Comics on TV: Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife is a BBC drama show set in the east end of London in the 1950s and 1960s…

As the title suggests, Call the Midwife is mostly about midwives, a special class of nurse who help to deliver babies (babies are humans in their larval stage, apparently). There are nuns and nurses and bicycles with baskets on the front and Important Social Issues such as squalor and poverty and women being treated as second-class citizens.

Now, this is a comics blog so I’m not going to review the show itself, other than to say that it’s really well-made and I rather enjoy it, even though there are a few characters who are so cringingly twee it’s all I can do not to grind my teeth into powder whenever they’re on screen.

Of more interest to regular readers of this blog, I suspect, is the small shop owned and run by Violet Buckle (Annabelle Apsion) and her husband Fred (Cliff Parisi), and in said shop they stock newspapers, magazines and… wait for it… comics! Yay!

And we finally got to see some of those comics in the final episode of season 10 when Vi berated Fred for improper stocking of the comics…

The silly man had put copies of Pippin and The Hotspur on the same shelf (note: I originally typed that as “shame self” which somehow still sounds right).

(I guess it’s likely that there were some comics in previous episodes, but I don’t recall them and I wasn’t about to re-watch the entire ten series just for the purpose of comic-spotting.)

When Vi moves the Pippins down to the bottom shelf — which is low enough for the intended readers to reach — we see that the store also stocks Teddy Bear.

So, let’s see if we can track down those particular issues…

Published by DC Thomson, The Hotspur ran from 24 Oct 1959 to 24 Jan 1981 for 1110 issues — relaunched from its previous incarnation (2 Sep 1933 to 17 Oct 1959, 1197 issues).

The Hotspur #363, 1 Oct 1966.

As we saw in the June 2021 Hatch, Match & Dispatch, Pippin (Polystyle Publications) ran for 1044 issues from 24 Sep 1966 to 26 Sep 1986, before being absorbed by IPC’s Buttons.

Pippin #4, 15 Oct 1966

As also mentioned in that same episode of HM&D, IPC’s Teddy Bear clocked up 520 issues between 21 Sep 1963 and 15 Sep 1973 before it was absorbed by Jack and Jill.

Teddy Bear, 1 Oct 1966 (issues were unnumbered)

Kudos to the show’s set-decorators for finding comics that are not only from the correct year, they’re only a couple of weeks apart. And they’re very clean-looking copies, too. Suspiciously clean, in fact: The Hotspur in particular is clearly a reproduction: it’s got neatly-trimmed edges and the paper is far too high quality for newsprint. But this is not a complaint! One of my pet hates is when a period drama features old books or magazines that are era-appropriate but actually look old instead of new, which they would have been at the time.

However, The Hotspur, Pippin and Teddy Bear appear to be the only comics the Buckles have in stock…

… which is a bit unrealistic: in 1966 there would have been many other comics and story-papers on the shelves of the average British shop. One could reasonably expect to find copies of such titles as Secrets and Flame, The Dandy, The Beano, Forbidden Worlds, Eagle, TV Comic, Lion, Love Story Picture Library, The Topper, The Robin, Jack and Jill, Tiger, Playhour, The Beezer, Mirabelle, Valentine, Romeo, Bunty, Sunny Stories, War Picture Library, Mad, Combat Picture Library, Fantasy Stories, Illustrated Romance Library, Macabre Stories, Strange Stories, Air Ace Picture Library, Judy, Princess, Romantic Adventure Library, Buster, Picture Romances, Battle Picture Library, The Rover, The Victor, Bimbo, June, Commando, Huckleberry Hound Weekly, Look and Learn, Creepy Worlds, Secrets of the Unknown, Valiant, Treasure, Diana, Amazing Stories of Suspense, Bunty Picture Story Library for Girls, Judy Picture Story Library for Girls, Uncanny Tales, Valiant Picture Library, The Hornet, Lion Picture Library, Cowboy Adventure Library, Undercover, Sinister Tales, Jackie, Fabulous, Rave, Wham!, Thriller Illustrated World Library, Sparky, TV Century 21, Star Love Stories, Pop Pic Library, Story Time, June and School Friend Picture Library, Nightmare Suspense Picture Library, Scotland Yard, Totem Picture Library, Lady Penelope, Astounding Stories, Smash!, Wild West Picture Library, TV Toyland or Buster Adventure Picture Library.

But I’m not complaining! After all, the inclusion of Pippin by the set-decorators confirms my long-held theory that there’s a secret crossover between Call the Midwife and The Lord of the Rings

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