Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Comics: WHOOPEE! (1984)

1984 still seems very recent to me but for any younger readers out there no doubt it seems a lifetime ago, or even a time before you were born. I remember on one visit to the IPC offices at King's Reach Tower that year, Bob Paynter (Group Editor of the humour comics) gave me this copy of Whoopee! dated 29th December 1984, a few weeks before it was due to hit the shops. I was immediately impressed by Robert Nixon's excellent cover. Nixon was an aficionado of Roy Wilson's style and brought the same sense of fun and decoration to this cover as Wilson had on Christmas covers of previous decades. Robert Nixon drew everything on this cover, including the Christmas page borders, the logo, and even the price!

Whoopee!, launched in 1974, was one of IPC's most successful comics, running for 11 years before merging into Whizzer and Chips. This then, is the comic's last Christmas issue.

Inside, kicking off the 32 page comic was the lively Boy Boss drawn by the great Frank McDiarmid. Christmas pages always allow artists to go the extra mile (at no extra fee I hasten to add) and Frank decorated the borders with loads of festive stuff for this year...



Gran's Gang was a quirky idea and it needed an artist with a funny, distinct style to deliver the goods. Ian Knox was the perfect choice. Just look at the physical appearances of those characters!


Sweeny Toddler took up the centre pages of that issue and what a great job by Tom Paterson! (I'm guessing Graham Exton was the scriptwriter on this.) "Roast toddler stuffed with jelly babies and dolly mixtures" it says on the menu. Yes it's Santa about to eat a baby! Perhaps the most horrific image ever seen in an IPC comic, - and in a full page splash panel too. This is closer in tradition to the Krampus.


How could anyone top that? Well, perhaps not that issue's Frankie Stein strip. Robert Nixon was a fantastic artist and his version of Frankie was very popular indeed but I've always felt the fun-styled IPC Frankie was never a patch on Ken Reid's original for Wham!. Then again, times and tastes change, and as I was 25 when this issue of Whoopee! came out I was far older than the readership it was intended for so what do I know? Compare this page below by Bob Nixon to the one by Ken Reid from 18 years earlier and see what you think.


Plunge into the past again to see another Christmas comic with all the trimmings soon!

12 comments:

Peter Gray said...

Hooray!! my era and I got that issue at the time..

I agree the covers by Robert at Christmas time were top notch..I was very sad when whoopee mergerd with Wizzer and chips at the time loved Whoopee!!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick message to say how much I am enjoying these Xmas issues (especially the 60s and early 70s as this was my era) By the 80s I had pretty much given up on comics (out with things like Love & Rockets, Conan and the odd Superhero comic)so nice to see some 80s issues - I wasn't that aware of the then new Frankie Stein take in the 80s (Frankie possibly being my fav all time kids character under Ken Reid) so was taken aback by the less that "dark" version of him, still nice to see and it seems to have been a success - would love to see some more Wham, Pow and / or Smash Xmas issues- McScotty

Lew Stringer said...

Yes it can't be denied that the Bob Nixon version was very popular, moreso than Ken Reid's Frankie it seems. Sometimes the darker strips that require more effort from the reader aren't as successful as the lighter, breezier reads. Personally I always loved Ken's work right back to when I was very young.

SOS Comix said...

I always remembered (rightly or wrongly) that Gran was actually Cheeky's gran, so maybe a spin off? I think same artist in Ian Knox, some of his character shapes were odd/memorable. Is he still working?

Anonymous said...

I remember getting this issue when I was nine, when I was getting Buster, Whizzer and Chips and Whoopee and had just started getting Tiger and Eagle (Eagle only because it had 'merged' - hah, with Scream. I always prefered Robert Nixon's Frankie Stein at the time compared to Ken Reid's 'not right' version I had seen annuals and summer specials - didn't realise how the annuals were full of reprints back then- which I thought was weird. As much as I appreciate Robert Nixon nowadays, it shows how much you can change your opinion as you grow up. I remember hating Tom Paterson's 'smelly socks' and daft signs too, so you live and learn...

Lew Stringer said...

I believe you're right about Gran being Cheeky's Gran, SOS. Yes, Ian Knox is still busy. He contributes to the BBC in Northern Ireland:
Ian Knox at the BBC

Niblet said...

Gran originated in Cheeky Weekly, but in Cheeky's universe she was a character from a TV show, not a relative of Cheeky. http://cheekyweekly.blogspot.com/2010/10/features-6-million-dollar-gran_09.html

Robert said...

Didn't Sweeney Toddler used to be on the cover? I'm curious if that centre page splash page was the original idea for the cover... but editorial felt it just a little too bleak so came up with the jovial Frankie Stein image? No idea, just saying...

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Niblet.

Robert, I think you could be right. That splash certainly looks like it was designed for a cover and Sweeny was the usual cover star at the time.

Mark said...

Speaking of Frankie Stein.

I am reading the Frankie strips for the first time in my Big Comics Annual from 1993.

I've read about 4 of them so far and I cannot pick up what the premise is.

He lives with his "Dad" who is trying to get his "son" to leave his life?

Why would the dad want to abandon his son?

Why is he a monster and his "Dad" is normal?

Questions, Questions! :)

Graham Exton said...

I don't remember writing this one, though it has many of the hallmarks - striking splash page, setup early on and a happy ending (I avoided Sweeny punishments as much as I could, and went for kiddy activities and play - acting, as they were more interesting than bad behaviour.) It could equally have been Tom or Mark Rodgers that wrote it. Or some other daft bugger!

Lew Stringer said...

Too bad IPC didn't allow writer credits back then or there'd be no doubt.

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