Power Comics: Lew Stringer’s Handy Guides to some of the best 1960s British weeklies

When colouring goes bad! Check out Captain America on the cover of this issue 1960s comic TERRIFIC, one of the Odhams Press weekly “Power Comics” titles, now owned by 2000AD publisher Rebellion.

TERRIFIC No. 20 - cover dated 25th August 1967

Comic artist, writer and archivist Lew Stringer, who recently reposted this cover on social media, has a number of articles about Power Comics – WHAM!, SMASH!, POW!, FANTASTIC and TERRIFIC on his “Blimey!” blog (now discontinued), noting TERRIFIC only lasted for 43 weeks before merging into FANTASTIC, although this wasn’t down to faux pas colouring clangers.

“Perhaps it was one too many Power Comics for kids to afford,” notes Lew, “perhaps it was just too expensive at 9d (when most comics were 7d or less). Personally, it was one of my favourites and I had every issue along with FANTASTIC, although I dropped Wham! around this time, possibly due to the expense of collecting all the comics.

Odhams Press “Power Comics” - Wham!, Smash! pow!, Fantastic and Terrific
Odhams Press “Power Comics” – Wham!, Smash! pow!, Fantastic and Terrific

TERRIFIC and its companion comic FANTASTIC were a great way for young kids to discover the Marvel Universe,” he feels, although “I do wonder though what impact they had on the sales of rival British comics. After being hooked on the exciting, savvy, Marvel stories, I couldn’t even look at the comparatively dull DC Thomson adventure comics of the period such as Victor and Hornet.

“Obviously, overall, the traditional comics won out because the existence of the Power Comics was short and sweet, but WHAM!, SMASH!, POW!, FANTASTIC and TERRIFIC definitely helped add to the 1960s sense of coolness and fun.”

LEW STRINGER’S “POWER COMICS” GUIDES

Here are just some features on Lew’s Blimey! about the Odhams “Power Comics”. Several images featured here were originally posted by Lew and are re-used with his kind permission. Others are from past auction news items.

The Age of Power Comics!

The line of comics published by Odhams in the 1960s that became collectively known as “Power Comics” helped to make that decade so much fun. “They weren’t around for long (mid-1964 to early 1969), although it seemed much longer when we were living it, as childhood often does,” Lew notes. “They could be a bit rough around the edges at times in terms of editorial design, but that was part of their charm. On the other hand they also featured some of the best comics creators of the day, allowing people like Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Mike Higgs, Brian Lewis, Jordi Bernet, Louis Berjemo and many more to produce some of the best work of their careers.

“Plus they included Marvel reprints, bringing British kids a rush of Marvel at its best on a weekly basis. Now that was Thrill-Power!”

WHAM!

WHAM! No. 1

WHAM! No.1 (1964)

The first issue of Wham! was published on Monday 15th June 1964.

Odhams Press wanted to produce a rival comic D.C. Thomson’s Beano. The editors convinced Leo Baxendale to quit The Beano to develop stories for their new comic, which Leo envisioned as a sort of “Super-Beano” (or Wham! as it became). As Lew relates, it didn’t quite work out as planned.

The 55th WHAM-iversary!

WHAMtastic! (WHAM! No. 65)

A classic WHAM! cover (WHAM! No. 71)

Find out why this cover would never be considered appropriate today

The Christmas WHAM! (1965)

WHAM! ANNUAL cover gallery

When Biff! became Sam

In the 1970s, IPC reprinted many old strips and changed the character’s names to try and convince readers they were new. Quite a few characters from Wham! were reprinted – “The Tiddlers and Super Sir “became “The Horrors and Puffing Billy”, “General Nitt and his Barmy Army” became “Sir Hector and his Hardnuts”, and in 1970/71, new IPC weekly Thunder reprinted “Biff” as “Sam”.

SMASH!

Smash! Issue 1

SMASH! debuted in newsagents on 31st January 1966, cover dated 5th February, featuring strips by Leo Baxendale, Gerry Embleton, Ken Reid and many more

50 Year Flashback: SMASH! No.1

SMASH! No.43

Christmas Smash! 1968

Comic Cruelty

How 1960s comics were very different to those today, with a look at an episode of “Percy’s Pets”..,

The big SMASH! revamp of 1969

Smash Revamp 1969

Published on Saturday 8th March 1969 IPC’s revamped Smash! weekly arrived in newsagents. The comic had been in continuous publication since early 1966 by Odhams, and had contained a balanced mixture of funnies, adventure strips, Marvel reprints and even included the Batman newspaper strip in most issues. Now under IPC’s charge, radical changes had arrived…

POW!

Pow #1 cover dated 21st January 1967
Pow #1 cover dated 21st January 1967

With its first issue published on Saturday 14th January 1967 Pow! was the third title of what had become known as the ‘Power Comics’ imprint published by Odhams Press Ltd. Comprising 28 pages, Pow! contained a mixture of Marvel reprint and originated UK humour and adventure strips. Reprints of Spider-Man began with strips from Amazing Spider-Man #1 and not his full origin from Amazing Fantasy #15.

50 Year Flashback: POW! No.1

POW! No.12 (1967)

The Easter POW! (1968)

POW! Annual Cover Gallery

Ken Reid’s DARE-A-DAY DAVY (1967 / 68)

Ken Reid really excelled himself at Odhams in the 1960s. “Frankie Stein” and “Jasper the Grasper” for Wham!, “Queen of the Seas” and, later, “The Nervs” for Smash! – and for the back page of Pow! he delighted with “Dare-A-Day Davy”.

FANTASTIC

Fantastic Issue One and Free Gift

Following the successes of Wham! and Smash!, Odhams were keen to expand their line of weekly “Power Comics” in 1967. In January they launched Pow! with Spider-Man as the lead strip, and a month later saw the arrival of a comic that was almost entirely Marvel reprint: Fantastic.

Fantastic No.1, which launched on Saturday February 11th 1967, had a different format to its three predecessors. Slightly smaller in size and on better paper, it featured a whopping 40 pages and a higher cover price (9d, compared to Smash’s 7d for 28 pages). This made it three times more expensive than the 3d cover price of Thomson’s perennial Beano and Dandy. Could it sustain a profit in the increasingly-crowded market of sixties comics?

“Sadly not for long,” notes Le, “but it did gain a faithful following and served as a good introduction to Marvel comics characters, which comprised some 90% of its content.”

40 year Flashback: Fantastic is launched

Summer 1968: SMASH! POW! It’s FANTASTIC SUMMER SPECIAL

TERRIFIC

Terrific #1, cover date 15th April 1967 plus Iron Man Transfer free gift
Terrific #1, cover date 15th April 1967 plus Iron Man Transfer free gift

The fifth (and final) addition to Odhams’ line of ‘Power Comics’ was launched on Saturday 8th April 1967 with Terrific No.1. Closely modelled on its companion comic Fantastic, in that the new publication also featured 40 pages and reprints of three Marvel strips.

40 year Flashback: It’s Terrific!

50 Year Flashback: TERRIFIC No.1 (1967)

FURTHER REFERENCE

Pow! and Wham! 53 - cover dated 20th January 1968
Fantastic comic trade ad, via Lew Stringer

POW! and WHAM! – First merged issue (1968)

The merging of Pow! and Wham! in January 1968 was a clear indication that all was not well with the Odhams line of ‘Power Comics’. Other mergers would follow and by the end of the year only Smash! would remain out of the five titles.

Smash! Pow! Fantastic Fireworks Fun from 51 Years Ago!

Fantastic comic trade ad, via Lew Stringer
Fantastic comic trade ad, via Lew Stringer
WHAM! Promotional Banner
WHAM! Promotional Banner. With thanks to Peter Hansen

Trade Ads for Sixties Comics

Power Comics and British Comics Fandom

With Pow! and the other Odhams comics being the UK home for Marvel reprints it was inevitable that comics fandom would show an interest in the weeklies. No doubt this was also helped by the fact that comics fan Steve Moore was on the staff. The Odhams “Power Comics” had a good rapport with their readers thanks to the “News From the Floor of 64” feature which ran in all five titles – the name referring to the address of Odhams at the time; 64 Long Acre.

Tales of Suspense No. 31

The Road to Marvel UK – Part One

Marvel Comics being published in the UK dates back several years before 1972. In the mid-1950s a small London company called L.Miller & Son Ltd put out several British editions of the then-contemporary Marvel titles.

The Road to Marvel UK – Part Two

Like most British weeklies of the 1960s, all of the Odhams “Power Comics” had hardback annuals, with the exception of Terrific. However, unlike their weekly versions, Smash! and Wham! annuals never featured any Marvel reprint. Fantastic Annual and Pow! Annual more than made up for that, though.

The Road to Marvel UK – Part Three

Marvel superheroes arrive in TV21

40 Year Flashback: Mighty World of Marvel No.1

Marvel UK: The Early Years

These articles represent just a small snapshot of features Lew posted on his indispensable Blimey! blog for many years. Check it out at lewstringer.blogspot.com

Check out what Lew Stringer is working on at lewstringercomics.blogspot.com

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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