Tentacle Tuesday: Tentacles Aren’t So Bad, My Old Fruit*

« The land of embarrassment and breakfast. » Julian Barnes

Ah, yes, it’s time to paddle once again to British shores, after fortifying myself with a few dainty tea sandwiches. In rough chronological order…

Here is a Dr What and His Time Clock strip I found on the excellent Blimey! The Blog of British Comics. I’ll quote Lew Stringer, its author, who is a lot more knowledgeable about British comics than I’ll ever be: «... a weekly humour-adventure serial that ran in Boys’ World in 1964, published by Odhams. The hairstyle and clothing of the character is obviously based on that of the first Doctor as portrayed by William Hartnell. Here’s the episode from Boys’ World Vol. 2 No. 33, dated 15th August 1964. The art is by Artie Jackson, who later drew Danger Mouse (preceding the TV cartoon of the same name/concept) for Smash! in 1966. Jackson also drew many of the Danny Dare strips for Wham! »

Dr What and His Time Clock strip from August 1964, drawn by Artie Jackson.

In case you didn’t know, a beano is British slang for a noisy festive celebration, or, in other words, some sort of a party. Biffo the Bear is not my favourite character from this very long-running publication (started in 1938, still ongoing), but I really like the way this octopus is drawn.

Beano no. 1435 (January 17th, 1970, D.C. Thomson). Cover by David Sutherland.
Chips from March 10th, 1973. The cover is drawn by Mike Lacey, son of adventure strip artist Bill Lacey.

Scream Inn, written and illustrated by Brian Walker, was a beautifully-drawn strip published in Shiver and Shake (and, later, Whoopee!). The location: a hotel run by ghosts. The premise: these ghosts delighted in playing pranks on humans, and offered a million pounds to anybody who would manage to stay at their hotel for an entire night. Readers were invited to suggest what type of person could make it through the night (and were granted a one quid reward if their suggestion made it into a story).

In this one, a friendly octopus is borrowed to terrify a clown:

Scream Inn page published in Whoopee! from June 4th, 1977.

Cookie’s many-tentacled friend Olly makes another appearance a month later, this time used to spook “Jake the Peg with an extra leg”.

Scream Inn detail published in Whoopee! from July 16th, 1977.

Incidentally, isn’t this a nice header?

Elephant on the Run ran in Cheekly Weekly and was drawn mostly by Robert Nixon, with some other artists occasionally filling in. This strip boasted a pleasantly surreal premise: the elephant, Walter, is being relentlessly pursued by a mysterious man in a plastic mac… and suffering from a bad case of amnesia after an unfortunate circus act mishap, he has no idea why he’s being hunted, or what the man wants from him. Still, he runs! Both of them donning a range of improbable costumes to fake each other out – as in the following strip, in which Walter dresses, among other things, as a one legged pirate to elude detection. This sort of wackiness is why I love British comics.

This instalment of Elephant on the Run was published in Cheeky Weekly of November 25th, 1978 and is drawn by Robert Nixon. Look inside this issue here.

I hope you enjoyed this foray into British tentacles! There are plenty more of that stuff in our archives – or go rummaging through the whole British category in THE SUN NEVER SETS ON THE BRITISH EMPIRE!

~ ds

*paraphrasing from ‘Pimlico’ by David Devant & His Spirit Wife. Here are these joyous goofballs:

Tentacle Tuesday: Get Yer Wellies On!

British comic weeklies are a world unto themselves, with their own styles and jargon. A few books have been written on the subject, and a handful of dedicated bloggers have endeavoured to provide interested readers with cover and story scans, as well as historical information, but overall this is largely an unmined field. I don’t know if this situation is caused by a relative lack of interest, or simply because there is just so much material to cover (the most popular of weeklies have thousands of issues). The other problem is that for reasons of mercantile interests (i.e. sales), a lot of these weeklies would be merged with other weeklies, sometimes keeping a double name and occasionally getting renamed altogether, every so often de-merging to continue under the original name to be cancelled altogether or perhaps merge again. Short of being a scholar specialising in this field, keeping track of all this is about as daunting as attempting to interpret this extremely confusing roadway sign.

I’m just a dabbler, tentatively poking a toe into these somewhat intimidating waters once in a while. So far, tentacle-wise, we’ve talked about Eagle’s Dan Dare, the forgotten British master Roy Wilson, and 2000 A.D., among other things… you can see all our British posts here.

The two most popular British comics are deemed to be The Beano and The Dandy, both weeklies for children published by D.C. Thomson (I really have to force myself to not add a p to that) starting in the 1930s. The former reached its four thousandth (!) issue in August 2019, and the latter counts as the world’s third-longest running comic (spot number on is taken by Italian Il Giornalino, and spot number two belongs to Detective Comics).

It’s pretty difficult to find high-res scans of most issues of any of the weeklies discussed in this post, so I was definitely limited by that. However, I believe I still managed to cobble together a fairly representative selection, with the help of co-admin RG who had to unwarp, re-colour and trim the heck out of some of these covers. Thanks, partner!

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The weekly The Hotspur was published by D.C. Thomson. From its inception in 1933 up until 1959, it was a boys’ story paper, containing text stories and illustrations but no comic strips. It became a comic magazine in October 1959, with the last issue published in January 1981. This is The Hotspur no. 751 (March 9th, 1974).

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Hotspur no. 778 (September 14th, 1974).

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The Hotspur no. 826 (16th August, 1975).

Lion, published by IPC, was brought to life to compete with the Eagle periodical, which was the home of ever-popular Dan Dare. For proper competition, this new weekly publication needed a science-fiction romp, too, and that’s how Captain Condor – Space Ship Pilot got started.  In 1969, the Lion gobbled up its rival Eagle (yum) and they merged into Lion & Eagle (sounds like a pub, not a publication! – RG). As for Lion and Thunder, that was the result of the periodical Thunder (also published by IPC) getting incorporated into Lion in 1972, after only 22 issues. I guess “Thunder Lion” would have put the cart before the horse, or the minor, unsuccessful periodical ahead of the major one.

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Lion and Thunder no. 4 (4th May 1974). Take a look inside this issue at the Great News for All Readers! blog.

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Lion and Thunder ( 27th November 1971).

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Lion and Thunder no. 23rd September 1972.

The Wizard was a weekly “story paper” launched in September 1922, published by D.C. Thomson. It got as far as issue no. 1970, merging with The Rover in 1963 and continuing under Rover and Wizard for a while. The Wizard was relaunched in 1970, and endured until 1978.a while. The Wizard was relaunched in 1970, and.

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 The Wizard no. 88 (16th October 1971), The Wizard no. 90 (30th October 1971) and The Wizard no. 233 (27th July 1974). I was only able to find these covers in low resolution, sorry!

Last (but not least, as they say), no post of this type would be complete without a couple of issues of the aforementioned Dandy!

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The Dandy no. 2109 and The Dandy no. 2138.

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Good old Korky!

Should your organism require more British weeklies, give Great News for All Readers a shot, or a-fix your peepers on Blimey! The Blog of British Comics, both excellent sources of the stuff.

∼ ds