We’re into 2020 now, which means that 1940 was a round number of years ago. This in turn means that this year we’ll be acknowledging the anniversaries of the deaths of a lot of British comics thanks to the paper shortages of World War II. None for January, thankfully, but they’re coming (spoiler: one of the summer months is going to be absolutely brutal)…
As always, 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, also as always, do please let me know of any errors or omissions! (See also October 2019, November 2019 and December 2019.)
25 years ago:
January – The Best of Buster Monthly (IPC, May 1987 to Jan 1995, 93 issues) final issue. As the title suggests, this was a monthly compilation of strips from Buster. Cracking good read too, as I recall, which is only to be expected given the quality of the well from which the editors were drawing.
30 years ago:
January – The Sleeze Brothers (Marvel UK, Aug 1989 to Jan 1990, 6 issues) final issue. Ah, I really liked the Sleeze Brothers! Picture the Blues Brothers in space, only sillier and funnier, and with fewer songs, and they’re private detectives tangled up in some quite bizarre cases.
January – DC Action (London Editions, Jan 1990 to Nov 1990, 6 issues) launched. Despite many different attempts, British reprints of DC comics never came close to matching the 70s and 80s success of their Marvel counterparts. This was one of the later goes, a bimonthly anthology title that didn’t last as long as it deserved given the quality of its contents, chiefly Animal Man and New Teen Titans.
13 January – Care Bears (Marvel UK, 14 Jan 1985 to 13 Jan 1990, 185 issues) final issue. Though they seem to have faded from the public eye in recent years, as far as I know and can be bothered to check, the Care Bears were massively popular in the era of this comic’s run. They were bears who cared, hence the name. Probably. I’ve never read the comics or seen the show. I’m not even sure I’ve ever actually seen one of the toys.
13 January – Beep! Beep! (Marvel UK, 25 Mar 1989 to 13 Jan 1990, 22 issues) final issue. As I mentioned in the Marvel UK Comics Leftovers Timeline, I know nothing about this one. Information on it is very hard to come by, mostly because of an American comic with the same name that was based on a cartoon about a fast-running bird. You know the one: always pursued by a dog-like creature who bought his weapons from a company called “Acme.” I won’t mention the name of the cartoon here because at some point in the future someone else will be looking for Marvel’s Beep! Beep! title and will exclude the Street Sprinting bird’s name: I want that person to find my blog! (If that’s you, then greetings from December 2019 — hope you’re all doing well up there in the future, and that you’ve forgiven my generation for the horrible things we did to your environment. In our defence: we were massively selfish and just didn’t care.)
13 January – The Bog Paper (Marvel UK, 04 Nov 1989 to 13 Jan 1990, 11 issues) final issue. Long-time readers of this fine blog — or even new readers who’ve binge-read the contents — might recall that we covered it back in the November 2019 Hatch, Match and Dispatch feature, lo those many posts ago. So I don’t need to go into the details here.
27 January – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures (IPC, 27 Jan 1990 to 01 Jan 1994, 84 issues) launched. Yes, that’s “Hero Turtles” and not “Ninja Turtles.” In the late 80s and early 90s there was much fear in the UK of children running away to join one of those ubiquitous Travelling Ninja Schools, so to de-glamorise ninjas the BBC elected to change the name of Turtles’ cartoon. They also removed Michelangelo’s nunchuck weapons for fear that children would attempt to create their own copy-cat versions. It all seems like ridiculously over-the-top nanny-state censorship to us now, but it’s important to remember that it also seemed like ridiculously over-the-top nanny-state censorship to us back then.
35 years ago:
January – Captain Britain (Marvel UK, Jan 1985 to Feb 1986, 14 issues) launched. The cap’s second title, appearing seven and a half years after the demise of his first… This was a brilliant comic that should have lasted much longer than it did. Arguably it’s a direct successor to Warrior (see below), which died in the same month that this one was born.
January – Warrior (Quality Communications, Mar 1982 to Jan 1985, 26 issues) final issue. Another absolutely brilliant comic that should have lasted much longer than it did… But it was beset with behind-the-scenes problems from the start. Maybe even from before the start: did Quality Communications ever really own the rights to the comic’s flagship character Marvelman?
12 January – Oh Boy (IPC, 12 Oct 1976 to 12 Jan 1985, 428 issues) final issue: absorbed into My Guy. Photo-stories of love and romance and… well, I’m pretty sure that “love and romance” covers 99.99% of the content. My older sister occasionally bought Oh Boy, so naturally I read them (she used to read most of my comics, too), but one can only take so many stories of teenage girls who are too scared to tell their brother’s friend/friend’s brother/boss’s son/handsome new neighbour/life-long best pal/taciturn stable-hand that they secretly fancy him. (Spoiler: if the boy in question didn’t fancy them back, that was OK because there was always another boy on the periphery who did fancy them, and luckily it was this lad with whom the girl realised she had actually been in love all along.)
14 January – Care Bears (Marvel UK, 14 Jan 1985 to 13 Jan 1990, 185 issues) launched. Oh, it’s the Care Bears again — see above! Five years (minus one day) after its launch, the comic was cancelled. The cute, innocuous, cuddly little pastel-hued beasts were all rounded up, taken to an unpopulated region of northern Lieberstan, then executed and buried in a mass grave. And that’s why no one has ever seen a rainbow for the past thirty years.
19 January – Robin (IPC, 19 Jan 1985 to 29 Jun 1985, 20 issues) launched. A nursery-age comic that was ultimately absorbed into Play-Group. Other than the similar name, I’m pretty sure that this one had no direct connection with The Robin (1953 to 1969, 836 issues) that was launched as a junior companion title to Eagle. That said, of the original Eagle and its three companion titles, Swift was the only one that didn’t later lend its name to a new comic (well, not counting Harrier Comics’ 1980s title Swiftsure, which was a completely different thing altogether and entirely, probably.)
19 January – Tracy (DC Thomson, 06 Oct 1979 to 19 Jan 1985, 277 issues) final issue: absorbed into Judy. Five-and-a-bit years wasn’t too bad a run for a comic of the era, when British comics titles were dropping like particularly heavy flies, but it does pale in comparison with its older siblings like Bunty, Mandy, Judy and even Debbie.
19 January – Pepper Street (DC Thomson, 19 Jan 1985 to 09 May 1987, 121 issues) launched. A nursery comic… I don’t know much about it but I do have a copy knocking around here somewhere. However, right now I’m not in the mood to go searching for it. I shall do so later, and replace all this text with a proper mention, unless I forget, in which case I won’t.
29 January – Beeb (Polystyle Publications, 29 Jan 1985 to 11 Jun 1985, 20 issues) launched. This was subtitled “The BBC Junior Television Magazine” which tells you all you need to know: it’s the BBC’s version of ITV’s Look-In, which lasted sixty-and-a-half times as long.
40 years ago:
January – Shock (Portman Distribution, Oct 1979 to Jan 1980, 4 issues) final issue. One of eight monthly comics published by Portman in the UK between 1978 and 1980, with contents reprinted from assorted US-published titles such as Shock (Stanley Morse, 1969), The Clutching Hand (American Comics Group, 1954) and Forbidden Worlds (American Comics Group, 1951).
January – Stark Terror (Portman Distribution, Oct 1979 to Jan 1980, 4 issues) final issue. The last of Portman’s reprint titles, the other six being Demon!, Journey into Nightmare, Castle of Horror, Tales of Terror, Chilling Tales of Horror and Ghoul Tales. Accurate details — such as actual publication dates — are hard to find, but we do know that none of the titles lasted for more than five issues.
05 January – Top Soccer (IPC, 15 Sep 1979 to 05 Jan 1980, 17 issues) final issue, absorbed into Shoot. As the title implies, this one is about soccer, which is a form of football. regular readers might recall that I don’t know much about soccer, but they might not know just how little I care that I don’t know. Sorry, it’s just not my cup of anything! You know, I’m not even sure that Top Soccer was a comic and not just a magazine. Investigations are on-going… if it didn’t contain at least the minimal level of comic-strip material required to be included — the actual level is a meticulously-calculated and closely-guarded secret and I am not at all just winging this — then it’s out.
12 January – Misty (IPC, 04 Feb 1978 to 12 Jan 1980, 102 issues) final issue: absorbed into Tammy. Another absolutely legendary comic from IPC, and one of the very few British girls comics centred on a specific theme. Misty appeared on the shelves only a few weeks after the demise of DC Thomson’s similarly-spooky Spellbound, so while there was no actual overlap Spellbound was certainly in print while Misty was being prepared. Of the two, though, Misty made a much greater impact, with some of its strips very fondly remembered four decades later.
26 January – The Crunch (DC Thomson, 20 Jan 1979 to 26 Jan 1980, 54 issues) final issue: absorbed into The New Hotspur. A high-octane action-packed comic that sadly was too short-lived. I bought the first few issues and remember quite enjoying them, but there was nothing within that particularly grabbed me. However, this has reminded me that shortly after the turn of the century I made a few spoof comic pages by combining panels from an assortment of different comics, and one of those spoofs was made entirely of panels taken from issue #1 of The Crunch‘s “Who Killed Cassidy?” I’ll have dug them out and uploaded them to this blog by the time this is published!
45 years ago:
January – Love Story Picture Library (Amalgamated Press/Fleetway, Aug 1952 to Jan 1975, 1656 issues) final issue. Full disclosure: solid info on this adult-targeted romance digest is very hard to find — especially for the later issues. It’s possible that Love Story Picture Library lasted well into 1975… and maybe even into 1976. If you can shed any light on this, please do let me know.
04 January – Buzz (DC Thomson, 20 Jan 1973 to 04 Jan 1975, 103 issues) final issue: absorbed into The Topper. I rather liked Buzz — my favourite strip was “Jimmy Jinx and What He Thinks” — but it didn’t really stand out from its peers, except that it was (I’m pretty sure) one of the last tabloid-sized British comics.
18 January – Cracker (DC Thomson, 18 Jan 1975 to 11 Sep 1976, 87 issues) launched. Buzz died so that Cracker might live! I remember the first five or six issues of this one quite clearly, but I must have stopped buying it after that. Non-coincidentally, that would have been around the time Battle Picture Weekly was launched.
50 years ago:
10 January – Scorcher (IPC, 10 Jan 1970 to 05 Oct 1974, 248 issues) launched. A football comic. Absorbed fellow football comic Score (originally called Score ‘n’ Roar) on 3 July 1971. If you’re a fan of football, perhaps you might like to pretend that this paragraph contains an entertaining or informative fact about the game or the comic.
10 January – Striker (City Magazines/Banner Press Limited, 10 Jan 1970 to 26 Feb 1972, 112 issues) launched. It was eventually absorbed into Inside Football magazine, at which point the comic-strip content was dropped. No connection with the identically-titled newspaper strip from the 1980s.
60 years ago:
January – Air Ace Picture Library (Fleetway/IPC, Jan 1960 to Nov 1970, 545 issues) launched. This was a well-regarded digest-sized comic from the heyday of that format. Though it eventually succumbed to Merger’s Disease and was consumed by its stable-mate War Picture Library, it was fondly-enough remembered to be revived for a further 56 issues in 1985 by publisher Ron Phillips.
16 January – Top Spot (Amalgamated Press, 25 Oct 1958 to 16 Jan 1960, 58 issues) final issue: absorbed into Film Fun. Top Spot was a somewhat rare beast for its time: a “man’s” comic. As in, aimed at adult males: there were photos on the cover of “pin-up” girls, and it had features about proper grown-up sports like watching car-racing.
16 January – Judy (DC Thomson, 16 Jan 1960 to 11 May 1991, 1635 issues) launched. One of DC Thomson’s classic girls’ titles, and for a time my older sister’s comic of choice. In its thirty-one-year-long life, Judy absorbed her younger siblings Emma and Tracy, before merging with Mandy to be relaunched as Mandy & Judy, later M&J.
23 January – Marty (Pearson, 23 Jan 1960 to 23 Feb 1963, 161 issues) launched. A magazine that also featured some comic strips, Marty was aimed at teenaged girls and subtitled “First Ever Photo Romance Weekly.” Packed with articles about pop stars and actors, as you might expect. The cover of the first issue featured Marty Wilde, then a massively popular singer: I expect that the name of the mag is no coincidence. What probably is a coincidence is that in 1982 Marvel UK launched a girl’s magazine called Kim, shortly after Marty Wilde’s daughter, Kim, had her first huge successes in the pop charts. Full disclosure: Kim Wilde was actually my first girlfriend. (Fuller disclosure: She doesn’t know that.)
30 January – TV Fan (Amalgamated Press, 12 Sep 1959 to 30 Jan 1960, 21 issues) final issue: absorbed into Valentine. This was a relaunch of TV Fun (19 Sep 1953 to 5 Sep 1959, 312 issues), but with a slightly more grown-up approach, with greater emphasis on features than comic-strips.
30 January – Princess (Amalgamated Press/Fleetway, 30 Jan 1960 to 16 Sep 1967, 346 issues) launched. The first of two Amalgamated Press/Fleetway/IPC publications to bear the name Princess, this one merged with the short-lived Tina to become Princess Tina in a rare example of a merged comic retaining both titles. (The second Princess comic ran from 24 Sep 1983 to 31 March 1984, for 28 issues, before being absorbed into Tammy.)
100 years ago:
17 January – Film Fun (Amalgamated Press, 17 Jan 1920 to 08 Sep 1962, 2225 issues) launched. In the 1910s movies really began to take off, with cinemas popping up all over the place, and they all showed the same thing: newsreels, ads for tonic, and the Charlie Chaplin movie where he plays a tramp who pursues a woman who’s already in a relationship, and he somehow wins her heart by attacking her suitor. You remember that one: it was the one that was so successful Chaplin remade it about a hundred times. But what was a fan to do on the rare occasions they couldn’t get to the cinema? Why, they could read comics containing strips based on the movie characters! And movie comics were successful, by gum. This one lasted forty-two years.
31 January – Tiger Tim’s Tales (Amalgamated Press, 01 Jun 1919 to 24 Jan 1920, 28 issues) relaunched as Tiger Tim’s Weekly . He’s almost completely forgotten now, but Tiger Tim was everywhere back in the old days. He was arguably the first proper breakout star of British comics. Tiger Tim’s Tales was his first self-titled comic, notable also because it was a rare example of a landscape format comic, with the pages bound on the short edge. The relaunched version (in portrait mode) as Tiger Tim’s Weekly ran for a further 94 issues until 12 Nov 1921, and was then re-relaunched with the same title and ran for another 965 issues until 18 May 1940.
125 years ago:
29 January – The Boys’ Friend (Amalgamated Press, 29 Jan 1895 to 31 Dec 1927, 1717 issues) launched. This is one of those titles that can be pretty hard to track down on-line because of confusion as to the placement of the apostrophe in the title. Is it “The Boy’s Friend” (the friend of a singular boy) or “The Boys’ Friend” (the friend of multiple boys)? Well, rigorous investigation shows that it’s supposed to be the latter, but sometimes there’s no apostrophe in the title on the cover. Very annoying, that.
140 years ago:
01 January – The Union Jack (1880) (Sampson Low/Cecil Brooks, 01 Jan 1880 to 25 Sep 1883, 193 issues) launched. A story-paper subtitled “Tales for British Boys.” I know little about this one, other than that an 1881 hardcover collection of issues featured the subtitle “A Magazine of Healthy, Stirring Tales of Adventure by Land and Sea” which I think is is pretty darned awesome! Also, the cover of the first issue lists the price as “One Penny Per Week” or “Sixpence Monthly” — perhaps months were six weeks long in pre-decimal times? After this publication’s demise the title was re-used for a new, unconnected paper by Amalgamated Press (28 Apr 1894 to 10 Oct 1903, 494 issues, relaunched with the same title on 17 Sep 1903, running for 1531 issues until 18 Feb 1933, relaunched as Detective Weekly, 25 Feb 1933 to 25 May 1940, 379 issues).