Tuesday, July 13, 2010
40 Year Flashback: SMASH! Holiday Special 1970
Over the next few blogs if and when time permits I'll be taking a glance at some of the Summer Specials that were available 40 years ago. Today I'm giving the Smash! Holiday Special a quick look.
This was the second and final Holiday Special devoted solely to Smash! although there had been the Smash! Pow! It's Fantastic Summer Special in 1968 and there would be a Valiant and Smash! special in 1971. However for 1970 this edition was part of IPC's range of mammoth 96 page specials which always felt worth the money.
How could IPC produce such a chunky volume for the cost of a mere three shillings? Simple. Most of the content was reprint from the archives of Fleetway and Odhams and only eight of the 96 pages were in colour. Reprints would have their original titles altered in a weak attempt to pretend these were new characters, with The Tiddlers and Super Sir from Wham! becoming The Horrors and Puffing Billy, and The Wacks becoming The Beat Boys. Nevertheless much of the material seemed "new" to the young readers of 1970 and it provided a good long summer read.
Of the brand new material, Janus Stark led off the special with the master escapologist taking up a challenge from a rival, inevitably ending up saving his rival's life. The artwork was by J.G. Quiros who signed the last page, presumably unnoticed by IPC who usually whited out signatures back then.
A text story of Master of the Marsh was notable because it featured three illustrations by Mike Noble. The artist was famed for his work on TV21 and Look-In but for a short time in 1970 he also produced a few items for IPC. As expected, Noble's illustrations here featured the usual dynamic energy seen in his strip work.
Most of the few colour pages were given to photo features but pages 56 and 57 contained illustrations by Geoff Campion for Warriors of the World. This feature used to run on the cover of Smash! in 1969 and given the amount of space on the pages in the Special I'm wondering if these were unused covers.
Sammy Shrink made an appearance in a new two-pager drawn by Terry Bave. This little character must have been hugely popular with readers as he started out in Wham, moved to Pow, then to Smash, then was revived for Knockout and moved to Whizzer and Chips when that comic merged into it.
There was also a brand new Bad Penny strip; a really fast paced seaside romp which looks like the artwork of Mike Brown.
Wrapping up the Smash! Holiday Special was a 17 page story entitled Planet Underwater. At least that's the title here. The strip was an edited reprint from a series of single-page episodes of the 1964 serial The Drowned World from Buster written by Ken Bulmer with artwork by Solano Lopez.
As a child Planet Underwater was the highlight of my Smash! Holiday Special. I was totally captivated by Solano's dark claustrophobic artwork and the struggles of the hero Tug Tempest. In retrospect some of the scenes are ludicrous, such as the one below with the whale turning up in the flooded town, but the scene that followed with the train crash and collapsing bridge was truly nightmarish. A great example of the sort of eerie tension that Fleetway could convey in their comics back then. Exciting stuff!
I'll review another 1970 summer special soon!