It has been argued by some that the revolution towards grittier, harder boys comics in the 1970s was begun by DC Thompson’s Warlord in 1974 – Thompson were the publishers of very traditional comic books (The Dandy, The Beano, Hotspur and so on), but Warlord was a tougher affair – albeit one still rooted in the British obsession with World War 2. It inspired IPC to launch Battle, which in turn paved the way for the rather more modernist, anarchic and outrageous Action, which in turn spawned 2000AD – and the rest is history.
By 1979, DC Thompson’s output was looking a little tired – comics stuck in the past and failing to reflect the post-punk, post-Action world. And so The Crunch was launched as a direct and shameless imitation of both Action and 2000AD – a risky idea, perhaps, given that Action had been hounded out of existence by a media campaign against its excessive violence, and 2000AD at the time was still seen as a dubious affair by the establishment.
The Crunch came with a free black plastic wristband and interchangable stickers (see the picture below), and featured strips like The Arena (a very 2000AD-like strip set in a future where criminals were forced to take part in televised gladiatorial combat), bounty hunter The Mantracker, apocalyptic espionage tale The Walking Bombs, Hitler Lives (that WW2 obsession was hard to shake), conspiracy thriller Who Killed Cassidy? and football story The Kyser Experiment.
Essentially, The Crunch tried to pull together all the things it was assumed boys liked – war, football, science fiction, Dirty Harry style action, etc. Issue 2 came with a free poster of Barry Sheene, which frankly felt a bit old-school, and this seemed to be the problem with the comic. Smaller format than 2000AD and with less direction, The Crunch still felt rather old-fashioned and contrived despite its best efforts. I stuck with it for around 10 issues before getting bored. It did, however, last 54 issues before being absorbed into Hotspur, so much have had some sort of readership. Today though, it is almost forgotten.