Monday, May 29, 2017

CRACKER No.1 (1975)

Two weeks after the final issue of Buzz was published, D.C. Thomson launched a comic that was clearly intended as a replacement. Cracker No.1 arrived on Saturday 11th January 1975, complete with 'Squeeze and Squeak' free gift. (This was basically two balloons with a tiny squeaker attached between them. Squeeze the smaller balloon, and the air passing through caused the squeak.)

As we saw in my previous post, Buzz was a 16 page tabloid comic. Perhaps realising that tabloid comics were going out of favour, Thomsons made Cracker an A4 size comic, like Beano, Dandy, and Sparky. However, Cracker had 32 pages, more than any other Thomson humour comic of the time, presumably to compete with IPC's 32 page funnies. 

Cracker's host was 'Sammy', a somewhat ugly and unpleasant looking kid that I couldn't imagine any reader identifying with. While it made a refreshing change to IPC's rather bland looking characters such as Sid or Toy Boy, 'Sammy' looked like he'd seen and done unspeakable evil. 
Cracker had a lively content of strips, including a couple of adventure serials. Stories featuring castaways had been a popular theme in UK comics for decades, and Castaways on Planet Doom featured a family mysteriously transported to another world. It also featured the most powerful binoculars in the universe apparently...

Billy the Kid and Pongo was pretty much Cracker's version of Dennis and Gnasher, even to the point of it being drawn by Gordon Bell, who had ghosted Dennis the Menace lots of times.
The centre four pages of Cracker were the Schooldaze section, featuring school-based strips. The centrespread featured The Headhunters, which was basically a continuation of Skookum Skool from the defunct Buzz, featuring the same class. Art by Ken Harrison... 

Kid gangs using a shed as their gang hut had been used in The Beezer's Banana Bunch and Pow's The Group, and Cracker had Curly's Commandos with the same premise. Art by Barrie Appleby...

The other adventure strip in the comic was indeed a cracker; Iron Hand, wonderfully illustrated by Paddy Brennan, one of Thomson's best artists...

Cracker included a few comedy feature pages too, such as this one on the back page...

Sadly, the 1970s were unstable times for British comics and Cracker only managed 87 weekly issues before merging into The Beezer in 1976. 

Beano writer Tommy Donbavand recounts his battle with cancer in a new book

Cover by Nigel Parkinson.
Author Tommy Donbavand, whose credits include Doctor Who, The Beano, and Scream Street, is publishing an e-book recounting his battle with throat cancer. Here's Tommy in his own words...

"In July 2016, I was coming to the end of a month long stay in hospital, including a terrifying week in intensive care. In July 2017, I will be launching a book which tells the story of my battle against stage four throat cancer, how I dealt with the painful side effects of my chemo and radiotherapy, and why falling out of bed literally saved my life.

Taken from my blog of the same name, Tommy v Cancer is a roller coaster ride of emotion from start to finish. You'll laugh in one chapter, cry in another, and frequently wonder what on earth I'm blathering on about in the rest! Plus, there is a TON of NEW CONTENT! Learn why I sent my brother complete gibberish by text, how I was released from hospital and cracked a rib WITHIN 20 MINUTES of being home, and why my GP resigned from her surgery because of me (really!)

Tommy v Cancer is available to pre-order NOW, and here's the great news - if you buy the book now, you'll get a whopping 25% off the launch day price! 

Once you've pre-ordered, you can forget all about it, as the book will automatically be delivered to your Kindle reader or app on 13th July (or earlier, if I can manage it!) Plus, the more people who pre-order, the higher the book will sit in the rankings, which means more people will see it, and so on!"

For UK readers: - £2.99

For readers in the US: - $2.99

Readers in the rest of the world, just search for 'Tommy v Cancer' at your local Amazon website. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

BUZZ No.1 (1973)

In 1973 D.C. Thomson launched their first new humour weekly since Sparky eight years earlier. Its name was Buzz and it was in the 16 page tabloid format like Topper and Beezer. This seemed unusual at the time, considering that the tabloid size wasn't as popular as it used to be. 

Perhaps its size proved to be a disadvantage, as Buzz only lasted for two years before merging into Topper. For today though, let's have a look at a few pages from Buzz No.1, published on Saturday 13th January 1973...

The cover strip, Hop, Skip and Jock, was drawn by Mal Judge, who had been the original artist on Billy Whizz for The Beano. The Buzz cover strip ended with a busy large panel every week in the style of Casey Court in Chips of decades earlier.

Buzz featured no adventure strips and was 100% dedicated to humour. Amongst its contents was Skookum Skool, a typical "naughty classroom" strip, drawn by Ken Harrison...

Like Topper and Beezer, Buzz had 16 pages consisting of 8 in full colour and 8 in red spot colour. The centre pages of the early issues featured The Twitz of the Ritz drawn by Bill Ritchie...

Another strip drawn by Ken Harrison was Jimmy Jinx and what he thinks, featuring a boy struggling with his conscience...

On the back page was Calamity Kate, drawn by George Martin, a master of visual slapstick...

I was 13 when it was launched so I was a bit too old for Buzz but I'm sure it had its followers who enjoyed it. The comic is barely mentioned these days and I suspect some collectors have never heard of it. If you have any thoughts about Buzz, leave a comment below...

Jump onboard ACES WEEKLY for a new volume!

If you still haven't given Aces Weekly a try, you're missing out on an award-winning digital comic with ALL-NEW content from some of the top creators in the UK and beyond. Don't just take my word for it. Listen to the publisher himself, David Lloyd...

Aces Weekly Volume 28, starts on May 29 for 7 glittering weeks ! Subscribe NOW for JUST £1 per week, before tomorrow, and the massive, Volume 27, comes to you fully-formed, all parts collected, instantly, to read now, entire! Upcoming Volume 28 has the familiar fantastic and the super new, including, Stephen Baskerville, Marc makes comics, Manoel Magalhães, and Paul Rainey! £1 per week! All done! No coupons needed!

Here's a few previews of what's coming up...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Fab 4000 project attracts Hollywood talent

News from Tim Quinn of a very worthy project including a concert at The Cavern on Monday 29th May...

A project created by the children of St Vincent’s School for the blind in Liverpool has inspired two Hollywood stars to fly over and pay a visit to the school. Chyler Leigh, star of the US TV series, ‘Supergirl’, and her musician/actor husband, Nathan West, were so impressed by the students’ creation of a brand new super-hero comic book featuring the pupils themselves showing how everyone can help to make the world a better place, even without super-powers, that they have arranged to drop into the school and give a few drama lessons at the end of May.
Word about the comic book spread through the cast of ‘Supergirl’ who all agree that it is a beautiful idea. Chyler and Nathan intend to help make the comic book go global via a website they are creating. They have also arranged to play 2 benefit concerts for the school at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club on 29th May. Chyler will be singing with Nathan’s band, East of Eli on the night and they will be welcoming the school choir on stage for a few numbers. They are also promising special surprise guests to join them on the gig, and will be holding a celebrity auction of Hollywood items. 
Before her role in ‘Supergirl’, Chyler was one of the leads in the award winning TV series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. 

Tim Quinn writes:

Having spent many years of my career editing the extraordinary characters of Marvel Comics, the last thing I expected on my return to my hometown of Liverpool was to find real-life super-heroes wandering the corridors of a local school. But that is exactly what happened when I visited St Vincent’s School. I’d been invited into the school by the Head Teacher, Dr John Patterson who told me that his pupils were crazy for all things super-hero.  I hadn’t realised it was a school for the blind until I turned up there early one morning. I was moved to see that all of the students were dressed as super-heroes. It was an extraordinary sight to see them walking the school corridors with capes, masks, canes and seeing eye dogs.  
Sitting chatting with the students later that morning, I asked them what it was about super-heroes that they enjoyed so much.
“I love the colours,” said a girl, blind from birth.
“I like that they want to help everybody,” explained another student.
The children had been pulled into the super-hero world by listening to the award winning American TV series ‘Supergirl’.

Turns out that the students also enjoyed helping everybody. They had come up with a project to raise funds to send to people suffering from the blight of Black Fly in Africa. The dreaded Black Fly lays eggs in water systems causing people to go blind. Obviously a cause close to the children of St Vincent’s hearts. I’ve found a lot of heart at St Vincent’s School.

Inspired by the children, I worked with a fellow Marvel artist to create a brand new super-hero team based on St Vincent’s amazing pupils. The comic book tells the story of how they have come together to help people less fortunate than themselves. We call the team THE FAB 4000 – The World’s Largest Super-hero Team. We invite readers from other schools to get involved and become members of the team by following a simple super-hero charter that is featured in the comic.

I’m very happy to relate that the work of St Vincent’s pupils has come to the attention of the stars of ‘Supergirl’. Chyler Leigh and her actor/musician husband Nathan West were so moved to hear the story that they have arranged to fly over to the UK to visit the school and produce 2 benefit concerts for the school at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Chyler and Nathan will be making a documentary about the children of the school and their extraordinary concept while they are in town. Chyler explains, “We think this idea is brilliant and we want to help to make it go global. We are so looking forward to our first visit to Merseyside.”

Flying straight from the cast of TV’s ‘Supergirl’ series, actress Chyler Leigh and her actor/musician husband Nathan West’s band East of Eli will be playing 2 very special gigs at Liverpool’s Cavern Club at 4pm and 8pm on Monday 29th May. The concerts are to benefit Liverpool’s St Vincent’s School for the blind. Chyler and Nathan are also bringing unique Hollywood and DC Comics items to include in an auction during the shows. PLUS: A brand new comic book will be launched by the pair that night! Look out for ‘The FAB 4000!’
Tickets going fast from:

4pm show:

8pm show:

East of Eli and Chyler Leigh links:

A choice of monsters for the next DWM cover

Doctor Who Magazine No.513 arrives in the shops this coming Thursday, 1st June, and it gives buyers a choice of two covers. You can either go for the one featuring the all-new female leader of the Ice Warriors, or the one featuring the return of the first generation Cybermen. 

Or better still, buy both!

The 84 page magazine will feature loads of features as usual, plus part two of the 12th Doctor comic strip The Soul Garden by Scott Gray and Martin Garaghty, and another Daft Dimension by me. 

Yes, the Ice Warriors and the Cybermen are coming back to the TV series as the current season of Doctor Who races towards its climax. We're only just past halfway so far though, so don't miss episode 7 tonight! (Or, if you're reading this later, catch the show on BBC iPlayer.)

Doctor Who Magazine website:

Coming up in the next 2000AD...

Here's your weekly advance preview of the next issue of 2000AD. Prog 2033 will be in the shops this coming Wednesday, 31st May...

UK & DIGITAL: 31 May 2017 £2.65
NORTH AMERICA: 1 July 2017 $7.99

In this issue:
Judge Dredd: Hoverods by TC Eglington (w) Brendan McCarthy (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

80 year Flashback: FUNNY WONDER Whitsun issue 1937

Whitsun was a bigger deal in years past than it is today, and 80 years ago the comics of the Amalgamated Press used it as the theme for that week's issues. I've previously shown the Whitsun issue of Jolly Comic for 1937 (click here) and now here are a few strips from The Funny Wonder of the same week. The comic is scanned from my collection.

Funny Wonder had 8 tabloid-sized pages, all printed in black ink on green paper for 1d. The wonderful holiday theme logo illustration and Pitch and Toss cover strip is the work of Roy Wilson I think. (Might be by one of his imitators but I'm sure it's a Wilson page.) 

Inside, Merry Moments with Marmy and his Ma sees mum and son visiting a fair for the holidays. Note the "Fat Boy" attraction; a depiction of times when the "Freak Show" was a voyeuristic attraction at fairs. Art by Wally Robertson I believe.

Charlie Chaplin had appeared on the cover of the comic for years but by 1937 he was one of the centre-spread strips. Art by Bertie Brown.
Sally, the Sunshine of Our Alley, had a resourceful girl as the lead, and the title of the strip was of course inspired by the 1931 film Sally in our Alley starring Gracie Fields. 
The comic included a cut-out badge for readers to become part of "The Funny Wonder Secret Society", but stipulated that only regular readers could wear it. (That excludes all of us then, unless we have a bound volume of issues to read.)
Fifty percent of the issue was taken up with prose stories and, on the back page, the only adventure strip in the comic; Tim McCoy. Those speech balloons are a bit shouty! 
I hope you enjoy reading this summer issue from 80 years ago. If you have a laptop or tablet, why not sit in the sunshine and enjoy a good read? (22 degrees C here at the moment!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

LAWLESS collected

Rebellion are certainly putting out a lot of collections of strips these days. Next month sees the awesome Lawless Volume 1, with amazingly detailed artwork by Phil Winslade. 

Ludicrously, there are still some people who claim today's comics aren't as well drawn as those of decades ago. Take a look at this, folks. Phil's artwork is on a par with any of the best work published in comics since comics began! The high standard of comic art today is incredible. 

Here's the info on the book from the publishers, along with the first five pages to whet your appetites...

CREATIVE TEAM: Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
REGIONS: UK & US print, worldwide digital
RELEASE DATE: 15 June 2017
PRICE: £14.99 (UK) $20 (US)
ISBN: 9781781085431

The first collection of 2000 AD's latest breakout success set in the Judge Dredd universe, with an incredible new female Judge. The backwater planet of 43 Rega has spent five years recovering from an invasion of aliens known as the Zhind. isolated and a hotbed for trouble makers, Badrock is an colony township desperate for a strong law enforcer to take charge. Enter Colonial. Marshal Meta Lawson. Tough, surly and determined, Lawson seems to be ideal for the role. But is this law-woman exactly who she claims to be?

Available in print from: book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond

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