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18th Sep.1965

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Fleetway Pub.

Died 18-June 1966


Ranger, published by Fleetway Publications, ran for 40 un-numbered issues before joining 'Look and Learn'.

The first issue published on 18th September 1965 had 'Space Dust' as it's free gift and with it would be worth around £20.00 today.

Great content included colour comic strips like 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire' and 'Space Cadet', historical and geographical information and 'boys toys' of the day.

An 'Astrix' type figure also appeared in this boys weekly in a strip titled 'Britons Never,Never,Never Shall be Slaves'.

Other cartoons in Ranger included Rob Riley (a school story set in Westhaven-on-Sea) and Dan Dakota (a western cartoon). The Asterix type figure was actually Asterix but under a different name - he was called Beric and Obelix was called Son of Boadicea. They reprinted Asterix and the Big Fight and Asterix and Cleopatra in Ranger and then Look and Learn. The story was changed to make the heroes ancient Britons rather than Gauls, and sometimes the text was pretty different too, but the artwork was identical to the original (though at the end of Asterix and Cleopatra a map of Gaul became a map of Britain!). Ranger also included an ongoing series on 'The Story of the Soldier' which later became the 'Scrapbook of the British Soldier'. This was by Eric Parker. W E Johns, who wrote the Biggles books, contributed a series on lost treasures and one of his novels was serialised as 'Champion of the Spanish Main'. The treasure stories, and 'Champion of the Spanish Main', were actually reprinted from the 1938 issues of the boys' story paper 'Modern Boy'. This had been printed by Amalgamated Press, which later became Fleetway and printed 'Ranger', and the editor of 'Ranger' wrote a letter in Ranger No. 1 stating that he hoped that Ranger could be like the old story papers like Modern Boy, Magnet and Gem but be more up-to-date (which meant printing comics).

Eric Parker had also worked for Amalgamated Press, illustrating 'Thriller' and later the 'Daily Mail Annuals'.

The main attraction of Ranger today (unless you are a W E Johns fan) is of course the 'Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire', which appeared in all 40 issues of Ranger and then went on to have a long life in Look and Learn until that magazine died in 1982. Don Lawrence, the artist of most Trigan Empire stories, also contributed some covers to Ranger and illustrations for an ongoing prose serial 'The Range Rider'. There were three and a half Trigan Empire stories in Ranger. The first three introduced the story and described early wars with Loka. They were later reprinted, but with some panels cut out, in the 'Look and Learn Book of The Trigan Empire' in 1973 and 'The Trigan Empire' in 1978. Both books had the first few panels of the first story redrawn and enlarged, and a somewhat different colouring scheme from the magazine. The final three issues of Ranger included the first three episodes of the Trigan Empire story 'Invaders from Gallas', which was concluded in Look and Learn 232-237. This story was reprinted, but with many cuts, by Look and Learn a long time later. I am not sure if it was reprinted in full in Vulcan! - Daniel Tangri

I remember my dad buying the first edition of ranger for me quite vividly, i must have read it about 20 times , possibly because I was fascinated that a comic could have so much educational content. The title was named after the latest American space exploration rocket( cant remember where to) and as I recall was featured on the front cover. There were also several mentions of the Vickers vc10 aircraft which had just commenced service and was heralded for its unique design qualities and being a British innovation. I recall also the space cadet feature which featured an opening story-set in the future-about some aliens stealing hms victory from above. The eponymous hero contrives to attach himself to a yardarm, only to risk extreme underwater pressure/drowning having falling off from a great height into the solent(we discover in the second edition he manages to survive! phew.). Also there was the sci fi story which I think must be the trigan empire referred to by other contributors. Donít remember much about this, apart from the various tribeds having to vote for their futures by use of coloured pebbles( each tossed a coloured pebble of their choice to form a collection of the same colour, the largest collection of the colour winning).Not as good as the space cadet story I thought, but it lasted longer.
I remember being very dismayed when it effectively merged into look and learn and it lost all credibility for me then, it became too obviously an educational vehicle, instead of a comic with some educational background. - William Haworth

I bought it from issue 2 all the way through its short life. The great attraction for me was the cut away drawings - issue 2 had I think a full cutaway of a Spitfire. I was heartbroken when it merged with Look and Learn, which I thought a very namby pamby thing. - Simon Jeffreys

The paper and print quality of the Ranger was much better than that of - say - DC Thomson titles. I remember the ration of prose in the Ranger as being serialisations of decent quality fiction, and I was willing to make the effort with it. They came across differently from the text only bits in things like the Wizard which seemed to belong with the age of outside toilets.

The Ranger was cunningly and subversively educational, but sadly the legacy of its short life was fated to drain away tragically into Look and Learn, the stronghold of the swots. However, this was a comic, and the paper is mainly remembered for its strip 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire'. But the one that keeps turning over in my memory is 'Rob Riley'.

On the face of it, 'Rob Riley' was simply another school story featuring a boy in his early teens whose family has moved to a small seaside town. What sets it apart from other things of this type is an appetite for realism and the embracing of 'issues'. I was never quite clear what it was that was going on with Rob's family. His father was away at sea, but there seemed to maybe be a problem in the marriage and his mother was effectively a single parent. Rob's granddad lived with them but he was old and not always well. Sometimes household issues like plumbing disasters or disputes about dogs worked their way into the story.

My father was dead and my mother, as a widow, was a single parent. I was conscious of the fact that we were an incomplete - defective - family unit. It spoke deeply to me, and it was a great comfort to me to read something which said that ordinary life could be complicated.

Then, Rob's best friend was black. OK, now you fall about laughing. But this was 1965 not 1985, and it all starts with Rob feeling Hamilton's collar as he tries to effect entry through an unlocked window in the back of the local doctor's house. With the twist of an arm, Rob now can present for his appointment at the front door, and also arrange to have the miscreant turned over to the law. At this point he meets Dr Thompson, who turns out to be as black as his son. Well, this was life among the middle classes, and some may say that this scenario won't do, that it is 'tokenistic' and inauthentic, unrepresentative of the realities of the black immigrant experience.

What do I have to say to that? Well there certainly were black GPs practising in Britain at the time. Hamilton's father is a nice man and an achieving professional. What's wrong with that?

The second thing I'd say is that it was quite amazing that, without any preaching or commentary, you were given the opportunity to join the hero in rethinking the racist assumptions that lead him to identify the boy at the window as a burglar.

Sadly my memories are vague; they may be inaccurate. My collection of Rangers got 'mislaid' in a house removal.

Anyone out there with a collection and a scanner? - Murdoch Matheson

I too loved Ranger and the Rob Riley stories: although it is probably over 40 years since I foolishly disposed of my copies, always keen to get rid of anything I felt I had grown out of, I still remember odd storylines, the one where Robís irascible Irish granddad accompanies him and his mother on a visit to see the headmaster of the prospective new school and he ends up accidentally smashing a bust of Oliver Cromwell during an altercation with the head: another story where Rob had stumbled across some shady activity and finds someone watching the house at night (which had me peeping out of the bedroom window to check no-one was watching our house): and the fact that Hamiltonís full name was Hamilton Míbongo Thompson, which might raise an eyebrow today. Nostalgic memories of being eight years old. - Michael Keeley

I have to confess to being one of those lucky persons who still owns all forty issues of Ranger, in almost mint condition. Like most other contributors it holds a special place in my heart due to it being the birthplace of "the Trigan Empire" by Don Lawrence and Mike Butterworth. I had the very great pleasure of providing Don with an almost complete collection of these before his death - a small thank you for a strip that has given me years and years of pleasure.

However, my reason for writing today is to ask if anyone knows definitively who actually drew "Rob Riley". I originally believed this to be Jesus Blasco, the Spanish artist, but the artwork on sale from this strip credits the writer as again being Mike Butterworth (I am really not sure I believe that as the imperialism that runs as a theme throughout his work just is not in evidence - for instance, the story in which Rob won a scholarship to the grammar school would have ended with him staying there, not returning to his secondary modern), and the artist as being Stanley Houghton. I fully appreciate these two artists had similar styles and techniques and it may well be that Blasco handed over to Houghton at some point (although I cannot discern any change in the art style until much later) but I just have not been able to find out who did what. Given a number of pictures in the original strip in Ranger use Dartmouth in Devon as the reference for Westhaven-on-Sea I am minded to think it may well have been Houghton but does anybody know for sure? - Nariman Dubash

If you have any other information on Ranger please send it in. Drop us a line.

 


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