Comic Memories – Buster.

After having a look back at some comics published by DC Thomson, now here’s my first review of a comic published by Fleetway. Buster launched in May 1960 and featured the adventures of a boy who was supposedly the son of Andy Capp. I’ll write more about the history of Buster soon, but the issue that I’ll be reviewing for this piece (14 April 1990) is more significant than I realised at the time.

I still remember the first time I bought Buster. I was in a shop and noticed that it had a free gift of a badge on the cover so I bought it on a whim. It was the first time that I had bought a comic from Fleetway after reading The Beano and The Dandy for a year or two and I’m really pleased that I made the decision as it helped me to become familiar with their characters and Fleetway’s other comics including Whizzer And Chips.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time the first issue that I bought was a relaunch of Buster. It was the first one to feature the new masthead that would appear on the cover until the final issue in 1999, it was the first to feature the Buster strip drawn by Jim Hansen who replaced Tom Paterson, it was the first to cost 40p, and it was also the first to be “all-colour”, although that wasn’t strictly true of the strips.

I actually threw a lot of comics away after about five years of collecting them which was rather daft of me, but by a great coincidence I managed to find another copy of the first Buster I bought in a charity shop a few years ago. Here’s a review of this 32-page issue, plus a few pictures of some strips. buster0001

Pages 1 & 32: Buster. Our green flat-capped hero, Jim Hansen drew Buster in a similar style to Tom Paterson for his first strip, but this would soon change.

Page 2: Ricky Rainbow. A boy who could magically change colour, who had an enemy called Bruiser.

Page 3: Tom Thug’s Skooldayz. This amusing strip first appeared in the short-lived Oink! which merged with Buster in 1988.

Page 4: School Belle. The adventures of an attractive schoolgirl. I always enjoyed the “Know Your Nurks” part of this strip. buster0002

Page 5: Melvyn’s Mirror. A boy enters a fantasy world where everything is in reverse by jumping through his mirror.

Page 6: Rodney and Dez. I think that there might be a slight Only Fools And Horses influence to this strip. buster0003

Page 7: Brain Busters. A puzzle page. Spot the difference and win £5!

Pages 8 & 9: X-Ray Specs. A boy with magical glasses who was always up to something.

Page 10: BeastendersA horror-based parody of EastEnders, set in Albert Scare.

Page 11: Mad MacA character who likes to ride around on his motorbike in search of adventure.

Pages 12 & 13: Vid KidA boy with a magical remote control, drawn by my favourite comic strip artist J. Edward Oliver. jeo0005

Pages 12 & 13: Dear Buster. The letters page. If you’re published you win £2! There’s also a chance to win Supergran tapes.

Page 14: The Vampire Brats. A strip drawn featuring two vampire children.

Page 15: Adam AdmanA strip about a boy called Adam who is fascinated by adverts? It isn’t based on me, honest. buster0004

Pages 16 & 17: Captain CrucialA colourful double-page spread for the superhero. “The craziest characters are always in Buster comic!”

Page 18: Dracula Dobbs. A boy who can’t help but turn into a vampire. Well, we’ve all been there.

Page 19: Chalky. A boy with a talent for drawing pictures with his chalks.

Page 20: Test Yourself. A personality quiz where you answer the questions. This week: “are you a fusspot?”.

Page 21: An advert for the next new-look issue, which features a free gift of a Flying Dinosaur Glider.

Page 22: The Winners. A family who always enter competitions and win.

Page 23: Double Trouble. The bickering brother and sister Jon and Suzy.  buster0005

Pages 24 & 25: The Leopard From Lime StreetAn exciting adventure story.

Page 26: Just JellyIn 1986 Buster gained a new bunch of extra characters in his strip, this one got his own spin-off.

Page 27: Chalky’s Joke Pad. Eight jokes appear on the page. Seven win £2, but if Chalky picks you as his “golden gag” you win £5! buster0006

Pages 28 & 29: Ivor Lott and Tony Broke with Milly O’Naire and Penny Less. Two groups of characters in an endless “rich v poor” battle.

Page 30: Buster’s Pinboard. A page which features pictures and jokes sent in by readers.

Page 31: Nightmare On Erm StreetA boy called Freddy and his spooky adventures, another parody.

Comic Memories – The Beezer.

The Beezer (1956-1990)

The Beezer was another comic that was published by DC Thomson, it was tabloid sized until 1981. Again, I don’t remember this comic from the first time round, I am more familiar with the era when The Beezer merged with The Topper in 1990, but I managed to get hold of one now rather tatty issue in a charity shop a while back (No. 1531, 18 May 1985) so that’s the one I’ll be reviewing.

Pages 1 & 24: Ginger. The cover star on The Beezer changed a few times over the years, with Ginger being on the cover in the 80s. Now I do like this character, unsurprisingly he had a big shock of red hair and he was always getting into scrapes, this week he is trying to watch a football match that he hasn’t got tickets for, will he succeed? beezer0001

Page 2: The Numskulls. One of the better remembered strips, this is the one where little people live in some man’s head and control his functions. He’s got a cold so the nose department is being particularly overworked this week. This story continued in The Beano for many years after The Beezer ended, but this time with a boy called Edd. beezer0002

Page 3: Saucy Sue. I’m not sure what’s particularly “saucy” about her, she just seems to come across as another mischievous child character. beezer0003

Pages 4 & 5: Baby Crockett. A former cover star, this was a rather cute story about a toddler who says things like “me likes a game of football!”. beezer0006

Pages 6 & 7: Mighty Mik. A character who lived in the Stone Age who has been brought back to like after being found in a block of ice. He’s finding it difficult to adapt to the modern world, but his newfound friend Barney Ribble is helping him out.

Page 8: The Wallies Of Winkle Street. A strip featuring characters with names like Gertrude and Pongo and the antics that they get up to.

Page 9: Hungry Hoss. The story of a cowboy called Joe and his horse who always wants his dinner.

Page 10: Young Sid. He’s “The Copper’s Kid”, will he be able to help his dad bag Tough Timothy Together?

Page 11: Colonel Blink. He’s “The Short-Sighted Gink”, who is always causing chaos because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Pages 12 & 13: Beefy Dan. Now he’s “The Fast-Food Man”, whatever you’d like to eat, he could make it for you.

Page 14: Plug. He’s in The Bash Street Kids in The Beano, he also briefly had a comic of his own from 1977 to 1979, and he also had a strip in The Beezer. He got around a lot.

Page 15: The Munchers. A farmer who’s always having trouble with rabbits.

Page 16: Smiffy. Not the Smiffy from The Bash Street Kids, he was yet another crazy boy.

Page 17: The Banana Bunch. Another long-running set of characters, a bit like The Beezer‘s equivalent of The Bash Street Kids, with them even having a character called Fatty, how amusing.

Pages 18 & 19: The Badd Lads. A bunch of inept crooks called Fingers, Knuck, and Boss who are usually up to no good.

Page 20: Mo’s Mail Bag. The letters page, with the weekly star prize being a fiver! It seems that there was no fan club as such to join though.

Page 21: Scrapper. A boy who’s always getting into fights, punching people and making them shout “ooyah!”, one of those exclamations that you only ever see in old comics.

Page 22: Pop, Dick And Harry. Again, these characters appeared on the cover of The Beezer for a while in the 60s, and this was the only strip to feature for the entire run, and this crazy trio are still as daft as ever. beezer0004

Page 23: Little Mo. Another naughty girl character, not to be confused with Dinah Mo in The Dandy. Or maybe that’s just me. beezer0005

Comic Memories – J. Edward Oliver.

J. Edward Oliver (1942-2007)

I always find it difficult to choose my favourites. When people ask me “what’s your favourite TV show?” or “what’s your favourite song?”, I don’t know how to reply, there are just so many choices. But when it comes to comic strip artists I definitely know who my favourite is so here’s a look back at the great career of the terrific J. Edward Oliver.

Jack Edward Oliver was born in Dartford in 1942 and he went on to have an extraordinary career in cartooning that would last for 40 years. His career can be split into three distinct eras.

The first era began in the late-60s when JEO created a comic book called Instant Garbage and in 1970 he joined the music paper Disc as their pop cartoonist. He created a very imaginative strip which featured the adventures of such strange characters as EC Ryder and Fresco-Le-Raye. He would also mock the TV and pop stars of the day, and he was vaguely obsessed with the well-developed actress Madeline Smith. Adventure Game 2

The strip was usually only half a page but the amount that was packed into it was remarkable. In 1975 the strip moved to Record Mirror. However, music tastes change and as the era of punk/new wave music was beginning, leaving JEO’s strip starting to look a little old-fashioned, people just weren’t interested in jokes about Showaddywaddy any more and he was dropped in 1977. jeo0002

The second era began in 1979 when JEO joined IPC and drew strips for children’s comics including the weeklies Buster, Jackpot, Whizzer And Chips, Wow and Whoopee. His work was also reprinted in fortnightlies and monthlies such as The Best Of Whizzer And Chips, Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Monthlyjeo0006

The strips he drew included Master Mind, about a boy who was always solving puzzles, and Cliff Hanger, where our hero Cliff got into a difficult situation and we had to make one of three choices to get him out of it. There was also Vid Kid (drawn by JEO under the pseudonym, er, “Sue Denim”) about a boy called Vic who had a magic hoofer-doofer and all the adventures that he had with it. JEO would also make an appearance in every Vid Kid strip. jeo0004

JEO would also do lots of other things in comics including designing the letters page and the blurb for the free gift on the cover. He worked at IPC for 20 years until their final comic Buster closed down and he drew the final strip for the final issue in 1999. jeo0005

The third era began in 2000 when a fan set up a great website that is worth looking at which is http://www.jeoliver.co.uk which collected all of his work from his Disc/Record Mirror days plus other projects and wondered what he was up to nowadays. JEO was eventually tracked down and invited to draw a new weekly strip for the site where he brought back the Fresco and EC Ryder characters plus lots of other silly ideas which he continued to do until his death. jeo0008

JEO died in 2007 age 64 which was a real shame because his work was as good as it ever was. Why did I become a fan? The first time I bought Buster 25 years ago now and discovered his work I became a fan right away. I really liked his drawing style, all the characters looked cute and his work which featured a lot of wordplay which was very funny. jeo0010

But not only that, there was the streak of weirdness that ran through his strips. There were always hidden messages in them, such as the famous “ABOLISH TUESDAYS” and a cube with a crank handle. He also kept a strong hold on his work by drawing the speech bubbles in his strips and writing the text inside them. jeo0009

JEO is one of those people where I look at his work and think “I wish I could do that”. I have tried to collect as many of his strips as possible and I do think he was brilliant, he entertained people of all ages with his work for four decades and if ever a book or biography of his work was published I would buy it in a flash. jeo0003

JEO is my favourite comic strip artist because he was consistently wonderful and the amount of work that he produced was remarkable. His work definitely deserves credit, he played a big part in enhancing my childhood. He is a real unsung hero and a true English eccentric and I’ll never forget him.

Comic Memories – Nutty.

Nutty (1980-1985)

Here is the first of my comic reviews. The comic Nutty ran for five years and was published by DC Thomson before being merged with The Dandy. I don’t remember Nutty first time round but I managed to find one in a charity shop a while back. Because I only have the one issue (No. 151, 1 January 1983) this isn’t going to be the comprehensive history of Nutty but it’s a chance to share my opinions of this lesser-known comic, so here’s a page-by-page review also featuring a few pictures.

Pages 1, 12, & 13: Bananaman. Bananaman is the most successful of Nutty‘s characters, appearing on the front page and the centre-page spread and of course being turned into a CBBC cartoon. When Nutty closed Bananaman continued in The Dandy, and when that closed he moved to The Beano. When Eric eats a banana, he becomes the mighty Bananaman! Terrific stuff. nutty0001

Page 2: Jay R Hood. “He’s anything but good”. He also owned a crocodile called Cruncher who just walked around the house as if it was the most normal thing.

Page 3: Peter Pest. I wouldn’t really call Peter a pest, he’s just a rather straightforward “mischievous” boy of the type you get a lot in these type of comics who liked to wind up his sister. My goodness, it’s chaos with him around!

Pages 4 & 5: The Snobbs And The Slobbs. This is just your “rich v poor” strip and the comedy that can be created from that.

Pages 6 & 7: Nip & Rrip. The adventures of a boy and his crazy cat.

Pages 8 & 9: Scoopy. He’s “the runaround hound with a nose for news”. kennel0001

Page 10: Tweet William. A dozy boy who seemingly has only one tooth and is saying “twitter” seemingly not realising how much the meaning of that word will change in the years to come. tweet0001

Page 11: Super Gnat The Mighty Midge. Well is it “Super Gnat” or “The Mighty Midge”? Seemingly it’s both. The idea of this character seems to be that he likes to sting naughty people up the bottom to make them see the error of their ways. dive0001

Page 14: Wacky The Crackpot Inventor. As the title suggests, this is a character who invents odd things to try and make his life easier, and it all ends in disaster!

Page 15: Not On Your Telly. “The funny things you won’t see on your screens”, this is a page of one-panel jokes about various aspects of TV. Enjoyably silly. close0001

Page 16: Sports Fan. A girl who likes to play lots of sport and introduces herself by saying “‘sme!”, whatever that means. sme0001

Page 17: Snoozer. A lazy boy who seems to be permanently asleep. He’s such a rascal.

Pages 18 & 19: The Wild Rovers. Adventures with a bunch of dogs and crazy Basil Crumb who is always trying to catch them.

Pages 20 & 21: The School Belles. Featuring four schoolgirls called Daisy, Violet, Rose and Marigold. Not to be be confused with Buster‘s School Belle.

Page 22: The letters page. Send Bananaman a funny joke and if it’s printed you’ll win a T-shirt!

Page 23: Cannonball Kid. “He’s football crazy”, and in this strip he’s particularly keen to watch his footballing hero, Kevin Kneegone.

Page 24: Cuddles. One of my favourite strips in Nutty, Cuddles is a daft baby, who would later be teamed up with Dimples for a great strip in The Dandy. I particularly like the phrase “BAH! TOO RUSKY!”. rusky0001

Comic Memories – an introduction.

Along with old TV programmes, another thing that I will write about on this blog will be my memories of comics. I have been a fan of comics for many years, not the adventure ones such as 2000AD or Batman or anything like that, I’ve always enjoyed the sillier ones such as The Dandy and The Beano.

I first got into comics around the late-80s and I remember that the first annual I got for Christmas was The Dandy Book 1990 and I never really looked back, going on to collect several more annuals from various comics over the years. After a while as well as the comics from the DC Thomson range, I also became a fan of the ones published by Fleetway including Buster and Whizzer and Chips.

I also became interested in the comics that came out fortnightly and monthly, and all the spin-offs and free gifts I found rather fascinating. But after about five years of collecting I did something rather daft. In the mid-90s I had one of those “you are older now, why would you still want to look at these” moments and they were taking up a lot of room so I got rid of them which looking back wasn’t such a clever idea.

However, as I have got older I have enjoyed looking back at the part that comics played in my early days and have managed to track down a few old ones in charity shops which does compensate for some way for getting rid of my original collection. I don’t have a huge amount but I thought that this would be a good place to talk about what I have.

This will be separated into three parts really, a review of a comic, plus a closer look at some of my favourite individual characters and artists who I think deserve some acclaim. I don’t intend at any point to be the comprehensive authority on this subject, but I hope that the enthusiasm and knowledge for what I do have comes through in my writing. Also, there are lots of other great blogs talking about the history of comics in more detail so if you want more information I will recommend some of those that I enjoy in the future.

I will be having a look back at my first comic on here later, so if you like the sound of all that it would be great if you want to take a look.