Friday, May 31, 2013

Back In '69 - Whizzer and Chips No. 1

As many readers of this site will know, my favourite comic is Whizzer and Chips, so it's about time I covered the very first issue of this fantastic children's weekly! The first issue, dated 18th October 1969, actually went on sale on Monday 13th October. Whizzer and Chips was often advertised as a great way to beat the Monday blues (and undoubtedly, it was)! It cost 6D, and for that you got two comics - Whizzer and Chips, each of which was 16 pages long (although, of course, it was always considered one comic inside the walls of the Fleetway fun-house).

The comic was advertised with a short advert on T.V., apparently featured Ginger walking around saying something. I've emailed dozens of collections and film museums searching for a recording of this advert, but sadly it looks as though it has been lost in the vaults of time. Brochures were also given out in other comics and publications printed on their traditional pink paper to promote the comic, at least three designs were released for the first issue, and at least one for the two subsequent issues. Here are the scans from my flyer; I don't have the other designs.

The first three issues came with free gifts (which I've posted here), but no. 1 came with a set of "Twelve Super Stickers"; each one had something witty written on it.

The two most notable artists for Whizzer and Chips are Mike Lacey and Terry Bave. Mike drew five strips in the first issue (which would go up to six in the second), whereas Terry Bave drew seven! Terry's most popular strip in Whizzer and Chips was Scribbler, but that didn't start until 1970; it ended in 1973 because he was too popular for his own good! Whereas there's no saying which was Terry's most popular strip in this first issue, I'd probably say it was Me and My Shadow, followed by Little Saver (about a girl called Susie who would collect anything and everything) or Ginger's Tum (about a constantly hungry cat).

Mike Lacey on the other hand not only drew the ever-popular Odd Ball, but also illustrated the comics two main stars - Sid and Shiner. However, you may be surprised to learn that Shiner, a character which editor Bob Paytner said was based upon Biff after he got a black eye in one episode after trying hard not to, was nowhere to be seen within the pages of this first issue, instead launching the following week in issue two. For this first issue Sid and Slippy betrayed the Whizz-Kids and appeared on the cover of Chips. Or, seeing as it's the first issue, maybe they betrayed the Chip-ites and quickly moved into Whizzer. Should we trust those two?

Treachery, or the greatest raid

Also in the quality line-up was Reg Parlett, who illustrated two strips in this first issue, the most popular being Harry's Haunted House, a fun strip about a ghost who kept having to put up with people trying to move in or demolish his house. I'm not the only one who likes this strip, as Harry continued haunting for almost a decade, before the strip ended in 1977.

Mike Higgs could also be found in there, illustrating an outer-space version the Bash Street Kids - Space School! I love Mike's artwork; it's very fun and unique and, although not as good as his work in the Power comics, is still nice to look at.

It's often forgotten that Leo Baxendale also had a page in there in the early days - Champ. He didn't draw the story for long and was taken over by Colin Whittock, who would do a fantastic job ghosting his style for many years. It wasn't until Jack Edward Oliver came along in the late 80's that Champ changed his look. In his first few strips Champ would have a long pointy nose, but that soon changed to a button nose.

Whizzer and Chips also had a selection of adventure strips. Kings of the Castle by Mike White, The Space Accident by Ron Turner and The "Stealer" by Tom Kerr are all fun strips with good plots, but my favourite is Frank McDiarmid's Willie Bunk, a tale about a kid who was given a magical pair of specs by an old optician. One feature I like about this comic is that whenever you see what Willie is seeing through his specs it's in red. A good feature that helps this already strong strip.

The reason Whizzer and Chips is my favourite comic is because after buying the Beano for about a year I asked my dad what comics he used to read when he was a kid. His answer was Whizzer and Chips, and thus I was introduced to the comic! My dad had been reading it from issue one to around the mid-1970's (one of the last comics he bought was Whoopee no. 1), but sadly had thrown out all of his issues long ago, the free gifts used even before that.

Several years later and the internet introduced me to the five power comics, and slowly I was drawn towards this darker (in a way) humour by the likes of Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid and Gordon Hogg. Although I only own one issue of Wham (no. 4 - which isn't even a power comic) and the 1968 Wham annual, I've seen a lot of pages on the internet and have fallen in love with the comics, my favourite been Wham, which had a brilliantly bright and attractive logo. Although Whizzer and Chips is still my favourite comic, I'm gradually falling for Wham.

Whizzer and Chips' two-in-one gimmick paid off, and for 21 years it competed alongside the Beano and Dandy. The idea was so successful that several copies appeared in the 70's - Shiver and Shake and Score 'n' Roar are the only ones I can think of - but I'm sure there's a third one - can anyone help with that? (Was Donald and Mickey a two-in-one?) Either way, the idea never took off again, with all the other two-in-one comics having very short runs.

Over the years four titles combined into it - Knockout in 1973, Krazy in 1978, Whoopee in 1985 and Scouse Mouse in 1989.  You could even say it went through a fifth merger because in 1990 Whizzer folded into Chips (or vice-versa). Incredibly, and for possibly the only time in comic history, a comic actually merged into itself! The title was obviously failing though, and Whizzer and Chips merged into Buster in 1990. 


Kid said...

Whizzer & Chips and Wham! Two (or is that three?) great comics indeed. How you ever liked the last incarnation of The Dandy is beyond me 'though.

Anonymous said...

You have to love Whizzer and Chips, it would just fly off the shelves, my favourite as well,one question though, do you prefer the original Nobby character by Terry, or the improved version he did.

George Shiers said...

@Kid - Wham was a great comic! I'd really like some more copies - but they're just so expensive!

As for the Dandy, how you didn't like it is beyond me! I guess it's my era of The Dandy and not yours.

@Anon - The original Nobby Noodle you see in this post is by Mike Lacey, but I have to say Terry's later Nobby suits the character better.

Kid said...

It's nobody's era of The Dandy now, alas. Digital doesn't count.

George Shiers said...

I (think) I agree. Although there is some good stuff in there, I rarely read it, if ever. Because it's online I keep forgetting about it, as I get all my comics in the post and just don't think about reading it online.

And besides, I like having my comics on paper.