Sunday, February 04, 2007
Comic oddities: Target (1972)
Not to be confused with the Polystyle comic with the same name which came later, the 1972 weekly Target was a glossy magazine published by The New English Library Ltd.
The intention of Target, as proclaimed in the editorial of issue one, was to "incorporate all the facets of popular reading into one magazine". The reasoning being that instead of buying separate magazines on football, music and cinema etc the kids would get their fix from one mag, - and have some comic strips thrown into the mix too, presumably so they wouldn't bother with Lion or Buster.
The strip content was low; only six pages in total, but at least there was one bold idea there: Bovver Boy. In the 1970s, before punks became the new hate figures, media outrage was directed at skinheads (and the violent and racist aspect of their culture was rightly condemned). Other comics had shied away from reflecting this aspect of society but Target turned a Doc Martin-booted "bovver boy" into the lead character of his own strip. From what I've seen, the racism aspect wasn't mentioned, and the character became little more than a traditional comic bully, but even so Bovver Boy seemed very contemporary for 1972.
(A couple of people have asked me if Bovver Boy was an inspiration for my Tom Thug character. Basically no, as I only had the first two issues of Target and didn't give him any thought when I created Tom twelve years later. But maybe there was a subconscious influence all the same.)
With Bovver Boy, and articles on Hells Angels and The Who, Target was clearly trying hard to be streetwise. However, the magazine seems to have been most remembered for its free gift. It became known as "The mag that gave away those fish eggs". In issue one "The Powder of Life" was attached to the cover. This contained "microscopic eggs of a small marine animal - the Artemia". Adding these to water eventually hatched them out! (The scan above explains the full process.)
The free gift for issue two was a sachet of food for the fish. Yep, if you didn't buy Target No.2 the fish would starve to death! (Surely a sales gimmick that today would have the magazine condemned immediately.)
The fish did indeed "come to life"; the largest being about 2cm long. What I didn't know then was the Artemia were the creatures we'd seen advertised in American comics for years: Sea Monkeys! (No, unlike in the ads, they didn't have limbs or human domestic habits.)
The concept of Target as a magazine wasn't bad, and it was certainly slick, well designed, and intelligently written, but it didn't survive much longer than a year as I recall. (If anyone knows exactly how long it ran for please let me know.) Perhaps the problem was that readers preferred magazines for their specific interests rather than skipping past articles that didn't interest them? Another factor must have been the cover price. At 10p it was twice the price of Look-In, its nearest rival, which was in exactly the same format.
In a way, Target was ahead of its time, as the concept of a youth magazine with a minority of strip content is the norm today! A case of missing its target audience by thirty five years perhaps? ;-)