Saturday, June 21, 2014

WHAM's 50th Wham-iversary

Wham! No.3, the earliest one in my collection.
Thanks to George Shiers on his Wacky Comics blog for the reminder that it's been 50 years this week since Wham! No.1 was in the shops. Although cover dated the weekend of June 20th, the actual on-sale day would have been the 16th, or probably the 15th June 1964.

I didn't discover Wham! until issue 77, dated 4th December 1965, so it had been around quite a while before then. Once I read that issue though I was hooked! I liked Dandy and Beano, but their new rival Wham! was wilder, dafter, and more unpredictable.

Wham! had also gained Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid of course, and their contributions to Wham! were always the highlights of the comic. Let's take a look at some of their memorable pages...

Early Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy episode from Wham! No.14 (19th Sept.1964) by Leo Baxendale...



From the same issue, Georgie's Germs, also by Baxendale...



The first episode of the short-lived Jasper the Grasper by Ken Reid from Wham! No.42 (3rd April 1965)...


It's worth mentioning that although some people think Leo Baxendale drew almost everything in Wham!, that obviously wouldn't have been physically possible so numerous other artists were brought in to follow Leo's style. Leo tended to sign most pages he drew, so that's a good guide if the styles are confusing, but usually Leo's pages are quite distinctive anyway. (Unfortunately some people still mis-credit him for pages done by his imitators.) 

Ken Reid had a break at times from drawing his Frankie Stein strip, which was then handed to others. Here's the episode where Ken returned to drawing the strip in Wham! No.109 (16th July 1966) after another artist had been drawing the strip from issues 89 to 108...

Following The Hulk's debut in Wham's sister comic Smash! in May 1966, The Fantastic Four followed in Wham! No.112 (6th August 1966). It's debatable whether these Marvel reprints were a benefit to Wham! as they elbowed out a few original strips, but it gave the comic more variety at least, and introduced many of us to the FF. 


1966 also saw Leo Baxendale depart Odhams, which weakened Wham! somewhat but it still retained a lively anarchic flavour. Artists such as Mike Lacey (on The Tiddlers, shown here) did a solid job of imitating Baxendale's 1960s style. 

Sadly, the early days of 1968 saw the final issue of Wham! (No.187, 13th January 1968) as it announced a merger with relative newcomer Pow! for the following week. 


Still, Wham's three and a half year run can't be sniffed at, and it remains a memorable part of the sixties comics scene for those of us who were lucky enough to be children during that decade. Happy 50th, Wham! and thanks for the lunacy.

All scans taken from my collection of Wham! comics. Over the years I've managed to buy most of them, but there are still gaps. However, at my age I'm no longer inclined to track down the missing issues. The stack I have here is perfectly adequate for when I get around to re-reading them all again. Whenever that will be!

You'll find several older posts I wrote about Wham! if you type the relevant keywords into the search window at the top left of this blog. 

17 comments:

Irmantas said...

Lew, I am having a hard time understanding the way publishers dated their comics in the UK. In my most recent blogpst on Kazoop I showed ads for WHAM! No. 1 and 2 that I found in EAGLE. The issue of EAGLE with the same cover date as WHAM! No. 1 said it was going on sale next Monday, but if both comics had the same cover date, presumably they’d have gone on sale on the same day or thereabouts, wouldn’t they? How come EAGLE which had the same cover date as WHAM! No. 1 advertised it as something that was coming out next Monday, although presumably they were in shops side-by side? A week later EAGLE ran the ad of the free gift in WHAM! No 2 but it’s the same ad that can be found in WHAM! No. 1 that came out in the week before… To make it more confusing, they said WHAM! came out every Tuesday and EAGLE – every Wednesday. And to make it even more confusing, in his book A Very Funny Business Leo Baxendale remembers that the day when first issue of WHAM! went on sale was a Sunday. June 20 (cover date for WHAM No. 1) was a Saturday in 1964…

George Shiers said...

Having looked at the adverts Irmantas posted on his blog it says "on sale next Monday" so the release date must have been 15th June.

http://kazoop.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/advert-for-wham-no-1.html

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Great to see so many sites celebrating Whams! 50th anniversary ( all sparked off my George Shiers a young guy - the history of comics is in good hands with folk like George)

I still can't believe its 50 years ago so vivid is my memory of Wham - nice to see issue 3s cover as I have not seen this in a long time - Odhams run on books (especially Wham, Smash and Pow) are among my favourite UK comics of all time - I still have massive holes in my Wham collection (have more Wham and Smash) but sites / blogs are fair filling in a lot of the gaps

Lew Stringer said...

That is a puzzle, Irmantas, as that issue of EAGLE would have come out two days AFTER Wham No.1 - assuming Eagle was still 'Every Wednesday' in 1964? Perhaps they ran the previous week's ad again by mistake?

Paul, there's certainly a lot of love for those Odhams comics. They obviously meant a great deal to those of us who bought them. They were certainly unique, and although they were a bit rough around the edges design wise, and some fill-in artists were comparatively raw, the comics still had a brilliant vibe about them and I felt they connected with us as kids. Those 'Power Comics' are my treasured favourites of my collection. (With TV21 being another favourite.)

Manic Man said...

always interesting, Wham! might have merged into Pow! in 1968, but in 1971/1972, the 1972 Cor!! Annual (not a bad one) reprints a lot of content including a large-ish amount of Jasper the Grasper from the start. Sadly, I only have the Cor!! annuals 1972 and 1973. Jasper the Grasper might have been shorted lived, but seams to be one of theses that was believed popular enough to bring back as reprints only about 5 years later.

Lew Stringer said...

IPC reprinted a lot of Wham! strips in various comics, holiday specials, and annuals in the early 1970s, Manic. They'd sometimes re-name strips as a weak attempt to kid readers into thinking they were new strips. So 'The Wacks' became 'The Beat Boys', 'The Tiddlers' became 'The Horrors', and 'General Nitt and his Barmy Army' became 'Sir Hector and his Hardnuts'. This also meant changes to the dialogue of course, to replace the old names with new ones, and it was always obvious it had been re-lettered by a new hand.

One strip IPC never reprinted was 'The Nervs' from SMASH! because management hated it so much because of its vulgarity as they saw it. Pity, as that was one of the best strips!

Frankie Stein was revived with new stories of course (but never a patch on Ken Reid's original). Sammy Shrink was another WHAM! character who was later revived in new stories, (in WHIZZER AND CHIPS I think?) - probably because its softer, less edgy style of comedy blended in with IPC's other strips perfectly.

Manic Man said...

Yep..

And Sammy Shrink was in the Chips section of Whizzer and Chips. In 1986, Or atlest what was being reprinted at that time, It was drawn by Terry Bave.. either that or the letterer typed his name for no real reason.

Colin Jones said...

I wasn't born till Feb '66 and I'd never heard of Wham until a few years ago and I certainly didn't know that Marvel characters had appeared in the UK before MWOM No.1 - so why did Wham last for such a short time ?

Lew Stringer said...

We'll never know for sure Colin, but my guess is that WHAM! was twice the price of Dandy and Beano, who it was competing against, but it had less colour than the Thomson comics.

Also, some readers prefer the predictability of strips in the same place every week, by the same artists. WHAM! often shifted its contents around and used fill-in artists. Personally I liked that unpredictability as it felt more exciting, but even I dropped the comic in 1967 as it felt past its best by then.

Yes, Marvel strips have been reprinted in UK comics since the 1950s. MWOM was a late starter by comparison, but the most consistent.

Manic, yes, Terry Bave drew Sammy Shrink for WandC and he'd also been the main artist on the strip for WHAM! (Although Dave Jenner was the first artist.)

Irmantas said...

In response to Manic Man’s first post, I can say with absolute confidence that COR!! 1972 annual reprinted the whole of Ken’s Jasper the Grasper from WHAM! Contrary to what some people believe, Jasper the Grasper was never reprinted in COR!! weeklies – all episodes were brand new work by Trevor Metcalfe.

Irmantas said...

Lew, I checked my copies and can confirm that Eagle was indeed still an ‘every Wednesday’ paper in 1964. And if it was a mistake, then they made it twice because the advert in the issue dated June 27 is also a week too late, isn’t it? 1964 June 20th and 27th issues of Eagle are the only two that I have of the title. I hunted them down particularly because I hoped to find those WHAM! adverts inside.

Lew Stringer said...

It's very strange. Whatever day comics came out on, they'd carry the date for the upcoming Saturday. So 20th June WHAM! came out on 15th June, but 20th June EAGLE, being 'Every Wednesday' would be on sale 17th June (or possibly 16th, as comics usually came out a working day earlier than the specified day on the cover). So, yes, EAGLE was promoting something that had already happened!

Perhaps the Eagle production department simply misunderstood the launch week, and didn't realise their mistake for a few weeks. Or perhaps Wham! changed its launch date to a week earlier and didn't tell the Eagle office?

It'd be interesting to know if the same ad that was in the 20th June Eagle was also in the previous week's issue as well. I don't have any copies of Eagle from 1964 unfortunately.

NP said...

I can confirm that WHAM! issue 2 was available at the WHS bookstall in Lime Street station on the afternoon of June 21st 1964, which was a Sunday. (There are reasons I won't go into why I know this!) Several times that summer I would buy 'next week's' WHAM! on the preceding Sunday. So that's even more confusing!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Nigel. With such a confusing publishing schedule perhaps Eagle's editors were under the impression their comic came out on Saturday, or the previous Friday as it did in the 1950s.

Manic Man said...

Irmantas, that's good ^_^ I thought it seamed like a lot when I was re-reading some of my old annuals a few months back (I love the older ones.. sure you had a fair amount of reprints with new stuff, but that was good and boy, where they worth the money! Also, I'm not a modern day kid, so I'm very happy, if not sometimes more so, with Black and white or limited colour, over full colour.. I've seen some colouring works that have really ruined good art.. anyway.. It's nice to know that's the complete original run.

Phil Rushton said...

If it's any help to Irmantas I've posted an advert from the Eagle dated June 13th on Lew's thread on the Comics UK forum:

http://comicsuk.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=148&t=6155&p=80090#p80090

As for the following week's ad I'd guess it should have read 'every Tuesday' instead of 'next Tuesday'. For the record I think British comics tended to carry a 'week ending' date (ie Saturday), so that titles published on different days would carry the same notation as each other. Also they usually arrived in the newsagent's shop ahead of the supposed 'on sale' date - sometimes several days beforehand if you lived near to a distributor.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Phil. I mentioned the week ending thing a few comments back, but I agree it sounds like there was simply a mistake in the ad.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...