Sunday, March 29, 2009
40 Year Flashback: TIGER AND JAG merge
Four decades ago today, the long running Tiger weekly absorbed the much newer Jag comic, less than a year after Jag's launch. I ran a brief history of Jag comic on this blog here so this time I'll just look back at the first combined edition.
The merger of Tiger and Jag was another step taken by IPC to boost up the comics they'd recently taken charge of from Fleetway and Odhams. A few weeks earlier they'd relaunched Smash! as a boys adventure title (see blog here) and combining Jag with Tiger would produce a stronger comic. This was just the beginning of IPC's dominance of the British comics market.
Tiger benefited a great deal from acquiring Jag. Previously Tiger had been a newsprint comic, but now it gained the better web offset printing process which Jag had been using. The better paper quality allowed for full colour artwork, rather than the flat colour overlay method of newsprint. Only a few of Tiger and Jag's 32 pages actually featured colour, but it did allow the artists the luxury of colouring their own work. The better printing was a bonus for the black and white pages too, with several artists now using a grey wash on their strips, - something that would not have reproduced well on newsprint.
Tiger also inherited the colour football pin-ups from Jag. This was a natural for the parent comic as Tiger had always featured a lot of sports strips in its pages. Over the next few years this would increase, with Tiger evolving into an all-sports comic in keeping with IPC's preference for "theme" comics.
Back to the contents of this 1969 merger issue. The first joint issue of Tiger and Jag kicked off with the perennial Roy of the Rovers on its cover. In subsequent issues Roy, Johnny Cougar, and Skid Solo would each rotate for the cover slot; a practice which lasted for a few years as I recall. (I think I'm in the minority but I always liked to see strips starting on the covers, rather than a full page symbolic shot. To my mind it showed they weren't afraid of being comics.)
Inside, a variety of adventure strips included David Sque's artwork on two strips; Custer and Black Patch the Wonder Horse. (Today, Sque is the artist on lowbrow t&a/soccer strip Scorer in the Daily Mirror.) Both were ex-Jag strips, and wouldn't last long in Tiger where sport was predominant.
Saber, King of the Jungle was a non-sports Tiger strip which had survived the merger. Its popularity no doubt due to it being a Tarzan rip-off and the new Tarzan tv series with Ron Ely was showing at the time. The strip had beautiful meticulous artwork by Dennis McCloughin who was a master of detail and usually used various line shading techniques on his pages, but was now able to use a grey wash as well. (Sadly this strip was ousted in November 1969 as Tiger and Jag moved closer to being an all-sports title.)
The centre spread of the early years of Tiger and Jag was taken up with the fantastic Football Family Robinson, drawn by Joe Colquhoun. The artist John Gilliatt would take over the strip later in 1969 and make it his own for many years but it was Colquhoun who designed the characters and who had established the strip for Jag.
Skid Solo was a strip that Tiger had inherited from its previous merger with Hurricane a few years earlier. This motor racing story was a huge favorite of the readers, due no doubt to John Vernon's clear artwork, and ran in the comic for decades.
Another ex-Hurricane strip was strongman trouble-shooter Typhoon Tracy which now occupied the final slot in Tiger and Jag. Tracy was illustrated by various artists during its run and at this stage was drawn by Graham Allen, usually noted for his humour work on strips such as Tuffy McGrew, The Nervs and Fiends and Neighbours.
I'm sure the merger of Tiger and Jag must have been a huge success for IPC. The improved printing and sports features certainly seemed to breathe new life into Tiger and raise its profile amongst readers and the sporting community. Sports personalities became involved, with the likes of goalkeeper Gordon Banks and later cricketer Geoff Boycott amongst others writing weekly columns for the comic and posing for exclusive photos. Over the years Tiger pretty much became IPC's flagship adventure comic and managed to clock up an impressive 31 years by the time it fell victim to a merger itself when it joined the new Eagle in 1985.