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DIED - 03.01.00

buster.jpg (11196 bytes) Buster's Diary


With acknowledgements to "The Encyclopaedia of Comic Characters" by Denis Gifford, 1987

By Briony

"The whole strange, spine-chilling business began in the bike shed at Selbridge Secondary School where, as usual, 13-year old Billy Farmer was providing some fun for Ginger Moggs and his bullies." While taking photos for the school magazine at Professor Jarman's Experimental Zoo, Billy is scratched by Sheba, a leopard being treated with a radioactive serum.

When Billy arrives home in Lime Street where he lives with his bullying, lazy Uncle Charlie and sickly Auntie Joan Billy is astonished to find he now possesses incredible strength. "Why am I bounding up the stairs with the speed and agility of next door's cat? My whole body seems to be throbbing with energy!"

Billy hauls out an old cat costume he had worn in a Dick Whittington pantomime, modifies it as a leopard costume, then leaps into the night. And so Billy begins his crime-fighting career as the Leopardman a.k.a. "the Beast of Selbridge" a.k.a. the "Leopard from Lime Street." His powers include super-strength and speed, leopard-sense which tingles at the sign of danger, super-vision, smell and hearing, super-body heat, and super-cat agility. His powers have also affected his behaviour - he has to be careful not to get enraged otherwise he terrifies people. He has a propensity for raw meat, but has to settle for half-cooked sausages to avoid upsetting his auntie, and eats raw meat on the quiet. His utility belt carries a claw cord, a Leopard gun (which is not loaded with bullets but has been modified to fire anything) and a camera - he is a reporter, after all.

Does this sound rather like Spiderman? Certainly the Leopardman shares a lot with Spiderman - not least of which that both the Leopardman and Spiderman are maligned as menaces, for all their good deeds and crime-busting. The whole of Selbridge lives in dread of "the Beast of Selbridge." He remains forever wanted by the police. His perennial pursuers are Inspector Craddock and Thaddeus Clegg of the Selbridge Sun who "never wastes an opportunity to insult the Leopardman." However Billy does have his supporters, mostly among the kids of Selbridge.

The bread and butter of the Leopardman's career are common criminals: jewel thieves, burglars, kidnappers and motorcycle gangs. All too often the Leopardman gets the blame for their crimes before he gets the satisfaction of bringing them down. The Leopardman also tackles the bullies who make life a misery for him and other kids at school. In one story, one bully is teasing kids with Leopardman toys. The Leopardman seizes him and throws him head first into a puddle.

More intriguing criminals include bizarre costumed criminals (the Snowbeast, the Roller Monster) but most intriguing of all are the copycat Leopardmen. They range from cheap imitators (such as a robber who dresses up in a Leopard costume but Billy quickly deals with him) to ingenious and sophisticated hoaxers. One of the most brilliant of all has to be the "Leopardman's Ghost." The "Ghost" arises after the real Leopardman fakes his death to prevent exposure. Clad in luminescent Leopard costume and armed with acrobatic agility and strength that has even the real Leopardman impresses, the "Ghost" proceeds to spook Selbridge out of a series of robberies. However the "Ghost" is soon laid to rest when the real Leopardman returns from the dead.

Surely the deadliest imitator of all is the Leopardman Robot. Created by the evil genius Conrad Klaus, the Leopardman Robot is a fearsome behemoth armed with colossal strength, lethal eye laser-beams and programmed to destroy. It claims one of the Leopardman's nine lives before disappearing, badly damaged from a fall. In the next story but one the Robot returns, now under the control of Clive Talbot. Talbot is out for revenge against the Drewitt family and has disguised the robot as the hideous "Grey Ghost." This time the Leopardman's battle with the Robot ends in decisive victory and rare praise for the Leopardman. "Makes a change being appreciated!"

Quite a number of Leopardman stories revolve around children and school. These include fundraising problems, bullies, problem children, children in danger. Most of these children support the Leopardman, especially after he rescues them from danger. However there was one boy who was not so gracious - Andy Jarvis. Jarvis accidentally unmasks the Leopardman who is saving him from drowning. Jarvis gives an identikit of the Leopardman to the police. The identikit is not a fair likeness, but it triggers the events that cause the Leopardman to fake his death and the "Ghost" to begin his career.

A more heart-breaking story for Billy occurs when his best friend, Joey Greaves, wrongly accuses the Leopardman of robbing his family. Joey wants Billy to help him bring in the Leopardman, and falls out with Billy when he has no choice to refuse. This means poor Billy has to track down the real thief while he in turn is being tracked by the determined, revenge-crazed Joey. Added to that, the Leopardman injures his leg escaping from Joey. Fortunately Billy gets to the thief before he disposes of the stolen goods and gets something from Joey that is extremely rare for the Leopardman - an apology.

Since Billy is virtually a member of the animal kingdom, a number of stories revolve around animals. In one story, the Leopardman offers himself as a star attraction at the Safari Park which is being threatened with closure. Billy has a special affinity for the park since Sheba, the leopard who gave him his powers, is living there. Then a saboteur threatens the park. The most interesting part of this story is when the Leopardman challenges a wrestler called the Alien in order to raise the much-needed money to save the park. The saboteur, of course, tries to nobble the Leopardman, but the Leopardman catches him, throws the Alien out of the ring and saves the park.

Regular animals of the piece include Billy's cat Monty and - rather ironically, Hunter, the Leopardman's Dog. Hunter is a fierce dog but has such an affinity for Billy that Billy cuts a mask for him and he joins the Leopardman on the prowl as the Leopardman's Dog. The problem is, Hunter puts the Leopardman's secret in danger because it doesn't take long for the press (and the school bullies) to make the connection. So Billy has to teach Hunter a Clark Kent act to preserve their secret.

Thaddeus Clegg is the closest that anyone has ever come to exposing the Leoparman. A criminal gives Clegg an identikit that is far more accurate than Jarvis's. So when Clegg spots Billy, he instantly recognises him as the Leopardman and sets out to prove it. Billy manages to convince Clegg that he is mistaken by tricking him with a false alibi, but it was the closest shave that Billy's secret has ever had.

So the Leopardman remains as free as ever. By day a school boy working at the school magazine, facing school and domestic problems and becoming the breadwinner when his bullying uncle has one of his lazy spells. These usually occur around Christmas so the Leopardman has to raise the cash so the family can afford Christmas. By night he is the Leopardman, forever crime-fighting for the ungracious authorities who are mocked by his battle cry: "



He's all the way from Australia folks....
Gums - A shark worse than it's bite!

gums.jpg (13939 bytes)
mummy.jpg (12939 bytes)

Mummy's Boy

Why does my jumper keep shrinking?

Here are some of my favourites from Buster:
By Briony

Cliff Hanger - the Evil Spies are always zapping Cliff away to some predicament, and it's up to the reader to decide whether Cliff escapes or not. At the bottom of the page are three options for the reader to choose, but only one is correct. So you really have to think "comic book" for this one. Cliff was so popular in the mid-1980s that when he disappeared he was brought back by popular demand for the 1990s.
Mummy's Boy - a delicious satire of over-protective mothers who still treat their children like babies. Mummy literally treats her son like a baby. She even forces him to wear baby clothes, sleep in a crib, sit in a high chair while being force-fed with baby food and be walked in a pram. Of course, the stories revolve around Boy trying to escape Mummy's apron strings. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes his schemes backfire and the apron strings are wrapped tighter than ever.
Ivor Lott and Tony Broke - the perpetual theme of snob vs scruff. Ivor and Tony came over from "Cor" in 1974 and stayed right through the remaining run of Buster. Snobby, big-mouthed Ivor Lott overdoes himself, and even cheats to get one up over "riff-raff" Tony. But Tony always foils Ivor in the end. Most often Ivor's showing-off backfires and he gets a walloping from his dad. When "Jackpot" joined Buster in 1982, Ivor and Tony were joined by their Jackpot counterparts, Milly O'Naire and Penny Less. Double the showing off, double the cheating, double the come-uppance and double the laughs.
"Good Guy" - Guy just refuses to be tempted to do anything wrong, much to the chagrin of Temptation Limited. It is a perpetual battle of wills between Guy's iron conscience and the agents of Temptation.
Faceache - the boy with a 1,000 faces - all of them hideous. Faceache started off as a boy who pulled faces, but he could soon "scrunge" his body into all sorts of shapes and sizes. Faceache came to Buster from "Jet" in 1973.
- who is "quick on the draw." Chalky also came from Cor and rivals Tony and Ivor for longevity.
Fright School - at St. Crypto's the ultimate lesson is survival with Sir and the pupils vs. "The Evil Ones" who are forever coming up with scarey schemes to drive them away. "Rodney & Dez" - Rodney is the nice brother, Dez the money-grabbing schemer.
Disappearing Trix - Trix has the power to make herself invisible, which is very useful in dealing with rowdies, cheats and bullies.
The Lads of Stalag 31 - the lads of Stalag 31 are always giving the Commandant a terrible time.

A few of the gang from 1978

Top Row: Crowjack, Snooper

Middle Row: Val and her Vanashing Cream, Tony Broke, Clever Dick, A ghost from Rent-a-ghost.

Bottom Row: Ivor Lott, Chalky, Face Ache, Scruffy Doug and Shaggy Dog, Tom Boy.

These are the characters which came over to Buster when Jackpot joined in 1982:

Milly O'Naire and Penny Less - whom I've discussed already.
Top of the Class - previously titled "Class Wars." Another snob vs. scruff strip where poor old Sir is caught in the middle of the wars the snobs and scruffs in his class are forever waging to get one over each other.
Jack Pot - Jack Pott is the boy who will bet on ANYTHING. No matter how silly or outrageous the bet may be, it's a safe bet that Jack will always win his gamble.
Kid King - Kid King is forever escaping his stuffy servants to play with his "common" pals.
The Winners - the Winners are the family who always win.
The Park - the exploits of a miserable parkie and the regulars who visit his park.
It's a Nice Life - Jackpot's answer to "The Good Life" between upper class neighbours who can't relate to the simple life of the "Nice" Family.

Thank you Briony - 26Pigs



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