by Richard Sheaf & Dez Skinn
with help from the good folks over at the Comics UK forum
One of the things I like about collecting comics is not knowing what’s out there to collect, it’s not like stamp collecting where it’s very clear what you’ll spend the next x years collecting. Why? Only one publisher (the Royal Mails of this world) of course. Luckily, comics isn’t like that and recently (as I’ve nearly finished collecting the titles that form my core comics collection) I’ve diversified into collecting titles that were published by companies other than Fleetway/IPC or DC Thomson – the nearest British comics have to the ‘Royal Mail’ in my earlier example. One such area of my collecting is examples of comics that never were – comics that got as far as being shown to potential readers and advertisers but never quite made it any further. These are pretty obscure and hard to collect, so imagine my surprise about a year ago when I came across a copy of a ‘comic’ whose potential readers, I guess, never got to see it because it never got much further than the drawing board.
Welcome to Whacko!, the comic that never was.
Let’s have a look at it and see what we’ve got here.
What it is is a dummy copy of a title, not a dummy that would have been printed by the publisher and shown to kids to gauge their reaction, no this this from a stage before that when, whoever it was was trying to get their boss to pay for thousands of copies to be given to kids. Sixteen ‘pages’ long, except they’re not pages, they’re thick card with photocopied art stuck down on top of it, stitched together in the middle and the front and back cover given a plastic coating to protect it.
Question is, who made it? As we’ll see as we go along there are good artists involved so that got me wondering whether or not it was a failed IPC project. Over to comics legend Dez Skinn for an investigation as to whether or not it was… this is what he had to say based on just a scan of the front cover:
i) The main title box: Nobody at IPC would be daft enough to miss the chance of making the logo stand out better with a full colour background.
ii) The "1p" price. IPC would never have used a small cap for the P, which it is with the bottom of the 1 level with the bottom of the P. Neither would they have missed the chance to shout about the low price.
iii) The topline as a title box tagline. Nah, not our/their style!
iv) Jolly new comic? Jolly? No chance!
v) The pencil and shadow lines would have been removed at proof stage (obviously Walls didn't bother with proofs so they didn't realise until it was printed that all the shadows and pencil would show!)
vi) The title box for the cover story would be the same height as the first story pic (!).
vii) The title logo's outline is very shaky. IPC's Central Art Department on the 6th floor of New Fleetway House used precision tools (now long gone) and would never have produced such a messy logo.
viii) And that awful colouring. While the art and lettering's Fleetway standard, the colouring's appalling in both the strip and the title logo (black, green, yellow and red? Never!)So that rules them out of the equation. As we’ll see from the strips and the proposed advertising this is a comic produced by or for Lyons. The content listing is as follows:
The stories are all unusual in that in none of them is the product they are promoting vital to the success of the story or a reward for the efforts of the character. Early ‘Tommy Walls’ stories in Eagle magazine had Tommy given almost superhuman powers once he had consumed a bit of his favourite ice cream. As the stories progressed it became more about the reward at the end of the story being some Walls ice cream rather than the ice cream enabling you to leap onto the wing of a flying aeroplane (see the very first issue of Eagle for that story).
To end our story, and for a bit of fun, Dez Skinn kindly got out his photoshop paintbrush and re-imagined Whacko! with a ‘proper’ IPC layout…