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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

40 Year Flashback: TV COMIC and POPEYE Holiday Specials 1970

Polystyle were one of the few British comic companies who had their logo on their comics. The red and green parrot and the legend "A Polystyle Publication" adorned their junior titles for a while from around 1970.

The 1970 TV Comic Holiday Special may have lacked the size of the Thomson specials, or the thickness of the IPC editions, but its 48 glossy pages still contained a lot of material. They were mostly single page "funnies" but a handful of adventure stories were included as well, such as a four page Bill Lacey drawn Catweazle story based on the popular children's tv series starring Geoffrey Bayldon.

The superb ventriloqist Ray Allen, who sadly died recently, was the talent behind Tich and Quackers, two new puppets he'd introduced to his act in 1968. The strip ran in TV Comic for a while and this is the page from the 1970 Holiday Special. (Not sure who the artist is. Bill Mevin?)

It wasn't only contemporary tv stars who appeared in TV Comic. During the late 1960s Bob Monkhouse hosted a tv show presenting clips of old silent comedy films entitled Mad Movies. The Keystone Kops often featured in these clips and became the stars of the Mad Movies strip in the comic.

Tom and Jerry were other characters who had begun to bring laughter to a new generation thanks to television screening their classic MGM shorts. The strip version debuted on the cover of TV Comic in 1969 and the cat and mouse antics took up eight pages in the 1970 special. Here's a two page full colour seaside strip by Bill Titcombe...

TV Comic had its own originated characters too, such as Mighty Moth who ran (or flew) in the weekly for decades. The somewhat bizarre concept involved a super-tough moth being detested by a man he called "Dad", and "Dad's" attempts to kill or avoid the moth. The strip was the creation of Dick Millington who drew it from 1959 to the final issue in 1984 (although I suspect the later ones may have been reprints)

Surely the strangest strip in the TV Comic Holiday Special was this Doctor Who episode with the Third Doctor in drag. (Although Pertwee would actually disguise himself as a charlady in a later Doctor Who episode on tv!) The characterization of The Doctor in this strip bears little resemblance to the one on tv, but as the special would be in production just as Pertwee's stint was starting perhaps they were taking a shot in the dark.

Popeye was always a popular character in TV Comic and for many years was awarded his own Popeye Holiday Special. The cover (below, by Bill Mevin) is brand new but the contents of the 48 page comic feature were American strips by Bud Sagendorf. The artist had been the art assistant to Popeye's creator E.C. Segar so was a natural to take over the strip after Segar passed away.

The special collects many of the U.S. Sunday strips resized into the British page format. You'll notice that although the pages work perfectly, the story doesn't really get going until panel four. This is because in some territories where the strip was sold papers would drop the first three panels if they needed the space, so the gags had to be structured accordingly. Obviously Polystyle didn't feel the need to do this.
What Polystyle did do though was to edit out some Americanisms where they saw fit, so "dollars" became "pounds" and "gal" became "girl", although the editing was quite inconsistent.

Another U.S. newspaper feature to make it into the special was Ripley's Believe It or Not! Perhaps this was part of the deal on buying the Popeye strips, or perhaps Polystyle felt it added a nice balance to the comic. Either way, the quirky articles didn't seem out of place.

Filling out the Popeye special were a few puzzles and the usual centrespread board game.

On the back covers of the Polystyle specials that year (as they'd done the previous year) there was an ad for the three Polystyle weeklies, Pippin, Playland, and TV Comic. This was a commercial move that neither IPC or D.C. Thomson adopted at the time but it made sense for underdog Polystyle to promote their titles wherever they could.

More Summer Special blogs soon.


Niblet said...

Interesting post, Lew. I notice that in the Tich and Quackers strip, Quackers is endowed with the power of speech, but IIRC in the TV show all he could do was quack. Also, in the Mighty Moth story, I wonder if that's Dick Millington drawing himself in panel 8 (the gent with the glasses and beard). I don't know what Dick looked like, but that seems a more deliberate depiction of somebody than the other holidaymakers shown in the same panel.

jon haward said...

bless you lew i had all them as a child special days reading them in the summer :-)

Unknown said...

brought great childhood memorys back to me . getting comics and a bit of pocket money on saturday was a special time for me . can you remember running in the house to watch ,land of the giants !!!!

Unknown said...

I had the pleasure to meet ray one sunny day in reigate . he said to his wife when i walked away . That i was a very funny fellow . a great complimentfrom a very talented guy .

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