NOTE: Blimey! is no longer being updated. Please visit for the latest updates about my comics work.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The New Year CHIPS (1941) ...and news about this blog

Here we are at our final destination in our travels through British comics history, and we've landed on New Year's Eve 1940 ready for the dawn of 1941! It's the original Chips comic (AKA Illustrated Chips) with a seasonal cover by Percy Cocking that's bursting with life.

They were grim days for kids back then, in the heart of World War 2, their fathers probably away with the forces, and themselves perhaps even evacuated far from home. Comics such as Chips played an important part in trying to keep their spirits up, as this editorial explains...
Chips would later be affected by paper shortages, reducing its size and appearing fortnightly, but at this point it was still in its original tabloid size, 8 pages, on pink paper, and weekly. Contents were typical fare from the publishers The Amalgamated Press, with a good balance of strips and prose stories such as Dane, The Dog Detective...
Here's a selection of the strips, starting with Professor Jolly and His Magic Brolly by Harry Earnest Pease (H.E. Pease), the younger brother of artist Albert Pease...

Pa Perkins and his son Percy drawn by Bertie Brown...

Homeless Hector, also by Bertie Brown...

Here's an advert for some early Disney merchandise!
Finally, on the back page, the brilliant Casey Court by Albert Pease, who also drew Alfie the Air Tramp beneath it...

...and now an IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT about this blog.

We all know that nothing lasts forever, and after 12 years I feel that it's time to wind down Blimey! I will blog again, and the next post will be in about a week's time or so, but posts after that will be few and far between. Eventually they'll cease altogether. However, there'll be some exclusives as the year progresses.

Yeah, I know I said something similar 12 months ago, then carried on blogging practically every day "due to popular demand" as they say, but after all these years I'm finding it a bit of a chore. Also, I've felt that the last year has taken Blimey! off course a bit by focusing too much on current comics and not enough on the past. It was never intended to be a review site but it seems to have veered that way a lot. The whole point of Blimey! was to show old UK strips that modern readers may not have been aware of, although after 12 years of blogging I think I've done my bit. I'll be 60 in a few month's time, which feels like a turning point, and I intend to make some changes in my life.

In case you were wondering, yes, the old posts will remain on the 'net and you'll still be able to leave comments. Bear in mind though that all comments are subject to moderation (to deter trolls and spammers) so please don't post the same comment multiple times if it doesn't appear straight away. I can only verify them for publication when I log on.

For 2019 and beyond I need to focus more on my career, and Blimey! can sometimes be too much of a time-consuming distraction. My other blog, - the one about my own strips, - will continue, and I'll probably spend more time on that promoting my work, showcasing my old strips, and talking about my experiences and thoughts about the comics industry. You'll find that here:

There are of course other blogs out there to keep you informed about the UK comics scene. The best by far, in my opinion, is John Freeman's Down the Tubes blog, where you'll find the latest news on 2000AD, Commando, and pretty much everything that's going on in British comics. It's also an ideal place to let people know about your new comics if you're self-publishing:

There's also Steve Holland's Bear Alley blog, for very well researched articles on classic material:

For the latest news on the Marvel Collectors Editions published by Panini UK the best place is from their official Facebook page:

Likewise, the best place for news about the upcoming Treasury of British Comics collections is here:

Official site for indie comics publisher Kult Creations:

Official site for indie publisher Time Bomb Comics:

Irmantas Povilaika's Kazoop! blog for lots of classics by Ken Reid and others:

Phil Boyce's Oink! Blog and Beyond for features on Oink! and other comics of the 1980s and beyond:

Peter Gray's Comics and Art blog for classic comics:

Colin Noble's blog:

...and you'll also find links to many other blogs and websites in the right hand sidebar of this blog (if you're reading this on a desktop computer).

I'd like to thank you all for following and supporting Blimey! over the years. I know some of you have been reading it since it began in 2006! We've seen off one or two silly troublemakers over the years but that was a while ago now and 99% of you have always been fantastic, posting positive comments and helpful info. For those of you who have come on board more recently, have a rummage through the archives to see what you've missed. There are over 3,000 posts here, so you should find something of interest! Simply type the name of a comic, a story, character, or creator into the search window on the right hand column of this blog and Bob's yer uncle. It looks like this:

As I said, I will post again, but very infrequently, and remember you can still find me at my other blog at

For now though, I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year and hope that you enjoy the New Year's Eve celebrations with good company. I certainly intend to! 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My top five classic comics recommendations of 2018

Without a doubt, this has been a great year for fans of classic British comics. Not only have Rebellion published a dozen or so books reprinting strips from bygone years but other publishers jumped in too with impressive collections! It hasn't been easy whittling it down to five, but here are my personal choices from the past 12 months or so, in reverse order, of the best that I think deserve a place on your bookshelf...

In 5th place...

BLACK MAX. This fantastic horror/war story first appeared in Thunder (and later Lion and Thunder) in 1970. Story by Frank Pepper. Art by Eric Bradbury (on episode 1) and Alfonso Font, who also provided a new cover!

In 4th place...

KEN REID'S CREEPY CREATIONS. A marvellous hardback collection of Ken Reid's full page monsters that appeared in Shiver and Shake in 1973/74. Reproduced in glorious full colour.

In 3rd place...

BEANO: 80 Years of Fun. Not a book as such, but a boxed set of comic facsimiles and goodies. Marvellous reprints of key issues of The Beano from the past 80 years.

In 2nd place...

MARNEY THE FOX. The exciting and emotional saga of Marney the orphaned fox cub, fighting for survival in the British countryside. Wonderful artwork by John Stokes (who provided a new cover) and top class scripts by Scott Goodall

...and the winner in 1st place is...

THE POWER PACK OF KEN REID. Actually a two-book set, although each one can be bought separately. Everyone had given up hope of ever seeing these strips reprinted, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of independent publisher Irmantas Povilaika, all of Ken Reid's amazing 1960s work for Odhams was collected into these incredible books. Superb reproduction throughout, and thankfully the poor colour printing that some pages suffered from back then have been reproduced in crisp greyscale. My favourite books of the year!

Next on this blog, the last post of 2018 and a classic New Year comic from the year.... wait and see! 

The New Year DANDY (1965)

Let's head back to 1965 to see how The Dandy celebrated its New Year. Snow was still on the logo from the Christmas issue (obviously a cold spell in Dandytown) and the comic was on a high, with top class artwork throughout. Here's a few examples...

The cover above is by the great Charlie Grigg, who had redefined Korky the Cat from James Crighton's original version into a distinctive character loved by millions.  

Inside, Desperate Dan was in his regular place on page two with this cracking story by Dudley Watkins...

Dirty Dick was out on the snow-covered streets of New Year's Day wearing short trousers... as we did back then 365 days of the year! (It wasn't the done thing to wear long trousers until you started secondary school at 11 years old!) It may seem very strange now, but that's how it was and we just got used to it! Art by Eric Roberts...

Brassneck had only been running in The Dandy for a few weeks by the time this episode appeared. This is only the sixth Brassneck story, but it would run for many years afterwards. Art by the superb Bill Holroyd, a master of comedy adventure strips such as this...

On the back page, Big Head and Thick Head are off to a New Year's Eve party. Ken Reid had been the original artist but after he left to work for Wham! earlier in 1964, Frank McDiarmid took over the strip. As you can see, Frank could "ghost" Ken's style very well, whilst still retaining elements of his own style...

There'll be one last New Year comic tomorrow, on New Year's Eve! Drop by to join the celebrations! 

The New Year SCHOOL FUN (1984)

School Fun was one of IPC's "theme" comics that they were so fond of publishing. In this case, every strip was set in school. The cover here is by David Mostyn, who supplied many covers for this weekly. Unusually for British humour comics, the covers were often wraparounds, which added to the unique aspect of the comic...
One drawback to the theme perhaps is that as the strips are all school-based, hardly any of the stories in this New Year issue are set on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day (as kids would be at home then). Still, the comic managed to provide some references to the New Year. Here are some examples...

The comic's fictional editor, Junior Ed, had his own strip, drawn by Paul Sample...
Coronation Street School featured young versions of some of the TV regulars! Art by Colin Whittock...

Possibly the most popular character in the comic was School Belle, drawn by Tom Paterson...
The centre pages featured a calendar for the New Year... but the artwork was old! It was an enlarged panel from a 1960s Tiddlers strip from Wham! 
Grange Hill Juniors was a prequel to the TV series, with the characters in their junior school days. Art by Brian Delaney...
Finally from this short selection, Time Bus, with art by Keith Reynolds...

Sadly, School Fun didn't even last a full term, ending after just 33 weeks to merge into Buster.

There'll be another New Year comic later today, and a final one tomorrow, so come back again soon to see which years we visit!

Meanwhile, on my other blog...

As you may or may not know, I also have another blog where I focus on my own comics work. The latest post is a reflection on what I got up to in 2018 and you'll find it here: 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

When Biff! became Sam

During the 1970s IPC were never shy of reprinting old strips and changing the character's names to try and convince readers they were new. Quite a few characters from Wham! were reprinted this way. The Tiddlers and Super Sir became The Horrors and Puffing Billy, General Nitt and his Barmy Army became Sir Hector and his Hardnuts, The Wacks became The Beat Boys... and so on. 

In 1970/71, new IPC weekly Thunder reprinted Biff from Wham! retitled as Sam. Quite a bit of a dull change, that one. (No offence to any Sams of course.) Here are a couple of examples. Art by Leo Baxendale on the first one...

Apart from the name change, the big difference is that because the early issues of Wham! had a superior printing technique that allowed painted artwork, the art had to be recoloured using flat tones for the cheap newsprint that Thunder was printed on. (Otherwise the pages would reproduce in a muddy mess.) Unfortunately, any subtlety in the colouring was replaced too. Leo Baxendale's technique of having a face in the foreground in shadow, to give a sense of depth, was replaced by a flesh tone, making the bully look like a giant on the same level as Biff. The other big change is that Leo's signature was removed from the reprint. Although Odhams were happy for artists to sign their pages, IPC were not, - at least not in 1970. 

This next example is drawn by Graham Allen...

Reprints such as this were a major factor in why Leo Baxendale quit mainstream comics a few years later. (Bear in mind that creators received nothing for reprints.) The lack of respect that publishers showed towards creatives in that regard cost them a great artist/creator, and reflected badly on the UK comics industry for years. 

Preview: the first 2000AD of the New Year

I'm sure you all know by now that Black Max and his monster bats returned to the pages of a weekly comic in the Christmas issue of 2000AD! The WW1 villain (and his nemesis Wilson) have been rebooted for a new generation as characters in Fiends of the Western Front

The original Black Max series ran in Thunder comic in 1970, then into the merged Lion and Thunder, and has recently been collected in Black Max Vol.1 from Rebellion. The revamped Black Max has also appeared in new stories in the Scream and Misty specials published in 2017 and 2018.

The next issue of 2000AD, on sale January 2nd, cover features the strip, and has a great line-up of stories. Here's a taster... 

UK and DIGITAL: 2nd January 2019 £2.85
NORTH AMERICA: 2nd February 2018 $22.40 (per pack)
COVER: Tiernen Trevallion

In this issue:

JUDGE DREDD: THE ETERNITY HOTEL by Rory McConville (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

BRINK: HIGH SOCIETY by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

SKIP TRACER: LOUDER THAN BOMBS by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall Dylan Teague (c) (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

THARG'S 3RILLERS: THE SCORCHED ZONE by Eddie Robson (w) Nick Brokenshire (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
FIENDS OF THE WESTERN FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Available in print from: newsagents and comic book stores via Diamond.

Available in digital from: 2000 AD webshop and apps for iPadAndroidWindows 10

Another 2000AD special announced for May!

News from Rebellion....

In time for Free Comic Book Day, the bad guys take over the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic with a nefarious new special full of criminal capers and villainous ventures – the 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special!

To complement Rebellion’s just-announced FCBD title, The Treasury of British Comics Presents Funny Pages, the 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special sees the baddies from some of the 2000 AD’s biggest strips, including Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Sláine, get their moment in the spotlight – all for the low price of just 99p/99c

Published to coincide with Free Comic Book Day on 4th May 2019, the 32-page US-format special will be on sale from comic book stores, this is the ideal shelf-stuffer to tempt roguish readers into the world of 2000 AD.

Creators involved include Rob Williams (Suicide Squad) and Pat Mills (Marshal Law) with art from the likes of Swedish concept artist Henrik Sahlstrom, Kyle Hotz (Lucifer), Kael Ngu (Justice League), Henry Flint (Judge Dredd) and Chris Weston (The Filth).

In this improper issue we have the very best forbidden felons and outlandish outlaws – the lawman of the future faces a familiar rictus grin in JUDGE DEATH: THE JUDGE WHO LAUGHS by Rob Williams and Henrik Sahlstrom, and there’s fiendish fantasy with LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG: LORD OF THE HUNT by Pat Mills and Kyle Hotz.

There’s chem-wreathed criminality in the world of Rogue Trooper in BRASS AND BLAND: THE PROFESSIONALS by Karl Stock and Kael Ngu while malefactory mutant-bountyhunters-turned-bad-guys, The Stix, from Strontium Dog cause trouble in STIX: SLEEPING DOGS LIE by Matt Smith and Chris Weston.

And this issue is all rounded off by TERROR TALE: LAST OF THE HELLPHIBIANS by that master of the mendacious Henry Flint!

The 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special will be on sale from 1st May and is available for comic book stores to order in time for Free Comic Book Day from Diamond Distribution using code JAN192056.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The End of Skid Solo! (1982) - Updated!

Compared to its stablemates Action, 2000AD, and Battle, the long-running Tiger comic was quite gentle and lighthearted in its storylines. It was therefore more of a shock when we read of the fate of Skid Solo in his final story. 

Skid Solo had begun in Hurricane comic in 1964. The story of the fictional racing driver proved to be a hit with readers and was carried over to Tiger when the two comics merged in 1965. When Tiger upgraded its printing from newsprint to web offset in 1969 it offered artists the opportunity to embellish their stories with a grey wash (diluted black ink) - or full colour painting if they appeared on the colour pages. Skid Solo's artist John Vernon excelled at both wash and colour techniques and produced some very nice pages. 

By 1982, Tiger was being readied for a revamp, replacing some older characters with new ones. Sadly, Skid Solo was one of those for the chop after an impressive 18 year run. Usually, when stories in Tiger came to an end they'd finish on a happy note, status quo restored, and with the heroes optimistic for their futures. 

Not so for Skid Solo! 

Perhaps the writing had been on the wall months before, when one of Skid's co-stars, Sparrow Smith, had been killed in a crash. A portent of things to come. 

The 1st May 1982 issue of Tiger featured the final Skid Solo story. Written by Fred Baker, drawn by John Vernon, the regular team. It left me stunned when I read it back then, and I was 23 at the time! I wondered how 8 year olds would find it. Here's the story...

I think the most disturbing thing about that ending isn't the crash itself, but that we never see Skid Solo's face again after the accident. The extent of his injuries aren't revealed to us, and it's left to our imaginations. It really was a powerful and unexpected ending for such a long-running character, and one that certainly won't be forgotten. Thanks to Fred Baker and John Vernon for such a memorable series!

UPDATE: I'm very grateful to blog reader Stephen West for providing some more info about Skid Solo. A few weeks after that final episode it seems that readers had been voicing their concerns to the Tiger editor Paul Gettens as acknowledged in his editorial...
The following issue saw a one page feature on Skid Solo, with an editorial update that "two months after the accident... doctors have said that Skid WILL walk again, but will have a limp. However, he won't be able to compete in Grand Prix racing for a long time". 

A way to placate upset readers, hopefully, and it lessens the harshness of that ending, but I like to think that it's up to the individual reader to choose whether to accept it or not. 

Stephen West also supplied some background info on Skid Solo, so here it is:

A few pieces of Skid Solo trivia:

  • Skid’s first name is Edward (Hurricane 07/03/1964 – 2nd episode) I don’t believe that it is ever mentioned again.
  • Skid originally lived with his Aunt Mabel, the character was quietly dropped from the strip around the time that it transferred to Tiger in May 1965.
  • Skid became a Grand Prix Champion for the first time. (Tiger 22/10/1966)
  • Tiger sponsored Skid Solo - a Tiger head logo featured on the front of his racing cars thereafter (Tiger 28/03/1970)
  • Skid was awarded an OBE (Tiger 05/10/1974)
  • Skid met and raced with Stirling Moss (Tiger 14/02/1981 - 19/09/1981)

My thanks again to Stephen for the information!

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