The Hotspur

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This article is about the comic series. For other uses, see Hotspur.
Issue 1 of Hotspur (1933)
Publication information
Publisher D. C. Thomson & Co.
Publication date 2 September 1933

The Hotspur was a British boys' paper published by D. C. Thomson & Co. From 1933 to 1959, it was a boys' story paper; it was relaunched as a comic in 1959, initially called the New Hotspur, and ceased publication in January 1981.

The original Hotspur[edit]

The Hotspur was launched on 2 September 1933[1] as a story paper, the last of the 'Big Five'.[2] The first issue came with a black mask as a free gift[3][4] and contained an offer for an electric shock machine:

It's a great prize, absolutely harmless and will give hours of fun. Just watch your pal's face when you give him his first electric shock![5]

Thomson's 'Big Five' papers were extremely successful; the name was used by both readers and the industry.[6][7] In 1939 the company advertised combined weekly sales of over a million for the group; the first issue of The Hotspur sold over 350,000 copies.[8] The Hotspur specialised in school stories;[9] its Red Circle School stories replaced the public school stories in The Gem and The Magnet as reader favourites.[10][11]

Like other British children's publications, The Hotspur was published weekly, except for the Second World War and its aftermath, when as a result of paper rationing it published fortnightly,[12] alternating with The Wizard.[13] The original Hotspur story paper published 1197 issues, the last on 17 October 1959.

Notable characters and series[edit]

  • Red Circle School, a public school with pupils from all over the world.[14][15]
  • Bill Sampson, also known as The Wolf of Kabul, an agent of the British Intelligence Corps, first introduced in The Wizard, appeared in illustrated format in The Hotspur.[16]

The New Hotspur[edit]

It relaunched in comic format as the New Hotspur[17] on 24 October 1959, a week after the original series ceased publication, and ran for another 1110 issues until being incorporated into The Victor on 24 January 1981.[18][19] The new format contained comic strips as opposed to the old text story format. The word "new" in the title was dropped with issue #174. There had been several mergers during the 1970s: with The Hornet in 1976, and with The Crunch in 1980. In January 1981 The Hotspur finally merged with The Victor.[18]

Strips included:


  1. ^ Vic Whittle, British Comics.
  2. ^ Joseph McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain 1914–1950, Oxford: Clarendon, 1992, ISBN 0-19-820329-2, p. 168.
  3. ^ British Book News 1979, p. 296.
  4. ^ Winter 2004 Market Report, Compalcomics.
  5. ^ McAleer, p. 179.
  6. ^ McAleer, p. 168. In addition to The Hotspur they were Adventure, The Rover, The Wizard and The Skipper.
  7. ^ Roger Sabin, Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, London: Phaidon, 1996, ISBN 0-7148-3008-9, p. 44: "These papers in the 1920s and 1930s were dominated by the 'Big 5'.
  8. ^ McAleer, p. 172, note 18; p, 172, Fig. 6.1.
  9. ^ William Oliver Guillemont Lofts and Derek John Adley, The Men Behind Boys' Fiction, London: Howard Baker, 1970, ISBN 0-09-304770-3, p. 9.
  10. ^ McAleer, p. 169.
  11. ^ Jeffrey Richards, Happiest Days: The Public Schools in English Fiction, Manchester University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-7190-1879-X, p. 289: "In its heyday The Magnet had a weekly press run in excess of 200,000. By 1930 it had fallen to 120,000 as a result of the direct competition of D. C. Thomson papers. This became particularly serious in 1933 with the launch of The Hotspur and the appearance of Red Circle, a tougher, more rambustious and more up-to-date public school than Greyfriars . . . which wooed schoolboy readers away. . . . By 1940 the Magnet's circulation was down to 41,660 [while] Gem had by 1939 fallen to 15,800 copies a week".
  12. ^ McAleer, p. 62.
  13. ^ Hotspur at
  14. ^ McAleer, p. 169.
  15. ^ Dan O'Neill, "Wizard time to be a boy; Time to remember", South Wales Echo, September 17, 2001.
  16. ^ Conroy, p. 158.
  17. ^ Redesigned by its postwar editor, Jack Mackersie; McAleer, p. 163, note 3.
  18. ^ a b Vic Whittle, Hotspur Page at British Comics.
  19. ^ Kevin Carpenter, Penny Dreadfuls and Comics: English Periodicals for Children from Victorian Times to the Present Day: a loan exhibition from the Library of Oldenburg University, West Germany at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, 2 June-2 October 1983, London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1983, ISBN 0-905209-47-8, n.p..
  20. ^ Mike Conroy, War Stories: A Graphic History, New York: Ilex/Harper, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-173112-9, p. 116

External links[edit]