|Welcome to MAGAZINE ALLEY. I will now describe every kids magazine on the market. There is no magazine made for kids that I did not get at at least one point throughout my childhood years, and here they all were:
You're looking at Issue One. This
magazine used to be another one
entitled "The Electric Company!"
And I got The Electric Company
for 9 months before they changed
the name...see, "The Electric
Company" was the name of a
phonics show on PBS in the 70's,
with rapping clowns spitting out
vowels while wearing huge
afros. They didn't want this kind
of image anymore.
So they changed the name to
Kid City, and gave it a nice-
looking logo, which they ditched
six years later for a basic, plain
one(and they still have the plain
There was one problem: Kid City
hadn't just lost a name, it had lost something cool in the transition. When I would go to the elementary school library in 1991, they would have these old issues of The Electric Company in baskets, and I would check those out. Why? Because The Electric Company, version 1985, had lots of licensed cartoon characters, entertaining articles AND, to beat all, a Spider-Man serial going on in it. Kid City had none of these things. They didn't even try. After everybody else in the class began to notice I was checking these out, they began to do it as well, and soon my whole class agreed that the mags ruled and thanked me for finding them. Of course, now they would have gotten their own subscriptions. But ha, it couldn't happen anymore....
HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN
There must be an episode of Lost in Space where the boy innocently picks up a Highlights and the robot screams, "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!! DANGER!!! THE LEVEL OF MENTAL CORRUPTION DOES NOT COMPUTE!!!" Take the robot's warning and don't EVER get your kid this. It'll rot their brain, or de-potty-train them after all your hard work, or something even worse! Awhile back I put together a cut-out collage of the worst of Highlights, and although it'll show up fuzzy here, you'll see what I'm talking about real quick. Most of these are from "Headwork," a section where you had to "use your noodle" to think of the answers to questions.
|....Well, what'd I tell ya?.....
This might sound weird, but I started getting Kid City and 3-2-1 Contact at the same time. 3-2-1 was for a slightly older audience, which is probably why I wanted to read it more than Kid City.
Of course, this was originally based on the PBS TV show of the same name, but that began to change in the early 90's when the show was axed, rest its smart little soul....you could also see repeats on Noggin before that channel went preschool. There used to be a monthly storyline featuring 3-2-1's awful detective group The Bloodhound Gang, but it was cut in 1990 and replaced with the adventures of two teenagers, one boy and one girl, wielding a time-traveling device who got into one crazy, intense situation after another. Much better.....and the girl's name was "Jennifer Lopez."
|GO GO J.LO!!!|
|The pitch behind both Kid City and 3-2-1, like most kids magazines, was that they "made children learn without their knowing it." And I should have caught that this serial, while being awesome and interesting, was subliminal. They would usually travel to somewhere in the past during an important historical event, and if they EVER went into the future at ALL, it was to teach some sappy environmental message. Of course, there was the one where they wound up in a neighborhood just like their own, but then found out it was a scale model of it, built by aliens so they could watch humans for their own amusement. After beaming out of THERE, the boy had second thoughts about keeping his new pet rat and released it. Huh? So the message was that pets were bad?
Yes, it's true--half the time I didn't know WHAT this magazine was trying to teach me, not because I couldn't catch the hidden message, but because the message they DID display made no sense. Once my mom got a renewal envelope at about the same time I got a new magazine. The envelope begged, like these usually do, "OH PLEASE PLEASE RENEW!!!! DON'T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD IS LEARNING??" Right after I saw this, I glanced at the cover, which featured a nauseated kid and the headline: "WHY YOU BARF!!! THE SCIENCE OF THE INNER EAR."
This spinoff of National Geographic was....meh, OK, I guess. Considering this featured one of
the worst comics I've
ever seen(based on
the PBS Carmen
Sandiego series), it
doesn't score very
high on my list. This
also featured a
section called "Kids
Did It!" that brought
news of talented
kids, including an 8-
year-old Tiger Woods
and a 13-year-old
was doing that
trademark thing with
her left leg at even
THIS early age).
I'll have to be honest--I didn't even
READ Ranger Rick. I just got it every
month and then stuffed it into a pile.
I think my mom got this magazine for
herself, really--it's a Mom kinda mag,
This was a wildlife magazine, and I just
wasn't INTO wildlife, especially when
a lot of it was so creepy. It wasn't
too uncommon to open the front
page of this thing and find a close-up
of a huge, hairy, ugly spider of your
nightmares staring back at you.
Again, you're staring at Number One. In
the early days, I used to consider this
magazine Reader's Digest without the
fogey medical problem stories. Back
then, this thing had real potential: it was
divided into Entertainment, Sports,
Technology and Far-off Places sections
(called Ticket, Impulse, Cyber and
Backpack respectively). In the middle
of every mag was this huge, over 20-page
report on one specific topic(in this first
issue it was cowboys; in future issues
they covered everything from spies to
sharks.) And SOMEHOW, in between
every one of these sections they had
fit in over 60 pages of comics altogether!
(I counted.) This was impressive. They
ran ads for it at this time, stating the
slogan "Hey, how'd they fit all that stuff
into that magazine anyway??" It was a good
So.....what's it like NOW, 12 years later? Well, uhm.....they still have the entertainment section, and the puzzle section, and the comics, and one page of the sports section. It's gone from 128 pages to 88. The comics have degraded the worst....they used to be made after Disney shows. Now they're usually about the adventures of the "SUPER MUSIC ACTION READY TEAM!!!" (s.m.a.r.t) where Britney Spears, No Doubt, Destiny's Child and other overhyped people must stop evil genuises from taking over the world!! I'm not lying. The magazine really has become that retarted. I didn't tell you what the REST is like....
It has one bright spot now, though....the adventures of the "HAIR PAIR!" Bernerd and Squatty are the only value you'll find here now.....
HERE we go. By far the classiest mag in the universe, children's category or otherwise. Not that it's without its flaws, but Cricket is the only mag that comes closest to what I actually want to see in a magazine.
If you've never seen this, you owe it to yourself to find a copy: 64 pages of stories by real professional authors, lavishly illustrated by many painted illustrations...it's like buying a $17.95 color book for $4.95. And to beat all, the whole thing is almost ludicrously "framed" in a comic strip about a bunch of weird bugs. Man, this is genius....I love it.
For those not familiar with the Cricket world, among them are a selfish, loudmouth ladybug(who self-shares top billing with Cricket(the Cricket), a "rad" inchworm who chows down on pizza(and it's a girl), the smallest mammal in the world("Zoot")and wow, a worm whose head AND butt BOTH talk!
|This is the last magazine I cancelled, and that was in 2003. The problem is, writer/artist Jean Gralley isn't always in top form like this--she sometimes goes months without coming up with something funny. After 13 years it just got too repetitive....
And yeah, she does excuse it by saying it's a kids magazine. Well, it is, but some of us are veterans who were with the thing when it was barely anything, and it wasn't even in color. There are a lot of us, and she should stop slacking off just because people under 11 aren't going to notice.
Let me explain the sad history....I first started getting this in 1990. Shortly after I started reading it, they came out with a spinoff title called "Ladybug"(get it, after the co-host of the previous mag)that was for little kids. And if you haven't heard of Cricket, then chances are you've definately heard of Ladybug, one of the most well-known and respected kids mags out there today.
In fact, Ladybug completely overshadowed Cricket here. (Which is just as well, considering who it was named after....) Carus Publishing panicked and got into a greed fever when they realized all the people who signed on to Ladybug would dump the company if the step in reading material from Ladybug to Cricket was too large. So in 1993 they came out with "Spider," for 6 to 9 year-olds...Ladybug was heartfelt genius(for its age group anyhow), but Spider was nothing but a Cricket ripoff, and who wants a magazine named after a child's worst fear anyway? Not me.....that's why Ranger Rick sat in a pile.
Then things got even MORE absurd. They came out with a magazine for 6 month olds, called "Babybug." No joke. I don't really know how that one's doing now, but they still sell it. In the midst of this bang-out-the-titles fever, older readers of Cricket started speaking up and basically all said: "Hey, if all the little kids get Crickets tailored to them, then why don't we get something a little more adjusted to OUR age level?" I cringed every time I read somebody in their letter column wanting this. They were so naive.
No, not naive in the sense that Carus Publishing wouldn't do it...they just figured the magazine that DID come out for them would be exactly like Cricket, only the strip would have less kiddie tendencies. HA! What they got was "Cicada," which was NOTHING like "Cricket," a lot more boring, and came out in only 6 issues a year.
Now it was just sad. The original magazine, Cricket, was SURROUNDED by ripoffs and leech titles, all from the same company. And it was no longer special, because "Spider" had taken its position for younger kids, and "Cicada" had taken away it's authority position as the oldest magazine. The mansion was surrounded by shoddy skyscrapers now.
Well, anyway, Cricket was the original, and we may be the only veterans now, because the kids that grow up with Carus' mags are going to go from Ladybug to Spider and then on to this, and then think, "What, another one that's the same? Yawn." To make matters worse is Carus' foray into educational merchandise recently; they spread their new catalog over the Cricket cover every December. Look, just what every kid wants, a Shakespeare board game.
I still think Cricket is a brilliantly original, cool magazine, and all the watering down and shameful activity of the last decade hasn't changed that opinion. If I were to make a magazine of my own, it'd be exactly like Cricket, except the writing and humor would be more sophisticated and adult. But it would still be FUN...are you listening, Marianne Carus?
Probably not. Oh well.....sigh......