Sunday, October 29, 2017

WHAM! No.1 (1964)

One comic that had eluded me until recently was Wham! No.1. I didn't have it when I was a child, and in later years I always lost out on the bidding for it on eBay... until a few weeks ago, when I won a copy for far less than it usually sells for these days. It's a little tatty at the spine, but it's clean and complete, so I thought I'd show a few pages from it here today.

You probably know how Wham! came about, but if not, here's a recap: in 1964, Odhams Press wanted to produce a rival comic D.C. Thomson's Beano. The editors convinced Leo Baxendale to quit The Beano to develop stories for their new comic, which Leo envisioned as a sort of "Super-Beano" (or Wham! as it became) poaching Thomson's top talent. However, most of Thomson's artists would not leave the security of long-established comics to work on the new rival publication. Although the end result wasn't quite the "Super-Beano" that Leo had hoped for, Wham! still turned out to be a fresh and funny addition to the growing number of weekly comics in the Sixties.

Incredibly, in the first issue of Wham!, Leo Baxendale drew 17 of its 24 pages himself. Four of which were in full colour. Naturally, no one could keep up that tremendous output every week, so following issues saw other artists join the comic to imitate Leo's style on many of the strips. Meanwhile, over at The Beano, other artists were also imitating Leo's style on the strips he'd left (such as Minnie the Minx and The Bash Street Kids). As the 1960s moved on, Leo became the most imitated humour artist in the business, and elements of his popular style are still evident in comics today. 

Back to that first issue of Wham!, published Monday 15th June 1964, here's the strip that greeted readers as the opened the comic; General Nitt and his Barmy Army...

The Wacks was one strip that was swiftly taken over by another artist (Gordon Hogg) but for issue 1, Leo drew it himself...
The Tiddlers was very much Wham's version of The Bash Street Kids, but the twist was that teacher (Super Sir) was as wild as the kids. Sadly, this idea was dropped later, with Super Sir replaced by a teacher in conflict with the pupils. 

The centre pages gave us the first episode of Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy, a spoof of the popular spy genre of the time. The most important part of the strip though was its introduction of the baddie, Grimly Feendish, who would eclipse Eagle-Eye in popularity and go on to have his own long-running strip in Smash! (as well as a song about him years later by The Damned).

Another strip of note was Georgie's Germs, a gross version of The Beezer's Numskulls, that saw dirty kid Georgie having to deal with various ailments every week. This was another strip that other artists took over, but Leo set it off to a great start. 


With issue 4, Ken Reid joined the comic, bringing us Frankie Stein (see here) and Wham! became more manic than ever. It may not have been the "Super-Beano" that Leo had hoped for, but Wham! still turned out to be a great comic, with a cheeky, anarchic attitude, and still very fondly remembered by many. It inspired Odhams to launch companion comics for it, and soon we had Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic and Terrific, collectively known as the "Power Comics" that helped make the Sixties a great time to be a child.

You can read about the first issues of those other comics here:

https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/50-year-flashback-smash-no1.html


https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/50-year-flashback-pow-no1.html


https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/fantastic-50th.html


https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/50-year-flashback-terrific-no1-1967.html

7 comments:

Peter Gray said...

Great seeing the beginnings...also like the Georgies Germs poster action panel pages..

paul Mcscotty said...


One of a handful of UK comics I would like to have again. Wham! was such an iconic comic especially for those of us of a certain age. I think it was probably bought for my brother as I was only 4 or 5 at the time but I vividly remember reading it as a kid and being blown away by it, especially Eagle Eye (which still looks amazing after all these years) - sadly I never held onto my copy. Did you experience that “nano second” rush you got as a kid when you saw this again?

Lew Stringer said...

No, because as I said, I didn't have issue 1 as a child. I've never read it until now. My first issue was one from December 1965, and, yes, that did bring back memories when I acquired it again several years ago. You're right; Eagle Eye still looks great and could easily appeal to modern readers. The rights for these comics are up for sale at present so let's hope that whoever buys them will issue some nice book collections.

Roberto Del Corazõn said...

I'm still amazed by how many different styles Baxendale could handle AT THE SAME TIME. From very stylized to almost realistic, his range was very wide ! And yet, always so very unmistakably Baxendale. A summary of british comics in just one issue... No wonder his styles have been aped by so many cartoonists, there's something for everyone !

Lew Stringer said...

Leo's work in the 1950s was even more diverse. He was experimenting with his style a lot, and I recall seeing a Bash Street page in an exhibition that was full of shadows and done in a more realistic style. It's a shame that Thomsons have never done a collection of his 1950s work, but it's unlikely to happen now as there's less and less interest in vintage comics with every passing year.

Roberto Del Corazõn said...

You know DC's politics about their old content... But I spoke about it with Nigel not long ago and he's still hopeful. Time will tell ? ;)

Lew Stringer said...

Well, next summer would be the perfect time to do it, for the Beano's 80th, so we'll see. I'm not getting my hopes up though.

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