WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

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alanultron5
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WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by alanultron5 » 18 Nov 2016, 15:41

If, like me, you fondly recall the days of the `Odham's` groups comics - namely `WHAM` `POW` `SMASH` TERRIFIC` and `FANTASTIC` . It came as quite a shock through 1968 that they finished so quickly.

At one point in 1967 the five titles were on sale- but by Nov 1968 just `SMASH` incorporating `POW` and `FANTASTIC` was the only one left; and that title underwent a big change of direction in March 1969.

I do have a theory why both `TERRIFIC` and `FANTASTIC` might have failed. It is in my opinion- the fact that by late summer 1968 FANTASTIC's reprints of MARVEL comics strips `X-Men` `Avengers` `Dr Strange` and `Thor` were becoming difficult for the UK readership to follow! US Marvel fans seemed to be late teens/early 20s as majority; but UK readers were on average a few years younger!

Going by the readers letters pages in the UK comic, they hated the romantic sub-plots (Which US readers on the whole admired) and the complexity of plots from storylines 1967-68 was beyond many.

Example of this is just how unpopular the `Dr Strange` storylines from about FANTASTIC issues 60 through 79 were with readers! It became the most criticized strip in the comics life as nearly every week someone wrote in wanting it taken out! I loved it- but I was very much in the minority there!

If anyone else has any other viewpoints, please elucidate here (They can't touch you for it you know! :) )
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY » 18 Nov 2016, 19:38

Looking at the readers letters printed in these comics, [ in the latter 60s ] many fans of this publishing houses' comics said they would have loved to have bought ALL of the titles, but they couldn't afford them all .

I assume WHAM! [their first 'Swinging Sixties' funny paper] made money and the Directors wanted to milk the situation for all it was worth---the comics industry has always been a bit geared towards 'let's clean up now while the going is good' in many cases].

The Power Comics were also quite expensive compared to DCT for example-------sixpence for WHAM! in 1964, the BEANO was thruppence, but it had a much lower page count.

I thought Odhams went downhill when they started adding too much imported Marvel-type stuff: it was good in moderation but eventually they really swamped some of these comics. I assume it was cheaper to 'hire' this syndicated-style input but it really diluted the wholly British-eccentric approach of the UK -originated comedy strips especially.




Funnily enough, I have been looking through some of their material just recently and I rate their home-grown, original output really highly: no other decade put out anything quite as diverse as Odhams did, OK later on, VIZ was a new direction, but it never spawned such overall comic quirkiness as we got with the Power Comics.

I felt Ken Reid done his finest work at Odhams.

This company was a brilliant shot in the arm for zany inventiveness but it seems to have been a casualty of over-production in UK comics of the 60s and beyond.
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starscape
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by starscape » 18 Nov 2016, 20:38

ISPYSHHHGUY wrote: I thought Odhams went downhill when they started adding too much imported Marvel-type stuff
Sales-wise, Marvel must have been the driving force as Fantastic, Terrific and Pow! were commissioned mainly as 'Marvel UK'.

I suspect it was price. Having one or two higher-priced comics might have worked but thinking that meant bringing in more was a cash cow failed to realise the true economics of pocket money.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by Lew Stringer » 18 Nov 2016, 21:05

Several reasons I think:

I think Odhams expanded their line too quickly to compete with Fleetway and DCT. Kids couldn't afford all five titles every week. (I know I couldn't.)

Reading the letters pages, the mixture of humour, adventure, and Marvel reprint always divided readers. (Personally I loved that variety but some kids seem to like compartmentalising things.)

As time went on, the editorial design and layout of the comics looked quite poor compared to their competitors. Possibly because of the staff having to stretch themselves to do five comics a week.

Most British kids didn't like superheroes. (At least the ones at my school in the '60s didn't.)

Price may have been a factor, but Fleetway's comics were 7d anyway (although they did have more pages than Wham, Pow, and Smash.)

Fantastic and Terrific's reprints caught up with the US comics too quickly, so they wouldn't have survived much longer anyway.

IPC taking over in 1968 put the kibosh on any hopes for the situation to improve.
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY » 18 Nov 2016, 21:24

After IPC/Fleetway took over some of the Odhams characters near the end of the 60s, I felt the soul had been sucked out of what made their early material so unique.

[Was SMASH! the one that got published by IPC at the end? It got totally transformed, at any rate.]


I liked the Fantastic Four [in stark black-and-white only as I remember it] and I first discovered this fine strip through Odhams.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by philcom55 » 18 Nov 2016, 23:52

I'm not sure of the exact timeline but I think Longacre/Odhams (who'd previously swallowed Hulton's comics) and Fleetway were both acquired by the company that became IPC quite early in the 1960s. For a time the two groups were relatively autonomous but Fleetway gradually gained the upper hand and ousted a lot of the Odhams editors, instituting a more homogeneous product. Somewhere along the line other independent publishers like Pearson and City were also hoovered up in the process so that a lot of the old variety went out of British comics.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY » 19 Nov 2016, 08:06

;homogenous' is an apt description, Phil!

I was very young when the Odhams-IPC-Fleetway transition occurred, but boy was it painfully evident--the spirit of Odhams was sorely absent.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by Lew Stringer » 19 Nov 2016, 10:45

philcom55 wrote:I'm not sure of the exact timeline but I think Longacre/Odhams (who'd previously swallowed Hulton's comics) and Fleetway were both acquired by the company that became IPC quite early in the 1960s. For a time the two groups were relatively autonomous but Fleetway gradually gained the upper hand and ousted a lot of the Odhams editors, instituting a more homogeneous product. Somewhere along the line other independent publishers like Pearson and City were also hoovered up in the process so that a lot of the old variety went out of British comics.
Yes, IPC was formed in 1963 as a combination of Fleetway, Odhams, and Newnes, but it didn't really affect the comics until 1968 when they began reorganising the business. By the start of 1969, they were all branded as IPC comics and we started to see drastic changes (Smash! revamped, Eagle and Jag merged into Lion and Tiger etc). Fleetway had the upper hand in that reconstruction so Smash had no chance of surviving in its old form and was basically turned into a copy of Lion. (Although it did include some good stuff of course. Some strips were from Blackjack, an aborted Fleetway comic.)

There was to have been a sixth 'Power Comic' called Spitfire, which would have been a bit more traditional than the others. A dummy issue was created (Mike Higgs did a strip for it) but it never came to anything when the comics division was reconstructed.

By the way, it might be worth remembering that before the 'Power Comics' came along, Boys' World, launched by Odhams in 1963, didn't survive that long either (89 weeks I think). They also revamped Eagle into what many consider a poorer version of its Hulton glory days. Perhaps the Odhams editors just couldn't create comics with enough mass appeal in the 1960s?

Intersecting discussion. Despite their shortcomings, the Odhams Power Comics were my absolute favourite comics, and remain so to this day. The humour strips had a raw edge to them, and a recklessness that their rivals didn't quite have. The adventure strips such as Moon Madness and The Legend Testers were just barmy! And reprints of the early Marvel strips too. What a great combination! Brilliant fun for young minds.

I always felt that the 'Power Comics' connected with their readers in a way that their competitors didn't. Partly due to them using methods adopted from Marvel (i.e. "News from the Floor of 64" being a UK equivalent of Stan Lee's "Bullpen Bulletins", and lively letters pages that discussed the comics, not boring historical facts or other second hand anecdotes.) Plus the comics seemed very in tune with the sixties, and had numerous references to pop culture of the time. Much as I also loved the Thomson humour comics, the Odhams ones seemed like the cool guys.
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by Anorak783 » 19 Nov 2016, 15:45

I did hear that the financial management at Odhams was quite poor. Apparently, they just churned the stuff out and as long as the balance sheet for the company was in profit, they didn't worry too much about the performance of individual titles or wondering if there was a market for more material. When the bean-counters did finally come in, it was curtains for most of their line.

Ironically though, this is an approach that assisted Apple Computers to its worldwide dominance. As long as the company was in profit its founder, the late Steve Jobs, was prepared to spend a small fortune on research, development and design. Now he's gone a tighter regime is in place and the company's former glory is fading.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by Lew Stringer » 19 Nov 2016, 15:53

Anorak783 wrote:I did hear that the financial management at Odhams was quite poor. Apparently, they just churned the stuff out and as long as the balance sheet for the company was in profit, they didn't worry too much about the performance of individual titles or wondering if there was a market for more material. When the bean-counters did finally come in, it was curtains for most of their line.
That sounds about right. It would explain why there were such seismic changes to the Odhams and Fleetway comics at the end of the sixties. I'm just glad I grew up in that period to enjoy the Odhams comics while they were around.
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by geoff42 » 20 Nov 2016, 02:15

I think Lew hit the nail on the head as regards one of his previous posts on expense. In the mid-late seventies, my younger brother and I was allowed 3 titles each and no more. If a new title appeared and one that which engaged us, we had no option but to drop one of our older titles. And, without boasting, my parents were quite affluent but they remained rigid as the number of comics we were allowed on a weekly basis. For those families that weren't so financially viable, then the number-crunching soon weeds out the poorer titles even if they had quality. Again, from a previous post, not enough research was done to accommodate this problem; it was a case of saturate the market and see what comes out on top - so much potential lost.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by comixminx » 20 Nov 2016, 13:00

geoff42 wrote:I think Lew hit the nail on the head as regards one of his previous posts on expense. In the mid-late seventies, my younger brother and I was allowed 3 titles each and no more. If a new title appeared and one that which engaged us, we had no option but to drop one of our older titles. And, without boasting, my parents were quite affluent but they remained rigid as the number of comics we were allowed on a weekly basis. For those families that weren't so financially viable, then the number-crunching soon weeds out the poorer titles even if they had quality. Again, from a previous post, not enough research was done to accommodate this problem; it was a case of saturate the market and see what comes out on top - so much potential lost.
Three titles each! Blimey. In the mid-late seventies our family allowed one weekly comic per kid. We could have afforded more I expect but I think it would have been seen as a bit extravagant. I suppose we could have bought more with our own pocket money, mind you, if we'd wanted to.
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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by starscape » 20 Nov 2016, 13:08

I came from a solidly working class background but I must have had over 10 comics a week in the 70s.

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by philcom55 » 20 Nov 2016, 13:16

I was allowed two titles a week during the 1960s, but by regularly swapping comics I managed to read dozens more!

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Re: WHY DID `ODHAM'S FAIL?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY » 20 Nov 2016, 15:21

I could only afford two or three comics a week in the 60s---ah, so much choice--------and so little doobs at the time.

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