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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?


Raven said...

Nice piece and good to see Cor!! remembered, Lew, but though you mention a few of the weaker strips like Harriet and her Horse, you miss out a few classics.

The long-running double page Gasworks Gangs deserves a mention (McDiarmid's very lively take on the Bash Street Kids, I suppose), Parlett's excellent Freddie Fang the Werewolf Cub, and one of the comic's most appealing long running strips, Terry Bave's Andy's Ants.

Also a few interesting ones that broke the 'kids with gimmicks' mould: Little Geyser - a weird strip about a talking, sentient, travelling water spout, Dogsbodies Academy about a dog school, and the mouse v. owl antics of Wally and Olly.

I aways rather liked Stone Age Brit Ancient Nit, too! And thought Alf Saporito's Gus Gorilla gave us some of the most colourful and appealing fun comic covers of the 70s. His Christmas covers were especially delightful.

Alas, I think Mike Noble only drew the first three episodes of Four Alone.

Cor!! had a distinctive feel - the characters tended to be plucky, snarky underdogs, either bored, at odds with authority or setting out from the start to cause disruption, which I think gave the comic a bit of a rougher, more edgy feel.

Lew Stringer said...

I didn't have time to cover every strip so I just focused on a few that I thought represented the comic. Yes, Gasworks Gang could have been included, although I'm afraid I found Little Geyser and Andy's Ants too banal for words.

Raven said...

Oh, I liked Andy's Ants as a boy (and still do) and thought it was quite consistently creative - the ants forming a beard and walking stick for a bent-over Andy so the local bully wouldn't recognise him, or spelling out 'Sorry for the brakedown' on Andy's TV to stop his dad watching football.

The really nice thing was that, though they were just tiny little blobs, I thought Terry Bave gave managed to give them a lot of character.

What kid wouldn't want his own team of cocky ant helpers?

Lew Stringer said...

I think from my point of view I felt that the "pets help out kid in surreal ways" idea had already been done to death with 'Percy's Pets' in Smash for four years. IPC seemed to take an already limited idea (like Percy's Pets) and give it even MORE of a narrow focus. (See 'Sid's Snake' as another example.)

Dave Gibbons said...

Got my first professional cheque for a page of lettering in Cor!, so have fond memories of it!

Lew Stringer said...

Interesting point Dave. Quite a few people like yourself worked on Cor!! who would go on to significantly impact on the industry: Dez Skinn, Pat Mills and John Wagner wrote scripts, and Kev O'Neill did a few cartoons for it too.

jon haward said...

blimey i remember my brother buying that issue wow really 40yrs ago...time flys great to see those characters again thanks Lew

Rich said...

Thanks Lew. Great memories of this comic and the (VERY) sugary 'fruit drink'. When I saw the front page again I swear I could actually taste that drink for a second.

Unknown said...

It's funny how, reading your comments Lew, I can now easily see how strips borrowed/nicked concepts from other strips and how the tone of one comic differed from another but then I had absolutely no concept of it. To my 7/8 year old mind there were the 'funnies' comics, the war comics, the adventure comics, the TV tie-in comics and (eventually) the sci-fi comics. Within any category they were, to me, pretty much all the same which is probably why I never championed any one British comic over another. I'd just dip in and out of all of them.

Unca Dez said...

Great piece Lew. I'd forgotten quite a bit of it and I was there from issue 1! Can't be 40 years though, must be a typo Lew!! For the record, the ever-charming Scott Goodall was the token adventure comics writer of the title, being responsible for Kid Chameleon and lots of short-lived strips throughout its run.
Your mentioning Andy's Ants brings an anecdote to mind: The art assistants were Graham Corbett and Rob Lee and one thing which would drive them crazy was editor Bob Paynter's insistence on them often having to add more ants to Terry Bave's art. So when Bob went on holiday during Cor!!'s (hmm, messy punctuation) first year, his sub-editor (ahem!) filled his role. But said individual asked for the background ants to be a tad more naughty than usual. Wish I had kept a note of which issue, but in the final two frames of the printed comic, the ants were humping, screwing and getting up to lots of very naughty stuff, chums!

Lew Stringer said...

Dez, your IPC anecdotes are always welcome and that's a cracker. I had every issue of Cor!! but threw most of them out years ago. Does anyone know which issue has the amorous ants?

Steve said...

Hi Lew,
I really enjoyed your articles on Cor!!, Whizzer and Chips and Score and Roar. It's great to realise I'm not the only one who still likes this stuff from my childhood.
I'm lucky enough to have a number one of Whizzer and Chips (with the stickers) and a Score and Roar. If you have any tips about where I could get any copies of Cor!! or early Whizzer and Chips's, I'd be interested to know.
I look forward to reading articles by you on other British comics; I'm a big Lion fan and have quite a lot of those.
I loved your Tom Thug and Pete and his Pimple, and your History of comics in Buster. Good to see your work in Dandy and Beano recently.
Steve Innes-Drewery

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Steve. Much appreciated. I hope to find time to do something on Lion soon.

Gordon McWilliams said...

Hi Lew,

As a part-time collector of comics and associated annuals, I enjoyed your observations into COR!!!!

I loved Krazy Comic as a boy and I collected all but the first five issues. My mum chucked them all out years ago but I eventually managed to get my hands on every issue via e-bay etc and have now moved on to my next favourite which was Cor!!!

It would appear that COR!!!'s run finished just as I started to buy comics, so I missed out but I did get all the annuals from 1976 on. Some of the strips did have a narrow focus and were a bit repetitive in the plot (How many times did Ivor Lott come out on top?) but that was the attraction for many of us. I love the political incorrectness too when I look back on some strips, Whacky and Jack Pott being two obvious examples. Some of these comics show our social history and how times have changed.

A piece of trivia, In the 1974 annual, at the height of their fame, The Goodies made a one-off appearance in COR!!! in strip format, "We do anything,anytime"

Lew Stringer said...

The Goodies were a regular strip in the weekly in 1973:

The Goodies in Cor!!

Anonymous said...

I think the issue Dez is referring too regarding the naughty ants is dated 11 September 1971.


Steve Marchant said...

We've currently got the original cover art from Cor!! #1 on display at the Cartoon Museum. Every figure of Gus is covered in white-out and has been redrawn, so I wonder if - originally - he wasn't meant to be a gorilla. When I first saw him on the masthead, I thought he was just an ugly kid. Ironically for me, #1 was the only issue I never had. That artwork mocks me daily!

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, it is possible that Gus wasn't a gorilla in the dummy issue I suppose, or perhaps he looked too beast-like and they wanted him to be friendlier looking? You'll have to scrape off the white-out to find out. :)

I agree with you about Gus' face. When I first saw that Mike Lacey drawing in an ad for Cor!! I also thought he was just an ugly kid.

Richard Ashward said...

Ahem, 1970 was 50 years ago not 40!!

Lew Stringer said...

Look at the date when this article was written, Richard.

Tony Bruce said...

Dave're a name I recall from my IPC days and working as Art Assistant on Cheeky Weekly in the 70s...

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, Dave's done pretty well since the Cor!! days. 😉

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