The recently announced tragic death of former child actor Terry Sue-Patt, perhaps best known as the football-obsessed Benny Green in the Phil Redmond-created BBC TV school drama Grange Hill, sent me to the back of the archive cupboard to have the briefest of looks at his career in comics.
Terry’s death was announced last weekend, aged just 50, with numerous fellow Grange Hill paying tribute to him on social media.
— Todd Carty (@ToddCartyUK) May 23, 2015
“I was offered a job called You Can’t Be Serious for Thames Television at the same time as Grange Hill,” recalled Terry in a 2013 interview for Grange Hill Gold about getting the role of Benny. “On the day of the Grange Hill audition, I was juggling the ball in the park with some friends, when they noticed a man sat on a bench, who kept starring at me. I started to do a few ball tricks. I left the park and went to Anna Scher’s theatre and the man sat on the bench turned out to be Colin Cant, the original director of Grange Hill! Stroke of luck really.
“… Grange Hill opened up lots of doors for me and exposed me to a new audience,” he enthused later in the interview. “I have had lots of opportunities that would not have happened without it.”
A hugely popular show with a memorable comics-inspired title sequence, Grange Hill ran for 30 years (1978 – 2008). The titles were the work of artist Bob Cosford, now an Animation Director, who was approached to draw the art by Liz Friedman the designer of the titles.
“I had just completed a big project for the Open University, illustrating for an animated version of the Officer Krupke song from West Side Story,” he recalls in an interview for the Grange Hill Gold web site. ”
I was doing quite a lot of comic art at the time. I had worked with Liz on a few projects and she was great at giving you a lot of creative leeway. As it was the first series I think it was a bit of a blank canvas. It was agreed that the titles should have the look of an animated comic.”
Grange Hill appeared in a number of comics (School Fun, Fast Forward, Beeb) and annuals, but all those titles came after the initial intake at Grange Hill that Benny was part of. In fact he only appears in a magazine that pre-dates all these titles – The Grange Hill Magazine.
This was an unusual title published by IPC, lasting just two issues; the first came out in 1980 and the second in 1981. It was planned to make the magazine into a regular monthly title but those plans fell through.
Both issues are 48 pages long, with just the (front and back) covers and the centrespread in colour, the rest in black and white. There are plenty of photographs in both issues with two comic strips in issue one but only one strip in issue two.
Terry features in the first strip in Issue One but his character Benny is very much a bit part character with little to say or do. However, in the second strip he and Tucker Jenkins take centre stage as they attempt to deal with a gang of purse-snatchers.
Terry also features in the strip in Issue Two but, again, he’s not centre stage.
We can only speculate now about why the magazine didn’t last. In the introduction to Issue Two, Phil Redmond acknowledged concerns about the price and asked readers to fill in, as in issue one, a questionnaire about what they wanted to see in the magazine.
The price was certainly high. At the time, 50p was more than most IPC Summer Specials cost (about 45p) and a lot more than any DC Thomson-published Special cost (about 30p). So this is not something that is priced as an impulse buy. When New Eagle was launched in 1982 on similar high quality paper it was priced at 20p (for 32 pages).
Perhaps the closest comparison title to Grange Hill Magazine was Marvel UK’s Blake’s 7 monthly, which was priced at 45p for 36 pages. Perhaps the higher cost was in part the result of fees negotiated for the use of actors’ likenesses in the strip.
This would be IPC’s (later Fleetway’s) only attempt at a TV tie-in title until the early 1990s, when they moved away from generating their own titles and moved into licensed material (Thunderbirds, Red Dwarf, Stingray, Toxic Crusaders, Hero Turtles etc.) in a big way.
Instead the baton of comic strip stories of ordinary kids attending comprehensive schools was passed to New Eagle who ran (their clearly rather obvious Grange Hill rip-off) Crowe Street Comp. for 75 issues (26/02/83 -28/07/84).
• The Guardian, 23rd May 2015: Grange Hill’s Benny, actor Terry Sue-Patt, dies age 50
• The Independent, Tuesday 26th May 2015: Terry Sue-Patt: Actor who made his name as football-obsessed Benny Green in the children’s drama series ‘Grange Hill’
A site dedicated to the Grange Hill, concentrating particularly on the early years (1978-1990). Whether it’s Tucker, Benny Green, Mrs McCluskey, Zammo, Bronson, Fay Lucas, Ziggy Greaves or Roland Browning, you’ll find them here. You can read their interview with Terry here