Monday, May 29, 2017

CRACKER No.1 (1975)

Two weeks after the final issue of Buzz was published, D.C. Thomson launched a comic that was clearly intended as a replacement. Cracker No.1 arrived on Saturday 11th January 1975, complete with 'Squeeze and Squeak' free gift. (This was basically two balloons with a tiny squeaker attached between them. Squeeze the smaller balloon, and the air passing through caused the squeak.)

As we saw in my previous post, Buzz was a 16 page tabloid comic. Perhaps realising that tabloid comics were going out of favour, Thomsons made Cracker an A4 size comic, like Beano, Dandy, and Sparky. However, Cracker had 32 pages, more than any other Thomson humour comic of the time, presumably to compete with IPC's 32 page funnies. 


Cracker's host was 'Sammy', a somewhat ugly and unpleasant looking kid that I couldn't imagine any reader identifying with. While it made a refreshing change to IPC's rather bland looking characters such as Sid or Toy Boy, 'Sammy' looked like he'd seen and done unspeakable evil. 
Cracker had a lively content of strips, including a couple of adventure serials. Stories featuring castaways had been a popular theme in UK comics for decades, and Castaways on Planet Doom featured a family mysteriously transported to another world. It also featured the most powerful binoculars in the universe apparently...

Billy the Kid and Pongo was pretty much Cracker's version of Dennis and Gnasher, even to the point of it being drawn by Gordon Bell, who had ghosted Dennis the Menace lots of times.
The centre four pages of Cracker were the Schooldaze section, featuring school-based strips. The centrespread featured The Headhunters, which was basically a continuation of Skookum Skool from the defunct Buzz, featuring the same class. Art by Ken Harrison... 

Kid gangs using a shed as their gang hut had been used in The Beezer's Banana Bunch and Pow's The Group, and Cracker had Curly's Commandos with the same premise. Art by Barrie Appleby...

The other adventure strip in the comic was indeed a cracker; Iron Hand, wonderfully illustrated by Paddy Brennan, one of Thomson's best artists...


Cracker included a few comedy feature pages too, such as this one on the back page...

Sadly, the 1970s were unstable times for British comics and Cracker only managed 87 weekly issues before merging into The Beezer in 1976. 

11 comments:

SID said...

I loved Cracker, Lew, with likes of Young Foo, Iron Hand, Headhunters, Slojak and the rest. I thought the Christmas Cracker was highly imaginative. For me, it didn't take long before it rivalled my DCT favourite - The Dandy.

My three major disappointments were:

It didn't last long.

It was merged with The Beezer which in my view was a terrible merger.

There were no annuals. I remembered waiting patiently for one to come out.

And I liked Sam and his corny jokes.

Lew Stringer said...

I guess they were waiting to see how well the weekly did before they did an annual, and sadly it didn't fare well enough. Same applied to Buzz, Crunch, Buddy, Champ, and Spike.

That said, The Hornet ran successfully for years and never had an annual. It's hard to work out DCT sometimes.

SID said...

But Warlord did have an annual - right from year one. Presumably because of it's popularity.

And thanks for doing the tribute Cracker blog, Lew. Really appreciated.

Walter, your steward said...

I never thought I'd see a character who's even more a Dennis copycat than Smasher - but there he is, with his own Gnasher ! The art style is nice though, and so it is for the whole magazine. Surprised that DC Thomson was trying new stuff - still not far from their comfort zone. That Sammy character could have been successful two years later among punk rockers, thanks to his mohawk haircut - same problem as usual : to precede a trend or to follow it ? :)

James Spiring said...

Nutty lasted five years and never had an annual either. Cover star Bananaman did (due to his TV show), but not the comic as a whole.

Both Buzz and Cracker had a lot of their strips reprinted in Classics from the Comics. They must've exhausted or at least been close to running out of some strips (such as Curly's Commandos) by the time it ended.

Lew Stringer said...

There wasn't a Warlord Annual until 1976 (dated 1977), Sid. By which time the success of the weekly (launched in 1974) would have given them good reason to do it.

There could be all sorts of reasons why there was never a Nutty Annual. Perhaps a steady decline in annual sales put them off. Perhaps Nutty never sold as well as its sister titles to make them think it was worth risking it?

Same applies to Summer Specials. None for Hornet, Nutty, Hotspur, Buzz, Cracker, Buddy, Spike, Champ...

SID said...

I stand corrected, Lew. Though you would've thought that Nutty warranted an annual - especially considering it had Bananaman (which it did have his own annual).

You know I forgot that Hotspur never had a special even though Victor did. Then again I always thought that comics with a central theme seemed to more popular than just general adventure comics.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm guessing Bananaman justified having an annual because of the cartoon TV series, whereas a Nutty Annual may not have sold as well.

General adventure comics used to be very popular, Sid; Valiant, Victor, Lion, etc. It was only in the 1970s when theme comics took off, and even then there were failures (Score 'n' Roar, Monster Fun, to name two).

Robert Carnegie said...

I thought Cracker's "Mad Ads" were the acme of satire when I was... eight years old, apparently. And Sammy the host was the exciting sophisticate that your parents react to with disapproval and fear. (A role later taken by Tharg the Mighty of 2000 AD, and then the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi... the name won't have helped. And ahead of all those, Tom Baker.)

If the rest of it was so much exactly the same as every other British comic, I think somehow I didn't realise that. Or... it was the same... but well done. Or maybe it wasn't, if I was eight!

SID said...

(Both my brother & I liked Monster Fun Comic and another sad casualty).

I was referring more to the mid 1970s (when I finally took notice) and onwards where themed comics generally did better thanks to the likes of Warlord. Of course there were exceptions: 1980s Eagle and Starlord (though the latter may be a bit unfair).

As for me, I wasn't a great fan of themed comics since I only really liked Sci-Fi so war and sport comics were out. I did try Tiger for a while thanks to its merger with Speed but I wasn't really a fan. Battle-Action was better as it didn't stick with just war (WW1 and WW2) stories.

STEPHEN ARCHER said...

Cracker employed a distinctly zanier mode of humour than we’d come to expect from DCT; it was almost a shame to see it alongside Blink’s bleary-eyed antics. It bore definite stylistic similarities to the way Sparky was at this time, which itself ended ten months after Cracker, and could be considered a precursor to Nutty. I disagree with Graham Kibble-White’s assessment that it wasn’t as madcap as Krazy was; it couldn’t be, only Oink managed (and surpassed) that. Still Kibble-White claimed Krazy began a year, not a month, after Cracker folded so what did he know? I’d welcome Cracker reprints any day!

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