‘Smash!’ was the most successful of the five ‘Power Comics’ published in Britain in the 1960s by Odhams Press, a division of IPC. Targeted at boys aged 10 to 14, it was published from 1966 to 1971. This article is part of an analysis of the causes and consequences of the comic’s relaunch in 1969; a case-study of the economic pressures affecting the UK publishing industry in that period.
Merger with Valiant
In mid-November 1970, production on Smash (and many other IPC titles, including Valiant) came to a halt due to a printers’ strike, and no editions were produced for the following three months. By the time the strike was settled, in February of the following year, irreparable damage had been done to the comic’s circulation, as its young readers had turned elsewhere in the intervening 12 weeks. Similar harm had been suffered by Valiant. In consequence of this latest financial disaster, after eight issues, in April 1971, the two titles were merged. For a brief time the merged comic was entitled Valiant and Smash, before reverting to simply Valiant.
Some of the strips from Smash survived in the new comic, including His Sporting Lordship, Janus Stark and The Swots and the Blots, but most were lost, although the Smash Annual continued to appear for many years afterwards (continuing, in fact, until the 1976 Annual, published in the autumn of 1975). Most of the strips thereby continued to appear each year, including many which had not even survived into Valiant, long after Smash had ceased publication as a comic.
The sports themed His Sporting Lordship had enjoyed perhaps the greatest popularity, surviving the shake-ups of 1969 and 1970, and then surviving even the merger with Valiant, though it was to last only a few months in its new home, finally ending in December 1971. However, it was revived in the 1972 Smash Annual, published at Christmas 1971, and returned year after year: becoming the regular cover feature of the Annuals.
Despite all of the changes, the new Smash had lasted only two years. Maybe it was only marginally profitable, but no title could have survived such a lengthy loss of production. Its demise was directly attributable to the strike.
Smash was the last attempt in the UK market to publish a general boys comic, mixing adventure, sports and humour strips. Subsequent comics would survive only by ruthlessly focusing on narrow, sectional interests: such as all-sports, all-war, or all-humour; just as the American market had already specialised into all-funnies, all-horror, and all-superhero titles. The writing was on the wall for non-niche comics in the UK, for, in the face of the competition from television, even IPC’s flagship, Valiant, ultimately could not survive.