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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics - gleaming white choppers

What does toothpaste have to do with comics? A link seems hard to imagine, but back in the mid 1960s, comics were eagerly devoured by the kids of the day. So what better medium than a comic to ram home the oral hygiene message, and sell more of your brand's product along the way?

The proprietors of Gibbs toothpaste, through their advertising agency, Lintas, knew their business when it came to advertising and promotion, so you can be sure that their reasoning to run a children's comic was sound. In September 1955, when the UK's first commercial television channel went to air, ending the 18-year monopoly of the BBC, the first advertisement shown was for Gibbs SR Toothpaste.

No expense was spared on Gibbs Ivory Castle Arrow. The comic was produced by the photogravure process used by the million-seller women's magazines of the time. Top comic artists were commissioned. John Ryan, of Captain Pugwash fame, Phil Mendoza. Gordon Hogg, and John Burns were among them.

The editor of the comic was called "The Keeper of the Keys" and his editorial would appear on page 2, alongside readers' letters and jokes, and lists of competition prizewinners that ran to more than a hundred, split into age groups: Over Tens, Seven- to Ten-Year Olds, and Under Sevens. See the clip of "Super Prizes!"

The Keeper of the Keys told his readers: "It seems that you all like the new Arrow because we are printing more and more copies all the time
and we send it to dentists now so that you can read it when you go to visit them. If your dentist doesn't have Arrow, let us know his name and address and we can send him some copies."

The real editor of Ivory Castle Arrow was Odhams Press managing editor George Beal, who also had a hand in producing stories and scripts. Most of the comics had "toothy" themes, but the cover story, Steve and Susan, and some other features were free of messages, unless they were too subliminal for even their creators to recognize!

Our comic this week is the cover feature from Number 11 of the comic, published in 1966. The art is by the great John Burns, whose career we have outlined on a previous Sunday, and the script is by Keith Chapman (who needs no introduction as Archive friend and western novelist Chap O'Keefe).    

Keith tells us, "For this oddity among comics, I also wrote the text for illustrated, factual articles and short text stories along Enid Blyton lines. One of the stories was The Face at the Window, featured in the same edition as this Steve and Susan strip. Another I remember had the title The Secret of Abbey Towers, which seems very unoriginal today. All you need is the title, memories of a few Famous Five yarns, and the job's good as done!"

What's that? You still think teeth and dentists are no laughing matters? Well, we'll throw in for you an Ivory Castle funny by Gordon Hogg, drawn  in the Beano/Wham style. Think on it as the drill bites in to make way for your new filling!

Below are this week's comic strips for your delight - remember double clicking on each image will bring up a larger more readable version. Enjoy but remember, brush those pearly whites.


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