It also got me to thinking about Bullet and what it meant to me and so here we have the first (and maybe the last, who knows?) “Nostalgic for my childhood” blog-post (and I realise it could be argued that a lot of posts here could be safely collected under that title).
Launched on 7th February 1976 by D.C. Thomson, Bullet was their attempt to produce a tougher, more hard hitting comic to appeal to older boys. Priced at 7p, it focused on action and adventure, revenge and sci-fi and - those old staples - war and sport and apparently remained a popular title throughout its publication life. It’s worth noting that IPC launched Action the same weekend and against the standard set by that comic (the ‘seven penny nightmare’, as it was dubbed), Bullet was relatively tame.
There were plenty of other strips, obviously and some of the main ones included:
Twisty, which featured Twisty Lunnon, a footballer with an attitude and the ability to bend the ball with incredible accuracy (he had a crooked left foot, caused by a car crash).
Smasher concerned a virtually indestructible 50-foot robot that destroyed cities, controlled by Dr Doom (not the one from The Fantastic Four), an evil genius who planned world domination.
Midge (my favourite, after Fireball) was about sixteen-year-old ‘Midge’ Miller, who worked for Callaghan’s the builders. A 7-stone weakling, he was bullied by his macho workmates but took a bodybuilding course at the S.W.I.S.H. (the Shipyard Workers Indoor Sports Hall) and by the end of the story had became a force to be reckoned with.
A Tale of Terror from Solomon Knight featured a different scary story every week. Knight introduced them and sometimes explained the tale at the end, but sometimes left disturbing aspects open to the readers imagination.
Hitman, featuring our anti-hero after some prime targets. This was the first strip that introduced me to the wonderful artwork of Denis McLoughlin (who also produced some of the covers).
Three Men In A Jeep was set in Northern France during 1944. Our three heroes had escaped from a military prison (pre-dating “The A Team” somewhat), stolen a Jeep and started fighting their own war, killing ‘Huns’, blowing stuff up and generally causing mayhem.
The Mice Of Tobruk featured a bunch of kids stuck behind German lines in Tobruk during World War 2.
Ginger featured Tim Brady, a fugitive on the run from his bullying stepfather who had attempted to drown Ginger, his greyhound.
Vic's Vengeance, wherein Vic Mason cut a swathe through London’s ganglands as he sought revenge against his father's murderers.
The strip art was generally very good (as was often the case for 70s Brit comics) with Barrie Mitchell working on Twisty, Tony Harding on Wonder Mann and Horacio Altuna on Fireball, whilst the excellent Ian Kennedy produced Smasher.
Profiles and fact-files on footballers and other sportsmen and cars were also scattered throughout (Malcolm MacDonald featured heavily in the only Summer Special Bullet published, in 1977).
As often happened with comics back in the day, Bullet was absorbed into Warlord in December 1978 and although I carried on with it for a while, I lost interest fairly quickly. Warlord, which began life on 28th September 1974, was itself absorbed into Victor on 27th September 1986, though ‘summer specials’ appeared until 1990.
A key aspect of the comic was the Fireball Club and I was a keen and eager member of this. For the princely sum of 25p (postal orders only, please), you got the Fireball story (as mentioned above) enclosed in a red plastic wallet, an ID card and the Fireball ‘Flaming F’ pendant (which was very, very cool). Fireball was never seen without his and it saved his life on one occasion, shielding him from a long range sniper’s bullet. The Fireball story also served as a key for decoding Top Secret messages in the comic.
I loved Bullet at the time and treasured my pendant, though it has long since been lost to the sands of time. I did pick up a few copies of the comic through eBay (where they are sold for considerably more than their 7p cover price) and it was a really nice, nostalgic blast reading through them (and I was amazed at how much of the artwork I could remember). I have noticed that certain comics lines are having old strips re-published in large format editions and I’d love to see something similar happen for Bullet.
Me and my sister Tracy, pictured in 1977. I'm proudly wearing my pendant!
(thanks to The Yellowed Pages, 26Pigs.com, The Sevenpenny Nightmare, Comicvine and Downthetubes for their brilliantly nostalgic and well-researched sites - all are great resources for kids of the 60s/70s/80s)
2016 update - lovely 40th anniversary post over at Downthetubes from Colin Noble