Comics Flashback: British comics on the newsstand in June, 1964

After downthetubes contributor Jeremy Briggs spotted issues of Bimbo, Victor, The Hotspur, Jackie and TV Comic in a scene from a 1964 episode of Pathe’s Look at Life magazine show, titled “Calling the Tune” – recently screened on Talking Pictures TV – various fans were quick to identify many of the comic and magazine titles briefly on display.

The brief appearance only features a small number of comics on sale back then – there’s no sign of top-selling titles like The Beano, Buster, The Dandy or Valiant, for example – but it’s interesting to see what was being given valuable window space to garner sales.

Look at Life - Calling the Tune - Newsstand, 1964

The short film, originally shown in cinemas, was released in 1964 and in addition to being shown by Talking Pictures, ITV offers the episode for online viewing here.

The episode also includes the godmother of Electronic Dance Music, and electronic music Daphne Oram, working on her early computerised music. She was a pioneer of the movement Music Concrete, and co-founder of BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with Desmond Briscoe.

The quality of the presentation isn’t perfect – perhaps a purchase of the Network release, Look at Life Volume 8: People and Places is in order, where it is included – but there is enough detail to identify many of the titles, particularly the comics, although quite why several weeks worth of DC Thomson boys title The Hotspur are on sale is a mystery, and likely to remain so.

Here are some of the titles spotted in the clip, identified by comics writer Michael Carroll, cartoonist Lew Stringer and myself. (Yes, we archivists all perhaps do need to get out more…)

The location of the shop appears to be near London’s Wigmore Hall, where an earlier sequence in the show is shot and, based on what’s on display – the daily papers unfortunately fairly blurred – it’s likely this sequence was shot in mid to late June.

The number of titles cover dated 13th and 20th June suggest that the filming may have been done just as the vendor was turning over their stock, although it’s perhaps more likely they were keen to make every sale they could and not have to worry about returns!

Look at Life - Calling the Tune - Newsstand, 1964
Huckleberry Hound Weekly No. 136, cover dated 9th May 1964

1 – Huckleberry Hound Weekly No. 136, cover dated 9th May 1964.

Published by City Magazines, this junior title launched in 1961 and was the first British comic based on Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.

Characters featured included Mr Jinks, Pixie and Dixie, Yogi Bear And Boo Boo, The Flintstones, Top Cat, Wally Gator, Atom Ant and Space Ghost, amongst others, and, for a time, Jonny Quest. 

Huckleberry Hound Weekly incorporated its companion comic Yogi Bear’s Own Weekly with the issue cover dated 4th March 1964, (becoming Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear Weekly), finally ceasing publication with the issue cover dated 28th August 1967, after 308 issues.

There’s more information about its Jonny Quest content here on the Classic Jonny Quest site

The Victor No. 173, cover dated 13th June 1964

2 – The Victor, cover dated 13th June 1964

DC Thomson’s long-running The Victor ran for 1657 weekly issues, launching in January 1961 until it ceased publication with the issue cover dated 21st November 1992.

This particular issue offered adventure strips such as “Stark of the Samurai”, “Born to Fly”, a boxing strip titled “The Bald-Headed Kangaroo”, “The Floating Coffin” – and a cautionary advertisement warning of the dangers of smoking.

Adrian Banfield publishes a brilliant guide to Victor, Hornet and The Hotspur at

3 – The Hotspur

There’s an assortment of another weekly DC Thomson boys title, The Hotspur, are on display, the identified issue so far published in May and June of 1964. Some copies on display may be the same issue.

Published by DC Thomson & Co. From 1933 to 1959, The Hotspur was a boys’ story paper for many years,, one of the Dundee-based publishers “Big Five” titles. It was relaunched as a comic in October 1959, initially called the New Hotspur. It ceased publication in January 1981.

The popularity of western, or cowboy comics at the time is self-evident, and watching the film, you can glimpse a promotion for Western and adventure comics, advertised at a price of one shilling, alongside an unidentifiable copy of, presumably, the British version of Classics Illustrated.

Adrian Banfield publishes a brilliant guide to Victor, Hornet and The Hotspur at

• There’s a The Hotspur Comic – Swap, Sell and collectors site on Facebook

CCS Books offers more information on Classics Illustrated and sells vintage copies, too

4 – Bimbo, cover date and issue unidentified

Published by DC Thomson, Bimbo, the flagship “tiny tots” title for the company, was aimed at children of nursery school age. It ran from 1961 until 1972. Creators who worked on the title included Beano and Dandy stalwarts Dudley D. Watkins and Bill Ritchie.

The British Comics Fandom site has a useful introductory article on the title here

5 – TV Comic No. 653, cover dated 20th June 1963

5 - TV Comic No. 653, cover dated 20th June 1963

Inside this issue, the Fireball team are battling dinosaur-like creatures on a distant planet, while the “TV Terrors” try to tunnel their way into their favourite studio to meet a famous actor. Plus, “The Telegoons” – a deeply disturbing puppet version of The Goon Show that still makes me shudder, “Supercar” and more.

Head to Murdersville for more on Fireball XL5 appearances in TV Comic

6 – The Newspapers

Calling the Tune - Newspapers June 1964

Both local (London) and national papers are on this rack, among them the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and London Weekly.

The Daily Mirror headline reads “The Tories Secret Backers”, but this edition doesn’t feature in the British Newspaper Archive, suggesting it might be an early edition of the still unidentified day.

7 – Stitchcraft, June 1964

Stitchcraft, June 1964

Stitchcraft was a monthly British handcraft magazine, featuring patterns for knitting and embroidery/tapestry, as well as crochet and occasionally sewing and tatting. It was published from the 1930s to the 1980s for the Patons yarn company under the direction of its longtime “editress”,  Patience Horne.

The June 1964 issue gives us a mix of elegant four-ply designs, casual bulky knits to wear as outerwear, beach clothes for the kiddies and easy homeware projects that can be packed up and worked from a deck chair.”

For more about Stitchcaft magazine head to The Stitchcraft Sixties web site

8 – Car Mechanics, July 1964

Car Mechanics, July 1964

Still in publication today, Car Mechanics is a British motoring magazine published monthly by Kelsey Media and today edited by Martyn Knowles who took over in 2008 from long standing editor Peter Simpson. It is aimed at DIY motorists and the motor repair trade.

This issue of the title, more clearly seen, again briefly, in the film, shone the spotlight on the Austin Minx.

Head to the official Car Mechanics site for more information

9 – Meet: Dave Clark

Meet Star Special: Dave Clark

Just out of picture here, but featured in the clip, a “Star Special” published by World Distributors Ltd., based in Manchester, perhaps best known to comic fans for their many annuals.

10 – Meet Star Special: Gerry and the Pacemakers

Meet Star Special: Gerry and the Pacemakers

Another “Star Special”, Number 19 (1964), one of a series of “Meet…” magazines, featuring the top artists of the day.

Head here for more about Gerry and the Pacemakers, a site compiled and Written by Tony Barrow

11 – Woman’s Realm, cover dated 20th June 1964

Woman's Realm, cover dated 20th June 1964

Published by IPC Magazines Ltd, this British weekly women’s magazine was first published in 1958. It was merged with Woman’s Weekly in 2001.

There’s a copy of this title for sale at present on Etsy here

12 – Woman’s Mirror, 20th June 1964

Woman's Mirror, 20th June 1964

Woman’s Mirror was published weekly through the 1960s, but issues are apparently extremely hard to find. Each issue includes topical articles, usually a celebrity feature, and more often than not, a few pages of wonderful fashion photography. These fashion features often include models and photographers who would become well known from the pages of Vogue and similar.

There’s an archive of covers here on Magazine Canteen

13 – Music and Musicians, June 1964

This edition of Music and Musicians leads with a feature on Russian composer, conductor, and pianist Igor Stravinsky’s visit to Oxford. Whether there is any mention of his poor health at this time, we don’t know. By early 1964, long periods of travel had started to affect his health, and his friends noticed that his movements and speech had slowed.

Stravinsky is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century and a pivotal figure in modernist music for his approach to rhythm.

14 – Woman’s Weekly, cover dated 20th June 1964

Launched in 1911, published by Amalgamated Press, Woman’s Weekly is still going strong today, published by Future plc and edited by Geoffrey Palmer. On sale every Wednesday, Woman’s Weekly still sells over 240,000 copies per week.

Based on other titles we can see, Woman’s Weekly, cover dated 27th June 1964 is probably lurking on that stand somewhere, too.

15 – The Beatles Book No. 11, June 1964

The Beatles Book No. 11, May 1964

The Beatles Book (also known as Beatles Monthly) was a fan magazine dedicated to world famous, chart topping band, first published in August 1963 and selling over 330 copies an issue by the end of that year. It continued for 77 editions, ending with its December 1969 edition. It was then revived in 1976, but ceased publication in 2003. A complete set will cost you around £700 today.

16 – Today, cover dated 13th June 1964

Today, cover dated 13th June 1964

Published by Odhams, the cover of Today, “The New John Bull” reads like a British version of National Enquirer. Four years on from a relaunch in February 1960 with its new name, it seems strange, perhaps, that the publishers chose to remind readers of its original title, but, clearly it was important to maintain its huge sales, boosted by the inclusion of new short stories alongside its celebrity-led features.

17 – Jackie No. 23, cover dated 13th June 1964

Jackie No. 23, cover dated 13th June 1964

This long-running magazine, aimed at girls, should need no introduction to many downthetubes readers. If you’re a fan of this teenager-skewed title, then check out The Fans of Jackie Facebook group. You’re not the only fan of “Cathy and clare”, out there!

18 – Everywoman, cover date unknown

One of several editions of this title on the stand. Launched in 1934, published until 1966, the MagForumms title was originally Everywoman’s but this was shortened to Everywoman in 1940. The title became Every Woman and Woman’s Fair in the 1950s after it absorbed that magazine. In the mid-1960s, it also took over Modern Woman before being swallowed itself by Woman at HomeEverywoman was a monthly bestseller for Odhams over many years, estimated at 100,000 in the late 1930s and reaching about 300,000 in the late 1950s.

19 – Boyfriend No. 260, cover dated 13th June 1964

Boyfriend, cover dated 13th June 1964

Launched in 1959 by City Magazines, the company’s first comics title and second ongoing publication each issue of the weekly teen magazine Boyfriend featured a romance comic on the cover, whose story continued on the interior pages.

It was the first girls’ magazine to truly put music first. Each week there would be a new ‘Boyfriend’ – in early issues, singers like Russ Conway, Johnny Mathis, Lonnie Donegan – introducing his life story and, to prove that he had a softer side, his favourite romantic story.

You could also meet ‘The Girl Behind the Boy’. Whether this was so you could emulate her to get your own pop-star boyfriend or a case of “know your enemy” so you could steal her boyfriend, I don’t know.

Away from the music, Rachel Lindsay handed out fashion tips on everything from clothing to hairstyles and twins Johnny and Jeannie Talbot offered weekly advice on the “Boyfriend” problems page.

Boyfriend really came into its own when the sixties began to swing. The magazine gave itself over to modern pop: as early as February 1963, before their first album was out, Boyfriend was describing The Beatles as “even more modern than modern.”

Cliff Richard was a favourite of the magazine and was given his own column to introduce other stars of the pop scene…although it’s unlikely that Cliff ever got any closer to the column than cashing the pay cheque he earned from the magazine for using his name.

Later issues featured photographic covers and the tagline, “The modern young woman’s magazine.”

Boyfriend merged with another City Magazines title, Trend, in 1966, to become Trend and Boyfriend, and then, shortly thereafter, Boyfriend and Trend (the “Boyfriend” in the title being much smaller than the word “Trend”). The magazine lasted until issue 428, cover dated 9th September 1967, when it merged with the IPC Magazines title Petticoat to form Petticoat/Trend.

A celebratory collection, The Best of Boyfriend, was published by Prion Books in 2008

20 – Tit-Bits, cover date unknown

Its title aside, this magazine came crammed with cartoons every issue. The MagForum site notes Tit-Bits was the first magazine to use regular pin-ups on its covers and these dominated from 1950 – its cover designs would be familiar to tabloid newspaper readers 30 years later. Its circulation peaked in 1955 at 1,150,000.

21 – Prediction, July 1964

Prediction Magazine, July 1964

Still published today, Prediction Magazine was the UK’s first esoteric, astrological and horoscope magazine to launch in 1936.

Ownership of the magazine has changed hands many times from IPC Media Limited ultimately to the co-founder of the CCP Psychic Network, who declare on the title’s official web site that they have exciting plans to relaunch the Prediction brand focusing on high quality astrological readings to a global audience.

22 – Weekend, cover date unknown

A weekly collection of news, stories and pin-ups, later published as a tabloid newspaper with a colour cover in the 1960s. It ran a ‘Pop Spot’ feature each issue with the lyrics for a chart single.

23 – Big Band, cover date unknown

More than one copy of this jazz-oriented title on display. Information welcome.

24 Pop Star, cover date unknown

There’s more than one copy of this magazine on offer but its generic title means it’s proven impossible, so far, to find out more about this one. Information welcome.

25 – Boyfriend No, 261, cover dated 20th June 1964

A celebratory collection, The Best of Boyfriend, was published by Prion Books in 2008

26 – Everywoman, cover date unknown

See above for information on this title.

27 – Exchange and Mart, cover date unknown

What folk bought stuff from, before eBay and the web, and still going strong as an online publication published by Newsquest, ceasing its print edition in 2009, following the decline of the classified ads market in print and by the rise of online competitors such as eBay and Craigslist.

The title was founded by William Cox in 1868, in a a converted potato warehouse in Covent Garden. It was the first title in the world to specialise in classified advertising.

28 – Modern Woman, cover date unknown

Modern Woman was based around fiction, fashion and lifestyle features. Its sales peaked in the mid 1950s at about 230,000 copies. Artists work featured, some stories bought in from the United States, included Bob Peak, who painted the early Star Trek film posters, and Bernie Fuchs.

29 – Photoplay, cover date unknown

Tucked behind Modern Woman. Photoplay, which began its shelf life as short fiction magazine, was one of the first American film (another name for photoplay) fan magazines. It was founded in 1911 in Chicago, the same year that J. Stuart Blackton founded Motion Picture Story, a magazine also directed at fans.

For most of its run, Photoplay was published by Macfadden Publications. In 1921 Photoplay established what is considered the first significant annual movie award. The magazine ceased publication in 1980.

A British version of Photoplay debuted in March 1950, and in April 1981 it was rebranded as Photoplay: Movies and Video. It featured an equal mix of American and British films and stars, and ceased publication in 1989.

30 – Beatles Book Magazine Issue No 10, May 1964

The Beatles Book No. 10, May 1964

Tucked behind Modern Woman

31 – Scream – Top Pop Parade of the Stars No. 1 (no date given)

Scream - Top Pop Parade of the Stars #1

The foreword for Scream, a 32-page magazine subtitled “Top Pop Parade of the Stars No.1”, was written by author Frank Clews, profiled here on Steve Hollan’s indispensable Bear Alley blog. He wroand featuring the likes of Dave Clark, The Hollies, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield; a colour pull-out featured The Beatles
32 – Elvis Presley Monthly No. 5, cover dated May 1964

Elvis Presley Monthly No. 5, cover dated May 1964

Not every magazine has been identified here, but I hope it’s of interest to see what people were reading almost 60 years ago. Very few of these titles are around today – and some would say, more’s the pity!

Sites such as CrazyAboutMagazines and Tilleys regularly offer many viuntage magazines for sale, if you’re curious, and of course eBay is a great place to look for some of the comics featured here.


Rusty Staples

Michael Carroll’s wonderful blog, packed with lists of British comics past, “comic family trees” and much more

MagForum: Music Magazines Guide

MagForum: Teen Magazines Guide

Sixties City – Music and Pop Publications

Adrian Banfield’s a brilliant guide to Victor, Hornet and The Hotspur at

Fans of Jackie Magazine UK

The Courier: Comics: A 100 year journey from Adventure to Hotspur and beyond

The Best of Boyfriend edited by Melissa Hyland (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

Published by Prion in 2008, The Best of Boyfriend celebrates the life of an iconic publication, including sample strips and features.

Melissa Hyland has spent most of her working career writing for and editing a variety of magazines, mostly concerned with crafts and collecting. She has been a life-long fan of comics, starting with Jackie as a girl, and has fond memories of curling up with the romantic pocket libraries that appeared in the 1960s and 1970s.

Look at Life Volume 8: People and Places

BFI Catalogue: Calling the Tune

“A survey of the growth in musical interest in Britain, with a look at a music school and the plight of modern classical composers. Despite Britain’s boom in music the average income for all composers is less than #6 a week. Will the orthodox composer disappear and electronic music become the music of the future?

Look at Life emerged in vibrant Eastman colour from the ashes of two newsreels, Gaumont British News and Universal News, which had been rationalised out of existence by the Rank Organisation in November 1958. The combined forces of falling cinema audience figures and the new dynamic force of television news had forced Rank to re-think its presentation of the news within the cinema programme. 

“The result was a ten-minute news magazine that became the weekly pre-feature staple for millions of Odeon cinema-goers for a decade until its demise in 1969. Taking its cue from the successful re-launch of Pathe Pictorial as a colour series in 1955, Rank melded a topical magazine format with a more in-depth ‘documentary’ approach of a single story using ‘direct speech and natural sound.’ 

“When the first issue of Look at Life, ‘MARRAKESH’, was released in March 1959, it was hailed in the trade journals as an ‘exciting venture in film journalism’ and Rank announced this new innovation would have ‘a more lasting impact than the present ephemeral newsreel content.’ 

“It was a popular formula but one that remained frozen in time while television led audiences into a documentary world that had more grit and less glamour. By 1969 Rank could no longer ensure the survival of this series that had, by this time, simply become part of the furniture.”

Watch Look at Life – Calling the Tune at Lola Clips

“Calling the Tune” is included on Look at Life Volume 8: People and Places (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

This volume presents over 100 films whose subjects cover an incredibly diverse range: from crime prevention to refuse collection, from caravanning to fashion modelling! Many have remained unseen since their first screening five decades ago and are presented here complete and uncut.

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Michael Carroll and Lew Stringer

Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes News, Features, Magazines, Other Worlds

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