Wednesday, July 08, 2015


With the success of Whizzer and Chips as a faux 'two in one' comic, IPC tried it again with football adventure comic Score 'n' Roar in 1970 (see here) and once more in 1973 with Shiver and Shake. Neither proved to be anywhere near as popular as Whizzer and Chips but they did contain some worthwhile content. Here's a selection of a few pages from Shiver and Shake No.1, dated 10th March 1973...

The concept of Shiver and Shake was that 20 page Shiver contained funny horror/monster strips and 16 page Shake carried, well, humour strips without a horror theme. The cover (above) was by Mike Lacey, featuring the hosts of each comic, Shiver the ghost and Shake the elephant. 

The first notable thing about Shiver is that it kicked off with a revamp of Frankie Stein, a character last seen in Wham! in 1967 and a few Wham! Annuals that followed. However this version was a more subdued Frankie than Ken Reid's edgy original, and the comedy was much lighter in tone, as was the norm at IPC. Nevertheless, Robert Nixon did a very nice job on the artwork. 

Scream Inn, with distinctive, atmospheric art by Brian Walker, was a superb strip, and was later adapted into a board game! Walker used hatching, cross-hatching and Letratone to great effect here...

Shiver featured one adventure strip, and the prolific Tom Kerr was the ideal choice as illustrator. Who'd Kill Cockney Robin was a mystery serial, with a clue in every episode for the reader to deduce who was trying to kill the title character. 
The character who'd become one of the biggest hits with readers was Sweeny Toddler, who made his debut towards the back of the comic. Created by the wonderful Leo Baxendale...
The back page presented us with something marvelous. The start of a series of monster pin-ups by Ken Reid! Creepy Creations No.1 was The One-Eyed Wonk of Wigan, with readers invited to submit their own ideas for Ken to draw in future editions. 
The 16 page middle section featured Shake No.1, with the cover strip by Mike Lacey. 
Inside Shake, veteran artist Reg Parlett gave us the arrival of Lolly Pop, a character who would outlast the comic and survive in other comics.

On the back page of Shake was Moana Lisa with art by Peter Davidson. 
The first issue of Shiver and Shake took the unusual step of giving readers a choice of four different free gifts. The ploy to get people to buy more than one 
copy convinced me for one, and I went for the trick rubber pencil and the plastic 'chocolate' biscuit. I've mislaid the rubber pencil, but here's a photo of the trick biscuit and the free gift wrappers...
Shiver and Shake lasted for 79 issues before merging into Whoopee! in 1974, but it's still fondly remembered today by collectors. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ken Reid's BANGER AND MASHER (1970/71)

For many of us, Ken Reid's work reached its hilariously manic best with Jonah and Roger the Dodger for The Beano in the 1950s and then in the 1960s for the Odhams comics Wham! (Frankie Stein), Smash! (Queen of the Seas, The Nervs) and Pow! (Dare-A-Day-Davy). A body of work proving him to be a master humourist.

Curiously, when the Odhams comics fizzled out and were replaced by IPC's new humour titles Whizzer and Chips, Cor!!, and Knockout, Ken Reid's work was nowhere to be seen. Was this Ken's decision, or was his work considered too dark for the more conservative IPC funnies? (He did contribute to the next wave of humour comics, Shiver and Shake and Whoopee! but initially only to illustrate the back page pin-ups, and what great work he did on them.) Given that IPC management axed The Nervs in 1969 because they felt it was over the top and should never be reprinted, I'm betting they didn't want him on their new funnies. Their loss.

Fortunately Ken did find work on the IPC adventure comics at that time. Perhaps it was felt he was more suited to the slightly older target audience? I've already covered his early work for Scorcher (more on those strips in a week or two) but he also produced Faceache for Jet of course and a great humour page for Valiant

Banger and Masher had the simple premise of two kids creating new ways to knock seven bells out of each other every week, all in Ken's own fantastic way of course . The strip ran for a year, from Valiant 4th July 1970, to the issue dated 3rd July 1971. Here's a selection of some I consider to be the best. Click on the images to see them larger...

Friday, July 03, 2015

Express Weekly (1956)

The other day I showed a few pages from an early issue of Junior Express from 1955, and now here's a selection from the comic it morphed into a year later. With issue 74, the title condensed to Express and the format changed from newsprint into glossy photogravure, adding full colour to some of its pages. Its similarities to Eagle are fairly blatant, and it was clearly intended to rival the famous paper.

This is issue 76, dated March 3rd, 1956, the third new look issue. Rex Keene, the Western strip on the cover and page two, was drawn by Harry Bishop. 
Page three gave us The Bold and the Brave, illustrated by the great Italian artist Gino D'Antonio, who also drew many Fleetway libraries amongst other strips. This page alone is a masterpiece of black and white comic art.
Express also featured text stories and features. Here's The Mystery of the Marching Feet, and an advert for Mars bars, then only 6d (two and a half pence in decimal currency). 
Wee Sporty was by Bill Mevin, later to draw numerous pages for TV Comic
The centrespread of this 20 page issue featured new Jeff Hawke stories in colour. I believe this is the work of Ferdinand Tacconi. At the foot of the spread, an advert for Murraymints. Remember those? "Too good to hurry mints". 
On page 14, the saga of Mark Fury, with wonderful art by Peter Jackson, the perfect choice to illustrate historical drama.
Bengo by Tim was still in the comic, now resized as a quarter page box. Incidentally, this situation happened with me and my old dog too many years ago, as she eagerly jumped for a biscuit, accidentally butted my nose with her snout and gave me a nose bleed. Fellow animal lovers will understand that I've always considered that a happy memory, so I was amused to see it depicted in a strip.   
Slick Nick is a curious item. I thought it might be the work of Wally Fawkes (Trog) or Peter Maddocks but I'm not sure its either of them. Can anyone identify the artist? 
Express would undergo even more changes over the next few years, ending up as TV Express before merging into TV Comic in 1962.

(Thanks to Ray Moore for identifying some of the artists in a post he submitted to Comics UK years ago.)

Commando titles out today

Here's the latest press release from D.C. Thomson. (Click on the covers to see them much larger.)
Commando Issues 4823-4826 – On Sale 2nd July 2015

Commando No 4823 – Waterloo!
The wars started with a peasant’s revolt in Paris and ended beside an obscure farmhouse in Belgium. Over nearly three decades, France, her armies and her new emperor turned Europe into a cauldron of conflict.
   Henri Durant and Jean Tavere were just two of the thousands of men whose lives were turned upside down in these tumultuous years. In the end, only one of them would survive the battle of…


200 years ago, the battle that — arguably if you’re French — set the political landscape of Europe for many generations was fought in a previously insignificant area of what was then the Netherlands. Waterloo.
   Described by the eventual victor, the Duke of Wellington, as "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life" it was a titanic struggle between the armies of half the nations of Europe. But what of the men, the ordinary Joes and Pierres who closed together in the heat and smoke of battle? We asked regular Commando writer Ferg Handley to weave some of his magic and give us a tale that showed a little of the life they might have lived. That he’s managed to put those lives in an authentic historical setting — not just an extended battle scene — is testament to his talents.
   He came up with a pair of stories (Part Two is coming soon!) that Carlos Pino has illustrated with his customary panache. I really do think they’ve done us proud.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Commando No 4824 – The Desperate Hours
“Old Soldiers never die,” was just another saying to Corporal Bill Curtis and Private Jack Hunt until that night they landed on an island to sabotage the huge guns threatening the Allied invasion forces.
   Then strange things began to happen. It all started when they met up with an officer of Napoleon’s Army — a man who by rights should have been dead for over a hundred years, but still helped them fight the Nazis.


Waterloo is very much in the minds of military historians (and war comic fans) right now. In this batch of four Commandos, we’ve included a tale set very much around the battle which I hope you’ll enjoy. Checking out 50-year-old stories for the Gold Collection, I didn’t expect to come across anything remotely connected with the battle 200 years ago. Then this tale popped up.
   It was a surprise as Ken Barr’s outrageous cover gives no clues to the Napoleonic connection. Skentleberry’s script, though, weaves the echo in very nicely, thanks.
   So get reading and finally face our Waterloo.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

The Desperate Hours originally Commando No 157 (March 1965), re-issued as No 763 (August 1973)

Story: Skentleberry
Art: Sostres
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando No 4825 – Hi-Jack!
Lieutenant Pete Wade was very glad to see the last of Greece. He had seen too many brave men die facing hopeless odds as the Nazis swarmed in with overwhelming numbers.
   But he wouldn’t have been nearly so pleased if he’d known that he’d be sent back to Greece…by parachute, at dead of night. And there would be other enemies to deal with, more dangerous even than the Nazis!


When Commando fan Phil Singleton nominated this book for a fresh viewing, I don’t think he realised that he’d done me a huge favour. As a nipper, I remembered reading this particular story but had singularly failed to track it down despite many visits to the archive. I was on the third or fourth page when I realised I’d found it at last. Cheers, Phil.
   We try (yes we do!) to avoid too much stereotyping of our characters these days but back in ’71 there were obviously no such reservations — check out Spiro if you don’t believe me! That said, this is a cracking tale of intrigue, filled with contrasting, clashing players. As usual, the art totally does justice to the script.
   Now, if you’ll excuse me, the 11-year-old me is about to read the story again.

Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Hi-Jack!, originally Commando No 605 (December 1971), re-issued as No 1692 (April 1983)

Story: R. A. Montague
Art: Collado
Cover: Penalva

Commando No 4826 – Fit To Fight
Massive doors set in a cliff face. Enemy submarines slinking in at night to their hidden lair…and slinking out again before dawn to go about their deadly business.
   This base could not be bombed or shelled, but it had to be destroyed. And the man to do it was a soldier sent home from the desert with wounds that had made him “unfit for duty”.


This book is nicely paced. Just as we’re getting into an action-packed war desert tale, our hero, and with him the reader, unexpectedly find themselves thrust into an entirely different, but equally welcome kind of story — a sabotage mission involving killer U-boats, the French Resistance and the Gestapo.
   It’s gripping stuff and Lieutenant Dick Morgan, the aforementioned hero, is a memorable Commando character. Side-lined on several occasions, he is absolutely determined to be involved in the action and do his duty.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Fit To Fight, originally Commando No 1065 (September 1976), re-issued as No 2379 (June 1990)

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Elias
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I've blogged about Express Weekly here before, and its later incarnation as TV Express, but here's the comic in its original form! It wasn't even a comic back then really. Junior Express was basically a newspaper for children, - as its title implies, it was a junior version of the Daily Express. Tabloid size, and printed on cheap newsprint, it was launched in 1954 but the issue I'm showing here is No.22, dated January 29th 1955. 

(Update: I'd presumed from the cover story that this issue was the last in the newsprint format before it switched to glossy photogravure the following week. However I'm reliably informed by Jeremy Briggs and Graham Bleathman that it continued for another year in newsprint before improving to photogravure with issue 75.)

At the foot of page one you'll see Bengo, by Tim. This character later appeared in the Blue Peter Annuals. As you may know, Tim (real name William Timyn) also created and illustrated Bleep and Booster, which was a static frame cartoon story that sometimes appeared on Blue Peter in the sixties. 

Junior Express had 16 pages but comic strips only appeared on two full pages, a half pager, and a few mini strips. (It would later be practically all-strip when it became Express.) One of those strips was The Think Pistol. I'm not sure who the artist was but going by some of the techniques and the style of speech balloons I'm wondering if it might be by Chas Sinclair? 
Jeff Hawke first appeared in the Daily Express of course but new strips, not by Syd Jordan, appeared in Junior Express. Unfortunately they're uncredited, as is its companion strip Silverstone Sam. Also unfortunate is that the colour registration is off. No wonder they upgraded the printing later.
Joanna of Bitter Creek gave us a spirited heroine. (Junior Express was aimed equally at girls and boys.) Art by Jac Darrel. Its companion strip, Biddy and Butch, carries no credit but I'm sure it's the work of Cyril Price.
As previously noted, Junior Express was mainly a newspaper, and here's one of its feature pages; Junior Show Page with a few items of interest. The mini-strip, Cap and Crew, is by Roland Fiddy (1931 -1999), a very popular cartoonist of the time.
Here's a couple of adverts from this issue. Firstly, an interesting one from the days when Lucozade was considered by the medical profession to have "remarkable" health benefits. Attitudes have changed somewhat now, but all I know is that whenever I was laid up with a virus as a kid, it certainly made me feel better when my mum brought me a bottle of Lucozade. (And that plastic amber outer wrapping made it look something really special.) 
Now here's possibly the most important advertisement of all, because it settles a debate about Wagon Wheels that's been going on for years. "They used to be as big as your hand" say people today. Well, here's the evidence that 60 years ago they were 3 1/4" in diameter. Are today's Wagon Wheels smaller, or is it simply that our hands were smaller then? Measure one and let me know! (A Wagon Wheel, not your hand.)

Some previous blog posts about Express:
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