Thursday, March 22, 2012
This week in... 1969
Forty three years ago today the final issue of Jag appeared on the stands. Fleetway had launched the comic as a tabloid sized title in April 1968, clearly hoping that it would make an impact by mimicking Eagle's format with its size and extra colour pages. Sadly the writing was on the wall for Eagle, so no imitator, no matter how good, really stood a chance.
With the 22nd February 1969 issue, Jag had shrunk from 16 tabloid pages to 32 A4 pages, ready for its merger into Tiger. After just 48 weeks, Jag was being cancelled. IPC were in charge now and anything considered dead wood was eradicated as they streamlined the comics.
With a cover by Joe Colquhoun, the topline of this final issue promises "Exciting News for all readers" which was always a death sentence for a comic. Sure enough, a full page inside told us that "Two great papers join forces" - which basically meant that some of Jag's most popular strips were being shunted over to Tiger.
One of the good things that came out of the merger was that the combined Tiger and Jag inherited Jag's better quality paper. It also inherited the Star Portrait and Star Team soccer photos, which always seemed like a waste of colour pages to people like myself who had no interest in competitive sports.
Want to see that prose story in a more legible size? Here you go...
One of the strips that would survive the merger was Custer, embroidering the legend of General Custer. Originally Geoff Campion was the artist, but by this time someone else was drawing the strip. It looks like the work of Mike White to me. Anyone agree / disagree?
One of the many strips that reached its final episode this week was The Indestructible Man. Illustrated by Jesus Blasco (artist of The Steel Claw in Valiant) the lead character had the attributes of both The Steel Claw (invisibility, electric charges from his fingertips) and Tim Kelly of Kelly's Eye fame (invincibility). Perhaps this lack of originality led to the strip's demise, but it had featured some top quality artwork.
One of the annoying things about final issues of British comics is how serials were often hastily wrapped up. In Castaways of Shark Island (which was a 1964 reprint from Tiger) the drive of the serial was the question of whether the stranded boys would ever get home. Here, a speech balloon in the final panel has obviously been added to provide some optimism but it still leaves the reader wondering if the castaways will be rescued. A very inconclusive and unsatisfying ending.
This was a time of big changes for British comics due to IPC taking over the Fleetway and Odhams line. Within a few weeks, Jag and Eagle had been axed, Smash! had been revamped into a standard adventure title, and comics were being segregated into humour and adventure divisions. The exuberance and diversity of sixties comics was ending, to be replaced by a much more formal tone to the publications.
Earlier blogs about Jag:
Tiger and Jag merge