Category Archives: british comic strips

The Yellowed Pages

A blog dedicated to lovely old British comic strips – I don’t know how I have missed this one (seeing as it has been around since 2009). But at least being late to the party means I have 4 years worth of blog to catch up on. Captain Storm (I don’t know if it is his real name) is the blogger of  the aptly titled ‘The Yellowed Pages’, and his mission statement reads thus;

A lover of old British comics from the 60s through to the early 80s and that is what we will showcase here. However sometimes we will stray outside this mandate. Welcome to the Yellowed Pages where nostalgia isn’t in the past , it’s right here , right now!

There is some great stuff on there, such as The Tower King & The House Daemon (covered in this blog in the past), The Spinball Wars (futuresport – hooray!!!), some of Thargs Future Shocks & Mind Wars (from Starlord). I could go on, but I suggest you check it out. The link is here;

The Yellowed Pages

UK Comics – The Crunch ‘the No.2 for boys’ (1979 – 1980)

The Crunch was a British comic title for boys, from Scottish publishers DC Thompson, that ran for 54 issues from 1979 to 1980, when it was merged with the more popular and well established title ‘The Hotspur’.

The Crunch, one of the many British boys comics of the fertile scene of the 70’s, was released by DC Thompson at the end of the Seventies, and, it could be argued, was their answer to IPC’s 2000AD anthology title. The serials included a formula that was proving to be popular at the time – a mix that included futuresport (‘Arena’), gritty action (‘Mantracker’), sci-fi (‘Starlord’) and thriller (‘The Kyser experiment’). There was even a tribute to Roger Zelaney’s ‘Damnation Alley’ & Dredd’s ‘The Cursed Earth’ in the serial, ‘Plague 2000’ (see the cover of issue 14, below).
But whenever I think of ‘The Crunch’, I always think of the issue 2 cover (below). Although it is announcing that it is the second issue ‘For Boys’, the layout suggests that it is proclaiming it is somehow second-best, that it is not ‘No.1’. An accident of layout that proved prophetic for a title that struggles to reach a year before being consumed by another title with a greater readership – an all too common tactic in UK comics publishing of the time (see also Starlord, Action, Tornado, Eagle)

and then there is my personal favourite, issue 10, where an Alan Partridge lookalike appears to striding purposefully striding away from a giant head wearing a Hitler mask;






The following is taken from http://starhawkcrunch.tripod.com/id3.html

Crunch or to give it it’s full title ‘The Crunch’, crunched it’s way onto newsagent’s shelves dated 20th January 1979 with it’s humble claim, ‘The sensational new paper with the most dynamic bunch of stories ever!’

It’s first issue free gift was ‘The Black Band with 6 Super Crunch Stickers’. The bunch of stories inside included ‘Arena’ (Alcatena), ‘The Mantracker’ (Salinas), ‘The Kyser Experiment’, ‘Here Come The Walking Bombs’, ‘Hitler Lives’ (Pat Wright) and ‘Who Killed Cassidy?’
‘The Crunch’ is famous for introducing ‘Ebony’ (Magallanes), who was not only the first female action heroine in a boys’ comic but was also black, which was groundbreaking stuff at the time. Ebony, agent in the ‘British Special Mission Squad’, used her expert karate skills to free her partner, Bleak, from Merando in Italy where he was being held by Nazi war criminals.
‘The Crunch’ which many believe to be DC Thomson’s answer to 2000AD didn’t capture the readers’ imagination in the same way and more importantly the sales to compete with it’s IPC rival.. ‘The Crunch’ managed only 54 issues before merging, with a dull thud, to it’s much more conservative and older stable-mate ‘The Hotspur’.
‘The Crunch’ which many believe to be DC Thomson’s answer to 2000AD didn’t capture the readers’ imagination in the same way and more importantly the sales to compete with it’s IPC rival.. ‘The Crunch’ managed only 54 issues before merging, with a dull thud, to it’s much more conservative and older stable-mate ‘The Hotspur’.

                              Final issue (#54) cover;

                                               



links!!!


all the covers for The Crunch, here;
http://www.comicvine.com/the-crunch/49-37788/

26pigs covers the title;
http://www.26pigs.com/crunch/index.html

Someone has posted some pictures of the free gifts that were given away with issue 4;
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28773898@N04/tags/crunch/

UK Comics – Load Runner (1983)

In the early 1980s, around the time of the 8 bit home computer boom (Sinclair Spectrum, ZX81, C64, Vic 20, BBC Micro), the British publisher ECC produced a short lived comic based around home computing and gaming. Called ‘Load Runner’ (a nod to the game ‘Load Runner’ perhaps? Or maybe a reference to the ‘loading’ of cassette based programs / games – the standard for the computers of the time). It lasted all of 13 issues. Like most British comics, it was ‘anthology’ based, with several serialised strips running concurrently – most were drawn, but, much like its contemporary, the 80’s reboot of The Eagle, there were also fumetti (photonovel) strips. I assume that the motivation behind the comic was to expand the concepts of some of the computer games of the day – and seeing as the game graphics were extremely basic, there was some sense in this idea. Considering you could get intriguing cover art for a game;

but the reality of the gameplay was like this;

then a bit of artistic licence to expand the concept was a fine ideal. So, what sort of strips were in Load Runner? Well, there was the titular character himself, who alongside his glamourous companion Petra, found themselves in vaguely computer based dramatic scenarios in a virtual world of peril and danger!!!

There was, as mentioned earlier, fumetti! One of the strips was called Time Plan 9, and another was called ‘School for Software’;

which must have been getting some fumes from Grange Hill judging by the body language / posturing of teacher and pupil (love that Teachers wig…)

Then there was the obligatory sports story (‘Load Runner’, despite its slightly different theme, stuck very closely to the tried and tested way of producing a contemporary comic) – this strip was called ‘Andy Royd’. Set in the future (1993), when professional football had changed irrevocably (maybe this was prophetic – the Premier League came into being in 1992….) and robots have replaced humans as the players. However, there is one man (Andy…) who poses as a robot to play in the league and try and save his team – the ‘Dominators’ – from relegation;

But this one has to be my favourite;

There was also a mascot / figurehead for ‘Load Runner’, who was obviously aimed at the demographic. His name was ‘Brainy’;

Anyway, there is some information out there on Load Runner (but not a lot). I would like to point you to the following links;

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2008/10/column_game_mag_weaseling_the_10.php


http://asylums.insanejournal.com/scans_daily/1187885.html

http://www.shardcore.org/retrogeek/wordpress/category/loadrunnner/

and all credit to the original scanners.

Here are the complete set of covers for Load Runner 1-13. Found them on ebay (current price per issue? 15 quid…);

So…..what is on the mind of Wolfie Smith? (1979)

From the pages of Tornado – who could have used the byline ‘a short-lived title due to be merged with 2000AD very soon) – ‘The Mind of Wolfie Smith‘ was written by Tom Tully with art by Vincente Vano. It tells the story of a young boy, Ernie (aka ‘Wolfie’) Smith, whose telepathic and telekinetic powers suddenly emerge. But what, you may ask, does a ‘boy with the most powerful brain in the world’ crave?

Oh-kay. ‘Woflie*’ (if I can call you that) – you are the BOY WITH THE MOST POWERFUL BRAIN IN THE WORLD. Think about it. You can use your incredible talents for awe inspiring feats, change your world, and everyone around you – for better or worse. Look inside yourself – what is it you desire? How do you want to utilise that magnificent brain?

Oh F.F.S….

Taken from the pages of Tornado, issue 30, The Mind of Wolfie Smith (pages 28 and 30).

* I am sure this is a happy coincidence, but Wolfie shared the same name as a popular Seventies sitcom character.

The award for the most inappropriate kids comic competition of 1976 goes to…..

….Action Comics!!

Not only was it violent, not only did it use 1970’s ‘youth’ colloquialisms such as ‘ya’ (as in ‘Action is ya favourite violent comic’), but it also held a gloriously bad taste competition. Well, that’s my view anyway. It was also a great competition prize, and an exciting one. But definitely in bad taste. Let me explain in words and pictures;

That shark just above is dubbed Hook Jaw, the undoubted star of IPC comics notorious ‘Action‘ title. Hook Jaw was clearly inspired by, and capitalising on, the Shark craze of the mid 1970’s (prompted by the Spielberg Blockbuster ‘Jaws‘). Some of the works inspired by the film were quite bizarre. Hook Jaw, however, was just plain terrifying. This comic strip amplified our terror of the deep and exaggerated the fearsomeness, the size and predator instincts of a Great White Shark. The shark that appeared in Action acted as a moral avenger, appearing to act out a vendetta against mankind.

Created by Pat Mills (who went on to have a hand in the creation of another seminal British comic character, Judge Dredd), the story had an environmental edge, the Shark, while eating any human unlucky enough to be in its proximity, seemed to target those who would exploit the Seas (the first strip was based around an oil rig);

(the panel above was taken from issue 2 of Action, dated 21st of February, 1976)

So there we go, Hook Jaw, the Great White Shark who was a cover star of the most notorious British Boys comic of the 1970’s;

Competitions in comics are nothing new. They attract new readers, reward existing readers and keep them loyal, and some lucky guy gets the first prize. Action decided to run a competition, one that tied in with one of the comic strips, and one that captured the spirit of the comic, as it certainly promised ‘action’ with a capital A, and one lucky reader got to do the following;

Right – so that’s a fishing trip, to catch a shark! Great opportunity to go out shark fishing, you might even catch HOOK JAW!!!

Er, okay, maybe not.

Amazingly, they did have children enter the competition. They found a winner. The winner did go out on a shark fishing trip. Did he catch Hook Jaw? Did he come back in one piece? Did his dad go with him? Did he come back as well? Were Brody, Hooper and Quint on board? Did they go in the Orca*? All is revealed below….

Finally, here is a gratuitous panel from Hook Jaw from issue 2 of Action (dated 21st of February 1976) – can you see the nod to the Spielberg movie??

Hook Jaw

Jaws

* The Orca was the boat that Quint, Brody and Hooper used to hunt the Great White in Jaws. It still (allegedly) exists (as a bit of a wreck) – have a look

Dan Dare and the Mystery of the Money Men (1981)

In prog 206 of the British science fiction weekly 2000AD (dated 4th of April, 1981) there was a curious news item that made an appearance just above an advert for ‘Tiger and Speed’ comic;

Well, I knew the following – that in 1975, Elton John released the album ‘Rock of the Westies’, and this included the track ‘Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)’. I also knew that in 1979, David Bowie referenced Dan Dare in his song ‘DJ(song)’, taken from the ‘Lodger’ album. What I didn’t have was any information on the proposed TV series and its subsequent collapse. However, all has been made clear in an excellent article at downthetubes.net;

http://www.downthetubes.net/features/comics_characters/dan_dare/the_lost_dan_dare.html

where you get a detailed account of what happened, including fascinating trivia such as James Fox was set to play Dan Dare, and Phil Redmond was mooted as the writer of the show. It all makes perfect sense with hindsight, and would have probably been brilliant, regardless of the technical / special effects budget constraints on TV at the time (when relatively cheap CGI was still a long way off).

A series did eventually make it to television in the early noughties, and was broadcast by Five in the UK. It lasted for one series. This was a CGI re imagining, and the return of Captain Scarlet a few years later also went the same way, but lasted for 2 series. Here is the trailer for the Dan Dare series;

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