The Odhams era of 'Power Comics' (Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic, and Terrific) ran for just under five years in all, from June 1964 with the launch of Wham! until March 1969 when IPC revamped Smash! into a more traditional boys adventure weekly. (However the 'Power Comics' label wasn't actually applied to them until 1966.) Although each title except for Terrific had several Annuals there was only ever one Summer Special devoted to the comics.
In 1968, with Wham! and Terrific already canceled, and perhaps knowing that this would be their only chance to produce a 'Power Comics' special, Odhams combined all the surviving titles into one big 56 pager with Smash! Pow! It's Fantastic Summer Special.
The cover made it clear that the emphasis would be on Marvel reprint, but to clarify its Britishness and summer theme, a hand coloured stock photo of Blackpool Tower was used as a backdrop to a Spider-Man image. (With the tower being the tallest structure in town, where was Spidey swinging from? My guess is he'd attached his webbing to the helicopter that routinely patrols Blackpool's seafront. Yes, that'd be it.) Please forgive the tatty cover. I've lost count of how many times I re-read this much-loved comic when I was younger.
Odhams had been holding some Marvel material back that they hadn't used in the weeklies, so this was ideal for the special. Therefore it kicked off with the Spider-Man/Doctor Strange team-up from the American Amazing Spider-Man Annual No.2. Classic work by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, although Odhams policy was to remove the credits.
Very few British characters were featured in the special unfortunately, but we did get a brand new Cloak story by Mike Higgs. Personally I didn't care about some other strips being excluded as long as The Cloak was in there...
|Click on each image to see it full size.|
Power House Pin-Ups, a popular back page feature of Fantastic, also featured in the Summer Special. Here's one of Thor, alongside a reprint of a Thor story from Journey Into Mystery Annual No.1.
The centrespread featured an excellent Fantastic Four pin-up by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott. This had originally appeared in Fantastic Four Annual No.5 but in the UK version the colouring was far superior than the flat tones of the American original. I had this pinned on my bedroom wall when I was a kid, (along with most of the pin-ups from the back of Fantastic and Terrific) and you might still be able to see the holes made by the drawing pins in the corners.
Sammy Shrink, who had originated in Wham! before moving to Pow!, had a half page strip in the special, drawn by Terry Bave. That advert for Smash! underneath the strip summed up the comic nicely. It truly was "the comic with everything".
More reprints, with this one of Daredevil No.1 by Stan Lee and the great Bill Everett...
A brand new three page adventure for Smash's Brian's Brain, drawn by Jim Baikie...
Also from Smash!, a new Swots and the Blots page. This looks like the work of Leo Baxendale (or perhaps a Leo Baxendale/Mike Brown collaboration) which would be unusual if it was as, except for one issue, Leo only drew The Swots and the Blots after IPC revamped Smash! in 1969 (despite some historians crediting him with the strip since 1966). Any opinions welcome.
There were several other strips and features in the special such as a Human Torch/Iceman team-up from Strange Tales, a Mr.Knowall puzzle spread, a feature on Avengers mansion from Avengers King Size Special No.1 and more pin-ups, including this back page composition of the X-Men.
The Marvel character most notable by his absence in the special was The Incredible Hulk, probably because Odhams had already used all the available Hulk stories and had caught up with the US editions. These days an editor would use stock art and produce a quick 'Hulk's Greatest Battles' feature, but such things were not really done back then.
Smash! Pow! It's Fantastic Summer Special was a unique item that really did make the summer of '68 special. A shame there would be never be any more.
|Advert for the special from FANTASTIC No.73, 6th July 1968|