Hatch, Match & Dispatch – March 2020

There are lots of British Marvel comics in the list this month, folks! Can you name them all? Hmm… I bet there’s at least one you’ve forgotten about (or maybe not even heard of)! We’ve also got a lot of titles that became part of the My Guy family tree, including My Guy itself and its little sidekick My Guy Monthly.

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, December 2019, January 2020 and February 2020.)

(Incidentally, a fictitious reader from Madeupia has asked me why I’m only covering the aforementioned “big” anniversaries and not all of them. Well, reader, that’s because life is short and so is my patience. This list contains twenty-five entries: if it were to include every comic that was launched or cancelled in the month of March, we’d be looking at about one hundred and seventy. Plus doing these things in mostly five-year intervals means that next year’s list for March, for example, will be completely different from this year’s list for March.)


20 years ago:
myguyMarch – My Guy (IPC/Other, 04 Mar 1978 to Mar 2000, 873 issues) final issue…
Or maybe not. As mentioned in before, sometime around March 1995 My Guy and the reprint title My Guy Monthly were bought from IPC by Frank Hopkinson, the then-current group editor of those titles. He apparently continued publishing the mags, but solid info on them has proven to be very elusive.

25 years ago:
March – My Guy Monthly (IPC, 01 Apr 1984 to Mar 1995, 131 issues) final issue maybe.
See My Guy above.

royoftherovers#1March – Roy of the Rovers (IPC, 25 Sep 1976 to Mar 1995, 872 issues) final issue.
This long-running spin-off from the longer-running Tiger starred Roy Race, a player of soccer for a team called Melchester Rovers. If you’re not sure of the exact part of England in which Melchester resides, just head northish from Holby and stop before you get to Ambridge (if that still doesn’t help, try looking it up on the FinderSpiderTM search engine). The comic ran weekly until 1993 (absorbing Gary Lineker’s Hot-Shot! in 1989), then monthly thereafter. Note: Roy of the Rovers has recently been revived by Rebellion to considerable success. Also note: Fans of Roy Race don’t much like it when you refer to them as Racists.

thunderbirdsMarch – Thunderbirds the Comic (Fleetway, 19 Oct 1991 to 01 Mar 1995, 89 issues) final issue: relaunched as Thunderbirds are Go!.
Amazingly, even though the highly nepotistic Tracy family had been rescuing other puppets since 1964, this was the first time they’d headlined their own comic: they’d previously appeared in Countdown/TV Action, TV Comic, TV Century 21 and Candy. This fortnightly comic was rebranded as The New Thunderbirds from issue #67. The relaunched version, Thunderbirds are Go!, sadly only lasted for eight issues.

zigandzagzogazineMarch – Zig and Zag’s Zogazine (IPC, Oct 1994 to Mar 1995, 6 issues) final issue.
Sadly, those two aliens from the planet Zog didn’t last too long in comic form. A shame, really: their comic was very, very silly but also very, very good. A revival is long overdue! (In this writer’s personal opinion, Zigmund Ambrose Zogly and Zagnatius Hillary Zogly are probably — by which I mean certainly — the best thing ever to come out of Irish television. Back in their heyday, when they appeared on the kids’ afternoon show Dempsey’s Den, grown adults used to set their video recorders to tape the show so they could watch it when they got home from work. I was one of those adults.)

essentialxmen95March – Essential X-Men (1995) (Marvel/Panini UK, Mar 1995 to Jan 2010, 177 issues) launched.
As I discussed in my look back at the Marvel UK comics of the 70s and 80s, the Panini era is beyond the horizon of my area of interest: it all just became too complicated with far too many reboots and relaunches for my tiny (but pretty) brain to keep track of. Still, they produced some gorgeous looking comics. Full colour, too, and — very important — they were the same size as American comics, which meant that they could fit on the same shelves.

30 years ago:
punisher103 March – The Punisher (Marvel UK, 05 Aug 1989 to 03 Mar 1990, 30 issues) final issue.
Younger readers might not believe this, but back in the mid-to-late 1990s the Punisher was massively popular: as popular as Deadpool and Harley Quinn were a couple of years ago. He guest-starred in just about every Marvel comic and at one stage there were seventy-nine different monthly Punisher titles in print (if we take “seventy-nine” to be a euphemism for “about four, probably”). But every bubble bursts… Still, this was a pretty nice comic that often featured brand-new covers by top British creators.

superted10 March – SuperTed (Marvel UK, 10 Mar 1990 to 01 Dec 1995, 31 issues) launched.
Full disclosure: info on this comic has been hard to pin down. The dates and issue-count above come from the British Library’s database, but thirty-one issues over a span of five years and nine months doesn’t make sense, especially since I know that at least the first twenty issues were published fortnightly. Fuller disclosure: I don’t actually know anything about the character of SuperTed that I haven’t gleaned from his name, but I reckon it’s a safe bet that he’s not an ordinary guy who can turn into a person-sized super-powered teddy-bear, which is a real shame because that would actually be kind of awesome. In fact, if that’s not what SuperTed is, then it’s important to remember that I thought of that: it’s my idea and no one else is allowed to write it.

girlv214 March – Girl (IPC, 14 Jan 1981 to 14 Mar 1990, 478 issues) final issue: absorbed into My Guy.
Back in the 1950s, Girl was launched as female-targetted counterpart to the boys’ comic Eagle, but in the early 80s it was the other way around: this successful second version Girl paved the way for the relaunch of Eagle fourteen months later (there was also a second version of Robin in 1985, but sadly the last member of that family, Swift, never took off again). This version of Girl didn’t do too badly for the era, lasting over nine years before it was absorbed into the older-targetted My Guy.

35 years ago:
tiger30 March – Tiger (Amalgamated Press/Fleetway/IPC, 11 Sep 1954 to 30 Mar 1985, 1554 issues) final issue: absorbed into Eagle (1982).
It’s always a shame when a long-running comic bites the dust, but at least Tiger had the rare honour of seeing one of its offspring — in this case, the aforementioned Roy of the Rovers — go on to great success. In its thirty-one years, Tiger absorbed The Champion (1922), Comet (1952), Hurricane, Jag, Scorcher and Speed — an impressive kill-rate which proves that the comic was well-named.

whoopee30 March – Whoopee! (IPC, 09 Mar 1974 to 30 Mar 1985, 572 issues) final issue: absorbed into Whizzer and Chips.
I loved Whoopee! back in the day but now I don’t really remember a huge amount about its early years even though I know I read it right from the start. Certainly, few of the strips stand out in my memory as strongly as those of its stablemates Whizzer and Chips and Buster. Whoopee! only seemed to get really good when it absorbed Shiver and Shake in 1974 (chiefly because of “Sweeny Toddler” and “Frankie Stein”).

40 years ago:
epicillustratedMarch – Epic Illustrated (Marvel, Mar 1980 to Feb 1986, 34 issues) launched.
Some would argue that Epic Illustrated doesn’t count as a British comic because it was just imported from the USA, but those people should consider my counter-argument: my blog, my rules. This monthly comic was absolute classic and is definitely long overdue for a relaunch. I think this was one of the first proper “grown up” comics I ever read. Certainly, it introduced me to a lot of new creators whose work I’ve loyally followed ever since.

dickorydock01 March – We all Live in Dickory Dock (IPC, 01 Mar 1980 to 20 Sep 1980, 29 issues) launched.
Yer uncle Rusty has no memories of this kids’ comic at all, except for from that time a couple of years ago when he was browsing through the web looking for information about it. It looks like it might be based on a cartoon, but I’ve no evidence to support that. It was ultimately absorbed by Jack and Jill (the version that was launched in 1954 and ran until 1985, not the one that features at the bottom of this article).

chillerpb101 March – Chiller Pocket Book (Marvel UK, 01 Mar 1980 to 01 Jul 1982, 28 issues) launched.
I loved the Marvel digest series of comics, with their handy A5 size and lovely trimmed edges and lots and lots of pages! This one, the first in the series, helped fill the horror-comics gap left by the cancellation of the long-gone Dracula Lives weekly. It included reprints of Tomb of Dracula and Man-Thing, pretty impressive stuff even today.

frantic101 March – Frantic (Marvel UK, 01 Mar 1980 to 01 Jul 1981, 18 issues) launched.
Remember those teeth-grindingly “hilarious” Mad movie and TV show parodies with the page-spanning dialogue in square speech bubbles peppered with bold text to emphasise the jokes, and characters called “Schlock” or “Schmutz” who make lots of digs at the perceived quality of the scripts? Well, that, but with more Marvel characters. On the positive side, Frantic also included reprints of Howard the Duck, which was great fun.

funandgames101 March – Superhero Fun and Games (Marvel UK, 01 Mar 1980 to 01 Dec 1981, 22 issues) launched.
Packed with Marvel superhero-themed crosswords, word-searches, join the difference and spot the dots puzzles, and the like. This might seem like an out-of-the-blue idea, but it would have made sense at the time: puzzle magazines were solid, steady sellers in the UK so why not throw in some Marvel characters and get the kids interested, too? I would imagine that for readers of the right age a book like this would have given tremendous value for money.

photosecretlove15 March – Photo Secret Love (IPC, 15 Mar 1980 to 30 Jan 1982, 99 issues) launched.
The title’s a bit of a give-away with this one: I don’t think I even need to explain it to you in any further detail. However, I will say that it is yet another member of the highly-populated My Guy Family Tree, AKA the IPC girls’ comics equivalent of the elephants’ graveyard (in that it’s not that they go there to die, it’s that they go there and then they die).

45 years ago:
worldwonder01 March – World of Wonder (IPC, 28 Mar 1970 to 01 Mar 1975, 258 issues) final issue: absorbed into Look and Learn.
One of those rare publications whose start and end dates were the same month and a multiple of five years apart, and thus have two entries in the same episode of Hatch, Match and Dispatch, as you’ll see below. Like its eventual home Look and Learn, this one was clearly a magazine rather than a comic, but it did contain some comic-strip content so it just about scrapes into the category here.

battle08 March – Battle Picture Weekly (IPC, 08 Mar 1975 to 23 Jan 1988, 664 issues) launched.
Is this the most important British comic ever published? Hmm… Probably not. But the most influential? Yes, it might well be. Battle Picture Weekly sparked Action, which sparked 2000AD. Ironically for a comic that seemed permanently tethered to the second world war, it was the spearhead of the charge that took comics into the future. Great stuff and — a few dodgy strips aside — still very, very readable.

savageswordofconan108 March – The Savage Sword of Conan (1975) (Marvel UK, 08 Mar 1975 to 05 Jul 1975, 18 issues) launched.
Marvel UK’s sixth title… and its first notable misfire. After a mere eighteen issues, or four months of real time, it was absorbed into The Avengers where it didn’t really fit at first, But the Conan strips were more than good enough to stick around, eventually leading to a second Conan title a couple of years later, this time a monthly one aimed at more grown-up readers: that one lasted for almost eight years. (Plus there was also the monthly Conan the Barbarian Pocket Book which ran for thirteen issues from the end of 1980.)

superheroes108 March – The Super-Heroes (Marvel UK, 08 Mar 1975 to 14 Feb 1976, 50 issues) launched.
By crikey, I loved this comic — it featured the Silver Surfer and the original X-Men! The Surfer stories were great but, Looking back, those early X-Men tales really don’t stand up without the aid of the Scaffolding of Nostalgia (which will be either the name of my new band or the title of next year’s massively depressing Booker Prize-Winning novel). Later issues introduced “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “The Black Knight,” “The Cat” and one of my personal favourites, “Doc Savage.”

50 years ago:
tellmewhy21 March – Tell Me Why (Fleetway, 31 Aug 1968 to 21 Mar 1970, 82 issues) final issue: relaunched as World of Wonder.
So, World of Wonder, as mentioned above and also below, was actually a relaunch of Tell Me Why, a kids educational magazine of the sort that well-meaning aunties might buy when what the kid really wants is Whizzer and Chips or The Victor. All the same, there was some gorgeous-looking stuff in these mags: high-quality printing allowed for full-painted images.

28 March – World of Wonder (IPC, 28 Mar 1970 to 01 Mar 1975, 258 issues) launched.
See? I said that it had two entries, didn’t I?

105 years ago:
leachsladyscompanion06 March – Leach’s Lady’s Companion (Newnes, 06 Mar 1915 to 05 Mar 1921, 315 issues) launched.
This is a relaunch of Cartwright’s Lady’s Companion (10 Dec 1892 to 27 Feb 1915, 1160 issues), so we’re straying quite some distance from comics here, but it was a publication that included a lot of fiction, so that makes it a story-paper which makes it a proto-comic. It’s one of the earliest entries in the family tree that terminates with My Guy.

135 years ago:
jackandjill188507 March – Jack and Jill (W. Long, 07 Mar 1885 to 25 Jun 1887, 121 issues) launched.
Unfortunately I know very little about this one — other than that its subtitle was “An illustrated weekly for boys and girls” and that it was retitled Jack’s Journal from issue #115 — but I can’t help thinking that it was probably printed on vinegar-scented brown paper.

 


(A note from Uncle Rusty: these lists are rather time-consuming to create, so if you enjoy  the feature please spread the word so I’ll know it’s not just me who’s interested in this sort of thing!)

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