Archive for the ‘notable covers’ Category

Magazines in the movies: Playboy in Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove

November 7, 2019
dr-strangelove-playboy-magazine-centrefold

A pilot in Dr Strangelove reading Playboy. The Playmate pin-up has a copy of Foreign Affairs  preserving her modesty

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove is the latest film that’s come to my attention using a magazine on the big screen, in this case – along with the likes of Steven Seagal and James Bond – a copy of Playboy.

Kubrick is famed for his attention to detail and a pilot in the cockpit of a B-52 Stratofortress reading the issue of Playboy from June 1962 is a classic example of this trait. 

playboy-magazine-1962-june-bikini-cover

Playboy‘s controversial cover: ‘A toast to bikinis’ 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give the 1964 film its alternative title, was making a nod to the atom-bomb reference in Playboy‘s only cover line for June 1962, ‘A toast to bikinis’, and the cover photo of a woman’s torso and her bikini bottom.

Louis Réard, the French engineer who invented the two-piece swimsuit in 1946, named it after Bikini atoll, where the US had just set off the first of 23 nuclear bombs it would detonate there until 1958.

The photo by Marvin E Newman was regarded as controversial and promoted a series of his images on the theme of how bikinis were finally reaching US shores from Europe.

The reference is reinforced by a shot of what appears to be the issue’s Playmate of the Month fold-out pin-up. This shows a woman lying face down on a rug with a copy of Foreign Affairs magazine covering her derrière! If you reckon the appearance of a copy of that esoteric magazine for diplomats  is odd, you’d be right, because the actual Playmate for June was Merissa Mathes, a US model and actress photographed by Glenn Otto.

According to IMDB, the centrefold being read by the pilot of the nuclear bomber was posed by Tracy Reed, the only woman in the film, and specially mocked up. She was billed in some early adverts as ‘Miss Foreign Affairs’, a reference to the scene. In the actual movie, she plays Miss Scott, the secretary to George C. Scott’s character, General ‘Buck’ Turgidson.

playboy-1962-From-Lilliput-to-Brobdingnad-Arthur-C-Clarke

Headline for ‘From Lilliput to Brobdingnad’ by the sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke 

But the filmic links from that copy of Playboy don’t end there, for the issue also contains an article, ‘From Lilliput to Brobdingnad’ by the British science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke. He later worked with Kubrick on the seminal book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was released in 1968. And 2001 was in turn featured in Town magazine.

Dr Strangelove is an amazing film, shot like most of Kubrick’s later films in Britain, in this case at Shepperton Studios in Surrey. It’s a rare surreal comedy by Kubrick, but, as with all his films, has great characters – such as Peter Sellars as the mad Nazi scientist – and superb dialogue. I love the line in the Pentagon war room – ‘Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, it’s a war room!’ And in the B-52 cockpit as they set out on their gung-ho mission to bomb Russia and the pilot ditches his flying helmet for a cowboy hat (an act repeated in a later apocalyptic movie, Dark Star): ‘At last, nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Ruskies.’

 

A racy cover for Pictorial Magazine

August 19, 2019

 

Pictorial Magazine front cover by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, ‘Seamark’

A comparatively racy cover for Pictorial Magazine by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, who wrote as ‘Seamark’

Pictorial Magazine was a cheap illustrated popular weekly costing two pennies (2d) from Amalgamated Press. This racy cover promotes the start of a new fiction serial – ‘Perils of Desire’ – by Austin J. Small, who used the nom-de-plume ‘Seamark’ and wrote science fiction as well as mysteries.

The illustration was by Thomas Heath Robinson, the oldest brother of Charles and William Heath Robinson, and a popular black-and-white artist in the Edwardian era. While WH became a household name with his quirky machine drawings, the Dictionary of 20thCentury Book Illustrators suggests that demand for Thomas’s work ‘seemed to dry up’ during the First World War. Such was the dip in his career that in 1920 he and his family had to move out of their house in the Pinner suburb of north London into lodgings and then a council house.

The Philsp magazine cataloguing website lists hundreds of Thomas’s works for magazines such as The Strand, Captain and Chums, but nothing from the end of 1919 until March 1923. However, things picked up and they were able to move back to Pinner the year after this cover came out. After that, he’s continually working on magazines until 1935, when he would have been 63 years old.

Other fiction in this issue of Pictorial Magazine included ‘XV: Percy the Pocket’, another case for Detective X Crook, a reformed criminal, by J Jefferson Farjeon, a popular and prolific mystery writer of the period.

Other features in this issue included ‘Must parsons keep “mum”?’ by Reverend GA Studdert Kennedy – known since the war as ‘Woodbine Willie’ for his work on the front line.

Plenty there for a Saturday afternoon reading session.

George Newnes and his Millionaires

July 25, 2019

1892_million_1892_3mar26_1000

The valiant attempt by George Newnes to bring colour to the masses, ‘the million’ as they were described in the early 1890s, was the subject of a paper I gave in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.

The Million, an ambitious penny weekly, is rarely discussed*, but was a rare failure for the man who pretty much invented the modern magazine industry – and became one of the richest men in the country in the process. Magazine publishers such as Cassell and Hodder & Stoughton would soon become, in today’s parlance, legacy brands, and were left to concentrate on book publishing.

But Britain was slow to adopt colour printing. Although the Illustrated London News had started at trend for colour supplements at Christmas in 1855, colour was still reserved for special occasions and papers for children. There were colour weeklies in France and the US, however.

Newnes had launched Tit-Bits, the best-selling weekly, in 1881, and The Strand, the best-selling monthly thanks to Sherlock Holmes, ten years later. The Million started as a tabloid-size magazine in 1892 and lasted for about three years, though it halved its page size during that time and had two redesigns (usually a sign of problems). Its readers were called, of course, ‘Millionaires’ – Newnes was nothing if not aspirational for his audience.

coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

Coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

The size, quality and number of colour engravings falls sharply in the final year, though there are some surprises; a coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in September 1894 is particularly striking.

The Million was printed on letterpress machines – so did not have to use expensive paper – by the London Colour Printing Company at their works in Exmoor St, Notting Hill. The same printer later produced Puck, a colour cartoon paper launched by Harmsworth in 1904 and seemingly modelled on a US paper with the same format and title. Harmsworth’s Amalgamated had also tried colour for a one-off edition of a comic paper called The Funny Wonder in 1898 (May 28).

In fact, Guy Lawley, a fellow researcher at the conference, told me that the colour presses used by Newnes were bought from Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni, who already used letterpress for a supplement to his French daily tabloid Le Petit Journal. This was the best-selling paper in France – probably the world – claiming a million print run in the early 1890s.

Le Petit Journal appears to have started publishing an eight-page colour illustrated supplement on Fridays in November 1890, judging by adverts on the front page of online digitised copies of the daily edition at the French national library. The price was 5 centimes, the same as the daily edition. Soon after, the supplement itself was claiming print runs of just over a million.

Guy adds that the success of Le Petit Journal and The Million inspired US newspaper publishers to turn to colour. The Chicago Inter Ocean added a free Sunday colour supplement in 1892, three months after The Million; The New York World added colour pages from 1893 and later a colour section. The Inter Ocean referred to the success of both Le Petit Journal‘s Supplément Illustré and the Million in its editorial announcing the coming of colour.

The New York supplements evolved into colour Sunday comics section, a development that was then copied across the country, giving birth to a new form of mass entertainment in the US.

As for the US Puck, that was printed using a different printing technology, lithography, until it was taken over by William Randolph Hearst in 1917, and closed down. However, in 1918, he resurrected the name Puck on his own Sunday comics supplement for the New York Journal, so it was also printed on newspaper-type colour letterpress presses.

Guy is working on a PhD thesis about colour printing and US newspaper comics.

Print Networks and the Centre for Printing History & Culture organised the conference, Dregs, dross and debris: the art of transient print. Discussions are under way about collating the talks as proceedings, or publishing them in Publishing History or Printing History and Culture.

*Kate Jackson’s Newnes and the new journalism in Britain, 1880-1910 has the most to say about it; Dave Reed doesn’t mention it. My British Magazine Design shows one of the smaller format covers. The issues are available in the British Library as bound volumes

General weekly magazines

The Strand magazine

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


Leete’s influence in Argentina via Flagg

August 6, 2018

Alfred Leete’s First World War ‘Kitchener Needs You’ recruiting poster was copied by the US artist James Montgomery Flagg and that has continued in use as a symbol of Uncle Sam’s imperialism in America. This picture from September 2014 shows Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner alongside a US judge, Thomas Griesa, depicted as Uncle Sam.

https://web.archive.org/web/20171221162209if_/http://ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=magforumcom-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=1910500364&asins=1910500364&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=trueThe poster was seen in Buenos Aires during an international legal battle over the Argentine government’s refusal to repay US hedge funds – regarded by their critics as financial ‘vultures’ – after the country had defaulted on its debt. The poster reads: ‘Either you are with Cristina or you are with the Yankees – Vultures get out of Argentina’.

In the same way as Leete’s image was first used as a magazine cover, for a September 1914 issue of London Opinion, Flagg, first sold his version to Leslie’s Weekly magazine for a colour cover in 1917.

The Economist magazine milks its past covers

May 9, 2018
The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist has been around for a long time, since 1843. For most of that time its cover looked like an academic journal, which in many ways it was. The strategy only changed in 1959 when the weekly magazine’s title was put in a red box with the name reversed out in white. This ‘red top’ approach is today associated with tabloid newspapers such as the Mirror and Sun, but back then it was the brainchild of  Reynolds Stone, one of leading designers of the era, who had been appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 1956 for his work on lettering.

Out went a text-only approach with a list of contents in favour of a line   illustration of a leading figure in politics or business with selling cover lines. Stone’s title idea survives to this day, although the typography has been tweaked to suit changing printing techniques. The monochrome line drawings were replaced by colour illustrations and photographs in the 1960s.

But Economist covers are never simple. Like New Scientist, they have to work hard to sell the complex ideas the writers discuss inside.

Bill Emmett, the editor in 1991, explained the news magazine’s approach in an editorial introducing a redesign:

‘There are few things more boring than long articles by editors about how their redesigns are going to produce a sharper, more modern, publication, brightening readers’ lives and furthering world peace … Good design, like good writing, should blend into the background; it should be the servant of editors and readers alike, not their master.’

Who can argue with that, from a magazine that continues to sell like the web had never been invented? But so many have forgotten it. All magazines and newspaper – the likes of the Guardian in particular – should take note, no matter how many design awards they win.

The Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Margaret Thatcher

Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Thatcher

And the strength of the Economist as a global brand has led it to launch merchandising. Of particular notes is Cover Story, a set of 100 postcards telling the story of the magazine’s cover designs. There’s a page showing many of the covers and you can order Economist cover T-shirts, totes and mugs.

News magazines profiled


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Slimming magazine is a work of art

March 15, 2018
Verner Panton's yellow kitchen in the Sunday Times Home supplement (4 March 2018, pp20-21)

Verner Panton’s yellow kitchen photographed by Querin Leppert for the Sunday Times Home supplement (4 March 2018, pp20-21)

The Home supplement of the Sunday Times ran an interview on March 4 with Carin Panton, daughter of the danish designer Verner Panton. ‘Red, yellow and pink and blue’ showed photographs by Querin Leppert of the colour-themed rooms Panton had designed for a house in Bavaria.

In pride of place on the spread was the yellow dining room and kitchen. I thought the poster on the wall was a straight blow-up of a cover from Slimming magazine, then published by Emap. An odd, but ironic, choice I thought.

Sylvie Fleury's Slim a soup artwork based on a Slimming magazine front cover form October 1993

Sylvie Fleury’s ‘Slim a soup’ artwork based on a Slimming magazine front cover form October 1993

In fact, it’s an artwork by Sylvie Fleury, a Swiss pop artist. The photographic poster in the Panton house kitchen is called Slim a soup and is based on the October 1993 cover of Slimming. It comes complete with a WH Smith price label stuck on the title, so it was probably bought at an airport overseas.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

One for Madonna fans

February 13, 2018
Madonna strip cartoon of her life 1986

Madonna strip cartoon of her life: The Story So Far

Hotspot-5 has 156 Madonna issues up on ebay at prices ranging from £4.95 to £24.95.

One of the earliest issues dates back to January 1986. It’s issue 2 of Look-In, the weekly TV magazine for teenagers, which carried a cartoon strip of Madonna’s life called ‘The Story So Far’.

In response to queries, I’ve done several Madonna posts, including identifying the first Madonna magazine cover (and it’s not Smash Hits or i-D).

Madonna front cover Esquire magazine 1994

Madonna on the cover of Esquire magazine in September 1994, dressed up to meet Norman Mailer!

Hotspot-5’s Madonna issues.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


 

What does a Bolshevik look like?

October 30, 2017
Portrait of a rabid Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

Portrait of a ‘frenzied fanatic’ Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

War Illustrated magazine left its readers in no doubt where its stood on the prospects of Russia in the control of the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution. This ranting maniac was portrayed on the weekly magazine’s front cover for 11 January, 1919, by CS Jagger. Inside, Sir Sidney Low wrote about the revolutionaries as ‘frenzied fanatics’.

I take this illustration to be by Charles Sargeant Jagger, one of the pre-eminent sculptors of the early 20th century. He served with the Artists’ Rifles in the First World War and created several war memorials – most notably the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner (1925). There is a British Pathe film of Jagger at work.

Sir Sidney Low was a journalist during the war and edited the wireless service of the Ministry of Information. He had been knighted the year before.

War Illustrated‘s editor at Amalgamated Press was John Hammerton, one of Alfred Harmsworth’s most successful editors. War Illustrated was relaunched as New Illustrated after the war.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


 

Maurice Rickards: ephemera and magazines

October 14, 2017
Maurice Rickards merged two images in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards merged two photographs in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards is one of the unsung heroes of graphic design. Although he wrote several books – and Michael Twyman completed his Encyclopedia of Ephemera – the godfather of modern-day ephemera is rarely written about. Even Wikipedia, that great hoover-upper of everybody else’s research and websites, has yet to acknowledge his existence. Only the Independent gave him an obituary (by Patrick ‘Book of Firsts‘ Robertson, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society who claims to own the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain).

Rickards trained as a photographer but collecting the fleeting printed objects of everyday life – particularly posters – was his joy and he appears to have made a living from his Fitzrovia basement studio as an illustrator, photographer and magazine designer. It was his enthusiasm that led to the creation of the Ephemera Society, its offshoot in the US and the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading University under the direction of Professor Twyman.

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

I never met the man, but came to some idea of his approach to design through the pages of Man About Town under the editorship of John Taylor in the 1950s (before it was bought up by Michael Heseltine’s Cornmarket). Later, when researching books about British magazine design and Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster, I discovered his books on posters.

The spring 1956 poster-like cover of Man About Town is credited to Rickards, as is autumn 1958, so he was probably working as a freelance designer on the magazine in those years. I particularly like the latter example, which is described as being inspired by the squiggle shape that he came across.

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

The autumn/winter i959 issue at the top of this post was the last Man About Town under Taylor and perhaps that is why it gives a big showing to Rickards’ work. He had done several earlier covers designs but this one gives an opportunity for his ‘crackpotography’ ideas, along with a five-page article.  The text reproduces some of his ‘eccentricities’ in ‘Rickards’s howdoneit’, an article based on his book, Off-Beat Photography (The Studio, 1959), about image manipulation. In Man About Town‘s inimitable style, the magazine  describes that the woman sitting on Rickards’s head cover is easily explained:

It is not that we used a particularly small girl; it is merely that Rickards himself has such a big head.

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards shows Rickards with an axe in his head on the dust jacket

In the article, the captions explain how each photograph was composed and how shadows were added using an airbrush or avoided. A man shown balancing on a glass using just one finger needed 50 or 60 exposures before Rickards got it right. A skull and Luger photo was for a book, named as Skeleton Island. In fact, this looks to have become A Twist of Sand (1960) by Geoffrey Jenkins and was made into a film eight years later starring Richard Johnson and Honor Blackman. The cover used a variant of the photo, without the gun.

Another photograph of what looks like the aftermath of a massive road accident  harks back to a poster campaign he did right at the start of his career in 1953 – Lives Matter. Three posters were commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, showing a woman collapsed over a telephone, a one-legged boy on crutches, and a little girl in the arms of a policeman. According to Patrick Robertson’s obituary, such was the horror they generated that they were banned by various local authorities, were defaced on hoardings and prompted ‘harsh letters’ to editors and MPs.

 

 

Punch magazine’s horn of plenty

September 28, 2017
Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

The Times this week ran a Morten Morland cartoon showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a horn of plenty – a cornucopia. This is a reference to an idea that goes back a couple of thousand years to Greek mythology. But it is a classical allusion that was very much kept alive by Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle with his famous Punch magazine cover design that developed from 1844.

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

Buyers of Punch – just 6,000 of them each week in the satirical magazine’s early days – are the sort of people who will have had a classical education and so would be aware of the idea of a goat’s horn or horn-shaped basket overflowing with produce. It’s associated with Zeus, Hades, Hercules and Gaia.

In the case of McDonnell, he’s spouting forth a stream of policies at the Labour party conference; for Dicky Doyle in 1842, it was a cornucopia of fun, wit and entertainment.

The Punch cover is often described as never-changing, but that it not the case. The earliest issues from July 1841 showed a Punch and Judy stall. That idea stayed in place until the 20-year-old Doyle’s Mr Punch and his dog design took hold in April 1844. And there were several versions of that, though the main elements, full of classical references, stayed constant.

RGG Price’s History of Punch (Collins, 1957) states the frieze at the bottom was based on Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.  What appear to be the words ‘Exhaustive wit’ exude from the horn on the right, and ‘fun’ on the left. It is ‘satire’ that is raised up towards the heavens on the right among a multitude of mischievous imps, fairies and cherubs.

The cover of Punch magazine's almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne ('Phiz')

The cover of Punch magazine’s almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne (‘Phiz’)

This 1842 almanac cover is initialled HKB – Halbot K Browne – ‘Phiz’. He was one of five artists who did early covers for Punch (the others being Archibald Henning, William Harvey, John Gilbert and Kenny Meadows).

The engraver is also credited, Ebenezer Landells. He was one of the founders in 1841 of Punch, and acted as art editor, along with the journalist Henry Mayhew and William Last as printer.  This almanac sold very well and may have saved the magazine from closure, because sales had been running at 6,000 a week whereas they needed to sell 10,000.

However, the financial problems led Last to pull out in favour of working with Herbert Ingram on Illustrated London News. Landells had to sell his share to Bradbury & Evans, the publishers. Bradbury & Evans replaced Landells with Joseph Swain and gained complete control in December 1842. Swain was not credited on the covers.

Although Doyle’s design won out in 1844, it took five years to settle down into the image that lasted until 1956, when one-off colour covers by the likes of Ronald Searle became the norm. In particular, the detail of Mr Punch in the bottom frieze was altered in response to criticism that it was crude, a drawing of a British lion replaces the Punch stall on the easel and the circus typeface for the title was turned to wood, in a mockery of  the German illustration style of artists such as Alfred Rethel.