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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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Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Features – Stage School

Making its debut in Cheeky Weekly number 87 (the 'New Look' issue), Stage School brought a new twist to that staple of British comics, the eternal battle between schoolkids and their teacher. The spin in this case was that the pupils all aspired to careers in show-business and would thus rather be spending time in the Stage School located across the playground from the 'real class' in which most of the stories took place. Real lessons were taught by a typically bad-tempered teacher wearing the traditional robe and mortarboard, who detested all matters relating to entertainment. The kids' showbiz teacher appeared only occasionally but, in contrast to the real teacher, was a cheery sort who sported a cravat, an item of neckwear which was a late 1970s shortcut to denote 'arty' types – see also Are You Being Served?, The Dick Emery Show, The Two Ronnies etc.

First episode, Cheeky Weekly 07 July 1979
Art: Robert Nixon



Each of the kids focused on a particular branch of showbusiness. The class included, among others, a mini-magician, a ballerina, Jo-Jo the trainee clown, Merla the mindreader and a junior ventriloquist. The kids employed their own peculiar talents and skills to disrupt the progress of lessons in real class. Perhaps the most memorable student was incompetent escapologist Houdanny (cf Erich Weisz aka Harry Houdini), who spent most strips failing to emerge from a sack wrapped in chains and padlocks.

Stage School was absent from just 5 of the issues published after its commencement, notching up appearances in 26 issues, including the final edition of the toothy funster's comic dated 02 February 1980. All but 3 episodes were drawn by Robert Nixon, with Barry Glennard deputising in Mr Nixon's absence. 22 stories were 2-pagers, the remainder concluding within a single page. A single SS strip was in colour, the rest being in black and white.

Robert Nixon



The feature's original title panel depicted a stage with spotlight falling on Teacher as he retracted the sleeve of his cane-wielding arm, the more easily to apply a thrashing to a perspiring pupil's posterior. This somewhat discomfiting tableau was replaced as of the 24 November 1979 issue by a panel simply displaying the strip's title surrounded by stars. This revised intro frame design (with its customary snow-bedecked variant in the Christmas 1979 issue) continued to appear until the end of the Cheeky Weekly run.

Was Houdanny yet another Cheeky Weekly
Inconsistent Hair Colour Syndrome sufferer?
Or was he just experimenting with hair dye as part
of his showbiz course?


The showbiz shenanigans extended to the Cheeky Weekly Holiday Special 1980 and the 1981 Summer Special, each of which contained a single, 2-page Stage School story drawn by Barry Glennard. Teacher and his theatrically-inclined students also appeared in the Cheeky Annuals cover-dated 1981 (1 story, drawn by Barry Glennard), 1982 (1 story, Robert Nixon), 1983 (1 story, Jim Watson), 1984 (1 story, Barry Glennard) and 1985 (three 3-page instalments of a story drawn by Doug Jensen). In the same Annual we also witness Cheeky reading a Stage School tale, which sets our toothy pal cogitating on a possible career for himself in the footlights.

Our mini showbiz chums' tyrannical teacher (never named in the stories) was among the characters who met their future Whoopee colleagues as the merge with that title was announced in the final issue of the toothy funster's comic.

Art: Robert Nixon



The strip then became a permanent fixture in Whoopee until that title was itself cancelled and merged into Whizzer and Chips as of April 1985. This commendable 5-year run in Whoopee had seen the characters referred to in Cheeky Weekly as Olga and Shakespearian Sam rechristened Margot and Hammy respectively. The school's headmaster, who appeared only once in Cheeky Weekly, became a recurring character during the strip's Whoopee run.

Stage School was among the 3 strips that had originated in Cheeky Weekly which made the transition into Whizzer and Chips when Whoopee folded. However, the feature's survival was as fleeting as many a showbiz career since it made just a single Whizzer and Chips appearance in the 20 April 1985 issue. UPDATE 11 August 2016 - Many thanks to Stephen Archer for pointing out that Stage School made a second Whizzer and Chips appearance in the issue date 13 July 1985.

A nice fun feature benefiting from Robert Nixon's lively artwork, Stage School was among Cheeky Weekly's highlights and its extended Whoopee run made it the second longest surviving strip to have emerged from the Cheeky stable.

Over the years I'd come to assume that this strip was inspired by the movie Fame, but it seems the film premiered some months after the strip made its debut.

Stage School in the Cheeky Weekly Index

Feature First Appearance Final Appearance Total Issues Total Issues Missed In Run Page History
Stage School07-Jul-7902-Feb-802654,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,14,15,16,17,19,20,21,24,25,28,29

Issues Missed In Run
25-Aug-79
08-Sep-79
15-Sep-79
29-Sep-79
20-Oct-79

6 comments:

  1. I love this strip as a kid in Whoopee!!
    As you say Robert Nixon was the reason it was good...like the arty scalf you mentioned...Tony Hart had one...

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    1. Ah, yes, Tony Hart certainly carried off a cravat with great aplomb (whatever that means)

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  2. Not at all sure why you've claimed Stage School only appeared once in Whizzer & Chips, when it very definitely also appeared on 13/7/85. Lack of concentration, I'll warrant; that'll earn you a black mark or two, at least! Pity the Schools Rounds feature was so sporadic, though.

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    Replies
    1. Oops! A quick scan of the issue you mention proves you are absolutely correct. My concentration definitely failed me there! Thanks for pointing out the error. I'll now fix this post, and a couple of others that also included my erroneous statement.

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  3. Yes, please do. Any views on the Ghoul Getters (Whoopee)/Ghost Getters (W&C) situation I raised with Irmy lately? See his article on the former for details. Says he’s not got W&C issues covering Ghost Getters’ ‘lifetime’ (24/11/84 – 23/3/85) so perhaps you could help out.

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    Replies
    1. My W&C collection does include the period in question. Sadly my recollection of Ghost Getters is as shaky as it is of the 2 Stage School episodes, so when time allows I will have a delve. Just to remind myself of the issue under discussion, I'll put a link to Irmantas' post here.

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