Thursday, 7 May 2015

Stiff Upper Strips: Part two - Pun of Kong

IPC Publishing release a new weekly comedy-horror comic
- is it a case of 'deja woo-o-o-o'?

Editor Frankie Stein brandishes a Badtime Bedtime storybook: Trouser Island.

I had discovered Shiver and Shake all by myself, but it was my mother who got me the first issue of Monster Fun in 1975, turning a sick day home from school into a literary event.
I'd badly missed Shiver and Shake when it became Whoopee-ised, but unexpectedly, here was a second chance - another comic solely devoted to the same spooky fun.  In fact, Frankie Stein was apparently the editor and with many of the Shiver and Shake artists contributing there was a distinct feeling of a happy return to the 'ghoul old days'.

Having not long seen the original King Kong for the first time, I was very excited to see that the cover strip was 'Kid Kong', a banana-loving, gently giant gorilla (once again apparently in a school uniform). I'll resist a sideways glance here - as I've said before, these were more innocent times and this peculiarly British trait could only have been a slightly gauche attempt at readership identification. Like Frankie Stein before him, his adventures generally played on the contrast between his frightening appearance and almost angelic nature, with hilarious results (TM).

Issue one came with a free gift - 'the plate wobbler', a small inflatable bladder which you placed under someone's dinner dish for 'spooky fun'.  I recall my Dad was more perturbed by the fact that we were actually using a table cloth for once, than any seismic crockery activity when I tried it on him.

Turning the Bash Street Kids ethos on it's head, a memorable feature inside was Creature Teacher, a cyclopic horror created as a last ditch attempt to control notorious class 3X, but actually the hero of the strip. A later entry who often became the cover star thanks to the zeitgeist of the time, was Gums the shark, and his eternal struggle to retain his 'false choppers'. But the real star of Monster Fun was actually a supplement: Trevor Baxendale's legendary Badtime Bedtime storybooks.

Rumpimpleskin, Supa SpyderBat ("he's half man, half spider, half bat, half wit!"), Doctor Poo ("our story begins at 23 extermination Avenue, Skaro - a small town with just one chip shop"), no character or genre was safe from the gleefully-mental BBSB treatment.
The humour in these was several levels above the rest of the comic, encapsulating the target age but also packing a subversive zaniness which can still appeal to adults today. The cast list for The Adventures of Hannibal, for example, includes: "Joey the Budgie as Hannibal's elephant and Uncle Jimmy as the entire Roman Army".

Even better yet was this cut out and collect booklet which I still (tragically) own today. In its four-colour pages I learned about films like The Alligator People and Godzilla, as well as a lot more about dinosaurs (a subject I was unsurprisingly already well clued-up on).
It all sounds too good to be true again, doesn't it readers? Lasting six issues less than Shiver and Shake before it, Monster Fun was taken over by the far more generic (bland), but popular Buster in October 1976. Deja Boo-hoo.

After 73 wonderful issues, it was 'Goodnight' from Monster Fun
Like Shiver and Shake, Monster Fun hardback Annuals continued until the mid eighties and were always very welcome at Christmas-time. But after this second absorption of a favourite title I was never to buy a British comic again. (yes, that's right, I just never took to 2000 AD - I know it is beloved by legions, but not me. Sorry.) Starburst and Starlog became more my thing after the arrival of 'you know what' in May 1977.

But next time we're travelling back again to pre-Shiver and Shake, to look at a Thunder-ing good (but even shorter-lived) title.

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