Wham! (comics)

Wham! was a weekly British comics magazine published by Odhams Press. It ran for 187 issues from 20 June 1964 to 13 January 1968, when it merged into its sister title Pow!

Wham!
Wham! #1 (20 June 1964), featuring Biff and the Tiddlers. Artwork by Leo Baxendale.
Publication information
PublisherOdhams Press
Scheduleweekly (every Tuesday)
FormatOngoing series
Genre
Publication date20 June 1964 – 13 January 1968 (merged into Pow!)
No. of issues187
Main character(s)Eagle Eye, Junior Spy
Fantastic Four
Georgie's Germs
Grimly Feendish
Kelpie the Boy Wizard
Pest of the West
Sammy Shrink
The Tiddlers
The Wacks
Creative team
Written byStan Lee (reprints)
Artist(s)Leo Baxendale, John M. Burns, Jack Kirby (reprints), Gordon Hogg, Brian Lewis, Dave Jenner, Ken Reid
Editor(s)Alf Wallace

Created by veteran cartoonist Leo Baxendale, Wham! was structured like a typical British comic in the mould of The Beano, but it was distinguished by "a racy and anarchic new breed"[1] of humour that inspired later British strips. The initial success of Wham! prompted the creation of sister titles Smash! and Pow! with similar intent; these, in turn, led to the formation of Odhams' Power Comics line, featuring reprints of American Marvel Comics superhero stories. Wham! included short instalments of The Fantastic Four.

OverviewEdit

Odhams' line of "juveniles" (i.e., comics) were managed by Alf Wallace, who had been brought over from Fleetway Publications (formerly Amalgamated Press), both parts of the same Mirror Group. Odhams competed for readers with DC Thomson, publisher of such popular titles as The Beano, The Dandy, and Commando. Wallace had been successful at Fleetway with his line of War Picture Library comics, but had been unable to reverse the declining popularity of Odhams' other comics titles, including Eagle, Swift, and Boys' World.[1] (Odhams had acquired Eagle and Swift from Hulton Press in 1960,[2] and by early 1964, Eagle was the only one left, having absorbed Swift and Boy's World.)

In 1964, Wallace recruited humour cartoonist Leo Baxendale, who had worked for DC Thomson for many years, to create a new, energetic comics weekly. Although Baxendale was paid £8,000 in his first year at Odhams (adjusted for inflation, £140,000 in 2021 terms), he soon realized that there was little other security or money to pay contributors like John M. Burns, Gordon Hogg, Brian Lewis, and Dave Jenner (as Fleetway fought with Odhams for more resources from the parent Mirror Group).[1]

Wham! debuted on 20 June 1964; in its early issues it featured both clear imitations of The Beano strips — such as a clone of his Bash Street Kids in the shape of The Tiddlers — and new original strips — such as Eagle Eye, Junior Spy and Georgie's Germs, in which Baxendale attempted to break the mould of older strips by the use of bizarre humour, outrageous puns, and surreal plots. Of Wham!'s initial lineup of strips, Baxendale created at least seven of them (including Danny Dare; Eagle Eye, Junior Spy; Footsie the Clown; General Nitt and his Barmy Army; Georgie's Germs; Pest of the West; and The Tiddlers). Long before the Fantastic Four joined the lineup, John M. Burns' Kelpie the Boy Wizard was the rare adventure strip in Wham!, set in the days of Camelot and King Arthur.

With the success of Wham!, the next title in the line, Smash!, debuted on 5 February 1966. The Hulk became the first Marvel superhero to show up in an Odhams title when he debuted in Smash! #16 (21 May 1966). The popularity of that strip led to Wham! adding Fantastic Four reprints beginning with issue #112 (6 August 1966). In late 1966, with two Odhams' titles featuring superheroes (and the third, Pow!, on the way), the Power Comics line was named, and the Power Comics logo was installed on the covers of Wham! and Smash! starting in early December 1966.

As costs rose, however, the inevitable adjustment of content made Wham! more like those comics it had been attempting to replace. In January 1968, Wham! merged with Pow! to become Pow! and Wham!; that title soon enough merged into Smash! The Power Comics line itself disappeared in late 1968 (although Smash! continued), and, beginning 1 January 1969, IPC Magazines (another member of the Mirror Group) took over publication of the remaining Odhams titles.

StripsEdit

  • Biff
  • Billy Binns and his Wonderful Specs by Bill Mainwaring
  • Danny Dare by Leo Baxendale; later by different artists
  • Eagle Eye, Junior Spy by Leo BaxendaleGrimly Feendish, Eagle Eye's arch-nemesis, graduated to his own comic strip in Smash! in 1966, along with his travelling accomplices (including bats, spiders, octopuses and other creatures of darkness and slime) who assisted Feendish in his schemes of world domination
  • Fantastic Four reprints by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — begins with issue #112
  • Footsie the Clown originally by Leo Baxendale; later by different artists including Graham Allen
  • Frankie Stein by Ken Reid (1964–1968) — Goofy, harmless Frankie (a take on Frankenstein's monster) lives with his mad scientist father, Professor Cube, at Mildew Manor. Frankie doesn't know his own strength and constantly ends up breaking everything. The Professor, meanwhile, is always scheming — and failing — to rid himself of Frankie. (Strip later revived in 1973 in Shiver and Shake, and then Whoopee!, and then Frankie became "editor" of Monster Fun.)
  • General Nitt and his Barmy Army by Leo Baxendale
  • Georgie's Germs by Leo Baxendale
  • The Humbugs
  • Kelpie the Boy Wizard by John M. Burns — fantasy adventure strip, set in the days of King Arthur
  • Pest of the West originally by Leo Baxendale; later by Brian Lewis and Stanley McMurtry
  • Sammy Shrink: The Smallest Boy in the World by Dave Jenner[citation needed] — about a boy who is only two inches tall. Sammy had the most successful — but also the most chequered — career of all the Odhams humor characters, originating in Wham!, moving to Pow! when they merged, and subsequently revived in Knockout, finally ending his career in Whizzer and Chips when it absorbed Knockout in June 1973.
  • The Tiddlers — the Kids from Canal Road School originally by Leo Baxendale; later by Mike Lacey
  • The Wacks by Gordon Hogg — about two young lads from Liverpool who fancy themselves as musicians, speak in Liverpudlian slang (even the original title of the strip was derived from a slang Scouse term for a native of Liverpool: "wacker"), sport mop top haircuts, and always carry guitars. Reprinted in Fleetway's Hurricane, under the title Birk 'n' 'Ed;[a] the Mersey Dead-Beats, from 30 January 1965.[3] (Reprinted again in Smash! in 1970 as Nick and Nat – The Beat Boys.)

ReferencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Spoken quickly for comic effect, the names of the two characters were intended to sound like that of a district in Liverpool called Birkenhead.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Coates, Alan and David. "Smash!" British Comic World #3 (A. & D. Coates, June 1984).
  2. ^ Tatarsky, Daniel (2009), Eagle Annual: The Best of the 1960s Comic, London: Orion, pp. introduction, ISBN 978-0-7528-8895-8.
  3. ^ Holland, Steve. Fleetway Companion (Colne, Lancs., A. & B. Whitworth, Feb. 1992), p. 89.

Sources consultedEdit