My life in Comics and Magazines

Back in 2011, I published a post back on my old blog about this subject. Now my habits have changed again, so I thought it was a good time to edit and republish an updated version…

I’ve always loved comics and magazines. As a child in the 1960s, I remember looking forward to getting rolls of comics in the post,wrapped in brown paper, from my Grandma – classic comics for girls of the 60s like Bunty, Mandy and Twinkle.  I particularly loved Bunty, as it had a cut-out doll with wardrobe on the back page which I religiously snipped out each issue. My brother got Whizzer and Chips, Topper and Beezer.

Then in the 70s I graduated to the wonderful Jackie (see the montage above).  In 1973, it cost just 3 1/2 p!  We all read it, we all put up the posters, were educated by the Cathy and Claire problem pages, loved the drawing style of the fashion features, and sniggered over the photo stories.  It was simply the best teen comic out there.  There were flirtations with Fab 208 (the magazine of Radio Luxembourg – better quality paper for glossy posters), and Smash Hits, but until I was old enough for the young adult mag Honey, Jackie was the must have.

At university, I got overtaken by science fiction and prog rock, and instead of having posters of David Bowie et al, it was more likely to be the alien landscapes and spaceships of Roger Dean that graced my walls, many of them cut out of Omni magazine, a US science and science fiction magazine that was, believe it or not, published by Penthouse! There was no smut involved, just wonderful art, some brilliant SF short stories and speculative technology of the sort that’s in Wired these days.

The early 1980s was also when I subscribed to Private Eye. My dad used to bring it home from work – they subscribed and circulated it around the department, (civil servants liked to keep on top of the alt-news).  I subscribed during the period of the Cecil Parkinson scandal in 1983 (right), and I remember being rather smug when subscriber copies of the issue which broke his infidelity were sent out ahead of the injunction he slapped upon the mag taking it off the shelves. It was only a brief paragraph in code in the Gnome column – but it did for Parky. I still have that copy somewhere, but I doubt it’s worth anything.

Once established at work, I turned to the women’s monthlies, Cosmo, Company and the like in my late 20s into 30s, then Marie Claire when they launched the UK version. Later I even read Good Housekeeping alongside a whole raft of interior design mags – Homes & Gardens, House Beautiful and the ilk, my favourite being Living etc

Alongside those, I was still interested in music and movies, and thank goodness for Q and Empire respectively which debuted in the late 1980s.  Into the 1990s, and I graduated, along with Q’s editors (Mark Ellen and David Hepworth), to Mojo as my musical tastes matured. Films-wise, I flirted with the BFI’s word-heavy Sight & Sound, and SFX covered SF across all media which fuelled my then Star Trek obsession.  Empire was the only one to remain a constant for years and years.

The cost of magazines kept going up too, so I subscribed to most of them when I saw a good offer, and used Tesco Clubcard vouchers when I could on magazine subscriptions.  At one stage I probably subscribed to around 20!  A heady mix of music, film, interiors, gardening, cookery, glossy and less glossy women’s mags (but never the weeklies!).

I went on to jump ship once again with Mark Ellen and David Hepworth to The Word – which wasn’t as specialist – covering books, film, TV and music. It was my favourite of the lot, but sadly didn’t survive – if it had, I’d still be buying it.

This brings me to literary magazines. I still miss the Waterstones Quarterly which was fab, covering such a wide range of books. I tried subscribing to the London Review of Books for a while, but its longform pieces on subjects which didn’t interest me, and lack of actual books reviews put me off. The magazine I’ve stuck with for around a decade now is The Literary Review, although I still wish it gave a few more pages to fiction. I do love Chris Riddell’s covers for it.  I have recently added a subscription to the TLS, enjoying it being a weekly.  These are the only two I subscribe to these days.

But what other magazines do I read now?  Well, I’ve dropped all my other subscriptions to the glossy monthlies and interior design mag having realised that the articles and trends just go round in circles and I’ve now seen and read them all before! I’ll still buy one or two of them for a journey or holiday, or the Christmas special editions, but no longer feel the need to read them every month.

I did subscribe to Jamie – but never actually cooked anything from it, and this magazine folded at the beginning of this year. Still, I have a file of ripped out pages of recipes… what are the odds of using them do you think?

I love going to the cinema, so I still buy Empire. but not every month – I feel I’ve rather grown out of it. I’ve also totally dropped music mags – I buy and listen to so few new albums these days, it tends to be Radio 4 from dawn til dusk for me.

What I would really like to read is a film equivalent of Mojo – aimed at an older demographic than Empire and Total Film, but more fun than Sight & Sound. A new incarnation of The Word would go down nicely too.

Which comics did you grow up with?

Which magazines do you read and love now?

10 thoughts on “My life in Comics and Magazines

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I’d been wondering if Literary Review was worthwhile. I get their e-mail newsletter, which links to some content you can read online. I got a cheap deal on an LRB subscription some years back but found that I never actually read the articles, so I gave it up after a year. My husband subscribes to loads of wildlife magazines, but the only magazines I currently get are two American book-related ones that send me complimentary copies because I write for them, Bookmarks and Foreword Reviews.

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Ahh, happy memories! I transitioned from the comics to the music papers – Sounds, Melody Maker and NME which I read for decades. And saddened about the final decline of NME, though it had been well past its heyday for decades.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I never really did the music papers. My daughter is devastated that the NME is ceasing its print edition just as she got a subscription to it for Christmas. (although it’s been a freebie for some time, distribution is limited and we’re not near a pick-up point, but you can pay to be sent it).

  3. Jonathan says:

    It’s funny but I was recently thinking of doing a post or two about comics and thought of calling it ‘My Life in Comics’ or something similar—but then many of my ‘posts’ stay inside my head. My comics route was Beano, Dandy, Beezer etc->Asterix/Smurfs->war/scifi->Marvel->Mad->Underground->Indie. Apart from the brief diversions into war/scifi & Marvel my interests were mainly humour. I have a DVD of all the Mad comics which I was thinking of starting…I’ve had it for nearly ten years now so should really start reading them.

  4. Dark Puss says:

    As a child I wasn’t really into comics. Magazines I bought regularly in my teens were Wireless World and SLR magazine. Later in life I bought every month BYTE (very sadly missed!) and Sky and Telescope. In the last decade I have been an occasional purchaser of Elephant, Wallpaper*, Hunger, Decanter and Dazed & Confused. By virtue of society membership I receive The Alpine Garden Society journal, The journal of the British Amateur Astronomical Association and “Pan” which is the journal of the British Flute Society.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I would expect no less of you Dark Puss! I used to get Wallpaper occasionally in the past, and when I bought a recent copy I was so disappointed to find little editorial content and all glossy ads. However, I now get the Art Quarterly through my new Art Fund membership and that is fab.

  5. Angela Stapleford says:

    Fantastic, I loved Jackie too! I remember feeling so well informed by it, but I’m not sure how much I really was! Later I moved on to Smash Hits and then More and the NME. Lately I am not reading magazines much and prefer to concentrate on books. But your article has made me feel nostalgic for printed magazines again, I hope they don’t all go the way of the NME!

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