On this day, 26 May 1984: School Fun
On this day, 26 May 1984 … School Fun has the feel of a comic that was never going to last for too long, partly because it’s built around a specific (and, some might say, contradictory) theme and also because (apart from Eagle) no new comic launched by IPC since 1977 would survive for much longer than a couple of years at most. At 33 issues, School Fun had a fairly average-length run, but it burned brightly during that 1983-84 school year, producing a few stories – School Belle, Young Arfur and Walt Teaser – that would have extended lives after its merger with Buster, and notable especially for its unique series of covers drawn by the talented David Mostyn. A special mention should go also to Mostyn’s strip, ETT Extra Terrestrial Teacher – to my mind the best story in the comic after Grange Hill Juniors finished a few weeks previously – about an alien teacher stranded in a British comprehensive. Look out below for the clue that suggests he hails from a species related to that of 2000AD's Tharg. The story was given a proper ending in this final issue, which is probably more satisfying than seeing it over-extended into a never-concluding story in Buster.
The idea for School Fun was that of Graham Exton, writer of a substantial number of strips for IPC’s other humour comics during the 1980s, including Sweeny Toddler, Sid’s Snake, Gums and Faceache. He posted this ‘origins’ story to 26 Pigs website (which is worth a visit for some other fun readers’ memories):
‘I pitched this to Bob Paynter [group editor of IPC’s humour division] in the early 80s to coincide with the beginning of my teaching career. I picked the brains of a lot of Cannock kids to see what they’d like in a comic, and groups of them produced their own comics as class projects. The result was nothing like any of us envisaged, being another Whoopee!-alike, but it must have been a thrill for the children to see some semblance of their own ideas in print. I’m glad someone enjoyed it. It didn’t last long enough to get going, really.’
That’s true, but its memory lives on, more than thirty years later.