Speech Bubbles and Text
Drawn by John Dallas
87 appearances (over 171 pages) from issue no. 1 (18/01/75) to no. 87 (11/09/76).
All were printed in black and white.
What does it say on the tin (or in that rhyming couplet at the top of the first page)?
“Joe’s soapy bubbles bring lots of troubles!”
In the first story, Joe Brown’s Grandpa, “ a crackpot inventor”, makes his grandson a “special soapy brew” of bubble mixture as recompense for causing Joe to drop his ordinary mixture while he was on his way to the garden shed-cum-laboratory to tell Grandpa his dinner was ready. Grandpa had caused an explosion mixing up “a new quick-spray shoe polish”.
Joe toddles off down the street with his new bubble mixture and blows a huge bubble at a neighbour’s dog. The dog becomes trapped inside a sturdy bubble. Herbie Harris, “a shady-looking character” who just happened to be walking by and saw the incident, takes Joe’s bubble mixture and blows a bubble at Joe, trapping him inside a bubble as well. Herbie uses the mixture to rob a newspaper seller and a jeweller’s before Joe rolls down a hill in his bubble and knocks the miscreant flying into a lamppost. Grandpa admits he had made a mistake and promises Joe he will make another batch of bubble liquid.
Thereafter, the scenario is usually the same – Grandpa makes a batch of bubble mixture, Joe blows some bubbles in the garden, Grandpa declares they look “harmless” or “normal”, the bubbles show that they’re not, Joe chases after them down the street, and Grandpa returns to his shed to make an antidote. Quite often, as above, a shady-looking character will be on hand to steal the mixture and cause mischief.
Each batch of bubbles would have a different effect. It could be as simple and specific as dissolving nails or making grass grow tall, or as complex as time travel or giving life to inanimate objects. The last of these examples was the most recurrent theme. Lawnmowers, musical instruments, pillar-boxes, and tables were given a life of their own, and pictorial and physical representations of people in the form of statues, waxworks, paintings, TV images, and posters were also given the treatment (cf Peter Piper in MAGIC comic, SPARKY, and TOPPER).
In issue no. 40 Dennis The Menace and Gnasher, Desperate Dan, and Beryl The Peril appeared as the bubbles popped on large advertising hoardings for THE BEANO, THE DANDY, and THE TOPPER. They were no match for CRACKER’s own Billy The Kid and Pongo, Young Foo, and Little ‘Orror, all summoned by Joe from a similar hoarding (“THE FUNNIEST CHARACTERS OF ALL ARE IN CRACKER”). Little ‘Orror reappeared four weeks later in issue no. 44, brought to life by bubbles blown by Grandpa as Joe read CRACKER while sat in a deck chair in the garden. As Joe and his Grandpa run off, ‘Orror picks up the mixture and blows more bubbles onto the comic causing Scrapper and Billy The Kid and Pongo to appear. The boys begin to fight, while Pongo blows some more bubbles. These strike a copy of CRACKER being read by a little girl as she is walking down the street. Rip Van Tinkle appears and proceeds to break up the fight, but not before breaking down the fence as he and his charge leap over it. How to fix the fence before Mum comes home? Joe and Grandpa blow more bubbles at the comic and reanimate versions of themselves to do the job while they take things easy.
Grandpa did succeed in making a harmless mixture – twice. The first time was in issue no. 48, which was the second part of a two-part story. In the first part, one of Grandpa’s mixtures had taken the pair back to the middle ages and a second had propelled them to the year 2075. Grandpa’s attempt to create a mixture that would take them back to their own time ended in failure with the creation of a mixture with no side effects, and the locals had to transport the pair back in a time machine. In issue no. 56, Joe picked up some bubble mixture that he assumed Grandpa had left for him. The ‘effect’ that the bubbles had were pure coincidence – the ‘mixture’ was simply washing-up liquid that Grandpa was going to use to clean his car (which begs the question – why didn’t Grandpa let Joe use this and abandon the quest for a harmless mixture?!)
Including the one mentioned above, there were a total of six two-part stories. The others were over issue nos. 12/13, 15/16, 18/19, 51/52, and 60/61.
Joe lost three half pages to advertisements for other DC Thomson publications (issue nos. 58, 59, and 86), and the same amount to money-off vouchers for Cadbury’s chocolate products (79, 80, and 81).
Sammy usually appeared with a joke at the bottom of the second page
(the same joke in issue nos. 5 and 52, and also 55 and 74).
The jokes in issue nos. 18 to 24 were credited to readers, who won one pound for their efforts. Sammy appeared in the strip itself in issue no. 50 – some bubbles had popped on a CRACKER advertising hoarding ( ‘SAMMY SAYS READ CRACKER’).
Life after Cracker : Joe Soap was one of seven strips to transfer to 'BEEZER AND CRACKER' when the two comics merged. The other six were Billy The Kid and Pongo, Iron Hand, Jest A Minute, Little 'Orror, Scrapper and Young Foo.