Diary of a Comic Fan Part 3 – The Cheeky Years

7p a Comic. In 1977 £1 bought you 14 comics. My maths may be wrong but you’d need about £60 a week to buy that amount of comics today. Slightly worrying that 7p equates to about 40p now – I’m not sure you could buy a Comic for that! You should be able to buy 150 comics for your £60.

The £1 would be given to me by my gran on our weekly visits and I’d take bottles back to the newsagents so I could save up and buy those all important summer specials. The comics would always be face up on the counter, either at the newsagents close to home or at my Grandparents (whose shop had a far bigger counter, therefore more choice, including comics from the US – but that’s for another chapter!)

I dipped into DC Thomson titles (the Beezer was a favourite as was Plug from The Bash Street Kids) but Beano and Dandy weren’t for me. I was Fleetway / IPC all the way. Every Saturday I would buy several titles – Jackpot, Monster Fun, Shiver and Shake, Cor, Buster, Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee, Krazy – anything and pretty much everything if I had the cash. I didn’t buy sweets – I bought comics – so good for my teeth!

I would read them religiously, fascinated I could get them at the weekend when they were meant to be out ‘Every Monday’.

They would keep me quiet – I remember reading a comic, a hot day on the grass as hoards of people stretched their necks out, running and jumping around me, to catch a view of the Queen out and about in her Silver Jubilee limo!

Funny comics seemed like a huge and long part of my life and the titles went on forever! In reality the time was quite short – but long enough to see merger after merger and the realisation that my favourite titles would disappear forever (would I merge into something when I was no longer required – oh, the hard lessons we have to learn!)

I read mostly the funnies. I did read Some of the DC Thomson War titles – Warlord and Victor and Commando comics for a while. Battle and Action were in there from time to time – cash willing. Tornado too, in the late 70’s.

I liked to get the first issue and give a title a chance. I didn’t buy the first 2000ADs although I gave Starlord a go. However compared to the funnies, with so many panels to a page – well, the funnies seemed like much more value for money than the adventure comics in which strips began with a full page panel that you read in a matter of seconds!

My favourite comic of that period was a spin off from Krazy. Featuring Cheeky, a character from the Krazy Gang, that Comic was Cheeky Weekly. Largely drawn by the fantastic Frank McDiarmid the title was truly brilliant and distinctly different. It shared Cheeky’s daily diary, the characters he met and that linked in with each comic strip in some way. This included a regular visit to the cinema, the bookshop to catch a quick read of the next James Bold chapter, a horror story for the kid he was babysitting, a strip from the Mystery Comic found in a chest in his grandparents attic (I’ve always wanted to find such a treasure trove) or rushing home to his favourite TV show. Notable strips included Mustapha Million, Calculator Kid, Six Million Dollar Gran and Skateboard Squad.

I would draw versions of Cheeky for people at school from memory but I didn’t quite use the once available knitting pattern to make his distinctive red and black top with a C on it. A totally brilliant comic and concept that eventually merged into Whoopee (sad face)! There is a fan blog if you want to learn more about Cheeky Weekly.

The writing was on the wall for my interest in the funnies by the late 70’s. With Tornado and Starlord I was already dipping my toes into comics destined for my now ‘elderly’ demographic. It wouldn’t be long before Matchwinners For Hire, Melchester Rovers and Billy’s Boots would lead me to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. Tharg hadn’t managed to drag me away from the clutches of the Thrill Suckers just yet!

That’s another story! Dear diary, until next time….

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