Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Post No5: Cheeky 1977

At the same time you could have bought this Christmas issue of Krazy you could also have bought spin-off comic Cheeky, dated 31st December 1977.
 Yes, Cheeky, he of the massive overbite in The Krazy Gang, was granted his own spin-off comic in this year. This was an odd choice for IPC but it paid off with a fondly-remembered comic which lasted until 1980. Strange too that one of the only other comics characters to get their own spin-off was Plug of the Bash Street Kids who was granted his own title by DC Thomson, also in 1977.

Anyway, the comic itself had a unique format, built around a week in the life of the eponymous joker. For starters we'd get a strip of Cheeky wandering around his home town (on his way to school usually) and trading jokes and riddles with the residents.
 The various characters tended to lend themselves to different types of joke (there was a GP for doctor doctor jokes, a school dinner lady for bad food jokes, a bizarre sentient door for knock knock jokes) and I'll look at them in more detail some other time.

Then Cheeky would provide a segue into another strip. Here for example, Cheeky wanders over to the headquarters of The Skateboard squad to see what they've got for Christmas...
 ...before going home to have Christmas dinner with his family. After which he puts on the telly to watch the Christmas Special episode of 6 Million Dollar Gran.
 A strip about a "bionic" pensioner and the children she has to look after. Drawn by Ian Knox it was later renamed Robot Granny when Cheeky merged into Whoopee! and the Steve Austin reference grew stale.

Then Cheeky gets a photo taken with all his family before falling asleep reading a thrilling adventure story. We get to see the story, which is the final chapter of a serial strip about a "brave investigator of the supernatural", a suave, chiselled tough guy with the copyright-baiting name of "James Bold". Here, he finally catches the villain known as "The Wolf" before getting some well-earned rest.
 Next day, Cheeky goes for a Boxing Day feast with all his friends. Oddly, there seems to be an interloper in the form of long-time children's favourite character Billy Bunter. Not sure who would have owned the rights to Bunter then but I don't think he'd been seen in a British comic for quite some time.
 Of course, Bunter's stock in trade was acquiring as much food as possible without paying so he is behaving completely in character by pretending to be Micky Mimic. Even though Micky is a character from Krazy, not Cheeky. But then, Krazy's Pongo Snodgrass is also at the feast.

Incidentally, Blogger's spell-check is questioning my use of "Krazy" and "Pongo" but is completely fine with "Snodgrass".

Next Cheeky takes Baby Burpo to see a pantomime (a two-page Snow White parody) before popping round to see the latest "home movie" made by pal Oscar. This leads into a one-page "Charlie Dickens-Type Story" movie pastiche, drawn by Jack Clayton.
 Then, in a segue that may have left kids scratching their heads, Cheeky reads his own comic. And the next strip is headed "Here's what Cheeky read..." Which could potentially open a whole can of meta-textual worms.

The strip in question is probably Cheeky's most enduring character: Mustapha Million. Or, to be true to how the title is spelt Mustapha Mi££ion.

Originally drawn by the great Reg Parlett, Mustapha was a boy from some unnamed middle-Eastern country whose father struck oil and had become incredibly rich. The cliché of the rich oil sheik was big in the late 70s and early 80s. Apparently his dad wanted Mustapha to get a proper British education so sent him here and set him up with a mansion full of servants and unlimited wealth.

So the scene is set for Lord Snooty/Richie Rich type shenanigans which an extra dash of hilarious cultural misunderstandings. Pleasingly, from a 21st century perspective, it is actually very light on racist stereotyping on the part of Mustapha himself and is pretty good fun.
 Even those belly dancers don't seem offensive.

Mustapha was popular enough not only to move to Whoopee! after Cheeky folded but also to move to Whizzer and Chips after Whoopee! went.

The most pleasant surprise in this issue came when Cheeky sneaked off into the attic to look through his dad's old comics, which results in a reprint of a strip from the Christmas 1952 issue of Film Fun!

I fully support the reprinting of old strips in comics and would've found that fascinating as a child too. It was only a couple of years ago The Beano stopped printing old strips and I would welcome the return. Although I am aware I'm not the target audience any more.

Anyway, here we get the Christmassy adventures of Frank Randle, "famous star of Mancunian films", a comedian who, though a massive star in his day, is almost completely forgotten today.

Here, Frank's comic strip avatar gets a job as a department store Father Christmas...
 ...before almost immediately getting sacked. But never mind! A series of unlikely events lead to Frank accidentally catching a burglar and it's slap-up feasts all round!
 Frank Randle was an interesting chap who, legend has it, pulled all his own teeth out in order to help him pull funny faces. His enormous success lead him a life of hobby-drinking and would often drive his car into walls and policemen would let him off for an autograph. Sadly most of his films, made in and around a former Methodist chapel in Manchester (later the home of the earliest Top of the Popses), no longer exist.
It's also interesting to see how much the style of British humour comics had changed in the 25 years between these two comics. Especially to note how little they've changed (stylistically) in the 37 years since.

Next up: Cheeky goes to the cinema to watch the next thrilling chapter of The Space Family Robinson.
 Another mild sci-fi adventure with a very similar premise to The Beezer's The Space Kids, only with a family instead of a group of friends stranded on an alien planet. This week the family tries its hardest to have a normal Christmas on a world with black snow.

Finally, a week has passed so we leave Cheeky and family on New Year's Eve, where Mum has reminded us of the New Year tradition of welcoming the first visitor with a handshake, "but if it's a lady you have to kiss her!"

Cue several panels of Cheeky fretting about having to kiss one of his regular characters and one of Dad fantasising about kissing the sexy lollypop lady, a thought balloon blotted out by the message "Censored by Mum!"
Merry Christmas everyone!
 
Bonus: an ad in this issue that may interest fans of 1970s football:

5 comments:

  1. Loved Cheeky and Krazy as a kid, I can remember buying a Cheeky special over preference of Doctor Who magazine which had recently come out at the time. Thanks for the memories, but after seeing that final panel, it has got to be asked. Why do all comic parents look like brother and sister?

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  3. I just found this post and enjoyed it - have put a link to it on my blog http://cheekyweekly.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/you-cant-whack-slipper.html

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    1. Ooh! Just posted on your blog too. Thanks for the linky. Yours is very comprehensive and useful! Will be wasting some time there this week!

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  4. I was initially puzzled by this article as I thought our mutual friend NIblet had covered the fact that there was no Christmas Cheeky for 1977, until I realized that it was the following year. Industrial action affected it and at least two other comics, 2000AD and Whoopee. 13/1/79 of the latter is its New Year issue and although there was a 6/1 issue no characters talk about resolutions etc. You can do your own research on NIblet’s blog to see how the Christmas strips were reused. Enjoy – but if you’re like me be ready to grumble a bit.

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