Wednesday, 26 August 2015

BEYOND OINK! #6: FUNNY FORTNIGHTLY



I could very easily say click here and be done with this post if I'm honest, but that wouldn't be like me and so here we go again with another comic which, for reasons I can't fathom, you'll find very little about online.  While its companion title Big Comic Fortnightly is fondly remembered and you'll find plenty of cover images and information on the web, you'd be hard pushed to see any proof of Funny Fortnightly's existence.

When Big Comic proved so successful in its fortnightly guise Fleetway decided not to change it to a weekly title but instead released another reprint comic.  With the same amount of pages for the same price it'd come out in the weeks in-between issues of Big Comic Fortnightly, meaning we'd have a weekly dose of classic strips to enjoy.  But it was also more than that, as Funny Fortnightly pulled series from the archive which weren't being used in the other title, giving it a different feel altogether.

The strips chosen seemed aimed at a slightly younger audience, there were also more little random strips (appreciated by this Oink! reader), more competitions and mini-quizzes (which were also reprints) and altogether it felt like a more youthful and fresher version of the same basic idea.  It was quite clever actually and proved these weren't randomly chosen reprints shoved into a new comic:


While some characters such as X-Ray Specs, Buster (albeit in the form of Buster's Dream-World) and Frankie Stein could be found in both, the majority were kept as unique ingredients, either pulling them from comics not yet mined for content or just those strips not yet covered by Big Comic.

Some examples included Kid Kong, Bonehead, Bad Penny, Mummy's Boy, Spy School, Clever Dick, Son of Sir, Bertie Bumpkin and Fun-Fear.

As a child these different characters were a delight to begin with, the way it was put together felt more Oink!-like (some strips were even shrunk to be different sizes and to fit more in) and it had brand new covers drawn especially for it while Big Comic used panels of reprints (or so I thought).  It all pulled me straight in and for a little while it was my preferred comic out of the two.  For this post I couldn't wait to get my hands on some issues again but, just like online information, actual copies of Funny Fortnightly are rare.  But I was able to purchase three of the very earliest issues on eBay to pull some of my favourite strips out of and here are the other two issues' covers:


This is where I have to say I came to a crushingly disappointing realisation while researching for the blog.  What I'd thought all those years ago were original covers drawn up specifically for this new comic collection of mine were actually reprints themselves!  Not only that but they were all reprints of covers from one comic - Krazy.  That first issue's cover above had me believing it was a special premiere issue cover but in actual fact it was the front page of #33 of Krazy, which you can see for yourself at the following page of Peter Gray's excellent Comics and Art blog which shows the entire run of Krazy covers in one post:


The two covers above for the third and fifth issues are from Krazy #42 and #70 and while you're there have a look at #67's, which was a personal favourite and it's heartbreaking to think the cover which had my friends and I in such kinks with its "Friends, Romans, Countrymen - lend me your Funny Fortnightlies, the newsagent's has sold out!" was a hasty edit of one from thirteen years earlier.  Of course that's not to take away from the original covers (mainly drawn by Mike Lacey) but it shows a lack of imagination to not even pull them from a variety of titles.

But enough of that, we're here to read some comics!  That's exactly what I'll be concentrating on as the origin story of these two comics has already been covered in the aforementioned part three.  So below are some of the strips which were instant favourites when the comic launched, all taken from these recently-purchased early issues.

THE STRIPS

There's quite a lot where two characters who are complete opposites are brought together in a strip with a lengthy title highlighting their differences.  Some examples are Tough Nutt and Softy Centre, The Upper Crusts and the Lazy Loafers, Clever Dick and Dozy MickThe Swots and the Blots and The Toffs and the Toughs.  IPC (who published these first time around) must've liked the idea somewhat.

It's not exactly difficult to work out who would come a cropper every week in the above strips and the same can be said of what was definitely the best of the bunch in my opinion and the one strip of the genre which would appear the most.  Most likely drawn by Jim Crocker ghosting the style of Reg Parlett, Ivor Lott and Tony Broke (I've a lot/stone broke) are just as enjoyable today as they were in the late 80s for me and before that in the 70s in COR! and don't feel like they've aged at all.  Here's their debut as far as my comics reading history goes, from the premiere issue of Funny Fortnightly:


Ken Reid's art is a particular highlight of these classic collections and he was a favourite contributor of mine to these comics I have to say.  One of his which had been selected to be reprinted for fresh young eyes was the rather gruesome-at-times Face Ache.  First appearing in Jet comic in the early 70s his rubber-like face and the amazing transformations he could make it undergo were always fun and Ken seemed to take great pleasure in giving us the most horrific monster faces he could dream up.

It was different.  That was the main thing.  After Oink! had helped form (or corrupt, depending on your point of view) my sense of humour for life a lot of 'funny' comics felt very samey and while I did read Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly from cover-to-cover and enjoyed them for the most part, I was instantly drawn to strips which stood out as something unique.  Face Ache fell into that category perfectly and Ken's artwork was a large part of that.  Just take a look at this:


In fact this strip must've impressed the editor so much he felt one reprinting wasn't enough, as it was placed on two different pages within the same issue (#5), the above on the glossy inside back cover.

Back in the Big Comic Fortnightly post you'd have seen a strip by the name of Mustapha Million about a child millionaire and how having the burden of a huge inheritance didn't mean he couldn't still be a child.  At first glance you'd be forgiven for mistaking a Whizzer and Chips character called Tiny Tycoon was another example of IPC taking a winning formula and creating (or rather re-creating) it again and again.  However Tiny wasn't a millionaire, he just had aspirations to be.

Think Alan Sugar as a very, very young boy and you'd be on your way to understanding the premise.  Tiny was a budding businessman with lots of crazy ideas to make money and move his way up the corporate ladder.  His ideas may not have always been entirely successful but they were, just like the comedy itself, always inventive.  Drawn by Tom Williams here's a rather delightful double-page spread getting a rather unique recycling message across:


Also worth noting (if you note such things) is how Tiny was a unique character for another reason.  He started off in one half of Whizzer and Chips (Whizzer) and ended up in the centre 'comic' Chips after a hiatus.  Not that the comic was really 'two-in-one' of course, but fans will know what I mean!

The next character reminded me a bit of Charlie Brooker's Transmogrifying Tracey from Oink!, although obviously the following young lady came first.  Disappearing Trix was drawn by Reg Parlett (who else?) between 1979 and 1982 and featured a simple premise which Buster comic milked for all its worth during those few years she appeared in the weekly.  Quite simply she could disappear and reappear in the 'blink' of an eye as-and-when she saw fit.  This could surely open up a whole world of mischief but Trix was a good girl for the most part and would often use her power to get her own back on bullies and pranksters.

But that'd get quite boring for young fans so of course she had to get into trouble, when using her invisibility for reasons which we readers may also have been more inclined to use it for:


Whizzer and Chips saw potential comedy in areas we may not have previously considered and if you needed any proof of that look no further than Timothy Tester, another strip which initially drew me in thanks to its artwork being of a significantly different style in comparison to the majority of the other pages.  Drawn by Cliff Brown who wrote Scream Inn which also appeared in the first issue, Timothy would test new products by companies who'd send him their prototypes through the post.  We've all heard of such sidelines before, a way of making a few extra pounds by trying out new goods and writing up in-depth reviews for the companies behind them, but it's not something which jumps out as comics material.  Timothy proved us wrong.

Sometimes he'd test the items in ways they weren't originally meant to be used and these were always the best strips, where he'd go way beyond the remit of the testing needed.  Such as using special binocular glasses as a replacement for regular sight ones for example.  How could that possibly fail?:


Alongside Ken and Reg above another legend in the IPC comics line was Sid Burgon and in these few issues he's as prolific as ever.  I've included a couple of samples here, the first being The Haunted Wood from Knockout comic, a different take on the tried-and-tested story formula of a ghostly forest.  The original spin here is that it's very much a wood full of character, it's no urban legend as these trees are very much alive, and the forest itself has made a friend in a local boy.

He's not its protector or anything as the wood can take care of itself as you'll see, he seems to genuinely hang out there although this does seem to be a solitary pastime having trees as actual friends so I can't help but wonder what kind of inadequate social circle he had!  But it did make for an entertaining romp every other week, especially when the wood needed to protect itself from us humans going about our usual human ways, i.e. looking for natural resources to exploit.  As per our race's usual ways this man has probably thought nobody would miss some bits of wood and he'd just take what he wanted from nature:


It's a nice way of getting an environmental message across too but I'm not sure how far it went with that as I've only these few issues, but I'd like to think over time the strip would've carried on.  It's a clever way of instilling this sensibility into kids without it being too obvious, and comedy is always the best way to get such messages to sink in!

One character who appeared across both comics was Monster Fun's Frankie Stein but he appeared in two very different guises.  In Big Comic Fortnightly we'd see his full-page or double-page strips while here we were treated to his little quarter-page ones which delivered one quick gag.  Even though they were created for the same comic originally these smaller tales suited Funny Fortnightly perfectly rather than the longer strips.  These were another reason why my initial reaction to the comic was that it was just so much fun!:


It's great to see Frankie in this other format as I'd completely forgotten about it in the intervening years and having a look at some of the others I actually prefer these smaller strips.  They put him in very ordinary situations which then descend into madness through some way in which Frankie deemed completely logical, all told with no speech whatsoever.  They're miniature classics in their own right and highlight just how funny these classic comics could be even for new generations.

THE COMIC

I've a great treat in store to end this post with but first I just want to wrap up my thoughts about the comic, because you may have noticed I've made more than one reference to how I felt about it at the beginning of its run.  Did my opinion change?  Well kind of.

With Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly running side-by-side it was originally a thrill to get a new comic and to have it feel so fresh and different by comparison.  But as the months drew on I found myself engrossed in the former title more than its little brother.  In hindsight I think there was just more meat on the bones with Big Comic.  While Funny Fortnightly was daft and full of silliness it lacked staying power and the initial reaction soon gave way to wanting something more to sink my teeth into (just to complete the metaphor).

While Oink! had a lovely, random selection of strips of various sizes it was all very well balanced but Funny Fortnightly was like taking the lightest, quickest gags and stuffing a comic full of them - worthy of a giggle but you'd be left missing the bigger belly laughs.  I'm not sure how long I stayed with the comic, definitely for a year or so I'd say and I also had the first annual, but I'd stopped my order with the newsagents' before a big change took place, I know that much.

As I said there's next-to-no information on the title online so trying to find out how long it lasted and for how many issues has been impossible so far.  What I do know is there were only two annuals compared to Big Comic's eight books so it wasn't as successful, that much is certain.  Also at some stage it changed to Funny Monthly, meaning long-term readers had lost that weekly dose of classic IPC and not long after that it was cancelled completely.  Sound familiar?

To dismiss it completely as the internet appears to have done is criminal and I whole-heartedly recommend you pick up a handful of issues to enjoy a different take on the idea, but whether you stretch to the full collection is another matter.  But for some quick laughs, plenty of slapstick and some hugely memorable characters who have been otherwise forgotten it's a sound investment!

To finish with here's that treat I promised you:

Leo Baxendale.

Tom Paterson appeared in a handful of Oink!s and on the blog three times (in the premiere issue, #15 and The Oink! Book 1988) and to say he's a fan favourite of British comics readers is to undersell him and the joy he's brought to more than one generation of readers.  Always intricately detailed and packed to the rafters with sight gags galore, Tom's work always entranced and entertained in equal measure.

But where does this all fit in with this final strip?  It's said Tom's early work was heavily inspired by that of fellow IPC cartoonist Leo Baxendale, a true giant in the world of UK-originated comics and you can see an example of his work below with Nellyphant from Oink!'s stablemate Buster.  Leo worked heavily with IPC/Fleetway as well as DC Thompson, the latter of which he famously took to court to get recognition as creator of the strips he made for them.  Artists weren't allowed to sign their strips back then with the Beano/Dandy publisher and with IPC it was also very rare.  Us pig pals were very lucky as Oink! made a big deal out of us kids knowing who the contributors were - the strips were creator-owned after all.

The case was settled out of court and in the late 90s Leo left British comics for good but his work is treasured to this day and includes such fondly-remembered strips as Clever Dick, Bad Penny, Sweeney Toddler, Little Plum and The Bash Street Kids.

So I'll wrap up my look back at Funny Fortnightly with an example of this hugely talented and loved man's Nellyphant strip.  Given the only word (or rather noise) this particularly silly elephant could make I think it's a particularly suitable send off for this blog post:


NEXT TIME

When I think back to the comics I collected besides Oink! there's one which stands out head and shoulders above the rest.  It tied in with the latest toy line I'd jumped onboard with from the very start, it had a cartoon in production in the States and the comic itself contained great characters, heart-stopping action and some stunning artwork, all wrapped up in an inventive set-up which could've expanded into something truly epic.  In fact I was certain it was going to, until the sixth issue ended up being its last!

Six issues and a special doesn't sound like much but to me it's still a crime this happened to such an excellent comic.  I'll be back in a fortnight (9th September) to introduce you to it, but for it to have only lasted that length of time and still be my very favourite comic out of all these being covered in my Beyond Oink! series, that must tell you just how awesome I felt it was.

What other comic can give you THIS as a free gift with its first issue?!:


Special thanks as always to Lew Stringer for helping me confirm/identify the artists for some of the above strips.

8 comments:

Peter Gray said...

You are right Big Comic was better...But Funny Fortnightly sure had characters I've never heard of before...
Its fun seeing those few covers I had those..the memories..

thanks for doing this post..

In Funny Monthly they had a whole Badtime bedtime story to cut out..
Also one the back cover they had a Ken Reid Wanted poster..

They did use comic that Big Comic wasn't using..
Wanda the witch was from a girls comic..
Swots and the Blots Valiant..for example..

Andy Boal said...

I think they had to be different, but Funny’s strips did stretch back into the 1960s.

When Tiny Tycoon joined Chips in the 1980s after its hiatus, it was drawn by Jim Watson.

I thought the Scream Inn was drawn throughout by Brian Walker, but I’m open to correction if you have the first strip?

And the Haunted Wood and Freaky Frankie strips were drawn by Sid Burgon.

Phil Boyce said...

Yeah those 'Wanted' posters of Ken's were on the back page of the early issues. I couldn't for the life of me find any Funny Monthly issues though unfortunately. There's loads of BCFs on eBay but only a small handful of FFs.

TwoHeadedBoy said...

That first issue of Funny Fortnightly was my first exposure to the IPC/Fleetway comics...

In 1992, at the age of six, I was introduced to the Beano and the Dandy and got obsessed with comics from then until the present day. Back in those days when there was no eBay, we'd go to car boot sales every weekend and I'd always come back with stacks of "new" annuals and comics to read, one particularly memorable one being that issue of Funny, with its crazy banana on the back page!

Had no idea they ever made annuals of this one, have to track those down... A couple of years ago I was in a second-hand book shop in Manchester and they had 20+ issues of Funny Fortnightly all taped together in a plastic bag, one of the best £4 I've ever spent!

Peter Gray said...

Brian Walker drew them all unless in an annual or summer special then the ghost artists did some of them..But Brian also did some of those..
http://kazoop.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Scream%20Inn

Phil Boyce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Boyce said...

Hi Andy, I meant Clive wrote the strip when I said "whose Scream Inn also appeared", not that he drew it but I've clarified now :) Yes, Sid did draw those two strips as credited in the post just before Haunted Wood, and the Tiny Tycoon is from the first run of strips in the Whizzer half of W&C when he was drawn by Tom Williams. His second run was in the 80s and FF was pulling much older reprints than that.

TwoHeadedBoy, you had a great introduction to IPC/Fleetway then I must say! Yup that crazy banana "The Naughty 'Nana-Skin" was on the back cover of the first FF. Apparently the reward for his capture was one banana split (pair of torn yellow jeans).

STEPHEN ARCHER said...

To me Funny Fortnightly was the completion of a dream: “Please reprint strips I never got to see”. The only way in which it surpassed BFC was in its reprinting of older strips, i.e. early 70’s as opposed to BFC’s late 70’s – early 80’s output. While the latter was ‘my’ earlier, the former was what I REALLY wanted to see, Cor!! and Knockout in their prime. (Knockout’s been knocked far too much for my liking; at 107 issues it lasted a lot longer than dozens of other comics). Talk about the best of both worlds; almost enough to make one want to start going to church – but let’s not go mad. A superb pair of titles.