On this day, 31 January 1987: Nipper
On this day, 31 January 1987 … Anyone want a sweet? Only … thirty years old?! These little beauties look utterly toxic – weapons-grade pharmaceuticals. I tweeted a picture of them a few months ago and asked whether anyone thought they were edible. A few people said yes, they should be – something to do with being mostly sugar – but … nah, I think I’ll pass on this one. Aside from liking my life at the moment, there’s something special about keeping a bit of the past untouched.
So, these were a free gift with the first issue of Nipper, a new title for the humour market, and one of IPC’s final new comic launches. Nipper seems to have been aimed at a slightly younger readership than its stablemates Whizzer and Chips and Buster – that’s a guess based on the look of some of the characters: Nipper himself, Wonder Boy, Frankie’s Flashlight and First-time Fred all seem to be or feature kids who look like infants compared to the other comics’ juniors. It suggests an attempt by IPC to establish appeal across different juvenile age sectors, especially as it was also publishing Oink! at this time, which was pitched at a slightly higher age. As both Oink! and Nipper were merged into Buster (Nipper before the end of 1987), it looks as though the experiment failed. Or, it worked, and management decided to harvest all its new readers into one barn.
Nipper’s USP was its tiny format (210x148mm), an experiment that lasted only five issues before shifting (by magic!) to a more traditional size. My guess is that it simply wasn’t getting seen amid the larger comics and magazines on the newsagents’ racks. I’m a book publisher and we’ve occasionally experimented with smaller-format books – the cheaper cover price can be attractive, but unless the book is a huge hit and retailers can be persuaded to give it special display treatment then more often than not it will be lost and forgotten. Here’s how little Nipper compared to big Nipper:
Like the sweeties, the comic is a mixed bag. A few of the strips, such as Nipper, First-time Fred and Double Trouble, seem to offer little that one wouldn’t have been able to find in other comics of the time. There are a few midget gems, including Tom Paterson’s Felix the Pussycat, a Danger Mouse-like James Pond, the colourful Ricky Rainbow and Mike Lacey’s buggy droid Strong Arm Command Kart. Single-parent strip My ‘Dad’ Mum has an underlying poignancy, and Kelpie’s Kingdom is an attractively-told fantasy adventure with lovely artwork by Bob Harvey. Watch out too for a surprise Whizz-kid raid!