A good few visitors to this blog have told me they’ve been attempting to identify the comics from which the letters of the blog’s logo were taken. If you’re also playing that game, then read no further because I’m about to reveal all the answers…
First, the rules: I decided that each letter had to come from the logo of a British comic, as that’s the area in which I’m primarily interested. They had to be reasonably recognisable (no very obscure comics, and no one-off logos). I also decided that the letters had to be taken from the first letter of a logo, because… um… well, I don’t really have a good reason for that one, but I decided it anyway. This meant that I couldn’t use the Y from the end of Misty, for example, though I probably should have because the Y was the hardest one to source, and apparently the one that’s given the readers the most trouble.
Second, I want to thank my friend Simon Webster whose e-mails about the logo prompted this article. As well as being an amazing writer, Simon is also the curator of the fantastic literary journal The Cabinet of Heed: I strongly recommend that you all head over there and check it out this very instant. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
Done? Excellent! Now, on to our Rusty Staples logo! From which comics do the letters come?
R. Rampage — Marvel UK, 34 weekly issues (Oct 1977 to Jun 1978), then 54 monthly issues (Jul 1978 to Dec 1982).
I was a huge fan of Marvel’s UK reprints and I particularly loved Rampage. Though its weekly incarnation didn’t last long (and I couldn’t afford the more pricey Rampage Monthly, later renamed Rampage Magazine), this comic holds a special place in my heart because it introduced me to The Defenders, and to one of my all-time favourite characters: Nova.
U. Uncanny Tales — Alan Class Comics, 187 issues (approx May 1963 to Feb 1979)
Ah, everyone loves the old Alan Class Comics! Odd-shaped, square-bound, fuzzy printing on the cheapest possible paper… 64 pages of comic-book joy! Unless, of course, you’re a collector or an historian, in which case the Alan Class comics are the source of nightmares: no publication dates on any of them (they don’t even have adverts, which is often a handy way to narrow down a publication to a specific year), no creators’ credits, and an annoying tendency to relaunch an old title started at #1 again.
S. Starlord — IPC, 22 issues (May 1978 to Oct 1978)
Launched to capitalise on the phenomenal success of 2000AD, Starlord is an absolute gem. Pretty much the same creators, but with all-new characters, better paper, better printing and a substantially higher price, which actually wasn’t a major factor in its downfall: it was selling well, but it simply cost too much to produce. It was absorbed into 2000AD and two of its strips — Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters — are still going strong today.
T. Tarzan Comic — Donald F. Peters, 19 issues (1950 to 1951); also Tarzan Adventures — Westworld Publications 340 issues, (Apr 1953 to Dec 1959); Tarzan Weekly — Byblos, 20 issues (Jun 1977 to Oct 1977); Tarzan Monthly — Byblos, 5 issues (Nov 1977 to Mar 1978); Tarzan Monthly — Byblos, 11 issues (Mar 1982 to Jan 1982)
It’s hard to believe it now, but Tarzan was massively popular right up to the mid-eighties. TV shows, movies, comics, toys… And then it all just dissipated. Maybe, as much fun as Tarzan’s adventures are, people were starting to realise that they’re hugely patronising at best, if not outright racist: those poor jungle tribes can only be saved by a white man who was raised by apes? I loved Tarzan as a kid, but… Nope.
B. Young Eagle — Thorpe & Porter, 5 issues (1951 to 19520; L. Miller & Son, 9 issues (1955 to 1956)
Got to admit, there wasn’t a lot of options for the letter Y… I could have chosen something like Young Marvelman (346 issues between 1945 and 1963, but the “Young” part of the logo is pretty small and probably not immediately recognisable even to fans) or the story-paper Young Britain (271 issues between 1919 and 1924, but I don’t like the logo), or Young Folk’s Tales (546 issues between 1906 to 1921, but the logo is tiny). Besides, Western comics were huge back in the 1950s so I wanted to represent them in some way. I don’t actually own any issues of Young Eagle so if you’ve got one to spare, I wouldn’t turn it down.
S. Spellbound — DC Thomson, 69 issues (Sep 1976 to Jan 1978)
A spooky girls’ comic (that is, a spooky comic aimed at girls, not a comic aimed at spooky girls, which would be much more interesting), Spellbound was somewhat ahead of its time. The British comics industry generally didn’t bother with themed comics for girls. Spellbound also has the distinction of being one of the few girls’ comics whose title wasn’t a girl’s name — the only others that I can think of right now are Dreamer, Princess and Girl (the latter being used twice). Spellbound is quite fondly remembered now but it didn’t make as big an impression as IPC’s similarly-themed Misty (102 issues, 1978 to 1980).
T. Tiger — IPC, 1554 issues (Sep 1954 to Mar 1985)
Speaking of themed comics: Tiger was all about sports. It’s the birthplace of Roy of the Rovers, the much-loved mullet-wearing footballer from… Something Rovers. I can’t remember the name of his team and can’t be bothered to look it up. I keep thinking “Fulchester” but that’s the town that keeps showing up in Viz, isn’t it? Startling Confession Time: I’m not a huge fan of sports so much of the contents of Tiger passed me by. I did like Billy’s Boots, though: Billy had magic boots that allowed him to play good football during the football season and good cricket during the cricket season, though it is entirely possible that I’m mis-remembering all of that. Wait, Melchester Rovers — that was Roy Race’s team!
A. Action — IPC, 86 issues (Feb 1976 to Oct 1976, Dec 1976 to Nov 1977)
Action was one of the most notorious and controversial of all British comics, and you know something? It was magic! Yes, it was ultra-violent and needlessly nasty at times, but I recently re-read the entire lot and loved most of it. Gloriously over-the-top, Action is the one comic that came close to deserving its reputation for corrupting the youth. It was taken off the shelves after issue #36 (#37 was printed, but the copies were pulped) and when it came back a couple of months later it was heavily bowdlerised, but that turned out okay in the long run, because Action begat 2000AD.
P. Playbox — Harmsworth / Amalgamated Press, unknown number of issues (possibly October 1898 to December 1913); also Amalgamated Press, 1279 issues (Feb 1925 to Jun 1955)
Details on the first run of Playbox (originally The Playbox) are so hard to pin down that I’ve given up trying. Sometimes I wonder if it ever existed at all. Maybe it didn’t, and it’s all an elaborate hoax perpetrated for some reason known only to the evil genius who’s pulling the strings. The second run (or to be more clear the 1925 to 1955 run) is much easier to fathom, and it’s not even difficult to track down a copy. It was a pretty influential comic for thirty years, but ended its days by being absorbed into Jack and Jill, then only a fledgling title (it was launched on 27 February 1954), but which would itself last for thirty-one years before bowing out in 1985, 1640 issues later.
L. Look-in — ITP/IPC, 1210 issues (Jan 1971 to Mar 1994)
Look-in was a kids’ TV listings magazine but it definitely deserves inclusion on this blog because it also included comic-strips based on then-popular TV shows. And look at you, you delightfully innocent slice of adorableness, believing until now that it’s been a crime of the highest order that there has never been comic-strip versions of such classics as Follyfoot, CHiPs and Mind Your Language. But Look-in had comics of all the best shows, provided that they were appropriate for the kids, and they were broadcast on ITV: shows like Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 were BBC fare and thus were excluded.
E. Eagle –Hulton / Longacre / Odhams / IPC, 991 issues (Apr 1950 to Apr 1969)
Possibly the most important and influential British comic ever, even though — as I’ve said before — Dan Dare is the only strip that most people remember from Eagle. Other strips like P.C. 49, Mark Question and Heros the Spartan were great stuff, too, but Dare easily outshone them all. Fun fact: In 1969 Eagle was absorbed into Lion, which was absorbed into Valiant in 1974, which was absorbed into Battle in 1976, which in 1988 was absorbed into the ’80s incarnation of Eagle.
S. Scream! — IPC, 15 issues (Mar 1984 to Jun 1984)
Fifteen issues… That makes Scream! one of the shortest-lived British comics that ever made it past the starting-post (in the 1950s and 60s especially a lot of comics were one-offs; batches of them machine-gunned into a hungry marketplace in the hope that at least one of them would hit a target). Scream! was quality stuff, though, a horror version of 2000AD (or, if you prefer, a boys’ version of Misty), and it was cancelled not because of poor sales, but because of an industrial dispute. I like to think that in another, kinder, universe Scream! is still going strong. (Also in that universe: I am rich and I have hair.)
So there we are, folks, the complete and true and utterly not-bad history of the Rusty Staples logo! Or… is it just an excuse for me to waffle on about some random comics? Could be, my friends. Could be.