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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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Sunday 28 January 2024

The Whizzer and Chips Years - Stage School

In this series of posts I'll be examining the fortunes of those strips that originated in Cheeky Weekly, transferred into Whoopee! after the cancellation of the toothy funster's comic and continued to appear following the merge of Whoopee into Whizzer and Chips which took effect with the issue dated 06 April 1985.

Combining the content of two comics inevitably meant that some features had to be dropped, disappointing readers whose favourite strips failed to make the transfer. As the number of merges accelerated, a conciliatory tactic sometimes employed by editors saw the creation of an umbrella feature under which a number of strips would be rotated in order that they maintained a presence (albeit not weekly) as a sop to disgruntled consumers in the post-merge era.

One such case was Ghostly-Go-Round, and another was Merry-Go-Round in Whoopee! which saw no fewer than seven strips rotate under that banner between the 09 February 1980 and 16 January 1982 issues.

The idea was used again following Whizzer and Chips' absorption of Whoopee, with the introduction of the School Rounds feature which commenced in the second merged issue, dated 13 April 1985. As the School Rounds name implies, all the strips to appear in this series had an educational theme. Whizzer and Chips of course presented itself as being '2 comics in one', and readers were encouraged, by means of deft manipulation of the staples binding the two supposed titles, to separate Chips from Whizzer. In order to facilitate this liberation of Chips from Whizzer's grasp, it was necessary for Chips' allocation of 16 pages to be printed in  the centre of the 32-page comic (thus Chips was ensconced on pages 9 to 24 of the overall comic package), embraced by Whizzer whose 16-page contents spanned pages 1 to 8 and 25 to 32. Most features would be associated with either Whizzer or Chips and would not stray across the conceptual boundary (except for 'raids' which saw characters from Chips infiltrate Whizzer pages and vice versa), but School Rounds appeared in both Whizzer and Chips. Not only that, but it was the Pupils Pet strip (more details below) which featured on each of those occasions (as can be seen in the table below).

All the strips presented under the School Rounds umbrella had a uniform (pardon the pun) layout, with the title of the strip running vertically down the left side of the page, and the words School Rounds at the top, suggesting they weren't reprints but were specially prepared for this brief series.

School Rounds presented episodes of...

Worldwide School (3 episodes), a feature that had begun in Whizzer and Chips dated 12 February 1983 and focused on the schooling of a class of children of diplomats to the United Nations, but would seem to have been inspired by the (some would say notorious) TV sitcom Mind Your Language. Worldwide School appeared in the Chips section during its Whizzer and Chips run, and would return to the pages of Whizzer and Chips (the only feature presented as part of School Rounds to return after the series concluded) as reprints in the 4 editions published in March 1990 (not under the School Rounds banner, and none of the recycled strips featuring the multinational mirthmaking minors were selected from the 3 School Rounds entries published in 1985).

Shipwreck School (2 episodes), which concerned the efforts of a teacher to continue the education of his pupils despite their all being stranded on a tropical island after said educationalist's explosive chemistry lesson sent the cruise ship on which they were travelling to the bottom of the ocean. This strip originated in the first issue of Wow! but migrated to Whoopee when Wow! itself suffered a fate analogous to that of the aforementioned doomed seagoing vessel. Although the final episode concludes with the castaway kids surfing (a sport which of course always delivers participants back to the beach) on a blackboard salvaged from the wreck, there was to be no last-minute rescue for the stranded group, who remained confined to the remote island.

The apostrophe-deficient Pupils Pet (4 episodes) documents the travails of titular tutor Mr Pet. I don't think this strip, drawn by Dave Follows, appeared in either Whizzer and Chips or Whoopee prior to the two comics merging (which is maybe why it traversed the Whizzer/Chips boundary). Pupils Pet is not to be confused with Teacher's Pets (a sort of amalgam of Mind Your Language and All Creatures Great and Small wherein a human teacher, whose design was based on TV dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse, endeavoured to educate a class of animals) which ran in Whoopee! from January 1982 to June 1983 but wasn't included among the School Rounds features. Pupils Pet was the strip chosen to appear in the final School Rounds instalment.

Whizzer and Chips
now including Whoopee
04-May-1985
 

 

...and (most relevant to this blog) Stage School (2 episodes), a feature which commenced in Cheeky Weekly's 'new look' 87th issue, dated 07 July 1979, then ran until the final edition of the toothy funster's comic, clocking up appearances in 26 editions. Subsequently transferring into Whoopee!, Stage School appeared in 262 of the 265 issues published following Whoopee!'s absorption of Cheeky Weekly. Stage School's 2 post-Whoopee-cancellation appearances were in issues of Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee dated 20 April 1985 (the second in the School Rounds run), following an introduction from Chip-ite Chief Shiner, and 13 July 1985. Readers previously unfamiliar with the Stage School premise would have soon worked out what was going on.

The 2 Stage School entries in the School Rounds series were drawn by Robert Nixon, who was the strip's regular artist (barring a few interruptions) during its Cheeky Weekly and Whoopee runs. The School Rounds episodes featuring the aspiring entertainers were single-page tales, as were all the entries in the run of School Rounds, whereas the vast majority of the previously-published Stage School adventures had been 2-pagers (although often sharing the second page with a single row appearance by Paddywack during the Whoopee years).

The 2 post-Whoopee's-merge-into-Whizzer and Chips Stage School episodes were located in the Chips section, which is fitting as that was where the showbiz wannabes' former Cheeky Weekly colleague, the grinning gagster Cheeky himself, was already appearing in his role as a Krazy Gang member. The other ex-Cheeky Weekly survivors of this latest merge, namely Calculator Kid and Mustapha Million, were also recruited by chief Chip-ite Shiner to join the funny folk populating the Chips section.


Stage School's first appearance
as part of School Rounds

Title Cover Date
Page Feature Sub-Feature
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 13-Apr-1985 23 School Rounds Worldwide School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 20-Apr-1985 23 School Rounds Stage School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 04-May-1985 7 School Rounds Pupils Pet
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 25-May-1985 23 School Rounds Worldwide School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 08-Jun-1985 23 School Rounds Shipwreck School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 06-Jul-1985 23 School Rounds Pupils Pet
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 13-Jul-1985 23 School Rounds Stage School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 20-Jul-1985 23 School Rounds Worldwide School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 27-Jul-1985 23 School Rounds Shipwreck School
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 24-Aug-1985 24 School Rounds Pupils Pet
Whizzer and Chips now including Whoopee 14-Sep-1985 25 School Rounds Pupils Pet

After just 11 outings the School Rounds concept was dropped.

4 comments:

  1. Well done on noticing Pupils [sic] Pet’s missing apostrophe – failure to have spotted it may’ve put you in a spot, i.e. earning a black mark. Isn’t that what an apostrophe is, really? Caught my eye at BL some years back. Have you also spotted a recurring motif here, in an attempt to be clever on my part?

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    1. uuummm... is the recurring motif the use of the words spotted/spot/spotted?

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  2. Full marks! Seriously it's a shame the feature didn't last longer; Worldwide School I could've done without (not hard to guess why), but it'd have been nice to have seen Shipwreck School come to a proper conclusion, i.e. with them all being rescued. As I said a few years ago, much the same can be said for Elephant on the Run had it made it to Merry-Go-Round; but Disaster Des' obliviousness to the destruction he causes was a bit 'samey' for me. Sorry if I've trampled on a personal favourite but there you go. This from a man who only ever read Cheeky around 1979 in his GP's waiting room!

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    1. You're quite entitled to your opinion of Disaster Des. I do enjoy the daftness of the Des scenario, but had it continued even I would possibly have found it a bit repetitive so it probably ended at the right time. Much the same with Elephant, and I suspect the EOTR scriptwriter never worked out an answer to the pachyderm conundrum. It would have been much easier to bring Shipwreck School to a conclusion, with some sort of vessel appearing over the horizon. But maybe IPC management didn't want the stranded kids and teacher to be rescued, so that the feature could be reprinted without readers complaining that they remembered the unfortunate students being returned to civilisation.

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