Archive for the ‘zines’ Category

Where was Black Bag when I needed saving from a Tesco bag?

April 14, 2015
The best of Viz - Black Bag

The best of Viz – Black Bag (from http://singletrackworld.com)

I was attacked by a Tesco bag last week. It was a blustery day and the wind picked up the plastic shopping bag, spun it round like a plate on a stick in a Greek restaurant and it shot towards me. I had to duck or, I tell you, it would have taken the top of my head off!

It must have been the evil cousin of Black Bag – the Faithful Border Bin Liner that was a staple of Viz and took its inspiration from the Dandy‘s Black Bob. Viz has produced many great strips –  Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, Roger Mellie the foul-mouthed Man on the Telly – but Black Bag trumps Billy the Fish as the best character. It’s the sheer surreal nature of the idea that does it for me. No wonder James Brown credits Viz as an inspiration for Loaded – so much so he later bought it.

I can even forgive Black Bag for not trying to save me – no Faithful Border Bin Liner can be everywhere.

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£10 to New York and the inflight magazine

March 17, 2015
Freddie Laker's Skylines magazine cover from 1981

Freddie Laker’s Skylines magazine cover from 1981

One of the most popular online stories yesterday morning was Jane Wild’s story about Ryanair working towards £10 transatlantic flights.

Such cheap flights from Europe to the Americas have long been a dream – most famously espoused by Freddie Laker with Skytrain in the 1980s. So popular were Laker’s flights that the US embassy in London had processed 300,000 non-immigrant visas by April 1981 – and was expecting a total of 1m for the year. This meant there would be as many Britons going to the US as US citizens holidaying in Britain – and the rise was attributed to Laker by the US consul. Yet, as Wild points out, no airline has managed to run a transatlantic service offering rock-bottom fares and turn a profit. Some went bust trying, including Sir Freddie’s Skytrain in 1982.

And for every airline, there is usually an airline magazine. The 1981 Skylines cover shown here summarises the typical contents for such magazines, then and now:

  • Dustin Hoffman – a dust of celebrity sparkle;
  • Wine without tears – encouraging readers to dip into the duty free and buy more drinks;
  • The Laker story (and the cover) – it’s marketing material after all;
  • Money wars – business and finance for the executive travellers they are keen to attract;
  • About your flight – answering the questions and pushing other services;
  • Short story – for those who want to switch off.

But the 1980s was the era of deregulation, and by 1985, the US airline People Express and Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic were following Laker in taking the transatlantic fight to British Airways. And just as BA has been the airline to beat on that route, for the past 40 years BA’s High Life has been the inflight magazine – and for much of that time the contract magazine – to beat (I remember ‘whoops’ in the office when the InterCity magazine I was editing for British Rail beat High Life in the National Readership Survey).

Cover of BOAC's inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Cover of BOAC’s inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Before BA and High Life, there was BOAC and its Welcome Aboard, where the covers focused on encouraging exotic international travel and used relaxing poster covers devoid of cover lines. These days, High Life magazine ‘gets in front of over three million people every year, who spend an average of 36 minutes reading it’, says its customer publisher, Cedar. And it has spun off lots of add-ons, becoming more than a magazine, with a travel website, iPad app, social media content and inflight entertainment package.

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

Cedar also boasts that High Life uses ‘some of the best editors, writers and photographers in the world, including Michael Palin, John Simpson and Rankin’. And that’s certainly true of many customer magazines. InterCity was launched by former Nova and Observer Magazine editor Peter Crookston and former GQ editor Paul Keers took over when I left.

Magazines such as High Life and InterCity were key to the development of the customer magazine industry in the early 1980s, led by contract publishers such as BBC/Redwood and Cedar.

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

These days, inflight magazines for the budget airlines tend to be functional, with tit-bitty city profiles and short lifestyle features for their short-haul flights.

One magazine that set out to break the mould was the illustration-led  Carlos for Virgin Airlines. This thought of itself as more of a fanzine than an inflight magazine. It was loved by other editors and designers and won awards for its launch and design from the BSME for publisher John Brown. However, like earlier creative titles such as Town and Nova, it failed to make commercial sense for the airline, lasting just three years and six issues. It was replaced by Travel Notes in 2006. The Atelier Tally blog has a post of covers and details.

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

 

Collectors come out for £2,700 Oz on eBay

March 31, 2014

 

Oz magazine first issue

Oz magazine first issue January 1967

Underground magazine Oz is one of the most collectable titles – and proved the point in March when half-a-dozen bidders took their offers up from the £999 starting price to £2,728 in just nine bids. The set included all 48 issues ‘in exceptional condition’ of a magazine that sparked the 1972 Oz trial and introduced Maxim millionaire Felix Dennis to the magazine world.

A copy of the Oz first issue on its own went for £895 – well above the £650 one sold for back in 2007. Several others issues fetched up to £220.

Another title that attracts collectors is trendy cycling title Rouleur, with a set of the first 43 issues selling for £1000 as a buy-it-now.

Part works aren’t usually big sellers but a James Bond collection with model cars fetched £691. Buying it new would have cost £7.99 x 132, more than £1000.

strand_1904_4aprSherlock Holmes in the Strand is a long-standing attraction for collectors and a set of the first seven volumes of the magazine fetched £545. Mind you, unbound copies fetch far more, and this single issue of the April 1904 Strand with a Holmes story fetched £443.

The first 50 issues of the Face were priced at £500 and the seller took an undisclosed offer.

More on: collecting magazines and eBay prices

More: Strand Magazine and its iconic cover

LOOK OUT FOR: British Magazine Design, a new, highly illustrated book from the Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

£1,019 for a copy of OZ

August 27, 2012
Oz issue 1

Oz issue 1

That’s right. A grand  – £1,019.01 to be exact – for a copy of the first issue of OZ on eBay! That’s almost three times what one fetched in 2006 and pretty much double what a copy of issue 5 from July 1967 sold for (£561.30 on Ebay in May 2007). A February 1967 first issue sold for £560 in September 2007 and another for £360 in 2006.

Two years ago, a complete set of OZ  went for $5,700 in New York.

Jackie from Crazyaboutmagazines alerted me to this. But what other British magazine would fetch more?

Profile: underground magazine Oz

More on: collecting magazines and eBay prices

LOOK OUT FOR: British Magazine Design, a new, highly illustrated book from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Tripewriter genius of Private Eye at the V&A

June 24, 2011

Private Eye at the V&AThe world of print is dragging my time away from the online side at present, delving into the archives at the National Art Library at the V&A for a book on the history of magazine design (1840 to today) and a section on magazine history for The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Also, moving a collection of several thousand magazines has really tested my back in the past few days!

But I note that the V&A is hosting a 50th birthday celebration exhibition for Private Eye in October. There’s one not to be missed. Great journalism (with all its carbuncles), biting cartoons – and at the cutting edge of technology using Letraset, typewriter-produced text [though its enemies might describe it as tripewriter] and offset-litho printing in 1961. Its mode of production would be adopted 15 years later by the Punk fanzines. The magazine has its own page on the event, Private Eye at 50: Making an exhibition of ourselves.

The displays will no doubt focus on the cartoonists – Willy Rushton, Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe to name three – and Private Eye’s bubble covers. But will it give a chance to air photos of old men wearing white vests? Dust off the Fergus Cashin rug? Will Gnitty become a household name? And one for a BBC Radio 4 series – how would the magazine landscape have looked if Private Eye had taken up the offer to write the news pages for Michael Heseltine’s Town?

You know something is doing well when it is hated as well as loved. Such was the venom with which the Eye is (or was) held that the likes of Jeffrey Bernard, Derek Jameson, Clive Jenkins, Ken Livingstone, Spike Milligan, Austin Mitchell, Michael Parkinson, Lady Rothermere and Mary Whitehouse backed the criminal Robert Maxwell in Not Private Eye and his fight to bring Richard Ingrims and pals down. Yet thousands of people rode to the rescue when court fines in losing libel cases to St Jammy Fishfingers and the Bouncing Czech threatened to bring it down.

There’s always someone writing ‘why I’m cancelling my subscription’ (there’s a typical one in Gerald Scarfe’s Drawing Blood, though it might be about a cartoon in the Sunday Times) or ‘why I don’t read you any more‘ letters. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Thumbs-down for Kindle in colleges

September 5, 2010

Seven US colleges ran a trial using Amazon Kindle book readers but they got a thumbs-down from about 80% of the students for their studies – although 90% said they were fine as personal reading devices.

The results of the college trial, reported in the Financial Times (‘E-books fail the classroom test‘), come as other organisations try out such devices in workplaces – the FT reported on Saturday that insurance brokers at Lloyd’s of London are using iPads (‘Lloyd’s brokers weigh up iPads‘) – and college trials are being set up on iPads.

The US trial reported that the Kindle ‘could be clinky. You can’t  move between pages, documents or charts simply … compared with paper.’

Other studies seem to show that people read books much faster on paper than on the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad, but there’s little surprise in this because the devices only show one page at a time, rather than a spread, and carry fewer words to the page.

Rotten Apples and a skiing(?) dog

August 25, 2010
Rotten Apples Food Culture Magazine

Rotten Apples - a food culture magazine

Well this certainly looks different. A dog standing (skiing? trampolining) on beefburgers.

Rotten Apples magazine is a new title about ‘the extremes of Food Culture’.

Thankfully, says editor Ed Vaughan, ‘We are not suggesting that the funny little Pup is in any way a delicacy or should be eaten a la cheeseburger’. (Simon Winchester once wrote about eating dogs in the Far East and we had strrange phone calls asking for his phone number for months afterwards.)

Rotten Apples is published in Bristol and costs £3.95 (about the price of a pint, says the editor, but then beer’s expensive in Bristol).

Independent magazines at Magforum.com

Underground literary magazines

July 5, 2010

Popshot - Independent favourite

Monday’s  Independent has a double-page spread on independent literary magazines. Pen Pusher, Litro, Popshot, Five Dials, The Drawbridge, Stingray, Gutter and Ambit all get mentions. There are half-a-dozen covers shown.

Independent magazines

Where the Wild Things meet the end of the world

November 15, 2009

Two titles come to my notice with eye-catching graphics on a single theme, but very different agendas.

Little White Lies

Little White Lies comes out six times a year and glories in what’s happening in the film world; the Nov/Dec issue is devoted to the forthcoming Where the Wild Things Are from cult director Spike Jones (Being John Malkovitch). Magculture points out that the cover is designed to sit alongside sister title Huck.

Otaku is a very different beast for fans of manga – Wikipedia reckons the word means ‘people with obsessive interests’. The theme is, cheerily, the end of the world.

Otaku

I hand over to the editors to explain more:

Otaku magazine wishes to spread survival methods and plans for after the cataclysm. The end of the World started a long time ago, said Edward O. Wilson and others, it has already begun as a great extinction of living species, probably similar to what happened at the end of the last ice age. All the mega-fauna had disappeared and humans started to practice agriculture. The estimations for the number of small and huge extinctions that marked life history on Earth vary from 5 to over 20. The last one, of meteoritic proportions, had crushed the Earth exactly when dinosaurs were the big and mighty creatures of the time.

Great images but, being an international collaboration, don’t expect the English to match!

 

Martin Sharp and Oz at it again on Ebay

October 11, 2009
Oz 3 poster by Martin Sharp

Oz 3 poster by Martin Sharp

A copy of the third issue of Oz – the underground trippy title that brought Felix Dennis to fame – from 1967 is zooming up the Ebay charts with 10 bids reaching £122 – with 6 days to go. Expect a flurry at the end.

This issue has a three panel fold out poster by Martin Sharp and Souvenir Century, the seller, lists the the contents as:

Revlon Invents Wet Lipstick on the reverse. Beautiful Breasts competition. Mike McInnerney graphic, and ‘Tripping and Skipping They Ran Merrily After the Wonder Full Music…’ – Warren Hinkles on Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the Acid Tests. ‘Last Exit to Brewer Street’ – article on publisher John Calder. ‘Why Politics is Giving Everyone the…’ – girl-on.-toilet-on-Parliament 2 page photomontage, and ‘An Address to politicians’. Protest Postcards to politicians. Pop and Drugs sections. ‘In Praise of Ugliness’ by Colin MacInnes. Magnificent Failures. Frisco Speaks – Sharp cartoon.

They don’t make them like that any more.