Wednesday, 23 March 2011

ALSO SPRACH ZARA THUSTRASIA...


"Hurry up and take the photo - my bum's cold!"
Photo by Kid Robson

Meet ZARA THUSTRASIA...or Zara for short.  I merely split
the name into two and added an 'sia' to transform 'Zarathustra'
into the feminine.  German Shepherds are the best dogs ever, and
Zara was mine.  Isn't she pretty?  (In a purely platonic way, you
understand.  Hrrmmph.)  Nice doggie.  (Sadly deceased.)  Kennel
Club registered of course - from a line of champions.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

NOW WE ARE SIXTY...DENNIS'S BIRTHDAY!


The first-ever Dennis book.
Art by Davey Law
Readers who bought
THE BEANO #452,
issue dated March
17th, 1951, could
never have guessed
exactly what impact
the new character they
encountered on page 5
of the 12 page comic
(priced 2d) would
eventually have, not
only on the comic
itself, but also the
country at large.

Today, DENNIS
THE MENACE is
a British icon, and
there can't be a kid
(or adult, come to that)
in the land who doesn't
know who the spiky-
haired scamp is. Created by GEORGE MOONIE (who lifted the name from
a popular song), IAN CHISHOLM, and artist DAVEY LAW, the lovable
menace has been the comic's cover star since 1974.

However, his initial appearance (without the famous hooped jersey,
which didn't show up until a few strips down the line) is rather standard
fare, and displays only a faint hint of the madcap anarchy which
established his reader popularity in subsequent escapades.

Dennis's very first appearance. Art by Davey Law

So successful did the strip become that, if not for Dennis, LEO
BAXENDALE might never have been inspired to contact the Dundee "fun
factory" looking for work. After a few false starts, things were not looking
good for him until, copying Dennis's face, he created LITTLE PLUM (or
BOOSTER, as he was provisionally called), the strip which secured his
place in the world of D.C. THOMSON's children's comics. (It wasn't
too long before Plum developed his own distinct facial features.)

It's no exaggeration to say that, without Dennis, Thomson's may
well have had no Leo to produce not only Little Plum, but also THE
BASH STREET KIDS and THE THREE BEARS, who - along with
DUDLEY D. WATKIN's LORD SNOOTY and KEN REID's ROGER
THE DODGER - were destined to become some of the comic's other
most iconic characters.

The issue in which Dennis first appeared.
Artwork by Dudley D. Watkins
Interestingly, in what can
only be described as an
amazing coincidence, another
DENNIS THE MENACE - by
HANK KETCHAM - debuted
in his own American newspaper
strip on March 12th 1951.

However, British comics
are traditionally released up
to seven days before the cover
date to give them a full week's
shelf life until the next issue, so
that means our Dennis hit the
shops well in advance of the
17th. (Some sources say the
12th, the same day as the
U.S. version.)

However, as current Dennis artist NIGEL PARKINSON points
out, U.K. comics are usually printed up to a week before going on sale,
so regardless of which character had the longer lead-in to publication (which
is anybody's guess), the British Dennis definitely saw print first - by several
days. (Consider also that UK weekly comics are prepared about two
months before publication.)

Although known in this country, the U.S. version does not enjoy the
same level (or anywhere near it) of popularity as our own home-grown
rascal, but is big in the States, and no doubt our Dennis is just a minor
footnote over there. The two are completely different types of strips
however, and aren't really comparable.
 
Classic Dennis from the 1978 Dennis book.
Art by Davey Law

Back cover of the first-ever Dennis book.
Art by Davey Law
 Today, Dennis is
everywhere: books,
stationery, stamps, toys,
figurines, DVDs, TV,
 and, of course, comics.
Given the disappointing
circulation figures that
afflict traditional kids'
comics nowadays, let's
hope that Dennis will still
be around in another 60
years. All together now -
HAPPY BIRTHDAY
DENNIS! (The one who
isn't the gay gondolier
from Venice, that is -
because it's not his
birthday.)

(All images on this post are
copyright of D.C. Thomson
& Co., Ltd.)

(FOOTNOTE: When the U.S. strips were reprinted in Britain many
years ago, the title was renamed after the character's live-action '60s
TV show, JUST DENNIS (THE PICKLE), to avoid confusion with the
Thomson's character. In 1976 or '77, DENIS GIFFORD, the late British
comics historian and collector, made mention of this fact in the pages of an
issue of his ALLY SLOPER magazine, and received an irate letter from
a young American reader who had mistakenly assumed that Denis was
saying the strip's name-change had occurred in the USA - so it seems
our Stateside cousins are just as enthusiastic about their version of
Dennis as we are of ours.) 

Monday, 14 March 2011

THE BROONS...BANNED! "JINGS, CRIVVENS, HELP MA BOAB!"


All images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Here is THE BROONS strip that was "banned" and never
saw print until its appearance in THE SUNDAY POST, March
13th, 2011. (Yesterday.)

It's thought that it was vetoed because the word "lover" in the
second panel was considered far too racy for a kids' strip in a family
newspaper in 1936. Morris Heggie, comics expert and current writer
of THE BROONS and OOR WULLIE, thinks that not only is it one
of the earliest Broons strips in existence, but may even be the first
one that artist DUDLEY D. WATKINS ever drew - the "pilot"
episode, in effect.

The Broons and Oor Wullie (The Browns and Our William)
celebrated their 75th anniversary in yesterday's Sunday Post,
with special pull-out souvenir section devoted to Scotland's
lovable and long-running comic characters.

Created by Robert Duncan Low (Managing Editor of
D.C. THOMSON's children's publications) and Dudley Dexter
Watkinsboth comic strips first appeared in The Sunday Post
FUN SECTION on March 8th, 1936. For many years Dudley was
the only DCT artist allowed to sign his work, such was the esteem in
which his employers held him. The policy of other artists' enforced
anonymity was only relaxed long after Dudley's death in 1969.

Original Broons and Oor Wullie artist, Dudley D. Watkins

For those that missed it, back issues of the newspaper are
no doubt available from D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd. Get on
the trail of that collectors' item classic while you can. The Broons
and Oor Wullie books continue to appear on alternate years on the
run-up to Christmas, and a special hardback book reprinting classic
episodes of both strips as drawn by Dudley D. Watkins is
published every year, and has been since 1996.


Above, the FIRST APPEARANCE of Oor Wullie and The
Broons, and below, for completists, the covers of the VERY
FIRST Broons and Oor Wullie books.



Click on images to enlarge - then click again to enlarge further.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

HAVING A SMASHING TIME...


As I said in the
previous post (here),
when SMASH! shuffled
off this mortal coil (on 27th
March 1971), its ghost
haunted VALIANT for a
while - but that wasn't the
only way in which it
managed to maintain a
presence for another few
years past its final issue.
Right up until 1975, a
SMASH! Annual appeared
every year in August/
September for the following
year. (That is, the Annual
which went on sale at the
end of a year in the run-up
to Christmas was for the
year to come.)

SMASH! had ten Annuals in total - four for the ODHAMS incarnation,
six for the IPC/FLEETWAY one, but there was an eleventh book in the
form of the SMASH FUN BOOK 1971. Feast your eyes on the covers for
1971 to 1976 in the pic-fest which follows.




Might as well throw in the 1969 & '70 Holiday Specials - just so I can show
off my recent acquisition of the latter. A replacement for the replacement
of my original copy, as it were. (Relax, it makes sense to me.)


And now, for completists, here are the four original ODHAMS PRESS
Annuals. (Published by Hamlyn Books.) The front & back covers for
1968 are included.




(Click on any image to enlarge, then click to enlarge again.)

Considering that the new SMASH! hit the stands in March of '69, it's
odd that the 1970 Annual reflected the previous incarnation of the comic
rather than the new one. The Annual would've been prepared at roughly
the same time as the comic was due to be relaunched, so that makes the
discrepancy even more of a puzzle. Quite a few readers must have been
confused as to why the Annual of their weekly comic bore very little
resemblance to it when it went on sale in August/September of '69.

The 1971 Annual for its former companion title, WHAM! - which had
disappeared from the shelves in 1968 - must've seemed even more of an
anomaly in contrast, the tone and format being in the old ODHAMS style
as published by HAMLYN. I can only conclude that the Annual usually
sold well, hence its inclusion in the publishing schedule that year.

The name SMASH! survived for nearly ten years, from its first issue in
1966, to the final Annual for 1976 - surely a success in anyone's book.

SMASH, BANG, WALLOP, WHAT A COMIC MAG...


The 1st issue of Smash! (February 1966)
It lasted a total of 257
issues - and there would
have been more if not for
a printing strike lasting
several weeks in 1970.

It outlived companion
titles WHAM! (187
issues), POW! (86),
FANTASTIC (89)
and TERRIFIC (43),
essentially becoming a
"best of" repository for
all of them - but only for
about 6 months. Then
it was out with the old
and in with the new,
and what would have
been #163 became the
first issue of the 'NEW'
SMASH!, devoid of
MARVEL reprints and more in line with the traditional British boys comics like VALIANT and LION. (It's the 42nd anniversary of that relaunch
on the 8th of this month, unless I'm very much mistaken.)  

SMASH! was a superb comic, and the one in which I was first
introduced to the FANTASTIC FOUR. When ODHAMS PRESS
first reprinted the origin of the FF, they did so in WHAM! and SMASH!
simultaneously - curiously (and erroneously) claiming exclusivity for each
title at the end of the first episode of the two-part tale. Want to read the
conclusion of the Marvel quartet's debut adventure? You could only do so
in the next issue of WHAM! - according to WHAM!, that is. If, however,
you were reading SMASH!, it was claiming sole publishing rights for the
next part of the story. An intentional two-pronged promotion of the good
ol' FF to double their readership potential? Or an emergency measure
necessitated by the non-arrival of a regular strip for SMASH!? I guess
only ALF, BART and COS know for certain - I sure don't.

Art by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta

When I later discovered that REED, BEN, SUSAN and JOHNNY were
regularly appearing in WHAM! ("THE COMIC WITH THE FANTASTIC
FOUR!"), I started buying that title too in order to feed my infatuation with
the INVISIBLE GIRL, but I continued to buy SMASH! as well. Then POW!
(after WHAM! was merged with it) and also FANTASTIC and TERRIFIC.
It's ironic that SMASH!, having been the first 'POWER' periodical I read -
and the one in which I first discovered Marvel's most famous family - was
also the last title standing, as well as the comic in which the FF made their
home for the last few months of their Odhams Press existence.
   
The 1st revamped issue (March 1969)
As mentioned, the
title was relaunched -
in March 1969 - in a
completely different
format, featuring
some stories originally
intended for a comic
called BLACKJACK,
which, for reasons
unknown, was sadly
never published.
(CURSITOR DOOM,
and - eventually -
THE PILLATER
PERIL being but a
couple of examples.)
It lasted for 95 issues
before being merged
with VALIANT on 27th
March, 1971 (issue
dated 3rd April).

 

The Codemaster cards & envelope

All things come to an end, alas - but SMASH! did not die with the
last issue of its regular comic. Click here for the rest of the story.