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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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Tuesday 5 June 2012

The ads - Cheeky Summer Specials, Annuals and 'place a regular order'

A number of adverts related to Cheeky Weekly itself, or associated with the Cheeky Summer Specials and Annuals, appeared within the weekly comic. The first Cheeky 'spin-off' publication to be promoted in the pages of the toothy funster's comic was the 1978 Cheeky Summer Special.

Comic publishers of the time saw the summer months, which included the long school holidays, as an opportunity to make extra sales. Kids would always be eager to read a double-sized edition of their favourite weekly title. Parents would often be equally keen on buying one or more specials to keep their offspring entertained on coach/train/car (and increasingly as the 70s progressed, plane) journeys to their holiday destination, or to keep the kids quiet on boring, rainy days. Evidently the demand for summer reading material was such that IPC would often continue publishing specials based on titles whose weekly version had ceased publication some years previously.

One disappointment with which the readers of IPC's summer specials often had to contend was the prevalence of ghost artists. It was common to find that the artwork on a particular strip in a title's summer special was produced by someone other than the artist who drew the strip in the weekly comic. This substitution was necessary because the regular artist, in many cases drawing multiple strips across a number of titles each week, had no time to take on extra work, or alternatively chose not to draw for the specials which I understand offered less remuneration than work on the weeklies.

No doubt to reduce costs, summer specials were regularly padded out with a number of reprinted features. These reprints were selected from strips of a sufficient vintage to make it unlikely that the young readers of a summer special would be aware that they were enjoying recycled material. However, reprinted artwork quite often exhibited the tell-tale signs of panel resizing or alterations to text which would signal 'reprint' to savvy readers.

The debut ad for Cheeky's first Summer Special appeared on page 15 of Cheeky Weekly dated 08 July 1978. Unlike annuals, summer/holiday specials didn't usually have a date on the cover. The ad reproduced the very nice Frank McDiarmid art on the special's cover (albeit in black and white) and included the curious line 'Cheeky is the comic kid who is going to set 'em all alight these holidays'. Eh? Is the toothy funster planning a spot of recreational arson? Very odd.

The three strips from the regular comic that are mentioned by name in the ad - 6 Million Dollar Gran, Mustapha Million and Skateboard Squad - were presumably among the most popular strips in Cheeky Weekly.  All three were ghosted in the Special, the honours being done by Nigel Edwards, Jim Crocker and Paul Ailey respectively. By the time 1978's Cheeky Summer Special appeared in newsagents, Edwards had deputised for regular Gran artist Ian Knox on 2 occasions in Cheeky Weekly. Ailey never drew The Skateboard Squad in the weekly comic, although he would later deliver one episode of Speed Squad, the strip into which Skateboard Squad would eventually evolve. Crocker contributed no art to Cheeky Weekly.

It feels a little disrespectful to refer to these luminaries of British humorous art, who were accomplished professionals in their own right, as ghost artists, but I believe that's the industry term for someone who stands in for the regular artist on a strip.

Neither of the two remaining named features in the ad were strips from the weekly comic. Cheeky's A to Z of Seaside Jokes was drawn by Jim Watson, whose run as a Cheeky's Week contributor had recently ended, after delivering artwork in 7 issues (a reprint of his, Hickory Dickory Doc from Cor!!, would appear in Cheeky Weekly dated 16 September 1978). The story which the ad refers to as Trip to Wonderland appeared in the Special with the punning title Malice In Wonderland, and was a reprint from Shiver and Shake, 1973 (thanks to Tony Ingram and Raven on the Comics UK Forum for identifying the source of this story). MIW was drawn by the great Ron Turner, whose Archie's Angels reprints would commence in Cheeky Weekly dated 12 August 1978.

The same ad appeared on page 26 of the following issue, sharing the page with an ad for companion title Whoopee!'s Holiday Special. I've never understood why some specials were designated as Holiday, while others on sale at the same time are classified as Summer. Both specials had the same page count, number of colour pages (although Whoopee! Holiday Special's pages were, according to its ad, 'fun-packed' while the ad for the Cheeky Special attributed no particular quality to its contents, as the '64 pages of fun' banner on the Special's cover had been cropped from the illustration) and cover price of 35p.

The Cheeky Summer Special's cover shows Ursula and Lily Pop posing for Silly Seaside Snaps, presaging the sporadic and related-only-by-name Silly Snaps feature which commenced in Cheeky Weekly dated 02 September 1978. The photographer appearing on the front page of the Special is certainly not Flash Harry, the character associated with Silly Snaps in Cheeky Weekly.

The third promotional push for 1978's Cheeky Summer Special within the pages of Cheeky Weekly came on page 22 in the 22 July 1978 issue, when the same ad appeared for the final time.

For me, the 1978 Cheeky Summer Special was the best of the Cheeky Specials, with some great Frank McDiarmid artwork.

The next Cheeky spin-off to be advertised was the Cheeky Annual 1979. Annuals exploited the need for easily-chosen Christmas presents. Most kids of the time would expect at least one annual to be awaiting their attention among the enticing pile of parcels beneath the tree on the morning of 25th December. In order to make the gift appear more substantial and suitable as a present than the Summer Specials, which had paper covers, most Annuals had glossy, board covers and a higher page count. As with the Summer Specials, in order to capitalise on the requirement for relatively cheap Christmas gifts, the closing months of the year saw newsagents' shelves arrayed with annuals based on then-current weekly comics, as well as new annuals based on weekly titles that had been defunct for some years.

Annuals went on sale in late summer/early autumn, and the annual-buying public associated them closely with Christmas, meaning sales were concentrated near the festive season, dropping off sharply in the new year. Summer and Holiday Specials didn't have such a focussed 'sell-by' date, and presumably carried on selling over a period of weeks until the spring/summer/autumn holiday season was over. It seems the short sales window of annuals was of concern to publishers, who developed a ploy they hoped would extend the selling period. This consisted of printing a year on the annual's cover that was one ahead of the year in which the annual was published. This strategy was quite often undermined by the annual featuring a Christmas-related scene on its cover (as is the case with the 1979 Cheeky Annual), and all readers were well aware that an annual dated in the current year had actually been published the previous year. Additionally, newsagents would sell leftover annuals at half price once Christmas had passed, in order to free up shelf space.

Like their Summer Specials, ghosting and reprints were much in evidence in IPC's annuals.

As Christmas 1978 approached, the first ad for the debut Cheeky Annual appeared in Cheeky Weekly dated 16 September. A Barrie Appleby rendition of the toothy funster, lifted from a panel on page 4 of the 22 July 1978 issue, points to the annual's cover, on which Cheeky is seen taking the P. The cover is again nicely done by Frank McDiarmid, but perhaps it's best not to dwell too long on the arrangement of balloons on the right hand side. Mercifully there are no threats of incendiary activity on the part of our toothy pal in this ad (although I could be wrong as the contents of the annual are said to be 'sizzling'), but the text shifts awkwardly from the first to the third person in the fourth sentence.

Once again it seems that 6 Million Dollar Gran must be popular with readers, as she gets a name-check in the ad, along with James Bold. Gran's two adventures in the annual are again ghosted by Nigel Edwards, and James Bold is by an artist I can't identify, but it’s a different hand to those who had depicted the ghost-hunter's spooky exploits, which had by this time concluded, in the pages of Cheeky Weekly.

The ad refers to the annual's 32 colour pages, a figure that includes the front and back covers.

Sadly, the annual features only one original internal page by the mighty Frank McDiarmid; a strip introduced as a Burpo Special that looks as though it may have been originally prepared for Krazy, the comic which begat Cheeky Weekly but had ceased publication in April 1978. The majority of the rest of the Cheeky features in the annual are drawn by another of the greats of British comics, Jim Petrie. Doubtless Frank had so many other commitments (Cheeky Weekly, Krazy, Roger the Dodger in The Beano) that he had no time for the annual, and Jim P does a very nice job. Jim Watson also provides some enjoyable Cheeky work.

Unlike the ads for the Summer Special, which appeared in three consecutive issues, the Cheeky Annual 1979 ads appeared at monthly intervals. Hence the same ad reappeared on 14 October and 11 November. It didn't appear in the 09 December issue, and no more issues of Cheeky Weekly were published in December 1978 due to industrial action.

In the issue dated 03 March 1979, Charlie and Calculator appeared in an ad encouraging readers to place a regular order for the comic and thus ensure their weekly helping of Cheeky chuckles without having to dash to the newsagent before they all sold out. This type of ad was common in comics of the period, presumably the publisher felt that if readers had a regular order for a title, they were less likely to be tempted by other comics along the newsagents' shelf.

The way the text in the ad is set out suggests that it was originally written for another comic, whose title had been removed and substituted with Cheeky, as there wasn't sufficient room to fit in Cheeky Weekly. Don't forget to have the coupon signed by your parent or guardian. I was always reluctant to put my comics on order, as more often than not the newsagent would write your surname across the back (or, if you were really unlucky, the front) of your favourite title, before stowing it under the counter to await your arrival to collect it. Similar disfigurement would occur to the comics of those lazy readers who chose to have their fun-papers delivered. Such folk also risked not only having their comic read by the paper boy or girl in the rain while in transit from paper shop to front door, but lack of care when inserting the now-thumbed, damp comic into the letterbox could result in further damage on its way onto the doormat.

The picture of Charlie (aka Calculator Kid) and Calculator featured in this ad is by IPC stalwart and one of the greats, Terry Bave, and is sourced from the first panel of their adventure in the 30 September 1978 comic, but cunningly reversed.

The same ad appeared again on 26 May 1979.

The first ad for the 1979 Cheeky Summer Special appeared a couple of weeks earlier than its equivalent of the previous year, this time on 23 June 1979. Alongside a reproduction of the Special's cover, drawn by Mike Lacey, is a rather odd-looking rendition of our toothy pal, who is seen without his customary striped jumper and adopting an insouciant pose to indicate he's on holiday.

In this ad, none of the strips inside the special are mentioned by name, but the appetites of prospective readers are whetted by mention of Lily Pop in a beauty contest. The centre spread on which the cracking crossing lady appeared can be seen on Bruce's blog here.

The 1979 Summer Special was the usual mix of ghosted strips (the Cheeky material being variously handled by Frank McDiarmid, Frank McDiarmid pencils and Mike Lacey) and reprints. There was no adventure story this time. The cover price had increased by 5p since last year, a whacking 14%, but Britain's economy was at the time enduring a period of high inflation, and the price of the weekly comic had undergone a similar percentage increase in the same period.

As happened a year earlier, ads for the 1979 Summer Special appeared for 3 consecutive issues, the final one appearing in the comic dated 07 July 1979.

The following week Calculator Kid was back to remind us yet again to place a regular order, in the same ad that had appeared twice earlier in the year.

The Cheeky Annual 1980 was first advertised in Cheeky Weekly dated 22 September 1979, a week later than its 1979 equivalent was first promoted. This ad leans rather heavily on the previous year's version, featuring as it does a familiar pic-and-word-balloon combination in which the toothy funster directs us toward the text which, as in the ad for the 1979 annual, plugs 6 Million Dollar Gran and James Bold by name.

The price of the 1980 annual had increased to £1.25, so at least IPC's pricing policy was consistent, as that represents another 14% hike. Total colour pages were again 32 including covers, although this year the ad didn't quantify the colour contents. The 6 Million Dollar Gran strip was drawn by regular artist in Cheeky Weekly, Ian Knox, but James Bold was again ghosted, by an artist I can't identify. Frank McDiarmid supplied a few Cheeky/Snail pages, but the majority of the strips featuring the toothy funster were drawn by Barrie Appleby. The cover featured another Christmas scenario and was again by Frank McDiarmid. There was a Mystery Comic title page on page 57, yet the Mystery Comic features were scattered through the annual; pages 6-8 (Mustapha Million), pages 18-19 (Why Dad Why), pages 57-59 (Tub followed by Why Dad Why), 92-93 (Disaster Des) 102-103 and 115 (Why Dad Why), 120 (Tub).

On 13 October 1979, Charlie and Calculator were back to admonish us for having still not placed a regular order. I would guess that by this time the writing was well and truly on the wall for Cheeky Weekly, but the publishers felt it was worth another push to maintain sales to ensure that the maximum number of ex-Cheeky Weekly readers could be delivered to boost Whoopee!'s circulation when the inevitable merge happened. A further attempt to boost regular orders occurred in the 03 November 1979 comic when, as if to emphasise the severity of the situation, an order form was printed in red.

In a surprise move, a different ad for the Cheeky Annual 1980 appeared in the 17 November and 22 December 1979 comics. A cut-and-pasted Cheeky face together with a drawing of his hand and arm have been combined with the annual cover, and now Calculator Kid, Why Dad Why, and Speed Squad have joined the list of the annual's contents. Additionally, it's been made clear that James Bold's contribution contains 'thrills and spills', always reassuring news for those considering the purchase of comic material. The wording of Cheeky's speech balloon remains unchanged.

Instead of appearing monthly from September to November as had the 3 ads for the previous year's annual, the 3 ads for the 1980 annual spanned 4 months, appearing once in September, once in November and again in December. It may of course have been the case that in 1978, IPC were aware of the possibility of the impending strike which halted publication for 3 weeks in December, so brought the ads forward.

To avoid any confusion over the frequency of their publication, the Cheeky Weekly Annuals and Summer/Holiday Specials didn't include the word Weekly in their titles.

Cheeky Weekly, which came to an end in February 1980 had a posthumous presence on newsagents' shelves, as Summer/Holiday Specials were published every year up to and including 1982, and the run of annuals finished with that dated 1985 (which of course went on sale in 1984).

In what now seems a rather cynical move, one last attempt to garner some more regular orders for Cheeky Weekly occurred when Charlie and Calculator appeared yet again with their familiar enjoinder to fill in the coupon, in the 12 January 1980 edition, just 3 issues short of the final Cheeky Weekly. Surely by this time the fate of the comic had been decided, and anyone setting up an order at this late stage must have been somewhat miffed to discover less than a month later that their comic of choice had come to an end.

All the ads shown above occupied half a page. When it came to in-house ads for IPC product, full pages were generally only used for comic launches. Sometimes more than one page was used to promote a new comic, as was the case with the flyer for Cheeky Weekly, which included a 'regular order' coupon before the comic had even appeared!

This completes my look at the ads for Specials, Annuals and 'place a regular order', but I'll be reviewing some more ads related to Cheeky Weekly within the comic itself in a future post.

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