Monday, December 2, 2013

Two Comics In One - Double The Fun

Whizzer and Chips was clever in the way that it was advertised as "two comics in one". It made the buyer feel as though they were buying two comics for the price of one, although they weren't of course, as Whizzer and Chips was always regarded as one comic within the walls of the Fleetway Fun House. At first the idea was just a trial and nobody knew if it would work but, fortunately for us, it did. This led to me asking myself the question: why was Whizzer and Chips a flying success when others that followed weren't? The first comic that followed using the "two comics in one" technique was called Score 'n' Roar and it came not long afterwards in September 1970 (proving that Whizzer and Chips must have been an instant success). I can't say much for Score 'n' Roar myself since I don't have any issues, but Lew Stringer over on his blog Blimey did an excellent review of it back in January 2008. I'll repeat his main points here:

  • The "two in one" gimmick was convincing for Whizzer and Chips because its main rivals, Dandy and Beano, at that time were 16 page comics for 4d (8d in total). So Whizzer and Chips being "two" 16 page comics for 6d undercut DC Thomson. However, Score 'n' Roar were claiming to be two 16 page comics for 9d in a market where other adventure comics has 32 pages for around 7d each. (Yes, a mere 2d made all the difference in those days.) Therefore Score 'n' Roar seemed poor value in comparison, and its "two in one" gimmick seemed phony (which of course it was).
  • Score 'n' Roar fell between two stools. Was it a comic or a magazine? Only a year previously IPC had successfully launched footie mag Shoot! Why should Shoot's loyal fanbase buy Score 'n' Roar when they could get more football info from Shoot?
  • Similarly, IPC had earlier that year launched footie comic Scorcher. Again, why should readers of Scorcher buy the more expensive Score 'n' Roar? By their very nature theme comics only appeal to readers interested in that theme and this was stretching things too thin. Seemed there was only enough support for one football comic and Scorcher (being newsprint and cheaper to produce) had the upper hand.

Read Lew's full post here:

The first issue. As you can see - "2
Comics in 1... Double The Fun!" was
printed along the bottom. I'm sure it 

would have helped sales had it been
printed in bold at the top.

Another "two in one" comic followed in 1973, Shiver and Shake. Lew's points above are all very well for Score 'n' Roar but they don't apply to Shiver and Shake. Like Whizzer and Chips and Score 'n' Roar the titles represented the two comics within, in this case Shake was "inside" Shiver. At four pence per issue it was the same price as Whizzer and Chips and had the same amount of pages (36). Whizzer and Chips can be granted that it had a few pages in spot red and blue meaning that it had twelve colour pages (one being a regular weekly advert at this time) compared to Shiver and Shake's four, but other than that the two papers were more or less the same (both had four full colour pages).

So why then, did Whizzer and Chips succeed but Shiver and Shake fail? I think one possible reason is that Whizzer and Chips wasn't a themed comic so the possibilities for strips and zany ideas were endless whereas Shiver (if not Shake) was a horror themed comic. Since the Shiver section was the first section a reader would read that would be the lasting impression of the title and let's be honest, the horror wasn't actually very scary at all, in fact it was more comical than scary but simply had creepy(ish) characters in the stories. Granted, this would work for one or two stories but across a whole comic it might have seemed a little repetitive. If readers were after a properly scary comic they were better off going for the American imports, which could often be pretty gruesome and actually scary! I am sort of suggesting here that the comic might have been more successful had Shake been the cover comic (but the title Shake and Shiver doesn't quite have the same ring to it) or the two comics were never two comics and were "merged" into one, but the latter would defeat the whole "two in one" technique.

Good? Yes! But scary? Maybe not...

Another theory is the lack of effort that they made in making Shiver and Shake two separate comics and not just one. One of the first things I noticed when reading it was that by April 1974 the "front cover" of Shake no longer looked like a front cover at all. In the early issues it was adorned with the strapline "Companion Comic To Shiver", a date, "Every Monday" written on it, instructions on how to separate Shake from Shiver and a bold, eye-grabbing logo, which made the publication feel a lot more like two separate comics. By April 1974 most of that was gone and all that was left was the Shake title, but without the details it just looked like another ordinary title box. Whizzer and Chips on the other hand kept the Chips cover looking like an actual front cover for a long time, right up until its dying days (Whizzer and Chips actually merged into itself just before it went).

Whizzer and Chips also had a rivalry between the Whizz-Kids and the Chip-ites. Readers would join their favourite comic and throw away the other half (or were instructed to anyway). Each comic had its own letters page and a "raider", who would invade the other comic. It was the job of the readers to find their raider and cheer them on, and blot out the raider in their comic (which if my second hand comics are anything to go by, many of them did). Whereas Shiver and Shake did have their individual letters pages they didn't encourage or advertise any kind of rivalry towards each other, so it's possible that many readers were confused by the fact that there were two letters pages instead of one. The Beano and Dandy, although printed and sold separately, also had a bit of rivalry between each other, occasionally mentioned in the comic strips inside.

As you can see from this cover,
there is no rivalry between Shiver
and Shake themselves. Compare this
to the Whizzer and Chips cover

My final theory is that maybe it's down to the much simpler reason that themed humour comics just don't work. In 1975 Monster Fun was launched but that only lasted 73 issues and in 1984 School Fun folded after just 33 issues. Themes certainly seem to work in adventure comics, Commando and Battle are good examples of this, as is Roy of the Rovers, (That's not to say they were always a success) but they never seem to last in traditional humour comics.

Left: Last issue of School Fun (#33).
Right: Last issue of Monster Fun (#73).

Whatever the reason behind Shiver and Shake's failure it seemed to end the "two in one" attempts, as no more surfaced afterwards. Whizzer and Chips survived for a long time though, folding 21 years after it started with the last issue coming out in 1990. Maybe there is only enough room one "two in one" comic on the shelves at any one time, or maybe the kids just weren't falling for it. I wonder if the technique would work again now, 23 years later?


If you want to find out more about Shiver and Shake Irmantas has just finished the summaries over on his blog, Kazoop. He has covered every character in detail that appeared in the title and has reviewed all the specials and annuals. It's been a huge project that has taken him a whole year, as did his Cor project, and next up is a summary of Monster Fun. Check it all out here:


There is also a Score 'n' Roar fansite. Although the last update was in 2010 there are lots of comic strips and a cover gallery of all the issues. Check it out at:


Niblet said...

Nice post, George. However I'd suggest that your comment “Whatever the reason behind Shiver and Shake's failure it seemed to end the "two in one" attempts, as no more surfaced afterwards" is arguably not entirely correct.

Admittedly, it wasn't launched as a two-in-one, but Cheeky Weekly flirted with the one-comic-inside-another concept when specially-created title The Mystery Comic was introduced into its centre pages as of September 1978. It certainly didn't rival W&C's success, as the concept (but not the strips) was dropped after 37 issues.

The idea was tried again when Cheeky Weekly merged with Whoopee! in February 1980, and a Cheeky comic section appeared in the centre of the host comic for a while.

Raven said...

We don't really know why Shiver and Shake and Monster Fun failed; they were both great comics, and Monster Fun was one of the best ever (I also think Score & Roar was the best ever football comic) - it may well be that it was actually Whoopee and Buster that were dropping below target figures at that point, but were considered the best ones to remain as the "umbrella" titles and to have longer term potential; IPC also had a policy of merging titles fairly quickly (even if they were a towering success, saleswise, by TODAY'S standards) and launching new ones, as new titles pull in a bigger readership.

For all we know, that may have been the case with Whizzer and Chips and Krazy, too. You'd need the inside information ...

Also, the market can probably only sustain a certain amount of titles, and with new launches likely to attract lots of interest: free gifts and the thrill of the new, etc. ...

I always thought S+S did work as a two-in-one: one comic all creepy stuff, the other not, and always liked the two in one concept. Whizzer and Chips's idea of rival invasions was especially inspired, though.