Saturday, 19 May 2018

It's somebody's wedding day!

Yes! It's happening again! Some people I don't care about are going through a public ritual I dislike!

Seriously, though, I hope the day goes well for Harry and Meghan (I don't care but feel pressured to make it seem like I do, no offence if you do care, each to their own, I care about old comics and they're not even sentient so I'm the dumb one).

Currently available is issue 3935 of Last Comic Standing The Beano and they've put out a Royal Wedding (capital r capital w) special!
I say special, but really the only Royal Wedding (capital r capital w) content is an excellent 8-page Beano all-stars story written by Nigel Auchterlounie with art by Nigel Parkinson (both of whom have commented on my Dennis the Menace blog.)
The (delightfully bonkers) premise is that all Royal Weddings (capital r capital w) since 1066 have taken place in Beanotown, in secret. 
Brenda throws a lot of shade at the French in this, it's like a Blackadder special. Anyway, the secret is blown and everyone in town attends. 
Dennis the Menace (the good one) causes problems when he drops cake all over the bride. 
Particularly bad time for that...

Minnie the Minx (a ginger) hatches a plan to get involved. 
And there's a sub-plot with Walter the softy (and I really like how he is the "villain" of Beanotown, like Montana Max, it gives him more agency than just being a victim of homophobic bullying) secretly recording the Wedding (capital w) on his phone and getting Professor Screwtop (good to see he's still around, he was a Lord Snooty supporting character back in my day, a great design and useful plot device, like Batman's Carter Nichols) to make a ray gun (doesn't really matter what it is, it inevitably backfires)(I really do ramble in the brackets, don't I?).  
At which point we get the best joke in the strip. 

And it's a slap-up-feast all round! 
So that's 2018, but what if we take a trip back in time? 
It's 1981 and Buster is celebrating the Royal Wedding (capital r capital w) that will probably always be regarded as the Royal Wedding (capit... ah you get it).

Buster was the great survivor of British comics. At least for IPC/Fleetway. It lasted from 1960 to 2000, absorbing all the cancelled comics along the way including the other great comic-absorbing behemoth Whizzer and Chips in 1990, making it Fleetway's sole surviving humour comic. And it was one of my favourites.

This issue is cover dated 1st August 1981 and came out two days before the fairytale wedding we all know.

The cover star of Buster was called... er... Buster. And his strip went through several different styles and was introduced as the son of Andy Capp, the internationally-known newspaper strip character created by Reg Smythe. 

Oh, Andy Capp, you wife-beating drunk...

This was quietly dropped quite soon after his first appearance (I suspect for legal reasons) but he continued wearing a similar flat cap to Andy's for most of his comics life. 

(Incidentally, the final issue of Buster had him finally taking of his cap to reveal he had the same hair as Dennis the Menace and had to leave it on for copyright reasons.)

At this point the cover strip was Buster's Diary and detailed the day-to-day adventures of another well-meaning comics scamp. Here Buster and his Mum are being shamed by their grumpy neighbour for not appropriately dressing up their garden for the street party in honour of the RW.
Clumsy shenanigans ensue which lead to Buster accidentally stealing the neighbour's decorations and selling them in exchange for Union Jack for their garden.

Slap-up feast all round!
Note that one person with the Princess Di hairdo.

Buster's Diary was drawn by Reg Parlett and we haven't heard the last of him.

Next strip is X-Ray Specs, by Mike Lacey, about a kid called Ray who had some X-ray Specs.

I desperately wanted X-ray specs as a child because of this strip and always felt Ray lacked ambition. This week, for example he visits a beauty contest...
Oh, Ray, surely you're not going to...

More fun next with one of the more famous strips, the class-war based Ivor Lott and Tony broke.
This week, poverty-stricken Tony has gone to that London to watch the procession.
He finds a nice spot to watch it only to find posh neighbour Ivor has hired the entire hotel on that road to have exclusive viewing privilege and orders the oik off his land.

Tony sneaks in, via the coal chute, however.
An attempt to flush him out leads to Ivor accidentally soaking the crowd outside and inviting them in as an apology.
The poor always win.

This was a Reg Parlett strip but this one was drawn by Jim Crocker.

Next comes Billy Blow. A boy who can blow.

We can skip this one.

Then there's Deadly Headly: Vampire Detective by Martin Baxendale. At this point the strip had gotten somewhat away from the "Detective" premise and Headly was more of a secret agent-type. In this issue we even meet his "Q":
...and gets a sweet ride.
The proper treat in this issue is The Leopard from Lime Street, a feature of Buster since 1976. One of the very few successful British superhero strips, this is, I think, drawn by Eric Bradbury.

13-year-old Billy Farmer (not the voice of Goofy) was scratched by a radioactive leopard (yes, really) and gained proportional strength and agility and learned about power and responsibility. He, naturally, makes a leopard costume and fights crime.

By this point, the "Leorpardman" was popular enough to have his own line of merchandising.
The ongoing plot involves Billy devising a trap for new villain in town: The Roller Monster!
However, catching the thief will be tricky if he wants to maintain his secret identity and seem like a normal boy. He even has his own Lana Lang, determined to blow his secret!
I used to skip the adventure strips when I was a kid but now I want to read more! (Fortunately Rebellion have got hold of the rights and are reprinting them. See here. I'm not sponsored.)

Humour strip next about a shark with false teeth. 

Drawn by Robert Nixon, this is a fun strip in which Gums just wants to be left alone!
(Edit: A helpful reader points out it's not Robert Nixon, it's Bananaman co-creator John Geering, slip of the mind, there)

Superhero parody and puzzle fun next with Master Mind!
J E Oliver liked to incorporate puzzles and games in with his strips and this one includes a maths-based magic trick.

The running gag of Master Mind is that he changes by stepping into a phone booth and saying the magic word ("Pass!").
Here, he helps a stage magician out by doing it during his act.
Incidentally, I find it fascinating how most British superheroes are based on the Captain Marvel-style transformation. Marvel Man, Thunderbolt Jaxon, Bananaman, Superted...

An ad was below this for a show I so want to see:
A Bugs Bunny sports-themed show Starring Wonder Woman and Batman!?
Oh, the past, why do you taunt me?

Also an ad for Heller model kits featuring Robbie Robot to make a Range Rover seem interesting.
Next up, Worzel Gummidge knock-off Strawbelly.
This was, I believe an Ian Knox strip, but here drawn by an unknown fill-in. In it, the animated scarecrow tells a story from his distant past.
Another slap-up feast.

The centre page spread was an image of the RW procession, heading to St Paul's. It's too big for me to reproduce here, but you can have a taste of it.
Various Buster characters were dotted around the scene for added puzzle fun. Here's Faceache and Deadly Headly hiding among the guards.

Another Reg Parlett strip next with Disappearing Trix. She can disappear at will.
Here she uses her power to teach a bully a lesson.
Sidebar here but there's something I want to say about the way Parlett draws "cute" girls like Trix.

When I first watched Community I stared at Alison Brie for ages trying to figure out who she reminded me of.
And it finally hit me, she looks like a Reg Parlett drawing of a cute girl.

More specifically Bewiched Belinda from Whizzer and Chips.
Sorry, had to get that off my chest and there's no way to slip it into normal conversation.
That's so Annie.

Next comes Mummy's Boy, an oddity by Norman Mansbridge about an over-protective mother.
Pretty sure I'm right in believing it was the basis for Spoilt Bastard in Viz.
S.O.S. Squad are a team of helpful youngsters who will take on any job.
They take orders from the mysterious Zed from inside a box. I think this is a riff on Charlie's Angels.
Kid Kong is a giant child-like talking ape and another Robert Nixon character, though here drawn by Rob Lee.

There's reader-submitted joke page which manages to stay on-topic.

And more Martin Baxendale with Clever Dick, the Daft Inventor, here trying to trick his dog (Napoleon) into digging a pool.
Another character that I believe inspired a Viz strip, Gilbert Ratchet.
(Although it may equally be Timothy Tester or some other inventor-type)

(Edit the same helpful reader reminds me Screwy Driver, a Dandy strip that IS closer to the style of Gilbert Ratchet)

Boxatricks is a very odd strip by Brian Walker about a sentient box of mechanical wonders.
Back on theme, there's a family who can't have a street party...
The helpful box is whisked through a window and extends further than it ever has (I mean probably, I don't know).
Barry and Boing is the only other adventure strip concerning an alien robot and the boy who found him. What starts as a simple game of hide-and-seek...
Turns into one of those terrifying 70s public safety films...

What happens next? I'll never know.

The real treat of this issue, however is the awesome Faceache by the brilliant Ken Reid. A character that can change the look of his face (or by this point his entire body) with an audible "SCRUNGE"! Here he's tricking his public school friend out of a pie he's been sent.
Time for some Ken Reid specialty monster drawings!
More please!
Thank you! 

I include the next panel purely because I love the design of the teacher.
Naturally, it all goes wrong for Faceache...
I love Ken Reid's work so much and they have also been recently reprinted by Rebellion.

One more puzzle page and we're almost done.
The back cover stars Chalky. Not not Jim Davidson's friend, the boy who's "quick on the draw", which means he can sketch very realistic images very fast.
And, yes, it's that Parlett again.

(Edit: It's that helpful reader again -see comments- Parlett never drew Chalky, this is probably Dick Millington)

Here Chalky has drawn a man eating plant to frighten a bully.
And that's it. Buster in 1981. I hope you enjoyed that like I did. 

Now to get some sunshine...