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.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Zip Annual 1960

In 1957 Odhams Press lost the rights to use any and all Disney characters, meaning that their incredibly popular and long running title Mickey Mouse Weekly was forced to close. Not every character in the comic was owned by Disney though, and Odhams used everything they still owned in a new weekly called Zip. The first issue came out on 4th January 1958, but despite having characters from its predecessor without anything Disney the comic flopped and the final issue, #85, came out on 3rd October 1959.

There were two Zip annuals produced. The first came out in 1958 and is of course known as the 1959 annual, and was followed by a second one the following year. Interestingly, the second annual is quite common suggesting sales were healthy, but for whatever reason Odhams decided not to continue the series. 

I actually thought this was a very good book. Produced to a high quality the annual has a pleasant mix of text stories, comic strips and activities - more than enough to keep kids entertained for hours. I particularly like the board games inside the covers. The artwork is by Colin Andrew.

The book is 96 pages in total but there is no price tag, not even one that has been cut out, so I can't say how much it cost. There are far more text stories than there are comic strips, but with 27 pages of strips Odhams weren't exactly tight. Here's one strip, a four-page Captain Morgan strip again illustrated by Colin Andrew. The colouring here is superb too.

An interesting feature towards the back of the book are the 'Flight' diagrams. Featuring detailed drawings and descriptions of various aircraft, they remind me of the cutaways that often featured in Eagle. 

Another fun feature are instructions on how to build a wooden toboggan, by Robert Reeves.

All in all I found this Zip annual to be quite fun and it is certainly produced to a very high quality. A good mixture of text stories, comic strips and other features makes for an entertaining read. The bookstore I bought this had a couple of copies and I'm hoping I will eventually come across the 1959 annual.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Computer Packs In

Unfortunately my computer has decided it's time to pack up. It has been running slow for a while, but now it is simply too slow to function. This means I can no longer scan anything, and certainly can't write from it. 

Anyway, until I get it fixed or figure out how to start scanning from my laptop all posts will have to include photos instead of scans. Speaking of future posts - can anybody guess what the next one might be from the book on the scanner?