Best of the 80s

Update 6/11/08 This one's taken me a while to post but just to say that the DVD release of Follyfoot: The Complete Third Series, out now, includes among its extras a 3000-word, 6-page illustrated article on Follyfoot in Look-in by yours truly. This is a PDF file that can be viewed on all DVD-capable computers. All you could possibly want to know about the relationship between the classic equestrian children's series and the early days of Look-in - the features, the covers, the strips and the rest. It can be ordered from the usual stockists including Amazon and Play.

OUT NOW! Caught up in various other things and quite forget to say that the book is now in the shops! Yes Best of the 80s came out on 6th October and will now be at stores like Smiths and Waterstones in the high street and online from the usual stockists. To whet your appetite, Steve Holland's superb Bear Alley comics blog has published a behind the scenes piece I've written for him - find out some of the secrets behind the book. Don't hesitate to send me your feedack and if you have any ideas for future collections do let me know and I'll pass your comments onto Carlton. Me, I have a few slightly crazy ideas of my own but as usual it all depends on how the 80s does. Enjoy!

BIG NEWS UPDATE 3/9/08 Well at long last here we are! I just received one of the first copies of the Best of the 80s book back yesterday from Carlton and can share that cover of mine with you here for the first time. See, told you the pic at Amazon wasn't the real cover! So now I can reveal some of the goodies within - complete and unabridged full colour picture strip serials including Buck Rogers, Robin of Sherwood, The A-Team and CHiPs, more colour comic action with Danger Mouse, 5 Star and No 73 and classic black and white fun from the likes of Bucks Fizz, Haircut 100, Super Gran, Madness and Cannon and Ball. And the features will be a hit of pure pop cultural nostalgia for all of you from that era of Ashes to Ashes - everything is in there from Russ Abbott, Roland Rat and Tracey Ullman to The Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana, Atari and PGL Adventure Holidays.

The book is published by the Prion imprint and should be in the shops from 6 October. Cover price is 12.99 but online deals will be forthcoming from the likes of Amazon.

BOOK NEWS UPDATE 5/7/08 Just a small update to say that the 80s book is now firmly 'in train', with copyright holders IPC having given final approval on my submitted design files last Monday ... Carlton will now be keen to get this into production asap for its October due date!

Just to say that the cover that's been showing at Amazon for some weeks now is NOT the final cover by any means. Based on a high-quality scan of Putzu's last cover paintings from 1982, this was an early cover concept and the version seen there has a fairly horrible cyan background due to CMYK/RGB conversion (note that the artwork, scanned prior to IPC's sell-off of their art archive, will appear somewhere inside the book) ... I'm keeping the final cover under wraps for now (don't think I'm allowed to go public with it yet) but it will be pure process cyan in colour and features a new montage from archive Putzu cover elements of: Adam Ant, Worzel Gummidge, Buck Rogers, Metal Mickey and Debbie Harry. Right, that's enough teasing for now!

MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR NEWS UPDATE 1/5/08 Steve Holland's Bear Alley blog blew the gaffe yesterday, after a session of Amazon searching, but yes, it's true, plans are afoot to have sequel THE BEST OF LOOK-IN: THE EIGHTIES in the shops on 6 October 2008! I will say no more than that right now - obviously I am utterly thrilled and delighted - but in the meantime, here's that Amazon page for the book.

MAJOR UPDATE 4/3/08 I'm delighted to announce that today we can present an in-depth, all-new and wholly exclusive - nae copying oot o' other books - interview with the one and only comic strip god of Look-in in the 70s that was ... MARTIN ASBURY. The celebrated artist who brought us the colourful, dynamic, explosive and, let's be honest, almost completely crackers adventures of the likes of Kwai Chang Caine, Col. Steve Austin, Dick Turpin and Swiftnick, Lt Starbuck and Captain William 'Buck' Rogers spoke to me recently about his long and varied career and I've rushed this through to bring this scintillating pow-wow to the web (sorry, I've been reading the original Dr Strange adventures of late and my Stan Lee hype machine is stuck at full tilt). Martin talks about his early career working for the likes of DC Thomson, the glory days of Look-in, his reasons for leaving The Junior TVTimes in the early 80s, and his subsequent movie career working on the likes of the Bond movies. Enjoy it here!

Just a little mention of a new web project - Star Wars fans can now enjoy a rundown of related Look-in covers at the Star Wars Vintage Magazines Gallery. Good stuff.

Prion bookUpdate 7/1/08 Happy New Year everyone ... and let's hope it sees a sequel to the Best of Look-in book, eh? It'll only happen if sales are good enough, simple as that (rocket science it ain't), so please make sure you pick up a copy soon before Prion look at their end of January, post-Christmas sales figures. The Works are currently selling their budget edition for 4.99, while some branches of WH Smith again have the yellow edition on sale for 6.49. If you want to have a sneak peak, the Amazon listing for the book now lets you see jpegs of the book's opening introduction articles.

Update 25/11/07 There's a nicely-illustrated 4-page article devoted to our favourite comic in the December 2007 issue of TV Film Memorabilia magazine, written by fan Gary Mills. Gary's got some helpful tips for collectors, but bemoans the all-conquering power of ebay and the online dealers who'll happily sell you issues with missing posters without bothering to point this out - as well he might! Gary has made contact with On The Ball artist/writer Sheridon Davies for some new comments which are welcome to see. The mag costs 3.00 and is available from WH Smiths and the like.

STOP PRESS: 13 October 2007 update ... nationwide branches of WH Smith are selling the book half price - that's just 6.49 - for a limited period as part of a half price books offer. That's a brilliant deal I reckon ...

SevenOaks editionYour Top TV and Pop read returns! Yes, it's true. For the first time since the title closed its doors in 1994, LOOK-IN, the classic comic magazine of the '70s and '80s, is back. Published on 3 September 2007, the Prion book The Best of Look-in: The Seventies is the first licensed reprint collection of archive Look-in material.

The 144-page large format hardback showcases lovingly-restored comic strips and features from the comic's 1970s heyday. Picture Strips include Black Beauty, Please Sir!, On the Buses, Catweazle, Potty Time, Man About the House, a six-part adventure for The Tomorrow People, Abba, Flintlock, a six-part Bionic Woman, Benny Hill and a three-part story for Sapphire and Steel (to those who emailed my site to say these strips would never be officially reprinted ... would you like some sauce with your hat?). These strips highlight art from comic masters such as Mike Noble, John Burns, Arthur Ranson, John Bolton, Harry North and Bill Titcombe.

As the Junior TVTimes, it was also Look-in's job to promote ITV's latest hit programmes - features include fondly-remembered shows such as Magpie, Timeslip, Follyfoot, How, Pardon My Genie, Ace of Wands, Saturday Scene, TISWAS and Space:1999. There are also star pin-ups and interviews with '70s superstars including Roger Moore, Marc Bolan and Lena Zavaroni. Sport also features with archive articles on Geoff Hurst and Brian Moore's On the Ball column looking at the history of the England vs Scotland football fixture. Plus there are news items, competitions, readers letters and advertisements - all taking you back to the heady days of glam, glitter and New Wave. And don't miss a bonus cover gallery featuring 64 of the classic covers that helped make Look-in such a unique item on the newsagents' shelves.

I had for some time been trying to gain contact details for rights holders IPC, wondering if they might republish some of the strip material in particular. Eventually I did track them down, where they explained that they would not publish material themselves but would licence it out to interested third parties.

And such a third party turned out to be Carlton Books - after their massively successful Best of Jackie titles their Project Editor approached my old mate Graham Kibble-White to suggest further comic titles of yesteryear possibly worth reprinting and he made some coded enquiries to me about the size of my Look-in collection ... before we knew it, Carlton's Prion imprint had contracted Graham to edit a compilation collection, with the material sourced from my back copies (plus about three we paid through the nose for on ebay!), and pored over by Graham and myself in a weekend at my flat. Eventually it was agreed that I would scan and restore the material from my comics and also design the book. IPC were in the process of selling off the rather disorganised remnants of their original art archive to a private collector/dealer and so my back copies would almost become the Official Look-in Archive!

Needless to say, to find myself designing the comic I had first discovered as a 6-year-old in 1977 was a dream come true. Some of the work on this book has been a labour of love on fairly tight timescales and I hope that comes through.

Credit where it's due though and let me point out that the yellow cover shown top right was designed by Carlton's Lucy Coley. The alternate red cover above left IS by me though and this features on a budget imprint edition published under the SevenOaks name - this edition will be available in a variety of UK outlets (I've just had it confirmed it is stocked by branches of The Works priced 6.99), so look out for it! Both editions have a cover price of 12.99 but generous discounts will be available - clicking the yellow cover above will take you to the online store Amazon but do check out prices available at your favourite bookstores also.

Come on, everyone ... sing along: "La-la-la-la-la LOOK-IN!"

STOP PRESS October 2007: Just a quick mention - I have a 2-page pictorial spread in the current SFX magazine (no. 162) looking at Look-in's relationship with sci-fi TV and movies down the years. We've even managed to get a tiny 1974 Planet of the Apes cover issue onto the front of SFX (although you won't see it in the shop cos it's bagged and the flash covers where the little Look-in is). Hurrah!

For more on how the book came together, read my article at Steve Holland's terrific comics blog site Bear Alley

ANGUS P. ALLAN 1936-2007

Angus Allan14 September 2007. It's with genuine regret that I have to announce the very sad news that Look-in's chief strip writer Angus Peter Allan died on 16 July 2007. He was admitted ill to hospital the previous Thursday and died on that Monday. A shock to all who knew him, it seems Angus was wholly unaware of the cancer that killed him. He died just six days short of his 71st birthday.

The timing of this terrible news, for my own purely selfish reasons, was even more tragic. I was so proud of the Look-in book and had just a few days ago been arranging to have the publishers send a copy out to Angus at his farmhouse in France. It is very sad to know that he will now never see the book, a small, overdue recognition of his sterling years of prolific output for the magazine for over 15 years.

I had been delighted when Angus emailed me out of the blue in 2003 to congratulate me on my mini-site devoted to the Look-in strip Sapphire & Steel. Generously Angus offered to answer any questions I had about his time on the comic and we got together, swapping emails to produce the in-depth interview that appears on these pages. His dry wit and anecdotage brought to life the halcyon days of British comics in the 60s, 70s and 80s, a time when Angus "fuelled by the Auld McSpootery" would bang out page after page of exciting comic script (usually featuring guns, helicopters and giant ants). Always resolutely freelance after what sounded a frustrating stint in the offices at TV21, Angus seemed stifled by the bureaucracy of putting comics together and preferred to work on his own, with his only acknowledgement of business matters being occasional meetings with the likes of Colin Shelbourn or Arthur Ranson, held in his 'office' - a "local saloon" as he put it.

After retiring from the contracting comics industry at the end of the 1980s, Angus and his wife Gillian (an ex-magazine editor herself and a former TV21/Lady Penelope staffer) relocated to a farmhouse in the South of France. Most emails I received would end with a sign off that he was now going off to toil on the land for a while. Angus also played clarinet with a New Orleans-style jazz group The Rural Jazz Band and in fact he can be seen here on this YouTube video - he's the one in the Highlander's army cap!

Angus and I last exchanged emails in the Spring when I was badgering him for details of some missing credits I couldn't quite pin down for the book and as ever he was a fount of remarkably clear information that he'd retained all these years. He was very much looking forward to seeing the book. Any mistakes and omissions in the book's credits are mine - Angus was never that great on artists as he met only a few of them and only a handful, like Arthur Ranson, were great buddies. Nonetheless it's nice to be able to at least have gained some overdue recognition for these hardworking comic creators, albeit in small print. The saddest thing is that Angus's numerous credit lines are now published posthumously.

As the man himself would always sign off: "Yours aye, mate".

My sincere thanks to Wallace Poulter, a relative of Gillian Allan's, for passing on the sad news.
"Wednesday 28 March 1979. I got Look-In this morning delivered. It's got the Bee Gees in it."

Andrew Collins, Where Did It All Go Right? - Growing Up Normal in the 70s

The 50s may have had The Eagle and the 60s TV Century 21 but what the TV21 staff did next was pitched somewhere between comic strip action and the teen pop poster mags of the 80s like Smash Hits. Quality ephemera charts the times like few other documents and in the 70s and early 80s, Look-In: The Junior TV Times covered it all. Gloriously opportunistic, everyone from Donny Osmond and David Cassidy to Debbie Harry and Diana Spencer, every hit ITV show from Man About The House to The Man From Atlantis was in there at some point.

I bought Look-In between 1977 and 1983 on and off and since then have added to what I managed to keep - I've now well over 500 issues in my collection. These have formed the basis of the Prion reprint collection.

This tribute mini-site presents two exclusive interviews - one with Colin Shelbourn, the comic's first designer and then Editor between 1975-1992, and one with chief comic strip writer Angus Allan. There's also a full guide to the Sapphire & Steel comic strip of 1979-81. To return to this index page at any point, click the logos top right of each interview page.

Site Info/Credits
Colin Shelbourn iview
Angus Allan iview
Asbury Interview
Sapphire & Steel Features
If you are a publisher, DVD label or perhaps archive programme-maker who is thinking of using classic Look-in material then do contact me via email. I do not own the rights to the material but as rights holders IPC hold no archive, my collection of more than 600 issues from 1971-1986, is probably one of the best in the country and comprises a complete run from 1975-1982. I can provide quality, fully-restored scans of back issue material to media professionals, either for high-end printing or as jpegs suitable for DVD/TV transmission. This is not to supersede the rights of IPC and it would be up to you to arrange licensing.

You can also contact me with feedback on the books - I will pass on any relevant comments to Carlton, so if you have suggestions for future collections you might like to see, email me at:

amcgown AT animus-web DOT demon DOT co DOT uk (sorry not to use a direct link there but I get so much spam thanks to my websites)