Tuesday, November 19, 2019

This week in 1966: SMASH! No.43

Smash! was my favourite comic when I was a child. Sure, TV21 came very close, and I definitely consider that my favourite adventure comic of all time, but Smash! just had the edge for me because of its variety of material.

It has to be said that Smash! wasn't very slick compared to most of its rivals but when you're 7 years old, the odd sloppy layout and cheap printing isn't a deterrent... in fact that "rough and ready" aspect became part of the comic's appeal! There are a couple of things that were significant about this issue of Smash! as I'll reveal as we go along. 

As I said, Smash! had a good variety of content; mixing up humour, home-grown adventure strips, Marvel reprint and DC's Batman all in one comic! (Yes, Odhams were officially licensed to put those strips in there.) The Batman stories were American Sunday newspaper strips, which actually ran only a week or three in Smash! behind their American printing. Batman was a huge hit on TV at the time so it was perfect for Smash's front cover.

As time moves on, no doubt comics like Smash! begin to look increasingly old fashioned to younger eyes, but in its day this was one of the coolest comics out there. Here's a few examples from its 28 packed pages...

One "tradition" in old comics that's thankfully behind us now (pardon the pun) is kids being whacked. Corporal punishment was of its time and was definitely over-used as a lazy ending in humour strips. The creators could be inventive though. Here's Percy (of Percy's Pets) being spanked by a fish. Art by Stan McMurtry...
The Rubberman was one of Odhams' home-grown superheroes, and a popular series in Smash! Art by Alfredo Marculeta...

Charlie's Choice often boasted excellent cartoon art by the late great Brian Lewis. And, oh-oh, another spanking scene. Sheesh.... British comics were weird...

Bad Penny was created by Leo Baxendale but he'd left Odhams by this point so this strip was by other hands. Not in Leo's league but it did the job and kept up the typical lunacy of over the top comedy situations... 
By this issue, the Incredible Hulk reprints had used up the first six issues of his original mag and were now reprinting the material where he guest-starred in other comics. This is a reprint from Fantastic Four (serialised over a couple of weeks) but still presented as a Hulk strip. Art by Jack Kirby but with UK resizing to accommodate more panels on the larger British page size...
The Swots and the Blots were very popular. Even more so when Leo Baxendale took over the strip in March 1969, but at this time, in 1966, the strip was still being drawn by Ron Spencer...
If ever there was a Smash! strip begging to be collected as part of the Treasury of British Comics books it's The Legend Testers. Weird stories, and fantastic art by Jordi Bernet...

Here's one thing that makes this issue significant. It's the announcement of the 'Power Comics' logo that would start appearing on the covers of Smash! and Wham! (and subsequent companion comics) from the following week. (In memory it feels like the 'Power Comics' imprint was around for a long time but in fact it was only in use for slightly under two years. It vanished from the covers when Smash! was the only "Power Comic" left in late 1968.) 

There's also an announcement about Pow! weekly, which would be on the shelves in early 1967. (The advert for the first Smash! Annual is a nice bonus too. A book I had in my Christmas pillowcase that year.) 
Here's the other significant bit about this issue. The final episode of Ken Reid's Queen of the Seas! Great strip, but not the best printing... but you can see the full series sharply printed in greyscale on quality paper in volume 2 of The Power Pack of Ken Reid available from Irmantas Povilaika at this link:
https://www.kazoop-comics-shop.com
Smash! always brings back a lot of happy childhood memories for me. Rebellion are reviving the title for the Smash! Special next year but it'll be a vehicle for Fleetway characters such as The Spider, The Steel Claw, and Mytek the Mighty. Exciting news in itself, but I hope one day we'll see The Rubberman and The Legend Testers back too. 


(All art in this article Copyright © Rebellion except for Batman ©DC Comics and the Hulk ©Marvel.)

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7 comments:

Manic Man said...

Just a minor comment (shorter then originally due to a stupid error ¬_¬). The Fantastic four pages not only had the panels changed to fit the new screen, but references updated to. In them pages, there was a reference to Hulk's throwing of the tires being no Whitey Ford in the original, where the Uk version say he is no Fred Trueman.

Fred Trueman was a English cricketer who was known as 'the greatest living yorkshireman' as well as being one of the best (and fastest) Bowlers in Cricket history. Whitey Ford was an American baseball pitcher, who was know for being good but I don't believe any real reference to being one of the fastest.. So I think the English reference is more on the nose then the American one.

These days, most people in the UK are less interested in English culture and history then American, so I bet more people know (or have heard of) Whitey Ford then Fred Trueman. Though in Classic English media, Trueman was still known as a solid cricketer well into the 90s. But at the time, the comment would have been totally lost in England, but the change to Trueman is not only more well known, BUT makes great sense as baseball is kinda a kid version of Cricket, so there are a lot of connections between a pitcher and a bowler.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes a lot of American references (and slang) were changed in the UK reprints, Ryan. Well spotted. I hadn't noticed that one.

ric_mac said...

For me, too, *Smash!* was my favourite British comic from childhood (though I liked *Pow!* and *Fantastic!* — from the same stable — and *TV Century 21* and *Countdown* [that wonderful last “hurrah!” for gravure-printed comics] almost as much). Different in character, I still liked the relaunched *Smash!* even though the American material, The Nervs and The Cloak had been lost.

I didn’t begin to read the original comic regularly until the Batman feature had moved to the inside, printed in black & white, and the regular Marvel feature was Daredevil. I think the former feature had moved on to reproducing the syndicated dailies by then and not just the colour Sundays.

Printed by Odhams, part of Fleetway, in turn owned by IPC, *Smash!* also shared Batman’s syndicated adventures with the then-broadsheet, pre-Murdoch-and-page-three *Sun* newspaper — also owned by IPC. I suppose it was part of the same licensing deal. In that form, the feature was printed in the usual 3-6 frame, single strip, originally under the title of “Breakfast with Batman”.

I don’t know how close to sharing the same bat-starting-dates *Smash!* and the *Sun* came (the former was issue #20, 18 June 1966, and, though I’m unsure of the latter, it was approximately contemporary), but they were quite quick off the mark after the TV series launched (Saturday, 21 May 1966 in the UK).

Lew Stringer said...

I didn't know about The Sun running a Batman strip. (We had the Daily Mirror every day.) Thanks for the info.

ric_mac said...

From Wikipedia:

< The Sun before Rupert Murdoch

< The Sun was first published as a broadsheet on 15 September 1964 […] It was launched by owners IPC (International Publishing Corporation) to replace the failing Daily Herald. The paper was intended to add a readership of “social radicals” to the Herald’s “political radicals.” >

So, not really the newspaper it later became!

My grandfather took the paper by default: he’d originally had the Daily Herald and so was sent The Sun in lieu when it launched. It must have suited him at the time as he continued to take it until its later character became manifest!

The one thing I would applaud about the tabloid Sun is the slightly outdated (in the early 1970s) — but never-the-less very good — quasi-psychedelic pop art of the comic strip Scarth, illustrated by Luis Roca. I do remember, though, that in one panel the artist had lifted an illustration by Neal Adams from US title The Uncanny X-Men. Still, American artist Al Williamson cribbed a spaceship design from Frank Bellamy’s run on Dan Dare for his Flash Gordon, and Chris Achilleos used Ron Turner’s Daleks for his first Target cover, so I guess there’s always been a little “borrowing” in the business!

McSCOTTY said...

Smash was my favourite comic as a kid as well from the Odhams to IPC (or was it Fleetway) versions. I'm really looking forward to the Rebellion special even if its just to see the title on the stands again.

Lew Stringer said...

The company was called IPC Magazines by that point, Paul, bringing Odhams and Fleetway under its corporate umbrella in 1969. However they still used the name Fleetway as an imprint on their annuals. Then, when Bob Maxwell bought the comics in 1987 it became Fleetway again. Then they were sold to Egmont in 1991, and they called them Fleetway Editions for a while, then just Egmont.... it's all very confusing!

Anyway, now that Rebellion own them it's more straightforward from now on I hope! Yes, Smash! Special is the one I'm looking forward to the most. Cursitor Doom will be in there, so there'll be at least one old Smash! strip in it. I'm hoping for one or two more.

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