On this day, 6 November 1976: Buster and Monster Fun
On this day, 6 November 1976 … I haven’t found a definitive answer to the question of why IPC launched and then merged their comics. I mean, obviously there was good commercial thinking behind the strategy, but whether a new title such as Monster Fun was launched with the sole aim of building a sufficiently strong unique readership which could then be bolstered on to one of the core titles, such as Buster, through a merger, or each new comic was given the chance to establish itself and would have been allowed to continue if its sales were high enough. The former is the rather more depressing pre-destination situation, while the latter suggests a more liberated self-determination. I suspect the former was the case.
But then there’s also the question of whether Monster Fun was actually more successful than Buster (as we are led to believe Starlord was selling better than 2000AD when they merged in 1978) but Buster had some sort of seniority within the humour comics division due to being a more established brand. I don’t know the sales figures so this remains another unanswered one, but the line-up of this first merged issue suggests to me that IPC considered the content of Monster Fun to be almost equally as strong as that of Buster. Of the 17 strips, nine survived from the previous week’s issue of Buster (five humour strips: Buster’s Diary, Clever Dick, Ivor Lott and Tony Broke, Crowjak and Chalky; and four adventure serials: Pete’s Pocket Army, The Runaways, The War Children and The Leopard from Lime St), and eight made the transition from the previous week’s Monster Fun (Gums, Terror TV, Mummy’s Boy, X-Ray Specs, Kid Kong, Martha’s Monster Make-up, Teddy Scare and Draculass).
In last week’s blog post I listed those that didn’t make it from Monster Fun (including, sadly, Badtime Bedtime Storybook and Creature Teacher). There’s also a list of Buster strips that didn’t appear in this first merged issue, some of them quite surprising because I think of them as big hitters in the comic’s illustrious history: Snooper, The Hypno-twins, Plunk, Rent-a-Ghost, Faceache, Tomboy, Big Chief Pow Wow, Kid Gloves and Val’s Vanishing Cream.
But all is not quite as it seems. I’ve looked forward at issues of Buster and Monster Fun from this point and, while none of those Monster Fun strips that failed to make the first cut reappear again, several of the Buster strips do. Rent-a-Ghost is back in next week’s issue, then, over the next few weeks, Kid Gloves, Plunk, Snooper and Big Chief Pow Wow all reappear. By 1 January 1977 the balance of strips is Buster 14 v Monster Fun 8. In February 1977 readers welcomed back Ken Reid’s Faceache, perhaps the best of all those Buster strips not involved in the merger. The only shame here was that it came back as a direct replacement for Reid’s Martha’s Monster Make-up. Admittedly the two stories had a lot of scrungey similarities but it still seems sad that Martha had to go; if there wasn’t room for both strips I’d have liked to have seen her and Faceache team up in a shared one.
Draculass bit her last neck during 1977 and a few brand new stories began but by the end of the year there were still six Monster Fun strips in the mix (Gums, Terror TV, Mummy’s Boy, X-Ray Specs, Kid Kong and Teddy Scare), which is testament to what a strong publication it was, and an important part of IPC comic history.