Saturday, January 14, 2017

The BIG ONE merges into BUSTER (1965)

The Big One was a comic published by Fleetway from 17th October 1964 to 20th February 1965. A very short run, perhaps partly due to its cumbersome size, as the comic was a huge broadsheet format, far bigger than the tabloid-sized Topper and Beezer it was competing against. Perhaps another factor in its failure was that it was almost entirely filled with reprints. Now, its target group may have been too young to have read the stories before, but they may have found them too old fashioned. 

What may have really stuck the boot in though was that, as I understand it, the popular TV news / consumer programme On The Braden Beat did an item about The Big One, exposing it as a reprint comic. Something that may have led parents to believe they were being ripped off. 

Whatever the reasons for its downfall, The Big One didn't make a big impact and merged into Buster with the issue dated 27th February 1965. The cover of that first merged issue (above) is by Angel Nadal. 

Inside, the combined forces of Buster and The Big One had the unfortunate aspect of bringing in several reprints from the failed title, but Buster's own strips were strong enough to balance things. Here's the episode of Maxwell Hawke and the Phantom Zombie from that issue, drawn by Eric Bradbury...


The Micky the Mimic strip was a reprint of Hi-Fi Sid from Radio Fun.

At this period in time, publishers were still smarting from the anti-horror comics campaign of the 1950s. They were no longer allowed to publish horror comics as such, but they knew that kids loved such stuff. It seems to me that the compromise was to have a lot of dark, spooky material tucked away inside comics such as Buster, as you saw from the Maxwell Hawke strip. This air of shadowy menace was also evident in the new series, Toys of Doom, superbly drawn by Solano Lopez...

There was lightness amongsty the gloom too of course; a balance which was Buster's strength. The centre pages featured a variety of (reprint) humour strips from The Big One, including Tough Tex, a 1950s reprint from Comet by George Parlett.

Not all the adventure strips were grim either. Sweeny's Swingsters was Fleetway's attempts to relate to the pop fans of the day. I don't think they quite got it. Art by Mario Capaldi. It only lasted until May of that year.

On the back page, Charlie Drake, based on the TV star, with art by Arthur Martin...

It's worth noting that at this time, Buster was still a large format comic. Not as huge as The Big One had been, but the same size as a tabloid newspaper such as the Daily Mirror. It would reduce in size in October 1965, but gain twice as many pages. 

1 comment:

STEPHEN ARCHER said...

I read The Big One in the British Library last year, and wasn't impressed. At all. As you say the reprints acted against it offering little by way of new strips. It didn’t have a hope of combating DC Thomson’s output: staid though they might have been they were durable, knocking spots off comics like the more popular Whoopee for instance, in terms of longevity. Can’t even bring myself to give The Big One a single point for trying – because, apart from my patience, it didn’t.

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