Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Beezer Blog

I never really read many issues of The Beezer when I was a kid. Some comics I was very loyal to, others I'd try out for a few weeks and change my preferences back and forth, but I gave them all a good run except for The Beezer. I think I only had three of four issues of it all through the 1960s. Funny thing is, I've no idea why it never hooked me. It was a good, solid comic, in no way inferior to any other comic of the period and in fact was better than some. I enjoyed all the other D.C. Thomson funnies as a child, - Dandy, Beano, Sparky, and Topper, - but The Beezer never grabbed me. Strange.

However I'm pleased to see that there's now a smart new blog dedicated to the comic. Created by Simon Mackie The Beezer's Golden Years is still in its early stages so there's not a lot on there yet but it's developing nicely and looks like it'll be worth bookmarking. I'm sure many of you reading this will have been big fans of the comic and will enjoy Simon's blog. I certainly will, - I want to see what I missed!

http://thebeezersgoldenyears.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Toxic No.155 out now

The latest issue of Egmont UK's Toxic is in the shops now. This time the popular and much imitated boys magazine features items on the new Astroboy movie, the Tatsunoko vs Capcom game, a Team Toxic board game by Jon Rushby, the regular Game Cheats section, posters, and more.

In my Team Toxic strip, Villains United, the most gruesome bad guys of Spud City join forces to challenge Team Toxic... to a game of football, - and wait 'til you see the substitute!


There's also an additional Team Toxic strip in the form of a reprint from several years ago when the Team met Butt-Face for the first time.

Bagged with this 32 page full colour issue are three free gifts: Body Part Puzzle, Skeleton Hand Pen, and Stinky Cards Pack.

Toxic No.155, dated 27 Jan - 9 Feb, is £2.50 from most newsagents and supermarkets across the UK. More info: http://www.toxicmag.co.uk/

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cloak is Back!

Never mind the rebirth of Captain America or the Iron Man 2 movie, the biggest news in comics this year has to be the return of classic humour comics character The Cloak! Yes, the black-garbed, bulgy-eyed crimefighter from the 1960s makes his comeback in the pages of the latest issue of Crikey! The Great British Comics Magazine.

As many fans will remember The Cloak was created by Birmingham cartoonist Mike Higgs back in 1967 for Odhams' Pow! weekly, settling in the comic alongside strips such as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Spider-Man and Ken Reid's Dare-A-Day-Davy. Despite the character becoming one of the most popular strips in the comic (and also in Smash! when Pow! merged into it in 1968) The Cloak was dropped when IPC took over Smash! and turned it into a more traditional adventure comic.

Flash forward to 1986, and whilst compiling my Brickman one-shot comic for Harrier Comics I asked Mike Higgs if he'd provide a back up strip. Mike delivered a wonderful five pager, Redundant Hero, reviving The Cloak for the 1980s, - but this was an older, more gaunt version. The years had taken their toll.

That was the last appearance of The Cloak, until 2005, when Mike supplied a great Cloak/Brickman team-up illustration for my book Brickman Begins!

Now, in 2010, Mike has revived The Cloak again, this time in full colour! The four page strip in Crikey! No.13 has the Sixties hero arrive in our time period in pursuit of a new villain, the Time Tea-Leaf (slang for thief, geddit?). I won't spoil the rest of the story for you but I was pleased to see the situation of the "older" Cloak tied into the strip. Fantastic stuff!

If that wasn't enough to whet your appetite for the latest Crikey the issue features more goodies such as an interview with Kevin O'Neill, Mike Higgs on the creation of The Cloak, the conclusion of the feature on Doctor Who comics, a meaty article on Action strip Kids Rule OK and more.


Sadly, this issue sees Crikey! revert to a 52 page mostly black and white publication due to the unexpected closure of Borders bookshops who had been stocking the 84 page full colour issues. This retro step was unfortunately unavoidable, and it was a case of that or closing the magazine. I'm sure that no readers would wish that to happen so I hope everyone will continue to support Glenn B. Fleming and Tony Ingram in their efforts to keep Crikey afloat.

Due to the collapse of Borders and the distribution they provided Crikey! is no longer available in newsagents but you can still find it in some comic specialist shops. Annoyingly, Forbidden Planet won't stock it, but shops owned by Forbidden Planet International (a different company) will, as do other several other outlets (see here for the list). However the best way to keep Crikey alive is by subscription. £30 for six issues sounds like a good deal to me to support the only magazine about British comics. Remember, this isn't a mag with the budget or circulation of the big publishers. It's produced by two blokes trying to make a small circulation magazine work for the benefit of comic fans. You can subscribe by visiting the Crikey! website here:
http://www.crikeyuk.co.uk/sub.html

Blimey! blog articles on The Cloak:

http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2007/01/enter-cloak.html

http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2009/12/christmas-comics-smash-1968.html

http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2009/03/40-year-flashback-smash-regenerates.html


New Commando issues out now


D.C. Thomson have just released the latest four issues of Commando that should be in the shops from today. As usual the consist of two brand new issues and two reprints. Details below from editor Calum Laird...

Commando 4263: FURY STRIKE

Have a look at how these two aircraft — one British, one Soviet — match up:

HAWKER SEA FURY —
ENGINE — 2470hp piston
SPEED — 460mph
ARMAMENT — 4x20mm cannon

MiG 15 —
ENGINE — 2700kg thrust turbojet
SPEED — 680mph
ARMAMENT — 1x37mm machine gun, 2x23mm machine guns

Which one do you think would come out on top in a dogfight? Maybe the MiG? Well, you’ll find out if you read this amazing story…

Story: Alan Hemus Inside artwork and full wraparound cover: Ian Kennedy

Originally No 3024 from 1997


Commando 4264: JACK’S PRIVATE WAR

“A splinter of metal is lodged in your heart. If it moves, you will die.” These words struck Flight-Lieutenant Jack Hammond like a hammer blow.
His immediate thought was to lie still, keep quiet, not move. But then he reasoned — if I’ve got to go, I might as well go out fighting! It was then that Jack declared his own private war on the Nazis — and he didn’t care whether he survived it or not.

Story: Ken Gentry Inside artwork and cover: Ian Kennedy

Originally No 813 from 1974. Ian’s first complete story/cover combination.

Ken Gentry was, I think, based in South Africa which in the days of snail mail made the delivery of one of his scripts a long drawn-out process, especially if there were changes need to the synopsis.


Commando No 4265: Blast From The Past

When the Germans bulldozed their way into France in 1940, it re-awakened memories of the First World War.
In one case it also re-awakened a vast cache of explosives left forgotten in that country. A terrifying reminder of what had happened 25 years before. And for one soldier, Lieutenant Johnny Stafford of the Royal Engineers, this was only the first blast from the past this war would bring.

Story: Alan Hebden Inside art and cover: Keith Page


Commando No 4266: Battle Over Britain

In June 1940, the RAF battled in the skies of over Britain to turn back armadas of German bombers and fighters launched against them. The fighting was desperate and deadly.
But this wasn’t the first time that British airmen had done battle in those same skies. Years earlier, airborne attackers had streamed across from Europe to attack. And just as in 1940, it was up to a handful of brave men to turn them back.

Story: Sean Blair Inside artwork and cover: José Maria Jorge

More info at the Commando website: http://www.commandomag.com/

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bill Ritchie 1931 - 2010


Sad news today. I've just heard that humour comics artist Bill Ritchie passed away a few days ago, on Monday January 25th.

Born in 1931 Bill's style will be familiar to everyone who grew up with DC Thomson humour comics, specifically The Beezer and Sparky. His most popular character has to be Baby Crockett, which he illustrated for The Beezer and also drew a separate strip featuring the character for younger readers in the pages of Bimbo. (See example above, from 14th August 1965.)

Bill had a clear and charming penline that was easy on the eye and always a pleasure to view. His distinct style was perfect for Sparky when it launched 45 years ago and his strip The Moonsters soon found itself promoted from the back cover to the front. This example from issue 51, January 8th 1966:


Later, when Sparky was revamped, Thomsons retained Bill's services for the cover slot, and for several years he illustrated Barney Bulldog for the comic. This sample is from No.398, September 2nd 1972:


These are just three examples of his long career and the impressive number of pages he produced over that time. He was even still working at the age of 78, drawing cartoons for Thomson's newspaper The Weekly News and, as Willie Ritchie, illustrating children's books for GWPublishing.

Reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum, Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin wrote: "Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan. For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill. His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

Bill Ritchie's work was always gently amusing and very individualistic. The simplicity of the line disguised the absolute craftsmanship and skilled composition of his pages. There's no mistaking his style and it was always of the highest professional standard. Over the decades his work must have entertained millions of children, and that's a proud achievement that I hope will bring some comfort for his family in this time of loss.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Advertisements for comics of the past


Whilst doing a quick scout through the website http://www.ukpressonline.co.uk I discovered that comic publishers used to advertise their comics occasionally in The Daily Mirror. Of course, some publishers (such as Odhams) had close ties with the Mirror anyway, but such ads were a great way to notify parents of new comics or "boom issues" that contained free gifts. These days it would be too costly for comic publishers to afford such ads in the national press, as the low circulations of today's comics wouldn't justify the expense.

Above is an ad for Ally Sloper taken from a Daily Mirror of 1907, enticing the readers with a competition to provide the final line to a limerick. I can only guess what the winning entry to this one might be...

"Alas! sighed a poor little maid,
"The men really seem quite afraid;
And if this kind of thing
Goes on until the Spring -

...I'm never going to get bloomin' lai-, - anyway missus, Miller's the name, there'll never be another. But Ally Sloper seems to have been the original cheeky chappie.

Here's another one from 1907, suggesting they were quite frequent in the paper...


Below is the ad for the very first issue of Film Fun on 13th January 1920. Quite appropriate considering the 90th anniversary of that issue was only recently. Note that unlike the Sloper ad of 11 years previous, this ad features some artwork to brighten it up, reflecting the changing approach to design. (By the way, the "free PLATE" is a photo, not something to eat a slap-up feed from.) I've retained the rest of the page to show you as well because it features the children's section of the Mirror with Austen Bowen Payne's Pip, Squeak and Wilfred strip which had started in the Mirror the previous year.

Next is an ad for the Kinema Comic from 21st April 1920. The success of Film Fun inspired Amalgamated Press to quickly release a copycat before their rivals did. Kinema Comic ran until 1932.


Exactly 81 years ago today, on January 23rd 1929, this ad for Bubbles appeared in the Daily Mirror. The comic had been running since 1921 but to give it a boost A.P. were giving away a couple of "jolly toys" for a few weeks.


On February 5th 1929, it was the turn of Playbox to give away "jolly toys" in the form of a dodgy looking seaman rowing off with a boatload of children. Innocent times.


Things were apparently still jolly on November 25th 1931 when Bubbles gave away another gift, assuring parents it'd keep their children "amused for hours". Or at least until the twirling bubbles fell off the ten inch metal spike.


It's January 27th 1934 and Playbox is giving away a toy that goes beyond "jolly" and into "superb". Yes, it's a "marvelous free toy wristlet watch" that "has hands that move when the winder is turned", but remain perfectly still otherwise. "They can play with it to their heart's content". So it's a watch that didn't actually work then. (I'm being too cynical. I had a similar one when I was about four and thought it was fun, but not necessarily "superb".)


Finally, on Friday March 11th 1938 the popular Mickey Mouse Weekly was giving away an "Amazing New 5 in 1 puzzle".


Such ads for comics would continue to appear in the Daily Mirror for many years, some of which I've already covered on a previous blog here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2008/11/daily-mirror-archive-of-strips-all.html


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

45 years ago: The first issue of TV21


On this day 45 years ago, City Magazines launched the first issue of a bold new large format comic that would become one of the most fondly remembered titles in UK comics history. I am of course talking about TV Century 21.

The comic later officially simplified its title to TV21 although in fact right from the start the editors and their readers often referred to it by the shorter title anyway, so that's how I'll refer to it here.

With City's close association with Gerry Anderson's Century 21 productions TV21 was far more than just a comic that featured tv characters. The editor himself (Alan Fennell) was a scriptwriter on Fireball XL5 and Stingray, and Lady Penelope debuted in her own strip in issue one several months before the first episode of Thunderbirds ever appeared on tv. The comic also had access to exclusive photographs of the models and characters, which were ideal for the newspaper-style covers of TV21. All in all, TV21 was very much a part of the Gerry Anderson universe, and the exciting thing was that the comic presented all those tv shows as part of a shared universe.


As was the case for comics back then, ads for the new weekly appeared on tv. A dynamic full page advertisement also appeared in the Daily Mirror dated 20th January 1965 (seen above). However, TV21 had a turbulent start, becoming a victim of its own huge success as demand outstripped supplies. The full story of which can be read on the superbly researched Technodelic website here:
http://www.technodelic.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Upload02/YNToday01.htm (That website also gives incredibly in-depth details about the whole run of the comic and all the other Anderson-related strips so if you haven't already checked it out please do so. I can't recommend it highly enough.)

As TV21 was such a significantly popular comic I'm going to show issue No.1 in its entirety here. Not detailed scans of every page, as that would contravene copyright, but photographs of each spread to at least give you an idea of the look and presentation of this fine venture. Click on each image to see it larger.

What's notable about the cover is the mature approach taken in presenting it as a futuristic newspaper (dated 2065) rather than leading with a strip as most comics of the time did. Straight away this made the comic stand out from its contemporaries. Notice also how low key the free gift info is, tucked away in the bottom right hand corner. It's clear that Fennell knew it was Stingray that was selling this comic, not a cheap free gift. Today's "focus groups" and sales managers would probably hate this cover, as they'd perceive the headers "Stingray Lost" and "Steve Zodiac Dead?" as too "negative". In truth it's a very exciting cover that makes the reader want to know more about the story behind the headlines.

Regarding the free gift, the Identicode was superb. Every week the taglines at the end of each strip would be written in code, and the Identicode was used to decipher them. This reader involvement was great fun and at the same time not the sort of comic "activity" that was too dumbed down. Here's the very free gift I had 45 years ago today, somewhat worn with use those many years ago but still intact. And I never did get around to sticking my photo in it...


Leading off the interior strips was the non-Anderson, non-futuristic Burke's Law. A strange choice for starters perhaps but the comic needed its Anderson material to appear on the few available full colour pages. However Gene Barry's U.S. tv cop show was popular with a family audience so it couldn't hurt to begin with something more traditional.


Pages 4 and 5 really start the ball rolling with Fireball XL5 in full colour. These initial Fireball strips were drawn by Graham Coton, who would be replaced by the slicker and more dynamic style of Mike Noble with issue No.6. Presumably the decision to bring in Mike Noble had already been decided as you'll notice the title panel actually looks like Noble's work although he has apparently denied this.


You'll also notice that the tone of the strip is somewhat darker than the tv series was. The end of the first episode, with Steve Zodiac apparently dead, would be an unlikely cliffhanger for a children's comic today.


Over the page is the first of TV21's many articles on space exploration. TV21 really knew how to capture the mood of the times and for children of the Sixties, the optimism of space travel was an exciting prospect. On the facing page is the humour strip My Favourite Martian drawn by Bill Titcombe, based on the American tv series starring Ray Walston and Bill Bixby.


Page 8 is devoted to advertising space, but even that partially has an Anderson theme with its ad for a Fireball XL5 toy rocket. On page 9, Contact 21 is the reader's input page. Later issues would see the mysterious "Twenty One" gain his own comic strip as Secret Agent 21.


The centrespread is a wonderful Ron Embleton colour job for the first Stingray strip. Artists on TV21 were allowed some flexibility to make the characters look more realistic than their tv puppets. A wise move which lent the comic an air of
maturity that caricatures wouldn't have achieved. Note the use of a few stills from the tv show as part of the strip. This practice was soon dropped from the comic, although TV21 art editor Dennis Hooper would revive the idea for the first few issues of Countdown comic when he was its editor in 1971.


Embleton captured the design of Stingray perfectly. The 1960s were a marvelous time for UK adventure strips as larger and more experimental panel layouts became more commonplace, allowing for more dynamism in the comics.

Although the puppet shows were fantastic, the strips offered the kids scenes that could not have looked as convincing on tv with models, such as this dramatic giant jellyfish terrorizing the ship...


Page 12 gives us another article, the first in the Oceans of Mystery series. With Stingray being the main strip in TV21 it was probably assumed that kids would be interested in life under the sea as well as space exploration. On page 13, ads for Corgi Toys and the popular Anglo bubble gum.


Pages 13 and 14 feature Supercar. Interestingly it was treated as a comedy adventure strip in TV21, perhaps because by 1965 this earlier Gerry Anderson series was seen as less sophisticated than Fireball XL5 and Stingray.


Over the page, impressive artistry by Eric Eden for the first episode of Lady Penelope. This strip seemed an oddity for readers in January 1965 as Thunderbirds was still only in the production stage so we had no idea who she was. However, the opening episode introduced us to the characters and even showed us how Parker first met Lady Penelope. A year later Lady Penelope would spin off into her own highly successful comic for girls.


Interesting work here by Eden who manages to provide dramatic artwork whilst still retaining the distinctive qualities of the puppets. It was a great idea for these characters to have their genesis in TV21 before appearing in Thunderbirds and I don't think any other licensed comic has used this approach before or since.

On page 18, Cosmic Capers was a lighthearted feature to bring some lightness from the tension in the strips. (And, yes, the title did inspire me to come up with Robo Capers in the 1980s.) Zoony the Lazoon, who was the comedy relief in the Fireball XL5 tv show, was considered inappropriate for the more serious tone of the Fireball XL5 strip so he had his own humour strip here. Also featured is a regular Music Box feature by Barry Gray, the composer of the themes for Gerry Anderson's shows.


Note the introductory editor's letter below. Again, it's TV21 playing it straight with the readers, with editor Alan Fennell using his own name instead of the jokey pseudonyms used in some comics.


On page 19 it's the Corgi Model Club, - the only enduring feature of the entire run of TV21. Presumably City Magazines received some sponsorship fee for this as Corgi Toys were plugged on the cover of every single issue. Beneath that, another aquatic article.

On the back page, a strip that had no connection to the Anderson universe but still used popular tv icons, - The Daleks. The first Dalek comic strips had appeared a year earlier in Panther Book's The Dalek Book and the TV21 strip continued the aspects set up in that annual, some of which would later be adopted into the 2005 Doctor Who tv series (such as the Dalek's golden flying saucer design). In this first TV21 episode we're presented with an origin for The Daleks. The strip was written by Terry Nation and David Whittaker but Nation would contradict this origin somewhat with his Genesis of the Daleks serial for Doctor Who in the 1970s. Artwork here is by Richard Jennings.


I was five years old when TV21 was launched, so a little under the target age of 7 to 12 year olds. Nevertheless, like many kids, I was thrilled by this new comic. I became an avid reader of TV21 throughout 1965, and so did many other kids apparently, with the comic becoming the most successful launch of the period. (It's initial print run of 450,000 being insufficient to meet demand. Incredible, when comics today are considered a success for selling 60,000.) Its nearest rival, Eagle, was immediately made to look old fashioned by this modern looking newcomer. Sadly toward the end of the sixties, the quality of TV21 began to decline, and interest in "space" petered out after the first moon landing. By the time TV21 merged into Valiant in 1971 it was little different to any other boys adventure comic of the time. However, for today, it's time to remember when TV21 was fresh and innovative, and when "Adventure in the 21st Century" was something to look forward to every Wednesday.

Note: To see how much TV21 had changed by 1969, read my blog on the first combined issue of TV21 & Joe 90 here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2007/11/flashback-1969-tv21-joe-90-no1.html

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Video interview with Lise Myhre


Nemi : Promotion canapé #14 : Lise Myhre
Uploaded by editionsmilady. - Independent web videos.

As many of you know, Norwegian cartoonist Lise Myhre's comic strip Nemi appears in the UK free newspaper Metro and is collected into hardback annuals from Titan Books. Now, the strip has recently been launched in France by Milady books. I've just noticed that an interview with Lise has appeared on the dailymotion website and, if I've done this correctly, should be visible for you to watch above. Although Lise speaks English fluently I think this is the first time she's done a video interview in English so I thought fans of Nemi would enjoy seeing it. Click on the screen to begin play.

(Please let me know if there are any problems viewing it as it's the first time I've posted a video link here.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January Commandos


The first issues of Commando comics for January 2010 are in the shops now, or you can subscribe at: http://www.commandomag.com

More information from editor Calum Laird...

The latest batch of Commandos includes the first two of four re-issues of classic Ian Kennedy illustrations for Commando. No 4261 was the first cover he executed and 4262 was the first complete book he did for us.

Desperate Despatches brings to a close the adventures of the Headline Heroes created by Norman Adams and given from by Keith Page. The popular newsmen have fought their last battle… or have they? A groundswell of opinion on the Commando website is asking for the reporters’ notebooks to be re-opened. Who knows if that will happen?

The Ghost Front is set in the Ardennes, the third of three stories based round the Battle of the Bulge and, sadly, the last contribution by Ricardo Garijo who passed away last year.

Coming on January the 28th are two more classic contributions from Ian Kennedy, a high-explosive story from Alan Hebden and Keith Page plus high-flying tale from the pen of Sean Blair and the brushes of José Maria Jorge.


Commando No 4259: Desperate Despatches

The year was 1901 and a run-in with “The Mad Mullah” of British Somaliland was all in a day’s work for the intrepid war reporters of the Trident newspaper, working alongside rival scribes Charles Black and Ned Bly.

Sent to South Africa to cover the final stages of the Boer War. Not much of a story there, they thought. But with a rogue Boer Commando unit on the rampage and the return of an old enemy, there most definitely was a story to tell. And you can read the exclusive right here, of course. Prepare to be thrilled by the

DESPERATE DESPATCHES

Story: Norman Adams

Inside art and cover: Keith Page


Commando No 4260: THE GHOST FRONT

In December 1944. After a six-month-long, hard-fought advance by the Allies, the Ardennes sector of Belgium seemed so quiet it was nicknamed “The Ghost Front” by troops stationed there.

All that changed with the shock German offensive which became known as The Battle Of The Bulge.

With his fellow soldiers reeling from this surprise attack, First Lieutenant Sam Bendis – a Signals Corps Field Photographer – would have to step up to the challenge of leadership. He and his new buddies would have to dig in…and fight to the death if need be.

Story: Ferg Handley

Inside art: Ricardo Garijo

Cover: Ian Kennedy


Commando 4261: SEEK AND STRIKE

High over the Mediterranean appeared the Junkers 87s to raid and pummel the Allied convoys bound for Malta. Their deadly work done, the Junkers flew off and disappeared…no one knew where. Time and again it happened.

But the day came when these killers met their match - a sturdy old Fairey Swordfish that took to the air with a torpedo slung below her belly. One, plane, one torpedo — but she’d finish them all.

Story: Roger Clegg

Inside art: Amador

Cover: Ian Kennedy


Commando 4262: COUGAR SQUADRON

In the skies over Vietnam, the Americans and the North Vietnamese fought for supremacy day after day. When expert tactician Major John Gardener was given command of the crack Cougar Squadron, he thought his great planning skills would make all the difference.

But he quickly found out that tactics on the ground did not always work in the air. Especially when you are up against an enemy who is every bit as cunning and able as you are!

Story: Ian Clark

Inside art and cover: Ian Kennedy


Thursday, January 14, 2010

The 90th Anniversary of Film Fun


This week marks the 90th anniversary of the launch of Film Fun, one of the most successful comics from Amalgamated Press. It ran from 1920 to 1962, compiling over 2,000 issues before it merged into new kid on the block Buster.

I don't have many issues of this long running title so rather than waffle on about a comic I know little about I thought I'd share a selection of covers here to demonstrate how the style of the comic changed over the years. The earliest issue I have is from 1932 (seen above). With its 24 page format, and approx A4 page size, it must have seemed quite radical compared to the standard 8 page tabloid comics of the day. Even the black and white style would not have seemed limited considering the comic featured the stars of black and white cinema. The original artist for the Harold Lloyd strip was Tom Radford, but this 1932 example looks to me to be the work of George Wakefield. (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.)

By 1950 (below) the masthead had changed considerably. The characters surrounding the logo were changed periodically as new stars eclipsed the older ones. Here we see the likes of George Formby, Old Mother Riley, and Abbott and Costello have joined Film Fun's ranks. The cover strip is now Laurel and Hardy, who had previously occupied the centrespread. Art by George Wakefield.


A nice festive masthead for the "Grand Christmas Number" in 1953. You'll notice that by this time Chips had merged into Film Fun. A marriage in name only though, - no strips from Chips actually moved over to the new comic!


A summer holiday issue from 1956 shows a few changes to the masthead again, with Frankie Howerd, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as part of the line up.


By 1957 a dash of colour has been added to the cover, - yet without its array of stars surrounding the logo it actually looks quite bland. Inside, despite the arrival of newcomers such as Tommy Cooper the comic must have looked incredibly old fashioned compared to the thriving Dandy and Beano of the 1950s.


Speaking of Tommy Cooper, here's a piece of original artwork by Albert Pease for Film Fun dated December 21st 1957. In those days most British artists drew their pages in "sets", - each row of panels as separate pieces of art, hence this tier has survived but I've no idea where the rest of the page is. You'll notice that Albert has tidied up the finished art with process white in some areas and in panel two Tommy's head has been redrawn on a "patch" stuck over the first version. The blue pencil areas would be to indicate to the art editor where to place grey tone.


In 1959 A.P. had become Fleetway Publications Ltd and by the cover shown below, from 1961, were trying to shake up Film Fun somewhat. Fleetway dropped the cover-numbering on their comics, perhaps to fool readers into thinking the comics were new and modern. However, Film Fun seemed doomed, and increasing the adventure content and adding photo-covers such as this Three Musketeers cover did nothing to halt its decline.


Later in 1961 and another revamp, with the comic now called Film Fun and Thrills in order to show it wasn't just a humour comic. (No, a comic called Thrills hadn't merged into it, - this was just a cosmetic change.) The content was now an odd mixture of adventure strips and Disney comedy reprint. If the idea was to make the comic seem like a Saturday cinema matinee it didn't quite work.


By May 1962 (below) Film Fun had taken on a more traditional approach with TV star Bruce Forsyth on the cover, drawn by Roy Wilson. Perhaps this was all part of a "match and dispatch" plan though, as the comic now looked very similar to Buster, which it would merge into in November of that year.


From what I can gather, Film Fun was a very strong title throughout the 1920s - 1940s and only started to look dated due to the arrival of television and changing trends in comics themselves in the 1950s. It certainly had a very long and respectable run. I'll be taking a look at some of the comic's interior strips at a later date.

Blog item on the very first Film Fun Annual:

http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2007/12/70-year-flashback-film-fun-annual-1938.html

Comics UK discussion on Film Fun with information on the comic by comics expert Ray Moore (Kashgar):

http://www.comicsuk.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3321



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ro-Jaws Returns!


A classic character returns to the pages of 2000AD in this week's issue. Ro-Jaws, (originally designed by Kevin O'Neill for the Ro-Busters strip in Starlord weekly over 30 years ago) makes a comeback in the A.B.C. Warriors strip by Pat Mills and Clint Langley (who did the cover above). Thrill Power overload!

2000AD Prog 1667 will be in the shops from Wednesday, priced £2 (Earth money).

More info: http://www.2000adonline.com/

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