Requeim for our Dear Old Comics

by

REQUEIM FOR OUR OLD COMICS
I happened to be in the newsagents the other day when I heard him putting his order into the wholesaler and I heard him mention The Beano. When he had finished I said to him, ‘Wow is the Beano still going?’ and he confirmed that it indeed was. My mind went back to a time when Dad paid for the Beano and the Dandy to be delivered for me with the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper, one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday. Eggo the Ostrich was on the cover of the Beano and Korky the Cat on the front of the Dandy, How I looked forward to receiving those comics. As it was wartime and even news print was rationed the newsagent only had an allocation of so many of those comics so you put your name down and waited for the day when some other lad grew out of them or didn’t pay the bill then you were on his list. Only the cover could run to colour and even that was poor quality it used to make me smile when the outline of a character would appear and then the colour of say his red jersey would appear as a splodge perhaps a millimetre away.
There were some great characters in those comics, Lord Snooty with his gang that included the perambulating babies, Snitch and Snatch, Lanky Lizzie, and Big Fat Joe. They used have altercations with the Bash Street Gang. Then there was Keyhole Kate who had developed a long nose through looking through keyholes, Beryl the Peril, Denis the Menace with his dog Nasher, Jimmy and his magic patch he had a patch on the back of his trousers if he rubbed it and thought of a place he would be transported there like on a magic carpet. These characters tended to get up to some dodgy jape but always tended to be found out and brought to justice in the end.
I remember particularly Desperate Dan, he was in the Dandy and carried six guns and ate cow pies complete with the horns sticking out of the top. I don’t suppose he would be politically correct today.

Why I remember Desperate Dan in particular is that he first appeared on the 4th of December 1937 which happened to be the day before I was born so, I could always claim that I was just one day younger that the famous Desperate Dan. I remember my aunt buying me the first edition of The Eagle, It had the space captain Dan Dare on the front cover and a picture of Mekon, Lord of the Treens. a little green man with a huge head flying around on a hover type saucer. Inside one of the feature stories was about, Harris Tweed the detective. I wish I had kept that comic I bet it would be worth a fortune today
I would invariably be told off by my dad for reading the comics next to my plate while I was eating my dinner as it was bad manners, bad for my digestion and bad grammar with all the ‘pows’ ‘biffs’ ‘wows’ ‘splats’, ‘crash bangs’ and speech balloons which accompanied the stories and he claimed that the tiny printing would damage my eyesight, but I don’t think he ever broke me of the habit. When you got to about eleven or twelve you had grown out of the picture comics and were ready to move on to the big lads written comics: The Wizard, The Hotspur, Rover and Adventure.
But before I move onto those I had better mention the comics specifically for girls. I have to admit I had to ‘Google’ to find them. Google gave me: ‘Cindy,’ ‘Vicky’, and ‘Lucy’, which I couldn’t recall and ‘Bunty’ which I did recall and ‘School Friend’ which really rang bell as it had in it Betty Bunter, the fat sister of Billy Bunter.

To get back to the lad’s comics; once again you had a long wait for the newsagent to be able to put you on his supply list; it was a seller’s market. Finally I started to receive The Wizard and The Hotspur, they were worth waiting for. To me most of the authors of those stories were top class; they kept you glued to your seat and the adventure ones finished on a cliff edge waiting for the next episode. Usually there would be about half a dozen stories in each issue: an adventure story, a public school story a football or cricket story depending on the season, one about athletics, probably one about the war which was ongoing at the time, perhaps one about someone with super powers. The tales had more than one string to them to keep the story flowing like ‘Limp along Leslie,’ he was a lad, lame in one leg, by day he was a shepherd in the Scottish hills where he was training his sheepdog to become a champion and at the same time as bamboozling everyone on the soccer field with his limping gait and finally, aspiring to play for Rangers.
Other football stories featured the famous, ‘Roy of the Rovers’ and ‘The Cannonball kid’ Usually there would be a picture drawn at the beginning of a football story showing a goal keeper making a prodigious diving save or the ball steaking into the very top corner of the net within inches of the post and the crossbar. One football story that stands out for me is: The tale about a rich mystery man who because of his immaculate appearance grew the nickname ‘Gorgeous Gus’ This guy bought a football club and paid massive transfer fees for all the positions except centre forwards. Everyone was excited who would be the mystery centre forward? It turned Gorgeous Gus was going to play centre forward himself. He used his own dressing room and appeared on the pitch for the first match, immaculately turned out with golden hair, golden boots etc. He wouldn’t chase the ball make any tackles but when they passed the ball to him he would hit it with such tremendous power that he scored a goal from anywhere on the field no matter how far he was away from the goal. If he got a speck of mud on himself he would go off the field and put clean kit on. These ‘boys own’ stories are still strong in my memory when even stories considered to be classics have faded.
Another series was ‘V for Vengeance’ about a British spy who managed to get to be second in command of the Gestapo and saved many lives [a likely tale]. Yet another was Jonny Appleseed a gentle American backwoodsman who had a vocation to plant apple trees all over America. For some reason someone was out to kill him but he had a protector that he wouldn’t recognise because he was violent and he hated violence. This guy was called ‘Slocum of the six knives’ and he followed Jonny at a distance keeping out of Jonny’s sight But anyone who tried to do Jonny harm would end up with one of Slocum’s knives in his back.
Yet another was ‘UGG! He was a cave man reanimated, he was stronger than any human and friendly to the main protagonist of the story but he carried a cricket bat in lieu of a club and when he went into action his war cry was, ‘The Clicker bar turns in my hand is the war cry of Ugg cracker of sculls,’
The ‘Tough of the Track’ was a working man and distance runner who rode about on a motor bike and side car with a highway code in his pocket which he would wave at folk who cut him up, He trained on fish and chips then went on to win all his races. One last one before I move onto my favourite, ‘Smith of the Lower Third’ Smith was the son of a grocer who won a scholarship to a upper class school where all the rest of the boys were toffs he had to fag for a ‘Flashman’ type prefect who was very cruel to him, but as with all these tales the underdog usually won through. But there was one episode that stands out for me it was the inter house athletics tournament and Tom’s house were poorly off for runners apart from one lad: Numb Ned. They knew Ned could run but Ned’s hobby was dozing in his old arm chair, they couldn’t budge him out of it, running in races was the last thing on his mind he never moved unless forced. Now It just so happened that a local furniture shop had the most luxurious, reclining chair in their window, it had all manner of head supports arm supports trays for drinks and soft music for dozing (there was a picture of it in the comic) So they showed Ned a picture of the chair and said they would have a whip round and buy it for him if he would run for the house in the races but that he couldn’t sit in it until after he’d won the race. Ned couldn’t wait to get sat in the chair so he won every race on the card just so he could quickly get back and doze in his chair. I suppose anyone who read those old comics had a particular favourite. So, who was my absolute favourite? It was Wilson of the Wizard of course.

Wilson lived outdoors on Ambleside moor in Yorkshire he always wore a black old fashioned running costume. He had managed to slow his heart rate down and was now one hundred and sixty years old. He couldn’t always be found but when he did appear, usually to help the country in the Olympics or something of that ilk he always accomplished some phenomenal feat at running, jumping, whatever. No one had reached the summit of Everest at the time so Wilson did it without oxygen and in his old running suit when he came down folk asked him if he had reached the summit and he replied, ‘That is a secret between me and the lady’. He was such a gentleman. Then he went and bowled the Australians out taking all ten wickets before lunch. He used to explain in the Wizard how to relax and slow his heart rate down to achieve all these feats. I tried it myself and actually had an out of the body experience I found myself floating up to the ceiling; I guess I was actually on the astral plain?

7 Responses to “Requeim for our Dear Old Comics”

  1. Douglas Farnill Says:

    Peter, I’m glad your favourite was Wilson of the Wizard, He too was my hero. My best mate, Eddie Blair of Aylesford Terrace and I were equal bosses of a gang. Fully mustered we were four in all, including me and Eddie. We imagined ourselves as Wilson performing huge feats of endurance and defeating all manner of baddies and overcoming natural disasters, But all that must have been in the early 1940’s, we were born 6 or 7 years older before you Peter. So Wilson must have been around a long time – well he had reached 160 years old in your day. I never had a subscription, the newsagents by the railway bridge on Pontefract Lane, near to the Coop and next door to Pape’s barbers shop, I think the newsagents name was Leethall, or something like that, he would sometimes display a spare copy of the Wizard, Rover or Hotspur in his rack, and I would check on most days after school, and if there were one available I would scoot home to persuade my mother to give me 2d which was the price in those days. I think most of my reading skills and vocabulary was developed from those boys’ comics. Thank you again for stirring old memories of good times.

  2. John Holloway \(Stronsay\) Says:

    Wonderful to read Peter – great stuff. I was born a few years after yourself but still had the ‘Beano’ mag and swapped comics with Freddy Dubber my pal across the road in Copperfield Avenue who got the ‘Dandy’. Some of the ‘expletives’ (gentle ones of course) found in those comics have featured throughout my life and I still use some of them today – only the ‘polite’ one’s of course. ‘You butter-fingered lunkhead’ is one (goalkeeping error) and in the category of ‘noxious smells’ I still refer to the phrase ‘’The pongiest pong since the Manchester Ship Canal dried up in 1847.’’ (or thereabouts). We even had the Beano (or was it Dandy?) delivered to us on Fair Isle where my wife Sue and I ran the island shop, by which time one of those two comics featured ‘Alexander and his pet Lemming) – my all-time favourite ! The Lemming was forever trying to jump off cliffs and buildings etc and his owner Alexander was forever just managing to stop him! Must try and rake one of those comics out we might still have a copy or two in the loft.

  3. taskerdunham Says:

    You’ve got me with some of these characters but I also remember Radio Fun, Film Fun and Knockout in the 1950s. The Radio and Film comics introduced me to stars I didn’t see until years later on TV (who remembers Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss now?). And I have a very distinct memory that the first time I ever read something all the way through it was the comic Knockout.

  4. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for your comments and Taskerdunham Thanks for reminding me of Radio Fun, Film Fun and Knockout they were omissions I shouldn’t haver missed in my tale. I recall folk like patulia Clark appeared in Radio Fun and Stan and Ollie in film fun. I wonder if they were paid any royalties?

  5. John Holloway wrote. Says:

    Wonderful to read Peter – great stuff.
    I was born a few years after yourself but still had the ‘Beano’ mag and swapped comics with Freddy Dubber my pal across the road in Copperfield Avenue who got the ‘Dandy’. Some of the ‘expletives’ (gentle ones of course) found in those comics have featured throughout my life and I still use some of them today – only the ‘polite’ one’s of course. ‘You butter-fingered lunkhead’ is one (goalkeeping error) and in the category of ‘noxious smells’ I still refer to the phrase ‘’The pongiest pong since the Manchester Ship Canal dried up in 1847.’’ (or thereabouts).
    We even had the Beano (or was it Dandy?) delivered to us on Fair Isle where my wife Sue and I ran the island shop, by which time one of those two comics featured ‘Alexander and his pet Lemming) – my all-time favourite ! The Lemming was forever trying to jump off cliffs and buildings etc and his owner Alexander was forever just managing to stop him!
    Must try and rake one of those comics out we might still have a copy or two in the loft.

  6. Eric Says:

    I remember most of the publications & characters mentioned & they remain happy & innocent memories. I also remember waiting with great anticipation for the Dandy, Beano & The Wizard to drop through the letter box , & later The Eagle with Dan Dare & the villainous Mekon on the front page.
    Several years ago, my grandson was over from the US & he came across & thoroughly enjoyed both the Dandy & the Beano. As a result , up until about a year ago, we used to regularly buy both & send periodic packages over to the US , including the Dandy & Beano annuals.
    It seems all of our contributors derived the utmost pleasure from your well remembered characters Pete . Well done

  7. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Another great tale Pete I must admit I didn’t remember all of the characters you mention but in those days reading was never my strong point. I recall we used to swap comics in our younger days, I never used to save them until 1950’s when the Eagle was first published. I’d missed the early issues think the first one was April 14th 1950, and there was a guy with a barrow down in Leeds Market who sold comics second hand, and eventually I had all the issues, I saved them until I went into the Army to do National Service, as you can imagine I had a lot stored in boxes up in the loft, When I came home after National Service 1961, I went up into the loft and they were gone, Dad said your Mum had a clear out whilst you were away, and she said you were too old for comics. I was devastated as you can imagine, they’d be worth a fortune now. I still think of Desperate Dan when we have Cow Pie for dinner….thanks for bringing back those memories Pete. Happy Days.

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