This makes me feel old. Andy Capp’s lad Buster is sixty years old this week. It’s no secret that Capp’s creator Reg Smythe detested the little tyke. He resented Fleetway launching a weekly comic trading on his layabout Northerner. Buster’s parentage became obscured when IPC/Fleetway parted company with the Daily Mirror Group. That’s been an on-off affair over the years.
So I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw this Andy Capp strip earlier today. Smythe would no doubt be spinning in his grave and it may well be the first time that the parent strip has acknowledged its unruly offspring.
Buster hit the UK shelves weekending May 28th, 1960 with a large page format, not quite tabloid. Billed as “Son of Andy Capp” its cover star had the same taste in headwear and began a series of scrapes and high-jinks that would carry on for 40 years. Although known as a humour title, if you pick up an early copy, there is a distinct leaning towards adventure strips, some surprisingly hard-boiled. Maxwell Hawke was a popular yarn, though ultimately another Maxwell wouldn’t prove so good for the title.
The comic quickly became one of Fleetway’s big guns, one of their “Five-star” titles. It hoovered sup some older titles, like Radio Fun and Film Fun. Over the decades, Buster would absorb 12 other weeklies. This kind of merger is how it picked up the never ending battles of a certain Kryptonian.
Personally, it was the adventure strips that drew me to Buster. They had The Amazing Adventures of Charlie Peace, a lovable rogue, far removed from the murderous tendencies of his real-life Victorian namesake. Pickpocket Charlie even got teleported from Victorian London to Sixties London.
Timid beastie Galaxus was on the run with a couple of teenagers. The alien was most likely the most powerful creature eve if it hadn’t been for a crippling fear.
John Stokes, who would later draw the Black Knight for Marvel and ink The Invisibles et al for DC, drew Fishboy: Denzin of the Deep, an amphibian youngster on a quest to find his parents. He would go on to draw the acclaimed Marney the Fox and The Silver Sword-inspired The War Children.
Buster also featured Pete’s Pocket Army and The Leopard From Lime Street. Over the years, the adventure features declined. The humour strips ruled, the paper improved but in the Nineties but Buster dropped from weekly to fortnightly to monthly. Original material ceased and the comic breathed its last as 2000 began. It was the last man standing so far as the Fleetway humour titles were concerned.
Some of the humour characters live again in Rebellion’s Cor!!Buster Specials, so who knows they may yet make a return.. They’ve also collected volumes of The Leopard of Lime Street, Face Ache and Sweeny Toddler. And, of course, Marney the Fox.
Happy birthday, Buster!!