I focus mainly on “girls comics” for this site, so I have not covered the more teen offerings such as Blue Jeans, Jackie, Romeo etc. While I haven’t touched on them here, I did read such books when I was a teen and I still have some of my Blue Jeans Photo Novels and annuals. Photo stories were more limited in what they could depict compared to drawn art, so often they were used for soap stories and romance and they were quite popular. It must have been appealing for readers to see people like themselves depicted in real life settings. The Blue Jeans Photo Novels were a companion to the Blue Jeans magazine, they were complete photo stories in small digest form, similar to the Bunty Picture Story Library. Stories that I read and stuck in my memory were “A Likely Story” where a girl finds her life mirroring the book she is reading, “All Together Now” where a group of people meet at a Madonna concert ticket line and “Car Trouble” where a girl buys a second hand car that turns out to be haunted! The Blue Jeans Photo Novels lasted for 12 years (1980-1992) for over 500 issues. One of the writers for Blue Jeans and these photo novels, Geoffrey West, has kindly answered some questions about his work at this time.
Geoffrey’s mother was familiar with the magazine business as she worked for IPC, and it was her that advised him that DC Thomson would take work from unknown writers, if they could do what was needed. Geoffrey made attempts to write for Beano which he had loved as a child and Bunty which he thought had interesting stories, but he was deemed not the right fit for them. He was more successful with writing for Blue Jeans and Jackie.
“On buying Blue Jeans and Jackie, I thought I might be able to try, because they produced a leaflet with their requirements, and were nice and encouraging to new people I followed the advice and had a go. I probably had a few turned down to start with, but once I had one accepted, I got to know the friendly editors (Maria and Val and others). Then I tried for BJ photo novels and found it really rewarding to do these longer stories, and Val Carr was so nice and pleasant to work with.”
As Geoff lived in London and DCT was based in Dundee, everything was done by post. That meant he did not get to work with other creators, but he had good relationship with his editors, though he only ever met one editor (Yvonne) in person, when she came to London on business.
“Working for DC Thomson magazines was my first experience in journalism, and was thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe I was especially lucky, but all the editors I worked with at Thomson (Maria, Val, Rhia, Yvonne and others) couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging. Though they were ‘telephone friends’ I felt as if I really knew them, and influenced me greatly in having a liking for Scottish people. “
Geoff worked only on the scripts for the photo novels and didn’t get involved in other parts of the process. When writing the scripts he thought of the story in frames. It was later in life that he also took up photography, this wasn’t influenced by his time writing for photo novels, but when he needed photos for a book he was writing Dolls’ Houses that’s what got him interested.
“It was the first journalistic work I had ever done. I just thought of the ‘frames’, did the dialogue and it seemed fairly straightforward.”
While he didn’t keep a list of the books he wrote, he does remember most of them, and when asked if he had any particular favourites, a couple sprung to mind.
“I did like the one (think called ‘Can’t buy me love’), where the heroine wins the lottery (or similar) and then falls out with the boyfriend, because he can’t take her patronising him, buying him presents, then she takes up with a swine who is after her money, and ends up with nothing at all, and the original boyfriend and old best friend rally round to save he from bankruptcy. And I also like ‘All the way from America’, where the glamorous American boyfriend is not all he seems.”
As always it is interesting to get an insight from the people who worked on these books, so thanks to Geoff for taking the time to talk about it. Geoff has gone on to write a number of fiction and non fiction books, as well as working as a proof reader. More information on his other works can be found on his website: http://www.geoffreydavidwest.com/