welcome and enjoy!

Hi and welcome to my blog about comics from other people’s childhood! It is dedicated primarily to British humour comics of the 60s and 70s. The reason they are not from my childhood is simply because I didn’t live in the UK back then (nor do I live there now). I knew next to nothing about them until fairly recently but since then I’ve developed a strong liking for the medium and amassed a large collection, including a number of complete or near complete sets. My intention is to use this blog as a channel for sharing my humble knowledge about different titles, favourite characters and creators as I slowly research my collection.

QUICK TIP: this blog is a sequence of posts covering one particular comic at a time. The sequence follows a certain logic, so for maximum results it is recommended that the blog is read from the oldest post up.

Copyright of all images and quotations used here is with their respective owners. Any such copyrighted material is used exclusively for educational purposes and will be removed at first notice. All other text copyright Irmantas P.

Friday, February 28, 2014


People in the know say that preparations to launch a new comic often involved the production of a ‘dummy’ issue. One was apparently put together for MONSTER FUN COMIC because a proof-print of an alternative cover came up on eBay last year. Here is what the front page of the first issue would have looked like, had the wise men of IPC not decided in favour of the one with Kid Kong having fun at the table. Incidentally, the alternative cover idea (assuming Kid Kong pounding his chest with his fists King-Kong style can be called that) was later used for the cover of MFC issue No. 18 (you can see it in the collage of MFC covers further down in this post).

The first three issues of Monster FUN COMIC came with free gifts. The first was something called ‘plate wobbler’. The idea was to slip the tube under the tablecloth so that the pink bulb was under the plate of the unsuspecting table companion. Pressing the green bulb repeatedly caused the plate to wobble and startle the victim. Kid Kong is seen using the freebie on a poor kid on the front cover of the first issue. The big ape probably wasn’t very smart because he is pressing the pink end rather of the green one… Nonetheless, his plate wobbler still does the trick, so it’s all good…

Number two came with a ‘Freaky Spider Ring’, and No. 3 had ‘Super Shaking Skeleton’. The two pairs of images below show how the free gifts were advertised in the issues of MFC preceding the week of their arrival, and what they actually look like in the flesh. 

MFC was not a typical IPC comic in the sense that the issues were not only marked with a date but also numbered. What’s more, MFC issues 2 – 5 only had a number but no date. Leo Baxendale explained the reason in his book A VERY FUNNY BUSINESS. It turns out that the editorial staff would prepare an edition of the comic but because of the printing stoppages they couldn’t be certain when it would appear in the shops.

Here is the line-up of strips and features that premiered in MONSTER FUN COMIC No. 1 (14th June, 1975):

Kid Kong
X-Ray Specs
Martha’s Monster Make-Up
Dough Nut and Rusty
Grizzly Bearhug… GIANT
Master Ugly Mug and Miss Funny Face face-pulling contest (announcement)
Art’s Gallery
Badtime Bedtime Storybook No. 1 – Jack the Nipper’s Schooldays
Draculass – daughter of Dracula
Brainy and his Monster Maker
March of the Mighty Ones (adventure serial)
Monster Hits – top 10 gags (reader participation feature)
Major Jump Horror Hunter
Creature Teacher
Tom Thumbscrew the Torturer’s Apprentice
The Invisible Monster
Cinders – She’s Hot Stuff

The opening episodes of as many as three strips (Kid Kong, Grizzly Bearhug… GIANT and Creature Teacher were given 3 pages each, making space scarce in No. 1. A week later they were cut down to the usual two pages, so there was room for three more strips – Mummy’s Boy, Frankie’s Diary (initially – Frankie’s Own Freaky Fun Page) and Meanie McGenie. As I said in my previous post, the total number of strips in MFC was unimpressively low. Out of the original line-up introduced in the first two issues, 12 strips and 2 participation features endured the entire 73-issue run. That’s nearly a half of all strips and features during the paper’s lifetime. I have marked the long-survivors in red. In retrospect, we now know that 5 of the 12 (X-Ray Specs, Kid Kong, Martha’s Monster Make-Up, Draculass and Mummy’s Boy) outlived the comic and were transferred to BUSTER when the two titles merged a year and a half later.

It goes without saying that a new comic had to have several participation features in which readers could win themselves some pocket-money, and MFC surely had a lot to offer. You could win £2 if your picture was published in the Master Ugly Mug – Miss Funny Face face-pulling contest, and £1 for each potty play-on-words idea used in Art’s Potty Pictures challenge; cash prizes were also offered for the top drawings of the Invisible Monster (one of the strips in MFC): £2 for the week’s best drawing and £1 for two runners-up each. Nine £1 prizes were handed out to senders of entries for the Monster Hits chart of top 10 gags while the contributor of the week’s chart-topper collected £2. Frankie Stein soon joined the fun, offering £1 for every letter published in Letters to Frankie section (due to the length of production process the letters column first appeared in issue No. 8). The readers of MFC who had entered the paper’s participation features eagerly awaited the arrival of issue No. 8 (2nd August, 1975) because winners’ names were to be published for the first time. Here is how the news was announced in issue No. 7:

Let’s take a look at some of those reader contributions in MFC No. 8:

Cinders the romantic she-dragon was rested after issue No. 12 and was hardly missed. The first light breeze of change blew in issue No. 16 with the first appearance of the Little Monsters on the front page. Issue No. 19 saw the end of two strips – Grizzly Bearhug… GIANT and The Invisible Monster; the end of the latter automatically meant the axe for the Invisible Monster feature which wasn’t such a big loss IMHO, especially since readers were now busy entering for two new participation features unveiled in issue No. 16: Finish-a-Fiend and Ticklish Allsorts; both proved to be very popular - the former ran well into the second year, and the latter continued until the very last issue. Here is how they were promoted in issues 16 – 22 before the first winners could be announced in issue No. 23:

Two new strips were introduced a week later in issue No. 20: the hilarious S.O.S. (Save Our Stan) and Teddy Scare. The latter was to become the sixth MFC survivor in BUSTER.

Reprints of Leo Baxendale’s Sam’s Spook (originally from SMASH! where it ran for a year in the early 70s) started in issue No. 21. The caption above the page said this ‘super funster’ was included because lots of requests came in after his appearance in the MFC Summer Special.

So much for the developments of the line-up during the first year.

Initially MFC was quite adventurous with its front covers. In 1975 Sid’s Snake could always be trusted to be on the cover of WHIZZER AND CHIPS while Bumpkin Billionaires never failed to appear on the front page of WHOOPEE!  BUSTER was less cut-and-dried: cover stars rotated on a weekly basis, but Buster’s Diary was always present nonetheless. With MFC you never knew what to expect – it would feature Kid Kong one week and X-Ray Specs a week later, followed by Martha’s Monster Make-up, followed by an advertisement-style cartoon of some kids, a cop and a green monster, followed by Creature Teacher, followed by the Little Monsters, and so on. The striking white-on-red logo and the dominant yellow background colour made the comic instantly recognisable on the newsstands but otherwise those early covers had little in common. The practice continued throughout 1975 and ended in issue No. 35 when the front page was permanently given to Gums, but that’s already the territory of another post about the second year of MFC.

I always find it quite amusing to skim through the letters column. In MFC, the section was called Letters to Frankie and it usually shared the page with that week’s winners of the face-pulling contest. As one might expect, the majority of readers praised the comic and its various strips, there were quite a few rhymes giving kudos to MFC and its monster stars as well as letters telling about grassroots MFC fan clubs popping up here and there. Some readers shared their ideas how to improve the paper, for instance by dropping Mummy’s Boy and Grizzly Bearhug, or adding new features such as The Bride of Frankie Stein, Monster Mushroom and Dangerous Dan, or bringing back Horrornation Street from Shiver and Shake. Many wrote in to tell they enjoyed following adventures of Frankie Stein in Whoopee! and were glad he was made Honorary Editor of the new paper. Many admitted they were fans of all things horror so the new comic was very much to their tastes. Some readers felt they needed to tell about their favourite foods (sossies in mash), hobbies (building planes, and then smashing them against a wall) and collections (odd bits and pieces, stamps, key rings, marbles, comics, stretchy rubber “horrors”, etc.). The letters confirmed that Badtime Bedtime Books were very well received too, they were described as 'the best idea in comics for a long, long time'; one reader said he had made a special folder for them to go in, calling it Badtime Bedtime Book Encyclopaedia. (By the way, when writing on reader feedback to his first Badtime Bedtime Books, Leo Baxendale said the letters had lived up to all expectations and were written in the same white heat of enthusiasm which he remembered from the very early Bash Street mail. He noted that significantly, adults wrote in too. He knew they only wrote in when something very special appeared; adult letters like these were a new phenomenon for IPC comics, he said). 

The vast majority of the mail was addressed to Frankie who never failed to come up with a witty answer. Some letters, however, had other addressees, most notably Leonard Rottingsocks, Draculass, Tom Thumbscrew, and even Prof. Cube (who made the odd appearance in Frankie’s Diary but was usually seen in WHOOPEE!). On three occasions Leonard Rottingsocks even got his own letters column in issues 12, 15 and 19.

Some letters and Frankie’s comments are an interesting reflection of the times (the 70s was a turbulent period and the country was in economic crisis): there was a letter in which the readers asked if it were OK for a group of friends to send their letters in one envelope to save postage because it was getting so expensive to send separate letters; in another letter someone suggested producing a binder for readers to keep their MFCs in but Frankie replied he was worried that it might be expensive and everyone was having to watch the pennies those days.

MFC may have not delivered too many strips, but it surely championed in terms of the number of pull-outs, of which Badtime Bedtime Books were the most notable ones. The idea of a pull-out mini-comic was conceived by Bob Paynter who also suggested the title but otherwise gave Leo Baxendale a completely free hand writing scripts and drawing the stories. All was well as long as Mr.Baxendale played ball but Bob Paynter didn’t realize that the artist had made a master plan to use Badtime Bedtime Books as a vehicle for manoeuvring his way out of the comics industry and was implementing it consistently (Mr. Baxendale writes about it at length in his book A VERY FUNNY BUSINESS). Soon the Editor faced a big challenge of finding first the writers and later the illustrators that would match Mr. Baxendale’s talent.

I believe the original idea was to have a BBB in every issue, and Mr. Baxendale was somehow able to keep the schedule, although we know from his book that he was working at a leisurely pace and preparing his first Willy the Kid annual at the same time. All but three of the 25 Badtime Bedtime Books that came out in 1975 were illustrated by Mr. Baxendale but the decline of the feature was very much on the horizon (to be continued in the next post on the second year of MFC…)

Badtime Bedtime Books weren’t the only pull-outs in MFC. In 1975 readers were treated to four pull-out posters: Kid Kong and Granny (issue No. 8), Frankie Stein (No. 20), Draculass (No. 22) and Dough Nut and Rusty (No. 27). Note how the frequency of the posters increased towards the end of the year. Was it because the supply of BBBs from Leo Baxendale was running thin and the Editor wanted to buy himself more time as he desperately sought suitable artists to replace him...?

All four pull-out posters from 1975

Monster Jigsaw Competition was printed in issues 3-6 (No. 3 had the jigsaw grid and the first two pieces, while the next three editions had more jigsaw pieces to cut out). The sponsors of the competition were really generous, weren’t they:

Monster Jigsaw Competition results can be found in Issue No. 20 (25th October, 1975)

Issues 13-16 had the Pull-out Booklet of Monsters and 16 cut-out pictures to collect and glue to the inside pages of the mini-book. No prizes this time, only fun. Here are the covers:

Issue No. 20 had Humpty Dumpty Badtime Bedtime Special Story by Leonard Rottingsocks – a text story with illustrations (by Leo Baxendale, I believe). I am not sure it qualifies as a pull-out, but it was still something out of the ordinary. Here’s a fragment:

Then there was this Make Your Own Monster Badges page in issue No. 22:

And finally for 1975, there was The Umpteenth Day of Christmas Badtime Bedtime Story Special (centrespread with some Holiday Season poetry and illustrations by I’m not sure who), with Frankie’s Mountain Monster Game on the reverse, illustrated and signed by Nick Baker. Both appeared in issue No. 29 (27th December, 1975).

The last thing I would like to mention in this monster account of the first year of MFC is the first MFC Summer Special. What is unusual about it is that it was put together and launched simultaneously with the weekly – the first advertisement of this “big one to look forward to” was in MFC issue No. 4! It was a nice package, albeit with a fair share of reprints; it will receive a dedicated post in due course. 

It is also quite surprising there was no MFC annual for 1976. In a few of his comments in the letters section Frankie Stein said they didn’t have time to prepare one and suggested readers bought his annual instead (Whoopee! Book of Frankie Stein 1976).  


  1. Hope you didn’t get caught out when building up your MF collection - very impressive, incidentally - by finding the Badtime Bedtime Stories missing. Bax’ artwork’s always been highly collectable but even so it’d annoy me to death!

    1. It is indeed quite annoying but I always double-checked if the copies I was buying were complete. I also bought an assortment of BBBs that have been removed from the comics and folded into mini-books. Quite a large number of Badtime Bedtime Books in my collection come like that.

    2. Only one of my Monster Fun is complete...the number 1 I bought for £10 which I'd thought was complete for a year after then as it was too late realised the badtime bedtime was missing...so the issue is not worth a £10 now..the comic shop has now folded in Gloucestor where I got it...
      A claim to fame my issue 3 was held by Leo Baxendale in the BBC 4 program on comics..he was looking at Mr Punch .I got paid for loaning my comics £100...this included number 1 comics...Buster..Whizzer anbd chips...Whoopee!! etc..

    3. I admire fans who put their collections to a good use, and your story about lending your comics for a TV program is a great example, Peter!

  2. Frankie Stein's forehead is far too big on that poster!

    What a fantastic article - I can't wait for part two!

    1. I agree regarding Frankie's forehead. I even checked if it wasn't an altered version of Frankie's Brain Maze from one of Shiver and Shake annuals, but no it was not... Thanks for complimenting my efforts. Part two coming up in a few days' time.

  3. Great post. Some years ago I attended an interview given by Pat Mills, Dave Gibbons and Kevin O'Neill about their days at IPC with an emphasis on 200Ad. Kevin O'Neill did mention briefly his tenure at Monster Fun, describing it as the "gulag of humour comics". I guess he didn't like which is a shame as I have very fond memories of it. Bought the full collection during the early days of ebay, but I guess I should check for the bedtime bedtime stories and see if I have them all.

    1. Interesting stuff about the interview. I can imagine how working on a weekly comic and trying to keep your deadlines can be stressful and exhausting. Judging from the artwork, however, it appears quite a few MFC artists were actually enjoying themselves...