Back when British comics had sales in the hundreds of thousands every week, they had a promotional budget to match, extending to retail promotions like this Wham! banner, offered to newsagents in the 1960s by its publisher, Odhams Press.
Launched in 1964, Wham! was the creation of Leo Baxendale and featured by strips such as Ken Reid, Baxendale drawing “Eagle Eye, Junior Spy”, “Grimly Feendish”, “General Nitt and his Barmy Army” and “George’s Germs”. (He also created “Bad Penny”, “Dr Doom”, “The Swots and the Blots”, “Sam’s Spook” and “The Man from BUNGLE” for sister paper, Smash!)
Reid created the comedy horror strip “Frankie Stein” and the Victorian miser “Jasper the Grasper” for the fondly-remembered title, those strips recently collected in two great hardback albums published by Irmantas Povilaika, still available to buy here.
This poster, a rarity saved by collector Peter Hansen, was just part of Odhams’ marketing efforts to promote Wham!, which included, cartoonist Lew Stringer recalls, smaller displays that newsagents could clip inside A-boards.
“It looks like Odhams went all out to promote it,” he says.”A pity that, according to Leo’s book [A Very Funny Business], when he and [Odhams Managing Editor] Alf Wallace went around six London newsagents only a few had heard of the comic, and others had ordered low and sold out. Some things never change!”
The comic has been celebrated in print and by its many fans down the years, and is one of several British comics immortalised by toy car maker Lledo, as one of their many “Days Gone” releases, along with Beano, Dandy and more, many available at reasonable prices from the terrific “Little Wheels” site, or perhaps by searching auction sites such as eBay.
With thanks to Peter Hansen
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.