Saturday, February 10, 2018

BUDDY No.1 (1981)

It's been 37 years since D.C. Thomson launched Buddy No.1 on Friday 6th February 1981. Clearly intended to be a step away from the "grittier" style of comic such as Warlord, Bullet, and Crunch, that Thomsons had previously moved into, Buddy was a return to a more traditional type.

The cover was reassuringly friendly and non-aggressive. Even the design of the masthead looked more like that of a humour comic than the battle-damaged style that Warlord and Crunch had used. The comic's mascot and pretend-editor was Buddy himself, the toothy, blonde, freckled-faced boy shown using the free Pop Pistol. (Note to those who complain that modern UK comics value gifts over content; that first issue of Buddy is all about selling the comic on the basis of the free toy. No stories are even mentioned on the cover.)  

To put Buddy into context we must remember that by 1981, the sales of traditional weekly comics were well past their glory days. Children were becoming more attracted to brands, and even more distracted by television than ever. Comics based on licensed properties would soon become ever more dominant in newsagents. With Hornet, Bullet, Crunch, and most recently, Hostspur, having folded, it seems that Thomsons felt that the way to attract readers was to revive and revamp some of their older successful characters for a new generation, and Buddy was the vehicle in which to do it. 

Buddy's 32 pages were packed with new, updated versions of top D.C. Thomson heroes, leading with the football story Limp-Along Leslie, originally a Hotspur character, and now drawn by Neville Wilson...
The Wolf of Kabul was next. Originally a text series in The Wizard from 1922, later a picture strip in Hotspur, and now in Buddy, drawn by Mike Dorey...

Deep-Sea Danny's Iron Fish was of course a revamp of The Beano's Iron Fish. Danny Grey now replaced by Danny Boyle, and drawn by Alfredo Falugi...

Tuffy, A Boy All Alone was a revamp of The Wizard's Scrappy, A Boy All Alone. The concept of a homeless boy against all odds was always popular in Thomson comics. (Does anyone know the artist's name?)
I'm not sure if Hammer! was based on a previous strip or was all-new. Great artwork by Denis McLoughlin...
Jonah was the only reprint in the comic, but if you have to reprint something, there's no better strip. Ken Reid's classic Beano hero, reprinted from the very start...

Billy the Cat was another popular Beano hero, now updated (and slightly older) for brand new adventures for Buddy. Here's the full episode, drawn by Pete Foster...



Rounding off issue 1 was Boy on the Run, a gripping thriller drawn by Carlos Cruz. Again, I'm not sure if this was a revamp or new, but I'm betting it was an updated version of some strip...
The back page revealed the forthcoming free gifts. We don't get free whistles in comics any more (in case they're mis-used I believe) but this week's Beano does have free balloons similar to the Super Zoomer!
In later weeks, other old characters would be revived for Buddy, such as General Jumbo, Starhawk, and more. Overall, Buddy was a very good adventure comic but it didn't last. The time for such comics was sadly ending. Despite gaining a new look and new logo with issue 99, it merged into Victor in 1983 after 130 issues. 

Here's a small selection of Buddy covers. For a major part of its run it featured strips starting on the covers. While that's a technique I've always liked, it must have looked quite dated to kids of the 1980s...





...and finally, here's the advert for Buddy No.1 from The Dandy No.2046, dated Feb.7th 1981...

All artwork and characters in this post are ©D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.

6 comments:

dementeddad said...

Hi Lew,

Billy The Cat was being drawn by Pete Foster this time around. The artist that drew Tuffy is looking familiar, but I just can't place him at the moment.

Regards

Lew Stringer said...

Many thanks! I'll add his name to the article.

Javier Ramirez said...

It seems to me that Pete Foster drew both strips...

Lew Stringer said...

There's a similarity but I'm not sure.

SREW said...

I bought the first two issues, aged ten, but didn't find the strips interesting at all and stopped after that - sticking with Beano, Nutty, and Topper. "Spike" came along a couple of years later and was equally uninteresting. I never noticed the Jonah reprints though!

Lew Stringer said...

After the first few issues, the Jonah reprint moved to the back page. You weren't one of those readers who never looked at the back page of a comic were you? I remember some kids used to ignore the back page of a comic because they assumed it was an advert.

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