So I’ve talked before about The Beano and its video adaptations, and talking about it made me realise that DC Thomson isn’t exactly the best when it comes to kids’ comics. In fact, while I did like The Beano when I was a kid, I preferred old Fleetway comics I found at jumble sales and the like. They had many of the same flaws The Beano had – bad puns, wooden dialogue – but somehow seemed a lot more fun. Fleetway comics – like Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee and Shiver and Shake – were anthology comics like The Beano, but their stories had more than just misbehaving children. Sure there were one or two naughty kids, but there was also a lot of stories about ghosts and monsters, and I’d rather read about those than some brat throwing tomatoes at people.
Fleetway published a lot of comics revolving around the supernatural, most of them in the Shiver portion of the Shiver and Shake comic, and a lot of them were utterly batshit insane too. So here are some of the weirdest, spookiest strips to ever come out of Fleetway:
Yes, one of the comics was an attempt to do a horror parody of the popular soap Coronation Street. Seems a bit odd in this day and age when recent Corrie episodes have involved murder, rape and explosions, but this strip didn’t really have that much to do with the soap. It was less about working class England and more about a quartet of wacky monsters getting into wacky mishaps.
Who were these monsters? Well, we had Herr Raisin, a tubby Dracula-wannabe who you can tell was a vampire because of how he kept saying “ze” instead of “the”. Really, I’m not sure which type of vampire I’m more tired of; the prissy, romantic type or the type who have over-the-top Romanian or sometimes German accents just because they’re vampires. There was also a mummy, a headless ghost, and Hoodoo Yoodoo, a voodoo magician in the vein of Mumbo Jumbo from Banjo Kazooie.; he actually used pixie magic that involved zapping magic beams rather than raise zombies or whatever. What’s odd about him is that he’s this stereotype with a grass skirt and a tribal mask, but he never took his mask off, and his mask changed expression with him. It was like the mask was his head. So what was he then? He looked human, but that mask-head means he can’t be. Maybe he was some alien whose only exposure to Earth culture was Ruyard Kipling books.
Scream Inn/Spooktacular Seven
And would you believe that Fleetway did another strip focussing around a group of monsters, one that went through two different iterations?
In Scream Inn, the titular inn ran a competition challenging people to stay the night so they could win a million quid. Every strip had a different guest come to the inn, and every strip, those guests would fail. What was neat about this was that the comic invited the readers to send in suggestions as to who should stay at the inn, every successful reader receiving £1 in return. It’s a bit of shame this comic isn’t more well-known, because I can imagine it being fuel for crossover fanfic. Walter White stays at Scream Inn! Batman stays at Scream Inn! Twilight Sparkle stays at Scream Inn! Walter and Batman and Twilight stay at Scream Inn and have wild sex in the bedroom while the staff looks on!
The staff were the main characters, and they were all, of course, the undead, trying to scare the guests so they wouldn’t stay the whole night. The innkeeper was some sort of vampire goblin, the cook was a witch, and we had two ghosts; one in the bedsheet variety and another headless cavalier. They even had the freaking devil there. Horns, trident, goat legs, everything. You know a comic’s good when the Prince of Darkness is one of the loveable heroes.
But wait, it gets stranger. The comic spawned a spin-off, The Spooktacular 7. The Innkeeper watches The Magnificent Seven on telly one time and then suddenly decides to be a secret agent. He then asks the rest of the ghosts, ‘Hey, wanna be secret agents?’ and they say ‘Sure.’ Thus we have plots like the Innkeeper and his crew trying to stop Dracula’s granddaughter and a group of witches from turning the world’s population into frogs. Well, it’s certainly a different approach.
Gook the TV Spook
We’ve looked at two strips featuring an array of ghoulish creatures, but a lot of these comics just revolved around one ghost. A single ghost, bedsheet wearing or otherwise, going about its afterlife. The strangest of them all was Gook the TV Spook.
Gook not only looked like he had a rubber glove growing out of his skull, he had the power to enter TV shows and mess around with them. For example, that thing up there. A talk show has three people who are afraid of nothing, so Gook tries to scare them. And would you look at who they chose as people who are afraid of nothing? A superhero I can understand, even if he looks more like a football hooligan, but Dracula? Frankenstein’s monster? And why is he called Flinkenstein’s monster when Dracula stays the same (then again, the same annual has a story with a villain called “Dr. Strangehate”)? Anyway, Dracula is scared of stakes and Frankenstein’s monster is afraid of fire any kid knows that? And why would you have the most evil vampire of them all on your show anyway? That’s just asking for trouble.
Gook humiliates the trio – he scares Flinky with a mouse, shows Zipperman is wearing a wig and Dracula has false fangs – and that thing happens, and Gook is scared even though he’s already dead. If he’s scared of a vampire with false fangs, I’d hate to see him invade American Horror Story.
The last comic had Flinkenstein’s monster, so here’s Frankie Stein! Fun fact: googling his name brings up Monster High crap.
Frankie Stein was one of the more prominent characters of these here comics, the classical goofy bumbling Frankenstein’s monster you see in all monster-themed cartoons. He was built by one Professor Cube – if his surname is Cube, why is Frankie’s surname Stein – as a friend for his son. Strangely, Cube’s son vanished from the strips after a while, and thus the stories’ focus was on Cube trying to get rid of Frankie.
Okay, the original novel did have Frankenstein try to kill his creation, but the monster had killed Frankenstein’s brother and wife, and the monster ended up committing suicide anyway. Frankie Stein causes no intentional harm and is a jolly, happy sort – and everyone else treated him as if he was a fellow human, too – so having Cube try to kill Frankie in every strip is a bit uncomfortable. You want to be free from Frankie, Cube? Well, no bother, once they hear you’ve been trying to murder your son, they’ll take him to a foster home and lock you away. The problem solves itself.
Though I’m not really sure whether he really counts as a “child” or not. One of his earlier comics had him go to school, but another has Cube getting Frankie a job at the quarry. If Frankie is more or less an adult, I guess you have more sympathy for Cube, but not much given that in the latter story, Cube plans to trap Frankie in a cave as punishment for eating a lot.
Frankie wasn’t actually originally from Fleetway though. His first appearance was in a comic published by Odham, which was then bought up by Fleetway. Speaking of comic companies…
The Shiver Givers
What’s better than a comic? How about a comic about the editorial offices of a comic! Yes, the Shiver portion of the Shiver and Shake comic had a story about the offices of the comic book, with characters from the book’s various strips working there? So…the comic strips are written and drawn by the characters themselves then? Or is it like Roger Rabbit (the book, not the movie) where they’re photographed and when they talk speech balloons appear above their heads?
That aside, the Shiver offices, or at least the fictionalised version presented here, sound like an awesome place to work. I mean, not only would you be working with an army of the damned, your boss would be a horned version of the Cryptkeeper, and Satan would be in the boiler room.
Thanks to http://kazoop.blogspot.co.uk/ for some of the pics