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Monday, April 07, 2008

Boys' Magazine

Boys' Magazine debuted on February 27, 1922, printed and published for the proprietors of the London Publishing Co. Ltd., by E. Hulton & Co. Ltd., 46 and 47 Shoe Lane, London E.C.4. It's a relatively small, stocky publication, 16 x 22 cm with 36 pages, priced 2d, originally published "Every Monday" but switching to "Every Saturday" with issue 7 (the change wasn't mentioned on the cover until issue 8, but the date for issue 7 indicate the changeover). I imagine it was an immediate success as the format was very quickly copied by C. Arthur Pearson for Jack's Paper which was launched the following October.

The two-colour covers were primarily red, always dramatic although unsigned. The paper had some good illustrators, including J. H. Valda, Glossop and R. H. Brock.

The contents were good: school stories by H. Clarke Hook (son of S. Clarke Hook, creator of Jack, Sam & Pete) who did a few fill-in stories on The Magnet. As you'd expect, Stormcove College was modelled on Greyfriars and starred the Famous Four, Tom 'Sprucer' Smith (the Captain of the Remove) & Co., the Co. being Jim Barker, Kent Major (there was also a Miner) and a Hindu named Inky. Stormcove is run by Dr. Croak, although the Famous Four are under the tutelage of Mr. Tutt and the main butt of the jokes (amongst the teachers, anyway) is the French master, Monsieur Dupont. Ragging French masters was a time-honoured tradition dating back to 'The Boys of Bircham School', fifty-five years earlier... in other words, the series had absolutely no surprises to anyone who has read The Magnet.

Slightly better were the Westdown School series by Jack Jolling [Alfred Judd] starring Derry O'Dean, Dick Hawley and Horace Pelham Bingle, the latter the creator of bizarre inventions which often get the trio into trouble. They debuted a few issues later and were more broadly humorous.

John Hunter was the author of the two opening serials (one as Stanton Doyle). "The Lure of the Lost Land" was the story of three school chums, Dick Ferris, Mick Harrigan and Don Lindsay, who get involved with a flying machine invented by Dick's uncle and a search for untold wealth in a lost area of the Amazon to battle prehistoric monsters and a band of modern pirates led by Captain Death. "Dare-Devil Trent" was Jack Trent, cinema star and footballer, who must win the cup for his team, Barton City F.C., in order to raise the finances for his next movie. Against him is Hirst Krautmann, head of a rival company who will do anything to stop the struggling team from winning a match.

As with many papers at that time, the central character was a detective, and Boys' Magazine was no different. Each issue contained a long, complete story of Falcon Swift, a monocled crime fighter who deals with crimes in the sporting world (although that does not stop occasional jaunts to the wild west or China). Falcon is a masterful all-round sportsman, whether it's football, cricket or fencing, and uses his sporting ties to solve mysteries with his young assistant, Chick Conway.

Sport was to the fore in Boys' Magazine from the start. Many of the free gifts given with the paper were pictures of sporting personalities and teams and the first issue had the banner heading "New Magazine of Sport and Adventure"; as the months went by the focus changed slightly from the former to the latter many old fans recollections of the paper seem to be dominated by science fiction serials, many of which featured lost lands and prehistoric monsters.

Later in its first year, none other than cowboy film star Buck Jones joined the paper to write a series of western stories featuring Rex Remington, although the chances that Buck himself was writing them are zero! I don't have a clue who ghosted them, but they're fondly remembered.

Boys’ Magazine, for most of its run published by Allied Newspapers, eventually folded in January 1934 after 620 issues, incorporated into Champion.

1 comment:

  1. S. Clarke Hook also wrote a few stories in The Union Jack, including the excellent "'Neath Englands Flag" in issue 3, which will shortly be reviewed on my own blog, well 'shortly' as in 'over a month'

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