The Cor!! Buster Humour Special
Lizzie Boyle, Robin Etherington, The Feek, John Freeman, Paul Goodenough, Ned Hartley, Lee Langford, Gráinne McEntee, Cavan Scott, Matt Smith, Karl Stock, Alec Worley (writers), Sammy Borras, Abigail Bulmer, Mick Cassidy, Andy W. Clift, David Follett, Neil Googe, Mike Hoffman, Steve Mannion, Pye Parr, Tom Paterson, Tanya Roberts, Lew Stringer, Tiernen Trevallion, Edward Whatley (artists), Simon Bowland, Seymore Close, Karl DeCoy, A. Mann, Moe Money, Leila O’Millar, Telford Porter, Ozvaldo Sanchez, Jr. Senior (letterers), Keith Richardson (editor)
April 17, 2019
Having already returned vintage horror comics Scream! and Misty to British magazine shelves, Rebellion has dipped once more into the IPC back-catalogue to create The Cor!! Buster Humour Special.
For generations of British children, humorous comic anthologies—often focusing on naughty schoolkids pranking teachers and overcoming bullies—were a staple form of entertainment. Buster was a stalwart of the genre, running from 1960 to 2000. As its sister comics were cancelled they often merged into Buster, taking their best-loved characters with them. Calling this revival The Cor!! Buster Humour Special is underselling it somewhat, as Cor!! was but one of many redoubtable titles to be absorbed by Buster: the latter comic also inherited DNA from the horror spoof Monster Fun and the notoriously offbeat Oink, amongst others.
The special contains a total of fifteen strips. The most thorough probings of memory lane are the tales of Sweeny Toddler and Grimly Feendish, both of which are drawn by Tom Paterson, a veteran cartoonist and stylistic heir to the legendary Leo Baxendale who created the two characters. Sweeny Toddler is a baby with a seriously deranged streak, while Grimly Feendish is a weird supervillain whose plans never work out. The two strips share an off-the-wall sense of humour that will bring back fond memories for anyone who followed the characters’ past exploits.
Similarly nostalgic is “Who’s In Charge?” written by John Freeman and drawn by Lew Stringer. This strip unites the mascots of various defunct comics, not just Buster and Cor!! but also Cheeky Weekly, Shiver and Shake, Whizzer and Chips, and more titles that will either provoke warm feelings of remembrance or sound like jumbles of random syllables, depending on whether or not you read this stuff as a kid. The creators’ appreciation for British comics history shines through: it is not often that you see Victorian characters Weary Willie and Tired Tim popping up for a sight gag.
Outside of these three strips, the old IPC characters have been given makeovers by a newer generation of cartoonists. “Deadly Hedley: Vampire Detective,” originally another Leo Baxendale-esque strip (it was in fact drawn by his son, Martin Baxendale), receives an overhaul courtesy of artist Neil Googe. Despite the change in drawing style, the script by Paul Goodenough lovingly recreates the groan-inducing wordplay of the original: “It’s my twenty-fifth birthday card from auntie!” “Your auntie got you twenty-five birthday cards?”
Artist Steve Mannion and writer Ned Hartley provide a crossover between “Face Ache: The Boy with a Thousand Faces” and “Martha’s Monster Make-Up,” two classic Ken Reid strips about children with powers of grotesque facial distortion. Mannion’s cartooning is very different to Reid’s distinctive style, but the comically repulsive spirit of the originals is still present. Another Ken Reid character raised from the dead is Frankie Stein, who nearly causes a zombie apocalypse in a strip written by Cavan Scott and drawn by Mike Hoffman.
Elsewhere, Alec Worley, and Tiernan Trevallion recreate Kid Kong, a good-natured but extremely clumsy big ape; Lizzie Boyle and Abigail Bulmer return toothless shark Gums to the sea; and Mick Cassidy and The Feek are now in charge of “Hire a Horror,” the strip about a company that supplies hideous creatures to any client who needs to give someone a scare.
As the above selection indicates, monsters are a recurring theme in the comic. Buster did, after all, inherit the cast of Monster Fun. But the special also makes full use of the true bread-and-butter of British kids’ comics: the exploits of cheeky children, often with oddball abilities.
“X-Ray Specs,” written by Grainne McEntee and drawn by Sammy Borras, has a boy who can see through walls. “Ivor Lott and Tony Broke with Milly O’Naire and Penny Less,” written by Matt Smith and drawn by Tanya Roberts, revives a decades-old class war as a pair of young one-percenters pick on less affluent neighbours. Robin Etherington and David Follett revive Hit Kid, a young assassin who takes out bullies (using comically non-lethal methods, of course). Disappearing Trix, a girl who can turn invisible, is pitted against a similarly transparent monster by writer Karl Stock and artist Andy W. Clift, the latter of whom gives her a very slick modern redesign that would suit the cover of a modern YA book.
One of the least likable characters in the IPC stable was Fuss Pot, a pointy-nosed little girl who always found something to complain about, making her insufferable to her parents and to many a reader. So noxious is this character that her 2019 revival recasts her as the antagonist in a superhero parody “Captain Crucial vs Fuss Pot,” written by Lee Langford and drawn by Edward Whatley.
The special even introduces an all-new set of characters, albeit ones who would have fit right in at Oink, one of the weirder comics in the IPC library. Written by The Feek and drawn by Pye Parr, “Swines of Anarchy” stars a porcine biker gang who are tricked by a rival outfit into practicing cannibalism.
As well as the stylistic overhauls, the strips contain a smattering of modern references. Ivor Lott’s mansion now has an Alexa stand-in; Gums tangles with Shippy McShipface; Fuss Pot has her own hashtag campaign; and Face Ache is mistaken for Simon Cowell while performing in a mobile phone movie. But the essential spirit of the comics remains intact: there is nothing as drastic as the recent grimdark re-interpretations of Archie or Hanna-Barbera on offer here, and the writers are content to follow basic formulae that date back to the 1960s, if not earlier.
Visit a UK newsagent today, and you will find scant few survivors from the glory days of British kids’ humour comics: The Beano and the adult-oriented parody Viz are the only regularly-published examples. But with The Cor!! Buster Humour Special, a bevy of characters from long-cancelled titles have made their comeback. Those who remember the originals should appreciate the nostalgia trip, and, perhaps, the revival will pick up a few younger fans as well.