On this day, 23 May 1987: Buster
On this day, 23 May 1987 ... With his scrunched-up face, bulging eye, hairy wrists and fingers and hint of a balding pate, Tom Paterson's Buster on the front of this comic has a vaguely terrifying Grant Mitchell look about him. Or, if you were to attach a drooping fag to his lower lip, he could be mistaken for a modernised version of his long-lost dad Andy Capp.
Buster's come a long way from the little shrimp of Buster's Diary and Buster's Dream World in the 1960s and 1970s. There are signs throughput the long history of Buster the comic of its eponymous lead having gradually grown-up from primary schooler, through early teens to, at a guess, maybe about 16. The comic itself also aged naturally and in keeping with the times over its forty years. This issue – teased by Secret Squirrel Buster in the same way we might get warning of a merger (its flagging of a 'big secret inside' reminds me a bit of Cheeky's last issue) – is in fact a missive of proper great news for all readers to come the following week: not a merger but a substantial redesign. Next week will bring a larger format Buster, printed on higher-grade paper with more colour. I'll review the new look next Monday, but this week's issue is worth celebrating as the last of the cheaper newsprint Busters, representing the end of its most recognisable 1970s and 1980s look.
Format aside, the content of Buster at this time seems to have been bridging two eras. While Buster himself was by now realised in the anarchic style of Tom Paterson, other older stories such as Norman Mansbridge's Mummy's Boy, Jimmy Hansen's The Winners, Sid Burgon's It's a Nice Life, Mike Lacey's X-Ray Specs and Jim Crocker's Jack Pott still look much the same as they had done for many years previously. The mix includes a relatively newer wave of artists and stories, such as Pete Dredge's Young Arfur, Anthony Hutchings' Walt Teaser (both from School Fun), Dave Follows' Melvyn's Mirror and Steve Bright's Prambo and Sqworm. And there are classic older stories with a modern look: Sid Burgon's Ivor Lott and Tony Broke sees Tony sport a cool upturned jacket collar while Ivor seems to be channelling Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney more than the public schoolboy look of yesteryear; Chalky's appearance has a more contemporary look than his Arthur Martin and Dick Millington days (although I'm not sure who this artist is - Terry Bave?); and Faceache is now drawn by Frank McDiarmid – in a style close to but not quite as visceral as Ken Reid, who had sadly died earlier in 1987.