Thursday, November 01, 2012
This week in 1965: WHAM! - Fireworks Special
This was the cover of Wham! No.73, which was in the shops this very day in 1965, - and what a great issue it was. Billed as a 'Fireworks Special' the cover was filled with a giant single panel (instead of the usual comic strip design) with artwork by the unbeatable Leo Baxendale.
Some collectors often get confused with Leo's style, attributing his work to that of his many imitators. In the case of his Odhams work it's fairly simple; Leo signed most of his pages. If a page of Wham! or Smash! doesn't carry his signature, chances are he didn't draw it. And as you can see, Leo's signature wasn't exactly hidden. As for those who claim that Leo drew strips for Pow! - forget it. He didn't draw a thing for that comic.
It appears that Leo was so pleased with the freedom to sign his pages that he signed the back page too! Just look at the wildness of this firework strip. It's extremely doubtful fireworks could be shown with such lack of responsibility in a comic today.
Inside, the bonfire night child endangerment continued, with The Wacks breaking several laws in the space of 15 panels. It's the dog I feel sorry for. Artwork by Gordon Hogg.
Ken Reid was producing incredible work in the 1960s, with this Frankie Stein page being a prime example. Ken delighted in putting his characters through outrageous scenes of comedy violence. This week's special theme gave him the chance to have Professor Cube incinerated by a rocket and then plunge into a box of fireworks.
Danny Dare was far lighter fare, with this week's episode drawn by Artie Jackson I think.
Biff was also drawn by Artie Jackson this week, with the fighting-obsessed lad settling scores with the use of fireworks. I see the kid named Killer Jones gets a tooth knocked out. He probably deserved it. You don't get a nickname like that for nothing.
The reckless use of fireworks concluded with Georgie's Germs. I think this one was drawn by Brian Lewis but I'm not 100% sure. (He did draw several episodes of the strip but Odhams tended to change artists around a bit.)
Looking back, it's amazing what Wham! could get away with regarding the use of fireworks in strips. The cover of this issue itself would be enough to see it removed from the shelves today. Yet at the time I'm sure we all saw it for what it was; a bit of fun that was so exaggerated it defied imitation. These were truly golden days for British comics and I'm glad I was fortunate enough to be a child in that era.