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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Archive Sunday Comics - Whoopie

A slight change of format for this week's Sunday Comics, but have no fear we will be back next week with  more full length strips for your enjoyment. However I wanted to talk a little about a humour title that was popular when I was a kid, a title that I read regularly and was reminded of this past week when I found several back issues on the time capsule that is Pontypridd Market's secondhand book stall.

The image at the top of this article came from a Google search and the issues I picked up came from 1977 - February and December 1977 to be exact - man, I was eleven and then twelve years old then.

The lead story in the earlier issue which continues on the inside page is the Bumpkin Millionaires - a family based on TV's Beverly Hillbillies who were always trying to get rid of their money, but would end each story by amassing more of the filthy lucre. All they really had to do was invest in Northern Rock and all that lolly would have vanished soon enough but alas back then, we still trusted banks. This was before that days when the word banker was often spelt with a, "W".

The December issue finds the bumkins sent to the middle pages while tiny terror, Sweeny Toddler gets the front page. The comic was published by IPC Magazines and during this period the artists and writers were not credited, so I'm not sure who did what in the comics. Though I do know that Sweeny Toddler first appeared in Shiver and Shake comic and was created by the legendary Leo Baxendale. As was the case when comics merged the most popular characters would survive the transition and Sweeny Toddler survived several title mergers.

"Originally drawn by Leo Baxendale, Sweeny was a two-year-old 'toddler from hell'. With his pet dog Henry, he caused sheer havoc around town, the outcome of which would usually involve being caught by his parents and punished with the slipper. Tom Paterson took over from Baxendale quite early on, Paterson becoming easily the most famous and longest running artist to draw the strip.Always a popular character, Sweeny survived Shiver and Shake's merger with Whoopee! in 1974. The early 1980s saw Graham Exton become the writer, and in 1984 (issue dated 7 April) Sweeny became the cover star of Whoopee! for a second time (after being replaced by Snack-Man for a short period). When Whoopee merged with Whizzer and Chips in 1985, the first merged issue featured Sweeny hijacking several of the pages asking when his strip was going to appear. When it finally appeared on the back page, he said that "Rotten ol' Ed will pay for this", managing to work his way back onto the cover from the next issue, and becoming a Whizz-Kid Before the demise of Whizzer and Chips, Tom Paterson left Fleetway in favour of DC Thomson. Graham Exton would take over artistic duties as well as writing.Sweeny also managed to survive the merger with Buster in 1990. It was drawn by Jimmy Hansen and Tom Paterson. As with all strips by the end, around this time it became a reprint, and continued being so until the comic's last issue at the beginning of 2000. As with several other Buster strips, it was included on the last page of the final issue (How It All Ends), drawn by Jack Edward Oliver. Explaining what eventually happened to all these characters, Sweeny was seen saying that he now likes everyone, and that "me going to be nice to everyone from now on"." THE WIKI

It is always the letters page that I turn to first when discovering old comics. For it is these pages that best provide a snapshot of what mattered at the time, least to us per-pubescent kids who had yet to discover girls and preferred skateboards to loose birds. In the February issue Joanne Durrell from Dagenham informs the editor that a mouse that lived under her garden shed had taken to wandering into the house and watching TV, Kojak being a particular favourite, and Timothy Wallace of Stevenage tells of an accident at school when a window fell out in the gym and landed upon his head. It smashed and he had 6 stitches - no mention of  a law suit here and the reader seemed to be happy with the £1 postal order he received for having his letter published. Now jump forward to December and reader, Sharon Hovell of Colcester told how she had received a letter from Buck House after sending the Queen a copy of Whoopie as a gift to celebrate her Jubilee year.
 Whoopie ran from 1974 to 1985 but by then I had long given up the comic and my skateboard and was shacked up with a loose bird. Still it was great to discover these old comics and doubly so to read through them and reaquant myself with characters such as Smiler, Scared Stiff Sam, Lolly Pop, Willy Worry and others...Made me feel like a kid again. Now the only problem, where did I put that skateboard?

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