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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Comic oddities: Target (1972)

Not to be confused with the Polystyle comic with the same name which came later, the 1972 weekly Target was a glossy magazine published by The New English Library Ltd.

The intention of Target, as proclaimed in the editorial of issue one, was to "incorporate all the facets of popular reading into one magazine". The reasoning being that instead of buying separate magazines on football, music and cinema etc the kids would get their fix from one mag, - and have some comic strips thrown into the mix too, presumably so they wouldn't bother with Lion or Buster.

The strip content was low; only six pages in total, but at least there was one bold idea there: Bovver Boy. In the 1970s, before punks became the new hate figures, media outrage was directed at skinheads (and the violent and racist aspect of their culture was rightly condemned). Other comics had shied away from reflecting this aspect of society but Target turned a Doc Martin-booted "bovver boy" into the lead character of his own strip. From what I've seen, the racism aspect wasn't mentioned, and the character became little more than a traditional comic bully, but even so Bovver Boy seemed very contemporary for 1972.

(A couple of people have asked me if Bovver Boy was an inspiration for my Tom Thug character. Basically no, as I only had the first two issues of Target and didn't give him any thought when I created Tom twelve years later. But maybe there was a subconscious influence all the same.)

With Bovver Boy, and articles on Hells Angels and The Who, Target was clearly trying hard to be streetwise. However, the magazine seems to have been most remembered for its free gift. It became known as "The mag that gave away those fish eggs". In issue one "The Powder of Life" was attached to the cover. This contained "microscopic eggs of a small marine animal - the Artemia". Adding these to water eventually hatched them out! (The scan above explains the full process.)

The free gift for issue two was a sachet of food for the fish. Yep, if you didn't buy Target No.2 the fish would starve to death! (Surely a sales gimmick that today would have the magazine condemned immediately.)

The fish did indeed "come to life"; the largest being about 2cm long. What I didn't know then was the Artemia were the creatures we'd seen advertised in American comics for years: Sea Monkeys! (No, unlike in the ads, they didn't have limbs or human domestic habits.)

The concept of Target as a magazine wasn't bad, and it was certainly slick, well designed, and intelligently written, but it didn't survive much longer than a year as I recall. (If anyone knows exactly how long it ran for please let me know.) Perhaps the problem was that readers preferred magazines for their specific interests rather than skipping past articles that didn't interest them? Another factor must have been the cover price. At 10p it was twice the price of Look-In, its nearest rival, which was in exactly the same format.

In a way, Target was ahead of its time, as the concept of a youth magazine with a minority of strip content is the norm today! A case of missing its target audience by thirty five years perhaps? ;-)


Ian Abrahams said...

Crikey, Lew - as this is a NEL publication, is this by a huge co-incidence the answer to the question I logged on your blog earlier today???????

Lew Stringer said...

I think the one you're thinking about was SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY, - a tabloid 1970s magazine with double-page posters taken from sf book cover artwork. Does that ring a bell?


paulhd said...

Skinheads and Hell's Angels? Sounds like NEL were doing a kid friendly version of the kind of books they were doing in the 70's. Shame they didn't throw in some few gory horror for the little 'uns.

Lew Stringer said...

Interesting point Paul. I hadn't thought of NEL's other books of that period.


Ian Abrahams said...

Hi Lew,

Thanks for the link. Hmm, recognise a few of the covers but I'd have only been eleven in 1974 and I don't think this is the sort of thing I'd have been buying at that point.

D'y'know, it was just that I did recognise Target ... and it looked right. I'm sure it was something with a one word title ... and certainly aimed at a younger audience than SFM ... maybe a mystery never to be solved then! I'll look out on E-Bay though for a few SFMs and see if they ring any more bells! Thanks.

Lew Stringer said...

Hi Ian,

Probably not SFM then so maybe it was Target you had. I only bought the first two issues so I don't know what articles & pip ups they featured later, but it's a likely contender.


Anonymous said...

The best SFM covers page I could find was at:
These were almost A3 in size and had terrific posters taken from papaerback covers without the clutter of the paperback titles and blurb!
Oh nostalgia!

Tennis #1 said...

If you want to grow the creatures in the Target magazine check out (they will come with food!)


lots of choices in your sea pets of today!
of coarse you can buy the original Sea Monkeys as well

Anonymous said...

Hi guys. As a 13 year old in 72 I had a subscription to this mag for a year.It seemed that the purpose of this mag was to advertise the NEL's latest Western novels about a character named 'Edge'. Ido remember the eggs from the first issue.We even had a school science project initiated and I believe the creatures( as we called them) lasted about a month until, over a half term holiday they all shrugged off this mortal coil..
There were a great many features on astronomy and how to grind your own telescope refracting mirror system and overall it was an entertaining and informative mag that sadly dissapeared from the shelves as I revised for my O levels in '74.I've always wondered what became of it and have looked for it at comic fairs for years, with no success. I will continue my quest. Best Regard DBD

Ian Abrahams said...

Well, as I mention today on my blog, e-bay has proved that Target was indeed the paper with the Aldiss cover posters!


Anonymous said...

...though of course not all skinheads where racists or nazis, in fact the earliest ones (from 1972, in fact) listened to reggae! from what i've heard (i wasn't around at the time) the "skins are racist" stuff didnt begin until the Oi! craze of the early 80's, with several bands condemned as being racists for no apparent reason. "They organised a provocative gig in an asian area!" screamed one tabloid, neglecting to mention they had been asked to play in that area by thier asian fans. I should think a lot of racists became skinheads and formed racist bands after reading these lies, rather than the other way around

Lew Stringer said...

Well, as a teenager in the 1970s I definitely remember skinheads being considered racist as some Indian friends of mine were picked on by some. I'm sure not all skinheads were racist but some racists adopted the skinhead look and style.

Anyway, only soft gits with no individuality give themselves labels and join gangs. ;-)


tobusylookingood said...

first issue 22/4/1972 last issue 24/3/1973 i have entirety

Anonymous said...

IMHO this was a superb mag, lots of articles on exotic cars, moog synths,football, it was epic, with a very high quality paper. I think it only lasted 6 monthsish.

Aardvark Records said...

I've just found a letter in an old LP written to the editor of Target (obv. never sent, or maybe it was and I have the editors Pick of the Pops LP) requesting the addition of a readers letters page and suggesting a small prize be given for every letter that was published.

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