On this day, 13 March 1971: Thunder
‘READ IT … and you’ll be THUNDER-STRUCK!’ It’s not quite ‘GREAT NEWS FOR ALL READERS!’, but perhaps it’s a more accurate prediction of loyal readers’ reactions to the news hidden inside this week’s issue of Thunder. Despite the lack of fanfare on the cover, this was the 22nd and final standalone issue of Thunder. The following week, it was to be merged with the much longer-running Lion.
Thunder was the better of the two publications at this time, in my opinion. It contained some strong strips – interesting ideas, action-packed storylines and some excellent artwork. Black Max and Adam Eterno were both classics, and Fury’s Family and Phil the Fluter both boasted exceptionally nice illustration, even if their stories weren’t quite so strong. It’s a shame that the comic wasn’t given longer than five months to establish itself. Or perhaps it had established itself successfully, and its growing readership was requisitioned to boost the circulation of Lion. However, the low-key announcement and execution of the merger (I’ll look at the merger issue next week) suggests to me that this was not the fulfilment of some great plan, but that Thunder had become little more than a distant rumble.
It was an oddly packaged comic. Its factual, ‘Famous Firsts’ front covers gave it the appearance of a Look and Learn-style publication rather than an anthology of great adventures and storytelling. Valiant had been running this sort of gig for a number of years, with ‘Is It True?’ and ‘Who Is It?’ factual covers, but Lion had a much more exciting cover approach, using garish and dynamic scenes from the stories within. I’m surprised to see that the merger with Thunder led to Lion adopting the factual cover policy for a year and a half, so maybe there was thought to be good commercial sense in this at the time – an encouragement to retailers and parents, perhaps. As a parent today in a post-truth, facts-lite world, I suppose I can see the virtue in this, but I wonder how many kids in 1971 found themselves drawn to more enticing covers elsewhere.