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Sunday, 31 January 2016
Fifty years ago, back at the end of January, a new comic periodical went on sale in Britain - SMASH! It was the sister publication to WHAM!, launched a year and a half earlier in June of 1964. That's the cover of the first issue above, just in case you ignore the pictures and immerse yourselves in my award-winning, witty and absorbing writing style, the envy of many a blogger across the land. (What award? Well, you award it your full attention, don't you? That's a big enough award for me!)
Guess what though? I haven't yet scanned the complete contents of Smash! #1, but a few years ago, I presented a three-part series of the contents of issue #2. So being a benevolent sort of fella, I decided to show them again, but this time complete in one post to save you the inconvenience of keeping track of three separate instalments.
So what are you waiting for? Wonderment aplenty lies ahead!
Something you won't know is that the ODHAMS PRESS bound volume of the first 50 issues of SMASH! didn't include #2. It wasn't pulled out later - it was simply missing when the comics were gathered for binding. Luckily, I have a spare copy of that 2nd collectors' classic (as I do of #1 also) - and it too is an Odhams file copy, the one with details of who did what and how much they got paid for doing it.
If I recall correctly, I had practically a full year's worth of these issues, each with a label on every strip noting the financial facts and creative cast of those involved. (Odhams kept two sets - one with labels and one without, and I was given both.) I gave the labelled ones away, but retained #2 so that I could transplant it into my unlabelled volume and complete the set. First, though, I carefully steamed off the labels to conserve the information for comics historians everywhere.
So, enjoy reading some sensational strips from one of Britain's brightest comics of the '60s, and indulge your curiosity at how much the contributors got paid for their labours. Sadly, there just aren't as many opportunities available nowadays for budding cartoonists, as weekly comics (with the exception of The BEANO) are mainly a thing of the past.
So gaze upon these pages of Smash! and recall a time in the nation's history when seemingly countless high-circulation comic periodicals for girls and boys proliferated all across the country. Sadly, it appears unlikely that we shall see such times again.
(And in case you wonder why The GHOST PATROL was 'free', it's because it was a retitled reprint of The PHANTOM PATROL from SWIFT, a few years before.)
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One factor that may have led to ATLAS/SEABOARD titles burning out so quickly was that, originally, boss MARTIN GOODMAN intended to release only about five new colour comicbooks (plus some b&w mags), but changed his mind at the last minute and ordered around 20. Having to suddenly come up with that many new titles doesn't really lend itself to ensuring a high-quality product, and another probable factor was the change of direction in some titles after only the first or second issue before the sales figures had come in on the earlier ones.
If Goodman hadn't been so consumed with a desire for revenge against CADENCE for the way they'd treated his son, he may have approached matters with a wiser, cooler head, and had a better chance of being a serious contender. As it was, some of the titles were dreamt up a little too hastily, and tried too hard to look like what was already on the stands by other publishers. The irony is, of course, that had Cadence/Marvel not dispensed with Goodman Jr.'s services, then it's most unlikely that Goodman Sr. would've felt motivated to re-enter the publishing world and Atlas (Mark 2) would never have been born.
You can all make up your own minds on whether that would've been a good or a bad thing, but, personally, I'm glad we got to see The GRIM GHOST. That's the only title I thought showed promise and I wish it'd got a longer run than it did. Thing is, you can't kill a ghost, so who knows? He may come back to haunt us one day. (He's already had another stab at it, you know - back in 2010.)
Part six coming soon. Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in our ever-lovin' comments section.
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Here we are with part four, and it's interesting (to me at least) to note that no ATLAS/SEABOARD title ever made it past its fourth issue - with quite a few of them not making it even that far! That may have made it easier for collectors to acquire full sets, but it also deprived them of the joy of anticipating the next issue, so a bit of a mixed bag in that respect. A few years ago, there was an attempt to revive some of the Atlas characters, but the second time around was even less successful than the first. Third time lucky?
What was your favourite Atlas comic and why? Don't hold back - extoll its virtues to the heavens in the comments section. And remember to come back for the next instalment.