The Buster Timeline

busterlastissue sIPC’s Buster comic waved good-bye on 4 January 2000, exactly twenty years ago.

To commemorate the demise of that great comic, here’s a revised edition of the Buster family tree that debuted in June 2018 on this very blog. Back then, I was more interested in the family tree aspect — showing how the comics linked to each other — than in presenting a much more useful timeline where it’s easy to see which comics co-existed at any given time.

I’ve been putting off doing this for Buster because these timelines take much, much longer to put together than a simple tree, plus my first few charts (Eagle, Buster and My Guy) didn’t include a complete list of all the titles outside of the main graphic. That, too, takes a lot of time to compile. But when I recently discovered a couple of hitherto-unknown-by-me members of the family tree, I decided it was time gird the bullet and bite my… erm… never mind what.

So let’s get cracking, shall we, on this mostly new and updated and fleshed-out Buster Comic Timeline!


buster#1

Buster was a monster. Buster the comic, that is, not Buster the character, who was a nice kid. His father, on the other hand, was the monster: the alcoholic, gambling-addicted, spouse-abusing Andy Capp from the same-titled cartoon strip that’s been running in the British tabloid newspapers The Mirror and The Sunday Mirror since 1957. As far as I know, Buster was never acknowledged in the newspaper strip, thus proving that Andy Capp was also a negligent and uncaring father. It’s no thanks to him that Buster turned out so well.

Buster lasted almost forty years — 1902 issues — and in an era when British comics regularly absorbed their less-successful stable-mates (much in the manner of a wild creature eating its young, but not in any way similar to the mysterious disappearance of my own long-lost twin brother Mycroft), with twelve kills under its belt, Buster was the absolute champion.

Buster timeline 20200103s(Click on the image for a larger, readable version!)

Given its voraciousness, Buster‘s family tree is smaller than might be expected, but it does include some absolute gems. It also contains The Wonder and The Penny Wonder. By crikey, those two caused me so much trouble that I’ve had to create an entirely separate article about them, The Mysteries of Wonder.

illustratedchips1Illustrated Chips (1)
From: 25 July, 1890
To: 29 August, 1890
Duration: 1 month
Issues: 6
Relaunched as: Illustrated Chips (2)

Illustrated Chips is sometimes incorrectly noted as the first comic-book, but it’s still arguably one of the most famous. History is blurry about whether this first version was a test run for the proper edition or if the publishers were just doing the old trick (new trick back then, I guess) of relaunching in order to fool people into thinking it was a new comic. Either way, it worked because the relaunched version was massively successful.

illustratedchips2Illustrated Chips (2)
From: 5 September, 1890
To: 12 September, 1953
Duration: 63 years
Issues: 2997
Relaunch of: Illustrated Chips (1)
Absorbed: The Joker
Absorbed into: Film Fun

As you can see from the facts ‘n’ figures above, this second wind for Illustrated Chips knocked out almost five hundred times as many issues as the first version. As with many comics of its era it was littered with plenty of old-timey racist attitudes. (Apologists will argue that this is just my modern “PC” culture and those attitudes weren’t considered to be racist back then. Well, yes, they were. If you want to know whether something is hurtful you don’t ask the one doing the hurting: you ask the victim. So there.)

The Wonder (1892)
From: 30 July, 1892
To: 28 January, 1893
Duration: 6 months
Issues: 27
Relaunched as: The Funny Wonder

The first in a long and very complex chain of titles that has taken me years to unravel! For a more detailed look, see my separate article on The Mysteries of Wonder. And if you can supply a cover image for this incarnation of The Wonder, I would be very grateful!

funnywonderv1The Funny Wonder (1893)
From: 2 February, 1893
To: 25 May, 1901
Duration: 8 years, 3 months
Issues: Unknown
Relaunch of: The Wonder (1892)
Relaunched as: The Wonder (1901)

The number of issues is listed as 109 in many reference works, but that’s highly unlikely to be correct: given the comic’s duration, it would have produced around 433 weekly issues. Again, please see the article on The Mysteries of Wonder for more details.

wonder1901#1The Wonder (1901)
From: 1 June, 1901
To: 18 February, 1940
Duration: 38 years, 8 months
Issues: 1996
Relaunch of: The Funny Wonder (1893)
Absorbed into: The Halfpenny Wonder

This is where it really kicks in for this comic… After returning to its original title, it’s again “relaunched” on 16 Nov 1901, but this version lasts only until 3 May 1902 when it becomes The Wonder and Jester, then two issues later it’s The Jester and Wonder, then over the years it’s rebranded as The Jester, The Jolly Jester, and finally just The Jester again, then it’s absorbed by The Halfpenny Wonder (which, by this stage, has been rebranded as Funny Wonder). Once again, see The Mysteries of Wonder for clarification!

picturefunPicture Fun
From: 15 February, 1909
To: 17 July, 1920
Duration: 11 years, 5 months
Issues: 595
Absorbed into: Film Fun

Subtitled “The Brightest Paper on Earth” which was a lie because the paper was newsprint, which has a notably lower albedo than even cheap letter-writing paper. What a swizz!

pennywonderThe Penny Wonder
From: 9 January, 1912
To: 20 March, 1914
Duration: 1 years, 1 month
Issues: 64
Relaunched as: The Halfpenny Wonder

It’s probably never a good idea to include a comic’s price as part of the name, because prices change. Unexpectedly, though, this one changed downwards: it was relaunched as The Halfpenny Wonder. But before that happened, this comic rebranded itself as The Wonder from issue #47. See the separate article The Mysteries of Wonder.

halfpennywonderThe Halfpenny Wonder
From: 27 March, 1914
To: 12 September, 1953
Duration: 39 years, 5 months
Issues: 1760 (estimated)
Relaunch of: The Penny Wonder
Absorbed: The Wonder (1901)
Absorbed into: Radio Fun

The final entry in the infuriatingly complex Wonder/Penny Wonder/Funny Wonder saga! Except, of course, it’s not that straightforward. After forty issues this one reinvented itself as Funny Wonder, and stuck with that for the next twenty-five years. Read the whole twisted tale in The Mysteries of Wonder.

cheerioCheerio
From: 17 May, 1919
To: 17 April, 1920
Duration: 11 months
Issues: 49
Relaunched as: The Kinema Comic

Though Cheerio is occasionally listed as having been absorbed by The Kinema Comic, it was definitely a relaunch because Cheerio died a week before The Kinema Comic was born. Part of the confusion probably arises from The Kinema Comic having the words “With which is incorporated Cheerio!” under the title of its early issues. People spoke funny in the old days, fam.

filmfunFilm Fun
From: 17 January, 1920
To: 8 September, 1962
Duration: 42 years, 8 months
Issues: 2225
Absorbed: Film Picture Stories
Absorbed into: Buster

In the early years of cinema actors were packaged — and stereotyped — much more than they are now, frequently playing the same kind of character in every movie, often with the same names to either avoid confusion or to generate a sense of continuity where there really isn’t any: Roy Rogers’ characters were almost always named “Roy Rogers,” Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy usually played “Stan and Ollie,” Tom Mix played characters called “Tom” in 101 of his 280 movies, and so on. Film Fun was one of the comics that sustained that approach by giving actors their own comic-strips: Bruce Forsythe, George Formby, Terry-Thomas, etc.

kinemaThe Kinema Comic
From: 24 April, 1920
To: 15 October, 1932
Duration: 12 years, 5 months
Issues: 651
Relaunch of: Cheerio
Absorbed into: Film Fun

Following the success of Film Fun in translating movie characters into comic-strip form, Cheerio morphed into a very similar publication. Note for younger readers: “Kinema” is not just a kerrrrrazy, zany-fun way of spelling “Cinema” (nor is it the magic word that Michael Moran used to shout in order to trigger his change into CaptainMiracleMarvel). “Kínēma” means “movement” in Greek, which is the source of the French word “Cinématographe”, later shortened to “Cinema.” (“Kinematics” is the science of objects in motion without reference to forces involved.)

monstercomicThe Monster Comic
From: 23 September, 1922
To: 25 January, 1930
Duration: 7 years, 4 months
Issues: 383
Absorbed into: The Joker

I’d never even heard of this one until collector John Pollock mentioned it yesterday! He was even kind enough to send me a photo. The existence of The Monster Comic goes to prove that it’s foolish to ever declare a British comic’s family tree to be “complete.”

jokerThe Joker
From: 5 November, 1927
To: 18 May, 1940
Duration: 12 years, 6 months
Issues: 655
Absorbed: The Monster Comic
Absorbed into: Illustrated Chips (2)

A weekly comic that had a pretty substantial run, though you wouldn’t easily be able to tell that from a Google search thanks to the Batman villain of the same name whose infuriating grin keeps showing up instead.

thebullseyeThe Bullseye
From: 24 January, 1931
To: 21 July, 1934
Duration: 3 years, 5 months
Issues: 183
Absorbed: The Surprise
Relaunched as: Film Picture Stories

A boys’ story paper that, as we’ll see below, underwent a complete image and identity transplant and turned into a comic called Film Picture Stories.

thesurpriseThe Surprise
From: 5 March, 1932
To: 11 November, 1933
Duration: 1 year, 8 months
Issues: 89
Absorbed into: The Bullseye

An appropriate title, because I’d never even heard of this story-paper until I started researching this revised version of the Buster timeline. Sometimes it really does feel like the publishers spent an awful lot of time just sitting there in the past conjuring up ways to hide their publications from future collectors. “Them folks up there in the twenty-first century are gettin’ wise to name-changing trick… hows about we bury this one by not even mentionin’ it anywhere?”

filmpicturestoriesFilm Picture Stories
From: 28 July, 1934
To: 16 February, 1935
Duration: 6 months
Issues: 30
Relaunch of: The Bullseye
Absorbed into: Film Fun

As mentioned above, this one began life as The Bullseye, but underwent a very radical facelift to not only change its approach from standard adventure fare (smugglers, detectives, etc.) to movie and serial adaptations — but also its medium from a text-heavy story-paper to an anthology of comic-strips.

radiofunRadio Fun
From: 15 October, 1938
To: 18 February, 1961
Duration: 22 years, 4 months
Issues: 1167
Absorbed: The Penny Wonder
Absorbed into: Buster

A rather famous comic that adapted popular radio shows for a more visual but silent medium. I admit that I find it a little tricky to get my head around the notion that Radio Fun actually arrived on the scene eighteen years after Film Fun — my gut tells me that radio is a less complex medium than film (which it isn’t, of course, but it seems like it would be because it contains pictures and sound), therefore radio should have come first.

topspotTop Spot
From: 25 October, 1958
To: 16 January, 1960
Duration: 1 year, 2 months
Issues: 58
Absorbed into: Film Fun

Before the “grown-up” comics boom of the late 1980s not many comics were aimed at the older teenage market, and most those that did exist were targetting the female market. Top Spot is one of the few that was more aimed at boys. Sports features, action strips, true crime stories, pin-up girls, etc.

buster#1Buster
From: 18 May, 1960
To: 4 January, 2000
Duration: 39 years, 7 months
Issues: 1902
Absorbed: Radio Fun, Film Fun, Big One, Giggle, Jet, Cor!!, Monster Fun Comic, Jackpot, School Fun, Nipper, Oink!, Whizzer and Chips

Initially a tabloid-sized comic, in Oct 1965 Buster was shrunk to standard IPC size, but the page-count was increased. It was a genuinely fun comic, and quite revolutionary for its time. I would have first encountered it in the early 1970s, by which time it had long since swept away all connections with the despicable Andy Capp (even his name makes me cringe!). Buster himself was originally depicted with his green checked cap always covering his eyes — like his father — but after about a year he’d nudged the cap back a little. His eyes were just dots at first, but they soon became standard dot-inside-white-circles eyes. And speaking of the cap: in the very last issue he reveals that the reason he always wore it was because he has the same hairstyle as another comic character — that of rival publisher DC Thomson’s famous Dennis the Menace! (Full disclosure: Buster actually did appear without his cap in some early stories and had more ordinary hair, but the Dennis connection is a lot more fun so let’s accept that as the new truth!)

bigoneThe Big One
From: 17 October, 1964
To: 20 February, 1965
Duration: 4 months
Issues: 19
Absorbed into: Buster

The Big One was well-named: its pages were considerably larger than most comics of the time — although readers who’d been around since the halcyon days of Comic Cuts and the like wouldn’t have thought it to be anything unusual: comics were huge back then. The Big One mostly featured reprints from earlier comics: “Chish and Fips” was a renamed “Pitch and Toss” from The Penny Wonder.

giggleGiggle
From: 29 April, 1967
To: 13 January, 1968
Duration: 8 months
Issues: 38
Absorbed into: Buster

Another title that largely consisted of reprinted strips… though in this case they came from other lands rather than other times so were less likely to have been encountered by British readers. I could go into more detail here, but I don’t need to because comics writer, artist and expert Lew Stringer has a wonderful feature on Giggle on his excellent blog.

whizzerandchipsWhizzer and Chips
From: 18 October, 1969
To: 17 October, 1990
Duration: 21 years
Issues: 1092
Absorbed: Knockout, Krazy, Whoopee!, Scouse Mouse
Absorbed into: Buster

Another classic. I had a friend who swore that his cousin owned copies of Whizzer from before its merger with Chips, but the truth is Whizzer and Chips had never really been separate comics. We readers were supposed to pledge our loyalty to whichever of the two pseudo comics we preferred, and thus become either a “Whizz-Kid” or a “Chip-ite.” You know, I was such a sensitive kid that I chose to side with Chips. Not because the stories were significantly better than those in Whizzer, but because I felt that Chips was always overshadowed by Whizzer, which got to be on the outside and its name was first. Never seemed fair to me! (Man, I was a weird little kid.)

corCor!!
From: 6 June, 1970
To: 15 June, 1974
Duration: 4 years
Issues: 211
Absorbed into: Buster

I remember Cor!! very well, and had I been asked about it in the days before I started compiling my database of every British comic ever (still nowhere near finished, by the way), I’d have guessed that Cor!! lasted a lot longer than it really did. Four years, that was all we got. Shame, really. It was great stuff, as shown by the recent one-off revival.

jetJet
From: 1 May, 1971
To: 25 September, 1971
Duration: 4 months
Issues: 22
Absorbed into: Buster

Of the twelve titles absorbed by Buster, eleven were of the humorous variety, and then there was Jet (about which I have written before), an action-adventure comic which would have fit much better into a title like Lion (the resting place of its predecessor Thunder). However, because it ended up in Buster instead, we got to keep Faceache around for a lot longer!

knockout1971Knockout
From: 12 June, 1971
To: 23 June, 1973
Duration: 2 years
Issues: 106
Absorbed into: Whizzer and Chips

A little unusual for its time, Knockout was an all-colour comic, as it prominently boasted on its front cover… and then abruptly stopped doing so mid-January 1973. I think it’s a safe bet that they introduced some non-colour pages at that stage. (Didn’t drop the price, though!) This is another potentially confusing title: it’s a revival of The Knock-Out Comic (4 March 1939 to 16 February 1963, 1251 issues) which simplified its title in the early 1940s to Knockout Comic, then in 1951 to Knockout, and was eventually absorbed into Valiant (again, see the Eagle Family Tree).

shivershakeShiver and Shake
From: 10 March, 1973
To: 5 October, 1974
Duration: 1 year, 6 months
Issues: 83
Absorbed into: Whoopee!

Following the success of Whizzer and Chips, this is another attempt at a two-in-one comic. In this case, Shiver was a ghost and Shake was an elephant. While perhaps not as fondly remembered as Whizzer and Chips, this title holds a special place in my heart for giving the world Leo Baxendale’s absolutely brilliant “Sweeny Toddler,” as well as reviving “Frankie Stein” and “Grimly Feendish” from Wham!

whoopeeWhoopee!
From: 9 March, 1974
To: 30 March, 1985
Duration: 11 years
Issues: 572
Absorbed: Shiver and Shake, Cheeky Weekly, Wow!
Absorbed into: Whizzer and Chips

I loved Whoopee! — especially “The Bumpkin Billionaires,” which was in no way just The Beverly Hillbillies transposed to the West Country — but to my mind it didn’t really get going until it absorbed Shiver and Shake — and “Sweeny Toddler” came on board!

monsterfunMonster Fun Comic
From: 14 June, 1975
To: 30 October, 1976
Duration: 1 year, 4 months
Issues: 72
Absorbed into: Buster

In a stunning reversal of the situation with Cor!!, if you’d asked younger me about Monster Fun, I’d have guessed that it had lasted maybe six months at most. Odd that it made such little impact on young me given that Ken Reid’s creation Frankie Stein was the comic’s fictional editor and it also featured strips by Leo Baxendale, Robert T. Nixon and Terry Bave, some of my favourites.

krazyKrazy
From: 16 October, 1976
To: 15 May, 1978
Duration: 1 year, 6 months
Issues: 79
Absorbed into: Whizzer and Chips

Krazy wasn’t quite as rebellious and “punk” as we liked to think at the time, but it was still pretty inventive and did buck a few trends. The members of the Krazy Gang (Ed, Liz, Sporty, Cheeky, Brainy and Freaky — who was an alien) each had their own agenda to push with their strips, though only Cheeky managed to get his own comic out of it (see below). Krazy‘s back cover disguises — designed to make issues look like boring textbooks or something else other than a comic — were particularly fun. Artist Peter Grey highlights a few of them on his excellent Comics and Art blog.

cheekyCheeky Weekly
From: 22 October, 1977
To: 2 February, 1980
Duration: 2 years, 3 months
Issues: 117
Absorbed into: Whoopee!

A spin-off from Krazy that to my mind outclassed its progenitor. I absolutely loved this comic! Every issue followed Cheeky throughout his week as he interacted with friends and foes, and got up to assorted forms of mischief. Other strips were included via the ingenious conceit of being excerpts from other comics, books or movies that Cheeky experienced. Packed with silly jokes and risqué (for the time) characters — like Walter Wurx who keeps having to run to the bathroom any time he hears dripping water or someone mentions waterfalls — it was ahead of its time.

jackpotJackpot
From: 5 May, 1979
To: 30 January, 1982
Duration: 2 years, 8 months
Issues: 141
Absorbed into: Buster

Just as Buster‘s title character was the son of an alcoholic, Jackpot‘s almost-title-character Jack Pott (who’d originated in Cor!!) also explored a non-child-appropriate vice: he was a gambling addict, and the editors — who clearly knew about this — did nothing to help him. For shame! Most of the other strips in Jackpot were based on then-popular TV shows: “The Incredible Sulk,” “Jake’s Seven,” “Teeny Sweeney,” “Angel’s Proper Charlies,” etc. There was also a strip called “Laser Eraser,” but that was of course completely unconnected to “Laser Eraser and Pressbutton” from Warrior… even though they were contemporaneous after Jackpot was absorbed by Buster.

wowWow!
From: 5 June, 1982
To: 25 June, 1983
Duration: 1 year
Issues: 56
Absorbed into: Whoopee!

Wow! was fairly standard fare as I recall, with a few strips reprinted from other IPC/Fleetway titles. It’s not one that particularly stands out… except that last year I manage to get hold of a couple of issue #1 that someone was just giving away. I won’t go into the details, but it was a case of “And everyone can take one free comic from this pile!” Somehow, everyone who’d been there ahead of me managed to miss the copy of that first issue of Wow!

schoolfunSchool Fun
From: 15 October, 1983
To: 26 May, 1984
Duration: 7 months
Issues: 33
Absorbed into: Buster

I’m still surprised that this one got off the ground at all. Sure, back in the early days it was quite common for a British comic to have the word “School” in the title — School and Sport, School Friend, School Friend Picture Library, Schoolboy’s Pocket Library, Schooldays, The Schoolgirl, The Schoolgirl’s Own, Schoolgirl’s Weekly and Schoolgirls’ Picture Library to name but most of them — but by the eighties it seemed very odd to associate something fun (comics) with something horrid (school). One of the strips was Coronation Street School, which included youthful versions of the characters from the legendarily dreary soap opera. That has to be one of the oddest ideas ever for a comic-strip. Still, that’s a darned nice-looking logo there on the cover!

oinkOink!
From: 3 May, 1986
To: 22 October, 1988
Duration: 2 years, 5 months
Issues: 68
Absorbed into: Buster

Oink! was a revolutionary pig-based fortnightly comic that, frankly, feels like it belongs in another dimension. I was already in my twenties by the time it came out so I missed it, but over the years I’ve managed to get hold of a few issues and it is great. Refreshingly silly and funny after decades of IPC’s seemingly endless stream of “poor kid versus rich kid” strips.

nipperNipper
From: 31 January, 1987
To: 12 September, 1987
Duration: 7 months
Issues: 23
Absorbed into: Buster

Another fortnightly comic, this time aimed at much younger kids. Got to be honest, I know almost nothing about Nipper. I do have a copy but it’s in the box that’s under a lot of other boxes and I’m not going to dig it out now.

scousemouseScouse Mouse
From: 22 October, 1988
To: 15 April, 1989
Duration: 6 months
Issues: 6
Absorbed into: Whizzer and Chips

Scouse Mouse was a rare licensed monthly comic from IPC. The eponymouse title character is a mouse who — taking a wild punt here — is from Liverpool. Or was from Liverpool. Mice have a lifespan of less than two years, and his comic ended in 1989, so… Yeah, he’s dead now.


As always, the info presented here is to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing, but this is an imperfect universe and mistakes can occur. Do please let me know if you find any errors or omissions!


8 thoughts on “The Buster Timeline

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s