Sunday 28 March 2010

Bizarre History Of 'Love-Stories In Pictures'


Just how far should a girl go?
As far as the local newsagents!
There, for some thirty years from the late 1940’s
into the 1970’s, the ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’
magazines purvey their breathless weekly heartaches.
Here is the lost world of ‘MIRABELLE’, ‘VALENTINE’,
‘MARILYN’, ‘ROXY’ and ‘MARTY’. Weekly doses of
‘All-Picture-Romances’ inspired by Pop Songs of the day
sung by Elvis Presley, or Billy Fury, the Beatles or the Searchers.
Unthreatened by such looming concepts as gender equality,
life-style choices, contraception, abortion, or the
‘Sex And The City’ etiquette of how to administer the
perfect blow-job, this is a genre with plenty o
‘Wining and Dining’, but strictly NO Sixty-Nining…
They were best-sellers in their day. Now they’re gone, and
only the most dedicated collectors bother to hunt them out.
Andrew Darlington tries to make sense of it all...

“By the way, where’d you meet him?”
“I met him in the Candy Store. He turned around
and looked at me, you get the picture?”
“Yes, we see.”
(Dialogue from ‘Leader Of The Pack” by the Shangri-Las)

He was a Boy. She was a Girl. Do I have to make it any more obvious?

A supernaturally huge moon hangs over a suburban garden-gate. A kiss. He is taller than she is. He has a sharp jacket and a sharper quiff. She, reaching up to receive his kiss, has a flared skirt and elaborate coiffure. And her thought-bubbles tell it all, ‘the moment our lips met I knew he’d keep his promise… I knew that this was the love I’d been yearning for… TRUE love…’
Just how far should a girl go? In his ‘International Book Of Comics’ writer and archivist Denis Gifford supplies the easy answer, ‘as far as the nearest news-stand.’ There, for some thirty years from the late 1940’s and on into the 70’s, ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’ comics purveyed their breathless heartaches in eagerly-anticipated weekly instalments. This is the world of ‘Mirabelle’, ‘Valentine’, ‘Marilyn’, ‘Roxy’ and ‘Marty’. Magazines of ‘All-Picture-Romances’ inspired by Pop Songs of the day sung by Elvis Presley, or Billy Fury, the Beatles or the Searchers. They were best-sellers in their day. Now they’re gone, and only the most dedicated collectors bother to hunt them out.

Turn back time. Long before Britney and Lady GaGa there was Helen Shapiro and Susan Maughan. And their biggest chart hits define the opposing attitudes to dating in 1962. Helen’s defiant individualism – ‘gonna be my own adviser, / ‘cos my mind’s my own’, contrasting with Susan’s supine ‘when people ask of me / what do I want to be / now that I’m not a kid anymore’ she answers right away, without delay – ‘I wanna be Bobby’s Girl’. For the most part, it is the latter option that wins out. The most vital acquisition in life is not career, financial independence, or gender equality, but that most desirable of status symbols, the Boyfriend...

“met him on a Monday and my heart stood still,
Da-Doo Ron-Ron-Ron Da-Doo RonRon,
somebody told me that his name as Bill,
Da-Doo Ron-Ron-Ron Da-Doo RonRon”
(“Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals)

The whole ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’ phenomena came emerging up out of post-war austerity and rationing, growing with the spread of TV’s and ‘dream kitchens’ with their melamine and formica work-surfaces and ‘labour-saving appliances’. They document the changing times and fads from Beatniks and Skiffle, through ‘Look Back In Anger’, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, into the Twist, the ‘Swinging Sixties’, and the revolutions beyond. ‘Mirabelle’ – launched in September 1956 was the longest-running title, closely followed by ‘Valentine’ from January 1957. Eventually merged, the titles managed to survive far into the 1970’s. But even before ‘Mirabelle’, at the very dawn of the post-war decade, teenage girls were thrilling to the ‘sensational romances’ and ‘pulsating love dramas’ featured in such low-prestige periodicals as ‘The Miracle’ and ‘The Oracle’, which contain just one token romantic story in picture-strip form per issue. Of course, before and during all this, there were American imports, and UK reprints of American originals of the ‘Young Love’, ‘True Confessions’, ‘True Sweetheart Secrets’ and Charlton’s ‘Summer Love’ variety. Because, inevitably, the Americans had got there first. In fact, Denis Gifford claims the creative team responsible for caped super-hero ‘Captain America’ – Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, were jointly responsible for the first-ever romance comic-book title – ‘My Date’ as long ago and far away as July 1947.

But ‘Mirabelle’ and its ilk was a wholly British phenomenon. Girls tended to graduate into it with the onset of puberty, after growing out of ‘Girl’s Crystal’, ‘Schoolfriend’, or the parentally approved ‘Girl’ (every Friday from 2nd November 1951, with its upwardly aspirational strips like Roy Bailey’s ‘Kitty Hawke & Her All-Girl Aircrew’). And they tended to stay with it through the years between those first awkward blushes of adolescence and teen-angst, but before they matured, and settled down into the comfortably Mumsy ‘Woman’s Realm’ or ‘Woman’s Own’ with their recipes, knitting-patterns for ‘figure-flattering cardigans’, child-rearing features and corset-ads.

In those ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’ magazines they would find humorous strips with quirkily caricatured art to match. But at their most striking the panels glow with the perfect stylised beauty of Pop Art. The quintessential ‘Only The Lonely’ tear-drop captured in its descending arc from the fringe of immaculately executed eyelashes. The yearning of impossible teenage dreams reflected in her eyes, and on her moistly pursed lips. And there are perceptively observed cameos meticulously recording the fine detail of passing fashion, miniskirts, PVC caps, eyeliners, back-combed coiffure, page-boy bobs, or piled-high bouffant, all incidentally glimpsed as she alights from the bus, or sips frothy Expresso coffee from a shallow Duralex cup. Male sartorial style, never as precisely articulated, nevertheless graduates from the poised tidal-wave quiff, into the Beatles fringe, into Mod fashion, centre-partings, hipster slacks, and ruff-front shirts, as Pop Star role-models of choice evolve from Tommy Steele, Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, to Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Bobby Vee, to Paul McCartney, Billy J. Kramer and Gene Pitney.

In keeping with the policy of the time, ruthlessly enforced by the notoriously secretive D.C. Thomson, but common to other publishers too, the scripters and illustrators remained uncredited. This deliberate strategy has been explained as a way to avoid readers identifying favourites, so that loyal fan-followings were unable to develop around creator-names, which could otherwise have been used by them to negotiate better rates of pay. And unlike the dedicated comic-book archaeologists who uncovered the lost identities responsible for the Science Fiction strips or the ‘Beano’ and ‘Dandy’ characters, the ‘Love-Story-In-Pictures’ have never been subjected to the same level of dedicated research, hence many of the names behind the scripts and art remain unknown. Yet there was the gently comic art of Robert MacGillivray and the more romantic-realist Michael Hubbard at Fleetway, plus Roland Davies at Amalgamated Press. There was Andrew Wilson over at IPC, and D.C. Thomson’s Giorgio Letteri, Ron Smith, Geoff Jones, and ‘Badia’. Names that, even now, remain little more than names. But the magazine-titles for which they produced their best work were loved. They remained adornments to the newsagent’s counter across the late 1950’s, through the 60’s, and well into the 70’s, with enviable circulation figures. And are remembered – if secretly, guiltily, with real affection.

For the best part of its first twelve years ‘Valentine’ prospered under the editorial guidance of Leslie ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson. Born in 1908 he was already a veteran of ‘juvenile publishing’ for Amalgamated Press, with experience of working on ‘Tiger Tim’s Weekly’ and ‘Playbox’ as well as ‘Radio Fun’. But, returning from active war service, he found himself kicking his heels, discontent with his position on the monthly ‘Sexton Blake Library’ until Percival Haydon, director of the publisher’s comics division, shoved the mocked-up dummy of a projected picture-paper aimed at the teenage girl’s market across the table to him, and asked for his opinion. When ‘Wilkie’ admitted he found the stories charming, Haydon promptly moved him across to the new title, where he would remain on the editorial and scripting side of ‘Valentine’ until his retirement in 1969.

One of the stories selected under his benevolent regime was a Gothic-flavoured ‘Poignant & Unforgettable Picture Drama’ (‘Valentine’ 25th September 1965) ‘inspired’ by the Yardbirds hit “Heartful Of Soul” (written by Graham Gouldman), with a moody photo of the group – Jeff Beck to the fore, in the title-panel. As the story opens Eve is suffering from haunting dreams, and ‘those seconds of terror whenever I woke from the nightmare were always the worst’. She lies awake in her black lace nightdress. Her dark hair dishevelled across the pillow. Perfect lips poised. Dark oval eyes pleading. ‘David! Oh David, please forgive me, David, watch out!’ Soon after, dark dishy David comes home to her from a course in London, and that very same day he takes her for an outing to Castle Hogarth, and the romantic reader can already sense the inexorable drama unfolding. The bleak castle is haunted by Lady Vera who ‘pushed her Lover from these walls when she thought he had been untrue to her’ – and then ‘threw herself down after him’ when she found out she was mistaken. ‘Typical woman!’ snorts David. But ‘Eve knew that she could not resist the tragic haunting call of the castle walls’, looking out from the battlement over the perilous drop. For Eve has already jealously doubted David’s constancy. And the doomed-lovers cycle is about to be repeated – but this time with a happy outcome. No-one dies. This is ‘Valentine’, after all. David forgives her for ever doubting him. They kiss in the final panel. Their love tested and true.

Meanwhile, the rival title – ‘Mirabelle’, had already announced itself as ‘PAGE AFTER PAGE OF ALL-PICTURE ROMANCE’ for just four-&-a-half pence. Here, there’s the glamour of Pop Star Features (“What It’s Like To Be Loved By Johnnie Ray” – Sylvia Drew Explains), clear through to the Back-To-Reality Kitchen Sink back-page ad for ‘Surf’ (“Hold It Up To The Light, Not A Stain – And Shining White”). Then ‘Roxy’ launched itself with a splash (15 March 1958). The no.1 issue featured a free guitar-shaped broach gift – while announcing ‘This Story Is Told By Tommy Steele Himself’. The skyline in the opening cover-picture pans out across London dockland. Beneath the street-lamp, a guitar-toting figure, a stand-in for Britain’s first-ever Rocking ‘n’ Rolling Pop Star – and former seaman, Tommy Steele himself, waves up to her. This was a Pop connection that would continue across the following years, with ‘See inside – THE DISCLAND LOW-DOWN by Marty Wilde’ (30th April 1960), plus a cover ‘U-Star Story’. This was an experimental picture-love strip in which YOU play the central part. ‘See Cliff Richard as the Boy in this story, YOU are the Girl!!!’ This gimmicky idea – a 1960 version of print-interactivity, actually comes down to little more than a switch in the grammatical structure.

Elsewhere, ‘I wash my hands of all women!’ declares the handsome guy in the ‘Sundale Holiday Camp’ in the garish opening frame of a ‘Marilyn’ cover story. She watches him from the corner of her perfectly oval eyes, her dark shoulder-length hair held in place by an Alice-band, her handbag clutched in her white-gloved hands. You just know, by the end of this ‘complete love story’, she will have changed his mind. Exotic locations? Who needs them. Like a missing episode from TV’s ‘Hi-De-Hi’, all this one needs is a Butlin’s chalet. And for just five-pence you get all this, as well as a ‘Tommy Steele Disc Offer’. True, over at ‘Romeo’ they’re featuring the more grown-up possibilities of “Cruise to Romance”, where ‘falling in love with Steve Simpson was like a wonderful dream. But what was the mystery surrounding him?’ And wonderful Steve is the Third Mate on a Mills & Boon-style luxury liner. Well – all the nice girls do love a sailor.
Then there is ‘TV Fan’, a short-lived title that survived for just twenty-one issues before being merged with ‘Valentine’. The opening story of the second issue is ‘inspired’ by Billy Fury’s “First Love”, lavishly illustrated by Arthur Martin’s most florid art, as a couple sit on a fallen tree-branch, about to kiss in an impossibly idealistic rural setting, horses pulling wagons laden high with freshly-mown hay behind them. Perhaps it’s all just a little too twee, she’s a little too sensible, her hem-line safely below the knee. He wears a sensible tie. The text-box gushes ‘in the time of roses when romance and music filled the air, I found my first love.’ Over the top? The local High Street is the genre’s more usual territory, belisha beacons, coffee bars, the hair salon, the newsagents, and single-screen flea-pit cinemas called ‘The Gaumont’, ‘The Astoria’, or ‘The Roxy’. Identifiable places, where love might be awaiting around every corner. Locations that are just as equally spaced from escapist Mills & Boon fantasy-land, as they are from high-powered Independent Career-women, or gritty inner cities. The central characters still live with Mum & Dad in comfortable suburban semi-detached. They catch the bus to work. Which might be the department store, the hair-dressers… or the library if she wears specs. In other words, they live the lives of their target demographic. They wear headscarves tied beneath the chin, and sometimes they wear curlers beneath. When they go dancing on Saturday night they get dressed up, mini-skirts and heavy eye-make-up. Smart and stylish, but never posh or tarty.
The boys they meet move in the same circles. Invariably they are good-looking, but seldom fabulously rich. Sometimes, in a kind of fantasy-fulfilment scenario, the boy might be on the brink of Pop Stardom, but forsakes that promise of stardom for love. Or maybe she sacrifices her love for his career. Biting back the tears. But more often the boy works at the local garage. And there is usually a mid-story crisis. She sees her new boyfriend in the coffee-bar with another girl. But the crisis is resolved when she discovers it is his sister. Sometimes the boy rides a motor-bike. But, like James Dean in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, or ‘Danny Fisher’ in Elvis’ ‘King Creole’, he is more misunderstood than juvenile delinquent. Like the Shangri-Las’ ‘Jimmy’ in “Leader Of The Pack” he’s ‘good-bad, but not evil’, or like the Crystal’s “He’s A Rebel” ‘he is always good to me, always treats me tenderly, / he’s not a rebel no-no, he’s not a rebel no-on, to me’. So if the boy is angry, and if her parents disapprove of him, that’s because he’s misunderstood, and by the time the story closes he has earned their respect. But there’s grit too, with occasional more-adult themes. Esme is a girl caught up in an intensely possessive relationship (in ‘Roxy’ 30 April 1960). ‘You were at the bottom of it’ he accuses her, ‘some Dame always is’, as ‘the Dance-Hall Bouncer was throwing her out’. Esme ‘felt like a kitten against a mastiff. ‘Why pick on ME?’ she protests, ‘I didn’t start the rough-house’. Or there are teasing tag-lines, such as “Unknown Lover” (in ‘Serenade’ 22nd Sep 1962) – ‘if I’m going to marry you, perhaps I’d better know your name…’ Sometimes there’s a ‘Powerful Passionate All-Picture Drama’ such as “Black Heart” (in ‘Marilyn’ 19th March 1955) in which Clara Gorley is acquitted of the murder of her husband ‘without a stain on your character’, but the gossip persists.

‘Boyfriend’, in the meantime, sticks with the more important issues, Pop and Boys, with ‘This Week’s Boyfriend: Frankie Vaughan’. ‘Boyfriend’ was launched in the Spring of 1959. It was the first girls’ magazine to truly put music first. Each week there would be a new ‘Boyfriend’ – Russ Conway, Johnny Mathis, Lonnie Donegan – telling his true-life story and, to prove that he had a softer side, introducing his favourite romantic story. You could also meet ‘The Girl Behind the Boy’, the star’s secret girlfriend. It’s not certain whether this was so the reader could emulate her, or a case of ‘know your enemy’ so she could steal her Star boyfriend if the opportunity arose. ‘Boyfriend’ really came into its own when the sixties began to swing and it gave itself over to modern pop. As early as February 1963 – before their first album was out, ‘Boyfriend’ was describing the Beatles as ‘even more modern than modern’.

As a male adolescent I should logically have been excluded from such an extreme feminised world. But friends have sisters who leave them lying around. My mother sometimes had a stash of back-issues passed on to her by Auntie Jean, who wasn’t a real Auntie, but who lived up the lane. And I was the kind of kid who read everything. The lure of a photo-exclusive from the next Elvis Presley film – ‘Flaming Star’ or ‘Wild In The Country’, or an interview fan-feature on the Shadows, would offer a legitimising excuse to browse. And, after all, the stories held out the promise of an access-route into the strange geography of the female romantic psyche. And what I discovered was that, as the 1950’s leaked over into the 1960’s, this white heterosexual world of claustrophobically-safe life-restrictions remained undisturbed by the imminent social changes on the horizon. The characters in the picture-stories were unthreatened by such looming concepts as gender equality, life-style choices, contraception, abortion, or the ‘Sex And The City’ etiquette of how to administer the perfect blow-job. There was not even any ‘Heavy Petting’. For this was a genre with plenty of ‘Wining and Dining’, but strictly NO Sixty-Nining. These were magazines designed to bridge the gap between school, and marital domesticity, although they tended to overlap at either end. They provide Pop pin-ups for the teenage bedroom wall. Make-up and fashion tips for the newly-wed… because, of course, the married state is the logical aspiration. In its own sweet way, women’s publishing, rather than challenging this hermetically-sealed conformity, preferred to support the status quo. A problem page conducted by Evelyn Home from ‘Woman’ in 1951 sedates the correspondent’s anxieties with ‘it is safe to say that most women, once they have a family, are more contented and doing better work in the home than they could find outside it’. So, contentious issues seldom extended beyond choosing the most appropriate shade of nail-varnish or the correct brand of blusher. Feminism, like Hot-Pants and decimal currency, would come later.


January 1961. The front page of ‘Valentine’ was given over to “Doll House”, a ‘fascinating and unusual picture-romance’ inspired by a single from the relentlessly unfashionable King Brothers. The song had recently peaked no higher than no.21 on the chart. Like many of its type the story is narrated in the intimacy of first-person, but this one has an air of nostalgic regret. ‘I never thought when I came to the house that I’d meet… HIM’. ‘I’ve just come to collect some things’ she explains to him. ‘Take what you want. After all, we’re not getting married, now’ he replies bitterly. ‘How could I tell him I couldn’t keep away from the house… the house that might once have been ours’ she reflects sadly. ‘It wasn’t this way when we started. We didn’t hate each other then…’ Where did their love go? She begins to reminisce, telling their story in flashback sequences. Through to this sad and defensive meeting in the doll house.

So where did they go? These magazines. These ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’. These doomed cartoon romances conjured out of the world of Shangri-Las Pop-lyrics. And does their extinction mean the equivalent readership today is less romantic, harder, smarter, more realistic, less naïve, more materialistic, less idealistic, less gullible, less starry-eyed, less supine, more sexually precocious…? None – or all of the above?

Trash? Of course they were trash. But sometimes the things you remember most fondly are trash – the music, the movies, the TV programmes… the magazines. Long before Britney and Christina Aguilera, long before Lady GaGa and Katie Perry, there was Helen Shapiro and Susan Maughan. They defined the opposing attitudes to dating in 1962. But by the mid-to-late sixties those ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’ were still betraying something of a fifties aroma, the whiff of Brylcreme in time of Patouchi oil. And one by one they were either being absorbed into each other, or they were vanishing. Hunting a winning formula ‘Romeo’ experimented with the comic exploits of chirpy Cockney ‘Sandie’, illustrated by Guido Buzzelli from 1970-74. When fusty old Dad objects to revealing glimpses of the ‘Popsie Peepers’ she wears under her miniskirt she simply shoves a maxiskirt over them, and promptly takes it off again as soon as she gets to the dance. She’s gonna be her own adviser ‘cos her mind’s her own’. Soon after, ‘Romeo’ merged with ‘Debbie’ – which effectively skipped its target audience down from teenage to tweenage. The first combined issue (21 September 1974) extends its plot-lines into TV flat-share ‘Man About The House’ territory with ‘Jo And Co’, illustrated by Brian Delaney’s quirky and distinctive art. This ‘Super New Series’ even features a black girl called Haze, who – alongside Jo and Mary, and kid sister Mitzi, are ‘three crazy girls’ who ‘never had a dull moment’ throughout their two-year run. Meanwhile ‘Debbie’, following on from where ‘Marty’ had left off, by busily specialising in a new wave of photo-love strips, which nevertheless failed to achieve the broad-based popularity here that they’ve always enjoyed in other European markets.

Instead, the way ahead was already being charted by ‘Jackie’ ‘FOR GO-AHEAD TEENS’. It came from D.C. Thomson, the people who bring you ‘Beano’, and from its launch on 11th January 1964 it interviewed bands, ran comic strips and photo-love stories, and although aimed at a slightly lower age-group, proved to be more responsive to both its readers’ interests, and to the growth in celebrity entertainment culture and its more consumer-focused mentality. Yet its dominance of the market was itself challenged in the late-1970’s by an even newer, more explicit breed of titles – ‘Oh Boy!’, ‘My Guy’, ‘Mates’, and ‘Love Affair’ a group of periodicals soon boasting a total audited circulation of some two-million copies a week, through a strategy of being far more up-front ‘Grab-A-Guy’ about sexual matters. Not content with the chaste no-tongues kiss, Sharon – in one typical tale, determines to teach her love-slouch boyfriend Jeff a lesson for spending far too much time sensibly revising for exams while not devoting nearly enough time to more important matters – like satisfying her. So she makes a rendezvous in the garden shed with love-rival Dave, another boy from her class. And her expectations are far from disappointed, ‘he was far more physical than Jeff, and so randy…!’

Soon the readership has moved yet further, and it prefers the Pop ‘n’ Soap-star celebrity mix of ‘Cosmo Girl’, ‘Smash Hits’, or ‘It’s Hot!’. But what was no longer to be found on the newsagent’s counter was already making it big in the Art World. New York Pop-Art Superstar Roy Leichtenstein made a career out of isolating and expanding individual frames from the ‘Love-Story-In-Pictures’ magazines. He blew them up until the separate screen-stipples stand out in neat grids, then took them to prominence in the Galleries. While ironically, the over-worked studio art-hacks who originated those same image were forever doomed to stay with low prestige, virtual anonymity, and meagre monthly salary cheques.

Elsewhere, the plots were picked up by Phil Oakey, especially for the bus-station coffee-bar re-union story-line of Human League’s “Louise”. Or the ‘you saw him first but I got him in the end’ narrative of Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi (Skater Boy)”, or her pretentious role-playing boy-friend in “Complicated”. Love? Don’t you just love it?

“And the moment our lips met I knew he’d keep his promise…
knew that this was the love I’d been yearning for…

With thanks and acknowledgements to Barbara Griggs “TODAY’S THRILLS’ (‘SUNDAY TIMES’ 28 June 1981), Denis Gifford’s ‘ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMIC CHARACTERS’ (Longman Press, 1987), and many other names lost or neglected…


‘BLUE JEANS’ (D.C. Thomson) From no.1 - 22nd Jan 1977. 15p. Spin-offs include ‘Blue Jeans Photo Novels’ from 10 Jun 1980.

‘BOYFRIEND’ (City Magazines, editorial office 168 Regent Street – 4d, every Friday) Editor: R Taylor. No.1 – 16 May 1959 with ‘Going-Steady Ring: Great Offer Inside’. Issue dated 13th July 1963 publishes the first pictures from the Beatles ‘Euston Road’ photo-shoot, later used as the cover for their ‘Twist & Shout’ EP. A ‘Meet a Beatle’ competition was won by readers Karen, Vicki, Anne and Susan. Issue dated 3rd July 1965 (9d) of ‘The Young Romantic & Fashion Magazine’ announces lead-story ‘Love In The Launderette’ - ‘it’s amazing the things that happen in the least likely places!, plus ‘It’s Rolling Stones Month: First Of Five Spectacular Colour Portraits’. It survived for 351 issues until 12th May 1966 when it became ‘Trend & Boyfriend’, then ‘Boyfriend & Trend’ to 2 Sept 1967, when it was finally absorbed into ‘Petticoat’ magazine.

‘CHERIE’ ‘EXCITING LOVE STORIES IN PICTURES’ (D.C. Thomson) From no.1 – 1st October 1960, it survives 160 issues through until 19th October 1963.

‘CONFESSIONS LIBRARY’ (Associated Press – monthly) Complete 68page pocket editions from no.1 Feb 1959 – ‘Men Could Not Resist Me’, to Dec 1960, when it becomes ‘Romantic Confessions Picture Library’.

‘HONEY’ ‘BECOME THE GIRL YOU WANT TO BE WITH HONEY’ (every month - seventeen-&-half-pence) The May 1974 issue includes features such as ‘Become the Girl with the Show-Off Legs’ or ‘Become the Girl With Grace in Lace’ – ‘looking great is no effort when you have Easy Elegance… or even a touch of Lazy Lady Blues (Summer’s colour in cool cottons and denims)’.

‘LOVE STORY PICTURE LIBRARY’ (Amalgamated Press, Fleetway, then IPC) 68-page monthly pocket editions from no.1 August 1952 ‘Dancing Heart’.

‘MARILYN’ ‘THE GREAT ALL-PICTURE LOVE STORY WEEKLY’ (Amalgamated Press – every Thursday) Editor: R.A. Lewis. The first of the ‘Love-Stories-In-Pictures’ weeklies. No.1 -19 March 1955 with Free Gift: Lucky Persian Love Ring’ 3d – 547 issues until 18 Sept 1965 when it merges with ‘Valentine’.

‘MARTY’ ‘FIRST-EVER PHOTO-ROMANCE WEEKLY’ (C. Arthur Pearson Press) No.1 - 23 Jan 1960 including Photo-strips, and runs for 162 issues until 23 Feb 1963. Incorporates ‘Silver Star’ from 29 Oct 1960, and is itself absorbed into ‘Mirabelle’.

‘MIRABELLE’ ‘PAGE AFTER PAGE OF ALL-PICTURE ROMANCE’ (C. Arthur Pearsons, then IPC). No.1 -10 Sept 1956. 4-&-a-half pence, with ‘Extra! David Whitfield’s Star Song Book’ inside. 25 May 1963-Beatles cover. 3 Aug 1963-Beatles cover. 5 Jun 1965-Beatles cover + Free Poster. In 1965 it publishes poem-fragments by Donovan. Incorporates ‘New Glamour’ from 7 Oct 1958, ‘Marty’ from 2 Feb 1963, and ‘Valentine’ from 16 Nov 1974. Becomes ‘New Mirabelle’ from 19 Feb 1977. Lasts for 1009 issues until it merges with ‘Pink’ 22 Oct 1977.

‘MY GUY’ (IPC) no.1 - 4 March 1978, designed to be a more racy rival for ‘Jackie’ it consists of Photo-strips featuring future-star models Hugh Grant (in ‘The Go-Between’), Julian Sands (‘Chris wanted a holiday to remember – he found a girl he’d never forget…’), George Michael, and Tony Hadley. At its peak it sells 300,000 a week. Incorporates ‘Heartbeat’ 17 April 1982, and ‘Oh Boy’ 19th January 1985. A ‘The Best Of My Guy’ compendium published for Xmas 2006 plunders its finest moments and reproduces a pin-up poster of Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell.

‘NEW GLAMOUR’ (Pearson Press) Woman’s comic, no.1 -16 Oct 1956, lasts for 102 issues until it merges into ‘Mirabelle’ 30 Sep 1958.

‘OH BOY’ (IPC) From 23 Oct 1976, 428 issues until 12 Jan 1985. Incorporates ‘Mates’ from 5 Sept 1981, and ‘Photo-Love’ from 5 Feb 1982, before it is absorbed into ‘My Guy’.

‘PHOTO LOVE’ (IPC) 197 issues from 31 Mar 1979 to 29 Jan 1983 when it merges into ‘Oh Boy’.

‘PICTURE ROMANCE LIBRARY’ (Pearson) 68-page monthly pocket-book series from Oct 1956, ‘Her Forgotten Past’.

‘PINK’ (IPC) 377 issues from 24 Mar 1973 to 14 Jun 1980. Incorporates ‘New Mirabelle’ from 29 Oct 1977, until it is absorbed into ‘Mates’.

‘ROMEO’ ‘NEW, EXCITING, ALL PICTURES’ (D.C. Thomson – Every Tuesday) no.1 - 31 August 1957 with ‘Great Free Gift: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Wishing Ring’ 4d. 887 issues, until it is absorbed by ‘Diana’ 21 Sept 1974.

‘ROXY’ (Amalgamated Press, then Fleetway- every Monday) Numbered issues from no.1 (15 March 1958 4d) to no.62 (1959), then cover-dated from 6th June 1959. May 1959-Craig Douglas cover. May 1959-Vince Eager cover. 30 April 1960, now 5d. Lasts 235 issues until 14 Sep 1963 when it merges with ‘Valentine’.

‘SERENADE’ ‘IT’S NEW, IT’S GREAT, IT’S SWINGING’ (Fleetway – every Monday- 6d) no.1 - 22 Sept 1962 with ‘Free Inside: A Disc From Cliff, His Personal Message To You’ with cover story ‘Unknown Lover’ (‘If I’m going to marry you, perhaps I’d better know your name…’). Survives for only twenty-five issues, until it merges with ‘Valentine’ from 9 Feb 1963.

‘TV FAN’ ‘ROMANCE IN PICTURES’ (Fleetway -Every Monday) 4d. From 12 Sep 1959 - for 21 issues to 30 Jan 1960 when it is merged with ‘Valentine’. 19 Sep 1959-Billy Fury cover + Arthur Martin art, and a ‘Full-Page Photo of Frankie Vaughan’ inside.

‘VALENTINE’ ‘BRINGS YOU LOVE STORIES IN PICTURES’ (Amalgamated Press, then Fleetway) Editor: A.A. Lewis. From 19 Jan 1957, for 927 issues until 9 Nov 1974. no.1 (19 Jan 1957 priced four-&-a-half pence) Free Gift within ‘Cyril Stapleton’s ALL-STAR Songbook’ + ‘£150 VHF Tele-Radio-Gram for you! – see simple contest within’ Cover story Elvis Presley sings ‘Blue Moon’ (‘I’ll never forget tonight – never, as long as I live…’, ‘I’ meet an American painter living in Paris – ‘it’s beautiful, like the Spring, - soft and warm, and alive’) no.69 – Elvis cover, Buddy Holly pin-up. 1 Oct 1960 – Cliff Richard Poster. 22 Sep 1962 – Richard Chamberlain Portrait. 8 June 1963 – photo-feature of Beatles at the University of London Union swimming pool, frolicking with ‘Valerie’ and ‘Valentine’ tea-boy Clancy T Smith. 15 May 1965 (6d) ‘It’s Not Unusual’ Tom Jones cover story (“That’s the worst of Fred. I never know what he’s thinking!” Impenetrable, that’s the word I’m looking for’), The Searchers: Extra-Big New Portrait, The New World of Donovan. Later features a music column written by ‘Mersey Beat’-founder Bill Harry (who also contributes to ‘Marilyn’). Incorporates ‘T.V. Fan’ from 6 Feb 1960, ‘Serenade’ from 16 Feb 1963, ‘Roxy’ from 21 Sept 1963, ‘Marilyn’ from 25 Sep 1965, until it is itself swallowed up by ‘Mirabelle’.


Unknown said...

My parents were the subject of "Living Love Stories " in Valentine Magazine issue 16.11.57. Joan and Norrie Paramor. Do you know if there is any way that I would be able to obtain a copy of this?
Carrie Ledingham (nee Paramor)

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angel said...

Have the Valentine publications been reprinted and compiled in book form ?

Anonymous said...

It's unbeliavable the lack of interest of the author in the most esencial part of those girl's comics: The fabulous art accompanying the stories. A new style never tried before by the British comic artist who till the end of the years 50 illustrated those and other comics in Great Britain. Their style was something out of the past that needed an urgent changue of style, like the very important changes in social life that during that time systematically kept arriving in public life.
It was in 1958 when editor José Toutain, head of the Barcelona agency Selecciones Ilustradas, arrived in London to meet with stablished editors of the UK most prominent publications publishing houses, like Fleetway, were Mike Butterfield, the editor of the girls comics. The examples Toutain he had with him to show the new potential customers left nearly everyone astonished. What they saw there was unprecedental and totally new; the drawings, all made by Spanish artists, will from that moment on inundate the British comic world (girls and boys).
Indeed 'Badia' was one of the circa 60 Spanish comic artists that for the next 10 years would be week after week showing the British public how breathtaking and influential in their look the new art style (the Spanish style) would be.
There are out there some books (american and Spanish) about the artistic phenomenon of the Spanish Style where this particular time in British comic history is referred.