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.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Scared-Stiff Sam is one of my favourite WHOOPEE! strips. I vividly remember the impression Mike Lacey’s artwork made on my 10-year old self when my English pen pal sent me a copy of an early issue of the comic all those years ago.

Announcement in WHOOPEE! issue No. 3

Scared-Stiff Sam debuted in the fourth issue of the comic cover-dated 30th March 1974 and was given two full pages from the very start:

The premise was simple and effective – Sam was a big and muscular grown-up lad who was scared-stiff of… everything. The clumsy great goon who was over six feet tall and weighed about 25 stones lived at No. 19 on an unknown street in a generic English town, sharing the house with his loving Mum Hilda who was never seen without perm rods in her hair which she covered with a polka-dotted headscarf when going out. Sam’s Dad featured in one of the early episodes, albeit only in Mum’s recollections of Sam’s childhood. In the “present” of the strip she was a single mother, and there was no evidence of a man other than Sammikins in the house. 

Sam’s phobias extended way beyond spiders, creepy-crawlies, mice, bullies, darkness, heights and other “common” aversions.  Innocent triggers often set off Sam’s imagination and led to him conceiving disastrous situations that might ensue:

His fantasies tipped him into panic and provoked an uncontrollable urge to hide and do mad things to avoid imaginary dangers. The jelly-kneed jollop was scared-stiff of making decisions, becoming famous, getting rich, going on holiday, talking too much, having his photo taken, taking a short-cut through the park, his own strength, TV programmes, Mum’s birthday, some soppy girl who might try to kiss him underneath the mistletoe, even fridge light... Given the long run of the strip, the list goes on and on. It must have been challenging for the script writer to come up with a new idea every week... 

Mum sometimes got tired of her useless son and tried to toughen him up by making Sam get a job or do grown-up things, or even seeking the assistance of a hypnotist. Needless to say, nothing worked and Sam only felt at ease in the safety of their house, eating jelly beans and reading his WHOOPEE! (as long as Mum removed the “scary” Shiver section). Here’s what Sam’s bedroom looked like:

…and that’s his private bathroom:

Sam had a range of special gadgets to protect him against dangers:

Check out his special wardrobe:

…and his shoe shelves:

Occasionally Sam was seen wearing crazy protective costumes of his own design that became a recurring fun ingredient of the strip. It started in the very first episode where Sam was seen dressed like this:

Check out a few more of those amusing outfits:

The one below is a bit difficult to decipher, but it is from an episode in which a store manager gave Sam the job of Santa in the toy department after the big pudden squashed the real one:

This bright pull-out poster in WHOOPEE! Christmas issue of 1975 is probably the most memorable example of Sam’s outfit buffoonery:

In the issue cover-dated 23rd November 1974 Sam is scarred-stiff of burglars, so Mum comes up with an idea of getting a big fearless guard dog. The owners of the kennels fool them into taking old Fury – a dog that is just as scared as Sam:

Fury became Sam’s companion in his weekly fear-filled antics and appeared in more than 20 episodes. At one point Mum even had an idea to move to a bigger place because their house was too small for her and the two scared-stiff hippos… Here’s a sample episode featuring Fury:

A weekly episode usually told a complete story, but there were three adventures that spanned several weeks. All were devoted to summer holidays – a nightmare time of the year for Sam’s Mum because in addition to being scared to leave home, Sam was also frightened of every possible means of transport. 

The first summer holiday story can be found in WHOOPEE! issues from 13th July till 3rd August 1974. It is an account of their holiday at Shrimpton-on-Sea:

After previous year’s miserable experience, in the second summer holiday story (8 episodes in WHOOPEE! issues from 21st June till 9th August, 1975) Mum decides to travel alone and leave Sam on his own. She has a change of heart in the last moment:

In the next 4 episodes they explore different holiday ideas: Mum comes up with a new one every week (rambling holiday, camping, going to the countryside to stay on a farm, a week’s fruit-picking adventure), while Sam keeps putting forward childish arguments why they are all a bad idea:

In the end, they settle on a holiday camp, but Sam spoils it again, and Mum improvises a seaside holiday for herself in the back yard:

The third and final holiday saga can be found in the issues cover-dated from 28th August till 25th September, 1976. This time Mum comes up with a clever plan and tricks Sam into going to Spain:

Here’s one of the episodes from the Spanish holiday series:

In the end Sam declares he will stay there forever:

…Faced with the inevitability of international travel, he refuses to go by ship or plane and chooses his usual preferred mode of travel:

Young readers loved the concept of a grown-up man whose absurd fears were so much bigger than their own. Sam received his fair share of fan mail, some of it was printed in the LETTERS page of the paper:

The successful formula guaranteed the feature a long run of 331 episodes in WHOOPEE! weeklies from 30th March 1974 till 25th October 1980. Sam only missed two issues - 8th July, 1978 and 9th February, 1980. He surely was one of the big WHOOPEE! stars. Sam made guest appearances in other strips: Frankie Stein (WHOOPEE! cover dated 5th April, 1975):

... Scream Inn (WHOOPEE! cover-dated 2nd August 1975):

... and Fun Fear (WHOOPEE! cover-dated 12th February, 1977):

He appeared in advertisements where he was frightened of WHOOPEE! being sold out and advised readers to reserve their weekly copies with their newsagent. The nervous Ninny made a couple of X-mas issue front-cover appearances, was seen in the crowd of WHOOPEE! characters greeting newcomers from sister comics in the announcements of “Funtastic News” about WHOOPEE! joining forces with SHIVER AND SHAKE in 1974 and CHEEKY WEEKLY in 1980, got his own 8-page mini pull-out book in WHOOPEE! cover-dated 11th November 1978:

and another full-size colour poster in the issue of 10th November, 1979:

He featured in pull-out calendars and other fun cut-outs, such as this Christmas card offered in WHOOPEE! cover-dated 25th November, 1978:

... and the cut-out Xmas label in the issue cover-dated 15th December, 1979:

In WHOOPEE!  cover-dated 26th February, 1977 Sam was invited to the WHOOPEE! awards ceremony and received the prize for being the Worlds Biggest … and Funniest Cowardy Custard!  Check out the awards episode below and see how many WHOOPEE! stars you can spot :):

The final weekly episode appeared in WHOOPEE! cover-dated 25th October, 1980; this is how Sam bid farewell to the readers in the last panel:

Initially Scared-Stiff Sam occupied two pages and continued in this format for nearly four years. Starting from 12th August, 1978 the strip was cut down to one page. The issue cover-dated 7th October, 1978 was the first one in which it was printed in full colour; the arrangement didn’t become permanent, but coloured episodes continued to appear now and then and totaled to 32. Here’s the first one:

Starting from 9th February, 1980 (the first combined issue of WHOOPEE! and CHEEKY WEEKLY) Scared-Stiff Sam got the black, white and red slot, which he retained until the end of its run. Check out the first three-colour episode below:

During its run Scared Stiff Sam never reverted to reprints and all 331 episodes were new. The illustrator was the brilliant Mike Lacey whose style developed quite notably during the 7 years that he drew Sam. Like many IPC artists of the early- and mid-70s, Mike Lacey developed a simplified and less detailed style as years went by, which I find less appealing compared to his sumptuous early sets. Les Barton drew 4 early episodes (in the issues cover dated from 20th July till 10th August, 1974); the episode in the 29th January, 1977 issue of WHOOPEE! may have been drawn by, or with the assistance of, Frank McDiarmid. Below are sample panels from the episodes drawn by artists other than Mike Lacey.

Art by Les Barton

Art possibly by Frank McDiarmid

In my next post I will take a look at Sam’s appearances in WHOOPEE! Holiday Specials and Annuals.

Characters are © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

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