Saturday, August 3, 2013
This Week In... 1974 - Whoopee!
Time to head back to 1974 and take a look at the Whoopee issue that went on sale this week 39 years ago - #22. Whoopee was still very young at this stage and was a very different format to what it was to become very soon (and probably how it is best remembered). It had 40 pages and a different page size to most comics, somewhere in-between A5 and A4. It had four pages in full colour and several more with red or blue ink, and cost five pennies.
The front cover featured Toy Boy and was illustrated by Terry Bave. Toy Boy was new to comics as he only began in the first issue of Whoopee, but he became one of Whoopee's most iconic characters and continued all the way into the 1990's, featuring in Whoopee, Whizzer and Chips and Buster. His strip continued onto the back page and was followed by the Knock-Knock jokes section, with jokes sent in by readers every week, who would win £1 if their joke was chosen!
A classic theme in British humour comics is a rich, upper-class person showing up a poor, lower-class person, but the lower class person always comes out on top. The most famous and popular example of this is Ivor Lott and Tony Broke, but Whoopee also had it's own rich and poor characters - The Upper Crusts and the Lazy Loafers, who were illustrated by Reg Parlett. I can see why these weren't as popular as Ivor and Tony as readers wouldn't be able to relate to them as easily. Whereas Ivor and Tony were two friends the same age as the readers the Crusts and Loafers were the worst of enemies, with the tramps sometimes portrayed as the "bad guys" for always trying to steal food. That's my way of seeing it anyway.
Ernie Learner followed the adventures of a kid who was always trying something new, but never doing it well! Unlike Toy Boy on the cover, Ernie Learner wasn't a popular character at all. He vanished from Whoopee's pages very quickly, not even lasting six months. Less than two months after this strip below, Ernie was gone.
Graham Allen had a two-page strip in there called Spy School. There's not much I can add about the storyline as it says it all in the name - a school for spies! It's an enjoyable strip, and lasted longer than Ernie did, vanishing from Whoopee in 1975. At least I think it vanished, but maybe it's just in disguise.
Whoopee had a really fantastic prize for readers - the chance to draw a comic strip for an issue! Basically, readers were asked to send in comic strips and each week one would be chosen to appear in the comic over a full page! As if that prize wasn't already fantastic enough, the winner would also win a £3 reward! So - a brilliant prize or an easy way to fill a page? I think both, but winning it would certainly have made somebody's day (or week, or month, or...). The lucky reader this time was Lawrence Hatton, and his character is Dean's Beans.
There are so many fantastic characters in this issue that I'd love to show you including Goon Platoon, The Bumpkin Billionaires, King Arthur and his Frights of the Round Table, The Ghost Train and others, but I'm going to round off this post with Ken Reid's contribution. He drew the Wanted posters in the early issues, and although they were good they were no way near the quality of the World Wide Weardies that were to come.