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.

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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.

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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.

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