone on the Abandoned Island in black and white. Although the strip didn't run for long (and, I think, another artist took over in time) it made a change to see Mike break away from the futuristic aspects of Fireball XL5 and Zero X.
On the back page was Teacher's Pet drawn by Norman Mansbridge. As with Fuss Pott which appeared later in Knockout, Mansbridge was great at portraying horrendous schoolgirls and Teacher's Pet was one of Cor's most popular strips, running until the final issue in 1974.
Cor!! No.1 featured 27 strips in all. For those of us who'd grown accustomed to the brasher characters and more varied content of Wham!, Smash! and Pow! the more formularized format of Cor's endless kids-with-gimmicks was a bit of a disappointment. Even so, Cor!! had some of the best artists in the industry working on it, although Barney's Brain Box was never going to be a substitute for Smash's The Nervs.
Nevertheless, Cor!! was a good solid comic which had a respectable four year run before merging into Buster. At the time, the title Cor!! was considered to be a bit risque, as it was a shorthand version of "Cor blimey" (God blind me). Even today I still remember one lad's Mum in WH Smith taking the comic off him and putting it back on the shelf, saying "I don't care for the language in that"! I wonder what she'd have made of Viz?