British Comic Companion: Spike

Spike Issue OneFeature by Jeremy Briggs

By the earlier 1980s, when DC Thomson launched Spike, the number of boys weekly titles published by D C Thomson was on the wane. Spike‘s siblings were Warlord, which maintained the military side of things, the slightly safer and more generally themed Buddy, and the ever dependable Victor. At this point in its life Victor had swallowed the 1970s version of Wizard, the football themed Scoop and the long running Hotspur, and it would soon add Buddy to that list…

Spike: The Data

Title: Spike
Published by DC Thomson
First issue: Issue 1 dated 22nd January 1983
Final issue: Issue 67 dated 28th April 1984
Frequency: Weekly, Saturday
Cover Price: 18p


Spike - IntroductionSpike was a general anthology comic which combined all themes – war, adventure, science fiction, football, athletics and humour, in one weekly package. The title character of Spike was a more streetwise schoolboy than Buddy ever was, with a ongoing quest to get one over on his parents and any other adults he came across with the help of his readers.

Spike - Introduction 2The title was introduced with the inevitable free gifts in the first four issues – a Super Swooper Glider in issue one followed by Ten Tattoo Transfers, a Screamin’ Demon Whistle, and a Ghostly Glow Badge over the following three weeks. The letters page was entitled Spike’s Place and the star prize was a Spike Radio Roadshow Van which was a radio in the shape of a Transit-like van. While the title did not have a send away club to join, a Spike Fan Club card and wallet was printed in issue 13 to be cut out and kept.

Sadly, sales were just not enough and fifteen months after its introduction the title was be swallowed into the then still new Champ comic. Issue 11 of Champ, dated 5 May 1984, became Champ & Spike with The Spike Report moving into Champ’s “Dennis the Menace’s Fun Section”, while Cast Iron Billtransferred into Champ‘s football strip We Are United and Big Little from The Bleak Street Bunch moved into Champ‘s Kids Rule-OK. Some other Spikecharacters reappeared later and in other titles, but these were the only three to directly continue over.


The Strips

Spike: Iron Barr

Iron Barr
issues: 1 – 67
Artist: Mike White
Genre: Contemporary football

Charlie “Iron” Barr is a scrap iron dealer and amateur goalkeeper for the First Division Darbury Rangers football team, which includes “Limp Along” Leslie Thomson, despite the fact that Rangers director Sir Gregory Slade is no fan of Barr.

Spike: StarhawkStarhawk
Issue 1 – 15 Starhawk Against The Power Beast
Artist: Isidro Mones
Issue 16 – 29 Starhawk And The Time Warriors
Artist: Terry Patrick
Issue 63 – 67 Starhawk
Artist: Terry Patrick
Genre: Far future space opera

“In the chaos after the collapse of the Terran Empire in the 26th Century, one man stood for law and order in the far-flung reaches of the galaxy. His name was Sol Rynn, better known as Starhawk.” Starhawk, his companion robot Droid, use their ship the Space Rider to travel the universe to wherever their help is needed.

• Starhawk featured in other DC Thomson titles such as The Crunch and Starblazer. Visit this brilliant web site for more information:

• Isidro Mones also drew strips for DC Thomson’s Commando and Bullet but is probably better known for his work for Warren Publishing on CreepyEerie and Vampirella

• Terry Patrick often drew Black Sapper (who appeared in RoverBeezer and Hotspur) and Red Star Robinson (Hotspur). Terry Patrick was born in 1929 and grew up in Ilford, Essex, with Ron Embleton with whom he shared an interest in art. Some years ago, UK comics expert Steve Holland discovered that the pair entered a competition run by DC Thomson in 1950 which Embleton won and Patrick came joint second. Both had extensive artistic careers: Terry set up a small studio in his parent’s house with Embleton and another artist called Jim Bleach and they drew strips for a small London firm called Scion. All three soon found work with the better paying Amalgamated Press, although Terry Patrick spent much of his career drawing for DC Thomson.

In addition to his work for Spike, Patrick’s credits also include work on Rick Random – Space Detective comics in the 1950s, a futuristic installment of the semi-regular text story The Arch Of Time in The Beezer Book for 1966 and dozens of strips for HotspurWarlord (Killer Kane), Crunch (Starhawk), The Beano (The Queen’s HighwayDanger Bus and Deep-Sea Danny’s Iron Fish), Topper (Thunder Gunn) and Victor.
Patrick succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease which forced him to retire in 1991, and died a few years later.

Spike:  A Ghost in the Cockpit

A Ghost In The Cockpit 
Issue 1 – 10
Artist: Gordon Livingstone
Genre: World War Two, aviation
Setting: Battle of Britain

Squadron Leader “Lucky” Layton of 245 Squadron RAF was shot down by a German fighter but survives long enough to crash land his Spitfire. The repaired Spitfire passes to Pilot Officer Stanley “Stinker” Tinker who discovers that the ghost of “Lucky” Layton will take over it’s controls each time he flies into combat against the Luftwaffe.

• Gordon Livingstone was a DC Thomson stalwart drawing some 360 different Commando stories beginning with issue 4 in 1961 as well as providing many pages of art for the Thomson weekly comics and their annuals. He retired in 1999.

The Return Of The Ghost In The Cockpit 
Issue 36 – 47
Artist: Gordon Livingstone
Genre: World War Two, aviation
Setting: Malta

Squadron Leader Stanley “Stinker” Tinker leads 245 Sqn to reinforce Malta’s defences. Rookie pilot Rick Starr claims to hear a voice while flying – and he is wearing “Lucky” Layton’s old flying helmet. 

The Man In Black  (The Truth About Wilson)The Man In Black 
Issue 1 – 16 The Man in Black
Issue 17 – 38 The Truth About Wilson
Issue 39 – 41 Three Tasks For Wilson
Issue 42 – 57 Wilson: Maker Of Champions
Issue 58 – 67 Wilson: The Missing Diaries
Artist: Neville Wilson
Genre: Contemporary athletics

A mysterious runner dressed all in black causes a sensation on the British athletics scene by smashing record times and then disappearing again. Reporter Harry Cobb eventually discovers that he is William Wilson who was born on 1st November 1795.

• Neville Wilson was one of the artists on Fleetway’s Captain Condor in the 1950s and 60s, and also drew a strip caled Young Fireball for Warlord

The Bleak Street Bunch 
Issue 1 – 67
Artist #1 – 51: Peter Foster
Artist #52 onwards: Unidentified
Genre: Contemporary, School gang.

Ray Taylor, Tub Dutton, Hi-Fi Harris and Big Little live in Bleak Street, Slagley, north east England. When their school is closed and amalgamated with the local grammar school to become Slagley Comprehensive, the working class kids from Bleak Street and the ex-grammar kids have difficulty getting on leading to ongoing animosity.

Ticker TaitTicker Tait
Issue 1 – 15
Artist: Neville Wilson (Issue 1-9)
Artist Unidentified (10 -15)
Genre: Contemporary espionage

“The Man With A Time Bomb In His Heart” Sinclair Tait, ex-Royal Marines Sergeant and pentathlete, collapses at an athletic meeting with a diseased heart and is deceived into accepting an artificial heart by a Mr Rogers. Rogers turns out to work for Department C, the dirty tricks department of British Intelligence, and Tait is forced to become an assassin for them, Zombi Three, otherwise they will remotely stop his heart thereby killing him.

The Spike Report The Spike Report 
Issue 1 – 67
Artist: Brian Walker
Genre: Humour

Spike, the schoolboy that the comic is named for, reports on “Mums, Dads, Teachers and other Adults Nuisances”. Readers are offered cash to send in tips to deal with adults – £2 for any that are used and £5 if they work!

5 Minute MysteryIssue 1 – 26 5 Minute Mystery 
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: Individual 2 page text stories with spot illustrations

1 The Death Of Dr Gotha
2 Taku’s Treasure
3 Devil’s Rider
4 Double Trouble
5 Death By Shooting
6 The Crooked Shaft
7 The Debt
8 The Legend Of The Bell
9 The Revenge Of Doctor Samedi
10 Master Of The Stone Eagles
11 The Mists Of Fate
12 Killer Computer
13 Terror In The Pit
14 The Witches Of Wittenburg
15 The Phantom Flyer
16 The Killer Car
17 A Date With Death
18 The Man Who Died Tomorrow
19 Death Wish
20 Claws Of Vengeance
21 Dead Man’s Grotto
22 The Last Laugh
23 The Devil’s Bargain
24 Blooms Of Doom
25 The Silent Sentinel
26 The Thing From The Deep

Telford's TerrorsTelford’s Terrors 
Issue 11 – 26
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: World War Two, resistance fighters
Setting: Mediterranean

“Explosives expert Sergeant T N T Telford, together with Cretan partisans lead by Tinos, a bandit, and ex-police chief Dmitri, have captured the tiny rockbound island of Theros in the eastern Mediterranean . It had become their base for striking against the Axis powers in every possible way.”

Krazy Cops Krazy Cops 
Issue 16 – 67
Artist: Bill Hill
Genre: Humour

Komic kapers with policemen Cedric (the thin one) and Frederic (the hungry one).

• Reprint from Sparky, where it ran as “L-Cars”, loosely parodying BBC TV’s Z-Cars

The Town That VanishedThe Town That Vanished 
Issue 27 – 41
Artist: Carlos Cruz
Genre: Historical drama
Setting: 1920, Australian Outback, adventure

Fifteen year old Mickey Collins returns from a holiday with his aunt to his home town of Woorra Flats in the Australian Outback to discover that it has completely disappeared and that the suspicious Doc Boyle wants him dead. With his aboriginal friend, Billy Bullabee, Mickey sets out to discover what happened to his home.

• Carlos Cruz, who now lives in Malaga, went from working in a flour factory in Buenos Aires to become a comics artist in the 1950s. He has many credits for a wide range of British publishers including strips for Fleetway — appearing Buster (Mighty McGintyCrabbe’s Crusaders and others), Tiger (Battling Boffins), Smash! (The Pillater Peril), Eagle (Blood Fang, Dan Dare), Champion(When the Sky turned Green) and  Melanie (Pauline) — while still drawing the strip Juanjo for the Spanish market. His credits for DC Thomson also include Warlord (Union Jack Jackson) He is still working, mainly on Sweden’s Fantomen (Phantom) comic.

• Read an interview with Carlos Cruz (in Spanish)

Winged VengeanceWinged Vengeance 
Issue 27 – 35
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: World War II, aviation
Setting: Europe
The brother of Luftwaffe pilot Manfred Von Stodt was killed by the Gestapo and Von Stodt swore vengeance against his Nazi masters.

Megax The Warrior Megax The Warrior 
Issue 30 – 46
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: Fantasy

“A distant land stranded in time”, medieval swordplay. Megax is the only man in the land of Braxas who dared resist Gorab the Terrible. Having escaped Gorab’s soldiers, Megax tries to rally the people against Gorab.

The Taming of Johnny ToughTaming Of Johnny Tough Taming Of Johnny Tough 
Issue 42 – 56
Artist: Tony O’Donnell
Genre: Contemporary football

Johnny Tough, a young tearaway from the East End, is a talented but undisciplined footballer. Dr John Barton takes him under his wing to train him to become a professional.

The Mantracker The Mantracker 
Issue 47 – 61
Artist: Unidentified (Issues 47-54); Jose Casanovas (55-61)
Genre: Contemporary adventure

American Indian, Bearpaw Jay is a bounty hunter on the trail of The Sandman, the boss of a drug peddling ring.

• Jose Casanovas has worked extensively on titles such as the 1980s Eagle(Star Rider), Sonic the Comic and 2000AD in the UK and Sweden’s Fantomentitle

Desert Fury Desert Fury
Issue 48 – 57
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: World War Two, aviation
Setting: North Africa

In 1942 Sergeant Pilot Fury joins 83 Sqn RAF flying Hurricane fighters to defend El Kaza from the Africa Korps. He is as deadly in the sky as he is cold and remote on he ground.

Midshipman Coward

Midshipman Coward 
Issue 52 – 62
Artist: Enrique Alcatena
Genre: Historical War
Setting: The Napoleonic Wars, Mediterranean, naval

Teenage Midshipman Adam Coward of the Royal Navy is assigned to HMS Hester and regularly leads onshore raiding parties against the French and their allies.

• Enrique Alcatena was born and lives in Buenos Aires with his wife and children. His fascination with comics started in his childhood, and has never flagged. He taught himself drawing, though he has never failed to pay his dues to the artists who have remained his main influences and mentors to this day: Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby and others. While he is well known for his superhero work (including Batman for DC Comics and Doctor Strange for Marvel), he says his most characteristic ouvre belongs to the field of fantasy, to which he brings his love for myth and legend, often writing them himself or working with long-time partner Eduardo Mazzitelli

On The Run!

On The Run! 
Issue 57 – 67
Artist: Carlos Cruz
Genre: Contemporary adventure
Setting: Yorkshire Moors

Schoolboy Tommy Thompson’s dog Ben is accused of killing lambs when the real culprit was a poodle called Simpkin owned by Joe Marsh and his wife. Fearing the police will take Ben, Tommy runs away with his pet.

Stagg Of The Secret ServiceStagg Of The Secret Service 
Issue 58 – 67
Artist: Unidentified
Genre: World War Two, espionage
Setting: Europe

Jim Stagg is Britain’s most daring secret agent, operating behind enemy lines wherever he is needed, including France, Greece, Russia and Italy.


Issue 62 – 67
Artist: Keith Page
Genre: Contemporary espionage.

Spike: Place Your Order Today!“Meet the man with the fingertip laser-gun, the strength of ten men, the ability to stop bullets, and magnetic super power! He’s Mike Ironside, codename Magnet – Britain’s most amazing secret agent!” Crushed when part of a crane fell on him during a spying mission, Ironside is given a bionic arm to continue his work.

• Keith Page started his career in comics in 1976, when he joined the Temple Art Agency. He has worked on several Fleetway and DC Thomson titles, including Thunderbirds, the 1980s Eagle (Dan Dare), Sonic the ComicMASKRevolver,StarlordStingraySupernaturalsWildcat,
His credits for DC Thomson also include Dandy, Starblazerand Commando.
He also worked for Marvel UK, on Mighty Max.


All images © DC Thomson. Spike and all characters © DC Thomson

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