Hatch, Match & Dispatch – December 2019

The rules: these are only the “big” anniversaries (25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 75, 80, 90 & 100+ years), dates are cover-cover dates where known, monthly comics with no confirmed day of launch default to the first of the month, and this list is accurate only to the best of my knowledge, so do please let me know of any errors or omissions! (See also October 2019 and November 2019.)

25 years ago:
03 December – Big Comic Fortnightly (IPC, 11 Jun 1988 to 03 Dec 1994, 170 issues) final issue: absorbed into BVC. Featured reprints from other IPC titles such as Buster, Cheeky Weekly and Whizzer and Chips. Issue #170 was retitled Big Comic Monthly, but that proved to be the final issue.

doctorwhoclassic07 December – Doctor Who Classic Comics (Marvel UK, 01 Dec 1992 to 07 Dec 1994, 27 issues) final issue. Reprinted strips from TV Comic, Countdown, TV Century 21 and Doctor Who Weekly. A favourite of mine — one day I must track down the gaps in my collection!

30 years ago:
22 December – Buttons (Polystyle Publications, 03 Oct 1981 to 22 Dec 1989, 459 issues) final issue. A comic for preschool kids. Actually, it was subtitled “For Play School Children” and featured characters from that well-known BBC TV show, as well as the likes of Postman Pat, Henry’s Cat, Budgie the Helicopter, King Rollo, The Flumps and so forth.

23 December – The Incredible Hulk Presents (Marvel UK, 07 Oct 1989 to 23 Dec 1989, 12 issues) final issue. Another awkward title for Marvel UK. Picture the scene: “I’m off to the shop to buy The Incredible Hulk Presents.” “Why can’t he buy his own presents?” Har har! But, sadly, even though they’re using the other meaning of the word “presents”, this was a standard anthology not unlike most Marvel UK comics of the time — I would have liked to have seen the Hulk actually presenting the stories in the manner of the old EC comics’ Cryptkeeper characters: Hulk in his book-lined library, sitting in a large, cosy armchair as he reads to us. Not unexpectedly for Marvel UK, the strips were mostly reprints, but I’m told that there was also some new Doctor Who material.

35 years ago:
battleplDecember – Battle Picture Library (Fleetway/IPC, Jan 1961 to Dec 1984, 1706 issues) final issue. Both BPL and WPL (below) were demobbed at the same time, heralding the autumnal days of the Fleetway/IPC digest-sized comics: only Eagle Picture Library and Girl Picture Library remained.

December – War Picture Library (Amalgamated Press/Fleetway/IPC, Sep 1958 to Dec 1984, 2103 issues) final issue. War Picture Library actually predates its closest rival, DC Thomson’s legendary Commando by almost three years.

40 years ago:
vizDecember – Viz (Dennis Publishing, Dec 1979 to present, 289 issues) launched. In the mid-80s and early 90s there was a massive glut of adult humour comics in the UK, buoyed by the massive success of Viz (which at one stage was selling over a million copies per issue). The imitators included Acid Head Arnie, Acne, Adroit, The Big Greenie, Blag, Bloody Hell, Brain Damage, Bugs ‘n’ Drugs, The Daily Head, Electric Soup, Elephant Parts, Filth!, Fizz, Gag, Gas, Gutted, Gutter, Igor, Kack, Lazy Frog, The Onion Bag, Poot!, Pulp, The Scam, Scurvy Dog, Smut, Spit!, Sweet FA, Talking Turkey, The Top Banana, The Trout, The Truth, Ut, The Yorkshire Pest, Ziggy and Zit. And we even had a few over here in Ireland, such as Fitz, The Yellow Press and (much earlier, and almost completely forgotten now) Manky. Some of these were rather more successful than others, but even the best couldn’t come close to Viz for consistency and quality. And that’s as it should be, because Viz was the spark that lit the fart that triggered the whole movement.

50 years ago:
06 December – Lady Penelope (Century 21 Publications, 22 Jan 1966 to 06 Dec 1969, 203 issues) final issue: absorbed into Princess Tina. Posh spy Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward first appeared in TV Century 21 (predating her appearance on TV by about eight months). Clearly the break-out character from Thunderbirds, she was given her own comic some twenty-five years before Thunderbirds itself was afforded that honour.

candy27 December – Candy (Century 21 Publications, 21 Jan 1967 to 27 Dec 1969, 154 issues) final issue: absorbed into Jack and Jill (1954). A little kids’ spin-off from TV Century 21, the title character was originally created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson for an unsuccessful TV series Candy and Andy. For the first year or so, Candy was a landscape-format comic (with the binding on one of the shorter sides rather than longer: see Marvel UK’s The Titans).

60 years ago:
26 December – Tarzan Adventures (Westworld Publications, 08 Apr 1953 to 26 Dec 1959, 340 issues) final issue. This was a relaunch of Tarzan – The Grand Adventure Comic (62 issues from 15 Sep 1951 to 03 Apr 1953) and likes its predecessor it reprinted Tarzan strips from a variety of sources along with some original material. It can be hard these days to fathom how big Tarzan used to be: his UK comics history boasts at least eleven separate titles from 1950 to 1982, plus strips and stories in another half-dozen different publications.

80 years ago:
30 December – The Gem (1908) (Amalgamated Press, 15 Dec 1908 to 30 Dec 1939, 1663 issues) final issue: absorbed into The Triumph. This is the second volume of the famous story-paper, and it trundled along for a solid thirty-one years to gave us copious amounts of quality public-school-based fiction, chiefly by Frank Richards, AKA Charles Hamilton, the most prolific writer who has ever lived. Legend has it he clocked up over a hundred million words in his lifetime. To give you some idea of the scale of that, the longest article so far on this blog is the DC Thomson Comics Timeline, which is 6,700 words long and which WordPress estimates will take twenty-five minutes to read. That’s a reading speed of 268 words per minute, which means that reading all of Charles Hamilton’s works would take, on average, 337,134 minutes (that’s 6,218.9 hours, or 259 days non-stop).

boyscinema100 years ago:
13 December – Boy’s Cinema (Amalgamated Press, 13 Dec 1919 to 18 May 1940, 1063 issues) launched. A story-paper that provided prose versions of then-current movies, which were of course mostly cowboy films. Movies were either presented whole, or split into chapters with exciting cliff-hanger endings, just like the old serials. Stills from the movies were used to illustrate the stories (and to break up the text), and the senior cast and crew were usually credited… though the writers who’d adapted the movies remained unnamed.

110 years ago:
14 December – The Vanguard Library (Trapps Holmes, 04 May 1907 to 14 Dec 1909, 152 issues) final issue. This one was retitled Vanguard Library of Football, Sport and Adventure from issue #139 — and there’s some doubt whether issue #138 actually ever appeared on the shelves. Among the contributors was the great Charles Hamilton, whom of course we all know from The Gem.

120 years ago:
danlenoscomicjournal02 December – Dan Leno’s Comic Journal (Pearson, 26 Feb 1898 to 02 Dec 1899, 93 issues) final issue. Dan Leno (1860 to 1904) was a music-hall all-round entertainer, very well known in his time, and this comic was featured strips and stories based on some of the characters he played. Unlike the actors or personalities whose likenesses appeared in later, similar, publications, Leno actually had direct input into the comic that bore his name: he wrote much of its content himself.

145 years ago:
12 December – Funny Folks (James Henderson & Sons, 12 Dec 1874 to 28 Apr 1894, 1614 issues) launched. Arguable, Funny Folks was the first ever proper comic. Initially, it was a free supplement to The Weekly Budget newspaper but over time, its political-charged editorial stance softened and became more family-friendly in a successful attempt to reach a wider audience.

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