Following my earlier posts about the Wham! and Pow! annuals, here's a look at the books for the 'Power Comic' that had the most longevity, Smash! Annual.
Smash! the weekly comic debuted in early 1966 and September of that year saw the publication of the first Smash! Annual, cover dated 1967 of course. The cover artwork was by Graham Allen, showing the main humour characters of the comic, although the main point seemed to be an excuse to repeat the word 'smash!' as much as possible. There's nothing like repetition to cement the name of a product in the customer's mind.
The situation continued on the inside front covers, with the characters discovering the Smash! Annual for themselves. Note the name on the Ironmonger's shop window: L.Lilley & Co. - a reference to comic strip writer Les Lilley who was no doubt responsible for writing a good proportion of this book.
The following year, Smash! Annual 1968 took the unusual step of featuring a comic strip on its front and back covers. The Dandy Book had used similar techniques previously, but it wasn't a common sight on annual covers. Artwork again by Graham Allen.
The inside front cover strip didn't continue from the cover on this occasion but as it features all the characters I thought I'd include it here anyway. Notice the price in the corner. The actual price of the book was 8/6d (42 and a half pence) but 10/6d had been printed by mistake. All the books hurriedly had an 8/6d sticker added by the publishers to try and remedy the error.
The Smash! Annual 1969 featured a cover by Stan McMurtry, who also drew the strip that followed on from it inside...
The cover of Smash! Annual 1970 looks like the work of Mike Brown. This striking image made a change from the busy group shots. No strip continued from the cover this time.
For the 1971 book it was all change. IPC had taken over the weekly Smash! in 1969 and turned it into an adventure comic. Unusually, they made the decision to publish two Smash! books for 1971, firstly with an all-humour softback called Smash! Fun Book (cover by Mike Lacey)...
...and the first new-look Smash! Annual 1971 with a dynamic cover by Geoff Campion featuring the short-lived British superhero Tri-Man...
The Fun Book idea was abandoned after that one and only edition, but the Smash! Annual continued, now very much in the style of other IPC boys annuals. Geoff Campion, one of IPC's top artists, became the regular cover artist, and His Sporting Lordship (one of Smash's most popular strips) became the regular cover star.
Popular as His Sporting Lordship must have been, it's a shame none of the other long running adventure characters had a chance to shine on the cover. A Janus Stark cover could have provided much excitement with his various escapology situations, but IPC played it safe with a sporting theme for four consecutive years instead.
Smash! Annual 1976 was to be the title's final edition. Produced on a smaller budget, it was a softback and contained no full colour inside. At least His Sporting Lordship was finally off the cover, replaced by an illustration by Geoff Campion related to an article on kung fu inside. (Kung Fu was very popular at the time.)
Smash! the weekly comic had merged into Valiant in early 1971 so the annual must have sold well to survive a few years on its own. IPC had continued quite a few titles like this after the demise of their weekly editions, but by the mid to late seventies it was time for change. Tougher comics such as Battle, Action, and 2000AD were arriving, and it was time for the old titles to make way for the new.