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Friday, June 01, 2007

Ranger

Ranger was launched in 1965 as a colourful new-style comic, created by Leonard Matthews as a response to the closure of Boy's World in 1964. Matthews created the dummy and it was approved by the board at Fleetway Publications before being passed on to John Sanders, at the time editor of Look and Learn. The paper was unashamedly aimed at boys where Look and Learn was for both boys and girls. Sanders felt that it was a good opportunity to move into the juvenile division's main arena -- comics rather than educational magazines.

In the long run the choice proved to be a good one, although in the short run it may have seemed a bad move. Look and Learn had never sold less than 300,000 copies under Sanders' editorship despite the hefty 1/- price tag. (raised to 1/3d. in February 1965). Ranger was also priced 1/- when it was launched, the first issue dated 18 September 1965. The price reflected the contents with 18-20 of the 40 pages printed in photogravure colour. The vast majority of Fleetway's output was still in black & white. With its size (10" by 13") and colour strips and illustrations, Ranger really stood out. Unfortunately, where Look and Learn was usually bought by parents and grandparents, Ranger was more obviously a comic... and 1/- was out of the reach of most young boys, especially when you could buy Lion or Valiant for 7d. and still have change for sweets. (The war libraries were also priced at 1/- but they were a more convenient size for reading at school and they were far easier to swap: you could read eight or ten different war libraries for the price of one if you moved in the right playground circles.)

Ranger folded after only 40 issues (18 June 1966) and was merged into Look and Learn. Ironic given that editor Sanders had just left that paper. But, as I said above, it proved a canny move in the long run as Sanders then moved sideways to edit Princess and, following Matthews' departure in 1968, quickly rose through the ranks thanks to his experience across the board of Fleetway's juvenile titles -- boys, girls and educational.

The launch of Ranger was accompanied by a lot of promotion in Fleetway's various titles. These images are from Look and Learn issues 192-195. Look and Learn was later to benefit from Ranger... it took over its most popular comic strip, 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire', which would run until Look and Learn folded 16 years later.

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