Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Every Whizzer and Chips Free Gift (Part 1 of 3)

For those of you who were following my blog in the early days, you may remember me saying more than once that Whizzer and Chips is my favourite comic. This may come as a surprise to many, but the reason is simple: although my first comic was a copy of the Beano, my first "old" comic (i.e. not from the newsagents) was Whizzer and Chips, purchased probably from a junk shop or a car boot sale.

I should note that the contents of this post are not new, but in fact make up part of my Whizzer and Chips blog, a clunky old website that can be found here, if you are so inclined.

But to begin, the very first Whizzer and Chips free gift came with, surprise surprise, the very first issue, and was advertised on the cover as 'Twelve Super Stickers'. They included phrases such as "Keep Teacher off the Moon" and "England for the World Cup" - all very topical for the late 1960s.

Issue #2 came with a "super cartoon flick book", a double sided card for the viewer to turn into a flick book for two short cartoons of Sid's Snake. The first cartoon was called Sid the Charmer, and the second Slippy's Solo. I'm not sure they will win any storytelling awards, but the are fun enough.

The third issue coincided with bonfire night and thus came with a free "super full-colour Guy Fawkes mask". It was the third gift in a row to be described as "super" - I think someone at Fleetway needed a thesaurus.

The next free gift came along with issue dated 21st February 1970. The colourful Lunar Launcher and Splashdown Capsule capitalised on the hype of the moon landings and was accompanied by a fun front cover Sid's Snake story.

The following issue (28th February) came with a free disguise kit that I must say looks very familiar. Both of these gifts were promoted with front cover stories, but at risk of clogging up this blog post too much I'll let you hunt those down for yourself.

The next free gift came with the merger of Knockout on 30th June 1971. Alongside the introduction of a number of new characters, the comic came with two joke books - one for the Whizz Kids and one for the Chip-ites.

A rubber bat came with the 5th birthday issue. Spooky!

Next up - the Superjet Joke Camera came with issue dated 8th March 1975. To be honest I'm not sure how many people would be fooled by this but I love the optimism of the illustration on its paper bag, also used as the front cover image.

This post will get quite lengthy if I include all the gifts that came with Whizzer and Chips over its 21 years run, so I've decided to break it down into three posts. Part 2 tomorrow!

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Look And Learn #1000

Any title that reaches 1000 issues is impressive and Look and Learn achieved such a feat on 9th May 1981. The celebrations began a week earlier in #999, with a full page advert promoting the big number. As you can see, the issue came with a free chess board, now long absent from my copy. It's also interesting to compare the cover shown in the advert compared with the finished product - a lot more writing was added including the subtitle 'With World of Knowledge' - which had folded and merged into Look and Learn in January 1981. The merger had brought about a few other changes, including a fresh logo dubbed 'The New Look and Learn', with the 1000th issue being the first to drop the words 'the new'. 

Inside, editor Jack Parker welcomes readers to the special issue and gives a brief history of the magazine including the choice to use Prince Charles on the cover, as a nod to the very first issue back in 1962. Personally I'm not sure that's a choice I would have made, but each to their own I suppose...

Look and Learn is more of a magazine than a comic, but it still featured strips sparingly here and there. Issue 1000 contains two such strips, this wonderful two-pager entitled More Adventures of The Trigan Empire. For me the colours really stand out on this page, particularly in the panels depicting the Skorpiad Space-Scout orbiting in space "several leagues above the Elekoton". As was mentioned in the editor's letter, this was a very popular and long running strip that originated in Ranger in September 1965, moving over to Look and Learn when the two merged in 1966 and continuing on until the very last issue. It's nice to see that many, although not all, of the artists are credited in Look and Learn - this strip is drawn by Gerry Wood

The other comic strip in this issue is a Ben-Hur two pager, adapted of course from the famous novel. Sadly the artist isn't credited here. 

Whether sales were already slumping or the revamped Look and Learn simply didn't prove as popular I can't say, but the magazine didn't last too much longer. At 40p it was perhaps too expensive, even though that higher price tag allowed it high quality paper and no less than 15 of its 32 pages were full colour. But a kid in a newsagents could buy a copy of Whizzer and Chips for 14p in 1981, or The Beano for 9p, so I would imagine the far pricier Look and Learn was more bought by adults to give to their children for its educational benefits. Regardless, the magazine folded after a very impressive run of 1049 issues with the final issue dated 17th April 1982. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Dennis the Menace Book 1960

Dennis the Menace is, of course, one of the most successful and popular British comic characters of all time. Created by Beano editor George Moonie and the wonderfully talented Davey Law, Dennis first appeared in a half page black and white strip in Beano #452 in 1951 and had his very first book released in 1956. In the early days the Dennis the Menace book was actually a bi-annual affair, meaning today's venture, the 1960 book, was actually the third issued. It cost 5/6 and was a good 80 pages, mostly consisting of a mixture of text stories and comic strips, with the occasional other feature here and there, illustrated almost entirely by Davey Law. Interestingly as well, every single page has red ink with no black and white pages, something I suppose was necessary to show Dennis' famous black and red striped jumper. Before we dive any further into the content though, take a look at the gag on the back cover, where Dennis's dad orders the delivery of a slipper by sail as punishment for Dennis' crimes on the front! Brilliant stuff. 

My copy of this book has, unfortunately for me, been well-loved in its time and a few of the pages have been scribbled over by a young Southampton lad who I shan't name and shame, so instead of showing the title page artwork I'll skip ahead into the strips. Here's a good one as it includes a panel of Dennis handing over what is clearly a 1950s Beano, distinctive enough by its red header. Poor Dennis never catches a break, it is remarkable that almost every strip in the books ends with a slipper in one form or another! Here though, he just gets the knee.

Here's an interesting page - The Early Adventures of Little Boy Dennis. If he's meant to be a baby here it's hard to tell as to me he looks pretty much the same as he always does, save for his sitting in a pram. I'm not sure who the artist is, but it isn't Law.

One more strip before we move on to some of the book's other features, and what better a page to look at than this wonderful fireworks story! This page also illustrates well an artist working in the style of Law with a four panel gag at the bottom, something known as "ghosting".

Here's a breakdown of what those aforementioned 80 pages consist of: the front and back covers, 48 pages of comic strips, 20 pages of text stories, 3 puzzle pages, 2 pages of jokes, 1 title page, 1 'this book belongs to page', 1 page with a letter from Dennis welcoming readers to the book, and 2 funny poem pages. Here's an example of one of those poems, entitled There's Fun To Be Found in Dustbins'.

Text stories were slowly disappearing from comics by the early 1960s but this book still features ten of them all at two pages long. I've chosen to share this one based solely on the illustrations alone, I particularly like the image of Dennis' parents AND cat jumping for joy as he runs away from home! 

Most, if not all, of these strips are reprints I believe, but regardless the annual is a nice way to get a glimpse into an era of The Beano that is very collectable and expensive these days. There's no era of The Beano I don't like, in fact I still buy the occasional new issue from my local comic shop, but there truly is something special about the quality of the content D C Thomson was putting out in the 50s and 60s. If you ever come across any of the comics or books from this time they are well worth a read.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Meet The Winners

Launched on 5th May 1979,
Jackpot was another addition in the long line of IPC comics and, although not well-remembered as a title that particularly stood out, it certainly had its moments. One such moment came about a year and a half into its run, when The Winners arrived in issue #75. As the first panel makes clear, "the Winner family decided to enter every competition going", and the lengths they would go to and the prizes they would win were the winning formula (pardon the pun) for this long running strip. In fact, The Winners proved very popular, surviving Jackpot's merger with Buster in February 1982 and continued, admittedly in reprint form, up until the last issue in 2000. Although The Winners later came to be drawn by Mike Lacey and Jimmy Hansen, this first strip is actually the work of Jimmy Glen.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Oink! No. 13 (1986)

Oink! is one title I've thus far neglected to cover much on this blog, but hey - better late than never! So let's amend that with a dive into what is probably my favourite issue of one of the weirder comics published by IPC - lucky number #13. Launched in May 1986, Oink was still a fortnightly comic at this point (it would later go to monthly). Many people actually seem to consider Oink as "a Viz for children", indeed that is a phrase I have seen thrown around a lot, but it is simply not a true statement. I asked Tony Husband, one of the creators of Oink!, some years ago for something I was writing (and never finished) about whether the creation of a "Viz for children" was the intention of Oink, and this is what he had to say:

"No that was never our intention. The three of us, Pat Gallagher, Mark Rodgers and myself all wrote for the IPC comics and we just wanted to take the piss out of the formulated but enjoyable mainstream comics. We spoke to Bob Paynter who was the head of children's comics and he gave us money for a dummy. Years later John Brown publishing and the Donalds came to us about doing a kids Viz bit it never happened."

Oink! certainly is a comic unlike anything else put out by mainstream British comic publishers before. Those of you who've read Terry Bave's 2012 autobiography 'Cartoons and Comic Strips' may recall him discussing Krazy as, well, a "really crazy comic", where "a number of artists and writers had been invited to submit 'crazy' ideas, many turned out to be too crazy for consideration", and by Oink's standards Krazy would be considered somewhat traditional! (Krazy is another comic a little overlooked on this blog too, that may have to be amended soon as well.) To illustrate my point, here's a bizarre photo strip entitled Snatcher Sam meets Young Frankenstein. I can only imagine how much fun this would have been to produce. 

Issue thirteen is of course an unlucky number, well known to the Oink creators, and furthermore this issue was the very first Oink halloween issue - what a coincidence! For 30p readers got 32 pages, printed on nice glossy paper, 9 of those pages in full colour and a further 6 in partial colour with either a pink or yellow ink. That full-colour page count includes the poster on the centre spread, which is an absolutely stunning piece of artwork by the aforementioned Tony Husband featuring his popular character Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins, drawn in the style of a 1950s US horror comic cover. If it didn't mean taking apart an old comic I would definitely have this up on my wall. Perhaps a photocopy is needed...

Another interesting addition to this issue is this 3/4 page text piece Dennis Nifford's History of Horrors. Obviously, this is the pig alter-ego of famed comic historian Denis Gifford. I can only assume it was he who put this piece together, for as well as being a fan of comics he was very much involved with them. 

-- UPDATE! Thanks to Lew Stringer and other good ol' piggin' pals over at the Oink comic fan page on Facebook for informing me that actually this page is NOT by Denis Gifford as he was not a fan of Oink. In fact being an old school guy he didn't like any comics that didn't seem to follow the traditional style, such as 2000AD. I was very surprised to hear this, to say the least! The artwork is actually by Steve Gibson and potentially written by Steve as well, although if not it may have been Mark Rodgers. --

So what are some more of these weird and wacky strips I keep going on about? Well, what about this one entitled Billy's Brain. About a young boy called Billy and his uncle, who exists only as a brain, it's certainly not a strip I could see appearing in Buster or The Beano. It's unsigned but I think this is drawn by David Haldane.

Monster Mash is perhaps the funniest story in this issue. Illustrated by Lew Stringer and written by Mark Rodgers, it is a short story filled with brilliant gags - my favourite is the "school dinner disposal unit" wearing hazmat suits as they dump the toxic dinners into the "hidden dump". This is the first appearance of Pigswilla, a character who would appear a few times throughout Oink's run, and Lew talked about the character's creation in a post on his art blog. Here's what he had to say:

"Mark had originally sent me an idea for a story called The School Dinner Monster and asked if I had any ideas to add to it. I added a few bits and bobs to the plot and dialogue, and thought that the title Monster Mash was catchier. I gave the name 'Pigzilla' to the giant robot pig, although Mark changed that to the much more inspired Pigswilla."

Anyway, here's the two-pager. I really wish this had been given full colour treatment, as I feel it would really have made use of some disgusting school dinner colours to add some extra effect! In fact, another copy of Oink (#66) I happen to have to hand contains a full-colour, nine (!) page Pigswilla comic which I might have to share in a post here sometime soon, just for fun, and you'll see what I mean.

The last strip I'll share is a silly page that is perhaps a bit more 'normal' as far as IPC comics go, emphasis on a bit - The Curse of the Mummy, illustrated by Jeremy Banx. I say this one is a bit more normal only because it reminds me of a strip from the early days of Whizzer and Chips called The Mummy's Curse, in which two unlucky explorers are chased around the world by an angry mummy whose tomb they disturbed. I've also shared an example of that strip, taken from Whizzer and Chips #2 (25th October 1969) and illustrated by Reg Parlett.

Oink ran for about two and a half years before folding in October 1988. Sadly its unique appearance also made it somewhat controversial and some newsagents allocated it to the top shelf, above the eyes of children, and sales ultimately slumped and the plug was pulled (although I'm sure this wasn't the only reason). For those who want to read more about Oink I highly recommend Phil Boyce's excellent Oink blog, which has moved to a new home on Wordpress and can be found here: