|If you live in or plan to be visiting
the Portland area, my brand-new publication BANG!
The Entertainment Paper
will be available starting this week at 700 newsstands
around the city. For anyone who hasn't heard me repeat it
yet, BANG is a new type of paper full of stories and art
instead of news, designed to give exposure to writers and
artists who need it. (If that describes you, let me know
-- I have the power to help you now.) The goal is to
create a periodical as entertaining as possible, the kind
you WANT to pick up and not just because you're bored and
your electronic devices are out of juice.
And I don't mind telling you, a large part of the inspiration in designing BANG came from Cricket, a magazine I enjoyed like I have never enjoyed a magazine before or since. The whole idea of wrapping the paper around vignettes with Mulberry was inspired directly by Cricket -- anthologies need that sense of center to work. Without the zany bug strip as a framing device, Cricket wouldn't be half as special. Part of my goal was to make a Cricket for adults (and no, that's not what Cicada is by any stretch).
A lot of kids' mags I got were afraid of offending the dumbest kid in the room. Any article had to be two pages long at the most or our short attention spans would go back to the TV. We'd get a giant picture of a guy surfing and a 2-inch article about him. Highlights was about as fun as getting a big block of cardboard strips in the mail every month. Cricket cut the baloney and the condescension and got right to the truth, trusting we could handle it. "You wanna know why your parents want you to read? We'll SHOW you why!"
"See these? All these amazing
stories were created by one person. Not a committee, not
a team of marketing analysts, ONE person. This is what
people can do. This is what YOU can do."
I can't think of any other magazine sold today, for kids OR for grown-ups, that takes this approach. I would prefer it if every magazine was like Cricket. I want the checkout racks to be full of beautifully illustrated story anthologies, not celebrity gossip or old news or Oprah's head or anything else I don't care about.
Now, to celebrate the first issue of BANG, Platypus Comix presents the first issue of Cricket, from September 1973, in its entirety! Nothing has been left out! Every page has been scanned!
For those short on time, here are a few observations:
** The first issue of Cricket was 96 pages and bound like a paperback book, not stapled. This format would not change until 1979.
** The very first author to contribute to Cricket was.....
....wait for it......
It really is Snoopy, or at least, it's Charles Schulz's handwriting. When you have a signed document in your possession, you can't go wrong. It was never notarized, though.
** Trina Schart Hyman pulled major overtime, creating about half of the drawings in the issue, and many of them are quite good.
** The original cast for Issue 1 includes Cricket, Ladybug and Sluggo....and hundreds of crickets. Yes, the original cast was a majority of crickets who all look alike, albeit in varying sizes. One of them calls himself Charlie and he managed to stick around.
** An unnamed mosquito appears on page 70 who would later become Weenie.
** The bugs do not help with hard words. You're on your own!
** There is no bug strip in either Letterbox (which is simply a plea for letters) or Cricket League (which is just stories children of the staff have written). The middle four-panel sequence does occur, and Ugly Bird appears there for the first time. He doesn't have a crossword puzzle yet.
"FAT Ladybug"? Trina is lucky she didn't jump right off the paper and sock her in the face.
** There's one extra department after Cricket League but before Old Cricket Says, titled "Books I Wish You Would Read." It would later be replaced with the occasional book-recommendation article.
** "Little Green Riding Hood" would be reprinted in 1990 along with other stories from their first year, to commemorate their 200th issue. Lloyd Alexander's "A Hungry Reader" would be reprinted in a 1988 issue but without the biography page.
** The original print schedule was 9 issues a year, with nothing in June, July or August. This is the only magazine I've ever heard of to take a "summer vacation." Not much logic in that since children are most likely to read when they have the most free time.
For those of you who just roll their eyes whenever I fanboy about Cricket.......if you can have My Little Pony, I can have this. So there.