On this day, 25 September 1971: Jet
On this day, 25 September 1971 … Forty-five years ago today, Jet blew its final gasket and sputtered to the end of an odd but not insignificant episode in the story of IPC comics. After 22 issues, Jet’s ‘sensational’ news was that it was to be merged into Buster, which may seem an odd match to those of us more used to clearer delineation between the ‘humour’ comics and the ‘adventure’ comics. From the viewpoint of 2016, Jet looks as though it should have been categorised alongside adventure titles of its day such as Lion and Valiant, while Buster was IPC’s longest-lasting humour comics. But I think there was less distinction between these different comic ‘types’ within IPC’s juvenile division in the 1960s and early years of the 1970s. Lion, Valiant, Buster, Tiger were the big four ‘boys’’ comics at the turn of the decade, and each of them had a reasonable mix of both humour and adventure. As the 1970s progressed, the adventure comics became more genre specific (fantasy, war, sport and sci-fi) and would be more serious in tone with an occasional lone comedy strip, while Buster – alongside new comics such as Whizzer and Chips and Cor!! – concentrated on fun and silliness with an occasional adventure strip thrown in.
In 1971, Jet was not such an odd stablemate for Buster, but it was telling that the Jet strips that survived the merger were predominantly humour ones. Faceache, Bonehead, Bertie Bumpkin and The Kids of Stalag 41 were comedy stories. Von Hoffman’s Invasion (Eric Bradbury) and The Sludgemouth Sloggers (Doug Maxted) would also make the move, and fell more into the adventure category although Sloggers was more of an adventure-comedy. ‘Straighter’ stories such as Carno’s Cadets, The Dwarf, Bala the Briton, Sergeants Four, Adare’s Anglians, Kester Kidd, Partridge’s Patch and the much-maligned Paddy McGinty’s Goat were all brought to sudden and ingloriously early conclusions.
Why did Jet end after so few issues? One assumes that it was not considered to be a success, and I’ve seen comments on forums (from people who I think were readers at the time) which are fairly critical. It’s true that there is much in this comic which is just not very good. Paddy McGinty’s Goat (rather hilariously slaughtered by Pat Mills on the 2000AD Future-Shock documentary) is the most prominent example, Partridge’s Patch is hopelessly dated, Adare’s Anglians is extremely odd and Wacky Races take-off Crazy Car Capers is extremely racist. But there are others – Sergeants Four, Carno’s Cadets, The Dwarf, Bala the Briton – which one can imagine in the pages of Lion or Valiant. Of those that made it into Buster, Von Hoffman’s Invasion is nutty but extremely enjoyable (and lovely to look at), The Kids of Stalag 41 is good stuff and Faceache is one of IPC’s greatest ever characters. So it’s a curate’s egg. I suspect the main reason that Jet didn’t make it is that it just wasn’t sufficiently different from other comics that were around at the time. As the decade progressed, we can see how new comics each had their own distinct identities, USPs and target audiences, but Jet just seemed like another Lion, Valiant or, at this time, Buster.