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Monday, November 29, 2010

Free Inside! - Part 3

Time for another quick look at free gifts of the past. Back in 1962 Eagle had a revamp, bringing in new stories such as Frank Bellamy's stunning story of Montgomery of Alamein. Accompanying the new look was a free 12 page booklet Marvels of this Modern Age along with the first four cards of a 12 card set.

The picture cards covered various items from the S.R.N.1 Hovercraft to the Vickers Armstrong V.C. 10 aircraft. Here's one of the pages from the booklet:

In April 1967 Odhams launched the fifth and final title of their "Power Comics", Terrific and the first issue included a free Iron Man iron-on transfer.

Blackpool 1967

I don't have the transfer to show here as I soon asked my Mum to iron it onto my T-shirt, but here I am way back in the summer of '67, age 8, proudly wearing it on Blackpool beach whilst snacking on a plate of shrimps:
Issues 2 and 3 of Terrific also had free gifts. A Missile Launcher in No.2 and the Astro Dart in No.3.

You'll notice that after 40 plus years the Missile Launcher has lost both its missile and another section but here's the cover to Terrific No.2 to show how it used to look:

In 1970 IPC had a promotion across five of their comics in the same week, with Buster, Tiger, Scorcher, Smash, and Lion each giving away a 12 page booklet called My Favourite Soccer Stars along with a set of picture cards.

Each comic had its own booklet and different cards to collect for each one. Here are the three booklets I collected in 1970:

It must have been a popular free gift because a year later they repeated it with a brand new set in Valiant, Lion, Scorcher, Buster, and Tiger.
Here's four of the five books:

In the 1980s both 2000AD and the relaunched Eagle gave away a pair of badges. The Judge Dredd shield was metal, and although the Eagle icon was plastic it was still a nice keepsake:

Here's a few more badges given away in comics over the years. It's probably fairly evident which comics they came with:


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Free Inside! - Part 2

Here's another helping of free gifts that were given away in British comics of the past. First off, the WHAMpire Bat from Wham! comic in 1964. This figure had very delicate wings and although the rubber band has now perished I presume it was wound up and the Whampire then suddenly flew out when the envelope was opened. Cardboard guns were a popular free gift in the decade of peace and love and in 1967 Pow! No.1 gave away this Web-Centre Spider-Matic and several cardboard bullets... The same year saw The Topper treat the readers to The Funny Face Maker. This was a sheet of clear acetate with cartoon facial components printed on it. When cut into individual parts the reader could then assemble them into various photofit style faces. A simple idea but very amusing. In 1968 the first combined issue of Fantastic and Terrific gave away another cardboard gun. This one not only had the gun and bullets but also included a target board... In 1971 IPC's Knockout weekly had an odd free gift; a little cardboard figure of one of the characters that you could pop into the breast pocket of a shirt or jacket so it appeared to be peeking over the edge. There were several to collect and it was pot luck which one you received. A bit of a useless free gift really, but one which a lot of people remember. The educational magazine Look and Learn had gifts that were a bit more substantial as one might expect. In 1971 it presented The Look and Learn Book of Records with the "help and co-operation" of Guinness Superlatives Ltd. In other words it had permission to copy stuff from The Guinness Book of Records. The magazine only gave away the cover of the booklet and a couple of interior sections. In order to compile the rest of the 96 page book the reader had to buy Look and Learn for a few weeks and cut out a section. Still a good gift though. I always felt that the photo below of the Limbo dancer being ogled by a bunch of beer-swilling blokes pretty much summed up entertainment of the early 1970s... Two years later in 1973 Look and Learn offered more free gifts, such as this 16 page full colour Spotter in the Country booklet with not a Limbo dancer in sight... IPC launched Shiver & Shake in 1973, giving away a practical joke gift in issue No.1. In order to sell more copies there was a choice of one of four practical jokes: a trick spoon, a trick rubber pencil, fake liquorice, or a plastic biscuit. 1975 saw Warlord give away an excellent 16 page booklet, Badges of the Brave along with aluminium badges representing various regiments that could be stuck into the book. Artwork by Jeff Bevan. (Thanks to Ray Moore for identifying Bevan's work.) A few years later, in 1983, Victor gave away a similar gift. For Valour was a fold out card display which free replicas of medals could be affixed to. Again, the artwork is by Jeff Bevan. Another collection of free gift scans soon!

Free Inside! - Part 1

I've been promising to post an item about old free gifts for a long time now so here at last is part one of an occasional series. Free gifts have been a long established part of British comics almost since the beginning. Today the novelty has lost its value, with most comics now being bagged with multiple gifts every issue. Years ago a free gift was a special treat, reserved for the first three issues of a new comic or for occasional promotions to boost the sales of a comic. Above are two of the "Broadway Books" given free with the first six issues of D.C. Thomson's new story paper The Skipper in 1930. The two books were printed as one and the reader had to cut across the middle to separate them. Each had 52 pages and was a tiny 4" x 2 3/4" size (10cm x 7cm). The interiors were all in black and white. Here are sample pages from The Broadway Book of Grins and Groans and The Broadway Book of Flying: Here's the back cover to the Grins and Groans book. Artwork by Chick Gordon. (Thanks to Ray Moore for the update): Free gifts back then were certainly more refined than the cheap plastic toys given away today. Issue No.18 of Amalgamated Press' Radio Fun dated February 11th 1939 presented a free Bumper Song Book with 28 pages of sheet music and lyrics to while away the winter nights. Inside that issue, an advertisement announced that the following week's Radio Fun would be giving away "Amazing Mystifying Magic Spectacles", or 3-D Specs as we know them today: Moving on to 1963 and here's an early version of the Football League Ladders of the type that would later be given away annually with Shoot! However, as it's six years before Shoot! would be launched, these particular League Ladders were the free gift in Valiant. The same issue that saw the debut of Mytek the Mighty: It's 1966 and new Odhams comic Smash! gives away a free jumping frog in its second issue: The flat cardboard frog was inside a card envelope which could be set to make the frog spring out. In 1967 Sparky comic was given a revamp and one of the free gifts was Target Tiddleywinks: A nice cheap but effective free gift, it also featured a Snakes and Ladders game on the bottom of the box: Sparky was aimed at both sexes but girls' comic Diana wasn't going to mention those smelly boys in its advert for it: In 1967 the third issue of Pow! gave away this cheap and cheerful game to fire little cardboard haggis into the shed via cardboard bagpipes and a rubber band. Not very sophisticated but good fun all the same. (You'll notice that although the gifts have remained in fairly good condition any rubber bands have tended to perish if more than 40 years old.) In 1968 Smash! gave away another gift, the Smash! Secret Coder. Notice the brass pin in the centre. Free gifts were often held together by these sharp objects and I don't recall ever being cut by them. Today Health and Safety would insist on a wedge of text warning about the pin, if it allowed it at all. In 1970 D.C. Thomson revived The Wizard and in its second issue gave away a free plastic wallet and the first set of large colour cards for The Great Stars of Football collection. The second set appeared in issue 3. Also in 1970 the second issue of IPC's Thunder featured a spooky Mike Western cover promising an eerie free gift... The gift turned out to be a cardboard bat, but its black paper wings did make an authentic bat-like fluttering noise when you swung it around your head from the elastic provided... 1971 and The Dandy had one of its many face lifts... ...bringing with it the free Dandy Thunder Bang... These cardboard and brown paper gifts were very popular indeed and had appeared in D.C. Thomson comics for years... Even Marvel UK got into the act by giving one away in their awkwardly titled comic The Thing is Big Ben... Another POPular free gift was the plastic pop-gun that turned up in various comics over the years. I'm not sure what comic this particular one was from but they were all variations on this design... That's it for Part 1. I'll be scanning more random free gifts from my collection in the near future.

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