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10 ICONIC BRITISH COMICS

Of course he means it, Carol. He's a 1960s comic strip character and as such his integrity is unquestionable! One of the things I always looked forward to on a Thursday or Friday was to run down to the newsagent first thing in the morning and pick up my comics. None of them like the one above, of course. Topper was one of my regulars and so was TV Comic - until TV21 came along and all the others seemed to pale into insignificance. I think it fair to say that the 1960s were probably a golden age for British comics. Below are a selection of some of the most iconic British comics. But Who would you choose as the most iconic British comic strip character of all time? Why not let us know for a future article...

BUNTY was a comic for girls from 1958 by D. C. Thomson & Co. The average issue consisted of several short comic-strip stories, letter pages, competitions, puzzles, promotions and ads. The back page originally featured a cut-out doll with changeable clothes but this eventually gave way to a wall poster. The longest running of all Bunty's comic strips was "The Four Marys" which featured throughout the comic's run which ended in 2001. The four Mary's were Mary Field, Mary Cotter, Mary Simpson and Mary Radleigh - all were in the Third Form at St. Elmo's School for Girls in Elmbury. Bunty was aimed primarily at working class readers under the age of 14.

THE BEANO published by D. C. Thomson & Co., first appeared as a weekly publication in 1938 although during the War years it alternated with The Dandy due to paper and ink rationing. It's iconic characters are Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids, Little Plum, The 3 Bears and Billy Whizz, each of them passing into comic strip legend. The Beano is so popular that for a while it had its own section in the Chessington World of Adventures theme park called "Beanoland". The comic is still published today and at the time of writing over 3,500 issues have been published.

THE DANDY first published by D. C. Thomson & Co. in 1937 is the world's third longest running comic, after Detective Comics in the USA and Il Giornalino in Italy. It was published weekly until September 1941, when wartime paper shortages forced it to switch to fortnightly, alternating with The Beano. It returned to its weekly schedule on July 1949. From 17 July 1950, the magazine changed its name from The Dandy Comic to just The Dandy. Its iconic characters are Desperate Dan, Keyhole Kate, Smasher, Winker Watson and Korky the Cat. The original editor was Albert Barnes who, according to The Legend of Desperate Dan (published 1997), Dan's famous chin was modelled on. He stayed in the role until 1982.

THE TOPPER was published by D. C. Thomson & Co. from February 1953 to September 1990, when it merged with The Beezer. Despite the closure of the Topper as a standalone title, The Topper Book continued as an annual, separate from The Beezer Book, until the 1994 annual. Vintage stories from the Topper appeared alongside stories from other D. C. Thomson publications in Classics from the Comics, a compilation magazine series which ran from 1996 to 2010. Its iconic characters were Beryl the Peril, Send for Kelly, Desert Island Dick and Mickey the Monkey. Unlike most other comics at the time, which were A4 paper size, this was double the size at A3.

THE BEEZER ran from January 1956 to August 1993. Like its sister comic, The Topper, The Beezer was an A3 (tabloid) publication, twice as big as most other comics. It shrank to A4 paper size in 1981. In September 1990, D. C. Thomson decided to merge The Beezer with The Topper. Whereas most previous comic mergers saw the name of one of the 'absorbed' comics disappear, the Topper was considered significant enough for its name to be retained despite the merger, and as such the comic was renamed Beezer and Topper following the relaunch. Its iconic characters included Calamity Jane, Ginger, Pop Dick and Harry and The Numskulls.

TV EXPRESS WEEKLY started life as Junior Express, published by TV Publications Ltd., Television House, Kingsway, WC2, which was also the headquarters of ATV broadcaster and programme maker ITC. The first issue appeared in September 1954, changed its title to Junior Express Weekly with No.39, simplified itself to Express Weekly with No.74, and finally settled upon TV Express Weekly from No.286, moving into the world of TV-inspired comics. These strips included Gun Law, Yogi Bear, No Hiding Place, a series of Danger Man text stories, as well as illustrated biographical strips such as The Alfie Bass Story and Bill Fraser (from The Army Game). Biggles, a 1960 tv series, based on the books by W.E. Johns graced the front cover and illustrators Ron Embleton who later illustrated the end title boards for the original Captain Scarlet tv show, and Mike Noble who would later illustrate strip in TV Comic and TV21. TV Express Weekly ceased publication in 1962 when it merged into TV Comic.

TV COMIC published weekly by Beaverbrook from November 1951 (later by Polystyle Publications). Muffin the Mule graced the cover, and the comic also contained other TV favourites of the day, Mr. Pastry and Larry the Lamb, but actually very little else to justify its 'TV' title. By the 1960s it was still aimed at a much younger audience than the far superior TV Express Weekly, but was about to enter its golden era. Supercar made its debut in 1961 and the American western strip The Lone Ranger was transferred from TV Express. The Lone Ranger was replaced by The Range Rider and Bootsie & Snudge lead the way for further sitcom based strips such as The Dickie Henderson Show. It became the first comic to feature Doctor Who and other highly collectable material included Fireball XL5, The Telegoons which ran from 1963 to 1967, Space Patrol which ran from 1964 to 1965 and The Avengers which ran initially from 1965 to 1966 and again from 1968 to 1972. A number of annuals and holiday specials were also issued over the years. It finally closed, after 33 years, in 1984 due to falling sales.

EAGLE is one of the most iconic British comics of all time, first published in 1950 having been founded by an Anglican vicar. John Marcus Harston Morris was concerned that the Anglican church was not publicising its message effectively enough and that the church was completely out of touch with the people whom it was supposed to represent, he expanded a parish magazine into The Anvil, a widely-circulated Christian magazine based on Lilliput. In 1948 he employed young artist, Frank Hampson, with ambitions to produce a strip cartoon magazine aimed at children. In May 1949 the two began work on a dummy comic. Dan Dare of the Inter-Planet Patrol, and featured on the cover. Despite its relatively high price tag, the Eagle comic published by Hulton Press was an immediate success; released in April 1950 the first issue sold around 900,000 copies. Other popular stories included Riders of the Range and P.C. 49. A members club was created, and a range of related merchandise was licensed for sale.

TV CENTURY 21 (known as TV 21 from September 1968) was launched in January 1965 to promote the many television science-fiction puppet series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Century 21 Productions. Following discussions between Gerry Anderson, Keith Shakleton (of Anderson's AP Films merchandising arm) and writer Alan Fennell, who had written comic strip stories for TV Comic and Anderson's various shows, a deal was struck with City Magazines, part of the News of The World Group. A 'dummy' issue was created, simply called Century 21, based on a newspaper broad sheet. This was dropped and instead they opted for a format based on The Eagle. The cover of the new magazine would still resemble a newspaper front page, with banner headlines, news reports and dramatic photographs. The dateline on the front of each issue was set exactly 100 years into the future. Within its first year, TV 21's circulation exceeded all expectations by selling 600,000 copies a week. Apart from the various Anderson shows featured (Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds), Fennell managed to secure the rights to Terry Nation's Daleks, who featured in full colour on the back page. Many of the leading British comic book artists worked for the magazine, including Frank Bellamy, who drew two-page-spread adventures of Thunderbirds, Mike Noble and Ron Embleton. The publication was so successful that in January 1966 a sister publication, Lady Penelope, was produced for girls.

LADY PENELOPE was a name used by the Ford Motor Company for three different models. The Ford Capri coupé was produced by Ford of Europe from 1969 to 1986. Ford's European advertising slogan was "The car you always promised yourself". Capris enjoyed a high profile on Television throughout the 80s. In The Professionals Bodie and Doyle used Mk3s and Minder featured a Capri in its opening sequence. Terry McCann, played by Dennis Waterman was behind the wheel of various Capris during it's run. Perhaps as a result of this, the third generation Capri was also one of the most stolen cars in Britain during the 1980s and early 1990s!

Um...yeh!

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