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Paper Monitor

11:41 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the daily press.

It's taken steely determination in Monitor Towers not thus far to have mentioned the rather splendid collection of comics which the Guardian has been inserting into its pages this week. (You may even remember our series on readers' favourite comics.)

We've had a Jackie, Beano, a Dandy, a Roy of the Rovers, a Bunty, and a Tammy. But today's is - to your reviewer's taste - the cream of the crop: Whizzer and Chips.

For a moment one will refrain from considering how much this enterprise must have cost GNM (the company which publishes the Guardian, the Observer, and, especially when it's been considering how it can afford to continue publishing the Observer while losing £36m a year.

For anyone who loves newspapers, it's obviously good news the Observer will continue to be published - but this week's lavish promotion has been a reminder of just how sad it is that this country's rich comic heritage is so denuded, with pretty much just the Beano left standing.

Paper Monitor has long thought that one of the reasons the British public consumes newspapers in such number must be that they got into the habit when they were comic-reading children. Today's 10-year-olds do not have the same choices previous generations did, though it's interesting that pre-school children are increasingly well-catered for, with an ever-growing array of magazines to choose from. And, just like mummy or daddy's newspaper, the free gifts are usually where the action is at.

So what can one tell about bygone ages from this week's comic collection?

  • From Whizzer and Chips we see that in 1978 it was acceptable for naughty children to get spanked by strangers.
  • From Roy of the Rovers, we see that in 1981 celebs like Eric and Ernie wished Roy Race get well soon after he had been shot.
  • From Bunty for Girls, we see that in 1972 the kinds of dangers girls walking alone in the countryside needed to be warned of were wasps' nests, eagles, thunderclouds, wild cats, bot flies, weasels, hogweed, thistles, vipers, deadly nightshade, nettles, Marram grass, ants, crabs, jellyfish and swans.
  • From the Beano, we learn that product placement was OK in 1980 - the Bash Street Kids features a watch which readers could then enter a competition to win. It was a Timex.
  • From Jackie, it seems that in 1975, periods and feminine hygiene was big news. Also you could buy a powder to puff into your hair and then brush out, to "clean away grease, dirty and dandruff" and "[n]ot a hair of your set need be spoiled!".

And finally, a pause to mark the passing of a local evening paper, given away free to commuters in a certain metropolitan area. Just remember, newspaper lovers. Every time someone says "why should I care, I don't live in ______", there is a little local paper somewhere that falls down dead.

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