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.



Monday, August 17, 2020

BRIAN WALKER'S SCREAM INN IN WHOOPEE! - PART ONE

The recent passing of Brian Walker reminded me to cover the WHOOPEE! run of Scream Inn. The strip started in SHIVER AND SHAKE comic in March 1973 and continued there throughout the 79-week run of the paper, ending on 5th October 1974. I covered the SHIVER AND SHAKE run of this highly entertaining feature in a series of posts, starting HERE

Innkeeper was one of the characters shown marching to meet the crowd of WHOOPEE! stars on the centrespread of the  ‘Big News’ issue of SHIVER AND SHAKE:


An inverted version of the same drawing was used on the centrespread of that week’s WHOOPEE!:

 

The transfer of Scream Inn to the new combined comic resulted in the cancellation of The Ghost Train – another spook-dominated comedy horror strip that Brian Walker drew since the first issue of WHOOPEE! Here is how it ended in the last pre-merger issue of the magazine:


 

The issue of WHOOPEE AND SHIVER & SHAKE cover-dated 12th October 1974 marked the start of the strip’s thrill-filled run that lasted nearly three years till 1st October, 1977. The strip was part of the ‘haunted’ Shiver section of the combined paper. Scream Inn picked up exactly where it had left off in SHIVER AND SHAKE – it was a reader participation feature where readers could win a pound for suggesting a character who’d venture to spend a night in the haunted bedroom of the creepy establishment and win a million quid! 

 

 

The strip was given a new gloomy masthead, showing the inn and its uninviting surroundings, complete with the ‘We’re Only Here for the Fear’ sign, as someone rightly noted on Twitter – undoubtedly inspired by Double Diamond ad campaign slogan in the 70s…


The Scream Inn poster in WHOOPEE! cover-dated 13th September, 1975 (so nearly a year after the strip made the jump to WHOOPEE!) offers a perfect summary of what it was about, and introduces the resident spooks:

 

A closer look reveals that the poster features not just all the humanoid characters but also the other regulars, including the centipede with the Union Jack attached to its tail (first seen in the issue of 21st June 1975), the Father and Son duo of spiders Cyril and Sid, and even the two mystery creatures whose eyes shine out from the dark corners in nearly every indoors panel of the strip. The snake that was another regular is not featured in the poster, for some reason…

Scream Inn is one of the very few humour strips in British comics (if not the only one) that was covered in a scientific analysis: it received as many as 30 pages in the book “Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics” by Martin Barker published by Manchester University Press in 1989. The book offers some interesting insights and findings of the researcher, and I can thoroughly recommend it to fans of Scream Inn. Here is the cover of the book and a little extract from the Scream Inn chapter:

 

I have reconstructed the Scream Inn guest book, ‘documenting’ who and when called at the ghastly establishment and tried to win the prize. Below is the list of the callers, starting from the first combined WHOOPEE AND SHIVER & SHAKE in 1974, till the end of 1975, with a few complete episodes. The next two posts will cover the years 1976 and 1977. 

 

October 12, 1974        · Ron Rain, the Famous Western Film Star. I decided to show it here because it was the first episode in WHOOPEE! The menu board in the opening panel was a fun little feature in the vast majority of the episodes. Brian Walker and Cliff Brown (the scriptwriter) probably had lots of fun inventing the names of the dishes...


 

October 19, 1974        · Super-store lift attendant

October 26, 1974        · Secret Agent (looks like I-Spy from SPARKY comic). This is one of very few examples in British comics when a character appeared in a publication produced by the competitor. Brian Walker illustrated 'I-Spy' in DC Thomson’s SPARKY comic, so the inclusion of a look-alike in a paper published by IPC was a cheeky experiment on his part. Check it out HERE

November 2, 1974      · Vacuum Chimney Sweep

November 9, 1974      · Chap with stew pot on his head so that he can't see Scream Inn ghosts and thus won't be frightened by them

November 16, 1974    · Boy Scout

November 23, 1974    · Frankie Stein – the big star in SHIVER AND SHAKE and later WHOOPEE! See the full episode HERE

November 30, 1974    · Road Hole Night Watchman 


 

December 7, 1974       · Donny Dazzle, the great singing star of stage, screen, TV and radio

December 14, 1974     · ACME vacuum cleaner company representative

December 21, 1974     · Maximus Bulge, the Strongest Man in the World

(NOTE: The paper was affected by industrial action and missed three issues at the junction of 1974 and 1975)

January 18, 1975         · Burglar

January 25, 1975         · Postman

February 1, 1975         · Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse

February 8, 1975         · Ghoul Getters Ltd. – fellow WHOOPEE! stars; interestingly, the episode also gives a nod to Fun Fear – another horror comedy strip in WHOOPEE! See the whole episode HERE

February 15, 1975       · Bud Gee the Birdman - lad who thinks he should have been born a bird

February 22, 1975       · Robot

March 1, 1975             · Mesmeraldi, the finest hypnotist in the world



March 8, 1975             · Indian snake-charmer

March 15, 1975           · Laughing policeman

March 22, 1975           · Septimus Moneyshuffle, the Miser

March 29, 1975           · Kung Fu Man

April 5, 1975               · Frank the Frogman - shark hunter

April 12, 1975             · Bravest Redskin Chief

April 19, 1975             · Vaxo the Ventriloquist

April 26, 1975             · Mr. Cannon Ball- human cannon ball from the circus

May 3, 1975                · Orrible Hole – fellow WHOOPEE! star, see the full episode HERE

May 10, 1975              · Dick Turpentine - the famous rough highwayman


 

May 17, 1975              · Old Mother Hubbard

May 24, 1975              · Tax Inspector

May 31, 1975              · Retired ghost

June 7, 1975                · Caveman

June 14, 1975              · Circus Clown

June 21, 1975              · Walter Tapp the plumber

June 28, 1975              · Willie Wipem the  window cleaner

July 5, 1975                 · Bully from nearby school

July 12, 1975               · Astronaut

July 19, 1975               · Little green man

July 26, 1975               · Farmer Blewett


 

August 2, 1975             · Scared Stiff Sam – fellow star from WHOOPEE! See the full episode HERE 

August 9, 1975           · Gas meter reader from the gas board

August 16, 1975         · Head waiter at the "Hotel de Plush"

August 23, 1975         · Fearless Fernando the lion tamer

August 30, 1975         · Evil Eye - fellow-character from WHOOPEE! See the full episode HERE 

September 6, 1975      · Harry Knockitt, the carpenter

September 13, 1975    · Owner of humble Chinese take away food shop

September 20, 1975    · Motorcycle scramble rider

September 27, 1975    · Telephone engineer (hopes to spend the night in a phone booth)

October 4, 1975          · Whoopee! office boy. An interesting example of a strip involving a member of WHOOPEE! staff. The office boy’s name was Ossie and he was in charge of the Letters section of the paper. Many readers addressed their letters directly to him:


 

October 11, 1975        · Antique dealer

October 18, 1975        · Wriggletto the great Escapologist

October 25, 1975        · Optician

November 1, 1975      · Sailor

November 8, 1975      · Beefeater from the Tower of London


 

November 15, 1975    · Thor, the Mighty Norse God of Thunder

November 22, 1975    · Fred Fizzog, the rubber-faced man

November 29, 1975    · Motorist

December 6, 1975       · Sweeny Toddler – Fellow WHOOPEE! star. See the full episode HERE 

December 13, 1975     · Writer of Ghost Stories

December 20, 1975     · Deep-sea diver

December 27, 1975     · Cinderella (X-mas episode)


  Characters are © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

Monday, June 29, 2020

Echoes of the Cold War in FUDGE AND THE MIKROMEN story by KEN REID


Fudge and the Mikromen was the 25th tale in Ken Reid’s Fudge the Elf saga. The 408-panel, 136-strip story ran in The Manchester Evening News from August 17th, 1959 till January 23rd, 1960. The Cold War was in full swing at the time; the possibility of an all-out nuclear conflict was very real – and not just in people’s minds. Ken Reid was very hung up on the Cold War. Always worried about Russia, he followed the news religiously all the time. Fudge and the Mikromen was a product of his worries, and a reflection of the fears that many people experienced at that time.

It started like this:

The crumpets are disappearing beneath Speck’s bed. The two elves investigate, and find a mysterious mechanism:

The glass sphere rises up and a loud voice from the inside tells them they are looking at planet Mikros II. The voice invites Fudge and Speck to visit the planet and observe the manner of living of its people. An invisible Mikro-ray shrinks the two friends to microscopic size, and they are transported to the inside of the planet by means of a flying mechanism used by the aliens to cut the elves’ crumpets into small pieces – it turns out the inhabitants of Mikros II commandeered the crumpets to save themselves from famine due to failed harvest.
En route to the planet, the voice tells them a few things about Mikros II:

Upon arrival, they are greeted by a local who is appointed their courier during the visit. His name is Mikroman 163, but his friends call him Mike:

Mike tells them more about Mikros II:

The tour takes them to the rural counties where rain can be ordered from central computer to water the crops; they also visit a dairy farm with no cows:

The most important thing that Fudge and Speck learn from Mike is that the planet is ruled by Ion – a vast complicated machine, an electronic brain incapable of error:

The happy tour ends abruptly as Grimm, the evil ruler of Mikro II's sister planet Mikro I, launches an attack on the defenseless peaceful planet and issues an ultimatum – surrender within 24 hours, or their next rocket will carry the power of total destruction.


The destruction of the mighty electronic brain that rules and guides Mikromen in everything, sends Mike into panic, but Fudge refuses to believe that the planet is incapable of fending for itself:

The three friends rush to see the Central Control Committee:

It turns out Mikromen do have a special powerful bomb, to be employed should they ever be attacked from outer space. Trouble is, the weapon is sealed up in level X:

Realising that unless they retrieve the bomb, Mikro II must either surrender, or be totally destroyed, Fudge and Speck immediately volunteer, and Mike, embarrassed, joins them.

Access to Level X is through the Central Reform Centre where criminals are purged of sin by the Mentalfilter, before their evil thought-matter is siphoned to Level X. Fudge and Speck witness the effect of the machine:

Mentalfilter operator warns them against descending to Level X but soon realises that they are determined to do that no matter what, so he gives them some essential protective gear:

The party descends into the gloomy depths of Level X overflown with giant fungus growths. The trio struggle with urges to turn violent on each other as the evil thoughts extracted from thousands of criminal minds try to re-establish themselves in their heads, until they finally come across the missile:

Evil thoughts pool resources for their last collective effort:

Mike’s unprotected brain is overwhelmed and he turns against his two companions:

Mike knocks himself out as he falls on his head, and evil thoughts can’t influence a mind that is blacked out. Fudge and Speck take Mike and the bomb back to the upper level where the Mikroman is immediately processed by Mentalfilter and becomes his normal self again:

The war of nerves begins as the two planets exchange threats:

Grimm, the evil ruler of Mikro I,  finds out that his opponents posses a deadly weapon that will destroy his planet, but dismisses the news as bluff.

It looks like both tiny sister planets are now doomed:

There’s still hope that the two rockets will collide and explode midway between Mikros I and Mikros II, but alas...

... Then something happens and both bombs explode in outer space before reaching their targets:

Filled with blind rage at the failure to destroy Mikros II, Grimm rushes to launch another deadly missile but its scaffolding fails and the bomb crushes the evil ruler:

On Mikros II, humanoids are scratching their heads as they try to figure out what caused the two bombs to explode and prevent the catastrophe, when they hear the familiar voice of Ion from the loudspeakers:

Ion carries on, scolding the inhabitants of both planets. War minister Rath makes a claim to power as Grimm’s successor, but the people of Mikros I demand to be ruled by Ion:

Mike gets a space taxi and transports his elfin companions from Mikros II (which had been hovering at the ceiling of Speck’s bedroom all the time) to Speck’s dressing table, where Mikro-rays transform Fudge and Speck back to their normal proportions, and the story comes to a happy ending:

I think Fudge and the Mikromen was a powerful story, especially considering its Cold War context. Ken had a free hand writing his Fudge tales, and if this one is to be construed as his views on the future, it seems he had little faith in human reason and wisdom, and believed that artificial intelligence was humankind’s only chance…


This is the third of Ken's Fudge the Elf stories I have covered in a similar manner on my blog. You can check out FUDGE AND THE MAGIC BOOK here and here, and SPECK'S INVENTIONS here and here.

If you haven't bought THE POWER PACK OF KEN REID, the collection is available on eBay or from my e-shop here: https://www.kazoop-comics-shop.com/