Friday, May 21, 2010
It's Buster's 50th Birthday!
Fifty years ago this weekend, Fleetway Publications launched the first issue of a brand new comic that would give D.C. Thomson's Dandy and Beano a run for their money for four decades. Buster, Son of Andy Capp had arrived!
The new comic both gave a nod to the past (tabloid size) and heralded the future in that it was distinctively more modern looking and faster paced than the bygone days of Illustrated Chips and Comic Cuts. This was a bold new direction to immediately establish that Fleetway were going to be more contemporary than their predecessors Amalgamated Press.
As seen by the ad above, issue No.1 officially launched on Monday 23rd May 1960, although there were copies on sale two days earlier on Saturday 21st May. Buster (as it would be known, when the Andy Capp references were dropped a few months later) featured a good balance of both humour and adventure strips. The old A.P. practice of including text stories was not evident in this new venture. With the rise of Television, visual storytelling was the way to go.
The first issue was promoted in the Daily Mirror with a short article strategically placed beneath the Andy Capp strip on Saturday May 21st 1960. Here it is in context:
Advertisements for the new comic also appeared in the paper, (seen at the top of this posting) and this continued for issues two and three:
As fans of the comic will know, over the years Buster shrank its dimensions to the standard size (whilst increasing its page count) and gradually phased out its adventure strips to become part of the IPC Humour Group. In the course of its 40 years Buster absorbed many other titles, become an all full colour comic and, sadly, by the final issue in December 1999 had become all reprint. The comic that had begun a new direction for Fleetway in 1960 had become the last surviving title of the traditional IPC funnies. With no other comics of its type to merge into, and with sales falling, Buster simply ceased publication at the end of 1999.
I was fortunate enough to become one of Buster's many contributors in 1988 when Oink! merged into its pages, bringing in my Tom Thug and Pete and His Pimple strips. Tom Thug survived in Buster as all-new material until 1996 and as a reprint for the comic's final three years. It was always a very pleasant experience to work for the comic (and its editor Allen Cummings) and I'm very proud to be part of its history.
To celebrate the comic's 50th Anniversary, the Buster fan site is to feature interviews with Allen Cummings and the artists and writers who worked on the comic (including myself). The interviews should go live this weekend over at: http://www.bustercomic.co.uk/