The lead strip was Arena, where a corrupt 21st Century government treated those who spoke against it as criminals and sentenced them to fights to the death in an arena. The next story featured Bearpaw Jay, a bounty hunter known as The Mantracker who was not averse to bending the rules to get his man. I loved this strip, which was violent, well paced, occasionally amusing and often brutal (in that first strip, an innocent bystander got shot in the guts by a bank robber, which wasn’t something you saw every day), all beautifully drawn by Alberto Salinas. The Kyser Experiment was a bit tamer, where Dr Kyser performed experiments on a football team to try and make them unbeatable. The Walking Bombs (they kind of did what you expected them to) opened with military leaders being blown up by a nuclear explosion, which set the scene perfectly (and featured cracking artwork from the always dependable Denis McLoughlin). I was never a fan of Hitler Lives! and I now can’t tell if that’s because the storyline didn’t interest me (which is likely) or the artwork of Patrick Wright left me cold. Who Killed Cassidy, featuring a conspiracy around the assassination of American president Jack Cassidy, rounded out the issue.
Starhawk site was “not only the first female action heroine in a boys comic but also black, which was groundbreaking stuff for the time”. Ebony, an agent of the British Special Mission Squad, had been created by Bill Graham for a new girls comic which never happened but the character was "was too good to waste, so I brought her into The Crunch."
|Top - The Crunch mission statement. And yes, the badge in issue 3 was a skull on a big pin (can you imagine the fun if they tried that today?)
bottom left - Andy working on his letters page - bottom right - the first issues sticker selection
|Two of the "hero galleries" - Starhawk from issue 39 and The Hit Man from issue 46
Unfortunately, as often happened, there weren’t enough fans like me at the time and Crunch ended with issue 54 (cover dated 26th January 1980). It merged with Hotspur on 2nd February 1980 (their issue 1059) and while I hung on for a while, the older comic was too tame and most of my strips quickly disappeared. There were never any annuals or summer specials, though some characters appeared in the 1983 Hotspur annual. Sadly, The Crunch now seems almost forgotten today.
|Ebony leads the charge at the end of the line...
|One of the banes of my childhood life, as a much-loved comic gets absorbed into another...
I have very fond memories of the comic, the characters and the great cover art and the stories still stand up really well, making for a thoroughly entertaining read.
Happy 40th, The Crunch - you certainly entertained this "boy of today"!
Lew Stringer’s “When It Came To The Crunch”
UK Comics Wiki
The Starhawk Crunch site
Down The Tubes interview with Bill Graham