In 1964, British comic great Leo Baxendale was lured away from The Beano and Dandy publishers DC Thomson by their great rivals Odhams with the promise of greater freedom and editorial control on projects for them – one of which was to Wham!, the first of what became known later as the “Power Comics”, envisaged as a “Super Beano“-styled title.
Although in the end, Wham! was not exactly the comic Baxendale planned, it remains one of the funniest and most fondly remembered comic of the time, and was quickly joined newsagents shelves by Smash! in 1966 and POW!, in 1967. Later that year came Fantastic and Terrific, packed with reprints of Marvel superhero stories, with some British adventure strips on the side, including “Johnny Future”, written by Steve Moore and drawn by Luis Bermejo (originally titled “The Missing Link”).
With strips that included “Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy” (in Wham!), Mike Higgs’ creator-owned “The Cloak”, “The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E.” and “Grimly Fiendish” (in Smash!), the comics enojyed reasonable runs – Wham! for 187 issues from 20 June 1964 to 13 January 1968, when it was merged into POW!, although this title had the shortest run of the “Power Comics”. Now, a new comics blog has uncovered a short-lived version of POW! in Ireland – Splank!
Describing the project as “a perfect example of what may have gone wrong with the Odhams line”, Splank! replaced POW! on Irish news stands from Issue 32 through to Issue 34. The Splank! blog says the change of name came about when someone, probably an Englishman on the Odhams staff, became concerned that Mike Higgs’ “Cloak” strip, was featuring a villain called “The Leprechaun”, something thought not likely to go down well in 1960s Ireland.
“It was felt to be worth re-lettering the ‘Cloak’ strip to remove what could have been seen as anti-Irish sentiment and re-titling the comic to make it more Irish,” the blog notes in an article published today, 1st April 2016. “Splank! was believed by the editors, totally incorrectly as it happens, to be an English version of an Irish word for bog oak.”
Badly distributed and crippled by adverse publicity documented on the blog in more detail, the change of name was quickly abandoned after just three issues.
“I came across this one in a bundle of old comics at a second hand book shop in west Cork owned by a sailor with a wooden arm,” says the blogger. “Irish comics fans all know about Splank!, but few are willing to talk about it, there are so few copies in circulation…”
The Power Comics line started to fade in 1968. Wham! was merged into POW!, then Terrific merged into Fantastic and Pow! merged into Smash!. Finally, Fantastic merged into the sole survivor of the five, Smash!, which carried on until 1971.