Saturday, 11 February 2012

Here is the 1967 chapter!

1967.  `Invisible Dick`, `The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` and A `major` revamp.

In 1967 as stated at the end of the 1966 chapter, Sparky comic was looking rather old fashioned in comparison to its `swinging sixties` rivals,  I.P.C titles such as `Wham`, the new `Pow` and `Smash` and in comparison to City publishing’s `T.V 21` comic.

Evidence of this could be seen as the year progressed. Some adventure strips were still rather old fashioned in style or even worse, were very dull. For example there was “Prentice Pete” the adventures of an incredibly simple minded apprentice; `Greedy Gus` the horse with `appetite` and `Titch, the Pup that Grew and Grew`. Riveting, I do not think!

Yet again sales must have struggled and, you guessed it; yet another two weeks of free gifts and new stories were planned for September that year. However, in what must have been a long considered move to try and bring the comic into the second half of the 20th century, this time, the overhaul would be very comprehensive and, for this comic, quite radical in an attempt to save the publication.

The early part of 1967 saw a little bit of `tinkering` which began in the January 28th Issue No 106,  which saw an addition to the `Moonsters` strip. These were the `Oakies`, animated tree creatures, obviously introduced to bring in a bit more variety to the strip. It was truly bizarre that such creatures could be mooted as `moon life` even back in 1967. Seemingly, the `Oakies` didn’t really catch on with the readership as they faded from the strip after a few months.

Issue 107 on 4th February saw the new adventure strip, `Keepers of the Dancing Drums`. This was a `boys own` styled strip concerning an African dance troupe and their attempt to travel to Johannesburg to attend a large dance festival. A mystery enemy kept trying to sabotage their journey. The strip was very ill informed about African vegetation and wild-life which today is pretty shameful even for a `fun` comic. It lasted to issue No 122, 20th May 1967.

Pause for Thought!

Unfortunately in UK comics of this era it was not just ethnic minorities, but certain members of the animal kingdom that really `copped` a bad image; both in comics and in Hollywood films pre 1970s. `Keepers of the Dancing Drums` in one episode, portrayed a gorilla as a vicious, carnivorous killer. Oh dear, no! Gorillas are gentle vegetarians and not one recorded instance (as far as I know) of one ever harming a human has surfaced. The adult chimpanzee though is a different matter altogether; it is an ape that can easily kill a human.

Similarly, the `Lonely Lad` strip, amongst others, portrayed octopuses as killers too. Now! Whereas fictional giant octopus can be accepted in such a light, the real life pacific octopuses (the planet’s largest octopus) are gentle creatures that have never harmed any human either. The octopus to really fear is the tiny `blue ringed octopus`
which possesses a highly lethal poisonous bite. Squids on the other hand though are pretty aggressive fellows, so they are ripe for comic `vilification`!

The 1970/71 `Bushboy` strip certainly gave snakes a very bad name. Contrary to what the strip told readers, poisonous snakes `never-ever` target humans. They only strike people in self defence when surprised.

                       *                                       *                                            

What in retrospect, would turn out to be a very bad day for me in my `Sparky` reading life happened on 11th February 1967 (issue No 108). This was the start of the long running `Invisible Dick` strip. This strip had originated in 1922 (`Rover` comic) and run in 1938 `Dandy` It was now `updated`.

The premise for the strip certainly tuned to 1960s society in that the origin of the `invisibility` was now linked to the `space-race` of the period. However, it was, I feel, most was unrealistic to say the least, Dick Dickson’s Dad was an Astronaut (this is early 1967 and the U.K can barely afford Concorde never mind a space programme).

Dickson senior takes a torch with him and the capsule encounters cosmic rays, which is quite a steal from Marvel Comics origin story for the `Fantastic Four`. On return, dad gives Dick the torch as a memento. Dick soon discovers that it makes all it shines its black beam on invisible. That’s the sum of it really.

For me, this became quite easily the most irritating and truly boring strip in Sparky comics (and any other comics in my view) entire history. I found it soon to become awfully repetitive and extremely tedious. Virtually every storyline was a repeat of some bully, or self important fellow receiving their come-uppance via Dick’s torch.

Thankfully, this first run of the strip ended at issue 123 27th May 1967, but! It would return in 1968. One aspect of the strip was what in my view was a `lessening` of clarity in artist Tony Speer’s work on the strip. I think his later years on `Invisible Dick` were not his best work, but this is only my opinion.

In mitigation, there is one truly innovative `Invisible Dick` story that really impressed me on getting some late 1971 Sparky’s recently. In one issue, Dick and a friend are pot holing. His friend breaks the regular torch they have and the pals get lost. Dick realises his torch can help them and he shines its black beam to where the cave roof should be. At once beams of sunshine penetrate through the `now invisible` section of cave roof, lighting the cave up. As they progress Dick creates more `holes` to guide them. Up above, townsfolk are horrified to see what must be subsidence creating great holes in the roads and fields.

That was a really good episode and truly innovative, but it took over four years to bring forth such an engrossing tale. Another inventive story from mid 1969 occurred when Dick encountered fellow Sparky character `Peter Piper` and his magic pipes which brought any icon to life. They had a sort of duel, which Dick

won of course! So, the strip could be fairly engrossing when it tried, but so often it was the same over repeated formula.

Another awful (my view) aspect of the strip was the way Dick would address viewers in the final panel; talking to them in such crowing and self serving tones that I soon truly loathed the character.

In the eight years of the strips life I’m afraid that I only rate a bare ten to twelve episodes of real interest and invention. This makes me wonder about readers top two choices. Was the `Invisible Dick` strip really picked by so many readers as to give it such a long run in the comic? Maybe I am completely out of step with other Sparky readers here!?

If only more thought had gone into it the `Invisible Dick` strip could have been truly entertaining, but, sadly, it soon got back into the rut of bullies and prigs getting the worst of it. All I know is, that personally, I rate it the comic’s very worst offering in its entire history.

Issue 110, 25th February brought us `The Lost Ponies of Thor` This was an adventure strip about a rare breed of ponies and two children’s efforts to keep them safe. It is another story I have had to read up on as I recall very little of it at the time. It was drawn by the same artist of `Island of the Past` rather basic and not eye catching artwork. It ran to issue 119, 29th April.

Replacing the wonderful `Willie the Woeful Wizard` strip in issue 117, 15th April, was another listless animal based story, titled `Greedy Gus`. This was set in the Wild West about a horse with a relentless appetite. Basically, it was a re-working of the `McGinty the Goat` strip (same artist Bob Webster). As with that strip, it was poor fare indeed. Thankfully, it only lasted to issue No 127, 24th June.

Beginning on 6th May 1967 with issue 120 1967 saw the commencement of `The Cave Kids` which was set in prehistoric times. It featured young cave children Daro and Oaki and their way of life in such far away times. They, their Father, Mother and baby Brother lived in a cave that they had `liberated` from its ursine inhabitant, `Black Bear`.

Black Bear was a mite `cheesed off`’ at this and tried to drive them out again until they discovered fire which terrified the bear. I do recall one very atmospheric episode featuring the summer solstice at Stonehenge, but apart from that I can’t recall too much about it first time around, so it couldn’t have been too engrossing. Today, it reads fair, but nothing special.  It lasted a bare dozen episodes to issue no 131, July 22nd.

Issue 122, 20th May in a rare move (Because `fun` strips usually changed on `re-promotions`) the `Winnie the Witch` fun strip was replaced by new fun pal titled `Harry Carry`. This featured Harry and his mate Sam, who were in the haulage business. Harry was self employed; he and his work partner, Sam undertook any haulage work they could get, no matter how bizarre or daunting it may turn out to be.

Some of their adventures were pretty unbelievable, but on the whole, it was more reality based than fantasy. Harry’s mate, Sam, had a habit of always complaining with what became his catchphrase “I. `ates!” (Whatever the thing was each week that riled him). The strip was drawn by James Malcolm.

It was one of the first steps in a move away from fantasy based fun pals, like Winnie, towards characters that had a little more `everyday` reality to them. The big changes of September 1967 would reinforce this direction.

Issue 123, and replacing `Keepers of the Dancing drums`  we saw the return, this time for more than just `one` issue, of `Prentice Pete` the handyman’s assistant who seemingly possessed about half the brains of an amoeba! Pete really was just too `thick` to be true. The strip was too ridiculous to enjoy for my tastes at all. One episode even tried to put across that Pete didn’t know the difference between a Fox and a Dog, even five year old readers wouldn’t accept such puerile storylines. It finally ended at issue 140, 23rd September 1967.

A very enjoyable and engrossing `new` strip though was `The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` which commenced in issue No 124 dated 3rd June. This was actually a Hotspur comic reprint (I did not know that then) originally called `Lonely Larry` which turned out some wonderfully inventive storylines and beautiful artwork, especially from Bill Holroyd towards the end of its run in summer 1968.

`Larry` or `Ken` as he was called in this re-run, had been stranded on the island after a shipwreck with an elderly couple. The woman had died when the strip began and her husband was very frail. Ken cared for him and called him `Dad` though the man and his late wife weren’t actually related to Ken at all. The old man sadly died in episode two (in his sleep) leaving Ken alone except for his pet Toucan, `Tommy`.

One of the best of the 1967 stories in the run of Ken’s adventures was when a volcano broke surface just offshore of Ken’s island and Ken, with Tommy, had to evacuate to another island. The strip changed artists in its 1967-68 tenure in Sparky which did affect continuity a little. As well, part of the storyline was run incorrectly in early 1968, so someone in the Sparky office wasn’t concentrating.

Other artists on the strip were Steve Chapman and someone called Buzelli!

The 1st July issue No 128 initiated yet another animal themed strip. This was `Titch, the Pup that grew and Grew`. Titch was the pet of schoolgirl Linda Wilson. One day he devoured a whole bag of pig feed and started growing, and growing and growing.

He finally stopped when he reached the size of a small horse. Titch and Linda became a television story and the huge puppy got into many adventures.

Finally, he became fed up of pig feed (no! I don’t know why they fed him on it either) He started to shrink, just a little at first; then he drank some spilt whitewash and next morning was `puppy-size` again.  It was very ably drawn by an artist whose identity still eludes me, but apart from such good artwork I found

the Titch strip was yet another yawn fest which ended at issue 137, 2nd September 1967.

Good news though (for me) was an old fun pal making a return flight in the summer of 1967, issue 132, 29th July (replacing the `Cave Kids`) this was old `Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` with eight episodes, to issue 139, of utterly surrealistic flights of fancy.  Quite the weirdest adventure came when Granny accidentally thwarted an attempted South American junta! I can’t give justice to it in words; it has to be seen to be believed; surrealism par excellence!

Three new writers joined the comic during 1967. These were Gordon Cook, Mike Baird and Peter Clark. Peter Clark would scribe the very finest `I. Spy` stories from 1969 to 1971.

The second Sparky book, dated 1968 came out in September 1967. The `Moonsters` were the cover stars again, becoming a brass band this time. The cover did look similar to the 1967 book, having the same light blue tone of artwork. The 1968 book only ran to 124 pages rather than last years 128 totals. Next years book (the 1969 one) and subsequent issues would be back at 128 pages. About 50 were in full colour.

Here is the line up of the 1968 book.

                                SPARKY BOOK 1968, Contents.

`David` # (non-comic strip) this was the biblical story of how shepherd boy David became King of the Jewish peoples)
`Hungry Horace`
`Clara’s Crystal` # (non-comic strip)
No Highway
for the Heyworth’s` # (non-comic strip)
`Keyhole Kate`
`Peter Piper`
`Pansy Potter`
`The Moonsters`
`Fireman Fred`
`Winnie the Witch`
`Young Ben` # (non-comic text strip)
 `Cuckoo in the Clock`
`Lonely Wood`
`Stone age Stella` # (non-comic strip)
`Hockey Hannah`
`Wee Tusky`
`Nosey Parker`
`Dotty Daydream` # (non-comic strip)
`Pa, Ma and the Kids` # (non-comic strip)
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`

`The Slowdown Express`
`Big Klanky`
`Will O’ the Well (text)
`Kipper Feet`
Lucy Lane
’s Paper Round` # (non-comic strip)

Pause for thought!

I have to make a personal point here concerning the two religious strips, `David` and `The Road to Cavalry` from the 1968 and 1969 books. I think Dudley Watkins was the artist for those strips. I have no particular gripe against religious based strips in general, but I do object when they are placed in a book aimed at the readers of a `fun` comic.

I wonder; how many fans/readers were surprised when getting their 1968 or 1969 book to find this kind of material in the contents?  I for one, when getting my Sparky book 1969 thought it a deception that I had paid for this `message` based strip! If I had wanted religious education in books I would buy religious themed books, not `fun` annuals.

                                     *                        *

Back to the file, and September 1967 also saw the return of `The Balloon Family Robinson` which broke the record set by 1966’s second run of `Lonely Wood` for brevity in the comic at just `two` episodes in Issues 138, 9th September, to No 139 16th September. It is a record that will surely never be beaten-or equalled, if you discount the one-off `filler` episode of `Prentice Pete` in 1966. Why bother to bring back an adventure strip for just two issues?

Also returning for just one issue was fun pal `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` in issue No 138, 9th September. Joe had been absent since issue 77 way back on 9th July 1966. It was a very strange move to bring him back after over a year for just one episode; why the `Slowdown Express` (the fun strip he replaced) could not have gone on for one more episode, I just don’t know.
By late Summer 1967 the comic was obviously struggling again though; and it was time for another couple of weeks of free gifts and new `fun pals`. However, this time the overhaul was to be very large indeed, and, for Sparky comic, quite radical. As with previous overhauls, Television advertising (I personally recall the 1967 ads) newsagent promotions and pink `fliers` were used to highlight the forthcoming changes and free gifts.

Many fans and commentators when mentioning the comic’s history, always point (with good reason) to the February 1969 re-launch as the big `turning point` for the comic. Some find the 1969 overhaul a sort of `year zero` moment in the comic’s history in that the comic was finally hauled into the latter half of the 1960s!  Yes, the 1969 re-shuffle was very important, but many forget the 1967 changes.

My view though, is that the September 1967 changes were every bit as radical as 1969s with the comic becoming more contemporary and relevant to 1967 readers after September that year. It must have been noticed even by those fine persons in DC Thomson’s that by 1967 the UK was in the midst of a cultural revolution via music, fashion , the media and the arts.

By August 1967, `Sparky` comic in particular of the Thomson’s stable was looking rather like a relic from the 19th century in the way it looked. Sales must have been dangerously low as a radical move was decided upon, not just to change a few strips, but to overhaul half the comics content and to greatly modernise it’s masthead logo.

Regarding new strips, there were as many `ins` and `outs` as  would take place in the legendary 1969 reshuffle and for the first time the emphasis was now on bringing in more `fun pals` in the strip turnover. The logo change to a more symmetrical design gave the comic a contemporary look which was in contrast to the two rather antiquated logos (issues 1 – 34 and 35 – 139) it had sported to that date.

Below are the listings of the 23rd and 30th September 1967 comics (both weeks of the overhaul) this is because, unlike every other re-jigging where nearly all new stories were included in the first week; the 1967 renewal spread the new intake rather more evenly; six new stories issue 140, and three new ones in issue 141.
Below these listings is a list to show which characters / strips moved out and in over the weeks of 23rd and 30th September 1967.  

                                           *                      *

                         SPARKY NO 140, (23rd September 1967, 5d)

The first of the two weeks major overhaul saw not only six new stories / fun pals but a big change in the masthead design. The title /Logo changed radically to a straightened out `Sparky` in deep red, set against a custard yellow background. Horizontal lines above and below the logo gave a very symmetrical look to the title. The 5d price was now enclosed in a blue diamond shape. This is my favourite ever design of Sparky cover.

The free gift, as advertised above the new logo was “The Rip Snorter” a rasping balloon similar to issue No 1’s “Flying Snorter!

Page 1
`Sparky` Sparky plays a record he likes too loud upsetting his neighbours.  The `Sparky` character was now back on the front cover-while the `Moonsters` swapped over to the back page- `Sparky` would remain here to the next big overhaul starting on issue 211. He would only appear on the `Funfare` section after

that. I thought putting Sparky back on the cover was perhaps the one big mistake of the 1967 reshuffle.

Page 2
New `fun pal` `Deputy Dawg` The cartoon series had been a big success on the telly, so the comic gave a comic strip version a run out. A very puzzling move for Sparky comic as this was the only time they encroached onto `T.V Comic’s territory. Sadly, the comic version never matched the TV series and was soon dropped.

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
New Story, `David Copperfield` This story was the first in a series of adaptations by the comic of works by famous authors.  The Charles Dickens classic was the first to be realised in this format. Artwork was quite superb!

Page 6
Top half, New `Fun Pal`, `Meddlesome Matty` Young girl tries to be helpful but it nearly always goes wrong. I quickly warmed to Matty, she reminds me a little of Melinda Messenger!

Bottom half, advert for Sparky book 1968.

Page 7
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 8 & 9
`My Grockle and Me` The final episode of this very funny adaptation on an old `fun pal` Possibly ended due to George Drysdale being ill-he would sadly pass away later in 1967.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Pages 11
Full page advert for next week’s free gift (Target Tiddleywinks) and the three other new stories / Fun Pals.

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` A team of `wake` experts try to keep Dave and Dora from falling asleep-but it is all a dream.

Page 14
New `Fun Pal` `Tom Tardy` Drawn by  Laura Gold, the artist who drew the departing `Cuckoo in the Clock` Young Tom can never get to School on time. This strip took a bi-weekly rotation with the `Pansy Potter` strip to issue 175 in May 1968. I thought that it was dull fare indeed.

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
New story, `Davey Spacer in Giantland`. Returning for a second run in the comic, Davy Spacer had first appeared in 1966 in a story where he was a giant on a planet of little people. The story was based loosely on Jonathan Swift’s `Gullivers Travels`. This second tale followed the Brobgdanian chapter where `Davey` is the small fellow in a Land of Giants.

Pages 18 & 19
`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon`

Pages 20 & 21
`Prentice Pete` This was the final episode of this very hard to enjoy tale of a moronic Joiners apprentice! Pete made `Benny from Crossroads` seem like a towering intellectual colossus in comparison.

Page 22
`Harry Carry`

Page 23
New `Fun Pal` `Snapshot Sid` The comic adventures of a young free lance news photographer who got his picture by `hook or by crook`.

Page 24
`The Moonsters` now back on the rear of the comic, where they would see out their run to issue 199.

                          *                    *                           *

                      SPARKY No 141 (30th September 1967, 5d)

The comic was into its second week of the major overhaul. Above the title it advertised this week free gift; “Free inside; Target Tiddlywinks”.

Page 1
`Sparky` He goes camping this week, and though reminding himself, successfully not to forget the tin opener, he goes and forgets the tins.

Page 2
`Deputy Dawg`

Pages 3, 4 & 5
New Story! ` Big Ossie`. Yes, yet another animal based story! This effort featured a tame Ostrich that was owned by Tim and Mary Parker. Supposedly set in 19th

century South Africa, it had a 1960s look to it. At the time of first reading I found this story pretty poor fare, subsequent viewing only confirms my first opinion.

Page 6
Top half, New `Fun Pal`,`Charlie Chutney`. The comic adventures of a Cook which I found not very comical at all. Charlie would often share the same page as `Meddlesome Matty`.

Bottom half an advert for `Flying Skimmer` free gift in next week’s `Hornet` comic.

Page 7
`Peter Piper`

Pages 8 & 9
`David Copperfield`.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`. It’s fitness time with `Jim Nastic` and `Tramp O’ Leen`.  This was one of the poorest Dave and Dora stories ever. This particular one was one of the first of stories filled with ever more silly puns and word bending phrases. Sadly, the strip lost most of its originality and became rather formularised with the James Malcolm drawn strips the worst offenders in my view.

Page 14
`Pansy Potter` The Pansy Potter strip would now become bi-weekly, rotating with new fun character `Tom Tardy`.

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
New series! `Klanky` This was the first episode of Klanky’s second run in Sparky, the first had been in June to September 1966. Klanky’s rulers (on the yet unnamed home world he was constructed), decide to send him to Earth again in order to help human kind again. Klanky would become a firm favourite in the comic, appearing on and off up until 1974.

Pages 18 & 19
`Davey Spacer in Giantland`.

Pages 20 & 21
`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon`

Page 22
`Hungry Horace`

Page 23
`Snapshot Sid`.

Page 24
Top three quarters is `The Moonsters`.

Bottom quarter is a four panel preview titled “Four Fun Pals in a Pickle”. First panel is `Klanky`, who, in this colour panel, turns out to be red. Second panel features `Snapshot Sid`, in the third is `Deputy Dawg, with the fourth panel featuring new story `Tom Tardy` the boy who is always late for school.

Yes, this was a very comprehensive re-launch indeed! Below, I have listed those strips dropped and those introduced over the weeks of 23rd and 30th September 1967.

                                  *                               *

            SPARKY RE-LAUNCH of SEPTEMBER 23rd & 30th 1967.

                          New Strips Introduced, Issues 140 & 141.


`Deputy Dawg` (1 Page)

`Big Ossie` (2 Pages)  

`Charlie Chutney` (1/2 Page) 

`Meddlesome Matty` (1/2 Page)     

`Snapshot Sid` (1 Page)   

`David Copperfield` (2 Pages)

`Tom Tardy` (1 Page)

# `Klanky` (2 Pages)

# `Davey Spacer in Giantland` (2 Pages)

Strips marked with # sign were old characters returning.

`The Slowdown Express` (1 Page)

`Balloon Family Robison` (2 Pages)  

`Nosey Parker` (1 Page)                             

`My Grockle and Me` (2 Pages)                               

`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` (1 Page)               

`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` (2 Pages)    
`Cuckoo in the Clock` (1 Page)    
`Prentice Pete` (2 Pages)  

The weeks of 23rd and 30th September are a vital part of Sparky history. The comic had obviously been struggling badly in its sales and a big overhaul was needed. It was the change in fun characters that was most radical, with a move to more `down to earth` characters that children could identify with, debuting.

The new intake: and as mentioned in the September listings, Davey Spacer returned; this time crash landing on planet Gargantua, populated by of giants. This second series of Davey’s adventures was titled ‘Davey Spacer in Giantland’.

Every creature on the planet, even including insects and spiders, possessed but one eye. Many of the creatures such as rabbits, cats and dogs on this world could actually understand what Davey said to them, though they could not speak themselves.

The early part of the story, where Davey’s crashed ship, the `Discovery` is taken away by inquisitive giants (It crashed in open countryside) into the city leaving Davey and Puff to try and chase after it, is by far the best part of the tale. At first, it seems the giants are of a medieval society by the way many of them dress, but we later find out they are actually more advanced than late 20th century Earth in some ways.

In his quest to track down his ship, Davey and his pet `Puff` are captured but thankfully for them the giants themselves turned out to be friendly and their scientists led by Davey’s friend, Professor Dee, both repaired Davey’s ship and made their own craft based on Davey’s.

Davey in return was able to help them in certain ways. Firstly, and this is where the story takes a truly bizarre direction; in a battle against intelligent, but malevolent rats. The intelligent rodents lived in an underground city which was
similar to 17th century Earth villages. Unlike their fierce but uncultured country rat cousins these fellows could speak and walked on two feet! They had stolen some
film from the Gargantuan scientists and were planning to attack the upper world, release all white rats in science labs and make slaves of those few Gargantuans they didn’t kill.

The rats caught Davey and were convinced that he was a minature Gargantuan spy. Living underground, they knew nothing of outer space and would not believe he came from somewhere called `Earth`.

One very weird, but funny scene in this part of the tale was when a captured Davey was shown sections of rat society including their armed forces. Davey asks about a troop of rats dressed as legionnaires and is told that those rats are from the hot areas of Gargantua and are `Desert Rats! ` OUCH!!

Davey, and Puff manage to escape the rat jail. They then set out to make contact with the other animals of the giant world including Cats, Rabbits and Dogs. All can quite easily understand what Davey says and they form an army and attack the rat city. Soon the rats are on the run and try to escape via a large ship on an underground sea. Davey throws grenades onto the ship and every rat is drowned. Presumably, unlike the country rats, these ones cannot swim.

The wiping out of every rat in that society by Davey and his animal friends was really rather brutal stuff for such a strip as in effect it was a form of genocide.

There was also a new breed of deadly wasps that could kill the giants with one sting. These too were `eliminated` by Davey, this time helped by intelligent rooks. I must say that today this comes across as pretty brutal, exterminating whole species, but I suppose it was all on an alien planet and not Earth, and presumably allowed in the context of a fantasy strip.

The grateful giants took Davey and the Discovery aboard their ship that they had copied from the Earth ship designs and once free of their planets massive gravitational pull set Davey’s ship on course for Earth. They gave Davey a huge
diamond so that people on Earth would believe there was a race of friendly giants. This second `Davey Spacer` series ran to issue No 157, 20th January 1968, I enjoyed it very much.

Another 1966 character returning in the overhaul was `Big Klanky`. The title of the strip now changed slightly as from this second series onward he was titled just `Klanky`. Once more he came to earth to aid humanity, in particular Ernie and Sis Huggins. The second series began by showing Klanky, obviously back on his planet of origin facing short, bald headed aliens (who are seated behind desks) so readers certainly now knew that he `did` have (It was only alluded to in the first series) alien masters, but not who they were or what their home planet was called. Only in the next series would more be revealed on this subject.

The last episode of the first Klanky season had never actually shown him return home, so readers must have been puzzled when the Huggins children were suddenly missing him; quite a case of bad continuity there.  An interesting facet of

the first two Klanky series was the rocket he arrived in. In both series it was shown (in one panel only) to be the atypical version of a 1950s sci-fi rocket, cigar shaped
and with four fins for stabilizing. In series three there would be a big change to such rockets from Klanky’s home world.

Once arrived, Klanky took off where he left off in helping the Huggins family and thwarting crooks and scoundrels. This, second run of Klanky’s adventures in Sparky lasted to issue No 160, 10th February 1968.

The `David Copperfield` strip which commenced in issue 140 was the first in a series of classic book adaptations the comic presented over the next year and a half to February 1969.

`David Copperfield` was presented in the format that pre `Dandy` comics had displayed fun strips (and the current Dandy strip `Black Bob` was shown) which was having no word balloons but strips of text along the bottom of each frame. I believe it first ran, a few years earlier in the girl’s comic `Bunty` covering all of the Charles Dickens` story. The `David Copperfield` strip in Sparky was an abbreviated version leaving out all of David’s later adventures. It ended at issue No 158, 27th January 1968.

The final new adventure story of the 1967 changes was titled `Big Ossie`. This was, thankfully the final animal themed strip ever presented in the comic debuting from issue No 141. He lived on a ranch owned by the parents of Tim and Mary Walker who befriended him. It was set in early 20th century South Africa and was as dull as ditchwater.  Finally, at last, the powers that be at the comic were realising that readers were tiring of these endlessly themed animal stories and as stated, `Big Ossie` was the final entry of the genre, and not before time too!

Of the intake of new fun pals in the issue 140, 141 overhaul, `Charlie Chutney` (Chef), and `Snapshot Sid` (Photographer) had very real-life jobs.  Fun pal youngsters `Tom Tardy` and `Meddlesome Matty` were basically ordinary characters who got themselves into comic, but believable scrapes.

The new `Tom Tardy` strip was rotated bi-weekly with the `Pansy Potter` strip until issue 175, 25th May 1968, leaving the `Pansy Potter` strip as a regular weekly effort to the end of its Sparky life in December 1975. Tom was a schoolboy who was always late for school. Drawn by Laura Gold, this pretty dull strip was full of harsh canings for Tom when he was late, which brings me to another…

Pause for Thought!

The `Tom Tardy` strip was the worst example in Sparky comic, and probably every other `fun` comic, for showing children being whacked unmercifully.

Of course corporal punishment was part of British comics up to the P.C 1980s and has to be seen in this context however, one or two `fun` strips did seem to revel in it. The `Tom Tardy` strip had a streak of sadism in it that I find abhorrent to a great degree. On one occasion, even his own Father is set to thrash him within an inch in a very brutal fashion until it is realised it is the Father’s school report on show, not
Tom’s. His Teacher is a martinet of the worst kind. This fellow could well be jailed today if he were a `real-life` teacher. I do wonder about the mind-set of the staff at the comic who produce this material; they seem to be living in 1867 not 1967!

I Daresay, that I really shouldn’t take it so seriously, but I’m afraid that I find no humour at all in this sort of `punishment strip.

                                   *                               *       
The next new fun pal was `Deputy Dawg`. This is the only occasion that Sparky based a fun strip on a television based character. The cartoon series was a wonderfully funny and enjoyable affair. Unfortunately, the Sparky strip could not match it, and it departed on 16th March 1968 in issue No 165.

`Meddlesome Matty` was drawn by James Malcolm who was one of the artists on the `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` strip. Matty tried so hard to help people but nearly always made a mess of it. She looks to me like a young Melinda Messenger!  

Matty was an update of the Dandy comic `Meddlesome Matty` from the late 1930s and 1940s. One difference between the 1940s and the 1960s Matty, was that the latter was far prettier! As with `Nosey Parker`, when Matty tried to genuinely help people it all went wrong which didn’t seem fair or funny to me. Other times though, she was far too `meddlesome` and rather deserved her regular comeuppance. Matty ran to mid 1969, issue 224, and was the longest lasting of the five new `fun pals` of the September 1967 intake.

`Charlie Chutney` who was yet another old Dandy comic character updated, this time from the 1944-47 original; was a cook whose fun adventures weren’t all that funny to me. He and Meddlesome Matty often occupied the same page in their respective half-page strips. Charlie sometimes made guest appearances in the `Hungry Horace` strip which was most logical. He departed in issue 209 in January 1969

The final new fun pal of the September changes was called `Snapshot Sid`. Sid was a young newspaper photographer who often got his `shot` by the most bizarre coincidence` he was drawn by Bob Webster. This strip wasn’t the least bit funny to me and I often ignored it totally. Sid took his last `shots` in issue 191, 21st September 1968. He was replaced the following week, issue 192, by `Cheating Charlie` on September 28th 1968.

Sadly in 1967, artist George Drysdale became too ill to continue drawing strips, `My Grockle and Me`, `Hungry Horace` and `Keyhole Kate`. `My Grockle and Me` ended for good in the September re-shuffle except for a later one-off appearance in the `Sparky Book 1970` by Mike Lacey. The final drawn George Drysdale edition of Kate was in issue No 144, 21st October 1967, and Hungry Horace in No 145, 28th October.

Horace and Kate, of course both continued with a short term interim artist (unknown) for a few weeks. By the end of 1967 both were drawn by Albert

Holroyd who would draw Kate to 1970 and Horace to the comic’s conclusion in 1977. Sadly, George Drysdale passed away in late 1967.

Old characters, `Minnie Ha-Ha`, `Hockey Hannah`, `Freddie the Fearless Fly` ,`Joe Bann`, `Fireman Fred`, `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`, `Nosey Parker`, `Cuckoo in the Clock`, Flubberface`,  `The Slowdown Express` and `Winnie the Witch` were gone for good. The comic still had its share of fantasy, particularly `Davey Spacer` and `Klanky`, but there was now a more `down-to earth` feel to it.

                *                                     *


Political happenings in 1967 were the pay freeze introduced by the government in spring that year. Heavy bye-election defeats for Labour occurred throughout 1967, especially the one to the Scottish nationalists. The Arab/Israeli `seven day war` took place in June leading to an overwhelming victory for the Israeli’s. In November the pound was devalued leading to Chancellor Jim Callaghan swapping posts with home secretary Roy Jenkins. And the Vietnam War still escalated.

Sport: and Manchester United won the league with Nottingham Forest second. In the F.A cup, in the very first all London final, Tottenham Hotspur beat Chelsea 2-1. Glasgow Celtic became the first UK side to win the European cup, beating Inter Milan 2-1.

Formula one; and due to the continuing new strictures on engine capacity, New Zealand’s Denny Hulme won the title from Jack Brabham. Most victories of the season (four) though came from Jim Clark.

Music: 1967 was a truly seminal year for music with the “Sgt Pepper” album and “Whiter Shade of Pale” single setting the standard. `Flower Power` bloomed over the summer along with many drug related `psychedelic` singles & albums. However, in the UK it was ballads that sold best. Also in 1967, Sandie Shaw became the first UK winner of the Eurovision song contest; Ireland came second.

Biggest selling UK single was “Release Me” from Englebert Humperdink at over a million sales. It stayed consecutively in the Record Retailer top 50 for 56 weeks. He scored the second biggest seller with another million plus hit “The Last Waltz”  “A Whiter Shade of Pale” sold 810.000 in the UK giving it fourth largest UK seller just behind the Beatles “Hello Goodbye” in third at 830.000 sold. Biggest UK selling LP was of course The Beatles “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” at close to 900.000 by years end (It topped a million UK sales in mid 1973) It just edged out the year long selling soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”

In the US, the biggest selling single (at over 4.000.000) was the Monkees “I’m A Believer” beating Lulu’s “To Sir with Love” (over 2.500.000) into second. Biggest selling US album was “More of the Monkees” at over 4.000.000 actually beating “Sgt
Pepper” though `Pepper` went over five million by late 1969. 1967 in US sales saw albums outsell singles for the very first time.

1967 was the year that Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Move, Cat Stevens and the Bee Gees all broke through. In the US, names such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Qucksilver Messenger Service etc all started making themselves known.

Sadly, the year in music suffered some fatalities. Two most prominent causalities were Beatles manager Brian Epstein who died of an accidental overdose over the August bank holiday. In December, soul legend Otis Redding died in a plane crash.

Event of the year was the June `Monterey Pop Festival` USA (San Francisco) which showcased the move away from purely pop music to rock. 1967 was a truly epic year in music history.

In films, notable successes were “The Dirty Dozen” and the Bond “You Only Live Twice” Clint Eastwoods Italian made (in 1964) “A Fistful of Dollars” released only in late 1967 in the US and made a fortune. Most incredible happening was the late 1967 release of “Bonnie and Clyde” which New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther lambasted (Crowther had reviewed films since the late 1930s for the paper) The NYT received so many letters from young fans of the film accusing Crowther of being totally out of touch with the culture of the day that the paper dismissed him, brought in the much younger Pauline Kael, who praised the film unreservedly!

Television: A good year for TV in 1967 with shows such as “The Prisoner” and “A Magnum for Schneider” (The first of the “Callan” series) Gerry Anderson’s new “Captain Scarlett” offering was a vast departure from his earlier series in that not only were the puppets now properly proportioned, but the series eliminated any traces of humour and was (for the time) pretty violent and down beat. Anderson had wanted to make more “Thunderbirds” but was overruled by ATV Television mogul Lew Grade. Grade later admitted that it was one of his greatest errors.

The “Forsythe Saga” (starring Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter and Kenneth More) was the first of the incredibly successful historical series made by the BBC. It was hugely successful in the US even though US television was now in colour (“Saga” made in B/W) the series even sold to the Soviet Union.

Colour television arrived on BBC 2 in July 1967 with coverage from that years `Wimbledon` tournament gaining the honour of very first colour transmission on UK TV. The first colour BBC2 entertainment series was a version of Thakery’s `Vanity Fayre` here starring Susan Hampshire as female protagonist `Becky Sharp` note! As “Becky Sharp” the novel had been the very first all full colour film back in 1935.

*                    *

Thursday, 9 February 2012


1966.  `Big Klanky`, Willie the Woeful Wizard`, Davey Spacer, more free gifts, but a struggle to stay afloat.

1966 was obviously a critical period for Sparky comic as it presented two free gift and new story / Fun pal promotions that year. The scarcity of editions on E.Bay or other sources seems to bear out very low sales in 1966.

1966 saw an easing of the amount of fun strips in rotation. This meant the loss of `Flubberface`, and Minnie Ha-Ha` during the early part of the year, `Hockey Hannah` halfway through; and both `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` and `Freddie the Fearless Fly, during the latter months of 1966. Other fun strips, `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`, `The Slowdown Express` and the `Pansy Potter` were still rotated in what still must have been a puzzling way of presentation to readers.

The year also saw  three new `fun` pals arrive, `Fireman Fred`, `Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` and `My Grockle and Me`.

The first issue of the year, No 50 dated 1st January presented the strip `Quest of the Wandering Wingates`. It was set during the time of the holy crusades. The father of Dickon and Norah Wingate was forced into Prince John’s army and their farm destroyed. The children ended up in the holy lands and their attempts to get home were the main body of the story. It was drawn very ably by the artist (unknown) who had drawn 1965’s `Gilpin, the lost, lost boy` tale. It ran to issue No 59, 5th March.

A surprise move in issue 53, 15th January, was the return of `Will O’ the Well`. This time it was as a picture strip.  Personally, I felt it was a bad move as the imaginative text stories could never be matched in my opinion by pictures and it ran for only seven issues to No 59, 5th March 1966.

Early 1966 saw two `fun pals` now depart for good. Issue 55 , 29th January, saw the very final `Minnie-Ha-Ha` fun strip and issue 59, 26th February, was the final departure of `Flubberface`.

Issue No 56, 12th February 1966 gave readers an even shorter duration strip than `Will `O the Well`; `Pocahontas`.  It was the supposedly true tale of the daughter of a Red Indian chief and her encounters with early `new world` settler Adam Smith. This not too enthralling – for me - affair lasted just five issues to No 60, 12th March 1960.

Issue No 57, 19th February, saw the return of the three page `Lonely Wood` strip, but this was very much a `blink and you’ll miss it` affair, only lasting all of three issues to No 59, 5th March. Surely, one of the briefest ever runs of an adventure strip! Issue 57 also saw the `Pansy Potter` strip rested to issue No 80 in late July 1966.

Sales must have been still struggling in early 1966 and so another two weeks of free gifts and new stories began on issue No 60 dated 12th March. Again, Television
adverts, Newsagent displays and `fliers` were utilised to publicize another promotion, though this one not of the same size of that of September 1965.

Here now, is the line up of issue No 60.

                          SPARKY No 60. (12th March 1966, 5d)

Above the title of the comic it announced the free gift inside: `The Sparky Spinner`. This was a plastic wheel that spun on a plastic stick, with thread and could fly if operated correctly.

Page 1
`The Moonsters` The Moonsters hold a funfare.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
New story-`Seven at One Blow` This was the loose adaptation of the old tale of the Tailors apprentice.

Page 6
`Hungry Horace`

Page 7
`Winnie the Witch`

Pages 8 & 9
New story- `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy`. This strip was the `updated` version of``The Three Bears` (Not! The `Beano comic strip) from Dandy comic circa 1938/39. It featured the adventures of three South American bears. They dwelt at the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This strip was in the style of `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet`. Artist was also Jack Monk.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
Top two thirds is an illustrated ad for next weeks `Crack-Bang!` free gift. The bottom third of the page is a preview of next weeks new story, `Children of the Secret Pool`.

Pages 12 & 13
New Story-`City Under the Sea` The futuristic adventures two children who are part of the community of an undersea city.

Page 14
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` Dave and Dora are in television advertising world.

Pages 18 & 19
`Pocahontas` This was the adaptation of the meeting between new world explorer Adam Smith and Pocahontas who was the daughter of a red Indian chief.

Pages 20 & 21
`Goldie` The adventures of a golden eagle. Goldie was the `pet of sorts` to Steve and Betty Martin.

Page 22
`Hockey Hannah`

Page 23
`The Slowdown Express`

Page 24
Top ¾ `Sparky`. Bottom ¼ Three panel ads for next weeks free `Crack-Bang!` gift (left panel) and new story `Children of the Secret Pool` (middle panel). The right panel was a showcase of the comic’s fun characters.

                                 *                                     *

Here is the list of new strips (and those departing) over issues 60 and 61. As with issue 35 and 36 in September 1965, the turnover is of adventure strips: no `fun pals` affected. It wasn’t such a big overhaul as the 1965 changes with no change to the Sparky logo.

      New Strips Introduced Issues 60 & 61, 12th & 19th March 1966.


`Seven at one Blow` (2 Pages)

`Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` (2 Pages)

`City under the Sea` (2 Pages)

`Children of the Secret Pool` (2 Pages)


`Pocahontas` (2 Pages)

`The Year of the Vanaks` (2 Pages)

`Will O’ the Well` (2 Pages)

`Quest of the Wandering Wingate’s` (2 Pages)

First of the new stories were `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` the updated 1938/39 Dandy comics `The Three Bears` which was in the same vein as `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet` and drawn by the same artist, Jack Monk. It did not appeal to me at all. `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` were three bears (where have I heard that title before?) who lived in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Their `adventures` were every bit as daft as `Wee Tusky` or `Kipper Feet`.  They departed in issue No 74, 18th June 1966.

Then there was `Seven at One Blow` the adaptation of the tale of the tailor’s apprentice, which also began in issue 60.  Peter Pretzel (who thought that name up!?) who made his fortune by his wits rather than brawn. Many of the `ruses` or `ploys` he came up to beat his opponents or to solve a problem seemed utterly ludicrous to me even in 1966 let alone reading it now. One example is where Peter (who wishes to marry a Princess – as you do!) is ordered by her father (The King) to remove a mountain that blocks the view on one side of the castle, overnight! How does our hero do this? Simple, he plants a few gold coins in the soil in the foothills and by a ruse gets the greedy townsfolk to dig the whole mountain up, in one night. Is it any wonder I soon lost interest in the strip. It ran to issue No 72 date 4th June.

Best of all of the new strips commencing in issue 60, and occupying the centre pages in full colour, thus demoting `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` once more to two black and white pages, was `City under the Sea`. This futuristic tale featured John and Janet Lowe who lived in a great underwater metropolis we presume was in the near future, that was the centre of a huge fish-farm. The children assisted their father in his duties at the `farm` having many exciting undersea adventures.

This strip was very similar in artwork to the `Year of the Vanaks` strip the previous year, and similar to that story, most enjoyable. There were some very inventive episodes such as the time that huge rocks started raining down upon the huge domed enclosure. Investigating this seemingly impossible phenomenon it was discovered the reason was a fleet of colossal icebergs that had floated south and over where the dome was situated. The bergs it was surmised were once part of a huge glacier and part of their bulk was made of trapped rocks and stones that are gathered up when glaciers move slowly cutting a swathe through the land. The warmer southern seas were now melting the icebergs slowly to release their `cargo` of rocks upon the people below.

Sometimes the episodes were very far fetched such as one story which featured a tremendous tussle between a huge sea serpent and an enormous giant squid! Reading it today, the science of many of the stories is pretty suspect, but it is still a very enjoyable tale. It had a good run of 20 issues to No 79, 23rd July 1966. When it
finished, `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` then returned to the middle pages (in full colour).

In the second issue of the new stories / free gift promotion, No 61 dated 19th March, began another intriguing story. This was `Children of the Secret Pool`.

Young Jack and Jill Hardiman’s parents had been killed in a car crash in Scotland (where they lived), and the two toddlers were sent to an orphanage.
Reading about the crash was an elderly man who the readers learned was the children’s grandfather (his Christian name was never revealed). He strode off to the orphanage but was denied custody of the children by the worried staff (this storyline would really raise eyebrows today).

Undaunted, the grandfather returned at night and took the children. He took them to his home in the mountains. There, he told the children that the waters of the pool and stream that ran past his home had special qualities. Over the weeks, the children bathed and drank the waters. Like their grandfather, they became super fit and robust. They had many exciting adventures. Edward Drury was the artist on this strip.

It does read in print as a dubious story and child abduction no matter how benign the intent is today not good subject matter for a comic strip, but in actuality it was pretty innocent.  But, to stress a point I don’t think such a story would ever see publication these days. It ran to issue No 76 dated 2nd July 1966.

Issue No 62, 26th March, saw the first serious animal story since 1965’s `Watch`. This one was titled `Rory, the Horse of Many Masters`. It was set in early 20th century, 1900 to be precise. It told the story of `Rory` a horse that swapped ownership many times. His first owner, Farmer Charles Oakham decided he preferred the new `horseless carriages` (Cars! To the uninitiated) and sold Rory.

Some of his owners were kind, other-not so! I didn’t recall much of this strip when first reading it in 1966 and have had to catch up on it when getting the comics again. The story is a series of vignettes as the horse, `Rory` goes through various owners finally ending back with Charles Oakham who had become disillusioned with motorised transport. It never stuck in my memory first time around so it couldn’t have been very special. It ran to 18th June 1966, issue 74. It was drawn by George Radcliffe.

Issue No 63 dated 2 April 1966, introduced the first new `fun pal` since 1965. This was `Fireman Fred` who was drawn by artist Bob Webster who drew `Joe Bann and `Slowdown Express` strips.

Fred was a very enthusiastic, but hopelessly inept fireman who for example, the extinguishing of a burning match would have likely led to a catastrophic conflagration of `great fire of London` proportions! The strip was very dynamic with many crashes, bangs, and assorted mayhem. It was a wonder there were any buildings left untouched in Fred’s city/town. One lovely panel came in the episode where Fred and his fellow fire fighters? Were lining up for inspection by the regional fire chief. As well as the sight of Fred, there was a very `goofy` fellow, a right scruffy individual, an utterly too short specimen and a literal `knuckle
dragger-quite Neanderthal! It was a most underrated strip which deserves revaluation today.

`Fireman Fred`, was a regular weekly strip until mid 1967 issue 127, 24th June. It popped back for two weeks 15th & 22nd July 1967, issues 130 & 131, and then it was gone for good.

Issue No 73 dated 11th June, saw a rather strange entry titled `Boy in the Forest of Fear`. This told of a feral boy (name never given) who experienced hostility from forest creatures as he tried to make a home there. Eventually `Boy` befriended the animals and settled with them. The story seemed to be set in the 1920s by the look of it. I must admit it is a rather bizarre story to me as readers were given absolutely no clues as to why the lad wanted to live in such a way, or any background to him. It ran to issue No 83, 20th August 1966 and was drawn by George Radcliffe.

The following week in issue No 84 it was replaced, in a very unusual move, by a one-off complete story titled `Prentice Pete` which I think was drawn by Andy Tew. Pete was an incredibly thick workmate to a builder and was more hindrance than help. Though just a single week offering this time, `Pete` would return in spring 1967 for a longer run.

Back-dating a little now, and replacing `Rory, the Horse of many Masters` on 25th June 1966 (issue 75) was a new character who would become quite a firm `Sparky` favourite over the next few years. This was `Big Klanky` drawn by Bob Webster for this, and his second run in 1967. This initial series of the two page strip was titled `Big Klanky`. Subsequent outings were reduced to just `Klanky` thereafter.

Klanky had been sent to Earth by his creators (who were not shown to readers in this initial series) to `help mankind`. This he did most ably, often thwarting various wrongdoers in his adventures. He befriended the Huggins family, in particular youngsters Ernie and Sis. It was they who gave him the name `Klanky` due to the klanking noise he made as he walked.

The first two episodes (which were at three pages length) were a little more serious in tone as the authorities tried to deal with what at first seemed an indestructible menace. Klanky was impervious to everything `thrown` at him; rather in the same manner as Victor comics “The Smasher robot – (of course, not to be confused with the `Dandy` comic fun character) which was an indestructible `killer` robot. Klanky though turned out to be most friendly and the strip then became very much lighter in tone from the third episode onward (now at just two pages).

Klanky was very powerful and almost indestructible. Most of his adventures with his adopted `masters` the Higgins family were themes where he often thwarted wrongdoers or sometimes when enemy foreign agents wanted to kidnap him.

The Klanky strip did sometimes become repetitive; but never on the scale of tediousness that the comics updated `Invisible Dick ` strip conveyed. This first series ran to issue No 87, 17th September 1966. Klanky would return a number of times over the next few years with his real identity revealed in series three in 1969.

Another animal based story beginning in issue 75, 25th June 1966 was `Police Horse Hadrian` drawn by Andy Tew.  This was about a horse `Hadrian` who trained to be a police horse. His owner, Farmer’s daughter Joan, couldn’t afford to keep Hadrian and sold him to the Police. His trainer/rider, P.C Don Harper, taught Hadrian all he could about being a successful Police horse. It is another story that I just don’t recall from 1966 and have had to `catch –up` on it recently, which says a lot! It too ended on issue 85.

Another `fun pal` now said a final farewell as Issue No 76, 2nd July 1966 was the final `Hockey Hannah` outing. `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` took a long rest (over a year) from issue 77, 9th July 1966 to No 138 on September 9th 1967.

The summer of 1966, 9th July, issue 77 introduced `The Balloon Family Robinson` Set in the 19th century, it told of the Robinson families adventures in their wooden home that was held aloft by hydrogen balloons. It ran to issue 85, September 3rd 1966. It would return (very briefly) in 1967. Tony Speer was the artist.

As stated earlier, the `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` strip continued in its wonderfully surreal way. They actually met most of their fellow `Sparky` pals in one mid 1966 adventure which was very interesting. Later in 1966, James Malcolm joined those who drew the strip. His first story saw the twins encounter intelligent Loch Ness monsters! Sadly, many of the James Malcolm stories never seemed, at least to me, anywhere as inventive as those `Dave and Dora` entries by his fellow artists who drew the strip in rotation with him.

Issue No 80, 30th July 1966 now saw the arrival of a truly mind bending new `fun pal` namely `Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer`. This was a two page `fun` strip and even in a surrealistic comic such as Sparky this was firmly at the very outer limits of  weird premise conceived  for such fun strips.

One day a flying saucer (from Mars) landed in Granny Cupps garden, it was having control trouble. The Martians were rather robotic looking, but quite friendly and most grateful for Grannie’s help.

While the Martians carried out repairs, Granny served the creatures cups of tea with cake and biscuits. The craft was soon repaired and the friendly fellows headed by their Emperor left Granny the Emperors own small personal saucer in gratitude. The saucer had many devices which helped Granny quite a bit, and got her into some scrapes too in a series of very, very batty adventures for her and her pet cat `Snowball`.

The artwork I thought seemed rather sparse and took some getting used to (artist unknown) but once you got used to the style of drawing it was actually rather quaint and did complement the strip. Granny finished her ride in issue 85, 3rd September 1966, but she would return in summer 1967.

No 80 also saw the return of the `Pansy Potter` strip which was now a full page offering. Both Bill Hill and Bob Webster now took turns at drawing the strip until Bob Webster took sole duties from late 1966 onward. Webster then began to bring in Pansy’s mom and dad more over the next few years (Bill Hill hardly ever

featured her parents). By 1969 Bob Webster really got into his stride with `Pansy` making it one of the highlights of the comic from that period.

Another old character also returning  to the comic after dropping out back in issue 29 on 7th August 1965, was `Nosey Parker`. He returned in issue No 83, 20th August 1966. The strip would rota in that many Sparky artists took turns on it, losing something in continuity to my eyes. Two whose style I recognise, were Albert Holroyd and Michael Barrat. It would sometimes only be a half page strip as it was in every 1965 outing; but at many instances expanded to a full page, especially in early 1967.

The comic certainly went through a heavy turnover of stories, both semi-serious and purely fun strips in 1966. It seemed to be struggling for continuity in its effort to garner a loyal readership and it must have still been struggling to improve circulation. Hence, by September 1966 yet another two weeks of free gifts and new stories was offered to readers in a bid to increase sales. Once more, Telly ads, newsagent displays and `fliers` came in to play, all paid for by D.C Thomson in another effort to publicise their new promotion.

As this was again not deemed one of the more radical re-jigs to the comic there was no logo change again this time. Anyhow, here is the line up for issue No 86 dated 10th September 1966, which was the first of the two weeks minor re-launch.

                          SPARKY No 86. 10th September 1966, 5d

Top of page announces the free gift of the `Tweek-Squeak` balloon.

Page 1
`The Moonsters` The moon creatures hold a fun-fare.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 3, 4 & 5 (this week only)
New story `My Grockle and Me` Young Jimmy Johnson receives a large egg posted by an uncle residing in Africa. He warms it in the oven and it hatches out into a small dragon-like creature which makes the noise “Grockle”. Deciding to name it Grockle, Jimmy keeps it as it grows to the size of a small horse. I didn’t know at the time that this was an updated 1920s `Rover` comic strip called `Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle`. I consider this George Drysdale’s best work in the comic.

Page 6
Hungry Horace`

Page 7
Top half, `Pansy Potter` Bottom half, `Nosey Parker`.

Pages 8 & 9

New story, `Willie the Woeful Wizard`. This was the fun adventures of the court wizard to the king of Pom. It was a truly superb offering.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
Advert for next weeks free gift, the `Bizzy Buzzer` plus a preview of next weeks new story, `Nine Hundred Years Ago`.

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` Now back in the centre colour pages, the couple visit `Census Land`.

Page 14
`Fireman Fred`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Page 16
`Peter Piper`

Pages 17, 18 & 19
New story `Terry Had a Little Pig` What I do recall of this was that it was very dull indeed to me.

Pages 20 & 21
`Big Klanky` Klanky has been sent to earth by his masters to aid humanity. He aids the Huggins family which is a start.

Page 22
`Winnie the Witch`

Page 23
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 24
Top ¾ `Sparky`. Bottom ¼ of page is another preview of next weeks `Bizzy Buzzer` free gift and `Nine Hundred Years Ago` new story.

                                  *                            *

Here is a list of the strip turnover / changes of the weeks of 10th and 17th September. For the first time a new `fun pal` strip was introduced in these changes, this was My Grockle and Me`.

   New Strips Introduced, Issues 86 & 87, 10th & 17th September 1966.

`My Grockle and Me` (2 Pages)

`Willie the Woeful Wizard` (2 Pages)

`Terry Had a Little Pig` (2 Pages)

`Nine Hundred Years Ago` (2 Pages)


`Prentice Pete` (2 Pages)

`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` (2 Pages)

`Balloon Family Robinson` (2 Pages)

`Police Horse Hadrian` (2 Pages)


The `Willie the Woeful Wizard` strip was not especially unique as magic based stories were common in fun comics, but the artwork and plots were just superb! Bill Mainwaering drew it to finely detailed precision, which very much complemented the surreal flavour of the storylines. I can honestly state, that in my opinion Bill Mainwaerings artwork on the `Willy` strip is the finest I have ever seen in any `fun` comic.

Willie was a tall thin, wiry bespectacled fellow who had long blond hair and slightly prominent teeth. He had a rather `scatty` personality and often got himself into awful muddles. Early on in his adventures he got around on a broomstick which was most unwizard like until he acquired a second hand magic carpet from one `Genie Kelly`.

Willie worked for the king in the land of `Pom`. He carried out many varied tasks which presented readers with wonderfully innovative storylines. His magic didn’t always go as planned, otherwise the `scrapes` he got into would have never happened! Of course, when things really mattered, Willy always came through.

The individual stories that consisted of the 31 week run were usually either three or four episodes long, apart from one of five parts and another of just two.

Willie’s first task was to acquire some dragons to help Pom fight off their aggressive neighbour’s army. Pom’s enemy was the nation of Quagar which was ruled by a czar who had visions of conquest. Willie needed help from the `With it Witch` who sent him on an errand before she would help him. It was while on the errand for the witch that Willie first encountered `Genie Kelly` (an actual genie who lived in a tree) they became friends.

The next adventure saw Willy under orders to cheer the people of Pom up a bit by the king (who didn’t like sad faces) Sadly, Willie’s spell misfired and everyone (including the king and Willie himself) couldn’t stop laughing! Willie needed help from a young pretty maiden called `Ally Lulia` before he set things to right. She too became a good friend. Part of the story saw very daring references to 1960s drug culture by mentioning `Junk` being smoked and `Mescalweed` which was a thinly disguised reference to the actual hallucinogenic drug, Mescaline; very daring indeed!

Next up was the `Bongovian Cup Competition` where Willie encountered old enemy, one `Aldofini` who was court wizard to the Czar of Quagar. Willy entered the competition hoping to win the cup for Pom and put one over on the czar of Quagar whose entrant was the villainous `Adolfini`.

Unfortunately for Willy the union of magicians realised he had used up his quota of magic for the year and withdrew his powers! Willy made his way to Bongovia after entering the `
Palm Court
hotel which was a mirage.

Willy rode an imaginary camel he hired at the hotel but it disappeared once he forgot to believe in it! He finally made it to Bongovia but his chances at the
competition were hopeless with no powers. Seeing Willy’s plight the evil Adolfini ordered his henchmen to abduct Willy out in the desert and kill him. Luckily for Willy, the king of Pom on hearing how his powers were `taken away` ordered the magicians union on point of execution to restore them.

With his powers restored Willy duly won the competition but Adolfini went and stole the cup from under his nose.

The next story went into outer space where Willie and the court scientist, flew by rocket to the planet `Pars` to search for a rare metal needed for Pom’s Marmalade mining process. Willie once more encountered the evil Aldofini on Pars. The evil Adolfini was forcing the Partians to work for him. Happily, Willy freed them and a grateful people gave him as much metal as he could carry.

We next see Willie tasked to fetch back royal princess Sophie for an arranged marriage from her finishing school in `Twitzerland` only, Sophie wants no part in it. This story featured some very funny scenes involving a giant and a crooked innkeeper, both of who had stolen Willie’s flying carpet and tried to ride it with disastrous results. Both the `With it Witch` and `Ally Lulia` appeared in this story.

The next tale was that of a `Slimming Potion` for the king.  The King of Pom is fed up of being so fat, but can’t keep to a diet, so he orders Willie to make him a slimming potion. Knowing his own shortcomings with such concoctions, Willie wisely tests it out on the royal elephant first. He is right to as though the elephant certainly loses weight it doesn’t decrease in size at all! In fact, the poor pachyderm floats up into the sky, taking its keeper along for the ride.

Willie gives chase on his flying carpet and soon catches them up. Eventually the elephant’s weight begins to come back and it floats down into the crater of an extinct volcano. This is inhabited by Henry the Horrible Hermit who resents `intruders` and begins lobbing rocks at Willie and friends. Thanks to the elephant,
Henry is repulsed and with another dose of the potion, Willie floats the elephant back to Pom. He finds that the king has paced up and down so much in worry that he has lost enough weight this way to satisfy him.

Perhaps the lesser of Willie’s adventures, this tale of a flying elephant and an unfriendly hermit, perhaps didn’t quite come off.

My favourite was the next story, the task for Willie to find `Old Tom’s Almanac`. The sheer levels of surrealism in this particular story were awesome and it has been one of my very favourite tales of all time.

The story commenced with the naughty `With it Witch` who was holding Willie’s friend, Ally Lulia` hostage (because Ally could not locate the tome) and would only let her go if Willy could locate the Almanac. For this, he had to climb an Indian rope to a land above the clouds (called `Nohow` land) to a library set in the cloudbanks which held the book. Here, he encountered old friend `Genie Kelly` again and both set out on the task.

`Old Tom` who compiled the book was a giant who enjoyed Wizards and Genies for breakfast which was a bit of a problem for both and they barely escaped his clutches. Another obstacle was the dreaded `Seven headed Serpent` whose gaze turned all those it looked upon to treacle! Willie’s reflective glasses turned the serpent’s glare back on itself and it ended up as a sort of `treacle pudding`.

With aid from `Genie Kelly` Willie gained the Almanac where it was held in a library up in the cloudbanks and freed `Ally Lulia`.  The concept of another world (`Nohow land`) above and amongst the clouds was truly innovative indeed and quite superbly realised by Bill Mainwearing’s delightful artwork.

The final adventure was in two sections. The first four episodes began with the streets of Pom troubled by the nasty `Van-Dal` ` Hooly Gan` and their gangs of `beat hicks`. Though Willy put temporary paid to their ways a permanent answer was needed. Hence, Willy goes on another mission on advice from the `With it Witch` to get `Doraymee` seeds which would cure the troublemakers for good.

On his journey, Willie encounters `Prince Vince` who is being sent on impossible tasks by a Caliph whose daughter he wishes to marry. Willy helps all to a happy resolution and gets his Doraymee seeds. Unknown to Willy a great change has come over `Van-Dal` and `Hooly Gan` who are now married and have become solid citizens. A wandering minstrel, one `Robin Cupid` gave the louts some rather magical advice and they married and settled down. Due to a mishearing of partial conversations, Willy thinks `Robin Cupid` has replaced him and leaves the kingdom of Pom with all his possessions in belief that he is of no more use.

The final two episodes see Willy encounter wandering knight Sir Hardy of Bongovia, whose king had sent him on a task to catch a `Snole` for the Bongovian zoo. Hardy rescued a dozing Willy from one of these fierce fellows and the two became friends. Snoles, by the way, are a sort of cross between a grizzly bear and a crocodile...the mind boggles!

Back at court, the `With it Witch` asks for Willie’s job which puzzles the king. It then becomes clear that Willy has left on a misunderstanding and the king is distraught. Robin Cupid and postman `Jeepio` set out to search for him.
Meantime, and after Willy has rescued Sir Hardy from a whole bunch of `Snoles` they come across Robin Cupid and Jeepio and all is explained. Willy heads back to court to a tumultuous reception!

Just wonderful! The whole series was a wonderful tour-de-force in surrealism and innovative storylines. But; after seven months, or to be more precise, 31 weeks, that was it for Willy; gone, never to return! It is one of the most puzzling decisions in the comic’s history; or perhaps, am I really the only reader who adored the strip?

As I stated earlier, in the second story the strip actually got away with a couple of drug references in that segment of the story by mentioning a character smoking `Junk` and `Mescalweed`(a nod to Mescaline) which was incredibly daring for a children’s comic. The strip often put in references to present day culture and `pop` songs for readers to spot which gave it a very topical flavour.

Characters such as the `With it Witch` (who played a modern day electric guitar) and `Genie Kelly` (only film musical buffs will catch on to the association of that name) inhabited his world. There was `Ally Lullia` a pretty young lady who aided Willy on some occasions. The local postman was called Jeepio (G.P.O). The king of Pom was a portly fellow of uneven temper. At times, he jailed Willy, once on point of execution. Under this `crusty` exterior though, he actually liked Willy a lot and was awfully upset on thinking Willy had gone forever in the final story.

Yes! I adored this strip with its delightfully bizarre nature and wrote my first letter to the comic in March 1967 saying how much I enjoyed it. The result being the following month (8th April 1967), issue No 116, was that the strip ended forever. Ah well, So much for reader feedback.

The week of 10th September 1966 saw the introduction of another updated old fun strip that I mentioned earlier; titled `My Grockle and Me`. Jimmy Johnson grew Grockle from an egg sent to him from an uncle in Africa. Grockle had an amazing appetite, even eating metallic objects, he even drank petrol with apparently no ill effects. `Grockle` acquired his name from Jimmy by the `Grockling` grunting noises he frequently uttered.

Grockle was prone to bouts of temper, often belching out flame when in a fit of pique; he was also very accident prone, but had a certain level of intelligence. Grockle often got into fights with other creatures, once even badly beating up a Lion! He was a loving pet to Jimmy and, when things very occasionally went well; could be very helpful to him.

At the time I had no idea this was a contemporary version of the old 1920s `Rover` and `Dandy`(1937-39) comic strip, `Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle`. It was a very enjoyable fun strip which ran to the big overhaul of September 1967, issue No 140. It featured some of artist George Drysale’s best work.

The other new adventure strip, which was more serious in tone, was titled `Nine Hundred Years Ago` commenced in issue No 87, 17th September. It was set just before the battle of Hastings. A convoluted plot saw the blacksmith Father of Mildred and Edgar jailed by King Harold’s men. The children were made homeless and worked their way to France to try and raise help!? (I know! It is `most` confusing).

Anyway, it cumulated in William the Conqueror winning at Hastings and freeing the children’s Father. As well as confusing, it was rather dull to me; but saved somewhat by artist Bill Mainwaerings superb work on it. `Nine Hundred Years Ago` ran to issue 94, 5th November 1966.

`Terry had a Little Pig` another Andy Tew drawn strip and the last of the September 1966 intake was, for me, an awfully tedious affair indeed. Terry Hicks won a small pig at a garden fete (as you do!) the strip outlined his efforts to keep the pig a secret from his perceived, disapproving parents. This too ended in November 1966, the 26th issue 97 to be precise, and not a moment too soon.

Also in September 1966 the first` Sparky Book` with cover date 1967` was issued (all D.C Thomson annuals were dated for following year by mid 1960s). The Sparky books were actually compiled more than a year in advance of the year they came out which meant that in some years, particularly in the 1970 book, the strips in the books had ceased in the weekly comic more than a year before!

The fun animal based adventures strips such as `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet` were represented in this first Sparky book, but the only one of the more serious in tone adventure strip to feature in it was `Floating Along, Singing a Song`. This was titled in the book `The Canal Kids` the name the children called their musical group in the comic strip.

The first Sparky book had 128 pages with 48 of them in full colour. It is not too common today, but isn’t as expensive as either the `Dandy` or `Beano` annuals 1967. The cover features the `Moonsters` Fire Brigade and is light blue in colour.
Here is the line up of the first Sparky book.

                                   Sparky Book 1967, Contents.

`The Canal Kids` (this was titled `Sailing Along, Singing a Song` in the comic)
`Pansy Potter`
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`
`The Moonsters`
`Nosey Parker`
`Dotty Daydream` # (This was a non-comic story, only appearing in the Sparky book.)
`Freddie the Fearless Fly`
`Wee Tusky`
`Young Ben` # (text and another non-comic story)
`Winnie the Witch`
`The Slowdown Express`
`Minnie Ha-Ha`
`Keyhole Kate`
`Lonely Wood`
`Dolly Dimple` # (another non-comic strip)
`Hungry Horace`
`Kipper Feet`
`Peter Piper`
`McGinty the Goat`
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`
`Will O’ the Well` (text)
`Hockey Hannah`
`Cuckoo in the Clock`
`The Walk-About Wilsons` # (non-comic adventure strip)

The # sign by a strip means that the strip never featured in Sparky comic, only the book.

Back to the comic itself and Issue No 88, 24th September 1966 saw `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` bumped off the centre pages again (back to two B&W pages) to make way for the adaptation of Pegasus the winged horse titled `The Horse With Wings`.

It was a fairly interesting and enjoyable strip which certainly took some wild `flights of fancy`. Two episodes featured the lost continent of Atlantis whose citizens had devised weapons more advanced than 20th century technology. They were most warlike indeed and had made plans to conquer the rest of the world. The planet was saved from their warlike ways when the continent of Atlantis was destroyed by a huge earthquake, with our heroes escaping astride Pegasus just in time. Another couple of rather way out episodes featured a creature called a `Chimera` which was half lion, half dragon, and which was quite a sight to behold. The strip lasted to issue 106, 28th January 1967 and was drawn by Edward Drury, whose style of artwork looked very effective in full colour.

The final `fun pal` departures of the year, and for good, now occurred; these two old pals now departed in quick succession. They were `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` who bowed out in issue 89, 1st October, followed shortly by `Freddie the Fearless Fly` in the 15th October issue, No 91, gone, never to return.

In late 1966 a popular adventure strip character that would have three series in Sparky circa 1966 to 1969, was introduced. This first outing was titled `Little Davey Spacer`. It commenced in issue 95 dated 12th November 1966. The first two series were loosely based on Jonathan Swifts “Gulliver’s Travels” with Davey as a sci-fi Lemual Gulliver.

Davey West was a pilot for the Earth space fleet in the year 2084.  Earth forces had battled with the `Invaders from the Rim` (I presume this meant the `Galactic rim`) in the region of the solar system close to the planet Saturn; and Davey’s ship was
badly damaged. He had to eject from the crippled ship and bodily landed on a small asteroid that readers learned was called `Astera` and populated by six inch tall peoples called the `Asterites`

The Asterites looked human enough except for their elongated, pointed heads, which made it awkward for their Emperor who wore a crown! `Astera` was in orbit around Saturn. The Asterites mostly lived inside its honeycombed interior and had progressed to creating quite a civilised society.

Davey was `sort of’ captured by the six inch high Asterite populace who could not be sure whether the unconscious giant might be hostile, or not. As with Gulliver, he was secured to the ground by many ropes. Once he regained consciousness Davey managed to persuade the Asterites that he was friendly and was released.

The Asterites then set up an oxygen supply for Davey to keep him alive. He was later joined by space dog, Puff` (whose very limited vocabulary was mostly based on the word “Boogle!”) who arrived in an egg that had floated on to Astera. Puff was a very friendly creature that resembled a poodle a little, except he had `three ears on top of his head rather like horns! Readers would only find out `Puff’s` world of origin in the `Davey Spacer` strip in the Sparky book dated 1970. Apparently it was “Planet Puffball” occupied by creatures similar to `Puff``. So, why on Earth was he floating in space in an egg then if he had a planet of origin? Oh well! never mind.

Anyway, back to the strip itself, and one Asterite who wasn’t at all friendly towards Davey was Rann Cid (I never twigged this name back in 1966) whose factory had been damaged when Davey landed. Rann Cid tried to kill Davey on more than one occasion. He even tried overthrowing the Emperor in order to get his way. Davey and Puff saw him off and he was jailed for life. Davey’s closest friends, apart from Puff, were `Gog` and `Yak` two redoubtable Asterites who Davey helped to construct an Asterian space fleet.

Davey then helped the Asterites when they were invaded by one of `The Raiders from the Rim` ships, the same raiders that Earth forces had been at war with. The `Invaders`, when they alighted from their craft, were three human sized intelligent chicken-like creatures who were more prone to firing their ray guns rather than peaceful contact. The hostile creatures led by their cruel commander Oswan, set about capturing the Asterites.

These three `Raiders` were soon driven off Astera but their full space fleet was set upon a massive battle with the Earth fleet. The Asterites and their new space ships aided the Earth forces by delivering (undetected as they were so small) limpet bombs to the raiders ships hulls, thereby eliminating the threat. A grateful Earth commander set up an alliance with Astera and towed the asteroid into orbit around the Earth. This first series ran to issue 107, 11th February 1967 and was very popular. I certainly enjoyed it a lot.

The strip `Island from the Past` commenced in late 1966 issue 98, 3rd December, it carried onto 18th February 1967, issue 109. It was the story of the island of Moa which had somehow reverted to prehistoric times with animals, plants and humans all de-evolved to that period.
Two modern day children, Hope and Rodney Murdoch became part of an expedition by their Grandfather who had first discovered the island many years before. It seems the island then sank and he only just got off it in time. Now it has `surfaced` all these years later and three generations of the family set out to re-discover it all over again. As luck would have it, they get temporarily shipwrecked there and the strip conveyed their adventures.

It was a most exciting premise for a story. The major drawback to the strip was what I regard as poor artwork that just does not do the story justice. As stated, it ended at issue No 109, 18th February 1967.

In the `Peter Piper` strip there was a change of artist through the year. The change was gradual with both original artist and newcomer rotating duties through spring / summer 1966. By late summer 1966 the new man took over full duties on the strip to autumn 1968. I can’t be certain, but I think this new artist was Bill Holroyd (Albert’s Brother) who drew the Peter Piper strip superbly in his tenure on it.

1966 had been certainly been a grim struggle by the comic for sales with two lots of free gift, and new story promotions. Despite such progressive offerings as `Willy the Woeful Wizard` `Klanky` and `Little Davey Spacer`, the comic was still looking somewhat archaic compared to the likes of `Wham` and `Smash` from rivals Odhams, and especially against City publications `T.V 21` offering. Even fellow stable mates `Dandy` and `Beano` seemed more contemporary in comparison. 1967 loomed ahead, would Sparky fare better?

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In Politics the current Government (Labour) won an increased (to 96) majority in the general election held in March.  The terrible Coal slag tip, Aberfan disaster occurred in October 1966, perhaps the most traumatic UK disaster of the 1960s. Also harrowing were the details of the notorious “Moors Murders” as the trial of Ian brady and Myra Hidley unfolded.

In sport: Liverpool became league champions with Leeds Utd again second. FA cup winners were Everton who beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 in a thrilling final. Biggest soccer event was that year’s world cup which England won on home soil beating West Germany 4-2 after extra time.

In formula one, due to new rules on engine litre classification, 1961 champion, Jack Brabham regain the title. Graham Hill won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966.

Music: Biggest UK singles seller was by Tom Jones at year’s end with the only UK million plus seller, “The Green, Green Grass of Home” Biggest selling UK LP was the soundtrack to “The Sound of Music”.

It was the year when the “Dave Dee” group, “Spencer Davis” outfit, and the “Troggs” dominated the UK singles charts. 1966 was a year of very influential LP releases such as The Beatles “Revolver” the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” and the first ever rock double,
Bob Dylan’s “Blond on Blond” set. Sadly October 1966 saw the deaths of Alma Cogan (Cancer) and Johnny Kidd (Car crash).

The Beatles curtailed touring after August that year, though never `officially` announcing they had. It didn’t stop media speculation by the close of 1966 that perhaps the group were no more!

Biggest US selling single was Sgt Barry Sadler’s pro Vietnam “The Ballad of the Green Berets” Biggest selling US LP was the debut eponymous “The Monkees” at over two and a half million sold to years end.

Also in the US towards years end, the word `Psychedelic` began cropping up in connection with experimental pop music, sometimes associated with the drug LSD.

Notable films were, “Dr Zhivago” “A Man for all Seasons” and “Alfie”

Interesting TV offerings were “Thunderbirds” Supernatural anthology “Mystery and Imagination” and the surreal adaptation by Jonathan Millar of “Alice in Wonderland”. On a darker note, a play highlighting the plight of the homeless “Cathy Come Home” actually caused questions in Parliament and a change in the laws on accommodation!

In the US colour television was introduced from the summer season causing the cancellation of many shows that couldn’t afford to film in colour such as long running western series “Rawhide” and horror spoof “The Munsters”

In September 1966 on US TV both “The Monkees” and “Star Trek” debuted. Neither were truly high rating’s scorers but became very influential years later.

November saw the death of popular entertainer, Arthur Haynes from an unexpected heart attack.

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