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Friday 15 November 2013

The Numskull's Early Years

Sean Wilkie writes:

Rude of me to ask, as I was a Topper boy myself, but I’m very keen to see some of Malcolm Judge’s earliest work on the Numskulls.  This is for love, but also possibly for research, as I am a philosopher with an interest in models of how the mind works.  Are there any sympathetic Beezer fans who would be willing to email me photo files of any Numskulls strips from the 1960s, particularly 1962, 1963 or 1964?  Anyone who assists me will receive acknowledgement and thanks if any written work comes out of it,  

Very many thanks if you can in any way help,


The Numskulls, drawn by the excellent Mal Judge ran from 17.03.1962 and I do actually have a Numskull strip from the first year (18th August 1962). The layout of the strip is most interesting; see the way it runs at right angle along the top and bottom of the page around the Ginger strip.
If anyone out there has any more strips of the Numskulls that could be passed on to Sean please email Simon

Saturday 1 June 2013

The Kings of Castaway Island

Jules Carr writes:
I have just discovered your excellent Beezer webpages, as I have a couple of Beezers from 1958, numbers 29 and 31 from August of that year. I was researching The Kings of Castaway Island to see if I could find any more of these fascinating (albeit improbable...but that is the joy of comics...) stories.
I found that you had a reference to the Bushwhacker, and that you had been advised by another reader that the story began in 1960. Well, there is definitely a Bushwhacker in these two comics, featuring Slim Silver, his young brother and sister, Bob and Tess, a journey across the trackless outback of Australia, with Karamee, an Aborigine friend, and Ted Blake, a jet pilot. Their adventures are highly improbable, but very exciting and entertaining!
I would like to read more.... and of The Kings of  Castaway Island!
 Yup you were right, The Bushwhacker did appear earlier. There were three series between 1956- 1961 and the last series ran from 24.09.60. 
I remember Kings of Castaway Island well as it was reprinted from 1967-1969 which is when I first started reading the Beezer.

It was illustrated by James Walker and it originally ran in three series between 21.4.1956-4.1.1964

 The story was about the King family who were marooned on a mysterious island off the African coast when their plane crashed. Set during World War II the island was eventually invaded by Japanese soldiers. The depiction of the Japanese was incredibly racist – bright yellow skins with slit eyes.
The story had the most ridiculous storylines. In one episode the King family actually managed to make a walking, talking life sized robot from the remains of the plane.
What I really remember about this series is that it was one of a few that actually reached a conclusion. They were rescued in the last episode (issue 6.12.69). Sadly this is one of the few issues from 1969 that I don’t possess though I’m always looking out for it on ebay.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The Bushwhacker


Following on from his article about 'The Spacewhacker' Bob Lennox from Glasgow writes to tell us about a series that preceded this called 'The Bushwhacker' which ran from September 1960 to June 1961 and was illustrated by Terry Patrick. Bob also sent me these beautiful scans:

Familiar with the Spacewhacker series on the back page of the Beezer, I was surprised to learn that this series had evolved from an earlier concept titled Bushwhacker, which I had seen in an older  Beezer annual.   The original Bushwhacker looked like a small yacht, but had four wheels, and could travel at speed over a variety of terrains.  It was set in the Australian bush, and featured the same characters as Spacewhacker, the Silver family:-  two brothers Slim and Bob, and their sister Tess.
What I did not appreciate was an intermediate vehicle, the Bushwhacker II, which grew from the original series, but was more advanced and ambitious, opening up adventures in other countries and settings, based on a race round the world with another  vehicle.  Once this series had run its course, it would have been a logical progression into outer space, thus producing the Spacewhacker series.
By sheer luck, a copy of the Beezer turned up on eBay, which featured the first of the new series of Bushwhacker II and its launch, illustrated here.  Lets hope that subsequent  editions turn up that enable us to fill in the blanks in this fascinating series.

Monday 24 September 2012

The Spacewhacker

Bob Lennox from Glasgow writes about his memories of 'The Spacewhacker' - a Beezer back page Sci-Fi serial:

Kids of today seem to have all kinds of media literally at their fingertips. In my youth, it could seem a long wait before you could get your hands on the latest weekly edition to see how your favourite comic characters had fared in their cliffhanger adventures.
I was a Beezer fan, and I had gratefully accepted my grandmother’s offer to buy it on a weekly basis and bring it with her when she visited, each Wednesday.  It seemed a good idea at the time, however, my local shop round the corner from our school took delivery of it on a Monday.  I had become involved with Spacewhacker, a science fiction strip on the back page, and my overwhelming desire to  sneak a view of that all-important series inevitably led me to the shop in my school lunch hour.
“Shepherds” was a large store with a newsagent section near the door.  I soon learned that, if you sidled in with some other customers, by the time they were being served, you could have located the colourful mag and skilfully prised it forward against the elastic steel spring, and by cocking your head, you could quickly read the top half of the back page (or at least get the gist of the storyline from the pictures) before you were discovered, and without actually removing the comic from the stand.  On at least one occasion I managed to read the entire page before being questioned.  Unfortunately  it didn’t take long before my “game” was discovered.  Pocket money was scarce, and I couldn’t justify buying a copy, knowing granny would bring it later in the week.  Eventually, she changed her routine, didn’t order it for me any more, and I was able to buy it on first sight on a Monday morning. Such a relief.


Science fiction had not yet hit television, and our only source was the ABC minors Saturday morning cinema, with some rather corny serials whose visual effects seemed amateurish even to a seven year-old.  However, Spacewhacker seemed a more realistic proposition altogether.  The artwork was simple but effective and somehow credible.

The Purple Planet, the location for the strip, featured landscapes and detailed vegetation that you could believe in. The main characters, Slim, Bob and Tess, were part of an Australian family who were on an expedition to explore the planet  in the “Spacewhacker”, a vehicle that looked like a giant red milk float. Bob and Tess were portrayed as able and plucky teenagers, and  obviously brother and sister, but I was never quite sure if the youthful but grey-haired Slim  was an older brother or their father.

The “Whacker” as it was often referred to, was driven by electricity and had two means of propulsion – on eight steerable rubber rollers  on flat terrain, or could walk on extended stilts on more difficult landscapes.  It could also operate under water, but needed time to close its air ports. They got into deep trouble on one occasion when, outrunning some enemy, they hit the water before the ports could be closed, rendering the vehicle inoperable for some time, before emergency repairs could be carried out. The external casing could also be electrified, proving useful when hostile natives ensnared it with their nets and proceeded to clamber over the outside. They all received a nasty shock, enabling  the “Whacker” and its crew to escape.
By the time I started reading the Beezer, Spacewhacker  was already well into its series. The crew had picked up a local, called “Charlie Greenskin”, who was a rather thin humanoid with a green skin, an oval shaped head and large ears.  He had a language of his own (Urka urka I believe was one of his phrases, but DC Thomson were enlightened enough to provide us with an English translation.)
One of his characteristics was the ability to glide, using two skin flaps, one under each arm, so that when his arms were outstretched, they formed primitive wings. I actually tried this method, tying my dressing gown to my arms in the same style – it certainly looked the part, but as I found to my cost (and much to the amusement of two friends witnessing the event) I did not become airborne, crashing to the ground having launched myself off  the sideboard.  I consoled myself with the thought that the atmosphere on Purple Planet must have been different........

I was a great dinosaur fan around this time, and was thrilled to note that Purple Planet  played host to several familiar species.  Another useful feature were “flying pumpkins” – a kind of elongated gourd, conveniently sized so that the erstwhile passenger could sit comfortably astride one, leaning back to puncture it at the rear with a knife, releasing its gas, then severing the stalk, allowing the vegetable to take to the air, bearing the rider along with it until it eventually ran out of gas.

However it was the empire of the Ramins that really grabbed my imagination. The first sight of this blue-skinned race was of a guard in Roman-style uniform standing watch over a strange walled and moated city.  When he took off his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow, he revealed an angular face with a sharp pointed nose. His name, if I recall, was Zarco Khan.
The  Ramins were a warlike people, who had captured and enslaved some of Charlie Greenskin’s relatives to work in their plantations, so it was up to our heroes to overthrow this regime and rescue the enslaved greenskins.  The actual details of this adventure now escape me (it was some fifty years ago....) but I remember being quite taken with the drama of it all.
I believe the “Spacewhacker” series had evolved from an earlier strip entitled “Bushwacker”, which involved Slim, Bob and Tess back in Australia, cavorting about on a simpler vehicle which seemed to be a cross between a dinghy-sized yacht and a large skateboard.  If anyone has further recollections of either of these strips, or indeed is willing to sell, share or post here scans that they may have, I would be glad to hear from them.
Bob Lennox
Footnote:The Spacwhacker ran from issue 322(17.03.62) to 422(15.02.64). It was illustrated by Terry Patrick. Further adventures continued in the annuals 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1970

Saturday 16 April 2011


Occasionally 'The Beezer' would crossover into other D.C.Thomson publications. This was hardly surprising as artists didn't draw exclusively for 'The Beezer'. A couple of crossover examples can be seen here. The first example shows 'Oor Wullie' (drawn by Dudley D.Watkins, who also drew 'Ginger') for the 'Sunday Post. Here we see him trying to sell his old Beezer to use as wrapping for fish and chips instead of newspaper - What a sacrilege!

The next image is from the first issue of 'Bunty' (1958). Bill Ritchie (who drew Baby Crockett) has drawn a strip wherein 'Toots' is reading her favorite comic which is, of course, 'The Beezer'

While we're on the subject of 'Bunty' I'd like to take this opportunity in drawing your attention to the 'Bring back Bunty' blog which is a call for a revival in British girl's comics.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Ken Davies from Penmon sent me this E-mail:

Thanks for an excellent site which has brought back many happy memories of my weekly 'Beezer Day' - the day the comic dropped through our letter box. The papers were always late on Beezer Day - I suspect the delivery boy was having a free read - and who could blame him?
Why can't comics like The Beezer still be around? Who could ever forget The Numskulls? These little chaps were way ahead of their time - fantastic idea - little people controlling your every move, controlled from within little compartments in your head? Simple idea but so effective - telescopes behind the eyes, spades used to shovel food down the hatch, and many others.......
Was Colonel Blink a fore-runner of Captain Mainwairing in Dad's Army?
Pop Dick and Harry - the twins - did they eventually drive their father to early grave?
I applaud your comments about 'tripe' - I actually quite enjoyed it - that was when I thought it was a type of fish though - once the truth came out, my 'personal' Numskulls had no more bother with it.
The names just remain in my memory - Baby Crockett, The Badd Lads, Ginger etc. Oh to have those days back again - or at least The Beezer back again. Wish I had the foresight to keep some / all my copies - thanks to your site, however many of these memories have returned.
Keep up the good work

Ken Davies

Ken has his own website with a special nostalgia page on

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Social History through 'The Beezer 3' : The Mangle

The mangle was mechanical laundry aid consisting of two rollers in a sturdy frame, connected by cogs and powered by a hand crank or electrically. It was usually used to wring water from wet laundry.

Throughout the first two decades of the Beezer (the 50’s and 60’s) this was a common place household item and as such the source of numerous comic strip gags.

Here we see Boss of the Badd Lads (Beezer March 1969) instructing a pupil on how to forge notes with the help of ink and an old mangle.

Gradually, the electric washing machine rendered this use of a mangle obsolete, and with it the need to wring clothes mechanically, which no doubt was a relief to Baby Crockett's Mum as she no longer had to worry about him getting caught up in it (from the Beezer Book 1970).

Sunday 7 February 2010

Social History through 'The Beezer' No 2 : Tripe

Our Man from 'The Numskulls' serves himself 'Tripe and Onions' from a canteen in 1968.
Could you get Tripe and Onions from any canteen in Britain these days? I very much doubt it. Definitely food from the past and a dish I would never want to see served before me.I can't remember ever having eaten this stuff though I remember my Mother saying that she gave it to us on at least a couple of occasions.
'What is tripe?' I hear many of you younger readers ask. It's truly revolting stuff: the rubbery lining of the stomach of cattle or other ruminants, white and gooey, the stuff of nightmares.
The Numskulls would have had one hell of a job shovelling this fodder down Our Man's hatch.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Bill Ritchie 1st August 1931 - 25th January 2010

Bill Ritchie, prominent cartoonist with the Beezer, passed away on Monday.

He was born in Glasgow and studied at the Glasow School of Art. He was the comic's longest running cartoonist working with the publication from 1956 - 1990.

While serving in the army in Korea, he submitted his first cartoons to the publisher, which were printed in The Weekly News.

He started working with 'The Beezer' at the young age of twenty four and drew Baby Crockett, Dicky Burd, Smiffy and Hungry Hoss for the comic. He also drew for other D.C Thomson publications, namely: Sparky, Bimbo, Bunty, The Beano and The Weekly News.

He had a wonderful, fluid and totally unique style, drawing with thick jagged lines that showed exuberant confidence. His work was just genuinely sweet.

Reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum, Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin wrote:
"It's with great sadness that I have to pass on the news that Bill Ritchie passed away on Monday of this week. Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan. For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill. His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Social History through 'The Beezer' No 1 : The Recording Booth

1) Ginger and the 'Voice Recording Booth'
Here's a lovely Ginger strip a from a very early Beezer (1956 - its first year) drawn by Dudley Watkins. In this story Ginger has been persistently kicking his football over his neighbour's fence. Aflter one too many scoldings he loses his nerve and has to resort to recording his voice in order to ask for his ball back. We see Ginger going to a recording booth in order to record his message
In the 1950s the only way many people could record their own voice was to use a voice recording machine which actually transferred your voice onto a record.

In those days your recording couldn't last any longer than two minutes and voices were laid down on a six-inch cardboard record that could then be played at home. Alot of real-life recording artists started out this way including a certain young singer called Elvis Presley.
The Voice-O-Graph was the most widley used record recording booth. It was similar to a photo booth and let the patron make an actual 6" record which could be played on any record player.

The International Mutoscope Company manufactured the last recording booth coin-ops in 1968. When portable cassette recorders caught on in the 70’s, the booths started to lose their novelty value. Besides, it was embarrassing when the whole arcade overheard your so-very-unlike-the-King Elvis impression.
Remembering Recording Booths

1957 Multoscope Voice-O-Graph

Production of gramaphone records