By 1991, Buster was the last extant weekly humour comic being published by Fleetway Publications. Buster had started the year carrying a reference on the cover of each issue to the title it had absorbed in 1990, namely Whizzer and Chips, but this acknowledgement of the 'merge' ceased after the issue dated 07 September 1991. A further change followed when the Maxwell Group offloaded their comic-publishing arm Fleetway Publications (Buster being among the titles it produced), which they had acquired from IPC in 1987 onto Egmont who merged it with their existing London Editions comic business to become Fleetway Editions. The first issue of Buster to reflect the change of ownership was that dated 14 December 1991, although surprisingly the reference to Maxwell remained in place, eventually being removed as of the 18 January 1992 edition. IPC, former owners of Buster, were now distributing the title.
|Buster dated 07 December 1991
|Buster dated 14 December 1991
1991 saw publication of the penultimate Whoopee Holiday Special, first advertised in Buster dated 30 March 1991. UPDATE 02 August 2023 - The previous sentence was based on my misreading of the Comics UK Whoopee Specials page. I see now that the page doesn't claim that the 1992 Whoopee Special was the last. I now believe there was a Whoopee Special in 1993.
The 1991 Whoopee Holiday Special was first advertised in Buster in the 30 March 1991 edition.
It would appear that the Fleetway Specials of 1991 were published in 4 tranches - following Whoopee, Battle and Roy of the Rovers on 23 March came The Best of Billy's Boots and Buster on 04 May...
...followed by Buster and Monster Fun, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Hot-Shot Hamish on 18 May.
Latecomers jostling their way onto the crowded newsagents' shelves on 01 June, came Dan Dare, Whizzer and Chips, Big Comic and 2000AD.
1991 saw the surprise return, for a final time, of the Whoopee Annual, publication of which had been suspended after the 1987-cover-dated Annual was printed in 1986. Was this unexpected addition to Fleetway Publications' 1991 printing schedule made with the upcoming sale of the business in mind, to make the revenue from Annuals seem more attractive than it would have been with just 2 humour titles?
Whoopee Holiday Special 1991
Sweeny Toddler is once again the cover star. Artist Jimmy Hansen has provided an aid to identification of the terrifying tyke in the form of the legend 'Sweeny is Heer' on the life belt being wielded by the notorious nipper, to aid those who may be confused by the life guard outfit. I can see no Cheeky folk among the characters scattering across the beach.
Despite not being seen on the cover, Gran makes an appearance on page 6, which features a reprinted Gran's Gang seaside-related adventure sourced from Whoopee and Wow! dated 07 April 1984. The speech balloons have been refurbished. Art by Ian Knox.
|Whoopee Holiday Special 1991
|Whoopee and Wow! 07 April 1984
Trainee Hypnotist, not one of the regular stars of Stage School, is the pivotal character in the story selected for reprinting on pages 14 and 15. Once again the speech balloons have been spiffed-up (but introducing typos in the balloon in the first panel of the second row on page 1, and in Sir's dialogue in the second panel of the second page). This tale of mesmeric machinations first appeared in Whoopee! and Cheeky dated 20 December 1980. Superb art by Robert Nixon.
On pages 24 and 25 we're treated to a new Mustapha Million episode drawn by Frank McDiarmid.
Sourced from the same issue as the Gran's Gang episode above (Whoopee and Wow! 07 April 1984) is this Quick Strips page including Paddywack and Cheeky. Revised speech balloons are again in evidence. Paddywack is drawn by Jack Clayton, Jim Barker is the Bleep artist, Cheeky is depicted by Cheekmeister Frank McDiarmid and the Here Is The News artwork is supplied by Ed McHenry.
This is the final Cheeky-related entry in the Special.
A Boy Boss reprint drawn by Frank McDiarmid appears on pages 50 and 51.
Whoopee Annual 1992
Jimmy Hansen is again on hand to provide the cover image, and this time Sweeny is joined in a botanical brouhaha by his parents plus Ma and Pa Bumpkin.
The first member of the Cheeky crew to make an appearance, as she was in the above Special, is Gran. However on this occasion the editor has selected an episode from Gran's robotic years, reprinted from the 26 April 1980 edition of Whoopee! and Cheeky. The captions and Speech balloons have again been re-applied, with one change. Ian Knox is the artist.
A reprinted Boy Boss episode drawn by Frank McDiarmid occupies pages 28 and 29, and on pages 34 to 36, Frank draws a Bumpkin Billionaires escapade in which young Billy rides an overweight horse in the Grand National. I assume this is a new strip.
Mustapha Million turns up on page 43, but unlike his appearance in the Holiday Special, this is a reprint. Cut down to a single page from the 2-page adventure originally presented in Cheeky Weekly dated 21 April 1979, this truncated version of the story was previously reprinted in Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee dated 18 May 1985. Some colour has been applied to what was a monochrome tale on its previous outings, and the speech balloons have again been refreshed. The phrase 'mud bombs' in the original was replaced with 'mud pies' on the strip's previous reprinting, and that change is maintained here. Joe McCaffrey is the artist.
The kind-hearted pupils help Sir out of a tricky situation with a school cleaning lady in the Stage School adventure on pages 68 and 69. This story is another selection from Whoopee and Wow! dated 07 April 1984, the issue which yielded the Gran and Quick strip pages in the above Whoopee Holiday Special. The plot sees the kids flatter the cleaning lady by comparing her to a character from the TV Soap Coronation Street. When the strip originally appeared the comparison was made with 'Annie Worker', a reference to the TV character Annie Walker. Since the character was no longer appearing on screen in 1991, the reference in the strip was changed to Bet Gilroy with no attempt to make a play on the name. Once again the text has been updated, although Sir's original 'Erk!' as he attempts to control the unruly vacuum in the first panel of the bottom row on the first page survives. Art by Robert Nixon.
The final Cheeky-related material in this Annual is another vintage Mustapha Million tale, this time originating from Cheeky Weekly dated 15 December 1979 but previously reprinted in Whoopee dated 16 March 1985, just 2 issues short of the comic's demise. The original strip was printed in colour, but on its previous reprinting it was presented in red spot colour. The colours used in this latest reprinting don't conform to the colour design of the strip's original outing. Art by Joe McCaffrey.
Immediately following the above adventure is another 3-page Bumpkin Billionaires set drawn by Frank McDiarmid. This escapade concerns a wig worn by the bank manager. Neither of the two Bumpkins episodes in this Annual follow the usual 'Bumpkins trying to dispose of their wealth' plotline.
Someone didn't check the small print at the foot of the inside back cover of this Annual (I'm not referring to the name of the publisher as presumably the sale of the business hadn't occurred when the Annual contents were sent to the printer).
The final Whoopee Holiday Special appeared in 1992, and I'll be examining its contents soon. UPDATE 02 August 2023. As explained above, the first part of the preceding statement is incorrect due to an error on my part. However, I will be examining the contents of the 1992 Special, which I now don't believe was the final one, soon.