Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Return of Monster Fun

After an absence of almost half a century, the much-loved British comic Monster Fun is making a comeback under its new owners Rebellion. Admittedly, the nostalgia for the title is probably stronger than the love for comic itself during its initial run, only 73 issues of the weekly edition were printed until it merged with the far more successful Buster comic on 6th November 1976. I certainly find it interesting that not a more popular title was chosen for the first Fleetway comic to make a comeback, but I am nonetheless very excited for it. 

No longer a weekly, the revived Monster Fun will begin publishing in April next year with promises of a new issue every two months. The comic will be 32 pages and will feature many of the original favourite characters such as Frankie Stein, Kid Kong and Sweeny Toddler - not all Monster Fun originals but certainly characters who became popular in the comic's original run.

To pass the time until April, the Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular will be going on sale next month. 48 pages thick, it is crammed full of classic stories from well-known artists, including that spectacular front cover illustrated by none other than Tom Paterson

As I understand it, Monster Fun will be available in the stores but online subscribers will receive special free gifts. No word on what those gifts are just yet, but I wonder if they'll be reminiscent of plate wobbler, freaky spider ring or super shaking skeleton that each came with the first three issues of its 70s predecessor. I also wonder if this new version will feature the 'Badtime Bedtime Storybooks' - centre pages encouraged to be pulled out and compiled into mini-comics, much to the bane of collectors today who seek out complete copies. 

Do check out the website and subscribe to make sure you don't miss an issue. 


Friday, August 20, 2021

Scoops (1934) and Advertisements for Some Rare Comics

The front cover of Scoops #1, from Compal Comics 
Auctions LTD.

The other night I was browsing through the latest British Comics and Artwork catalogue available on Compal Comics when I came across an interesting title at lot #14, the very first issue of Scoops, dated February 10, 1934. Now, anybody who knows me or has been following my blog for some time will no doubt know that I am fascinated with obscure titles, and this "amazing new wonder weekly" was certainly no exception. The striking front cover stood out to me; I simply had to know more. 

A fantastic illustration from issue #1. I wish I knew the artist's name - if you do please don't keep it to yourself!

Scoops was published every Thursday by Pearson and ran for just 20 issues from 10th February to 23rd June 1934, costing 2D for 30 pages for issue #1, 32 pages for issues #2 - #11, and 28 pages for the remainder of its run. Only the front cover had any colour, with a stunning use of red ink (throughout its short run Scoops had some absolutely spectacular front covers), and its contents were made up of text stories with an accompanying illustration or two. Alongside this were the occasional editorial pages and some full page illustrations. Here are a couple of examples to show you what I mean, both taken from issue #16 dated May 26, 1934. The 'Go-Anywhere Flying Boat' page takes my mind to the cutaway illustrations that would so wonderfully grace the pages of Eagle a couple of decades later. 

Despite its obscurity, Scoops is quite collectable as it is "regarded as the very first specialist anthology of science fiction stories for the UK market" - in fact issue #10 carries the bold strapline 'Britain's Only Science Story Weekly'. It is particularly notable for its publication of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Poison Belt', serialised from issues #13 through to #18. Here's the cover for #13, promoting the first chapter of the story with quite a horrific and graphic illustration.

Indeed, sometimes Scoops is referred to as a comic, which is why it piqued my interest, yet as far as I have seen not a single comic strip was ever printed within its pages. But that's not to say it doesn't contain anything of interest for those of us interested in the comic side of things. As you may know, C Arthur Pearson produced "a comic for all the seasons" (as Denis Gifford put it), and indeed a few of them were advertised within the pages of Scoops. Here's every advert for such a comic I could find, although admittedly I don't have access to every issue I think this is a nice little collection. As with all images on this blog, click on them to view in full size.

From #9

From #11

From #19

From #20

These comics were produced sporadically until the War put a stop to such practices due to paper rationing, and I'd certainly like to dedicate a full post to them at some point in the future but sadly I don't own any issues (if you do and want to sell them, or even just send me some scans, please do get in touch!). In the meantime though, I highly recommend having a flick through a few issues of Scoops. Even if science fiction isn't your thing, admiring the front covers is certainly worth a few minutes of your time. All the scans from here are taken from Comic Book + (I've provided the link below), which has a number of full issues you can download, you'll just need a program to open the files - I used DrawnStrips Reader (but you can even read them without downloading on the website). Scoops was a wonderful magazine with some fantastic writing and illustrations, and certainly a publication lightyears ahead of its time. It really was "the story paper of tomorrow".


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Buster Comic - 25 Years Young!

Well, before I start this post I thought I'd quickly explain what brought it about. Here in New Zealand our country went into a total lockdown about a week ago as a result of the COVID-19 virus, meaning  pretty much everything except supermarkets and pharmacies have shut and we are all confined to our homes unless visiting essential services. As a result of this lockdown, I have returned home to Auckland to be with my family and was reading the very comic this post is about when I thought hey, why not use this time to do some blogging.

This issue of Buster, dated 25th May 1985, is the celebratory quarter century birthday number for the comic, the first issue of which hit the shops in May 1960. This issue also brought about a new artist for Buster replacing Reg Parlett, who had drawn the strip since taking over from Angel Nadal Quirch in 1974, with Tom Paterson. Many, including IPC group editor Bob Paynter, later thought this change was far too sudden and dramatic and I am possibly inclined to agree - as much as I absolutely adore Tom's style he is so far from Reg Parlett that I bet many readers would have found the sudden change quite a shock. Here is Tom's full strip, printed in full-colour on the back page.

Not having the free gift attached to the front does look a little sad when the whole cover is almost devoted to promoting it. "Incredible... Amazing... Unbelievable!" boasts the big yellow arrow, pointing at an empty blue space. Still, a half page instruction from inside shows those of us reading now just what it was we are missing. The previous issue had hyped them us as 'Deadly Death-Rattler Eggs', but they are certainly not what I would have imagined.

Other than the back-page Buster strip, no other stories made mention of the occasion. The only other indication that this issue held any kind of significance was this mildly interesting comparison of kids 'then and now', comparing interests of children in 1960 and 1985. Personally, I feel dedicating the entire centre page spread to this is a waste of space and the pages could have been better used with something such as a history of Buster, a poster, or a celebratory strip, but each to their own I suppose. It almost seems like they forgot the anniversary was coming up and had to prepare the issue at the last minute.

Since so little of this issue actually celebrates the anniversary I thought I'd show a few pages from the previous week as well, which is also the final combined Buster and School Fun. Although School Fun isn't even mentioned on the cover, this issue still has the School Fun section inside, featuring characters from the now defunct title. A wonderful Reg Parlett front cover hints at exciting things to come next week - quite the build up for what was eventually a bit of a let down. 

Of course, this being Reg's last time drawing Buster I have to show the full strip - printed in full colour on the back page. 

Inside, a full page advert previewed the front cover of next weeks issue, including a picture of the rather exciting looking free gift! The thrilling death-rattler artwork would probably have gotten me to buy it, I'm not going to lie. 

This issue also contains the final episode of The Leopard from Lime Street, a popular character that had been in the comic for almost a decade having first appeared on 27th March 1976. A sad loss to see this one go, it was the final adventure strip Buster ever featured, although it would return in the form of reprints in the 1990's. Artwork by the legendary Mike Western, I believe. 

I hope this brought about a bit of happiness wherever you are in the world. Please stay safe everyone! I'll try keep blogging while I'm quarantined in Auckland with all my comics, so stay tuned.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Rarest Beano From 2005

The rare original edition of Beano #3260, featuring the controversial Ball Boy strip.

Yes, I know it's been a long time since I last posted anything on here but as I was surfing the web I came across something completely new to me that I had to share. Issue #3260 of The Beano was printed twice, with the first print run (of apparently 200,000 copies) almost completely destroyed due to a character in the Ball Boy strip. Here's Malcolm Phillips' description of the issue:

"All 200,000 distribution copies of the original Beano 3260 were destroyed. The "Henry Thierry" character featured in the comic's regular Ball Boy strip bore many resemblances to the Arsenal player. He was French, had a shaved head and wore a red football strip. In the story, the character was sent off during a match and takes an early bath. He also says ‘Va-va-voom’! Editor, Euan Kerr, said at the time: 'In the cold light of day, we felt it might cause offence and we did not want to do that so the issue was reprinted with a replacement cartoon strip'. Only a few copies were retained by DC Thomson for reference."

I've no idea what the replacement strip was so if anybody has a copy of the published issue please let me know and satisfy my curiosity! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Big New Year

I've blogged about The Big One before, quite a long time ago when this blog was just starting up, when I shared some pages from the last issue. A short-lived experimental comic published by Fleetway, The Big One lasted only 19 issues from 17th October 1964 - 20th February 1965 and, as the name suggests, is the biggest comic ever published in Britain (and maybe even the entire world). With the exception of the front cover of the last issue, the entire contents consisted of reprinted material from earlier Amalgamated Press comics. The front cover features Smiler illustrated by Eric Roberts. Smiler has originally appeared under the strip's original name 'Mike' in both Knockout from 1945 - 1957 and then in Sun from 1957 - 1959. 

Besides Shiner only a handful of strips had a new year's theme. Two of those appeared on the back page in full colour. Handy Andy at the top is an ex-Knockout strip illustrated by Hugh McNeill, and at the bottom Georgie the Jolly Geegee is from the pages of Radio Fun, illustrated by John Jukes. The layout of this back cover reminds me very much of the back of early Buster comics. It's bright appealing colours would be gone by the last issue though, replaced with nothing more than black and red ink.

The Big One Birthday Club is the only editorial feature inside and it offered readers the chance to win big prizes. The letter claims that "week after week hundreds of parcels leave the Club store on their way to members of the Big One Club", but I wonder how much of an exaggeration this is seeing as the comic lasted less than five months. The section also says members will receive a special red and gold club badge. I wonder if any still exist.

The idea behind the comic was that it's size would make it more noticeable than anything else on the newsstands, driving up sales. Of course no newsagent in their right mind would stock it as it is, and they were all folded in half then half again, making them the same size if not slightly smaller than other comics at the time. To get an idea of just how big an unfolded copy is, here's a photo of this issue next to a random issue of Buster (the closest comic I had). Now imagine having that open and trying to read it anywhere with even a slight breeze - it's next to impossible! It's big size was ultimately its downfall, it merged into Buster on 27th February 1965.