EDITOR 1975-92

Magpie 1971

Follyfoot 1971

Freewheelers 1971

Covers from top: 1971 no.1 - Tony Bastable of Magpie; 1971 no.25 - first Follyfoot cover; 1971 no.43 - Freewheelers art cover by Angus McBride
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Colin Shelbourn probably knows more about the history of Look-In than any one person. Colin designed the very first issue of the comic - including its famous original logo - and after four years as Art Editor was promoted to the Editor's post, which he held from 1975 to 1992. This means he was involved with the comic at the top level for more than two decades - 21 years of pop culture passed by his eyes, from Follyfoot to Flintlock, The Famous Five to Five Star. I met Colin at the offices of Egmont Publishing in February 2004 ...

What were you doing prior to joining Look-In in 1971? Were you in comics (like all the ex-TV21 people such as Alan Fennell, Angus Allan etc) or more general graphic design?

I was in general graphic design. My degree was in graphic design and the very first job I ever had was as the most junior designer on TV Times. This was out of college - I went to Brighton Art School - and I was there for about a year or so and then left TV Times to go and for work for Marshall Cavendish in around 1970. They were the big new name in partworks and partworks themselves were quite new then. As it turned out I worked there for about a year - while I was there I was called back as a freelancer to do some work with some guys from TV Times who were putting together a dummy of a children's magazine. To cut a long story short I came back from Marshall Cavendish to be the first Art Editor of this kid's magazine, which is of course what turned out to be Look-In. So it was through that original TV Times connection that I got involved.

Angus credits Alan Fennell with creating the dummy of this magazine - was it Alan who had come to TV Times or the other way round?

I donít know the history immediately before I came on board. My involvement was at the TV Times end of things. What I do remember is that there were two dummies knocking around. One was Alan's, which was really very like a kind of TV21 sort of comic with strips based on TV things and some feature material - it was really a Thunderbirds-y type thing. Whereas the TV Times one that they called me in to work on as designer - I wasn't Art Editor or anything at this early stage - was much more of a magazine and was much more designed and had luscious photos of Roger Moore and people like that and showed very much its TV Times background. What happened was the two sides came together - what I remember is that we did another dummy that brought the two together and we must have shown that to kids I think, to test reaction. That 'come together' dummy had bits of Alan's and bits of TV Times - it was less comic-y than Alan's and more magazine-y than Alan's but more comic-y than TV Times' earlier dummy.

What about the famous logo that ran from issue 1, 1971 until 1981 - was that on the dummy? Would that be your design?

Yes, that was mine. Long before Macs, when everything was hand drawn it was based on Gill Extra Bold and that was a typeface we used elsewhere in the comic as headers and so on.

So who worked on Look-In in its early days?

I was Art Editor. It was weekly, it was quite a churn. In the early stages, before first publication, it was me working on my own - as soon as we went live then it was me and an assistant in the art dept. On the editorial side it would be Alan as Editor, a guy called Geoff Cowan as assistant editor and there might have been another editorial person, I canít remember. A team of five then really.

Angus pointed out that Geoff wrote a few strips at this time too, including Crowther in Trouble and then later the likes of The Benny Hill Page and Cannon and Ball. Cowan was freelancing on occasional Doctor Who strips for Countdown, TV Action and TV Comic between 1971-4 so that would be pretty much at the same time as he was sub-editing at Look-In!

Did you help discover and choose the strip artists at the outset?

If you think about how I came into it, it was all Alan at the start, because I didn't know any comic artists. It was Alan and Geoff and also Angus. It was 'Alan's team' who knew the artists and so prompted by them I got in touch with them and saw their samples. Alan was editor, so he had the final say but he introduced me to all these artists and their work. As the years went by newer artists would come to the office and so it would often be me and not so much Alan that would see those artists. The people that became famous through Look-In like Arthur Ranson, Martin Asbury and Harry North came through the door to me.

The rest had all come through the TV21/Countdown route really hadnít they - Mike Noble, Brian Lewis ...

The ones that were 'missing', that didnít come through from TV21, like Frank Bellamy - he did one-offs for us but never anything continuous - Ron Embleton, Gerry Haylock, Harry Lindfield, Frank Langford they were already very famous after TV21 and were starting to do film and advertising storyboard work. [Martin Asbury later took this route too and by the mid-80s was working on the Superman movies - Al]. But yes, Mike Noble for example, he stayed with us - a wonderful, wonderful artist.

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