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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chips Annual 1940

Long before the two-in-one weekly Whizzer and Chips was launched in 1969 the title Chips had a long run (1890 to 1953) as a stand-alone comic with no relation to its revived namesake. There were also a handful of Chips Annuals published too. The book shown here was published in September 1939 - the same month that World War 2 broke out. Hopefully it proved to be an amusing distraction from the horrors that were soon to come. Typically of comics of the time, it contained no credits but the cover artwork seems to me to be the work of either Albert Pease or George Parlett. It shows the Chips editor, 'Corny Chips' (Richard Newton Chance), bestowing copies of the Chips Annual amongst the comic's various characters.

This Chips Annual 1940 had 92 pages (plus covers) but you'd be forgiven for thinking it contained far more from its depth. That's because the paper stock was so thick each page had the consistency of thin card.

Like other annuals from the publishers Amalgamated Press, the contents were a nice variety of humour and adventure strips and prose stories. Most pages were in black and white although a few were in spot colour (red) and five were in full colour. The book opened with this nicely painted frontispiece by Walter Bell flanked by an editorial introduction by 'Corny Chips'.

Amongst the prose stories was this two pager which combined strips and prose. Billy's Burglar uses the old formula of down-on-his-luck hero receiving a feast as a reward - "given a whole turkey to do as he liked with". Curious that the ending tells us that poor Billy was given a warm bed over Christmas - but after that he was back on the streets presumably. That's the life of the homeless in comic-land!

Recognising the increasing popularity of science fiction stories, the annual gave its only full colour section to a breezy SF story titled Into the Unknown. Definitely more fiction than science, but nicely illustrated by Reg Perrott, one of the best comic illustrators of his generation. Typical of the times, it's interesting to see the old British explorer attitudes at work even in space, where the invaders just take what they want, regardless of whether the crystal is important to the well-being of the natives of the planet or not.

Chip's long-running favourites Weary Willie and Tired Tim also featured in a four page story, although as there seems to be a natural break at the end of page two I suspect it might be a reprint from two old issues of the comic. Artwork by Percy Cocking.

No Chips Annual would be complete without Casey Court, and this book gave us two superb Christmas offerings by Albert Pease.

Ivor Klue was another page drawn by Albert Pease I believe, as was Laurie and Trailer...

Long before Black Bob, Dane the Dog Detective was another highly-intelligent canine getting into regular adventures and thwarting crooks. This text story ran for many years in the weekly.

The final page in the annual featured an advert for the weekly comic. Always a wise move to bring in new readers who may have only discovered Chips by having the book as a Christmas present. 

The back cover of the Chips Annual featured a paid ad... for Atora suet! "how good it is for kiddies who won't eat fat in the ordinary way". How times and nutrition advice have changed!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Presents of Christmas Past

I don't usually post about toys or games on my blog but as it's Christmas I'll make an exception for once. Sorting through various stuff today I found a box of some of my Christmas presents of long ago - from the 1960s when life was full of optimism and promise. Happy days. Anyway - I thought I'd take a few photos to show you.

Above is the Dan Dare Radio Station. This originally came out in the 1950s I think. I had mine for Christmas 1969 or 1970. The box design was looking dated even by then but it was an enjoyable toy. Kids today would be unimpressed with its 'walkie talkies' connected by 25 feet of wire and a 'radio station' that just buzzed or did morse code with a tap key and low watt bulb but kids of my time must have loved it as it was around for so long.

Next - Mouse Trap Game! Christmas 1969 I think. The original design. No I'm not setting it up for a photo. 

Cluedo. Again late sixties. Box design has changed considerably since. Loved this game.

Stingray jigsaw. Released around 1964/65. I'll probably sell this soon but I'll have to find time to put it together first to make sure all the pieces are there. (And I've never been too keen on jigsaws.)

Doctor Who Give-A-Show Projector. Christmas 1965. I still vividly remember protecting the comic-strip slide shows onto a big white sheet my mum and dad had hung up. (We had floral wallpaper back then. 1960s eh?)

Wild West City. Like most kids in the sixties I had a lot of those small plastic figures that Timpo made (soldiers / knights / cowboys). So when they released this Western town that clipped together it was a must-have. The Timpo figures in their own 'city'! I must have played with this for countless hours back then. Again this is from the late sixties.

Haunted House. This is from around 1970/71. A three dimensional board game. You build the 'house' (four rooms) with clip together walls and have to avoid the traps that are triggered by a ball bearing being dropped down the chimney. The ball could fall into any one of the four rooms and trigger a trap that hits the player's piece. Great fun.

Wartime edition of Monopoly. Someone gave me this second hand when I was a child. It's the Monopoly game that was released under wartime restrictions in World War 2 so the components are basically made of cheap card with wooden hotels and houses. Unfortunately by the time I received it it was even more of a cut-down version as the board and one of the pieces was missing but it still fascinated me all the same. (I had a contemporary version of the game in 1970 so I played that instead.)

As you can see - most of the items are still in very good condition. One of the benefits of being an only child perhaps in that there wasn't anyone to fight with over the toys and games and pull them apart. Also I was always taught to look after things as money was tight. Wise advice as it means these games will fetch more when I eventually sell them. At present though they bring back a lot of good memories of very happy Christmases of times past. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas comics: RADIO FUN (1958)

By 1958 Radio Fun had been around for 20 years, and frankly it was looking a bit old fashioned compared to The Beano which by then had been re-energised by Leo Baxendale, Davy Law, and Ken Reid, or Eagle which was setting new standards for British comics. Radio Fun, published by The Amalgamated Press, was on its last legs, (it would merge into Buster in early 1961) but it still contained work by A.P.'s finest artists.

The cover strip by this time was diminutive comic actor/performer Charlie Drake, drawn by Arthur Martin. As you can see, it used AP's old formula of circumstance bringing about a reward, providing the inevitable slap-up feed.

Radio Fun contained a nice mixture of humour and adventure strips (and a few prose stories). One of the comic's most successful characters was The Falcon, who by this point had become a gun-wielding superhero. Artwork by George Heath.

The Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss strip is by Reg Parlett, but the style looks a bit heavier than the one Reg was using in the late fifties so I think this may be a reprint from an earlier issue...

Tilly the Terror seems to be Radio Fun's answer to Minnie the Minx. Not so enduring though obviously. Artwork by Albert Pease.

To ensure its survival (for a while at least), Radio Fun had ventured into using stars from TV and films too. Norman Wisdom was one of the biggest UK film stars of the day, (and deservedly so). Artwork by John Jukes.

The inside back page of Radio Fun's 20 page weekly featured, what to my mind, seems a very old fashioned and long-winded editorial style page of the sort that A.P. had been using in their comics for decades. Things would change when Fleetway took over in the 1960s, and pages such as this would be livened up with more visuals and modernised. Even the ads for the annuals look dull, but look at those prices! 37 and a half pence for an annual. You couldn't even buy a bag of crisps for that today. 

If you want to see more Christmas comics of the past, have a root around this blog as I've posted quite a few over the last seven years. Presuming you're reading this on a computer rather than a phone or handheld device, search the December posts at the sidebar on the right of your screen and you'll find plenty of Christmas offerings of bygone times.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Daleks!

Fifty years ago today, the Daleks made their debut on television in the fifth Doctor Who episode The Dead Planet. Well, at least part of them did, as we only saw the 'sink-plunger' sucker arm at the end of the episode, raising the question of just what was advancing towards Barbara in the cliffhanger. The following week revealed the Daleks in full, instantly becoming a hit with children forevermore.

Dalekmania soon sprung forth and I covered that a few years ago (see here for that post) so today I thought I'd have a quick look at The Dalek World annual that I had for Christmas 1965.

The cover (above) used a pose for the main Dalek image that had also been used in a similar fashion on the Sweet Cigarette cards packet and other merchandise. Ever wonder why there's that red circular grid at the front that never actually appeared on any Dalek? Legend has it that the reference photo sent to the artist was a shot of a Dalek in the BBC studio and one of the crew had placed a roll of gaffer tape behind the horizontal band for a second, and had forgotten to remove it before the photo was taken. With no explanation as to why it was there, the artist assumed it was part of the Dalek's design. (Hey, if they're using a sink plunger, a roll of tape didn't seem unusual.) That'd also explain why the Dalek's eye stalk is at a wonky angle, as there'd be no operator inside the Dalek when the photo was taken. 

Opening the book, the inside front cover spread was mind-boggling. Daleks flying through space! It'd take the TV show decades to catch up with this idea! Excellent artwork by Richard Jennings. These days, the BBC use that 'Skaro Saucer' design in the TV show but it originated in the comic strips that appeared in the Dalek annuals and the Dalek weekly strip in TV21.

The 96 page book was a mixture of strips, text stories, and features which expanded the Dalek universe far beyond anything the TV show had done at the time. There was even a short photo-strip adaptation of the Peter Cushing Doctor Who and The Daleks movie. Here's a selection of pages...

The book concluded with great endpapers by Richard Jennings. No one drew Dalek destruction quite as well as he did it!

The Daleks are back on Christmas Day in the 800th episode of Doctor Who 'The Time of The Doctor'.
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