On this day, 1 May 1971: Jet
On this day, 1 May 1971 … In the brilliant ‘Future Shock’ documentary about 2000AD, Pat Mills describes the comics scene into which 2000AD’s forerunner Action was launched as having a condescending attitude to its readers. As an example of how stale and ridiculous things had become he references a strip called Paddy McGinty’s Goat – the tale of a young Irish lad befriended by an alien which takes the form of a goat. This story made me laugh, so much so that I don’t think I quite took on board that Paddy McGinty’s Goat was a real, published story (despite the fact that the film showed illustrations from it); my mind just filed it away as code for ‘crap’.
But now I’ve discovered Jet, the short-lived comic that ran for 22 issues between May and October 1971 before merging into Buster, and realised that Paddy McGinty and his goat were indeed a real thing. I think I can see where Pat’s coming from – even bearing in mind also that he was using this story as an example of the general state of things, rather than picking on it in particular, it’s hilariously dumb (my favourite moment being ‘Goat’ explaining his complex backstory: ‘I come from the Planet Ven! It’s too long and difficult to explain … But I shouldn’t be here! And now I don’t know how long I’ll be stranded here!’ Skizz!, this ain’t!). And yet … from the privileged viewpoint of 2016 it’s actually quite a fun strip to look back on. It’s bonkers. It’s outrageously silly. It’s very, very British (apart from the fact that it’s set in Ireland – but, you know, a not-at-all-sterotyped turnip-farming rendition of Ireland) and quirky, and ultimately lovable (or, at least, fascinating) because of that. Which is a pretty good way of describing all of the first issue of Jet.
What’s great about this comic? Well, quite a few things. That front cover for the start, with a Pertwee-esque Doktor Von Hoffman riding his weaponised giant eel across the waves of the English Channel, and them Trebor fruity chew bars that look zingy and delicious (I don’t have the originals, sadly). That glam Cola Rola ad on the back is also mouth-watering. Faceache – one of the all-time most brilliant British comic creations – begins in this issue (with a ‘twang’ and a ‘boyn-ng’ rather than a ‘scrunge’). Ricky Rubberneck? I never knew that was his real name! Bala the Briton, which I know to be fondly remembered by some, is also here – probably the most serious-toned strip of the line-up. It has a terrific final panel, which looks as though it may have influenced Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell’s The Red Seas in more recent 2000AD. We also find The Kids of Stalag 41, which also made it into Buster after the merger – and it looks bloomin’ good here on the colour centre pages.
Of the rest, Crazy Car Capers looks like the sort of strip I would have enjoyed as a kid – an ongoing serial about a Wacky Races-style race around Britain ‘for cars of an unusual design’. Sadly, it’s also an example of the main thing that’s not so great about Jet – namely national stereotyping. Irish, Scots and Germans get the worst deal (one wonders whether much has really changed 45 years on).
Crazy Car Capers opens in the quiet English suburb of ‘Wimbleham’, just as Paddy McGinty lives in the hills of ‘Boggymorra’, Partridge’s Patch is a little market town in the heart of the English countryside called ‘Barnleigh’, The Sludgemouth Sloggers hail from the rainy seaside resort of ‘Sludgemouth’ (across the bay from ‘Brighthaven’), and Adare’s Anglians are a team of plucky footballers from the little-known fifth British Isle of ‘New Anglia’, who seek to avenge England’s failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. That last bit did actually come true, but apart from that the comic is unashamed, whimsical, little England fantasy. Just in case that wasn’t clear, however, the inside back cover carries the disclaimer: ‘All the characters and names in all stories in JET are fictitious and have no reference to any living person.’