If you've been following my series of posts entitled Whizzer and Chips - The Cheeky Raids, you'll be aware that Whizzer and Chips was from the outset designed to have the appearance of two comics in one. The editor encouraged a friendly rivalry between those readers who favoured the contents of Chips and those whose tastes tended toward the strips comprising Whizzer. Readers were invited to separate the Chips section from Whizzer, though I doubt many who read it actually went to the trouble of extricating one 'comic' from the other. But the strategy of setting Whizz-kid against Chip-ite, fuelled on the letters pages of the respective 'titles' by Sid (Whizz-kid leader) and Shiner (Chips' supremo), was not without its risks. If readers took things a bit too literally it could result in them ripping out and discarding unread whichever section they found offensive. If their weekly W&C was parentally funded, such action could result in a "Well, if you're going to throw half the comic away I won't buy it for you any more" scenario.
To combat this, a clever ruse was instigated early in the comic's run. In each issue, a character from the Whizzer section would appear somewhere within Chips, and vice-versa. Readers were encouraged to locate and obliterate the interloper from the rival section, but they would also be keen to find the character from the section they supported who was appearing within the pages of the 'rival comic'. Thus even the most resolute Chip-ite or fervent Whizz-Kid could be persuaded to peruse, and surreptitiously enjoy at least part of, the less-favoured portion of the publication, ostensibly to locate and cheer on their intrepid invader.
Whizzer and Chips dated 28 May 1988 makes it evident that the pitting of Chip-ite against Whizz-kid had another drawback.
Gauging the popularity of the individual strips was clearly vital to maintaining healthy circulation figures, but unlike today's interactive world, there was no easy way to garner feedback from those who made up the comic's audience. I was surprised when I read Terry Bave's autobiography to find the amount of audience research that Terry and his wife Shiela undertook before launching a new strip. I have no idea how common it was for those in the comic business to obtain feedback from school children in the way Terry describes, but I'm guessing it was not a regular occurrence. What was a common sight in comics of the time was the 'let us know which are your 3/5/10 favourite strips' coupons which readers were regularly invited to complete and post back the the editor. By the time of this issue it would appear that concern was beginning to arise in the office that readers may be allowing their devotion to one or other parts of the comic to colour their coupon responses. Thus for this issue Sid and Shiner adopted an uncharacteristically conciliatory tone, to try and encourage an honest appraisal from readers of the comic's most popular content.
Fortunately, the accord displayed on Sid and Shiner's pages didn't extend to that week's strips...
|Art: Terry Bave|
The regular rivalry resumed in the following issue.