Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This week in 1962: THE TOPPER

The Topper had a very long run, from 1953 to 1990, then was relaunched as The Beezer and Topper from 1990 to 1993. For most of its original run, The Topper was a large format, A3 sized comic, unmissable on the stands. 

Here's a few pages from issue No.491, that was on sale this week in 1962. The Mickey the Monkey cover strip is by Dudley Watkins, albeit in quite a loose style for him. (Understandable, considering he was drawing at least half a dozen regular pages a week at this stage.)

In her usual position on page two was Beryl the Peril, drawn by Davy Law. The last panel may seem alarming to modern sensibilities but many strips ended with the child being beaten in those days. The humour came from the inventiveness of the deed but it happened so regularly it sometimes felt like a lazy solution to a story. 
The Topper only had 12 pages a week in these (relatively) early issues. (It increased to 16 in 1964.) In the centrespread of this edition was the second chapter of the adventure serial The Last Warriors, drawn by Ron Smith. Stunningly detailed artwork...

One of the comic's most popular strips was Send For Kelly, drawn by the brilliant George Martin. Secret Agents were in vogue in the 1960s and this series was not only a great spoof of the genre but a superb strip in its own right.
For many years, The Topper ran Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy strip in its pages, reprinting the American newspaper strip. In 1962 it was also featuring another U.S. strip from the Sunday papers; The Katzenjammer Kids, renamed The Bustem Boys for British readers...
On the back page of this issue, Dudley Watkins' glorious adaptation of Treasure Island, - but this too was a reprint, as it had previously appeared in The Topper in 1953... and before that in The People's Journal in 1949... as well as being collected in book form in 1950 and 1959. A popular strip! (Source of that info: Topper Tales by Ray Moore.)
The Topper was a great comic, and a favourite of mine in the late sixties. Long gone now, but still fondly remembered by many.  

9 comments:

Manic Man said...

for some reason, when i think of all the comic cover stars. I think Dennis has to be the most sucessful one.. probebly Bananaman and Desperate Dan come second.. Biffo third and Mickey near the bottom. probebly ahead of Big Eggo.. of course, that doesn't include every one listed.. i'm not sure i can even remember enough of them to list them all ^_^

though Biffo and Mickey seamed too much alike but that might just have been me..

Lew Stringer said...

Biffo and Mickey were very similar, even down to their outfits, and both strips being drawn originally by Dudley Watkins of course. I suspect both characters were inspired by Mickey Mouse and his red shorts.

paul Mcscotty said...

I loved the Topper as a kid (although the Beezer was my favourite) so it was fun reading this. I had forgotten how good "Send for Kelly" was (it was a big favourite amongst my school pals at the tme) Was it the Topper annuals that were landscape shape for a time (or was that another comic?) Thanks for showing these Lew, it was fun.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, the early Topper Books were landscape. Perhaps they thought that as the weekly was big, it'd make the books seem large when they were opened out. (Even though they'd be shorter than other annuals.) Just my guess anyway.

Peter Gray said...

great post

Biffo the bear was also drawn this way for a time..

Manic Man said...

on an unrelated note: watching an Episode of the Morecambe and wise show and noticing something interesting.. the Script makes a couple of comments on the fact that Eric is reading the Dandy.. the Logo on the comic reads "DAndy". yet you can clearly see the front page is Biffo the bear and the back page is Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.. the script does call for the Dandy, with a couple of comments to characters.. well.. at first there are a couple of comments on desperate dan but then there are comments on Lord Snooty.. okay, no problem making such mistakes for the joke but.. it seams odd to mock up the dandy logo (which.. i'm pretty sure wasn't EVER the dandy Logo) on an issue of the Beano when surely it would have been just as easy to get a copy of the Beano.. intereting really ^_^

Lew Stringer said...

I remember that. I think it was probably simply that they needed a Dandy prop so they mocked up the easiest comic that came to hand. It's possible the person they sent to get a Dandy couldn't find one from the nearest shop so brought a Beano instead. They wouldn't waste any more valuable time so they'd do a quick mock up to call it The Dandy. It wouldn't matter that it wasn't the right logo design as it was only needed for a quick gag.

Colin Brown said...

I've never understood why Oor Wullie was featured beside the comic title when he wasn't featured inside.
Lew, re Watkins, can you explain what you mean by a loose style for him? To my non artistic eye, the strip looks the same as his other strips like Biffo, Ginger etc.

Lew Stringer said...

It looks a more relaxed style than usual to me, with a little less detail. It could just be that he was rushed that week, or even using a different brush or something. Nothing wrong with it. It's just slightly different. None of us maintain the exact same style every week.

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