On this day, 5 March 1977: Whizzer and Chips
On this day, 5 March 1977 … this is as pared-down, reduced, unconditional, stone-cold classic as it gets for me. Whizzer and Chips circa Spring 1977, when I was six years old, approaching my seventh birthday, just starting to develop as a reader and receiving this brilliant comic – my comic – pretty much every week. I think my parents were still buying copies from newsagents rather than having it on regular order from Dora and Henry Owen across the road, as I have a couple of Whizzer and Chips-related memories: one of being bought a copy from the newsagent at our local railway station and reading it on the train to London in one of those old-style carriage compartments where six or eight people sit opposite each other on two rows of seats, and one of my dad bringing me home a copy but it being an issue I already had and me feeling so guilty about this that I tried to give him 7p from my pocket money to make up for it (he refused to take it, which only made me feel worse – I was peculiarly conscientious for a six-year-old).
I loved the comic masthead with the Slippy ‘W’ and the inverted triangle, and a Whizz-kid getting one over on a Chip-ite, or vice versa as on the front of this week’s issue (Chip-ite Tom of Hover Boots redistributing the wealth of Whizz-kid Tiny Tycoon). As I flick through this comic I have a distant sense of just how much these stories and characters meant to me, how important it was to know what Sid and Slippy, Shiner, Willoughby and Uncle Rich from Super Store, Sweet Tooth, Fuss Pot, Lazy Bones, Odd Ball and Joker were all up to each week. I was a quiet, fairly introverted lad who invested a lot of serious thought into things the rest of the world may have deemed trivial, and probably not so much thought into things the rest of the world may have thought more important; possibly I haven’t changed much in this regard – it seems like a reasonable definition of being a fan.
There are a couple of strips in this comic of which I have absolutely no recollection – Find Uncle Bill, about a happyish, cash-strapped character, Young Bill, on an endless quest to find his lost uncle who had written to say he’d won the pools but forgotten to leave an address, and The Magic of Films, in which a boy has a book that can bring to life characters from movies – although I am certain that I was a reader at this time. There are also a couple that I’d forgotten about but am delighted to see again: Smarty’s Toffs and Tatty’s Toughs, a team up of two older strips, Smarty Pants and Tatty Ed and the old Knockout strip The Toffs and the Toughs, and Lib an’ Archie and their Magic Piano, about a sister and brother who could fly anywhere in the world by tinkling the ivories on their old Joanna.
Also of note this week are a near full-page splash in the latest episode of Thingumajig!, and a letter to Sid’s Whizz-kid page demonstrating one reader’s quantitative analysis of representations of the law in the two halves of Whizzer and Chips. And the original owner of this particular issue appears to have been so enraged by the Chip-ites’ invasion of the week (graffiti on the wall of the last frame of Find Uncle Bill) that he or she has scrawled over it in heavily-marked biro. Clearly another true fan – respect!