Saturday, February 17, 2018

Comic Oddities: WONDER (1968)

Here's a comic from the 1960s that wasn't on sale in any newsagents but still had national distribution. The reason being that Wonder Weekly was published by the Esso Petrolium Company Ltd, and sold at Esso garages.
Wonder was edited by Roberta Leigh, a multi-talented author, artist, composer, and tv producer who was responsible for the cult classic Space Patrol puppet series. She had also created the puppet show Wonder Boy and Tiger, and featured them as the cover stars of the new comic.

Wonder had 16 pages including 4 in full colour, and was printed web offset (like Jag and Cor!! but on slightly thicker paper). It sold for 6d, so it was a competitive price to other comics of the day, even though most others would have more pages. Most of the artwork was uncredited (typical of UK comics) but has a very European look so I imagine most of the artists were recruited through an agency. Here's a few pages. I've credited them where known...

Hovercraft Patrol, art by Luis Bermejo.

Nitwits art by Joseph Lee.

Bossy Boots art by Juan Rafart (signed as RAF).
Gulliver Travels art by Juan Rafart (signed 'Raf').
I only saw this comic once, in the summer of 1968, sold from a stall at the Royal Show when I was on a school trip. I didn't buy it then as it probably wouldn't have survived the journey with a bus full of kids wanting to borrow it, so I made a mental note to get it when I returned home. My family never had a car so as I never visited a garage I never saw the comic again, and it always puzzled me for years until I learned of its restriction to Esso outlets. I've since bought a few on eBay, but it remains a rare item to find, and no one seems certain of how many were produced. Denis Gifford's books say 52, and a year's contract would make sense, but I've never known of anyone to have issues beyond No.20. If you have any more info, please post a comment below (or just post a comment anyway if you have any thoughts on this comic).


In the shops this coming Wednesday is another packed issue of Judge Dredd Megazine. Here's the info and preview pages, thanks to Rebellion...

UK & DIGITAL: 21st February 2018 £5.99
NORTH AMERICA: 21st March 2018 $7.99

In this issue:
JUDGE DREDD: KRONG ISLAND by Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
LAWLESS: BREAKING BADROCK by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie DeVille (l) 
DEVLIN WAUGH: BLOOD DEBT by Rory McConville (w) Mike Dowling (a) Simon Bowland (l)
CURSED EARTH KOBURN by Rory McConville (w) Carlos Ezquerra (a) Simon Bowland (l)
DREDD: THE DEAD WORLD by Arthur Wyatt & Alex De Campi (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse(l)

Features: new 2000 AD talent, Jim Baikie obituary

Bagged reprint: Outlier by TC Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores 
via Diamond 
Available in digital from: 2000 AD webshop, 2000 AD iPad app, 2000 AD Android app, 2000 AD Windows 10 app

Advance Preview: 2000AD Prog 2069

Here's an advance look at next week's 2000AD. Another packed issue with 30 pages of story plus a great cover by Clint Langley. Yours for just £2.75. A superb bargain compared to comics prices today!

UK & DIGITAL: 21st February 2018 £2.75
NORTH AMERICA: 21st March 2018 $7.99

In this issue:
JUDGE DREDD: LIVE EVIL by Ian Edginton (w) Dave Taylor (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

BAD COMPANY: TERRORISTS by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Dom Regan (c) Simon Bowland (l)

SAVAGE: THE THOUSAND YEAR STARE by Pat Mills (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

BRASS SUN: ENGINE SUMMER by Ian Edginton (w) INJ Culbard (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

ABC WARRIORS: FALLOUT by Pat Mills (w) Clint Langley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l) 

Available in print from: UK newsagents and all good comic book stores via Diamond 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Ally Sloper revivals of the late 1940s

Ally Sloper had a bit of a choppy history as a comic. The character, created by Charles H. Ross and his partner Emile de Tessier (AKA Marie Duval) started out in Judy, then graduated to his own comic, Ally Sloper's Half Holiday from 1884 to 1914. It was then simplified to Ally Sloper from 1914 to 1916, when it ceased. A new, short-lived series of Ally Sloper's Half Holiday then resumed in 1922 to 1923. 

Then, in 1948, the character was revived again, in an 8 page Ally Sloper comic, printed in red and black. Although intended as a series, only No.1 was published. This version of Ally Sloper turns up a lot on eBay. I bought one myself many years ago, and was told that there had been a pile of them found in an old distributor's warehouse, which had never reached the shops. Unfortunately, it's a terrible comic. 

Although the Ally Sloper of this 1948 comic resembles the Victorian character, the artwork is crude and extremely basic, and the comic completely lacks the social satire that made the original so popular. The scripting is not only childish, it's poor. Take a look at that cover strip for example (above). Ally says he wants "three coppers" (meaning pennies), three policemen turn up (coppers, see, geddit?) and throw Ally in jail. Why? Makes no sense.

The comic is most surely in the public domain now, so here's the complete thing.

It's no surprise that the 1948 Ally Sloper only lasted one issue. A year later, a different publisher had a go, reviving the full title as Ally Sloper's Half Holiday No.1. Perhaps realising that the attempt to turn Ally into a children's character hadn't worked, this time it was revived as a satirical paper for older readers. Sadly, the poor art on the cover was uninspiring, and Ally looked out of place amongst people of the late 1940s.
The contents of this 8 page comic were mostly reprints from Ally's original publication, and therein lies the problem. Whatever possessed the publishers to think that Victorian cartoons and humour would work in 1949? The world had moved on, and the art style and verbosity of the dialogue of the reprints was extremely outdated.

Unsurprisingly, this version of Ally Sloper's Half Holiday didn't reach a second issue either. 

That was it for poor Ally, until 1976, when Denis Gifford launched his own Ally Sloper comic. This time Ally looked right, but the contents were an odd mixture. The well-intentioned venture only lasted four issues. (Personally I loved this version.) 

The closest publications we have today to the original satirical Ally Sloper's Half Holiday are Private Eye and Viz, proving that even in this mad world, (or because of it) we still need good social satire. Perhaps Ally Sloper should be revived again. I'm sure he'd have a few things to say about Brexit and Trump.

Let's end by remembering what Ally Sloper's Half Holiday looked like in its heyday, with this marvellous (albeit blackly comic) cover by W.F. Thomas for the April Fool issue of 1892...

Bonus: Lonnng before the Dennis the Menace Fan Club, Ally Sloper had his own club (most probably the first comic club) and by cutting out coupons from the comic, readers could send away for a nice metal medal. I plucked one out of the time vortex recently (or I bought one on eBay, you decide) so I thought you might like to see it. It's about the same size as an old penny (31mm diameter). Each one issued had its own number stamped on the back. This one would have been owned by member number 20689, and dates from around 1902 I believe. I've cleaned it up, which apparently devalues it, but they're really not that valuable, and I don't intend selling it anyway.

You can read more about Ally Sloper here:

and here:

Monday, February 12, 2018

ROK OF THE REDS collected!

The excellent Rok of the Reds mini-series is to be collected as a trade paperback and published on 16th April. 

Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, and drawn by Dan Cornwell, wityh colours by Abigail Bulmer, it features an alien who flees to Earth and assumes the human form of a footballer. It's in the vein of Doomlord (which Alan Grant created for Eagle) but with a contemporary approach. Dan Cornwell's artwork is both traditional and modern, - a perfect fit for the Wagner/Grant story. 

If you're not a football fan don't let that put you off. I can't stand football and I thought this comic was brilliant!  

You can pre-order the book now from the BHP Comics website:

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