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Seeing the CLOAK the first time around, I thought it was brilliant, and I thought it was a TV [BATMAN 1966]-inspired effort...in fact I thought it was an imported [contemporary]American strip, along with some of the imported Batman and other strips used by Odhams.

I myself thought the CLOAK was very modern-looking back then.

Yes Ken Reids' work was outstanding by any standards, but it looked like Medievel Illuminated Artwork in terms of technique.

The Baxendale-inspired stuff was routine and overproduced by the time of Odhams, I thought.

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Wed May 04, 2016 11:51 am
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Raven wrote:
Bear in mind that that seems a very biased opinion, as IPC seemed to expand the scope of humour comics, rather than narrowly defining them.

It's also worth considering that a Pulp/Shadow parody kind of strip (a 1940s kind of theme) would surely have seemed a dated concept by 1970, so in the sense that the new IPC humour comics seemed to take an extremely modern approach, you could consider that to be their policy of the time, as you write.


If it's biased to report the facts here now then I suppose I'm biased. Perhaps I should ask Mike to post here himself to talk about what happened. It was shoddy treatment by a company that wanted the new Smash! strips to fit into easy categories; humour or adventure, and both in a traditional style. The Cloak had a unique style (influenced by Dick Tracy, Captain Marvel, Peter Maddocks and others) and was a comedy-adventure serial. (And was far more than a Shadow parody!) So out it went, despite its popularity. Seems like idiotic short-sightedness to me.

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Wed May 04, 2016 1:08 pm
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ISPYSHHHGUY wrote:
Seeing the CLOAK the first time around, I thought it was brilliant, and I thought it was a TV [BATMAN 1966]-inspired effort...in fact I thought it was an imported [contemporary]American strip, along with some of the imported Batman and other strips used by Odhams.

I myself thought the CLOAK was very modern-looking back then.


From what I've seen, it always looked like a 1940s-style cloak and dagger theme spoof to me, ISpy, but it's interesting to hear how a kid of the time related to it and placed it.


Wed May 04, 2016 1:13 pm
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Lew Stringer wrote:
If it's biased to report the facts here now then I suppose I'm biased. Perhaps I should ask Mike to post here himself to talk about what happened. It was shoddy treatment by a company that wanted the new Smash! strips to fit into easy categories; humour or adventure, and both in a traditional style. The Cloak had a unique style (influenced by Dick Tracy, Captain Marvel, Peter Maddocks and others) and was a comedy-adventure serial. (And was far more than a Shadow parody!) So out it went, despite its popularity. Seems like idiotic short-sightedness to me.



You do often write with what seems to be an anti-IPC bias, though, Lew. And, to me - and some others, from what I gather, the IPC Smash is a much superior comic to its predecessor. It's hard to think of its humour as being limited/unable to appreciate alternative views, as Leo Baxendale did so much never-seen-before-style-stuff in the new Smash. And it's hard to think of IPC as broadly having narrow definitions of comics as they were so consistently innovative.

But I'm well aware of how creatives can be treated, and that whole process. And that new editors often have a new broom approach with their own ideas. That's the nature of the media business, isn't it? Oh, and I'd especially spotted the Dick Tracy influence, too; I almost mentioned that! (Though, again, that's a 1930s-borne thing. I didn't say I thought The Cloak was just a Shadow parody by the way, but of pulp crimefighters in general; at least, that's what I tried to suggest.)


Wed May 04, 2016 1:42 pm
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Raven wrote:
ISPYSHHHGUY wrote:
Seeing the CLOAK the first time around, I thought it was brilliant, and I thought it was a TV [BATMAN 1966]-inspired effort...in fact I thought it was an imported [contemporary]American strip, along with some of the imported Batman and other strips used by Odhams.

I myself thought the CLOAK was very modern-looking back then.


From what I've seen, it always looked like a 1940s-style cloak and dagger theme spoof to me, ISpy, but it's interesting to hear how a kid of the time related to it and placed it.


I don't know how old you are or how many Cloak strips you've read but take it from those of us who read it at the time, The Cloak was the most "with it" strip in British comics. Any "pulp" influences were irrelevant. The strip had numerous contemporary references and artistic homages. Mike's often told me how it was high in the reader's favourites along with the Spider-Man reprints. (No doubt why it survived the merger of Pow! into Smash!)

It's not an anti-IPC bias to state that dropping such a strip was a daft decision, just because it didn't fit into their limited idea of what a humour strip should be. (The new editor also dropped Ken Reid, remember. Another stupid decision, although he did find work later on Scorcher.) Mike also later found work on Whizzer and Chips, but again, their limited vision of what Space School should be about (naughty kids set in the classroom, when Mike wanted it to be more adventurous like The Cloak, with the kids going to other worlds) and a request for him to toe the line and "draw like Reg Parlett" saw him eventually walk off the comic. (Not that there's anything wrong with Parlett's style of course but when you have an artist like Mike who's popular with his own style why try to get him to follow a more traditional route?)

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Wed May 04, 2016 4:27 pm
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Lew Stringer wrote:
Any "pulp" influences were irrelevant. The strip had numerous contemporary references and artistic homages.


Well, the new Smash was mainly an adventure comic, and not one of Bob Paynter's modern looking new humour titles, so my comments about the 'old fashioned' theme don't really apply, anyway.


Lew Stringer wrote:
Mike also later found work on Whizzer and Chips, but again, their limited vision of what Space School should be about (naughty kids set in the classroom, when Mike wanted it to be more adventurous like The Cloak, with the kids going to other worlds)


The kids in Space School did go to other worlds, though: visiting the interplanetary circus on and going mountain climbing on Saturn, practising scouting skills on Venus and looking for conkers in the Venusian jungle, going bird watching on Uranus, as well as practicing their rocketing skills in outer space, etc.


Wed May 04, 2016 5:53 pm
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Raven wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:
Any "pulp" influences were irrelevant. The strip had numerous contemporary references and artistic homages.


Well, the new Smash was mainly an adventure comic, and not one of Bob Paynter's modern looking new humour titles, so my comments about the 'old fashioned' theme don't really apply, anyway.


Lew Stringer wrote:
Mike also later found work on Whizzer and Chips, but again, their limited vision of what Space School should be about (naughty kids set in the classroom, when Mike wanted it to be more adventurous like The Cloak, with the kids going to other worlds)


The kids in Space School did go to other worlds, though: visiting the interplanetary circus on and going mountain climbing on Saturn, practising scouting skills on Venus and looking for conkers in the Venusian jungle, going bird watching on Uranus, as well as practicing their rocketing skills in outer space, etc.


Well not to the extent that Mike would have liked anyway. Perhaps the instruction to "keep it in the classroom" came afterwards. I'll ask him when we meet up for our regular night out next week.

IPC's Smash! wasn't a bad comic. I have all but ten of them and I preferred it to any DC Thomson adventure comic of the time. It's just that it could have been even better if they'd retained The Cloak and something by Ken Reid, instead of jettisoning them for no good reason.

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Wed May 04, 2016 7:05 pm
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Lew Stringer wrote:
Well not to the extent that Mike would have liked anyway. Perhaps the instruction to "keep it in the classroom" came afterwards.


Just checked the last three instalments and two out of three feature the kids going to other worlds. I have a gap of a few weeks before that, but the first preceding one I have features a trip to Venus (and a Venusian Air Taxi crash).

Maybe you can report back what he says; could be interesting.


Wed May 04, 2016 7:27 pm
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Raven wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:
Well not to the extent that Mike would have liked anyway. Perhaps the instruction to "keep it in the classroom" came afterwards.


Just checked the last three instalments and two out of three feature the kids going to other worlds. I have a gap of a few weeks before that, but the first preceding one I have features a trip to Venus (and a Venusian Air Taxi crash).

Maybe you can report back what he says; could be interesting.


He'll probably say what he's been saying for the past 30 years I've known him, which is what I reported above. I've never had cause to disbelieve him. IPC wanted the strip kept in the classroom, Mike wanted to expand it. They couldn't agree so Mike left and the strip was dropped.

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Wed May 04, 2016 8:15 pm
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From what Lew is saying, it sounds pretty much on the nose. It certainly ties in with Roger Perry's ongoing series of Eagle Daze over on Down The Tubes. This is the link to part 9. I heartily recommend going all the way back to part 1 and reading the whole series. What appeared to be a planned direction by Fleetway seems to be a serious of lucky decisions based on an opinion at the time.

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Thu May 05, 2016 7:27 am
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Space School never seemed to last all that long, I remember; I loved Mike Higgs' quirky style on both strips. It was an almost 'pop-art' style in my view.

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Thu May 05, 2016 8:04 am
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It ran for just under a year; about forty nine weeks or so.


Thu May 05, 2016 9:08 am
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I've just heard that Gil Page, who was the editor of the revamped Smash!, passed away a few days ago.

I should clarify that the decisions for the revamp were taken by management above Gil and it was the group editor who dropped The Cloak. What Gil did was produce a good, solid, comic. As I said yesterday, I did enjoy Smash! despite it becoming more formulaic.

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Thu May 05, 2016 9:55 am
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On the blog now, is my look at Whizzer and Chips' first merger issue, into Knockout, here.

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Mon May 16, 2016 8:23 am
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blaing wrote:
On the blog now, is my look at Whizzer and Chips' first merger issue, into Knockout, here.



Hi Bruce,
To identify the artists you were wondering about....

Glugg was by Gordon Hogg.
Three Storey Stan by Brian Walker.
The Name Game by Joe McCaffrey.

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Mon May 16, 2016 9:30 am
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