Monday, January 19, 2015

When it came to The CRUNCH...

This week in 1979 D.C. Thomson had a new title on the stands. The Crunch was a more dynamic, more brutal comic than their usual adventure papers and was perhaps their attempt to rival IPC's 2000AD

Truth be told, D.C. Thomson had instigated this new breed of dynamic comics for boys when they launched Warlord in 1974 (which in turn inspired IPC to launch Battle, then Action, and 2000AD). The Crunch was just following what Warlord had begun with page designs that led with large splash panels and a tougher tone to the stories compared to veteran papers such as Victor or Tiger.

The lead strip in The Crunch No.1 was Arena, where a corrupt government in the 21st Century condemns anyone who speaks against them as criminals and sentences them to fight to death in an arena. (We're probably getting close to that now.) Written by Dave H. Taylor and drawn by Enrique Alcatena, Arena has recently been collected by Bear Alley Books which you can order here if you want a copy:
http://bearalleybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/arena.html


One of the most popular characters in The Crunch was The Mantracker, AKA Bounty Hunter 'Bearpaw Jay'.

Episode one was pretty violent for a DC Thomson comic, with an innocent bystander being shot in the guts by a bank robber...

Equally violent was the opening episode of The Walking Bombs which began with an impressive centrespread by Denis McLoughlin. One panel showed military leaders being incinerated by a nuclear explosion, followed by the murder of British government officials...

If the threat of the 'Walking Bombs' wasn't nerve-shattering enough, the next story revived the most evil man in history in Hitler Lives! Patrick Wright was the artist of this post-war tale of Hitler surviving WW2...

Could things get any more tense? How's about Who Killed Cassidy? - with the (fictional) American president Jack Cassidy being assassinated! A few pages later, the supposed killer is found hanged, and a conspiracy thriller begins!

I didn't pay The Crunch much attention back in 1979 as I was more into American comics by then. However, I recently bought a complete run of the comic cheaply (it only ran for 54 issues) and was very impressed. It's a great comic! (You can be sure I'll be featuring other issues at a later date.)   

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

But what was the free gift???

Lew Stringer said...

The clue's on the cover. :)

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

This is another title I missed - although I was aware of "The Crunch" I wasn't picking up many UK comics in 1979 - only really the Mighty World of Marvel (and by then that was only out of habit) and the very odd 2000AD as my reading was 80% US Marvel and Warren black and whites, Fanzines and Conan back then . But it looks like I missed out on a pretty good or at least interesting title as- some of these story lines are "out there" with some nice artwork. I think I probably just though this was yet another version of DCTs "Victor" so ignored it . Although my main reason for not picking up (in particular) DCT titles was probably that for me at least, I thought DCTs books looked very poor back then being published on what I perceived as poor quality paper (and the titles was a bit strange also) I will need to look out a few of these next time I'm out at a back issue store. I wonder if kids back in 1979 actually wore that free wrist band (in the late 60s, as a kid I probably would have) .

Lew Stringer said...

I'm sure most would have worn it Paul, just as I stuck the free 'scars' from Pow! onto my arms and legs when I was 8.

I only bought the first few issues in 1979, dropping it for the same reasons you avoided DCT comics. At that time the only British comics I was buying were 2000AD and the UK Marvels. I was naively going through my 'comics should be mature' phase, as people do when they're about 19. Now of course I can appreciate the art and craft a bit more and look at them from a different perspective.

The title though, - 'The Crunch' - was an odd choice. It wasn't a phrase young kids used in 1979, but then again the title is often irrelevant as to whether a comic will sell or not. I never bothered why some comics were named after big cats for example, as long as the stories appealed to me.

Malcolm Kirk said...

I'm guessing the choice of title was influenced by this... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZhpdI81ShE

Lew Stringer said...

Most likely, although I was helping out with a friend's disco in 1977 and I don't remember that at all. (Although I have managed to forget a lot of bad records.)

MikeM said...

On a few issues, the title was "The CRUNCH is here!"

Bearpaw Jay ended up in the odd Hotspur annual (and possibly the very last days of the Hotspur comic?). The story about him in the 1992 one is pretty good, it's like a "serial" running through the book.

Lew Stringer said...

The Crunch merged into Hotspur so Mantracker went with it I think. Good to hear he was still around in 1992.

John Pitt said...

I don't remember this one at all. Yet another comic discovered courtesy of Blimey!

Lew Stringer said...

Quite a few people have told me today that they'd never heard of it, John. Understandable I suppose as it was only around for a year. Also there were so many comics back then that it was easy to overlook some.

Anonymous said...

Cheers for flagging this title up Lew.

I also don't have any recollection of this at all, which is surprising as I was a regular reader of Warlord at the time and don't remember seeing any promotion for The Crunch, although there would have certainly been quite a bit of it! - It obviously failed to capture my imagination for some reason, although looking at that centre strip layout it looks like I may have missed out on a good read.

It's start date is interesting as I was also a regular reader of Bullet which had merged with Warlord the previous month, so it looks like this was it's replacement. Ah!, maybe that's why I've erased it from my memory, I always enjoyed Bullet!

Steve.

Lew Stringer said...

That's interesting, Steve. I didn't realise that Bullet had ended the previous month. Yes, definitely intended as a replacement then, and in a similar vein.

I have some copies of Warlord from Feb 1979 onwards and The Crunch was definitely advertised in there for a few weeks. Quite a few people seem to have been unaware of the comic though. Might explain why it only lasted for 54 weeks.

SID said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SID said...

Thanks for the article, Lew. I got The Crunch when it first came out in 1979 and stayed with it for its 54-issue run. To me it was the best action comic DCT ever produced and a great rival to 2000AD at that time.

I was gutted when it was merged with old fashioned Hotspur. Don't get me wrong, I liked Hotspur and did get it until it too was absorbed - but it wasn't in The Crunch's league.

As a kid, even the name "The Crunch" sounded cool.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, Hotspur seemed quite tame in comparison didn't it? Pity Thomsons didn't continue doing comics in this dynamic style but it seemed Warlord was the only one of that type with any longevity. I really like the hyper, over the top comics like Crunch, Action, early 2000AD.

Sefton Disney said...

I never bought The Crunch regularly - I was pretty much an IPC kid - but I certainly read the odd copy, and I have particularly fond memories of Bearpaw Jay and 'Plague 2000'.

Any idea who the artist on 'The Mantracker' was? I remember seeing their work in quite a few DC Thomson comics at the time, and I've never been able to find out. I really like the flowing lines, which make me think the artist might have been Spanish or Italian.

Lew Stringer said...

His name was Alberto Salinas. I really should revise the post by crediting the artists. I'll do that later.

Sefton Disney said...

Many thanks, Lew - great to know his name after all these years!

I've always thought of The Crunch as DC Thomson's answer to Action. With the cancellation of Action, there was definitely a gap in the market for a tougher, non-themed adventure anthology, and I think DC Thomson might have been trying to exploit it, first with Bullet and then The Crunch. I just noticed that IPC's Tornado launched a couple of months later, which makes me wonder if Tornado was actually IPC's answer to The Crunch.

Lew Stringer said...

I think Bullet was DC Thomson's answer to Action, as they launched on the same day, but I guess Crunch was a replacement for Bullet.

Tornado may have been a rival to Crunch. The rivalry was quite intense between the two companies back then of course. I suppose it still is to a lesser extent, with DC Thomson's Epic being a rival to Egmont's Toxic. Now if only Egmont would utilise all the classic characters they own to produce a new humour comic similar to The Beano... But it looks unlikely.

Sefton Disney said...

I have also heard that Tornado was launched to use up stories that had already been written for cancelled titles like Action and Starlord, but I've no idea how true that is.

If the material already existed, I guess it was a win-win for IPC - if the comic sold, they'd make the money back, and if it was a hit, so much the better!

Some of the stories look like that, especially 'Wagner's Walk', which a lot of people suspect started life as a continuation of 'Hellman' from Action and Battle. It's not too hard to imagine 'The Mind of Wolfie Smith' in Starlord, either.

Bullet had been quite successful, and The Crunch must have been prety sucessful too, so I can't believe the timing of Tornado's appearance is completely coincidental.

Lew Stringer said...

Crunch wasn't very successful. It only lasted a year.

colcool007 said...

Lew, I had the entire run and I loved every issue. I was gutted when it was folded into the Hotspur.

Even now, after all these years, I would crawl over broken glass for another Mantracker story.

And even Enrique Alcatena is aware of how loudly I praise his early work in The Crunch.

A great comic that went before its' time, but you can't argue with sales figures. :-(

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, sadly a lot of comics seemed to struggle around that time as you know. I've lost count of the number of IPC comics that only ran for six months or so. The Crunch (or simply CRUNCH as was its official title apparently) deserved to do better though. It was modern and dynamic, and should have lasted longer.

Zounds said...

Great post, Lew. My brother bought every issue of this and I bought Hotspur after Crunch merged with it. I really liked Mantracker. I do recall the Arena, Walking Bombs and Who Killed Cassidy story as well as Clancy and the Man. Can't remember that Hitler story at all though which surprises me: sounds like that 'Look Who's Back' film. One other interesting story I recall was Ebony, which had as its lead a black female detective, which for a boys' comic, seems way ahead of its time, though I can't remember much about what was in the actual story.

Robert

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