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Our Review of The Buster Special
When I first found out that the greatest comic in the world (in my opinion anyway!) was coming back for a one-off special the excitement was immense. As a reader from 1992 through until itís closure ten years ago this month the thought of being reunited with the characters I grew up with provoked nostalgic memories of days gone by and made me feel ridiculously old.
Now, I wasnít naÔve enough to presume that the 1990s Buster that contained mostly cast-offs from the Whizzer & Chips merger would feature heavily in this one-off special. I was kind of hoping for a Best of Buster circa late 1980s, containing the best strips from the late 70s onwards.
So when I saw the front coverís claim of ďgenuine strips from the 1970sĒ I was a little taken aback to see just how far back the comic had been pitched. The 1970s had some great strips (70 to 74 proved the most popular era in the Top 100 poll earlier this year) but how many of the characters in this special would appeal three decades on?
The first thing noticeable as I flicked through the special was the fact it appeared to be a facsimile of editions from the 70s. Unlike a Best of Buster, it seemed this special would display all the strips regardless of how popular they were.
However, on closer inspection a number of Busters have come together, the earliest being circa Dec 1974 and the latest being from July 1976. Itís not all repeats, either. Whilst a number of strips appear more then once, the selection has been spread across these few years to give the feel of a great mix of characters.
The use of Facsimile is also great for those of you who were there first time around, as Egmont have included a couple of nostalgic adverts to really give the feel of the era.
As well as Busterís Diary, popular strips (as voted for in the Top 100 poll by you) such as X Ray Specs, Faceache, Ivor & Tony, Rent-A-Ghost & Chalky all pop up, and weíre also treated to some high ranking adventure strips such as The Leopard of Lime Street.
However, of most adventure stories we get one episode Ė great to get a feel for the strip, but rather rubbish in knowing how it progresses and ultimately ends. The exception is Peteís Pocket Army where a number of episodes are placed together to give a complete adventure story for fans to read. If youíre a Pocket Army fan, you wonít be disappointed but I feel Leopardboy fans might be a little let down.
It is great to see some strips that had a long, successful life both in Buster and the assorted Best Ofs/Buster Classics etc over the following couple of decades. Mummyís Boy, Kid Kong, Valís Vanishing Cream & Tomboy ensure that those younger readers arenít left out.
Combine that with stalwarts Ivor & Tony, X Ray Specs, Chalky and, of course, Buster himself and Iím fairly confident that no matter which generation of Buster reader you are thereís something in the special for you.
But by tying themselves down to a specific era, Egmont have unfortunately had to include some of the more forgettable strips of Busterís past. Plane Jane is one example of me running to the A to Z on this website thinking Iíd discovered a strip that had been missed.
In truth, this 16 week run strip was tucked away out of sight, and out of the minds of your votes. Egmont may have given us episode 1 of Plane Jane, but itís not one that stands out Ė and come the end of the special itís easily one of the more forgettable inclusions.
The appearance of Jane and her toy plane have, in my view, taken up some valuable space from some of your Top 100 faves, like Cliff Hanger & Tom Thug.
But with 40 years of material at their disposal Egmont needed some rules Ė no doubt it was hard ignoring the strips of the 80s & early 90s, but with a limited number of pages you canít include everything, no matter how popular!
By the time I got to the end, my own fears of it being of too limited an appeal were well and truly quashed. Ok, so it might not be for you if you first picked up Buster in 1996 and never read the classics, but Iíd argue a high percentage of readers will enjoy getting nostalgic at their old favourites, whilst being introduce to some new friends.
The only problem I had by the time I reached the back page, was the same problem I first experienced back in December 1999.
For the foreseeable future, thereís no more to come.
Matt Bowen - 2009
The Buster Special is released Wednesday December 9th 2009 exclusively to WHSmith stores priced £3.99