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Sunday, May 30, 2010

40 Year Flashback: COR!! No.1

Forty years ago today IPC Magazines followed up the success of their first humour title Whizzer and Chips with a companion weekly: Cor!! The 32 page comic was priced 7d, the standard cover price for most IPC comics of the time, which immediately made it almost twice as expensive as its main competitors Dandy and Beano.

Nevertheless, Cor!! had twice as many pages as its two rivals, - something it didn't really capitalize on strangely enough. Perhaps IPC felt the content itself was strong enough to compete, and it certainly boasted a good line up of creators with Joe Colquhoun, Mike Lacey, Frank McDiarmid, Terry Bave, Reg Parlett and more.

Kicking off with a distinctive logo, the eye-catching cover of issue one was drawn by Mike Lacey (who also drew the Gus Gorilla vignette which resided beside the masthead for years). The free "10 glasses of fruit drink" was in the form of a sachet of flavoured powder (raspberry as I recall) which you added to water. A similar free gift had been given with Buster five years previously.

Inside, the comic was packed with numerous new characters. Some of them would endure for years whist others, such as Mike Lacey's Whacky (a bit like Chips' Shiner but with a sore arse instead of a sore eye), would eventually vanish into obscurity.

One of Cor's most popular strips was Hire-A-Horror by Reg Parlett. Reg's Rent-A-Ghost had been a success in Buster so presumably group editor Bob Paynter felt it was time to repeat the concept.

The problem I often had with IPC strips was their concept was too narrowly focused. Whilst the tomboyish aspects of The Beano's Minnie the Minx were only part of her character, Cor!! presented us with the less subtle Tomboy. Nice artwork by Brian Lewis on this opening strip though.

Cor!! had a refreshing number of female characters although unfortunately Harriet and her Horse was another case of a strip with a narrow focus and it didn't last very long. Les Barton was the artist, although he'd adopted a simpler style to that which he'd used on I-Spy for Thomson's Sparky.

The strip with the most longevity was Ivor Lott and Tony Broke. This comedy of class war ran throughout Cor's run and into Buster for many years. Another contribution by Reg Parlett, a veteran of humour comics whose style was always perfectly clear to follow and pleasantly amusing. Flawless cartooning. Curiously in this first episode it's Ivor who gets the last laugh, going against the usual comic formula of the underdog getting the winning hand.

The centre pages of Cor!! were a real treat with the adventure serial Kid Chameleon illustrated by Joe Colquhoun. The artist had already earned respect amongst readers and his peers on strips such as Paddy Payne for Lion and Football Family Robinson for Jag, so his appearance in Cor!! was a definite plus. Unfortunately the reproduction on the new comic wasn't as good as it perhaps could have been for Colquhoun's colour work, with his finer detail dropping out.

Graham Allen, who had contributed many pages to the Odhams comics, was also part of Cor's team with two strips; Eddie (gimmick: he's always bored) and Spoilsport (a bully who picks on kids playing sport, hence he spoils sport, - geddit?). Great cartooning despite another limited concept, but looking at it now I think it may have had a subliminal influence on my Tom Thug character.

Mike Noble, who had produced glorious colour pages for TV21 in the Sixties, was on board to illustrate Four Alone on the Abandoned Island in black and white. Although the strip didn't run for long (and, I think, another artist took over in time) it made a change to see Mike break away from the futuristic aspects of Fireball XL5 and Zero X.

On the back page was Teacher's Pet drawn by Norman Mansbridge. As with Fuss Pott which appeared later in Knockout, Mansbridge was great at portraying horrendous schoolgirls and Teacher's Pet was one of Cor's most popular strips, running until the final issue in 1974.

Cor!! No.1 featured 27 strips in all. For those of us who'd grown accustomed to the brasher characters and more varied content of Wham!, Smash! and Pow! the more formularized format of Cor's endless kids-with-gimmicks was a bit of a disappointment. Even so, Cor!! had some of the best artists in the industry working on it, although Barney's Brain Box was never going to be a substitute for Smash's The Nervs.

Nevertheless, Cor!! was a good solid comic which had a respectable four year run before merging into Buster. At the time, the title Cor!! was considered to be a bit risque, as it was a shorthand version of "Cor blimey" (God blind me). Even today I still remember one lad's Mum in WH Smith taking the comic off him and putting it back on the shelf, saying "I don't care for the language in that"! I wonder what she'd have made of Viz?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Heatwave for Bristol Comic Expo 2010

Being stuck in a hotel on the hottest weekend of the year doesn't sound very enticing but the Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo was such an enjoyable and laid back event that it was worth a bit of vitamin D deprivation.

Although the once-essential news mag Comics International has now confirmed it's folded, comics fandom still found out about the Expo and tickets had sold out before the show opened. Here's a few pix I took over the weekend. A Who's Who follows each set of photos...

1: Panini UK editors Simon Frith and Brady Webb had an impressive display of Panini Books and comics on their table. The biggest demand was for the first two volumes of Requiem by Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit.

2: V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd promoting his crime noir graphic novel Kickback, a fine all-new book that everyone should buy.

3: Mike Collins, artist on Doctor Who Magazine, working all weekend as usual providing sketches for a legion of fans.

4: Writer John Short, who wrote Rex and Robin Hoodie for Toxic, enjoying the sun on the short walk to the small press expo at the Mercure Hotel.

5: In the bar of the Ramada Hotel on Friday night it was a reunion of Marvel UK creators. Left to right: Mike Collins, Richard Starkings, Dave Hine, Ian Churchill, and Doug Braithwaite.

6: Artists Rob Davis and Faz Choudhury use their combined mental powers to prevent my camera flash from working.

7: Artist/writer Laura Howell with Smallzone's Shane Chebsey. Shane is also one of the organizers for the October event BICS.

8: Gee, they got a band! Mine Power Cosmic rock the house on the Saturday night.

9: Artist Phil Winslade swaps his pen for a guitar for the Mine Power Cosmic gig...

10: ...whilst on the drums it's Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard (that's the title of the comic Charlie works on, not his physical state by the way).

11: Creator of Elephantmen, Richard Starkings flew over from L.A. as a special guest. It was great to see Richard again, who had been my editor on Combat Colin 20 years ago and, more recently, my editor on Brickman Begins and the Brickman back-up series in Elephantmen.

12: The brilliant Mike Ploog (Werewolf by Night, Man Thing, and other classic 1970's Marvel monster books) sketching for fans.

13: Doug Braithwaite, superb artist on Justice and now Thor, was also busy all weekend sketching for fans.

14: Knockabout's publisher Tony Bennett with the latest issue of Dodgem Logic, Alan Moore's latest project. (I'll be taking a look at Dodgem Logic here soon.)

15: It's Kez and Luke out of The Adventures of Kez and Luke, produced by Toxic's sub-editor Luke Paton.

16: Those zany small-pressers! Tom McNally with the current issue of his comic Semiotic Cohesion.

17 and 18: Scenes around the dealers' room at the Expo.

Above: The legendary Pat Mills made a rare and flying visit to the Expo on Saturday to give a talk about his Requiem albums. Originally published in France, Panini UK have the license for the English language versions. Excellent gothic horror and well worth buying, Requiem won the Favourite European Comics category in the Eagle Awards in 2008. (My thanks to Commando / Spectacular Spider-Man writer Ferg Handley for sending me this photo of Pat.)

The team behind Comic Heroes magazine were apparently at the Expo but as issue one has sold out and they had no stock to bring! However there was a preview of the second issue's cover at the show. Amongst the contents of the next issue I've contributed a brief history of UK humour comics. Comic Heroes No.2 will be out in mid-June.

Thanks again to Mike Alwood and the other organizers for another brilliant Bristol Comic Expo. I hope you enjoyed it as much as the rest of us clearly did!


The next UK comic event is the London MCM Expo this coming weekend. Unfortunately I'm unable to attend now for various reasons but I'm sure it'll be a great show!

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Look for Classics from the Comics

D.C. Thomson's monthly reprint publication Classics from the Comics gets a facelift this week with a new logo, cover design, and new features. Sadly this means the end of Ken Harrison's covers (the only brand new artwork in the comic) but they've been replaced with a design which reflects the retro contents.

Within the 68 pages of issue 170 are a variety of classic strips including Ken Reid's Jonah, Bill Holroyd's Brassneck, Davy Law's Dennis the Menace, and a "new" reprint, The Space Kids, a 1976 adventure series from The Beezer drawn by Ron Smith.

Another new item this month is the debut of News and Views featuring readers letters and a plug for comic websites. There's also a feature on Desperate Dan, showcasing Dudley Watkins strips from the 1940's to the 1980's, although the 1975 one is a Sixties reprint.

With its brighter and better design, Classics from the Comics No.170 goes on sale this week, priced £2. Its distribution is poor though so if it's not available in your area you can subscribe at this link.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Buster's 50th Birthday!

Fifty years ago this weekend, Fleetway Publications launched the first issue of a brand new comic that would give D.C. Thomson's Dandy and Beano a run for their money for four decades. Buster, Son of Andy Capp had arrived!

The new comic both gave a nod to the past (tabloid size) and heralded the future in that it was distinctively more modern looking and faster paced than the bygone days of Illustrated Chips and Comic Cuts. This was a bold new direction to immediately establish that Fleetway were going to be more contemporary than their predecessors Amalgamated Press.

As seen by the ad above, issue No.1 officially launched on Monday 23rd May 1960, although there were copies on sale two days earlier on Saturday 21st May. Buster (as it would be known, when the Andy Capp references were dropped a few months later) featured a good balance of both humour and adventure strips. The old A.P. practice of including text stories was not evident in this new venture. With the rise of Television, visual storytelling was the way to go.

The first issue was promoted in the Daily Mirror with a short article strategically placed beneath the Andy Capp strip on Saturday May 21st 1960. Here it is in context:

Advertisements for the new comic also appeared in the paper, (seen at the top of this posting) and this continued for issues two and three:

As fans of the comic will know, over the years Buster shrank its dimensions to the standard size (whilst increasing its page count) and gradually phased out its adventure strips to become part of the IPC Humour Group. In the course of its 40 years Buster absorbed many other titles, become an all full colour comic and, sadly, by the final issue in December 1999 had become all reprint. The comic that had begun a new direction for Fleetway in 1960 had become the last surviving title of the traditional IPC funnies. With no other comics of its type to merge into, and with sales falling, Buster simply ceased publication at the end of 1999.

I was fortunate enough to become one of Buster's many contributors in 1988 when Oink! merged into its pages, bringing in my Tom Thug and Pete and His Pimple strips. Tom Thug survived in Buster as all-new material until 1996 and as a reprint for the comic's final three years. It was always a very pleasant experience to work for the comic (and its editor Allen Cummings) and I'm very proud to be part of its history.

To celebrate the comic's 50th Anniversary, the Buster fan site is to feature interviews with Allen Cummings and the artists and writers who worked on the comic (including myself). The interviews should go live this weekend over at:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Harker - Britain's new crime comic

Wouldn't it be great if there was a new UK adventure comic? A nice quirky crime story perhaps, set in the UK, by British creators, and published every month? Imagine such a comic, there just out of sight, in the corner of your eye.

Well, one such comic is real and has been coming out every month since April 2009 and, to my shame, I hadn't gotten around to plugging it properly on this blog until now. (Sorry lads!) Harker is it's name and it's written by Roger Gibson and drawn by Vince Danks. Issue 12 has just been published and there's also a graphic novel collection of the first six issues to buy under the title The Key of Solomon.

Both creators will have a table at this weekend's Bristol Comic Expo (May 22nd-23rd, Ramada Hotel Bristol) so if you're attending check it out.

...and if you're not attending, buy the comic anyway from their official website at Ariel Press:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Get Wasted again!

Comic artist Jon Haward reports that the fourth issue of Wasted is out now. The adult humour anthology features a cover by Dave Taylor and inside Jon has contributed Tales of the Buddha in which Buddha has a smack down with Hercules...

...and faces the followers of the Fish God...

Jon also contributes Adventures in Sherweed Forest which, he says, is drawn in a tribute style to Ken Reid and Robert Nixon. Impressive stuff, going by this title banner...

Jon Haward's graphic novel for Classical Comics, The Tempest, recently won a bronze medal at the USA Ippy Awards.

Wasted No.4 is published by Bad Press Ltd. and is available to buy from their website:

Monday, May 17, 2010

The History of Sparky, - in your hands

Sparky was a D.C. Thomson comic which ran from 1965 to 1977. Originally aimed at young readers as a sort of stepping stone between Bimbo and Beano, it was revamped in the late Sixties for the average comic reading age but with more than average content. Sometimes experimental and surreal, and often laugh out loud funny, Sparky is still fondly remembered by collectors today.

Now, loyal Sparky fan Alan Smith has devoted a great deal of his time in compiling a fantastic 129 page Sparky File recounting the history of the weekly. Available as either a Word document or PDF to download from the Comics UK website, the impressive tome escorts the reader through the issues, recounting each character with synopses, names of artists, and charting the many changes that the comic underwent. There's even a listing of every free gift and which issue they appeared in.

Such a venture could easily have been presented in a dull and clinical fashion but Alan keeps it lively by adding his opinions and snippets of information. All in all it's a brilliant reference work that I'm sure every fan of this very individual comic will be consulting time and time again.

You can download The Sparky File by clicking on the links that follow. Personally I found the PDF version worked best on the iPod Touch, and the Word .doc was best for the desktop computer. File.doc File.pdf

If they don't work, refer to the Comics UK forum here where you'll find the links:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Black Bob is back!

John Freeman's Down the Tubes blog has some fantastic news today concerning forthcoming titles from Waverley Books. The most exciting of which in my opinion is that in a few short weeks, on June 3rd, The Very Best of Black Bob will be available to buy. This £9.99 hardback, compiled D.C. Thomson archivist and ex-Dandy editor Morris Heggie, will be in the same horizontal format as the Black Bob books of the 1950s.

The famous "Dandy Wonder Dog" first appeared as a text story in The Dandy in 1944. It then ran in several serials in The Weekly News as a comic strip drawn by Jack Prout, which then appeared in The Dandy from the 1940s to the late 1960s, then as reprints until the 1980s. Jack Prout died in 1978.

The strip adventures of the clever Border Collie and his master, shepherd Andrew Glenn were always presented as picture strips with text captions. (Dialogue balloons never appeared in the weekly strips, although they did appear in strips drawn for the Dandy Summer Special.) This gave the strips an old fashioned look, but it made no difference to the kids who loved the stories. In fact that was part of the charm. It was a firm favourite of mine as a child and I for one will definitely be buying this collection.

Waverley Books also have other D.C. Thomson titles scheduled for this year and details and cover images can be seen over at the Down the Tubes blog:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

More Classics from D.C. Thomson

The latest issue of the 68 page monthly reprint comic Classics from the Comics (No.169) went on sale last week. D.C. Thomson's Garry Fraser has provided a list of the contents of this edition which as usual collects a variety of vintage strips from Beano, Dandy, Topper, Hornet, Sparky and more:

Page 4 Little Plum
5 Smiffy
6 Tiny
7 The Sparky People
8 Dennis the Menace
10 My Home Town – Lichfield
11 The Banana Bunch
12 Richard the Lion
13 Bodger the Bookworm
14 General Jumbo
17 Hop, Skip and Jock
18 The Jocks and the Geordies
20 Kid Kats
21 Cops and Robbers
22 L Cars
24 Figaro
25 Young Sid
26 Baby Face Finlayson
27 Kelly
28 Fred the Flop
29 PC Big Ears
30 Bill the Burglar
31 The Badd Lads
32 Dixon Hawke
34 PC McGraw
36 Cops and Robbers – Classic wordsearch
37 Sleepy Ed
38 The Truth About Wilson
40 Cuddles and Dimples
41 Dennis the Menace
42 Puss an’ Boots
44 Jimmy and his Magic Patch
46 Hungry Horace
47 Desperate Dan
50 Pup Parade
51 WIN! Classic DVDs
52 The Wild Rovers
54 The Truth About Wilson
56 The Germs
57 Beryl the Peril
58 The Bash Street Kids
60 Claude Hopper
61 Grandpa
62 Mr Licko and his Lollipops
64 Desperate Dawg
65 Mickey the Monkey
66 Colonel Blink
67 Julius Cheeser
68 Biffo the Bear

May Commandos blaze into battle

The first four Commando issues for May are in the shops from today. (Another four will be out in two weeks time.) Here's the intel from editor Calum Laird...

This month sees the start of the VE-Day stories. Issues 4291 and 4292 are brand new, 4293 and 4294 were originally commissioned as part of a seven-part series for the 50th anniversary and get a fresh outing here. The rest of the series will follow this month and next.

Ian Kennedy’s covers grace three of the books, two with extra portraits on the back cover.

Janek Matysiak makes a welcome return as a cover artist with a new technique for his artwork. He has retrained to create his images totally digitally. We like it and were interested to hear the reaction to it.

Commando stalwart Gordon Livingstone’s artwork appears in Slogger’s War — we’re sure his fans will be delighted by that.

Commando 4291: FIGHT FOR THE EAGLE

Private Pete Curtiz was proud to be British — joining up to serve his country during World War II. Thanks to his surname though he was ordered to join a Polish unit. He was to fight for the Polish Eagle alongside men he had nothing in common with.
These tough veterans resented his presence and, in turn, Pete developed a bad attitude towards them.
They would have to set aside their differences and work as a team to survive. But could they?

Story: Ferg Handley

Inside art: Vila

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4292: TO THE LAST MAN

In May 1945, even after the surrender of Germany, occupying Allied forces were in danger, forced to keep a constant vigil for marauding Nazis. They were the much-feared Werewolves — brutal, renegade, die-hards.
So a British Commando unit was given one final mission…to hunt down this enemy who would fight TO THE LAST MAN

Story: Ferg Handley

Inside art: Morahin

Cover Art: Janek Matysiak

Commando 4293: I WANT TO FIGHT!

From the first day of war in 1939, the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the countries opposed to Hitler’s Germany knew that it would be a long, bloody struggle before the Nazis were toppled to defeat.
They couldn’t know then that the day of victory would come in May, 1945. For Jean Duval, a French soldier who saw his unit crumble under the full force of the Nazi blitzkrieg in France in 1940, it would a bitter, hard war…

Story: Ian Clark

Inside art: Gordon Livingstone

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Commando 4294: SLOGGER’S WAR

From the first day of war in 1939, the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the countries opposed to Hitler’s Germany knew that it would be a long, bloody struggle before the Nazis were toppled to defeat.
They couldn’t know then that the day of victory would come in May, 1945. Tom “Slogger” Morgan, a British Commando, was to find that facing the enemy called for a certain kind of courage — but this was not the only kind of bravery needed in the battle for survival!

Story: Ian Clark

Inside art: Benet

Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Official Commando website:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell passes away

Very sad news just in from Ellie Graham at Titan Books:

Titan Books is hugely saddened to report the passing of writer Peter O’Donnell, who died over the Bank Holiday weekend at the age of 90.

“Peter O'Donnell was respected as one of the greatest writers in the comics medium today and had a devout following amongst comics professionals and fans alike”, says Titan’s Managing Director, Nick Landau. “I am honoured to have known him – and published his greatest creations, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin – for almost 40 years.”

Born in South London in 1920, O’Donnell had a long and illustrious career, the highlight of which was his creation of classic crime character ‘Modesty Blaise’. The smart and sassy comic strip ran daily in the Evening Standard newspaper during the 1960s. O’Donnell retired from writing in 2001, but had continued to oversee Titan’s release of more than a dozen Modesty Blaise collections, contributing introductions and commentaries to his classic stories.

Adventurer, spy, smuggler and seductress, Modesty Blaise is the high priestess of pulp, providing crime thriller storylines with sass, wit and a touch of glamour, that have wooed celebrity fans such as Quentin Tarantino.

Titan Books has previously published 16 collections of the classic strip and has four further collections scheduled for release in 2010 and 2011.

The 17th Modesty Blaise book, Death in Slow Motion (shown below) has just been published by Titan, and features strips from February to November 1983 by Peter O'Donnell and Neville Colvin. As well as Death in Slow Motion the book also includes the complete serials The Balloonatic and The Alternative Man. There's also an appreciation of the work of Neville Colvin written by Captain America artist Steve Epting, and Steve has also contributed an excellent piece of Modesty Blaise artwork exclusively for this volume.
Modesty Blaise: Death in Slow Motion is £11.99 / $19.95 U.S. / $24.95 Canada.

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