(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)
As we grow older, it can be all too easy to dismiss or forget the excitement of youth.
Actually, it’s easy enough to forget just why you went upstairs, never mind how you felt as a kid some fifty-plus years back.
Knowing what I’m about to write about, however, has rekindled that feeling of anticipation; of expectation and fulfilment.
Comics nowadays are big business. Huge. The proliferation of Comic-con exhibitions around the world is quite staggering, attended by millions of devotees not only of traditional comics, but of movies that then spawned hand-drawn story versions. And vice versa.
We now also have the massive popularity of anime / manga.
Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was a different story
‘Oh, can it be that it was all so simple then?’
Well – probably not, for by that time, thirty years on from popularisation of comics, there were new worlds and universes being created and populated by heroes and villains from both Detective Comics (D.C.) and Marvel.
Those comics and characters though, were generally outwith easy access by us here in UK, unless we had kindly relatives living across the Atlantic who would post the occasional Batman or Superman issue.
No, within the restricted world that small boys and girls inhabit until they turn into teenage monsters, the magazine section of the local newsagent was universe enough.
I’d have been seven years old when my dad brought me my first comic. It was issue #1 of TV21. Published in the style of a newspaper from the future, it was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and featured stories from all my favourite television programmes: Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.
I built up quite a collection, but parents do that ‘clear-out’ thing, don’t they, and unfortunately I now have no copies to reflect upon.
However, I did recently manage to buy a hardback covered collection of stories that featured in the original comic, so, happy days!
The excitement of youth I mentioned is no better highlighted than the year I was given a shilling (that’s 5p for any young whipper-snappers reading this) as a birthday treat. I dare say I was also given some other kind of presents, but it’s the monetary treat that remains foremost in my memory.
With this grand sum clasped firmly in my hand, I recall running up Monreith Avenue to Jamieson’s the Newsagent, various budget permutations filling my head.
Spent wisely, I’d be able to buy a Beano AND a Dandy for 4d each (1969 prices) and still have 4d left for sweets. That’d be sixteen Blackjacks / Fruit salad chews …. or maybe I’d buy a couple huge gobstoppers.
My parents weren’t fans of either these two comics and did their best to discourage me.
(That went well, I don’t think! To this day, I treat myself each Christmas with that year’s annual.)
We did though come to a compromise in that I was allowed to read such ‘rubbish’ comics if I also read Look and Learn, which they would buy for me. It was actually a very enjoyable read, and the predictions of life in the future (2001) as detailed in this edition from August 1971, weren’t too far from the truth …. apart from nuclear reactors in the basements of houses and the envisaged postal system!
I think on this occasion, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan were more credible.
The importance of this deal, however, was not that I’d be more educationally equipped for secondary school, but that it gave a green light to both sets of grandparents to treat my sister and myself with comics whenever we visited.
For me, it was the Beezer from one and Hotspur or Victor from the other. These covered all bases; humour and mischief, to action-packed deeds of heroism and killing Johnny Foreigner. For a while around 1971, I’d be given copies of Tiger, which combined all of the above and threw in some football related strips. (Comic strips – not football strips. The free gifts were often pretty impressive, but didn’t extend to that level of generosity.)
My young sister would look forward to her copies of Twinkle and when a little older, Bunty and Judy. I can remember her faithfully cutting out the image of the young girl on the back page, and then ‘dressing’ her in the similarly cut-out items of clothing.
We were easy amused in those days.
Another favourite for me, though I didn’t actually buy many copies, was Scorcher. This was very football-centric with a combination of comic strips and magazine type articles on the sport. It was a bit more ‘grown up’ in its presentation than the more conventional comics.
Scorcher first hit the newsstands in January 1970, four months after I started spending my pocket money on Shoot! the first issue of which was in August the previous year. Choices had to be made. Shoot! won.
I still have a box with seventy- six copies stacked away in the loft. I just counted them.
In the early to mid-Seventies, as a stepping stone towards the more credible music magazines, I’d occasionally shell out a whole 5p on Disco 45, just so I could learn the words of ‘Run Run Run’ by Jo Jo Gunne. (Duh!)
My sister, Rona, was by now besotted with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, so naturally Jackie magazine was delivered to our house each week. (I’ll bet I’m not the only bloke who sneaked a read of the photo stories!)
It wasn’t all about Donny and David and Bay City Rollers, though. I can remember articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.
I mean … Rona told me about there being articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.
I wouldn’t admit it then, but almost fifty years later, the Jackie inspired CD collections are never far away from my player.
And then it was the big-hitting music papers. Everyone had their favourite. Some would swear by Melody Maker, others would go with NME (New Musical Express.) For me though, it was Sounds. Perhaps because of the colour poster that would be the centrespread of each issue, but just as much for the bands and genres it covered.
At the same time, I was heavily into my running, so Athletics Weekly became a regular. I still love the look and feel of that magazine. Much of it consisted of results from meetings throughout the UK, but there were always a few really interesting interviews and features.
In the early / mid Seventies, athletics was still considered a bit of a minority sport. I well remember, then, feeling well chuffed to see the Crossroads character (Stan Harvey?) frequently having a copy of the magazine protruding from the breast pocket of his work overalls.
I haven’t counted the number of copies, but I still have two boxfuls in the loft!
In the four decades that have followed The Seventies, my love / obsession with magazines has not diminished. Thankfully, for the sake of preserving the eaves of the house, much of my reading is now online. Only Record Collector arrives via the letterbox these days.
This may be practical, but I also find it sad. Perhaps I’m slightly odd, but I miss the feel of the paper; the attraction of the vivid colour, and the sexiness of the artwork. I miss the physical side of reading magazines and comics as I missed playing vinyl records.
I also miss the smell. Surely you must also hanker after that dusty, mixed aroma of newsprint and ink in a paper shop?
OK – so just me, then.
More than anything though, I miss the excitement I felt as a kid on new issue day.
I can see another rummage in the loft looming.