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Childrens Comics - Sixties City
Childrens Comics - Sixties City

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Children still had their own traditional newsprint comics like 'The Dandy' and 'The Beano' but a whole new type of children's paper was now starting to feature cartoon-style adventure strips involving television series such as 'TV Tornado' and the glossy, futuristic 'newspaper', the brilliant 'TV Century 21' from Gerry Anderson.
Different age groups were increasingly being recognised and targeted in the youth magazine market, particularly female-oriented ones. These now carried not only story strips but also features on the fast growing pop scene, youth fashions, makeup techniques and even 'agony pages'. Examples of this were 'Jackie', 'Boyfriend' and 'Petticoat - for the new young woman'. During the 1950s and early 1960s the most popular comic magazine for older boys was 'Eagle' published by Hulton Press. The Eagle was published in a higher quality format, being gravure-printed, and led to other comics such as TV Century 21, Look and Learn and TV Comic being launched in a similar format. Comics published in this format quality were known as 'slicks'. Towards the end of the Sixties offset litho printing was preferred for cost reasons. The boys 'adventure comic' remained popular with IPC publishing titles such as Valiant and Tiger and which contained 'heroes' such as Roy of the Rovers.

In 1960 DC Thomson brought out a companion comic for Bunty called Judy and in 1961 they launched two of their most important weekly adventure comics. Victor, like Hotspur, ran graphic versions of old text stories including Alf Tupper and Morgyn the Mighty. Braddock V.C. was about a WW2 bomber pilot and Gorgeous Gus featured a millionaire footballer -called The Earl of Boote, a concept undreamt of in those days. Another popular feature was True Stories of Men at War which were comic strip tales of actual heroic actions, mainly from WW2. In 1961 DC Thomson also launched its competitor to War Picture Library, calling it 'Commando', which has since become almost a generic name for this type of publication.

In 1963 they launched Diana which was aimed at slightly older girls not yet interested in the romantic stories and pop music features of papers such as Romeo. It differed from DC Thomson's usual format of 2-colour printing and cheap newsprint by featuring full colour rotogravure printing intended to compete against Fleetway's Princess and June publications. It contained a combination of picture stories, illustrated features and text articles that started a move away from 'traditional' girls' subjects by using a wider range of 'educational' features that were more common to boys' comics such as Boy's World. The Hornet, which was similar to Victor, also appeared in 1963 and featured the legendary runner, Wilson. Another strip was V for Vengeance that had previously appeared in text form in The Wizard and told of a band of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe.

In response to 'Judy', Fleetwayintroduced June in 1961, containing some sci-fi and espionage stories and also featuring Billy Bunter's sister Bessie Bunter.

June merged with School Friend in 1965.

The Sexton Blake Library folded in 1963 to reappear a year later in the form of paperbacks published by Mayflower-Dell and aimed at a more mature readership. Valiant, which started in1962, was notable for most of its featured characters having special 'powers' such as in Kelly's Eye (which originally featured in a paper called Knock-out that had merged with Valiant) where a gem on a neckchain rendered the hero invincible. The Steel Claw could become invisible when his metal hand was exposed to electrical current and, in The House of Dolmann, a secret agent has created an army of small robotic soldiers. Captain Hurricane was a comedy war strip about a massive US marine who would pile into the enemy using only his fists. Sexton Blake was reintroduced in about 1968 to coincide with the childrens television series. Fleetway published Hurricane in 1964 but it only lasted just over a year although 'Hurricane Annuals' were published for many years afterwards.

Odhams, who had purchased Hulton Press and the Eagle comic before itself being taken over by Fleetway, launched a series of what were to be termed 'Power Comics' in the mid-Sixties.
Although comparatively short-lived, they were extremely popular at the time. The first of these was Wham!, launched in 1964. Initially a humorous comic, it soon began to print stories about Marvel's 'Fantastic Four'.
Smash! followed in 1966, containing 'Batman' and 'Incredible Hulk' strips. Pow!, introduced in January 1967, contained a mixture of Marvel (Spider Man) and British super-heroes.
In the same year 'Terrific' and 'Fantastic' were also launched with even more Marvel characters. Terrific was very similar in format to Fantastic and lasted 43 issues from 15th April 1967 until 3rd February 1968 when it was merged with Fantastic.
Ultimately, the reader market could not support the whole range of power comics, leading to many mergers until only Smash! remained, being revamped in 1969 to revert to a 'Valiant' style adventure comic, the same year that saw the end of Odhams as a 'semi-independent' concern. Two years later Smash! was to be merged with Valiant.

Fantastic was a weekly comic that first appeared on 18th February 1967. Its 52nd issue on 10th February 1968 saw it merged with its sister comic Terrific. The 89th issue of Fantastic came out on 7th September 1968, after which it was merged into Smash! Fantastic was somewhat different from the earlier 'power comics' such as Pow! and Smash! in that the latter were more-or-less traditional Beano-style papers with additional stories and material from Marvel. Fantastic (and also Terrific) were of a much more 'American' style. Fantastic, launched on Saturday February 11th, 1967, had yet another different format, being smaller in size and of better quality paper. Although it cost 9d, compared to Smash's 7d for 28 pages, it contained 40 pages comprising of Marvel super-heroes. In 1965 Gerry Anderson bought out a new type of comic called TV Century 21 (later renamed TV 21), a lot of it printed in high quality colour and presented in the form of a newspaper from 100 years in the future. The stories were a television tie-in, mainly based on his puppet shows such as Fireball XL5 and Stingray, but also featured a strip about Lady Penelope (despite the fact that Thunderbirds had not yet featured on television), clearly an attempt at creating a 'unisex' comic.

Black and white print pages were used for stories based on other shows, but the Dr Who 'Daleks' featured in colour on the back page. Doctor Who had already been featuring in TV Comic since 1964, but The Daleks had a separate copyright that allowing them to be used separately.

Lady Penelope later appeared in her own publication along with other female characters such as the Angel fighter pilots from Captain Scarlet. Joe 90 was also provided with his own short-lived that eventually merged with TV21. The later editions of the comic also featured a coloured Star Trek strip. By the end of the decade it had swallowed up other TV show-based publications like Solo and TV Tornado, and was itself merged with Valiant in 1971. Polystyle Publications had also published a TV-related comic for children called TV Comic, adding Countdown (later TV Action) in 1971, aimed at an older audience. Another Sixties publication was 'Ranger', ostensibly an educational magazine. Launched in 1965, it only ran for 40 issues before being merged with Look and Learn. It had contained comic strip adaptions of classic stories, but also introduced us to 'The Trigan Empire', a futuristic epic story of an alien Roman-like culture, which survived the merger.

DC Thomson's Wizard merged with Rover in 1963, initially becoming Rover and Wizard but soon reverting to simply Rover. Having previously merged with 'Adventure', it was the last of the true story papers, the Hotspur having changed to a more comic style, finally winding up in 1973. The Wizard was re-launched as a comic in 1970, containing a substantial football section. Apart from a text-based football story early issues also included Scrappy, A Boy All Alone - about a homeless orphan and Soldiers of the Jet Age, about futuristic soldiers using jet packs and hover vehicles. In 1968 Fleetway had become the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) and was still a player in the comic market.

Their last traditional boy's adventure weekly comic, JAG, was launched on Saturday April 27th 1968 and was different to its companion comics in that it was tabloid sized, printed on better quality paper, with 4 of its 16 pages in full colour with a further four in spot colour. The comic lasted just 48 weeksbefore being merged back into Fleetway's balack and white newsprint comic 'Tiger'. Fleetway also launched Thunder in 1970 and Jet in 1971. These were short-lived publications, known humorously in the trade as 'The 22 Club', for publications that lasted for only 22 issues or less. During this period there were possibly dozens of these titles, being part of an IPC marketing policy called 'Hatch, Match and Despatch'. These included the 1970 football comics Scorcher and Score 'n Roar, merging in 1971 to become Scorcher and Score which survived until 1974 when it merged with the longer-established Tiger comic.

Comic Publishing Timeline (read in conjunction with text articles and separate timelines that contain additional information)

  Film Fun: 17th January 1920
Adventure: 1921
Dandy: 4th December 1937
Radio Fun: 15th October 1938 (later Radio Fun and Adventures, c.1959)
Eagle: 14th April 1950
Girl: 2nd November 1951
TV Comic: 9th November 1951 (expired 22nd June 1984)
Topper: 7th February 1953 (expired 15th September 1990)
Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips: expired 1953 - replaced by
TV Fun: 1953 (renamed TV Fan before its expiry in the late 50s)
Robin: 28th March 1953

Jack and Jill: 27th February 1954 (expired 29th June 1985)
Swift: 20th March 1954
Mirabelle: 10th September 1956 (expired 22nd October 1977)
Valentine : 19th January 1957 (expired 9th November 1974)
Romeo : 31st August 1957 (expired 14th September 1974)
Roxy : 15th March 1958

  30th January: Princess comic launched
28th May 'Buster' is introduced by Fleetway to rival D.C. Thomson's large size 'Topper' comic
  Film Fun is re-launched as Film Fun and Thrills to expand its image beyond the mere 'humour' aspect
Rover is merged with Adventure
18th February: British comic strip Radio Fun is merged into Buster
18th March - Bimbo comic is launched (expired 22nd January 1972)
25th February: Victor comic launched (expired 21st November 1992)
  8th September: Film Fun and Thrills comic expires
6th October: Valiant comic launched
(ceased publication 3rd April 1971 following merger with TV21)
  Diana launched
19th January 1963: Treasure comic launched (expired 16th January 1972)
2nd March: Last individual editions of Eagle and Swift comics
9th March: Eagle and Swift comics merge
14th September: Roxy comic expires
14th September: Hornet comic launched (expired 7th February 1976)
21st September: Teddy Bear comic launched (expired 15th September 1973)
  Look-In is launched as a junior TV Times (expired 1984)
11th January: Jackie magazine launched (expired 3rd July 1993)
3rd October Girl comic expires
October: Boy's World merges with Eagle after 40 editions
  23rd January: TV Century 21 (later TV21) comic is launched (merged with Valiant 3rd April 1971)
23rd January: Sparky comic launched (expired 16th July 1977)
  5th February: Smash comic launched (expired 3rd April 1971)
24th September: Pippin comic launched (expired 26th September 1986)
  The Boys' Own Paper ceases publication
21st January: Mandy comic launched (expired 5th May 1991)
21st January: Pow! (and Wham!) comic launched
29th April: Giggle comic launched
16th September: Princess comic expires
  13th January: Giggle comic expires
27th January: Twinkle comic launched
27th April: JAG comic launched
7th September: Pow! (and Wham!) comic expires
  TV21 merges with Joe 90 to become TV21 & Joe 90
25th January: Robin comic expires
26th April: Eagle and Swift comic expires
April: JAG merges with Tiger
18th October: Whizzer and Chips comic launched (expired 27th October 1990)

On 20th March 2012, a number of British comics were featured in a commemorative stamp issue by the Royal Mail to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of 'Dandy', the world's longest running comic.

Each stamp pictured the 'star character' with their comic in the background.

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