Thursday, August 03, 2017

It was a HOOT (1985)

In 1985 IPC were still developing Oink! (which had begun its genesis in 1984). The finished product wouldn't appear until May 1986 but in the meantime, D.C. Thomson launched Hoot No.1 in October 1985. 

It was probably just coincidence but I've often wondered if Thomsons had gotten wind of IPC's plans and had decided to beat them to it with their own wild, cheeky comic. Admittedly, the differences between Hoot and Oink! are like chalk and cheese but Hoot definitely had a more robust edge to its companion comics so there are similarities. Perhaps it was just coincidence and the mood of the times had inspired it, but Hoot did feature a pig hero in Piggles so I dunno. Rivalry between Thomsons and IPC was quite fierce in those days.

The similarities are minimal though, and Hoot deserves credit for its own achievements. It was certainly a very energetic comic, and using Barrie Appleby as cover artist helped in that regard. The cover strip was Cuddles, the naughty baby causing havoc for his poor parents. Later, when Hoot merged into The Dandy, Cuddles would join up with a neighbour; that comic's naughty baby Dimples, and the strip became Cuddles and Dimples. Later, the concept was tweaked and they became brothers, with one set of parents never mentioned again. 

Hoot was a very slim comic for its time; just 16 pages, and costing 20p. Of those 16 pages, 8 were in full colour, 4 in red spot colour, and 4 in black and white. Slapstick and sound effects abounded in the comic. This was a wilder, noisier, less restrained comic than The Beano of that era.

On page 2 every week was a full page illustration by Ken Harrison featuring The Hoot Squad, a modern-day Casey Court, with kids running riot in a different situation every issue. These pages deserve collecting into a book, although subsequent weeks might raise a few eyebrows these days with the boys cheekily admiring mini-skirted teachers.

Hoot made up for being a slim comic by packing in shorter strips to give value, such as this page of mini-strips drawn by George Martin featuring characters from other comics.

The centrespread of Hoot featured Dogsbody, by John Geering, featuring a boy who transformed into a dog.

David Mostyn was quite prolific in humour comics of the 1980s and his work was always a pleasure to see. For Hoot he drew Snackula...


The comic rounded off with Spotted Dick, a kid who seemed permanently stuck in hospital due to being "very spotty". Another opportunity for Barrie Mitchell to illustrate his traditional chaotic scenes to great effect.

Hoot ran for just one year before merging into The Dandy. A shame, as it deserved to last longer, but the 1980s were tough times for British comics. The boom period of the traditional weekly comic had definitely started to decline by then, and the rise of licensed comics and changing frequencies had begun. 

7 comments:

James Spiring said...

It's worth noting that The Hoot Squad got another outing two decades later, as The Riot Squad in The Beano.

And Cuddles was originally from the then-recently-ended Nutty.

Malcolm Kirk said...

I remember there was a telly advert for this.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, all new comics (and free gift issues) were advertised on TV in those days. Sadly it later proved to be uneconomical apparently so they stopped doing it. Oink! was the first IPC comic NOT to be advertised on TV, which didn't help.

Rabsmith said...

This was Thomsons last hurrah/ brand new comic as we all know Lew---there was good stuff in there but it was a poor value comic in my view---only 20 pages

Applebys work was the highlight for me, along with Harrison he was one of the very few cartoonists who excelled at drawing attractive young women, a very tough subject as you surely know----Great log, keep it up Rab Smith

Lew Stringer said...

I don't remember how much other Thomson comics were at the time, but, yes, Hoot's slim 16 pages may have done it no favours. It wasn't a good time for comics in general though; sales were declining all round, except for Viz, for that was read by a different age group of course.

James Spiring said...

Beano and Dandy were 20 pages for 14p in 1985, and Beezer and Topper were 24 pages for 20p. Both of those do sound like better value than Hoot's 16 pages for 20p...

Lew Stringer said...

Hoot did have more pages in colour though, but I suppose readers went by the page count.

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