Friday, July 19, 2013

Back in 1983 - School Fun Is Launched!

An attractive cover by Bob Nixon.

School Fun was a new title launched by IPC in 1983, with the first issue dated 15th October (although probably came out a week earlier on the 8th). As the title suggests, it has strips that are based around a school theme. I'd imagine school is a very popular theme as all kids have to go there and can relate, which probably led to the Bash Street Kids' success, but perhaps a whole school-themed comic is going a bit far as it's not the most fun place in the world, but I'll leave that for you to decide once you've seen the contents.

The first issue cost 18p and came presented with a free gift of a 'Slippy Sticky Snake' sellotaped to the cover, which was a small rubber snake available in various colours (I've seen red, yellow, blue and green, and there were probably others).

The snake is designed to be thrown at a mirror or window and it will then slither down, as shown on the front cover. Although this is explained inside, I'm sure it could be used for other pranks too. A fun toy, and I can bet many of them were lost well before issue two arrived in the stores!

The first strip inside is called 'A Comic Is Born... Hi!!' and shows how the comic came into existence. I really like the way they've designed the contents panel in the form of a timetable, with comic strips lasting single, double or triple periods depending on how many pages they have, as well as the "homework", which is to order next week's copy.

The first proper comic strip comes from the hand of the longest running Minnie the Minx artist Jim Petrie. Softy Sir is a strip about a teacher who is, well... a softy - it says it all in the name really! As always Jim has done a wonderful job of illustrating the strip and all in all Sir is a very funny character, with this first episode ending in a pun.

The next strip is an interesting one - Coronation Street School. Illustrated by Colin Whittock, it's not hard to guess which television program this is based on. It's well drawn and surprisingly well written so is a good strip. Had this strip lasted longer I'm sure it would have become more popular than it was, but it didn't survive School Fun's merge into Buster. Still, it's a funny and entertaining read and deserved the two pages it had.

One of the most memorable characters from School Fun is Walt Teaser. After School Fun ended Walt would survive the merge into Buster where he would continue for several years before the strip ended in 1987. The idea behind Walt Teaser is very simple, an ordinary kid who goes around mocking people, only for his jokes to backfire on him. It was a good strip and was illustrated by Anthony Hutchings, although this is the early days of Anthony's art and his style isn't as smooth or accomplished as it was going to become.

The centre spread was given to E.T.T, which stood for Extra Terrestrial Teacher. The strip was about a teacher from the planet Freeky who was accidentally left behind on Earth, and was illustrated by David Mostyn.

Coronation Street School wasn't the only comic strip in School Fun to be based on a television show. Grange Hill Juniors is the next strip, and was of course based on the T.V. show Grange Hill.  I don't think the strip is as good as Coronation Street School but it was still given three pages, and was illustrated by Brian Delaney.

A very popular and always funny strip was Teachers United. Illustrated by Jim Watson, the strip followed a group of teachers who teamed together in the school's top secret war room to bring down pranksters and tricksters or win competitions or whatever obstacle they had to overcome. 

The final strip I'll be showing if Young Arfur. Arfur was a sort of Roger the Dodger - he'd do anything to get out of hard work! In this first episode he tries to get out of walking to school, at the expense of his poor old teacher Mr. Bones. The strip is illustrated by Pete Dredge.

Sadly, School Fun didn't last long on the market and after just 33 issues it folded and merged into the popular Buster, with the last issue dated 26th May 1984. However, despite it's short run quite a few memorable characters came from it. Characters such as School Belle, Walt Teaser, B. Ware and others, all of which would go on to have lengthy runs in Buster. School Fun is considered by many to be Fleetway's last attempt at a new fun comic. Yes, they launched Oink in 1986 and Nipper in 1987 but both of these were aimed at different audiences, with Nipper aimed at a younger audience and Oink at an older one. School Fun was their very last traditional humour comic, and it's a shame it has very nearly being forgotten.

The very first combined Buster and School Fun.


Kid said...

Think I've still got the first several issues, and I worked on a couple of School Fun Holiday Specials, I think.

Andy Boal said...

Young Arfur was based on Arthur Daley from Minder.