Pocket-Money Comics: Hotspur

The New Hotspur / The Hotspur / Hotspur
Publisher: DC Thomson
First issue: 24 October 1959
Last issue: 23 January 1981
Issues: 1110
Relaunch of: The Hotspur

new hotspur #1

True story: one of my friends refused to buy this comic because he thought that by doing so he would be supporting the football team Tottenham Hotspur. We tried to convince him that was just a baseless conspiracy theory, but he wasn’t willing to take the chance.

Hotspur was one of those comics that hung around forever but didn’t really leave a huge impression. Back in the 1970s it always seemed to me that it was forever in the shadow of its more exciting siblings The Victor and The Hornet, and until yesterday (when I read the copy we’ll be looking at today) I would have been hard-pressed to name more than a couple of its strips off the top of my head.

But before we go too much further, let’s get one very important thing out of the way first: the question that we all asked ourselves when we were kids, but which we never actually got around to finding out…

What the blinkin’ heck is a Hotspur?

Well, chums, according to my dictionary a Hotspur is “a violent, rash man like Henry Percy (1364-1403), so nicknamed.” Now, I’d never heard of Henry Percy — all I know about him is that he was thirty-nine when he died (which I figured out by subtracting 1364 from 1403), and that he had two first names, like Dick Tracy or John Wayne or James Herbert or Michael Carroll (wait, no, not that last one) — so I looked him up. He was an English nobleman nicknamed Sir Harry Hotspur, or sometimes just Hotspur, and was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury.

He also appears in Henry IV part 1, which is pretty cool because that’s the play that most proper scholars seem to think is Shakespeare’s best. It was so successful that even decades later Harry Hotspur and the other characters were able to earn a comfortable living charging for autographs at play-cons (history records that the characters were always given much more prominent billing than the poor buggers who actually wrote the plays, who usually found themselves tucked away in draughty, seldom-visited end of the convention hall).

So… Hotspur is a comic named after a Shakespeare character. That might seem a touch strange, but it wasn’t the last time DC Thomson would do that: from 1957 to 1974 they published the romance comic Romeo. Plus there’s also their reprint title Red Dagger (1979 to 1984), a copy of which I see before me.

hotspurv1Anyway. The original Hotspur was launched on 2 September 1933, a story-paper that gradually transformed into a comic. It was one of DC Thomson’s “Big Five” titles (the others being Adventure, The Rover, The Skipper and The Wizard: for lots more info on these and other DC Thomson titles see the DC Thomson Comics Timeline on this very blog!), and clocked up 1197 issues over twenty-six years before it was relaunched as The New Hotspur in October 1959.

new hotspur #174The New Hotspur didn’t quite live as long as its progenitor, but still made it to a pretty respectable twenty-two years. Its title reverted to The Hotspur with issue #174 (16 February 1963), then the definite article was dropped with issue 882 (11 September 1976) and it became Hotspur.

Ultimately it was absorbed by its more successful stable-mate The Victor in January 1981, which itself had dropped the definite article in 1973. (I’m sure you’ll be as astonished as I was to discover that there are no Shakespearean characters called Victor. How the heck did he miss that one? Half a dozen Antonios, four Balthazars and one character called Bottom, but no Victor?)

new hotspur #882The original Hotspur never absorbed any other titles, but its second incarnation consumed The Hornet (648 issues, from 14 September 1963 to 7 February 1976) and The Crunch (54 issues, from 20 January 1979 to 26 January 1980).

The comic at which we’re looking today is from that second incarnation of Hotspur. I do own an issue of the first version, but to be frank it’s tough going. Page after page of small-type text relieved by the occasional illustration that serves as a tantalising glimpse of what might have been had it been a proper comic, plus ads for things that are now long out of fashion, like stamps or tonic or rickets.

The issues of The New Hotspur in my possession are a lot closer to the modern-day comic, albeit the standard British anthology format: multiple strips with only a few pages each. All in black and white, too, except for a tiny dash of spot-colour grudgingly doled out like one of those weirdos who opens a box of chocolates, takes one out, then puts the box away for next week. (If you know someone who indulges in that sort of behaviour, it’s your duty to report them.)

This is issue #989 of Hotspur, cover-dated September 30th 1978:

hotspur #989-01

Our 7p cover-price gets us eight stories and one feature in thirty-two pages, with full colour only on the front and back covers. Like most DC Thomson titles of the era, the pages are bound with glue rather than staples, which means that the back-issues don’t suffer from those annoying rust-spots at the spine (it also means that in an alternative reality this blog is called Flaky Glue).

And also like most DC Thomson titles of the era, the creators of the strips within are uncredited. I’ve ranted about this before, as well you know, so I won’t do so again. Except to say that hiding the creative team was the done thing at the time.

 

Bouncing Briggs
(4 pages, black and white)

hotspur bouncing briggs

Bernard Briggs is an amateur all-round sportsman who does occasional repair work in order to raise some money, such as the eight pounds he owes for the rent on the disused railway signal box he’s been using as a gym. Bernard’s recently acquired a lot of sporting equipment, which is lucky because while getting into shape for his latest sport — the pole-vault — he accidentally drops some weightlifting-type weights and they smash through the floor.

hotspur bouncing briggs 2

The landperson (or it could be just some random guy who happens to be in the room beneath: Bernard doesn’t act like he knows him) immediately estimates the damage to be at least forty pounds, but even though Bernard knows that it wasn’t his fault — the floorboards must be rotten — he declines the opportunity to stand up for himself and figures he should try to sell some of his surplus equipment to raise the money.

Off he goes to the local posh golf club carrying a bag of golf bats. Here, while testing said golf racquets, he accidentally breaks a window because the golf sticks are all left-handed. So, that’s more damage for which he has to pay.

Luckily, club member Colonel Hanson offers to buy the left-handed golf paddles for fifty pounds. That broken window costs twenty pounds to repair, but that still leaves Bernard with a profit of thirty: not quite enough to pay the forty quid repair bill for the floor of his disused railway signal box. (And there’s still that pesky eight quid he owes for the rent!)

Fortunately, Bernard spots that the golf club’s collection of caddy-cars (wheeled things upon which the players drag around their golf bags) are all broken. He offers to repair them for fifty pence a go. There are two dozen of them, so multiply that by fifty pence and you get twelve pounds.

By my estimate, that still leaves him six quid short, but there’s still another two pages left to go of this ultra-low-stakes sports-equipment-based accounting drama. However, for some reason I just can’t summon any more enthusiasm to write about it and have left Bernard behind, simultaneously practising his pole-vaulting and his inability to grow a backbone.

 

The Big Palooka
(3½ pages, black and white)

hotspur big palooka

This is a whodunnit tale that invites the readers to guess the mystery ahead of the title character, an army investigator solving a murder in Germany at the end of the second world war.

The character of Jim Ransom originated in The Big Stiff — a text story that first appeared in The Wizard in 1958 — as an officer of the British CID, set in then-contemporary times. In 1965, Jim was transferred to New York and given the new nickname The Big Palooka when his story moved to The Hornet and got turned into a comic. This latest WWII-era version jumps back into Jim’s past when he was a Commando Sergeant working for SIDAP, the Special Investigation Division, Allied Powers.

hotspur big palooka 2
That’s the Big Palooka himself on the very right of the panel, and judging by the position of his left hand, he’s standing uncomfortably close to the chap in the armchair.

In this adventure, a crook called Hans Klemitz is murdered on the rubble-strewn midnight streets of a German city (probably Berlin, but the story doesn’t specify). We see this murder — although we don’t see the killer’s face — in an above-the-logo panel, which is the comics equivalent of a pre-title sequence in a TV show. Actually, you can witness the murder for yourself by scrolling back up this article and looking at the cover because that’s the exact same panel, just cropped a little and with added colour.

A witness claims that the murderer is Ivan Denikov, an important-looking Russian army guy. A better reader than I would probably be able to tell you Denikov’s rank judging by his uniform, but that’s outside my area of expertise. However, I know he’s important because he has a shaved head.

The investigation leads Jim to Denikov’s hotel, where the guy on reception disputes Demikov’s claim that he never left his quarters. This is corroborated by Karl, the porter, who says that Denikov left the hotel after he brought up a note. Out on the streets, Jim interviews the murder witness who again confirms that Klemitz’s killer was Denikov, because he recognised Denikov’s greatcoat and hat. Rather than take the blindingly obvious next step — asking the witness if he actually saw Denikov’s face — Jim carries on with the investigation.

You won’t be at all surprised — as I wasn’t — to learn that the killer was someone else wearing Denikov’s coat and hat. It was Karl, the porter, because the strip follows the TV detective rule which dictates that the perpetrator must turn out to be a seemingly minor background character from very early in the investigation — but only if that character was given a line of dialogue.

Even setting aside the unlikelihood of Denikov being the only Russian army chap in the whole city who’s brought his greatcoat with him — and this information being common knowledge to any potential witnesses — I like to think that even I, not necessarily the world’s smartest kid, would have figured out that it’s possible for one person to wear another person’s clothes (“Nec iudicatur homo a togam,” as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar might have said, but didn’t).

 

Kiowa Creek Ain’t There
(4 pages, black and white)

hotspur kiowa creek

A western! Jubal Smith, teenage Deputy Marshal, discovered that his town of Kiowa Creek disappeared for a few weeks before reappearing seven miles away from where it should have been. Not only that, but it was now a ghost town whose inhabitants had all died from typhoid two years ago!

As this episode opens, Jubal and his partner — notorious outlaw Doc Sarn — have broken into the mansion of State Secretary Nathaniel Windrush because their previous attempts to speak to him about the town have been thwarted. But Windrush’s guard dogs and guard humans have caught them!

hotspur kiowa creek 2Luckily, Windrush is more inclined to listen to them than to kill them on sight. The guards think they recognise Doc Sarn, but Jubal tells them that the doc is his uncle and guardian. Windrush promises to speak to them in the morning, and asks his guards to show them to their rooms. As Doc Sarn prepares settle down in his room, the guards make him an offer…

Next morning, Jubal and Doc are brought to Windrush’s office to relate the story of Kiowa Creek. Also present are Doctor Platt, who looks like Colonel Saunders, and Deputy Rambold, who doesn’t. Platt listens to Jubal’s story, and then starts asking awkward questions about this “disappearing town.” Next thing we know, Jubal’s being herded out of the room by the deputy, destined for the State Asylum, and Doc Sarn’s receiving a pay-off of a hundred dollars for giving them permission to lock him up.

But it’s not all plain sailing for Doc Sarn after this… Windrush’s guards escort him off their land, but it’s a double-cross: they can’t let him live because he knows too much about the asylum — plus, they know who he really is! The doc reckons he can out-shoot them, but then they reveal that they’ve taken the gunpowder out of his bullets — what a cliff-hanger!

I don’t mind admitting that I loved this strip. I don’t mean I loved it back in 1978 when it was published: I loved it yesterday when I pulled the comic out to review it for this article. Its core concept is pretty strange, but it’s handled really well and the artwork is very nice indeed. I really want to see more of it, and find out how it ends. Cracking stuff!

 

No War for Wilbur
(3 pages, black and white)

hotspur no war for wilbur

Once again, it’s World War II, and this time our hero is Wilbur Watson, a cowboy who is also a great pilot, but who was turned down by the R.A.F. because of, it says here, his lack of book learning. Oh yes. Wilbur ends up working for the Air Transport Auxiliary, who presumably have lower standards and/or a cowboy quota that needs to be filled. Unfortunately, Wilbur keeps getting inadvertently involved in the war.

I don’t whether Wilbur really is supposed to be a cowboy or he’s just someone who thinks that he is, but I’m guessing it’s the former because the latter would be much more interesting.

In this tale, Wilbur is given the job to delivering a Wellington F-Fox (a big airplane) back to its squadron after numerous repair jobs. Seems this particular plane has a history of random wonkiness and is, to be frank, a bit of a pain in the R.A.F.

One of the plane’s engines spontaneously comes to life and almost turns Group-Captain Clegg into a new coat of paint for the airfield, but Wilbur manages to save him. Then Wilbur and his pal take off, but the plane’s rudder jams, then its radio breaks, then the compass goes haywire and puts them way off course… They end up almost gate-crashing a German air-strike on a fleet of civilian ships. The Wellington can’t help the fleet because it’s unarmed, but they can’t change course because the blasted thing has broken again, worst luck.

When the Germans see the rapidly approaching Wellington they break off their attack and attempt to shoot it down, but its very brokenness means they can’t predict its path. Two of the Ju 88s collide with each other, and the third flees. The fleet is saved, and Wilbur delivers the Wellington to its squadron as ordered.

But here comes the twist…

hotspur no war for wilbur 2
See that giant thought bubble across the bottom of the panel? Well, there’s one of those on just about every page of this comic. An oversized caption that tells us what’s already happening or makes an observation about the action. Occasionally comics of the era would have a line of text across the top of the page that fulfilled a similar role, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it embedded into the page before. Very strange indeed!

Turns out that the R.A.F. didn’t really want the plane back because of all its “gremlins” have caused them so much trouble — they’d hoped that Wilbur would inadvertently destroy it. This he failed to do, but luckily the once-fleeing Ju 88 returns and bombs the crap out of it, so the day is saved. Hooray!

OK. A few thoughts about this one.

First off… What? Even if Wilbur does actually come from cowboy stock, why isn’t he wearing a uniform appropriate for his job?

Second: They couldn’t just mothball the plane? Cannibalise it for spare parts? Keep it on the ground and use it for training purposes? I mean, this was an era where kids were encouraged to “help the war effort” by collecting waste paper — including their precious comic collections — and yet here’s an entire aircraft that the R.A.F. want to put in the bin.

And third… The other Ju 88 bombs the airfield and destroys the Wellington, and no one saw it coming? And they just let it fly away afterwards without even trying to shoot it down?

 

Dan’l Sprockett
(2 pages, spot-colouring)

hotspur danl sprockett

This one’s a humorous strip, and the recipient of the comic’s coveted centre pages — and the accompanying spot-colour! In this case, that spot-colour is red.

Dan’l Sprockett is a wild-west character clearly inspired by Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, whose first name was often abbreviated to “Dan’l” because people loved abbreviating words back in the old days, throwing their apostrophes around with reckless abandon and not even caring when they landed in already-short words like “madam” and “old.”

In some cases the abbreviation was so popular it completely replaced the original word or phrase, as seen in “o’clock.” That means “of the clock” and not that time was invented by an Irish person. And sometimes they didn’t even use the apostrophe: they just crammed the words together with brute force and didn’t give the slightest thought to the innocent vowels and syllables that got squeezed out. The Shakespearean exclamation “Zounds” is an abbreviated version of the oath “God’s Hounds”, a reference to the sky-wolves that guarded whichever afterlife you’ve chosen to believe in. (In these more enlightened times of course we know that that the sky-wolves roam free and bow to no master — all hail their mighty slavering jaws and powerful waggy tails and ethereal dog-food-scented breath.)

In this issue, Dan’l has been elected sheriff of Boonesboro’ (even the name of the town has been abbreviated) on the campaign of having locked up the evil gunslinger Two-Gun Rat-Face Malone, which is just about the most westerny name I’ve ever encountered. As Dan’l is relaxing in his new office, word comes that Malone has escaped and is on his way back to Boonesboro’ looking for revenge.

hotspur danl sprockett 2At this point, Dan’l reveals his true nature: he’s in possession of a liver made of lilies. A few panels later, Malone turns up and calls out the new sheriff.

Malone has a reputation for being the fastest gun in the west, so in order to give himself some sort of advantage, Dan’l covers his gun and holster with plenty of grease in order to speed up his draw.

To make sure that the townsfolk know that the shoot-out is fair, Malone offers Dan’l the chance to draw first. But as Dan’l strides out to face Malone, we see that he was a bit too liberal with the lubricant. He starts slipping on the grease dripping from his gun. His consequent flailing and sliding mightily confuses and exasperates Malone, who draws his weapons and fires — just as Dan’l slips and falls on his back.

As luck would have it, one of Dan’l’s guns goes off when he lands on it, shooting Two-Gun Rat-Face Malone in the shoulder — and making Dan’l look like a hero to the townsfolk. The “fastest gun in the west” reputation passes to him, and it all wraps up nicely.

It’s silly stuff, and mostly inoffensive… but that’s because I haven’t mentioned Dan’l’s Native American sidekick Yellow Streak. You can see him up there in that panel, standing behind Dan’l. To give you an idea of how his people are presented in the strip, when Dan’l learns that Malone has arrived back in town, Yellow Streak says, “White boss Sheriff not scared! More like-um petrified!” So there’s that.

 

V for Vengeance
(3½ pages, black and white)

hotspur v for vengeance

This is another tale that began life as a text serial in The Wizard. That was in 1942, and it was successful enough to spawn several sequels. It then did a spell in The Hornet as a comic strip before ending up here in Hotspur. The idea is strong one: It’s early in World War II, and British agent Aylmer Gregson has infiltrated the Nazi party in the guise of Colonel Von Reich. He enables the escape of a number of concentration camp prisoners and together they become The Deathless Men, a team of masked agents who will stop at nothing to destroy the Nazi regime. Each agent is codenamed “Jack” something — Jack Seven, Jack Four, etc. — with Gregson himself as Jack One.

The episode in this issue of Hotspur seems to be a re-telling of the origin story, because in this one we see Gregson — having already had plastic surgery to perfect his resemblance to Colonel Von Reich — take over the Colonel’s life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! The strip opens in 1939, at the Templeburg SS barracks, where a much put-upon civilian custodian named Funf is spying on the recently-arrived Colonel Von Reich. Later, we see Funf donning his Deathless Men coat, hat and mask — for he is really agent Jack Five! (I suspect it’s not a coincidence that “Funf” is German for “five.”) He makes his way to a disused railway tunnel where he meets Jack One/Gregson, now looking exactly like the Colonel.

The next day, using the information supplied by Funf, Gregson and another agent arrive at the barracks in a bin lorry. The Germans don’t bother to inspect the truck because they’ve been expecting it and it’s on time. Once safely inside the compound, Gregson (AKA Jack One, disguised as Von Reich disguised as a bin-man) and Funf make their way to the real Colonel’s quarters, execute him, and then Funf sneaks the body out while Gregson remains behind… the real test comes when one of the Colonel’s flunkies arrives. Gregson gives him a hard time over a dirty face-towel, and the flunky slinks away and gets a fresh one, never once suspecting that his boss has been replaced.

hotspur v for vengeance 2
Colonel Von Reich gets his well-deserved comeuppance, the filthy Nazi, while the page’s giant disembodied thought-bubble helpfully, and yet uselessly, shouts its own commentary at us.

I always liked V for Vengeance and the Deathless Men when I was a kid, but I’d not read any of the stories in a long time so it was a nice surprise to find that I really enjoyed this. There’s a lot of story packed into its 3½ pages, and it’s left me eager for more. Great stuff indeed!

Trivia: I remember excitedly pouncing on a V for Vengeance novel when I spotted it a couple of decades ago in a second-hand bookstore, but it turned out to be one of Dennis Wheatley’s Gregory Sallust series of spy adventures, and not, disappointingly, a novelisation of the comic strip. (It was actually still a pretty good book, as I recall.)

 

The Ball of Fire
(4 pages, black and white)

hotspur ball of fire

This one is about football. The introductory caption begins “First division…” and that’s as far as I got before my attention wandered.

But I’m supposed to be a professional, darn it, so I tried again. This time I got as far as “First division Brickley Albion were…”

It’s not that I hate football, I’m just indifferent to it. I can understand why some people get such a buzz out of it, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. Partly that’s because my dad was never very interested either so I didn’t pick up the football-supporting bug from him, but mostly I think it’s because I can’t get past the idea of supporting a team rather than individual players. If you support the team, then after a couple of decades most of the members will have moved on (retired, promoted, transferred, imprisoned, etc.) so you’re really only supporting the name of a town with “United” or “City” or whatever tacked onto the end of it.

But I should set my prejudices aside and give this strip another shot… “First division Brickley Albion were riding high, due mainly to the inspiration of captain and centre-forward Wally Brand. Team manager Frank Moore resigned after a misunderstanding with Wally…” and I’m lost again. I’m tempted to just skip the preamble and jump into the story, but I’m going to have a hard enough time figuring out what’s going on as it is. I might as well go in informed.

It took me several more goes to actually read this strip, and my attention wandered a lot, but I bravely struggled on and I finally managed to get to the end without trying to switch the page over to another channel. Hooray for me!

The preamble tells us that Frank and Wally cleared up their misunderstanding, but the team’s directors want to replace Frank with a posh chap called Percy Drylock. Now the team is visiting That London because they’re due to play rival team Selbury Rovers.

Wally and his fellow player Rick are out for a walk when they spot that two Selbury players — Kelland and Gorman — are giving their regular football-coaching demonstration in a department store, so they drop in to check it out. The kids see them and come rushing over because Wally is apparently famous. He shows off for the kids, and this upsets the Selbury players a bit, especially Kelland who really doesn’t like having his thunder stolen.

Later, would-be manager Percy Drylock shows up to talk to the team about Selbury Rovers, but Wally quickly shames Drylock by demonstrating that he really knows nothing about the team.

The next day, during the game, when the referee is looking the other way, Kelland deliberately crashes into Wally a couple of times and stamps on his foot — moves that are against the rules — but Wally manages to score three goals anyway, and his team wins.

hotspur ball of fire 2
Pew! Pew-pew-pew! Ka-BOOOM! (When a comic doesn’t have sound effects I often supply my own. How am I doing?)

Later, Wally is offered Kelland’s department store coaching job — it’ll pay five hundred quid for ten days’ work, or about as much as ten sets of left-handed golf-ball-whackers — but he turns it down because he’s a nice guy and has always vowed to play fair. He wouldn’t take Kelland’s job away from him, even though Kelland was being a bit of a swine.

So, that’s football, is it? Fair enough. In the end it wasn’t all that painful and didn’t leave a nasty taste in my mouth, but I can’t see myself buying a scarf and a wooden rattle any time soon. I expect that fans of the game would get a lot more out of this strip than I did.

 

T.N.T. Telford
(4 pages, black and white)

hotspur tnt telford

When it comes to British comic stories, the second world war was an absolute cornucopia full of gold mines. This is the fourth story in this issue set in that era.

The title character is an explosives expert operating in Crete alongside a partisan band led by Tinos the Shadow. In this adventure, they’re trekking through the mountains when they chance upon a bunch of Germans setting up an ambush, so Telford lobs a grenade at them and Tinos and his crew charge in with all guns blazing. The DC Thomson comics of this era have a reputation for being a little tame compared to their IPC counterparts such as Action and Battle, but this strip gives lie to that: this is pretty intense stuff. The heroes are not following the standard pattern of surrounding and then arresting the enemy: this is an outright massacre.

hotspur tnt telford 2
T.N.T. Telford demonstrating to the characters of the previous strip what a real Ball of Fire is.

A German officer tries to rally his troops, but Telford sees this as an opportunity to chuck another grenade — an “egg bomb” he calls it, but I suspect that there’s more than just egg inside it — and this one explodes directly behind the officer, as you can see in the panel on the right.

Once this batch of Jerries has been wiped out, the band prepares to move on. Telford persuades Tinos that their best move is to try to escape from Crete, so they’re going to need to head to the coast.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more Germans in the way, surrounding the mountains. Telford comes up with a solution: he rigs up some booby-traps… bombs, mines, dynamite, a few explosives, and the odd grenade or two. It’s not shown in the comic, but in my minds’ eye Telford sets up all this while sweating profusely and quietly giggling to himself.

Lots of deaths-by-explosion later, Telford, Tinos and the others get to the coast where a boat is waiting, but the wind has dropped and can’t power the sails, so they have to get out into the dinghies and row, towing the boat behind them.

As I said, this strip shows that the DC Thomson comics could at times be as violent as the strips in Action or Battle. I mean, look at this panel:

hotspur tnt telford 3

They are not messing around with that one. Sure, in pre-ban Action we’ve have had a severed head or two, and plenty of free-range limbs and digits flying about, but that’s just dressing: the intensity is what counts.

 

The Good Old Stringbag
(1 page, colour)

hotspur stringbag

This back-of-the-comic one-pager is a factual piece about the Fairey Swordfish, a biplane utilised by the Royal Navy in World War Two — and there you were thinking that biplanes had been rendered obsolete by Spitfires and Hurricanes and the like.

But no, they might not have had the range of newer aircraft, but biplanes were nippy and highly manoeuvrable little chaps and the large surface-area of their wings meant they didn’t require a lengthy runway to get up enough speed for flight — the deck of an escort carrier was more than enough. Or, if fitted with appropriate pontoons they could take off or land on water.

hotspur stringbag 2

As with the rest of this issue, the artwork here is uncredited, but this looks very like Ian Kennedy’s work to me — gorgeous stuff and a real highlight of the issue. I love biplanes!

Update 20191019: According to Colin Noble, who has covered the same issue on his own blog Nothing But a Fan, the artist is Jeff Bevan. Colin knows a lot more about DC Thomson comics than I do, so I believe him!


 

So that’s Hotspur issue 989: it offers quite a lot for only seven pence, but then so did its contemporaries: other weekly British comics published at the same time include, in order of price… Mandy #611 (7p), Victor #919 (7p), Warlord #210 (8p), Battle Action #187 (9p), Buster & Monster Fun (9p), Misty #35 (9p), Roy of the Rovers (9p), 2000AD #84 (10p), Look-In (10p), The Mighty World of Marvel #393 (10p), Star Wars Weekly #34 (10p), Super Spider-Man #294 (10p) and TV Comic with Target #1398 (10p).

Aside from the aforementioned back cover feature and Kiowa Creek Ain’t There, the art throughout is serviceable, but not outstanding. Some of the artwork is familiar, but not enough that I can comfortably name the artists.

I know that I was initially quite negative about this comic up at the intro, but I wasn’t wrong: Hotspur just didn’t offer enough strong elements to make it stand out from the crowd. Maybe if they hadn’t had the relaunch back in 1959 then its longevity might have been a notable aspect — 2307 issues if you combine both incarnations, and that’s not including specials and annuals — but that’s scarcely a substitute for quality.

Not that we didn’t get quality. V for Vengeance is excellent, I genuinely enjoyed this issue’s episode of Kiowa Creek Ain’t There, and T.N.T. Telford, while pretty horrible in body-count terms, might not have been striding towards the gates of greatness but he was certainly up to no good lurking in the nearby bushes. No War for Wilbur and The Big Palooka have their faults, but also an enticing charm about them.

Judging by this issue alone, Hotspur was quite a bit better than I remembered, and it deserves more respect than I usually afford it. I intend to rectify that, and I hope others will too. It’s not quite a forgotten classic, but then where is it written that only the very best deserve to be remembered?

 

8 thoughts on “Pocket-Money Comics: Hotspur

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