On this day, 12 October 1974: Whoopee! and Shiver and Shake
On this day, 12 October 1974 … Whoopee! had launched in March of this year, a decent comic but not particularly outstanding or especially different from stablemates Buster, Whizzer and Chips or Cor!! (which came to an end shortly after Whoopee!’s arrival). One wonders whether it was felt a shot in the arm was needed for Whoopee! to make it because its merger with Shiver and Shake seven months later marked something of a re-launch – a Whoopee! 2.0 – which gave the comic the particular character that will be far more recognisable to those who read and loved the comic throughout the rest of the decade and into the early 1980s: a wacky mix of slapstick humour and horror-based fun following the arrival of Shiver and Shake favourites such as Sweeny Toddler, Frankie Stein, Lolly Pop, Scream Inn and Creepy Car.
Because the editorial team took the re-boot, and the arrival of new readers from both merging comics, so seriously, they – and we now – were and are treated to a raft full of re-caps and character explanations that make this issue especially fun reading. Whoopee! stories such as Spy School (through the introduction of a new pupil), The Bumpkin Billionaires and Scared-stiff Sam, and Shiver and Shake’s Blunder Puss, Frankie Stein and Creepy Car all tell their origin stories, mostly through the use of flashback thought bubbles. Frankie’s three-page origin story is particularly good value so I’ve scanned it in full below, and I’ve also included a couple of frames from the original first episode of The Bumpkin Billionaires (drawn by Mike Lacey) for comparison against the re-drawn version by Tom Williams in this week’s issue.
Like Shiver and Shake, this new Whoopee! starts out with a division between the horror and the non-horror strips, with a comic-within-a-comic pull-out ‘Shiver Section’ featuring the spooky stories from the original Shiver, plus Evil Eye which was original to Whoopee! In fact, Evil Eye is part of a comic-within-a-comic-within-a-comic, as the ‘Shiver Section’ has at its centre the first part of a cut-out ‘Mini Monster Comic Book’ mixing strips, gags and puzzles. The non-horror strips from the Shake half of Shiver and Shake (Shake himself, Blunder Puss and Lolly Pop) are shuffled into the main part of Whoopee!, as is the first of Ken Reid’s classic World-wide Weirdies pages (replacing his Wanted posters from Whoopee! and Creepy Creations from Shiver and Shake).
It’s an embarrassment of riches and one feels slightly sorry for those having to make the decisions on what to include and what to leave out … and even more sorry for those readers who lost favourite strips from either comic. The welcome letter on page two suggests that reader surveys were used to decide the final cut, but there must have been a fairly equal split of votes for a number of strips that didn’t make this first merged issue, as not long after the comic offered readers the chance to choose one more character for inclusion. Over the course of eight weeks they ran an episode each of the following stories, at the end of which readers would vote for who they wanted to save: from Whoopee!, The Upper Crusts and the Lazy Loafers, Snap Happy, Little Miss Muffit and Pop Snorer; from Shiver and Shake, The Desert Fox, Grimly Feendish, Sweeny Toddler; and another story from whence I know not where, Tony’s Toolbox!
Irmantas tells the story of this harsh, gladiatorial contest in thrilling style here. Thank goodness the contest ended the way it did, or we could have lost one of British comics’ most brilliant characters. Rather like Denmark (1992 European Championship winners, having replaced war-torn Yugoslavia at the last minute), Goran Ivanisevic (in 2001, Wimbledon’s first and only wild-card champion), Jeremy Corbyn (who only made the 2015 Labour leadership ballot by a grizzled whisker) and Zayn Malik (whose mum had to drag him out of bed to attend the 2010 X Factor auditions), the romper-suited infant infernale would go on to become Whoopee!’s front-cover star and number one character.