On this day, 20 March 1971: Lion and Thunder
Whether it was Kid Kong, Mytek the Mighty or that big ape from that cover of Krazy, oversize primates could generally be relied upon for an impressive impact cover. This, the merger issue of Lion and Thunder, is the earliest example I’ve found – an African mountain gorilla launching the comic’s new series of ‘The Mighty Ones’ cover features – and it’s more eye-catching than the announcement of the merge itself. As in last week’s final issue of Thunder, this is a rather low-key, no-fuss merger. The cover shouts ‘Two Great Papers in One!’, with no recognition that this is the issue in which they come together, and there is no editorial comment inside the comic. There is at least an introductory strapline above each of the strips (all along the lines of ‘Meet the First War Arch-fiend and his Killer Bats!’, ‘Meet Sylvester Turville – He’s 400 Years Old!’ and ‘Meet the Crime-smasher of Pensburgh, U.S.A.!’), and Adam Eterno is afforded two pages of re-cap on his story so far (it’s interesting to compare Eterno’s origin story told here by Solano Lopez, probably the definitive artist on this strip, with that originally drawn by Tom Kerr in the first issue of Thunder).
Adam Eterno is one of seven Thunder strips that made it into the combined Lion and Thunder, compared to only four from Lion – a recognition, I guess, of the stronger quality of the much younger title. Eterno, Black Max, Phil the Fluter and Fury’s Family are all extremely good stories with excellent artwork, and Steel Commando, while not a favourite of mine, seems to have become a reader’s favourite in Lion, lasting through the comic’s eventual takeover by Valiant three years later. The Jet-skaters (this week experiencing what today would be called ‘stranger danger’) and a new Doctor Stranger adventure, The Jigsaw Journey, complete the Thunder contingent. Lion’s four surviving strips are a mixed lot. The Spellbinder was a strong, imaginative, timey-wimey strip, and humour strip Mowser was always good value thanks to the excellent work of Reg Parlett. However, Carson’s Cubs and Zip Nolan (which I think is reprint material) are tough going for modern eyes – examples of the crowded pages of small panels and heavy text which were becoming yesterday’s style even in 1971.
I found the advertisements in this comic as fascinating as the stories. Alongside ads for Airfix, Dinky, the Royal Marines and Clarks Commandos (a full-page comic strip drawn by Tom Kerr), there are a remarkable couple of promotional competitions. Eldon Toys offered readers the chance to spend a week – a whole week – with round-the-world sailor Sir Alec Rose, who clearly hadn’t had much luck booking himself a summer holiday. And then there was the opportunity to ‘Fulfil your Ambition’ with the Great Project Club competition. The prize, subject to answering a handful of multiple-choice questions and buying the Project Club Kit for 95p (or only 80p plus six pints from your milkman), was the quite astonishing ‘We will pay for you to fulfil your greatest ambition (up to the price of £100)’!! This might be, the ad suggested, to fly in a ‘Jumbo’, kick a penalty at an international goalkeeper, learn to ride a horse or go to a recording session and meet a famous pop star. Given that this competition was open to anybody under the age of 18, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the requests were on the seedier side.