First issue: 1 May 1971
Last issue: 25 September 1971
Merged into: Buster
Jet was one of those IPC comics with a life so brief that it almost didn’t exist at all. Its first issue was cover-dated 1 May 1971 and its last was a mere twenty-two weeks later. The standard fate for an unsuccessful comic was to merge it into a more successful title and then let it fade from memory. But that wasn’t quite what happened this time. Jet bequeathed unto the world a long-lasting legacy… the word “Scrunge!” might give you a clue there!
With its decent mix of action and adventure strips Jet was aimed more at the Valiant and Lion readership than the slightly younger market of comics such as Cor!! and Smash (which had a greater focus on humorous and cartoony strips). However, one or two strips aside, Jet didn’t really give us much to remember it by.
Let’s take a closer look at an average issue… 7th August 1971. Most of the issues weren’t numbered, but we know the date of the first issue, and we know that it was published on a weekly basis, and we also know that there were no delays… So the issue with the cover-date of 7th August 1971 must have been #15.
My own copy of Jet #15 is missing its staples. I removed the top staple myself because it was rusty, and as you can see the rust had seeped into the page long before the comic reached me. As George Bernard Shaw might have said, “Better to perform a staplectomy on one’s comic than risk the further spread of rust. So it is.” The bottom staple was never actually there, due to a minor production glitch. That sort of thing used to happen from time to time, but sadly it doesn’t make the comic any more valuable. (Once, I got a copy of Marvel UK’s The Avengers that had two covers! I could have cashed in on it, sold my story to the newspapers and written a torrid tell-all book, but instead I cut the characters out of the spare cover and stuck them on my bedroom wall. In hindsight, I still believe I made the right choice.)
“The Sludgemouth Sloggers” feature on the cover. In their strip inside they’re described as “human freaks,” which seems a tad cruel. That chap leaping out of the water is not one of the Sloggers, though: he’s a member of a rival team, though given the fact that it’s not immediately obvious whether he has his back or his front towards us — neither nipples nor navel — maybe he should be the one with the appellation “freak.” Just sayin’. I mean, the Sloggers’ only obvious claim to freakdom here is that three of them are wearing non-regulation swimming head-gear. Seriously, a policeman’s helmet in the water? That’s got to be a liability.
Inside the comic’s thirty-six pages, we’re treated to fifteen strips, one text story, and one page of cartoons. Not bad for only 3p! (In today’s decimalised, digital, pre-post-Brexit, austerity-enabled modern money that translates to about 41p, or €0.47, or US$0.55.)
Von Hoffman’s Invasion (3 pages)
Art by Eric Bradbury
Crazy German scientist Doktor Von Hoffman has created a gas that can enlarge any creature, and he uses this gas to create giant insects that will attack Britain in retaliation for WWII, the way you do. In this episode, Von Hoffman has set his giant woodlice on a small English town, but the military are on the case. It’s all a bit mad, and probably not scientifically accurate, but really good fun, especially when the Doctor (sorry, I mean, “Doktor”) orders one of his giant woodlice to roll into a ball in order to pursue a fleeing staff-car. See, the gas also makes the enlarged creatures obey Von Hoffman’s verbal commands (presumably their enlarged brains allow them to learn English very quickly, albeit English spoken in a thick German accent).
One aspect that I particularly enjoyed are the three separate references to woodlice as “cheese-logs.” I’d never encountered that particular phrase before, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, “cheeselog” is a common name for the bugs in Reading, England, but in other parts of the country they’re called anything from “monkey-peas” to “gramersow.” My wife has always called them “slaters” which is apparently common in Scotland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, even though she has never been to any of those countries, except Scotland and Northern Ireland. (Rusty Staples: come for the comics, leave with esoteric info about the names of bugs!)
Faceache (1 page)
Art by Ken Reid
Faceache is one of my all-time favourite comic characters, and right here in Jet is where he started. He’s the boy who can contort his face into any number of shapes, an act often accompanied by the awesome sound-effect “Scrunge!” Not many people know that in the beginning “Faceache” was just the name of the strip, not the character: in issue 1 of Jet he introduced himself to the readers as Ricky Rubberneck, but that name was quickly forgotten.
In this issue, Faceache’s dad wants to rent a “week-end cottage” so Faceache decides, for some unspecified reason, to check it out. But when he reaches the cottage he sees it’s already in the process of being rented to Old Gabriel Wurzel, worst luck. Faceache decides to pretend to be a “wicked ‘obgoblin” in order to scare Mr Wurzel away. Naturally, this doesn’t work out and Faceache gets into the scrapiest of scrapes. Not great, story-wise (though I was very taken with the caption that reads, “But a millionth fraction of a split-century later…”), but the art is immaculate, packed Ken Reid’s always-incredible expressions and gorgeous detail. By far the stand-out strip in this issue!
The Sludgemouth Sloggers (2 pages)
Art by Douglas MaxtedOK, so, stars of this week’s cover are, apparently, a team of some kind. Possibly a football team, though there’s no actual mention of football in this episode so please don’t hold me to that. One of the team is a police officer, another is some sort of hillbilly (but the English equivalent, so he’d be a “Hilliam-William”), another is a super-strong blacksmith (I’m guessing: his name is Charlie Anvil so either he’s a blacksmith or he supplies bird-trapping equipment to coyotes). They all hail from a small, impoverished holiday-resort town called Sludgemouth and in order to put their town on the map, and thus somehow save it, they’re competing in a world-wide competition called “What-A-Lark” (which, coincidentally, is a nonagram of “It’s a Knockout”).
As the episode opens they’re already in the middle of competing against against a French team from the town of Sur-La-Mer (which is French for “That Sounds Like the Name of a French Town, Doesn’t it?”), and they’re winning the wheelbarrow race. But not all is well: the French team are excellent swimmers and they utterly trounce the Sloggers in the Pall-Pushing Nose Race, and next up is the Water-Polo-Match. If the Sloggers don’t win this, they’ll be out of the competition! But, tragically, at that very moment the story comes to an end and we’re left hanging.
The Dwarf (3½ pages)
The Dwarf is not a character with which I’m familiar, but he looks and behaves rather like The Spider. We’re told he’s a “fantastic arch-criminal” who has made himself “king of London’s underworld.”
As this episode opens, he’s just stolen a very, very large ferris wheel from a fairground though there’s no immediately clear reason for this audacious theft. Could it be that The Dwarf was offended that the artist apparently drew the ferris wheel without using any references or ever having actually seen one? No, it turns out that — as correctly surmised by Superintendent Smarmy of Scotland Yard — The Dwarf is planning to use the ferris wheel in an even more outrageous crime. The Dwarf breaks the fourth wall: ‘Old Smarmy’s smarter than he looks, “Jet” readers! I am about to commit the crime of the century!’
By the way, “Rusty Staples” readers, we’re still only half a page into this episode of The Dwarf. There are three more pages to go, and it doesn’t get any less nuts.
At this point, The Dwarf is inside the giant wheel as it trundles along the streets, and he’s fitting it with a propeller to provide power and allow him to steer it.
Also at this point, your reviewer realises that not only has the artist of this strip never seen a ferris wheel, he is totally bereft of even the wispiest scent of a clue how they work.
Twice more throughout the tale, our antihero addresses the “Jet” readers (and always with the name of the comic in quotes like that). Now, it’s a comic-book tradition for villains to talk to themselves so that we readers can overhear them, but when they address us directly… That’s unsettling. If The Dwarf knows we’re reading the comic then surely he should be concerned that we might rat him out to the police. But he’s not bothered about that at all, which has me worried that he’s made certain assurances. I mean, he’s a genius so how do we know he hasn’t invented a way to look out of the comic and into the lives of the people reading it?
Crazy Car Capers (2 pages)
Art by Solano LopezI doubt that there was a single reader of Jet who didn’t immediately think “Wacky Races” the moment they first encountered this strip. The basic idea: there’s a race around Britain for “unusual cars” and the prize is an utterly astonishing, life-changing cash sum of — wait for it — one hundred thousand pounds! No, I shouldn’t do that — that’s unfair: £100,000 in 1971 is the equivalent of £1,370,739.35 in 2018, which is a pretty hefty amount.
Amongst the contestants are British racers Bulldog Brown, Paddy O’Toole, Mac Macintosh and Dai Williams. Yes. Let’s just let that one slide by unchallenged for the moment, shall we, and move on? In this episode, the racers are about to cross the border into Scotland. Bulldog — driving a coal-powered car — is in the lead, but he falls foul of a very large, very hairy, very kilt-wearing chap called Wullie Watson who wants to welcome him to Scotland by force-feeding him a porridge sandwich. Bulldog tries to escape, but Watson grabs hold of the car and single-handedly overturns it, spilling out both Bulldog and all of his coal.
Meanwhile, Mac Macintosh — driving what looks like the offspring of a VW bus and a set of bagpipes — is in last place, just behind foreigners Abdul Zorang, Cheng Li and Guppenopulus. He spots that there are sheep in the fields ahead, so — remembering that his father had been a shepherd, he stops his car and uses his “son of a shepherd” powers to bellow an order to the sheep to block the road. This, not surprisingly, works, and Mac is able to overtake the others by short-cutting his way through a field.
Then we cut to Paddy and Dai, neck-and-neck. Dai’s car features a daffodil-shaped propeller, and Paddy’s car is a cluster of three spheres presumably meant to represent a shamrock. You can see it in the image above, alongside Bulldog’s car. Paddy uses those stereotypical Irish words “Begorrah” and “Bedad.” And let’s stop there. Still half a page to go, but I’ve taken all I can of this wacky-racist nonsense.
Sergeants Four (4 pages)
Art by Fred Holmes
It’s World War II, and four sergeants have been formed into a special commando unit called “Sergeants Four” — a name that just trips off the tongue with all the fluidity and grace of a giraffe trying to manoeuvre a concrete sofa onto a bus.
The sergeants are, as you can see from the image here, Alf Higgs, Taffy Jones, Jock McGill and Paddy O’Boyle. They have to race around Britain in order to win the huge cash prize of… no, wait, that’s the other mildly jingoistic strip that features one character from each of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Until I see something that proves otherwise, I’m going to be charitable and assume that Paddy O’Toole from “Crazy Car Capers” and Sergeant Paddy O’Boyle from “Sergeants Four” both hail from Northern Ireland which in 1971 was (and still is at the time of writing) part of the United Kingdom, and not from the Republic of Ireland which is an entirely separate country. See: history books.
This episode opens with the introductory caption telling us that the Sergeants Four had only ever been taken prisoner once, and indeed we’re soon treated to the sight of them being captured outside a prisoner-of-war camp. And then — we get a flashback! Turns out that the Sergeants Four have gotten themselves captured on purpose because the camp is holding Air Marshal Smythe who has disguised himself as a private. Lucky he did that, because otherwise the Jerries would have sent him to Air Marshals’ Prison, which probably wasn’t built on top of an old weapons cache like this one accidentally but conveniently was.
Once installed in the camp, the Sergeants Four challenge their captors to a show of physical strength, which culminates in O’Boyle clumsily crashing the telephone pole he’s been lifting into a guard tower, demolishing it completely because German prisoner-of-war-camp guard towers were notoriously flimsily constructed. The Sergeants are ordered to build a new tower, but, you see, this is actually part of their plan because that tower just happened to be directly over that hidden secret forgotten weapons cache! And so they dig up the weapons and fight their way out, freeing all the prisoners in one go.
It’s played for laughs, mostly, and aside from O’Boyle’s outbursts of “Begorrah” and “Bejabers” and the reference to the Germans as “Squareheads” it’s fairly inoffensive stuff. Forgettable enough that we’re sadly not likely to see a gritty modern take on it written by Garth Ennis.
Paddy McGinty’s Goat (2 pages)
Just the title is enough to have me breaking out into a cold sweat. “Paddy McGinty’s Goat” is an old diddly-idle song written in 1917 and made famous by, among others, Saturday-evening TV crooner Val Doonican.
In the song, Paddy McGinty buys a goat with the idea that he’ll be able to milk it, but it turns out that the goat is male because fictitious Irish characters are generally good-natured and well-intentioned, but a bit thick. (Only the fictitious Irish men, that is: fictitious Irish women are wily, vivacious and free-spirited, but that’s all just a mask for what they really want, which is a strong man to tell them what to do. Such casual racism is long gone now, though, unless you count the BBC TV show Casualty, which even in 2018 presents every Irish character as a hot-headed drunkard.) So, anyway, no milk for Paddy. Instead, the goat gets up to all sorts of humorous though unlikely adventures, with different crooners of the song adding new, more topical verses or just tweaking the lines here and there to suit their own needs and agendas. A bit like how some people change the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” from “Maybe there’s a God above” to “I know that there’s a God above.” Grr!
Anyway… in this strip, Paddy (apparently no relation to Paddies O’Toole or O’Boyle from previous strips) has a pet goat that’s really a sapient shape-shifting alien from the planet Ven. In this episode, the school headmaster has forced Paddy’s uncle Shamus to sell the goat. No clues are given as to how or why the headmaster is involved, nor how he has such power over Uncle Shamus, nor why Paddy himself wasn’t consulted on this transaction. Uncle Shamus sold the faux-goat to Tug Grimes’s father, who sold him to a pet-shop for five pounds (doesn’t seem like a large sum now, but in 1971 five pounds was enough to buy 166.67 copies of Jet, or one shape-shifting alien goat), and the bloke at the pet-shop sold it to a farmer who was heading for Scotland.
Paddy manages to find the farmer, but the alien — who apparently doesn’t have a name and Paddy never thought to give him one — has escaped by turning into a mouse. It promptly gets hit by a car and knocked into a ditch, where it reverts to its true form, a sort of cross-hatched ghost-cat that, eerily, lacks an outline.
I don’t know where this strip is supposed to be set, but if the farmer is taking the alien-goat to Scotland, we can assume that Paddy and his uncle don’t already live in Scotland. The first issue of Jet names the location as “Boggymorra” which could be the sort of place-name someone who’s never been to Ireland might think sounded Irish, plus in that issue Uncle Shamus uses the phrase “Great Blisterin’ Blarneys!” which, again, sounds like an exclamation that some people might wrongly imagine an Irish person would say. But then again, usually only non-Irish people spell “Shamus” like that: it should be “Seamus” or “Séamus.” My own suspicion is that if you’ve read this entire paragraph, you’ve already spent more time thinking about it than the writer did.
The Kids of Stalag 41 (2 pages)
Art by Tony Goffe
Ah, now, this is more like it! Imagine “The Bash Street Kids” crossed with Colditz. That’s really all I need to say about the premise, I think. It’s all in colour, being the middle pages of the comic. That was standard IPC format for the era: covers and middle-pages in colour, and only on very special occasions did we get colour on the inside, which was usually if there was a colour full-page ad to offset the cost: this is why it was called “offset” printing. (No, it’s not.)
It’s World War II, again, and Kolonel Klaus Schtink is senior red-coat of Stalag 41, a POW camp that, inexplicably, is packed with British children. Male children, that is. No girls allowed in this strip! The kids have purloined a radio transmitter and are using it to contact the British Army HQ in London.
The Gestapo know that radio signals are emanating from Stalag 41, so they show up to intimidate Kolonel Schtink (Hmm… I wonder what sort of nick-name the British kids might give the Kolonel?). But the kids hide their radio in Schtink’s office, which — spoiler — causes the Gestapo to think suspect that Schtink is the spy. The end.
Silly stuff, but good fun. The Gestapo are satisfyingly horrible and the art is very nice indeed. I was disappointed that none of the kids are called “Paddy” so I shall be writing a letter of complaint to the editor.
Bala the Briton (3 pages)
In this fantasy adventure story set “Long Ago” Bala, son of Haral, is on a quest to find his father, Haral, father of Bala.
As we join the tale Bala and another hero, Magor, are under attack by a fire-breathing dragon, which looks sort of like a Dimetrodon, those dinosaurs with the spiny sail on their backs. Bala and Magor are on a side-quest to obtain one of the dragon’s fangs, because by law all fantasy stories are like a jigsaw puzzle: you have to go around collecting a bunch of pieces that hopefully will fit together to make a complete image. Unfortunately, almost every fantasy story has the same pieces so there’s not much scope for variation in the final picture.
Bala and Magor attempt to sneak up on the dragon by climbing up a cliff-face, but the creature attacks! Bala’s in trouble, but Magor turns out to be a complete coward and he legs it. Luckily, Bala spots a nearby very large and very pointy sticky-up rock, lassos it with his rope, and calls upon the “Warrior Gods” to “Put extra strength into my arm” as he attempts to pull it down. This day, the Gods smile upon Bala — or at the very least, they smirk — and he’s able to pull the pointy rock down upon the dragon, killing it.
Later, after Bala has scrumped the fang from the dead dragon’s mouth, he falls into a trap set by Magor on the grounds that he feared Bala would rat him out as a coward. Magor grabs the fang and does a runner, leaving Bala about to fall into a very deep lava pit.
Art-wise, this isn’t bad. I don’t recognise the artist, though there’s something familiar about the style that I can’t quite place. If I were to rate “Bala the Briton” out of ten, then this would be a very different sort of blog, so I won’t.
Jest a Minute! (cartoons, 1 page)
Readers send in jokes and they can win £1 if their joke is turned into a cartoon and printed. £1 was a lot of money back in 1971. Enough to buy 33.33 copies of Jet, should they feel the need (which I guess they might, if it’s the issue in which their joke is printed). For the sake of comparison… A copy of 2000AD currently costs of £2.75, so that’s the equivalent of winning a whopping £91.76!
The cartoon in this issue are all rubbish, by the way, with the exception of this one which isn’t funny but by all the Mighty Warrior Gods, it’s clever:
Well done, R. Machin, of Stockport, Chesh.! Hope you spent your pound frivolously!
Adare’s Anglians (3 pages)
It says here, “England had been knocked out of the World Cup by a freak goal, and New Anglia, a tiny British island in the Atlantic, vowed to take up England’s cause.”
Ah, football! Or “soccer” as our American friends call it. It’s a game of two halves, so it is, and one of them is over the parrot while the other one is sick as a moon. Or something. I’ve no understanding of the game and less interest in it, but I understand that some people do have a great love for it. You can find every aspect of life in a game of football, its fans often declare: drama, tragedy, adventure, excitement, sorrow, heartbreak, love, comedy, danger, romance… But it seems to me that there’s a lot of life’s experiences you won’t find in a game of football: shaving, driving, trying not to keep saying the word “bomb” when you’re at the airport, eating peanut-butter on toast, watching snooker…
At the start of this episode, the New Anglia team are in Germany and Big Rufus Clamp, who is their centre-half (a football term, I suspect) has been given a car and is driving it through the streets even though he’s never driven before. Hmm. Fair enough… But he doesn’t know how to stop it and drives through a red light because he doesn’t understand what traffic lights are. Double-hmm. Maybe in New Anglia they don’t have traffic at all. The German police show up and arrest him, as well as two more players who attempt to intervene. They all get locked up, which is unfortunate timing as they’re due to play Yugoslavia the next day, but the judge is inconveniently out of town, and the vicar’s coming round for tea! No, wait, not that last part.
The one nice thing about this one is that the Germans (making their fourth appearance in this comic) are presented in a positive light, which is quite rare for a British comic of this era. They’re friendly, polite and sympathetic to the team’s situation, and the judge even wishes them luck at the game. I like that!
Ad for Texaco Flyer (1 page)
Texaco Flyers were kites, and you could get the Texaco Flyers kit for only 15p! It says, “Next time you’re out in the car with dad, get him to call in at a Texaco station, and you can be part of it.” Said kit contains a kite, some string, a badge and a log-book. Setting aside the errant apostrophes, it doesn’t say what you’re supposed to do if your mother is the one driving the car. Probably there was a Lady Texaco station where she could fill up her pink girl-car with petrollina.
It’s a Weird World (text story, 2 pages)
The entire first page of this story is a single illustration, what we in the business now call a “splash page” and it shows a WWII aircraft shedding its load over some mountains… and the accompanying caption tells us that “crates packed full of dollar bank-notes rained down from the plane.”
The story itself is the supposedly true tale of the crew of a C-46 Curtiss Commando, a twin-engined transport plane that got into difficulties over the Himalayas in 1945… while it was carrying forty million US dollars in cash. Yes, you’ve guessed it, dear “Rusty Staples” readers, it’s time for me to break out the statistics once again! US$40,000,000 in 1945 is equivalent to US$556,768,888.89 today. Over half a billion dollars! In Euros, that’s €473,115,934.65, or £415,455,558.10 in British money, enough to buy 151,074,748.4 copies of 2000AD.
Kester Kidd (3 pages)
Another sports strip. How come there were never any comic strips about the things I liked to do when I was a kid? Reading comics, not understanding girls, running away from bullies, daydreaming about what life would be like in the year 2000, and waiting for my super-powers to kick in.
In this one, the improbably-named Kester Kidd is being trained by a bloke called Barney Grumshott to be a world-class athlete just because. No idea whether Kester is an orphan, but if Jet were a girls’ comic he certainly would be. Either that, or he’d be a pony. Anyway, right now Kester and Barney are stranded on a tropical island with Doktor Mutter, “Villainous sports director of the Republic of Spotzania.” They don’t have to tell us he’s a villain: it’s obvious, because he spells “Doctor” with a K in place of the C. Trust me, no hero would ever do that. See “Von Hoffman’s Invasion” for proof.
They’re in a dungeon or something and there’s a tribe of locals here too, though for some reason the locals are cosplaying as Native Americans (but this was before the term “cosplaying” was invented: back then it was known as “dressing up”). There’s also a giant gorilla causing trouble. Got to be honest, I couldn’t get into this one at all. I tried and failed to read it four times, so I just gave up.
Bertie Bumpkin (1 page)
Art by Terry Bave
In the grand tradition of “Good-natured Simpleton English Characters who Live in the Country,” Bertie’s dialogue is punctuated with “Oo-ar” noises and he refers to himself as “Oi” — I think it’s supposed to be a West Country accent, but given that I’m not entirely sure where the West Country is, and I’m too lazy to look it up, I could be wrong.
This week, Bertie is proud of the giant marrer (marrow) he’s grown and is optimistic that it’ll win the Fruit and Vegetables Contest at the village hall. His unnamed neighbour is envious and throws a stick past the marrow, thus causing his dog Annie to chase after it, destroying the marrow in the process because Annie apparently lacks either the ability, the will or the common sense to jump. Bertie’s not too upset, though, and this encourages the neighbour to believe that Bertie has a hidden allotment somewhere. Cue standard hi-jinks.
The art is cute and suitable — I particularly liked the rendition of Annie, and there’s some very nice foreshortening which you don’t see much of in cartoon strips — but there’s not much else to make “Bertie Bumpkin” stand out.
Partridge’s Patch (2 pages)
Art by Mike Western (I think)
Remember the TV show Heartbeat? Well, this strip is like that. Friendly copper on patrol in a quiet country village, the sort of place where on the average day the most exciting thing that might happen is a dog accidentally destroying a marrow.
PC Tom Partridge and his dog operate in Barnleigh, and today’s adventure deals with the fabled Golden Axe of Bayeux, apparently once owned by William the Conqueror. It was found in the region and is about to be displayed at the County Show, but despite the heavy police presence — PC Partridge, his boss Inspector Brindle, another officer who appears to be Brindle’s boss, and Partridge’s dog — someone has the audacity to steal a solid-gold axe.
I don’t want to spoil how it all turns out, but I suspect that it’s probably against regulations for an officer of the law to instruct his police dog to attack a propeller-driven aircraft long enough for the officer to hot-wire a tractor and trundle it slowly into the plane. Oh yes. They don’t make comics like this any more!
Carno’s Cadets (2 pages)
By coincidence, the second-last strip in this issue of Jet is also the penultimate one. “Carno’s Cadets” is about a squad of army cadets based a small island off the south coast of England. They don’t have much time for proper cadet stuff because they’re busy dealing with an alien invasion.
In this episode, the alien leader — an oversized disembodied brain — has recruited some convicts from a prison. The leader of the convicts is nick-named “Bent Ear” because he has a mangled ear, and you can tell they’re convicts because they all wear striped jumpers. The alien leader gives them a weapon: the Fork of Shivering Doom which is basically a tuning fork that can zap things from a distance and destroy them thanks to vibrations.
We only get two pages of this strip, so there’s not much I can tell you about the cadets themselves. There’s one wearing a turban and apparently with dark skin, and I think that Carno himself is supposed to be Australian — he exclaims “Sink me in billabong, sports!” when his rifle gets zapped by the Fork of Shivering Doom — and in the next panel we see that one of the other cadets is possibly of Nepalese origin: “By the power of the Gurkha Top-knot…” There’s also a cadet with curly hair and round glasses in the background of one panel: he’s not named or given any lines, but I bet you his nick-name is “Brains.”
The Red Devils (1 page)
Art by Ian Kennedy
So, the last strip and it’s on the back page… and it’s in colour! And best of all, it was drawn by Ian Kennedy, one of the absolutely indisputable greats of British comics.
I can’t tell from the strip itself whether this was a one-off or an ongoing tale. A one-off seems likely: it’s presented as fact, not fiction, so it could be that this is a single episode in a series of similar true-life tales. Still, this fifth appearance by the Germans in this issue stands out chiefly because of the fantastic art.
Jet clearly didn’t sell well, and it’s not hard to see why it failed. “Faceache” aside, there’s little memorable about it despite some of the obvious talent. It doesn’t help that it’s all kind of tame, even with the giant woodlice and the shape-changing alien and more Germans than you would have the courage to shake a stick at.
It doesn’t help that this comic hails from the era when comics were even more chromosomally divided than they are now: except for the titles aimed at the youngest of kids, comics were aimed very clearly at either girls or boys. There was no middle-ground, and even the ostensibly humorous titles like Whoopee!, The Dandy, Whizzer and Chips and that lot that could have bridged the divide always featured a lot more male characters than female characters. A lot more. Everyone remembers Minnie the Minx and Beryl the Peril and, um… That’s about it.
As for Jet‘s lack of females, if you’ll bear with me a few minutes, I’m going to count them… Right. Including the crowd scenes, there are approximately 266 recognisable and distinct characters in this issue of Jet (some of the crowds are just circles for heads: I didn’t count those people!). Of those, seven are presumably female, though of those seven, three of them we can only see from behind so I’m judging by their hairstyles. And only two female characters have any dialogue: one in “Paddy McGinty’s Goat” and another in “Bertie Bumpkin.”
I’m not sure whether I should blame the publishers for this, or society. Certainly, if any of my peers had caught me reading a comic with female characters I would have been mercilessly teased, if not worse. (I was once beaten-up because I borrowed J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy from the school library. The bullies’ logic works like this: The title includes a girl’s name, therefore “Get him!”)
Jet was folded into the worryingly cannibalistic Buster, and as you can see from the masthead of that first merged issue, the “Buster” logo is a lot larger than the “Jet” logo. Every reader knew what that meant: Buster was the top dog here, and in mere months Jet would disappear entirely — it would have to make room on the masthead for the comic Buster was currently regarding with ravenous eyes. But, strangely, “Jet” remained part of the title until shortly before Cor!! was fed into the beast in June 1974.
Which, statistics fans, means that Jet survived over six times longer as part of the Buster masthead than it did on its own. That’s a legacy of sorts, right?