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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics: Like a Bad Penny

Those pesky comics turned a generation of innocent schoolchildren into
sling-shot carrying, mischievous little brats.The Archive should have 
guessed Keith Chapman AKA western great, Chap O'Keefe was partly 
Smash! was launched by Odhams in 1966 as the second of "a new breed of 
comics". The first was Wham! in 1964. Both weeklies leaned heavily on 
the creative talents of cartoonist Leo Baxendale who had quit rival 
publisher D. C. Thomson, of Dundee, after drawing such classic Beano 
strips as The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx.
For Odhams in London, The Bash Street Kids became The Tiddlers for Wham! 
and later The Swots and the Blots for Smash! Both these comics allowed 
more outrageous and anarchical humour than had been the norm for the 
Scottish publisher and gave work to Baxendale and a team of artists 
ghosting his style. But it was relatively short-lived. The Odhams titles 
began adding reprints of American Marvel superhero comics to the mix. 
And it launched several more weeklies, like Pow! and Fantastic, for a 
so-called "Power Comics" stable.
Keith Chapman, who edited and scripted for several Wham! and Smash! 
annuals, says, "The writing was on the wall before I left for New 
Zealand in 1967. The market could take only so much. The new comics must 
have been competing with their own companions for the kids' pocket 
money. Also, the cost of the US reprints to Odhams was set to rise 
rapidly as sterling stumbled into a series of crises. The Odhams Books 
division was never able to buy rights to the likes of The Fantastic Four 
and The Incredible Hulk for their hardcover annuals. By the end of 1968, 
the Power Comics weeklies were back to just one, and that was Smash! "
Odhams was owned by the giant International Publishing Corporation who 
in 1969 rationalized all their comics operations, which included the 
tamer Fleetway titles, under one company, IPC Magazines Ltd. According 
to Wiki, the defunct Odhams Press Ltd was left to go bankrupt. The IPC 
Smash!, much reformed, was finally merged with the old Fleetway Valiant 
in April 1971.
The strip here, Bad Penny at the Seaside, is from Smash! Annual 1967 
(published late 1966) and is a slice of a vanished, very British life. 
The annual seaside holiday with the kids, smelly gasworks, guest houses, 
deckchairs on the beach, candy floss, Punch and Judy, old mines 
converted into collection boxes, sandcastle competitions ... all are 
likely to be familiar to Britons over a certain age!
Bad Penny is clearly in the Minnie the Minx mould. And is that jersey 
"borrowed" from the British Dennis the Menace?


gobshyte said...

cheers for this.i always love reading the posts about the old comics and still try to hunt them down in charity shops,ebay etc etc.i always loved the summer special editions of comics but you dont see them around as much.have you ever posted about the broons or oor wullie from the sunday post?

Unknown said...

Genuine, loaded Colts are a far cry from ink-filled water pistols, but it would be pleasing to think that some of those "innocent shoolchildren" who were turned into "mischievous brats" are now followers of Misfit Lil. (A natural progression, surely?) And I'm certain many of them will be upright citizens, all the more literate, inventive and liberal as a result of their early comic reading!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

And you'll all be pleased to know we have more stuff coming from Keith AKA Chap soon - next weekend we'll have a look at Horror comics and will return the following week with some more complete strips.