Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The End of WHAM! (1968)

Launching in 1964, Wham! had been the flagship title of Odhams' 'Power Comics' but with issue No.187, dated 13th January 1968, it met its fate. Frankly, Wham! had been in decline for quite a while. Its high quality glossy Photogravure printing had long given way to cheap newsprint, more budget cuts had seen the inclusion of Marvel reprint in the form of The Fantastic Four, its main artist Leo Baxendale had left for the more lucrative options of the Fleetway comics, and even the mighty Frankie Stein by Ken Reid had disappeared from the comic long before the last issue. 

That said, Wham! was still livelier, cheekier, and more entertaining than some of its rivals. Let's take a look at a few pages from that final issue. Above is the cover by Mike Lacey, with The Tiddlers strip continuing on the back page. For cheapness, Odhams didn't use black ink on the covers of the newsprint issues of Wham!, utilising dark blue instead. (The same principle applied to companion comics Smash! and Pow!).
Art: Mike Lacey.

Wham! was fated to merge into Pow! the following week and it was announced with a full page ad...

The regular news page also made a big fuss of it...

Only a few strips from Wham! would make the transition to Pow! This issue saw the end of many long-running regulars; General Nitt and his Barmy Army, The Wacks, Glugg, Eagle-Eye, Footsie the Clown, Biff, The Humbugs, Danny Dare, and the Pest of the West. Here's a few examples of those final strips...
Art: Gordon Hogg

Art: Stan McMurtry
Art: Stan McMurtry

Art: Graham Allen
Final 'Barmy Army' strip.
Art: Artie Jackson
Artist unknown.
The strips that would survive were The Tiddlers (but only by merging with The Dolls of St.Dominics), Sammy Shrink, Georgie's Germs, and Marvel reprint The Fantastic Four. The final issue of Wham! and that week's issue of Pow! both ran the same episode of the F.F. (reprinting the start of Fantastic Four No.27) to encourage readers to buy the next issue ...
Art: Jack Kirby.

Wham! was definitely a better comic in its early days but its three and a half year run is still looked upon fondly by those of us who grew up reading comics in the sixties. Personally I think its merger with Pow! made for a stronger comic. In my next post I'll show a few pages from that first merge issue.

This wasn't exactly the final appearances of the characters as they'd return in new strips in the Wham! Annuals dated 1969 to 1971 but on a weekly frequency this was the end of Wham!

6 comments:

Paul McScotty- Muir said...

Brilliant comic in its day, looking back I was surprised that "Pow" incorporated "Wham" as Pow seemed the weaker of the 3 main titles (Wham, Smash and Pow) - saying that I loved Pow at the time. Although Leo Baxendale (for me) just can't be beaten I do really like Stan McMurtry's art here. I love the reason for the merger given in the "News from the floor of 64" page that Pow was "just to good to go solo ..." I bet I believed that at the time as well. Great stuff.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, had it been Fleetway perhaps the older title would have taken priority as was often the case. The odd thing is that when they merged the annuals a few years later it was 'Wham! and Pow! Annual', not vice-versa.

I think Pow! had the better content at the point of merger, which may have been why it headed the billing. Wham! was a shadow of its former self at the end. The best times for Wham! were 1964 and 1965; lots of Baxendale pages, better printing, Frankie Stein by Ken Reid improving in leaps and bounds, and lots of wild irreverence to all the strips.

John Pitt said...

Ah, thanks for bringing that issue back to me, Lew. I had it and was both angry and disappointed at the merger news. At this time I was getting all 5 Power Comics and I loved them ALL!

Lew Stringer said...

I used to find the prospect of a merger exciting, although it was sometimes the more conservative strips that survived, so that was never good. I felt Pow and Wham was a decent merger though.

NP said...

I felt the POW and WHAM merger was good, certainly better than the later wishy-washy SMASH and POW, but the (sadly imminent) Fantastic and Terrific merger was really great, it made for an improved comic.
The bitter pill of SMASH merging with Fantastic only a few months later was only disguised by the glory that was Mike Higgs' The Cloak, The Nervs by Ken Reid and some of Kirby's best in FF and Thor.
Funny when you remember that the whole Power Comics thing started with SMASH really in 1966 and was all over just three years later. Blink and you'd miss it.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, it seemed to last longer than it did, but that's the illusion of childhood I suppose. The downside of Fantastic and Terrific merging was that there was no more Johnny Future, but the strip had probably run its course. I stopped buying Fantastic a few months before it ended because most of the strips had caught up with the Marvels I had. I suspect a lot of kids did the same, which wouldn't have helped sales.

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