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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Who remembers SUPER Z BAR?

Some people hate adverts in comics but I think they add to their history and nostalgia. Case in point; who remembers Super Z Bar ice lollies now? I don't, but I remember Booster (not that I liked ice lollies much). This ad is from Boys' World in the summer of 1964.

If you're interested in seeing more old adverts from British comics you can click on the following links:

Preview: COMMANDO Nos.4919 to 4922

Here's the info for this week's four Commando comics...

Commando Issues 4919-4922 – On Sale 2 June 2016

Commando No 4919 – Seeing Red
 Second Lieutenant Wesley Muldoon was a gifted but hot-headed U.S. air force pilot. Before being called up he had studied politics at university and held unpopular communist beliefs.
   Seizing a chance to ferry an aircraft to America’s Soviet allies, Muldoon was delighted to see Russia for himself. Soon he even became part of a Russian squadron, flying his Airacobra P39 aircraft against the Luftwaffe hordes.
   However, despite his idealised views, Muldoon realised he could not trust all of his new “comrades” and that danger lay ahead.

Story: Shane Filer
Art: Rezzonico
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4920 – Half-Pint Commando
 It was a Commando raid with a difference. Among the elite soldiers, fighting right alongside with a tommy-gun was a boy of only sixteen who wasn’t even in the army!
   When the Commandos found young Terry Nelson stowed away on their landing craft, it was too late to do anything but give him a gun and take him along — and the boy gave those hardy warriors no cause to ever regret it.

 I can only imagine that there was a fair amount of trying to anticipate reader wish-fulfilment when this story was first published 50 years ago. Perhaps not, but I guess that most fans would’ve loved to find themselves in the shoes of Terry Nelson — the sixteen-year-old hero who stows away on a landing craft during a daring Commando raid.
   Yes, I’ll admit the premise might be stretching credibility a tad but that’s fine with me every now and again. We’re all about delivering exciting adventure and action and this tale certainly fits that criteria.
Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
Half-Pint Commando, originally Commando No 225 (August 1966)

Story: McOwan
Art: Segrelles
Cover: Hall

Commando No 4921 – A Soldier’s Legacy
 Private Steve Kirby was very skilled and more than ready for the tough basic training that he and his fellow new recruits had to endure in the spring of 1944.
   Eventually the instructors wanted to know why Steve seemed to have an advantage over everyone else. The dedicated conscript revealed that has father had been an infantry corporal in World War One and Kirby Senior had taken it upon himself to train his son in military drills and techniques, should they ever be needed.
   However, Steve soon discovered that his father’s legacy was not always a welcome one and, of course, no amount of training could truly prepare anyone for combat…

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Commando No 4922 – Trial By Combat
 The Patwari Rifles was a proud regiment, one of the Indian Army’s finest fighting units. So when one of their platoons disappeared in Burma, evidently having deserted to the Japanese, the regiment’s shame was fierce.
   There was only one thing to do — the guilty men had to be brought back to prove themselves in battle against the enemy. If they were to die honourably doing it, so much the better — for that was the way of the Patwari Rifles. Death with honour was better than the disgrace of a court-martial.

 One of the interesting things about selecting stories from our archives is finding out the working titles of these classic tales. Of course, some were perfunctory — so that staff could keep a track of the latest “Submarine” or “Machine-Gunner” script.
   “Trail By Combat”, though, had the wonderfully lurid working title of “Slaves Of Kali” — and it certainly tied in well with Ian Kennedy’s fantastic cover, which features a shadowy rendition of the Hindu deity. However, the then-editorial team undoubtedly made the right decision as the eventual published title reflected the actual theme of the story more succinctly.
Scott Montgomery. Deputy Editor
Trial By Combat, originally Commando No 1124 (May 1977), re-issued as No 2467 (May 1991)

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Castro
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Monday, May 30, 2016


In the late 1960s, to compete with D.C. Thomson's superb glossy tabloid summer specials, IPC launched their own 'Holiday Specials'. While not as large or luxurious as Thomson's photogravure specials, the IPC titles instead boasted more pages.

The Buster Holiday Fun Special was the first of that weekly's holiday specials. A whacking great 96 pager for 2/6d (12 and a half pence). The cover featured a fun roller coaster scene with a bunch of Buster's current characters drawn by Reg Parlett, IPC's top humour artist. 

Inside, the content was mostly black and white and mostly reprint, not that the young readers it was aimed at would care of course. This value for money package would entertain its readers for hours. One of the new stories was Fishboy, but not drawn by its regular weekly artist John Stokes. Again to save money, the specials (and annuals) often used different artists at a lower page rate. 

This wasn't the case with the Freddie (Parrotface) Davies strip though, with regular artist Reg Parlett turning in a new two pager. Freddie Davies had risen to fame on TV via the talent show Opportunity Knocks and appeared on various TV shows at the time. (You can find out more at Freddie's website here:

One of the reprints in the special was Red Scarlet and the Seige of Stowford, which was actually a collected Ginger Tom serial from Knockout of the late 1950s. IPC had a knack of re-naming characters for reprints in a vain attempt to convince readers they were new stories. The artwork was by Pat Nicolle (1907 - 1995), a superb illustrator. The story took up many pages in the special but here's the first two...

Another reprint was a classic Dick Turpin story, with early artwork by Eric Bradbury...

The Galaxus strip was new, but not by its regular artist Solano Lopez. I'm not sure who drew this...

One odd strip in Buster at the time was Charlie Peace, based on a real-life Victorian murderer! In the comics, Charlie was revamped as nothing more than a 'rough diamond' anti-hero type and common thief, and by this point in the strip's history had been transported to modern-day London. This new story in the special stretched to six pages but here's the first two, drawn by regular artist Jack Pamby...

Summer Specials often featured a board game in their centre pages but this opportunity was lost here, with Buster's Dream World appearing instead. Art by Angel Nadal...

The Cruncher strip by Frank McDiarmid featured a plot inspired by a huge event of 1969; the Apollo moon landing...

On the back page, a reprint from the old Eagle comic, with Fidosaurus renamed as Pongo, The Prehistoric Pooch! Art by Reg Parlett...

I hope you've enjoyed this small selection of the 96 pages of this special. Happy Bank Holiday Monday! 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

LION AND EAGLE - First merged issue (1969)

IPC Magazines were quite ruthless with some of the comics when they took control of them from Fleetway and Odhams in 1969. Within the space of a few weeks Smash! was changed beyond recognition, Jag was merged into Tiger, and Eagle was merged into Lion

The cancellation of Eagle was the end of an era for a title that in its heyday was the pinnacle of British comics. It was even more of a blow that it was merged into a comic that had been created to rival it, but by 1969 Eagle was way past its best. 

The first combined issue of Lion and Eagle was published on Saturday 26th April 1969, (cover dated a week later as was the norm, as 3rd May). The cover feature began the series What Would You Do? - which re-used ideas from the defunct Boys' World comic, redrawn by Geoff Campion.

Lion and Eagle's 36 newsprint pages featured Carson's Cubs, Robot Archie, Zip Nolan, Paddy Payne (reprint), and Mowser from Lion, and Dan Dare (reprint), Lightning Stormm, The Gladiators, and The Waxer from Eagle

It also featured three new stories that began that week. Let's take a look at them. First off was Turville's Touchstone (later retitled The Spellbinder) which introduced us to young Tom Turville discovering a family secret. The artwork was by Geoff Campion, one of IPC's finest illustrators...

The second new series was Gargan about a boy and his yeti. Artwork by Solano Lopez...

The third new story was Oddball Oates, drawn by the brilliant Tom Kerr, about an inventor who uses herbs to give him an advantage in sporting endeavours. Er, isn't that illegal? Hey, it was the sixties maaan. 

Before the merger, Eagle had been reprinting 1950s Dan Dare stories, but at least it was still in full colour. Therefore it must have been a blow to readers (and to creator Frank Hampson) to find that when the strip transferred to Lion it was published in black and white. Not only that, but the artwork had been considerably altered, with subtle shades of colour replaced by heavy Letratone, and panels cropped to fit Lion's proportions. A travesty, but there was no other option now that it was on cheap newsprint. 

Residing at the back of the comic was the long-running Mowser, the only humour strip in the weekly. Artwork by Reg Parlett...
Here's one of the adverts from the issue, back in the days when you could buy an ice lolly for 6d (2 and a half pence). Bespoke superhero Wall's Wonderman promoted the product...
On the back page, after all that excitement, readers were encouraged to buy a tin of Cocoa...
Do you have memories of this comic? Or is it new to you? Either way, feel free to post your thoughts below.

Further reading: The final issue of Eagle:

Dandy and Beano Summer Specials are here!

No doubt they'll be arriving in the shops soon but for now the 2016 Summer Specials for The Dandy and The Beano are available to order directly from the publishers at the D.C. Thomson Shop:

As in recent years, the Summer Specials are now in the 68 page 'Bookazine' format as opposed to the big 32 page glossy tabloids they used to be decades ago. This makes sense. The weekly Beano is a 36 page glossy these days, so a 'Special' in the same format would hardly be significantly special. There's also the problem of retailers wanting a more uniform size of course. A bigger footprint on the stands would demand a separate display space, and we know how retail giants like to charge for those! 

As far as I know, The Dandy Summer Special will contain reprint again, but The Beano Summer Activity Special will feature new material. I don't have any material in either so your guess is as good as mine at this point. Both feature new covers by Nigel Parkinson.

Anyway, summer's here so make it special with these two comics!

Friday, May 27, 2016

This week in 1978: MISTY

I never bought Misty back when it was published. Buying girls comics just wasn't something that most lads did or even thought about, and I was 19 by then anyway and had naturally stopped buying children's comics (until my ambitions to work in comics drew me back to see them from an artistic perspective.) Since then, I'd heard how good this weekly of supernatural comic strips was, so when I saw some copies on eBay recently I bought one. 

Published on Saturday 27th May 1978 (cover dated a week later, as comics were back then) this issue of Misty was No.18. (Published by IPC, the comic ran for 101 issues dated 4th Feb 1978 to 12th Jan 1980 before merging into Tammy.) I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with who illustrated the strips but I'll add credits if I find out. 

The cover (above) is one of the most striking of the early issues, with its skull-faced highwayman charging towards us. The story continued into the centre pages and the back cover which, with the front cover, were the only colour pages in the comic...

Misty was an anthology comic, and its 32 pages contained serials such as Journey Into Fear about a haunted car...

...and School of the Lost...

...and also a few complete stories every week. This was a wise move as it meant that new readers would always have an easy access point. Here's another of the three complete stories from this issue, Queen's Weather, about insect revenge...

Unlike the action-focused boys comics, Misty (and other girls comics) had more of a psychological drive to the dangers its characters faced. The heroines were often introspective, with the readers being privy to their thoughts and anxieties. This style of writing made the stories more intimate, as opposed to the loud brashness and physical escapades of boys comics. I found it took a bit of mental adjustment to get into Misty's style of storytelling but I'm sure the young female readers it was intended for back in 1978 accepted it immediately.

You can find out more about Misty at this fan website which shows every cover and lists all the stories: 

As I reported last month, Rebellion will be publishing a collection of Misty stories this September. One to look out for! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE celebrates issue 500

Doctor Who Magazine reaches its monumental 500th issue this week, with a bumper edition on sale Thursday 26th May. Here's the cover above, designed as a homage to that very first issue back in 1979 (below). It enters the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running magazine based on a TV show. 

The chunky 116 page 500th issue comes packaged with a 116 page anniversary special plus other extras in a shiny card envelope...

Contents of this mega-issue include an extra-length 20 page jam-session strip featuring brand new artwork by some of the various artists who have contributed to the mag over the years including Mike Collins, David Roach, and Dave Gibbons! 

Other strips include a full page for The Daft Dimension (by me) and the return of Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett on a new full page strip. Plus lots of features and interviews of course!

For more details, visit this website here:

This is a landmark achievement for both magazines and comics and I'm very proud to be a part of it. Be sure to pick up a copy of Doctor Who Magazine No.500 on Thursday! Priced £9.99. Here's the cover of the package to look out for...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

EL MESTIZO! (1977)

The issue of Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant dated 4th June 1977 introduced its readers to a brand new character: El Mestizo, created by writer Alan Hebden and artist Carlos Ezquerra. The debut of the series was announced with a brilliantly designed cover (above) with art by Ezquerra. 

Traditionally, war comics tended to focus mainly on World War 2 although Battle did broaden its scope somewhat. Even so, a story set in the American Civil War with a lead character who was a lone gunman clearly had elements of a 'Spaghetti Western' about it too, making El Mestizo a unique strip in the comic. I'm not sure how that went down with readers. One would think it'd be welcomed as a refreshing change, but some readers can have fixed preferences when it comes to comics. 

At any rate, the series only ran for 16 weeks, ending in the issue dated 17th September 1977. I'm not sure if there was another series. As always, Carlos Ezquerra's artwork is a joy to see and this is some of his best work of the period. Without further ado, here's the first episode. One of the most interesting things is how that first page slowly builds up to the entrance of El Mestizo. It was very unusual for British comics to use sequential techniques like that at the time...

Carlos Ezquerra is a guest at the Manchester Film and Comic Con this weekend. Why not come along and meet the great man?
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