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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This week in 1966: SMASH!

Although Smash! is often associated with Marvel reprint as part of its content there was a time before The Incredible Hulk arrived in its pages when the contents were all home grown. One such example is this early issue of Smash! (No.12) which went on sale this week in 1966.

The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E. was the usual star of the cover at this time but he was pushed aside this week for a promotion of The Legend Testers serial. And what a striking image by the fantastic Jordi Bernet. "Rollo Stones" was the name of one of The Legend Testers, and there's no prizes for guessing what inspired that moniker. I'm sure the huge title under the logo this week caused a few double takes from Rolling Stones fans, and possibly a few new readers, which of course was the intention.

The first strip inside this issue's 28 pages was the latest chapter of The Moon Madness drawn impeccably by Brian Lewis. The premise of this series (bits of alien body being drawn together) was completely daft, but it was played totally straight and for many of us who were kids at the time it proved to be completely gripping. When I was seven I couldn't wait for the next chapter every week! (More on Moon Madness in an earlier blog post here.)

Another artist who always gave 100% was Ken Reid, who, in my opinion, was doing the best work of his career at Odhams. Here's the hilarious Queen of the Seas (which was later reprinted in Buster)...

The Legend Testers was about two time travellers from the far future who were assigned to various points in history to test the authenticity of various museum artifacts. A job not as dull as it sounds as you can see, leading Rollo Stones and Danny Charters into deadly danger every week. Spanish artist Jordi Bernet is well known now for his crime series Torpedo and for his recent work on Jonah Hex...

Brian Lewis had an incredible versatility to his style. Here he is drawing Space Jinx, showing he was as much as master of slapstick "bigfoot" art as he was of the realistic style he used on Moon Madness. He also drew many of the Charlie's Choice episodes for Smash!

If you're wondering how The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E. got out of his death plunge on the cover, here's the solution on the Mister Knowall page. Did you guess correctly?

This issue also featured The Swots and The Blots by Ron Spencer, Bad Penny and Danger Mouse by Artie Jackson, The Tellybugs by George Parlett, The Ghost Patrol (a reprint of Swift's The Phantom Patrol) by Gerry Embleton, The Nervs by Graham Allen, Percy's Pets by Stan McMurtry, Brian's Brain by Bert Vandeput, and Ronnie Rich by Gordon Hogg. What a great line up of artistic talent!

And last but not least, on the back page, was Grimly Feendish which this week was drawn by Artie Jackson...

Smash! - Definitely my favourite comic of 1966. 


Tony Howson said...

I've got absolutely nothing constructive to add, but this is a great post on one of my favourite comics ever. Keep them coming, Lew.

Although I'd read TV21 and other titles the previous year, Smash! was the comic that made me a lifelong fan of the medium - initially through Moon Madness and the Legend Testers - and later the Batman and Hulk reprints that got me into the American titles.

My long-gone uncle (an ex-Merchant Navy man himself ) loved Queen of the Seas. It was maybe a bit too sophisticated for little 6 year old me but I rediscovered it a few years back and it's probably Reid's masterpiece (if you have to choose one).

The first 18 months or so of Smash! were wonderful. I've spent way too much on eBay in recent years replacing the copies that were read to destruction 46 years ago.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes I agree the first 18 months or so were the best for Smash! I felt it started to wane a bit by 1968 but I did like the later issues when Pow! merged into it, mainly because The Cloak had joined the line up. The 1966 issues remain my favourites though.

Queen of the Seas went over my head a bit too when I was 7. Also, for some reason, I never liked strips about ships or the sea. Dunno why.

That said, there were always parts of Queen of the Seas that amused me as a child, and later I came to appreciate the strip far more. Definitely one of Ken Reid's best.

Anonymous said...

hi lew,
these odhams comics look so different to other stuff you show here, even if they use the same artists.
my question is:
why did smash use blue ink on outside coversfor outlines instead of solid black? did they use a different method of printing to other contemporary comics of the mid 60s? is the blue a solid color? were some interior pages blue or smth?

thanks for reading this

Lew Stringer said...

I think it was mainly to save money on printing. Odhams had a lower budget than Fleetway's comics for instance.

The blue was solid, but they also used dot screen percentages for a lighter blue, or to print over yellow or red to make green or purple for example.

Smash!, Pow! and the later issues of Wham! all used this technique.

All the interior pages were printed in black ink. The only exceptions being the early issues of Smash! which had a colour centre spread which, like the covers, used dark blue ink instead of black.

It gave the comics a distinct look I think. Many old annuals such as Dandy, Beano, Radio Fun also often used blue ink instead of black on some pages.

Mike Belbin said...

Mike Belbin said..
Though I liked the Odhams range for the Marvel reprints, Smash! was my favourite
British comic, especially for Ken Reid's Queen of the Seas. His often grotesque combination of visceral material and comedy was always fascinating.(I was nine.) It's interesting that, along with Reid, other Smash! strips seem to echo the
uncanny and gothic themes in the rest of the culture of those times - the Steed-Peel Avengers, Captain Scarlet, Hammer Horror, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
But where's the collected Ken Reid, in paperback or hardback? Should we start
a campaign?

Lew Stringer said...

Unlikely to happen I'm afraid. Time Inc own the Smash material and aren't interested. However, Rebellion have recently reprinted the early Faceache strips from Jet and Buster so I presume you've seen that?

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