Welcome to the Cheeky Weekly blog!


Welcome to the Cheeky Weekly blog!
Cheeky Weekly ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT ©  REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED was a British children's comic with cover dates spanning 22 October 1977 to 02 February 1980.

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*** CHEEKY WEEKLY, KRAZY, WHOOPEE and WHIZZER AND CHIPS ARE ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT ©  REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ***

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Thursday, 2 April 2020

Whizzer and Chips - The Cheeky Raids part 53

New readers start here... After Cheeky Weekly folded and was incorporated into Whoopee as of February 1980 six strips that had originated in the toothy funster's title survived the merge and continued to appear in the amalgamated comic. Whoopee itself foundered in March 1985 and was merged into Whizzer and Chips. Three of the surviving Cheeky Weekly strips successfully negotiated this second merge and went on to appear in the newly combined publication, rather inelegantly titled 'Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee'. The survivors were Mustapha Million, Calculator Kid and (appearing only twice) Stage School. Cheeky continued to appear, but as a member of The Krazy Gang, who had moved into W&C when Krazy, the comic in which the Gang originated, expired in April 1978. However, the Krazy Gang's Whizzer and Chips run ended in the issue dated 08 February 1986. Calculator Kid survived a little longer, his run of reprints coming to an end in the 26 July 1986 edition and leaving Mustapha Million as the sole Cheeky Weekly survivor.


A week after Mustapha was raided by Slippy in the 16 September 1989 edition of Whizzer and Chips, head Whizz-kid Sid announced the resumption of weekly reciprocal raids (after the moratorium on new raids was lifted in the 12 August 1989 issue, raids had been limited to a single one each week, alternating between a Whizz-kid incursion into Chips one week, and a Chip-ite foray into Whizzer the next).


Whizzer and Chips 23 September 1989

Thus it was entirely possible under the reintroduced 2-raids-a-week regime that a character could be both perpetrator and victim, and the next issue to involve Mustapha in a cross-comic sortie (28 October 1989) did indeed see him in both roles.

Mustapha struck a blow for the Chip-ites by intruding upon the somewhat disturbing romantic entanglement of Bobby with his girlfriend from beyond the grave. The strip's title was a pun on Susan Maughan's 1962 recording of Bobby's Girl, a reference of which few Whizzer and Chips readers in 1989 would have been aware.


Art: Anthony Hutchings






Can you spot the gate-crasher in Mustapha's pages?  Scroll down the discover the identity of the infant interloper.

Art: Frank McDiarmid









Yes, it's the 'orrible occupant of a notoriously niffy nappy, Sweeny Toddler, carrying out his second raid on our middle-eastern mate. Sweeny's previous intrusion upon Mustapha was during the belligerent baby's multi-raid rampage way back in Whizzer and Chips dated 23 November 1985.

I suspect the billboard advertising Gungeo Hair Gel is another popular music reference, although much more recent for readers in 1989 than that cited above - Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan had enjoyed chart success with 'Especially for You' in 1988. I'm not going to embed a video of the song, so please seek it out yourself if you're so inclined.

More raiding fun soon!

Whizzer and Chips Cover Date Raider Raided
06 April 1985Mustapha MillionSuper Steve
04 May 1985Bloggs (Store Wars)Mustapha Million
11 May 1985JokerThe Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
18 May 1985Calculator Kid & CalcOdd-Ball
01 June 1985
Animalad
Mustapha Million
The Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
Boy Boss
08 June 1985Odd-BallCalculator Kid
06 July 1985Toy BoyCalculator Kid
13 July 1985Pa BumpkinThe Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
27 July 1985JokerMustapha Million
24 August 1985CheekySid's Snake
14 September 1985
Odd-Ball
Calculator Kid
Calculator Kid
Store Wars
05 October 1985Mustapha MillionAnimalad
19 October 1985Odd-BallMustapha Million
23 November 1985
Sweeny Toddler
Sweeny Toddler
Sweeny Toddler
Calculator Kid
The Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
Mustapha Million
18 January 1986Mustapha MillionSuper Steve
25 January 1986
Odd-Ball
Cheeky
Mustapha Million
Odd-Ball
08 February 1986
The Krazy Gang ends this issue
AnimaladMustapha Million
15 February 1986Lazy BonesCalculator Kid
15 March 1986Odd-BallCalculator Kid
29 March 1986Calculator KidMaster P Brain
05 April 1986Bumpkin BillionairesMustapha Million
12 April 1986AnimaladCalculator Kid
31 May 1986Lazy BonesCalculator Kid
07 June 1986Mustapha MillionJoker
28 June 1986Sweet ToothMustapha Million
26 July 1986
Calculator Kid ends this issue
No Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
16 August 1986Mustapha MillionJoker
23 August 1986Sweet ToothMustapha Million
18 October 1986Winnie the Royal NagMustapha Million
06 December 1986Toy BoyMustapha Million
13 December 1986Mustapha MillionOdd-Ball
17 January 1987SidMustapha Million
14 February 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
11 April 1987Pa BumpkinMustapha Million
25 April 1987Mustapha MillionOdd-Ball
20 June 1987Toy BoyMustapha Million
27 June 1987Mustapha MillionMemory Banks
25 July 1987Lazy BonesMustapha Million
22 August 1987Winnie the Royal NagMustapha Million
12 September 1987Mustapha MillionSweet Tooth
19 September 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
24 October 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
12 December 1987JokerMustapha Million
13 February 1988Bloggs (Store Wars)Mustapha Million
20 February 1988Mustapha MillionJoker
12 March 1988Odd-BallMustapha Million
23 April 1988JokerMustapha Million
28 May 1988
Readers asked not to let their Whizz-kid or Chip-ite sympathies colour their favourite strip votes
No Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
11 June 1988SlippyMustapha Million
16 July 1988Toy BoyMustapha Million
30 July 1988 New raids halted

05 August 1989 (raid reprinted from 25 Aug 1984)CheekyStore Wars
12 August 1989 Resumption of new raids (one per week)No Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
02 September 1989JokerMustapha Million
16 September 1989SlippyMustapha Million
23 September 1989 Weekly reciprocal raids resumeNo Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
28 October 1989
Mustapha Million
Sweeny Toddler
Bobby's Ghoul
Mustapha Million

Saturday, 21 March 2020

The Whoopee Years – Gran

$6,000,000 Gran

Erstwhile readers of Cheeky Weekly may have been a little surprised to see their aged automaton pal, previously known as 6 Million DollarGran across her 114-issue run in the toothy funster’s title, undergo a numeric revision to become $6,000,000 Gran on her first outing in the combined Whoopee! and Cheeky. However, when they saw Pete and Pauline Potts accompanying Gran, and read Pauline’s comment (designed to bring Whoopee! readers up to speed with the concept behind the strip), “Tee, hee! It’s a giggle having a bionic robot granny!”, they would have been reassured that, aside from the tweaking of the title, the situation they had hitherto enjoyed remained unchanged (the scriptwriter’s seeming confusion regarding the contradictory terms ‘bionic’ and ‘robot’ was certainly familiar to Cheeky Weekly fans, and Gran would repeatedly be referred to as bionic during her run in $6,000,000 Gran).

Also reassuring to former Cheeky Weekly readers who had chosen to transfer their allegiances to Whoopee! and Cheeky was the continued contributions of Ian Knox, who had drawn 94 of Gran’s Cheeky Weekly adventures.

The first $6,000,000 Gran episode - Whoopee! and Cheeky 09 February 1980
Art: Ian Knox, as is all the artwork in this post

One aspect of the feature which failed to transfer into the merged comic was the portrayal of Gran’s adventures as Cheeky’s favourite TV show. Long-time fans of our grinning hero, who had been reading Cheeky Weekly since its inception, would have been aware that, like all the non-Cheeky strips in the comic’s early days, Gran’s TV appearances were framed within Cheeky’s universe. However, the various framing devices had gradually been dropped over time, with Gran’s TV existence being the last to be removed, during the summer of 1979. 

Another change as of Gran’s move to Whoopee! was the episode length – whereas the majority of 6 Million Dollar Gran stories occupied 3 pages, $6,000,000 Gran’s were, with 5 exceptions of either single or one and a half pages, reduced to 2 pages per week.

Gran’s creator, Professor Potts, appeared in her second Whoopee! and Cheeky adventure, wherein readers learned he was still employed at the ‘research lab outside town’ which, as was revealed in the first issue of Cheeky Weekly, was where the synthetic senior citizen was built. Prof Potts and his wife would feature intermittently during Gran’s $6,000,000 escapades.

Pete seemed to forget that Gran was a robot...

...as did Gran herself

A scene from Gran’s story in the issue dated 01 March appeared on the cover that week, and Gran was featured on the front page of the 02 August 1980 edition, although the image used on the cover, showing the aged automaton aboard a manually-powered (or robotically powered in Gran's case) railway trolley (or handcar), didn’t bear any relation to her story inside the comic that week, which concerned a threat to Professor Potts’ marrow.
 
Evidently Gran’s electronic brain failed her in the 09 August 1980 episode, as she was duped into freeing a prisoner from jail – clearly she didn’t recall that she was similarly deceived back in Cheeky Weekly dated 03 December 1977.
 
There was a medical mix-up in Gran’s 24 January 1981 escapade – due to a misunderstanding, the mechanical marvel was examined by a doctor who didn’t seem to notice her robotic construction.

Changes were afoot for Gran following Professor Potts’ overseas posting, as explained in Whoopee! and Cheeky dated 25 April 1981…




In the following issue Gran visited the Labour Exchange (forerunner of today’s Job Centre) and obtained employment as a school crossing guard, then as a dishwasher in a restaurant. Neither of these posts suited the ostensibly-geriatric jobseeker, so she returned to the employment office...

 
 
Robot Granny

Readers who were willing to risk having their sides split learned a week later that the title of the strip had changed to Robot Granny, finally acknowledging Gran’s mechanical nature (although her feats would continue to be described as bionic). Nanny would have been a more accurate description of her new role since Pete and Pauline Potts would no longer feature in her stories (despite his promise that he would return in 1983, Professor Potts and his family never appeared again), but her new charges disparagingly referred to her as Granny (and so on occasion did Lady Swankly, although whether Gran's titled employer intended it as a slight, as did the kids, is not clear). The change of Gran’s strip title happened 11 weeks before the comic title reverted from Whoopee! and Cheeky to just Whoopee!, but the Robot Granny stories continued after the reference to the toothy funster’s comic was dropped.

First Robot Granny strip -Whoopee! and Cheeky 09 May 1981


For the duration of Gran’s Robot Granny run, her previous attire of dress and fetching bonnet with flower was replaced with a nanny’s uniform.

Robot Granny in nanny uniform and still having her feats described as bionic
 
The children of Lord and Lady Swankly consisted of a baby, Jason (seen in early episodes only), and a selection of youngsters (the maximum number seen in a single panel was 11; 10 April and 05 June 1982), the most striking of whom was a girl (30 May 1981 suggests her name may have been Amelia, but 05 September 1981 identifies her as Sarah), knuckle-dragging with Popeye-style forearms, often including nautical tattoo. The Swankly brood also included identical twins, one of whom was named Mike (11 July 1981). Rather confusingly, they also had a different child named Mick who received a namecheck in the 05 September 1981 edition, along with his taller, spiky-haired brother, James (the other twin). ‘Mick’ was referred to as William in the issues dated 13 March and 11 September 1982. The corpulent child was of course called, in those less enlightened times, Tubby (31 October 1981). Fishing enthusiast Nigel was named during the course of 14 November 1981’s piscatorial plot.

$6,000,000 Gran was seen working as a dishwasher
in a restaurant (02 May 1981) but in her guise as
Robot Granny she seemed to be mis-remembering her past


The Robot Granny stories revolved around Gran’s attempts to amuse or educate the kids. Episodes often began with Lady Swankly giving Gran instructions on some aspect of the children’s care (frequently telling Gran that the youngsters, who were seen with their faces pressed against TV screens or lazing around eating grapes), needed more exercise, and robotic chaos would result. Gran’s most impressive feat during this period was relocating Mount Everest from the Himalayas to the grounds of Rottenrich Hall (19 February 1983).

A robot enjoying a slap-up feed?

The kids rarely seemed surprised when their nanny demonstrated her superhuman abilities, nor did they enquire how she was able to perform them. As far as readers knew, the kids assumed their governess was human.

The 27 February 1982 story concerned Gran’s inclusion in the kids’ game of hide and seek. The aged automaton correctly surmised that a couple of her charges were concealed beneath the dining table, but on lifting the furniture she smashed the crockery. The bottom half of the second page consisted of a puzzle entitled Help Gran! - readers were challenged to pair the corresponding halves of a selection of shattered cups and plates.

How a robot became eligible for a pension was never explained

Quizmaster was a puzzle feature, hosted each week by one of the Whoopee! stars. The robotic wrinkly introduced the half-page of brain teasers in Whoopee! dated 30 April 1983.

Gran's Gang
  
Whoopee underwent another merge as of the 02 July 1983 issue, this time welcoming survivors from IPC’s Wow! In the same issue, Gran’s strip was given a further overhaul, becoming ‘Gran’s Gang’ and being reduced from 2 pages per week to one. The first episode in the new format saw Gran accompany some of the Swankly offspring to a disco. The leader of the group of youths who frequented the youth club objected to the presence of the apparently aged Gran. Our robotic heroine, seriously feeling the funk, donned a wig and demonstrated some highly energetic dance moves. The youth gang leader, feeling his positioned threatened by Gran’s prowess on the dance floor, still refused to admit her to his troupe, and the episode ended with Gran vowing to start her own gang.

The first Gran's Gang episode
  
The second Gran’s Gang story showed her recruiting elderly local residents Shamus, Harriet, Henry and a further four un-named individuals of advanced age, and announcing the creation of Gran’s Gang. However, as with the Swankly kids, the names of the members of Gran’s gang weren’t always consistent from issue to issue.

Subsequent episodes depicted the gang of youths (still numbering among them some of the Swankly kids, most noticeably the mightily-forearmed Sarah, who reverted to Amelia in the 05 November 1983 episode) challenging Gran’s Gang to various activities, on each occasion expecting an easy win (when issuing challenges, a gauntlet was often literally thrown to the ground). Needless to say, Gran’s Gang always prevailed. For example when competing against the youngsters in the bowling alley, the elderly mob were able to call on their years of experience on the bowling green in order to win. However, Gran no longer exhibited any superhuman abilities (in the 25 August 1984 edition she’s unable to break a stick of seaside rock).



It would appear that Gran’s Gang stars a revised, human version of Gran, since in the 20 October 1984 comic she persuades a museum attendant to lend her a vintage omnibus to replace the modern coach she, her pals and the youngsters were travelling in until it broke down, saying "Oh, go on, George! We were at school together, after all!" George replies "Okey-dokey, matey! Seeing it’s for you!". The youngsters' back-story also seems to have undergone a revision as Lady Swankly was only seen in the first episode and in the 17 November 1984 story William says his dad is a computer engineer.

In later Gran's Gang stories the challenges were replaced with various inter-generational conflicts, although the oldsters would sometimes help out their youthful counterparts and vice-versa.

For her Gran’s Gang appearances, Gran didn’t revert to the outfit she wore in her Six Million and $6,000,000 Gran years – she continued to wear the nanny’s uniform she had sported during the Robot Granny run.

Gran was clearly no longer living at Rottenrich Hall
  
In the 29 October 1983 story, the kids beat Gran’s gang to the newsagent and buy the last copies of Whoopee. A cheesed-off Gran and her elderly chums visit IPC’s headquarters at King’s Reach Tower (which of course is depicted with a huge Whoopee sign, visible across London, on the exterior of the top floor). In the Whoopee office, where Pa Bumpkin and Smiler can be seen posing for the comic’s artists, Gran explains that her group consists of Whoopee’s oldest readers, yet they missed that week’s issue. The gentleman at the Readers’ Complaints desk hands out not only that week’s edition but some advance copies for several weeks ahead. The number of kids who subsequently contacted IPC pretending to be of advanced years and trying to blag some free comics remains open to speculation.

Horological humour was the subject of The Gran's Gang story in Whoopee dated 30 March 1985, as the senior citizens and their youthful opposite numbers compared their preferred timepieces, while the centre pages informed readers that as from the following week their comic was being merged into Whizzer and Chips. Sweeny Toddler was on hand to introduce the Whizzer and Chips stars who were to be included in the merged title but, as was the standard practice, to ensure that the maximum number of erstwhile Whoopee readers bought a copy of the following week's merged comic, there was no mention of which of the Whoopee crew were to transfer into the amalgamated title. Gran fans spent an anxious week wondering if their robotic chum was among the Whoopee funny folk selected for salvation, but were disappointed to find that she had failed to make the transfer. Nevertheless Gran, through all her various guises across Cheeky Weekly and various Whoopee merges, had enjoyed a creditable run of just under 7 and a half years, much of her success no doubt due to Ian Knox's often grotesque, energetic artwork.

$6,000,000 Gran ran for 60 consecutive issues, 09 February 1980 to 02 May 1981 (publication of Whoopee! and Cheeky was suspended for four weeks in May/June 1980 due to an industrial dispute, and a week after returning to newsagents' shelves, a two-week issue cover-dated 21st - 28th June 1980 was published, so the comic missed 5 weeks during this period). All $6,000,000 Gran strips, were drawn by Ian Knox. All the stories bar 5 were 2 pages long - three issues contained single page stories and in a further two editions $6,000,000 Gran shared the second of her pages with half-page IPC promotions.

Robot Granny ran from 09 May 1981 to 25 June 1983, but was absent from 6 issues during the period, so the total episodes amounted to 106. Nigel Edwards and Barrie Appleby each deputised on one occasion for regular artist Ian Knox. Thus Ian delivered 104 stories, 16 of which covered a page and a half *, with the remainder running to 2 pages, and Nigel and Barrie's contributions were one page each.

* Please note I have chosen to record the Help Gran! puzzle on the second page of her 27 February 1982 escapade as a separate feature from Gran's strip - it has the look of a filler to me and I don't think it sprang from the nimble nib of Mr K - so that week's story is among the total of page and a half episodes listed above.

Gran's Gang first appeared in the issue dated 02 July 1983 and concluded in the final Whoopee dated 30 March 1985, but didn't appear in 5 editions during its run, so the total episode count is 87. All were single-pagers and drawn by Ian Knox.

Thus Gran was present in all but 11 issues of Whoopee from 09 February 1980 to 30 March 1985, making a Gran(d) total of 253 appearances (256 if we include her cover spots and Quizmaster outing).

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Whizzer and Chips - The Cheeky Raids part 52

New readers start here... After Cheeky Weekly folded and was incorporated into Whoopee as of February 1980 six strips that had originated in the toothy funster's title survived the merge and continued to appear in the amalgamated comic. Whoopee itself foundered in March 1985 and was merged into Whizzer and Chips. Three of the surviving Cheeky Weekly strips successfully negotiated this second merge and went on to appear in the newly combined publication, rather inelegantly titled 'Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee'. The survivors were Mustapha Million, Calculator Kid and (appearing only twice) Stage School. Cheeky continued to appear, but as a member of The Krazy Gang, who had moved into W&C when Krazy, the comic in which the Gang originated, expired in April 1978. However, the Krazy Gang's Whizzer and Chips run ended in the issue dated 08 February 1986. Calculator Kid survived a little longer, his run of reprints coming to an end in the 26 July 1986 edition and leaving Mustapha Million as the sole Cheeky Weekly survivor.

Just 2 weeks after he was the victim of yet another raid by Joker, Mustapha was again unwitting host to an impertinent intruder. Can you locate the Whizz-kid who slipped into this story? Scroll down to learn the identity of the infuriating infiltrator.

Whizzer and Chips 16 September 1989
Art: Frank McDiarmid







Yes it's Whizz-kid supremo Sid's serpentine sidekick, Slippy, intruding upon our affluent chum for the second time.

This fame-craving version of Mustapha, who is willing to expend large sums of cash in pursuit of self-aggrandisement, is considerably different from the generous, kindly young lad readers got to know back in his Cheeky Weekly days. The repeated wheel clamping also portrays our middle eastern mate as an inconsiderate road user since presumably he instructs his chauffeur where to park. The 'royal persons' appearing in the strip are of course Prince Andrew and his wife of the time, Sarah Ferguson. Eddie the Eejit is a spoof of Michael Edwards.

It's always good to see Mustapha's pet hippo, Frisky, who made occasional appearances over the years after being introduced in Cheeky Weekly dated 24 March 1979.

There'll be more raiding fun soon!


Whizzer and Chips Cover Date Raider Raided
06 April 1985Mustapha MillionSuper Steve
04 May 1985Bloggs (Store Wars)Mustapha Million
11 May 1985JokerThe Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
18 May 1985Calculator Kid & CalcOdd-Ball
01 June 1985
Animalad
Mustapha Million
The Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
Boy Boss
08 June 1985Odd-BallCalculator Kid
06 July 1985Toy BoyCalculator Kid
13 July 1985Pa BumpkinThe Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
27 July 1985JokerMustapha Million
24 August 1985CheekySid's Snake
14 September 1985
Odd-Ball
Calculator Kid
Calculator Kid
Store Wars
05 October 1985Mustapha MillionAnimalad
19 October 1985Odd-BallMustapha Million
23 November 1985
Sweeny Toddler
Sweeny Toddler
Sweeny Toddler
Calculator Kid
The Krazy Gang (Cheeky)
Mustapha Million
18 January 1986Mustapha MillionSuper Steve
25 January 1986
Odd-Ball
Cheeky
Mustapha Million
Odd-Ball
08 February 1986
The Krazy Gang ends this issue
AnimaladMustapha Million
15 February 1986Lazy BonesCalculator Kid
15 March 1986Odd-BallCalculator Kid
29 March 1986Calculator KidMaster P Brain
05 April 1986Bumpkin BillionairesMustapha Million
12 April 1986AnimaladCalculator Kid
31 May 1986Lazy BonesCalculator Kid
07 June 1986Mustapha MillionJoker
28 June 1986Sweet ToothMustapha Million
26 July 1986
Calculator Kid ends this issue
No Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
16 August 1986Mustapha MillionJoker
23 August 1986Sweet ToothMustapha Million
18 October 1986Winnie the Royal NagMustapha Million
06 December 1986Toy BoyMustapha Million
13 December 1986Mustapha MillionOdd-Ball
17 January 1987SidMustapha Million
14 February 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
11 April 1987Pa BumpkinMustapha Million
25 April 1987Mustapha MillionOdd-Ball
20 June 1987Toy BoyMustapha Million
27 June 1987Mustapha MillionMemory Banks
25 July 1987Lazy BonesMustapha Million
22 August 1987Winnie the Royal NagMustapha Million
12 September 1987Mustapha MillionSweet Tooth
19 September 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
24 October 1987Odd-BallMustapha Million
12 December 1987JokerMustapha Million
13 February 1988Bloggs (Store Wars)Mustapha Million
20 February 1988Mustapha MillionJoker
12 March 1988Odd-BallMustapha Million
23 April 1988JokerMustapha Million
28 May 1988
Readers asked not to let their Whizz-kid or Chip-ite sympathies colour their favourite strip votes
No Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
11 June 1988SlippyMustapha Million
16 July 1988Toy BoyMustapha Million
30 July 1988 New raids halted

05 August 1989 (raid reprinted from 25 Aug 1984)CheekyStore Wars
12 August 1989 Resumption of new raidsNo Cheeky-related raid this issueNo Cheeky-related raid this issue
02 September 1989JokerMustapha Million
16 September 1989SlippyMustapha Million

Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Whoopee Years – Stage School

Art: Robert Nixon, as is all the art in this post unless noted otherwise

Having appeared in just 26 issues before the demise of Cheeky Weekly, Stage School was a mere stripling compared to its fellow transferees into Whoopee; Cheeky had of course featured in all 117 issues of his own comic, each edition of which saw him make multiple appearances, while 6 Million Dollar Gran and Mustapha Million had appeared (albeit less extensively as the toothy funster) in 114 editions each. Charlie Counter and his number-crunching prognosticator pal, the stars of Calculator Kid, had shown up for 78 issues, and Paddywack had caused consternation and not a little confusion over 77 weeks.

It may be that by the time Stage School joined the ranks of Cheeky Weekly funny folk (in 'new look' issue number 87 dated 07 July 1979), the decision had already been made to bring the title to an end the following February. We can further speculate that Stage School was created specifically to transfer into Whoopee (it was the final entirely original strip to join the Cheeky Weekly stable - Snail of the Century, a spin-off from the Cheeky strips and starring a long-established character, made its slithering debut a week later). If this was the case, Group Editor Bob Paynter made an astute choice of subject, as Stage School was a cracking strip, and became a Whoopee stalwart, continuing not only until Whoopee itself expired, but slightly beyond.

The premise of the strip in its new home remained the same as it had in its comic of origin – our young heroes’ showbiz aspirations were viewed with disdain by their teacher who despised all things entertainment-related. The peevish pedagogue would try to prevent the kids from pursuing their showbiz studies, but the strips would often conclude with the pupils, having thwarted their schoolmaster’s ploys, streaming delightedly across the playground from ‘real class’ to ‘showbiz class’.

Stage School in the first combined Whoopee! and Cheeky set the scene for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the set-up (Stage School was not among the Cheeky Weekly strips to appear in Whoopee! the previous year as part of IPC's Star Guest promotion, probably because the showbiz wannabes had made their debut only 3 weeks before the promotion concluded)...

The first Stage School of the Whoopee era - 09 February 1980, including a nice rendition of the cravat-sporting showbiz teacher

Initially the pupils were the same as those featured in the strip’s Cheeky Weekly run, although some of their names were changed after their move into Whoopee! -

The junior ballerina named in Cheeky Weekly as Olga became Margot Fountain (cf. Margot Fonteyn). The aspiring classical actor known in his Cheeky Weekly incarnation as Shakespearian Sam was in his Whoopee career referred to as Hammy (referencing of course not only Hamlet, but also the derogatory description of a performance by a thespian with a tendency to overact). The mini magician who was referred to once in Cheeky Weekly as Tony became known as Marvo. Strongo first appeared in Cheeky Weekly dated 29 December 1979 when he went un-named, but in the final Stage School in the toothy funster’s comic, drawn by Barry Glennard, a character referred to as Strongo had a different, less muscular, appearance than that of the same name in Whoopee!

The strip was given a boost on the cover of the third combined issue of Whoopee! and Cheeky when a scene from that week’s story (specially drawn for the cover by Robert Nixon) was featured on the front page. The kids and Sir were back on the cover of the 05 July 1980 edition, although this time the image used was lifted from the episode inside, albeit with a little trimming.

Stage School initially inherited the same title panel that had been used for the strip in Cheeky Weekly since November 1979. This design persisted until Whoopee! and Cheeky dated 27 December 1980, when Robert Nixon provided a special festive title, including holly and of course the traditional snow-covered text. A week later a new title panel was introduced, featuring Sir raging silently at an illuminated Stage School sign looming over him.



The comic dated 01 May 1982 saw yet another new design, this time showing a dressing room mirror on which the name of the strip had been written in lipstick/makeup, and a selection of showbiz accoutrements.


29 May 1982's episode had a new title panel design, the searchlights making it reminiscent of the 20th Century Fox logo, which was relevant to that week's story concerning Sir's apparent change of career (it was of course all a ruse to get the kids to work harder at their real studies)...


The dressing room design then resumed until the issue dated 03 July 1982, when the above 'Fox' design returned until the 24 July 1982 edition (all 3 of these 'Fox'-titled episodes were drawn by Brian Walker), when 'dressing room' began another run. Fox was back for the final time on 07 August (the strip that week drawn by Robert Nixon), after which dressing room had an unbroken run up to and including the 25 June 1983 edition.

A week later Whoopee absorbed the survivors from failed stablemate Wow!, and  Stage School’s title panel was given a splendid overhaul, becoming a banner-style introduction which functioned as an explanation of the basis of the strip for the benefit of those former Wow! readers who had decided to transfer their allegiance to the newly combined comic. To further familiarise those who were previously unaware of the strip, Jo-Jo the trainee clown, Marvo and Houdanny the mini escapologist (who was seen outside his sack far more often (proportionally) than in his Cheeky Weekly days) were given namechecks by Sir during the story. This title design only appeared that week.


Dressing room resumed thereafter, but on 06 August 1983 the title panel underwent another renovation, and thenceforth showed a glum-looking Sir surrounded by his showbiz-obsessed charges.

Note Roy Wilson-style parrot

This title panel remained unchanged for the remainder of Whoopee's run.

Some new pupils, who went on to become recurring characters, were introduced during the strip's Whoopee years -

Wild West sharpshooter Calamity Jenny (cf. Calamity Jane), and Wonder the Champion Horse (cf. Champion the Wonder Horse)
Mini-boffin Magnus Tyke aka Minus Tyke (cf. Magnus Pyke)
Clairvoyant Gypsy Rosie aka Gipsy Rose, Gipsy Rosie, Gypsy Rose, possibly referencing a performer with a somewhat different act, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Trainee daredevil Kammy Kazi aka Kami Kazi, Cammy Cazzi (a rather inappropriate reference to Kamikaze)
Yuri Yeller aka Guri Yeller aka Mini Metal Bender (cf. Uri Geller)
Trainee animal trainer Babs (cf. Barbara Woodhouse)

There were also some characters who appeared just once in order to fulfill the requirements of a particular script, including Trainee Sword Swallower, Dainty Delia the TV chef (Delia Smith) and Flaymo the Fire Eater.

Teacher's surname was never revealed, but readers learned in the 05 April 1980 story that his first name is Henry.



Early stories in Stage School’s Cheeky Weekly run established that the kids attended showbiz classes before ‘real’ lessons each school day, but the scriptwriter soon realised that moving their showbiz education to the afternoon gave more scope for teacher to try to impede the kids' showbiz aspirations. However following the move into Whoopee, there was a further implication of morning entertainment classes in the 11 April 1981 story, in which the kids are forced to use desks designed for infants, suffering aches resulting from cramming themselves into the constricting furniture. As the kids hobble towards the door at the end of real lessons, Teacher says ‘Heh, heh! You can’t rush past me tonight as soon as the bell rings’. The majority of stories made it clear that real lessons ocurred in the morning - in the comic dated 30 May 1981 we see Teacher return to real class after lunch, only to find the room draped with cobwebs. Marvo explains, ‘We’re rehearsing for our horror film lesson at show-biz class this afternoon’. Teacher uses another ruse to delay the kids in their real class in the comic dated 04 December 1982, and as the showbiz wannabes finally stream across the playground towards showbiz class, a disgruntled Marvo observes, ‘Now we’re late for the afternoon show-biz lesson’.

In the 03 July 1982 episode, the first to be drawn by Brian Walker, Marvo exhibits hitherto undemonstrated mind-reading abilities, and at the end of the same strip the whole class seem to have developed the power of telekinesis as they move by their collective mind-power a large crate with which Sir has blocked the door to the showbiz (or show-biz at it read that week) class. Two weeks later Brian illustrated a story in which the Stage School kids have to play in a cricket match against pupils from St Snobbs following a decree by the headmaster. The mini showbiz marvels are reluctant to engage in the game, and they rather unsportingly employ their stage skills against the opposing team before uprooting the pitch. A teacher who we assume is supposed to be the headmaster appears in the final panel, but clearly Brian Walker wasn’t familiar with Robert Nixon’s character design and furnishes readers with a different-looking senior master.

Robert Nixon's Headmaster
Brian Walker's Headmaster

The 27 November 1982 edition saw the first appearance of the Calculator Kid spin-off puzzle feature, Calculator Corner. Jack Oliver’s series of brain teasers often featured guests from among Whoopee’s array of comic stars, and characters from Stage School turned up on 5 occasions;

11 December 1982 – Sir and Marvo
16 April 1983 – Headmaster and Sir
14 May 1983 – Sir
11 February 1984 - Marvo
06 October 1984 - Marvo

There was a reversal of the usual Stage School story trajectory in Whoopee! Dated 22 January 1983, when the kids demonstrate to Sir how they can employ their showbiz skills to help with their real classes. Showbiz Teacher spots them doing their acts in real class and remonstrates with the aspiring artistes, saying they should reserve their performances for showbiz class, and asking Sir to give them more real lessons.

Marvo, Trainee Juggler and Jo-Jo set the questions in the Quizmaster puzzle feature in Whoopee! Dated 29 January 1983 (Sir was depicted looking on in typically angry mood but wasn’t allowed to pose a question since obviously he wouldn’t have any truck with all that showbiz malarkey).

Ironically, Stage School stories rarely ventured into the kids' showbiz classes since there wouldn't normally be any conflict in that setting to fuel the narrative. However, here's a glimpse of what went on across the playground from 'real' class (showbiz teacher really working his cravat here)...




Sir’s more sensitive side became apparent in the 22 October 1983 story, when the kids announce they have given up showbusiness due to a harsh review by critic Clive Knowitall of their performances in the previous night’s ‘big show’. A pall of gloom descends on the youngsters (literally a cloud above them reading ‘Gloom’ and, eventually, ‘Super Gloom’). The miserable atmosphere begins to affect Sir who, determined to raise the kids’ spirits, remembers that the reviewer attended the school years ago. Directing the Trainee Telly ‘Tec to search the school records for anything relating to Knowitall, Sir is soon in possession of a film of a terrible rendition of ‘To be or not to be’ by a young Master K. Having seen the evidence, the kids realise their critic is in no position to judge their work, and their enthusiasm for the entertainment world is restored.


The kids' parents weren't depicted consistently...


Sir’s chemistry lesson went explosively wrong in the 08 December 1984 episode, resulting in the destruction of the school. Fortunately the kids and their teacher were able to vacate the building just prior to the blast. The final panel revealed that Headmaster hadn’t got out in time and he was depicted seated at his desk surrounded by the rubble of a flattened building, dazed and with stars circling his head as is the comic convention for anyone suffering trauma. A week later the school was showing no signs of damage.

Stage School appeared in 262 of the 265 issues of Whoopee published following its amalgamation with Cheeky Weekly. With the exception of the 29 March 1980 edition in which their story was reduced to a single page due to the presence of a competition, the results of an earlier competition and the Ticklish Allsports booklet, all the episodes consisted of 2 pages (although in the early days their second page was often shared with a single-row-of-panels Paddywack gag). Robert Nixon drew 252 episodes, Barry Glennard 4, Brian Walker 3, Joe McCaffrey 2 and Doug Jensen 1.

The kids and their irascible teacher did survive the merge of Whoopee into Whizzer and Chips in early April 1985, although they only made 2 appearances in their new home. Tellingly, Stage School characters were not among the folk from Whoopee who were introduced to Whizzer and Chips readers a week before the merge was effected.

Stage School was a real asset to Whoopee and clearly must have been popular to have had such a long and regular existence, never lapsing into reprint. The idea was a clever one which gave a pleasing twist to the rather hackneyed 'schoolkids versus teacher' situation with which comic readers were all too familiar. Robert Nixon's lovely artwork was a major contribution to Stage School's success. By this time Robert was very much influenced by Roy Wilson's classic style (the presence of the trainee animal trainer giving him the opportunity to draw Roy Wilson-style parrots on occasion) and that's no bad thing.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Cut It Out, Cheeky!

In the latest of his interesting series on Whoopee!'s cut-out features, Irmantas is examining the pull-outs that appeared in 1978, including the visit by envoys from Cheeky Weekly which occurred during the same year's mini comics promotional push.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

The Whoopee Years - Calculator Kid

The Calculator Kid strip in the final issue of Cheeky Weekly was printed in colour, and the debut of Charlie and his battery-powered buddy within the Cheeky Section of the first combined issue of Whoopee! and Cheeky was a similarly multi-hued affair. In fact the majority of Calculator Kid’s Whoopee! strips were printed in colour until the issue dated 13 February 1982. This was because the feature usually appeared on page 24, one of the internal colour pages, during the period in question. Initially page 24 was the location of the Cheeky Section's 'back cover', but Calculator Kid remained in that location (barring a few exceptions) after the comic-within-a-comic idea was abandoned. Following the 21 February 1981 edition, CK relocated to page 32, the actual back cover, another location where colour was available.

In the pages of Cheeky Weekly, the strip had a title panel at the beginning of the first row of pictures, but as of its move into Whoopee!, a title banner was introduced, spanning the width of the page, although the introductory image of Charlie gazing lovingly at his digital companion was initially carried over from the previous title panel.

For the benefit of long-term Whoopee! Readers who may have been unfamiliar with the feature’s premise (and there was no reason why they should, because Charlie and his mathematical mate did not feature in the Cheeky Weekly mini comic that appeared in Whoopee dated 08 July 1978 - they had made their debut in Cheeky's comic only a week earlier - and during the 1979 Star Guest promotion Calculator Kid for some reason appeared twice in Whizzer and Chips but never in Whoopee!), in the first episode of his post-merge run Charlie delivered some expository dialogue in response to an encounter with a newcomer to ‘our area’ (i.e. Krazy Town, but Charlie doesn't mention that as it would be confusing for Whoopee! readers).



Following their relocation to Whoopee!, the format of the stories continued in the same vein as those in Cheeky Weekly, with Calc’s infallible advice often seeming inappropriate at the outset but resulting in a (usually) positive outcome for Charlie, the happy ending often concluding with Calc’s ‘as calculated’ catchphrase or a variation thereof based on a pun relating to the story (such as 05 June 1982’s script concerning Charlie’s mum’s unsuccessful cake baking, which ended with the family seated at a slap-up restaurant feed, in which Calc’s closing comment was ‘I cooked up a nice calculation there!’).

As of the 06 September 1980 episode, the title banner underwent a revamp and the accompanying picture of Charie and Calc was removed, allowing the strip’s title to be slightly enlarged, although it was still in the style of an LED display. The original Whoopee!-era banner with Charlie and Calc was reintroduced in the 27 February 1982 edition, but its replacement returned (although now the banner had a black background to emulate more closely a calculator display) in the comic dated 01 May 1982.

There was an embarrassing admission on the letters page in the comic dated 30 May 1981...



...The offending strip, containing an erroneous reference to the egregious C**p, had appeared in the issue dated 21 March 1981...


But when it was reprinted on the back cover of The Best of Whoopee, November 1986, the error was corrected...


Spin-off strip Calculator Corner commenced in Whoopee! dated 27 November 1982. Created by the ever-inventive Jack Oliver, this feature set readers various posers which required use of a calculator to solve. Often the answer would require some calculation to be performed before the mathematical instrument would be inverted, resulting in the upside-down numerals being read as text. Calculator Corner became a regular feature of the comic, sometimes sharing a page with a truncated Calculator Kid strip, but more often appearing independently of its progenitor. Calculator Corner made the final appearance of its Whoopee run a week before the comic's ultimate issue, the feature's 95 issue run a testament to the fertile mind of Mr Oliver.

The first Calculator Corner
Art: Jack Oliver

Later Corners were considerably more complex...

Readers enjoyed 2 Corners in the 01 December 1984 comic

The title Calculator Corner was never more apt than when the feature was reduced to the bottom left hand area of page 31 in the 23 July 1983 edition (a section even smaller than that allocated to each of the week’s stamp collecting ads!), when the clever keypad combo was submitted by Robin Cox, the only time the content was sourced from a reader. However, the title that week read Calaulator Corner...


Charlie and Calc were often host to Whoopee co-stars during Calculator Corner's run, and the 12 November 1983 issue saw an encounter with Mike from Calculator Kid’s inferior imitator, C**p (fortunately the tedious rival microchip itself was not involved).


Among their guests, Charlie and Calc welcomed their former Cheeky Weekly co-survivors , Mustapha Million (05 February 1983), Cheeky (12 February 1983), Paddywack (30 July 1983), Charlie's magnificently-moustached dad (19 May 1984) and characters from Stage School (11 December 1982, 16 April 1983, 14 May 1983, 11 February 1984, 06 October 1984).

This was the only Corner from which Charlie was absent

It appears that the Whoopee editor was on something of a mission to tax the brains of readers, as a new puzzle feature was introduced in the issue dated 04 December 1982. Quizmaster, created by Roy Mitchell, was a half page collection of posers, introduced each week by a different character from the comic's roster of stars. Charlie and Calc were given the honour of hosting the inaugural outing.



In honour of the absorption of Wow! into Whoopee, Calculator Kid's title banner was given another overhaul in the first issue to combine the two titles, dated 02 July 1983 – the LED-aping text was slightly redesigned, and the two words were separated by an image of the titular silicon-chipped sage which was based on the smiling calculator pic that accompanied most Corners. The same issue saw the adoption of another kid-with-tech strip, KBR (Kids Band Radio), which had transferred in from Wow! The main character in this feature was a youngster with a citizens band (CB) radio. In the UK interest in CB had been building since the 1970s, but its use was legalised in 1981. The excitement surrounding the official launch of the technology prompted the creation of the KBR strip much in the same way that the interest in calculators resulted in the creation of Calculator Kid. However this gadget-based arriviste proved short-lived, and KBR signed off after just 19 Whoopee and Wow! appearances.

In the 12 November 1983 Calculator Kid story, following the instructions issued by his battery-powered buddy, Charlie inserts Calc into the cartridge slot of his video game console. The microchip-powered mathematical maestro then generates images of Charlie and Calc on the family TV set, attracting an audience of Charlie’s pals. At the end of the video sequence the game soundtrack announces ‘If you want more, we’re in Whoopee every week’, demonstrating that Calc is aware that they are characters in a comic.

The scripts were inconsistent in relation to the Counter household’s televisual habits. The 26 December 1981 story starts with a family disagreement over what they will watch on Christmas Day - Charlie favours the ‘spy film’, while Dad wants to see ‘the western’ and Mum’s looking forward to a musical - ITV’s James Bond film on December 25th that year was Dr No, a somewhat elderly choice from the 007 canon by that stage but it was a case of sacrificial scheduling since whatever ITV had shown in that time slot would have lost out in the ratings war to BBC's highly popular Larry Grayson’s Generation Game, followed by In Search of the Castaways on the main channel. BBC2 at the same time showed A Charlie Brown Christmas/Uproar in Heaven (Chinese animation), so the viewing dilemma outlined in the CK script didn’t entirely match reality. Following some judicious calculating, Mum, Dad and Charlie each get their own TV set on which to enjoy their programmes of choice. However the 08 May 1982 strip commences with Charlie fretting that he will miss the ‘spy thriller’ on TV that evening because it coincides with Mum and Dad’s favourite programme on another channel. Crafty Calc engineers diversions so that Charlie’s parents are occupied with other matters at transmission time, leaving young Master Counter to enjoy his espionage entertainment. What happened to the two spare TVs obtained mere months earlier? Did the family have to sell them to raise some cash?

The strip continued to appear in Whoopee up to and including the final issue dated 30 March 1985. Calculator Kid enjoyed a 259-episode Whoopee run, far exceeding its 78 appearances in Cheeky Weekly, and never lapsing into reprints. All the Calculator Kid Whoopee stories were by Terry Bave, whose appealing artwork and good-natured, reassuring scripts made it a highlight of the comic.

Following its cancellation Whoopee was merged into Whizzer and Chips, and Charlie and Calc were among the Whoopee survivors who transferred into IPC's mighty 'two comics in one', both in their own strip and Calculator Corner.