Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 40th Anniversary of Look-In

"Look out for Look-In!" was the advertising blurb of 40 years ago when Independent Television Publications Ltd launched their "Junior TV Times" on Friday January 8th 1971. If memory serves me right Look-In was advertised in the TV Times, and of course on television, so there was little chance of parents and kids not being aware of the new 24 page comic/magazine.

I've covered Look-In on this blog before (see links at the end of this post) but as a 40th anniversary celebration let's look into the contents of that very first issue.

The cover image of Magpie presenter Tony Bastable holding a pile of books wasn't exactly the sort of dramatic or funny image that kids usually associated with comics at the time. Fortunately the contents were better. Look-In was clearly something different from the outset; another tv comic but with features, and often features about television. Even the free gift was a model of the Magpie studio. This was a comic for the tv generation.

The editor was Alan Fennell, who had been the original editor of another individualistic tv comic, TV Century 21. A television writer himself, Fennell had his finger on the pulse. On page two he presented the editorial himself. No aliases or fictitious "office boy" dialogue as many other comics had done. This was the editor talking directly to the readers and treating them with intelligence.

Opposite, on page 3, was Look-In's first strip; Crowther in Trouble, "by arrangement with Lesie Crowther" featuring the ex-Crackerjack presenter in comedy stories drawn by Tom Kerr.

Pages 4 and 5 featured Survival, a very popular ITV evening natural history show of the time.

On page 6, World of Sport, the tv sports show that used to dominate Saturday afternoons (competing with BBC's Grandstand). On page 7, How!, the cheap and cheerful children's facts and fun show. (Basically four presenters sitting around a table each having turns to explain how things work. Much more entertaining than it sounds due to the likable personalities of the presenters.)

On pages 8 and 9, Look-In's first adventure strip, Freewheelers. I think this opening episode was drawn by Vicente Alcazar.

On page 10 were the instructions for building your Magpie Studio, and on page 11 was Stewpot, the regular column about radio/tv presenter Ed "Stewpot" Stewart, written by Geoff Cowan.

The centre pages featured the pull-out Magpie Studio and a few more props to go with the free gift (seen in the first photo at the top of this post). You even got a cut-out Floor Manager, but they forgot to print the base to stand him on.

On page 14, Wreckers at Dead Eye, based on a Thames tv series I can't remember so I probably never watched it. Very nice artwork by C.L. Doughty.

On page 15, Tony Bastable's Backchat. A load of waffle basically and perhaps the weakest page in the comic.

On pages 16 and 17, Please Sir!, based on the popular sitcom. The artwork was by Graham Allen, who had been one of the main contributors to Wham!, Smash!, and Pow! where he had adopted a Leo Baxendale type of style for his work on The Nervs and Tuffy McGrew etc. For Please Sir! he used a more realistic, but still comedic, approach.

Taking up a column on page 17 was David Nixon's Magic Box showing readers some simple close up magic.

Pages 18 and 19 featured the programme listings for the coming week. As you can see, the listings were very basic. Apart from the featured programme at the top there's no synopsis or cast list, and it only focuses on the period that children would be out of school before the adult shows began. The most significant difference to modern times is that there are no soaps listed! This was a time when Coronation Street and Crossroads were considered "Grannie's programmes" and no self-respecting kid would admit to watching them. Although many of us did of course as there was little else to occupy our time in the pre-home computer era after we'd done our homework and read our comics.

Pages 20 and 21 were the main attraction of Look-In for me. Timeslip, illustrated in glorious full colour by Mike Noble. Not only was Timeslip my favourite children's show in 1971 it was now a comic strip by my favourite adventure strip artist. Mike Noble had worked with editor Alan Fennell on TV21 of course, so he must have been an obvious choice. He would go on to illustrate many other strips for Look-In over the years.

Pages 22 and 23 featured a Magpie photo feature on the presenters' trip to the Far East.

Finally, on the back page, Junior Showtime, the children's talent show, complete with an audition form for readers to send in! Hopefully there weren't that many readers blacking up in minstrel make up like the boy in the photo.

So began Look-In which clocked up an impressive run of 23 years. To celebrate the anniversary of the launch, TV comics historian Shaqui Le Vesconte is running a competition to win A5 Look-In desktop calendars featuring rare and unseen artwork. You can find further info on the new Look-In tribute site here:

More features on Look-In on my blog here:


James Spiring said...

Shaqui answered the question of who drew Wreckers of Dead Eye when you blogged about Look-in's early years in 2008.

"The main artist for 'Wreckers at Dead Eye' (and later 'Redgauntlet') was C.L. Doughty - except for the last part, which was drawn by Harry North!"

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for the reminder James.

Tony Howson said...

I had Look In #1 all those years ago, but Wreckers At Dead Eye totally passed me by. Seem to recall it had a couple of strips that I didn't associate with TV shows. Maybe they weren't shown in all ITV regions at that time?

The cast list for Wreckers in the comments to your earlier blog throws out some names more associated with sit-coms. The hero with the dodgy accent and dodgier name, Zac, seems to have been played by Bill 'Compo' Owen's son. The two heavies Jon-Jo and Eye-Patch were respectively portrayed by Eddie from Love Thy Neighbour and David Jason's older brother Arthur White.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I once had a letter printed in Look-In. Can't remember what issue but it was for a competition to list your favourite part of a TV show.I wrote in something about loving the transformation in the Incredible Hulk. Think I got a postal order for it.

Peter Bangs said...

Lovely stuff wasn't it, Look-in really was a last stand for that quality. Just dropped in and saw this after browsing the latest on Girl Annual at the Out of this World blog. There was some fantastic art there from a guy called Leo Davy. Nobody seems to know much about him though outside of this and some superb illustration work on Look and Learn. Wondered if you could point towards any info?

Lew Stringer said...

Sorry Peter. I've never heard of Leo Davy. I'm not very familiar with artists of girls comics. David Roach might be able to shed more light on the artist's work perhaps.

Joe S. Walker said...

Network DVD have started a series of DVDs called "Look-Back at 70s Telly," each one containing episodes from about a dozen different ITV kids' shows of the time - a great idea, I think. Volume Three includes episode one of Wreckers Of Dead Eye!

P Day said...

P Day still has possession of the first 2 editions of Look-In together with the treasured cut out Magpie Studio with cut-out characters and camera with boom. Also the boat. Absolutely adored Look-In and Magpie / Timeslip / Free Wheelers / The Persuaders. I was at school with the son of the author of Wreckers at Dead Eye.
Friday 29th June 2013

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