On this day, 5 May 1979: Jackpot
On this day, 5 May 1979 ... I can't remember what free gift I got with my first issue of Jackpot. Apparently it could have been one of six different practical jokes. I remember having one of those squeezy pump toys that you were supposed to put underneath someone's bowl of cereal or soup to make it wobble, but it depended upon eating at a table with a tablecloth to hide the tube and we never did that so instead I hid it down my shirt and tricked my mum into thinking I had an irregular heartbeat (she was either taken in or generously played along because I remember her picking up the phone and starting to call the doctor before I revealed my trickery). So it could have been that. I do remember getting the squirt ring with issue two. Bet my family loved Jackpot.
Well I did love Jackpot. Really loved it, and took it for at least a year starting with this hugely exciting first issue. I've been re-reading it and trying to work out what it was that made it so special. It could be argued that there was nothing particularly new about most of the strips, which followed tried and tested formulas: 'poshies v scruffies' (Class Wars, Milly O'Naire and Penny Less), 'kids with super powers or attributes' (Full O' Beans, Robot Smith, Laser Eraser), 'TV riffs' (The Teeny Sweeney, It's a Nice Life, Little and Large Lenny), 'rich kids' (Kid King), 'poor kids' (Richie Wraggs), 'awkward kids' (The Incredible Sulk, Cry Baby) and the obligatory adventure strip (the actually quite scary The Terror Toys). There were a few fresh ideas and oddball strips – Angel's 'Proper' Charlies, Terry and Gavin's Funtastic Journey, Little Adam and Eva (now that was a surprising strip!), Good News Bad News and Steve Bell's Gremlins – but one of IPC comics' hallmarks was that it would often come up with fairly off-the-wall standalone stories, so there wasn't anything really unique about these either.
That league ladder at the end of the comic fascinated me, having a liking for tables and lists and rankings, which I think is quite common among those with the fan gene. Someone on the editorial staff must have been really into them too because later on there was a cut-out-and-keep league table chart with Shoot-style tabs for each of Jackpot’s stories so we could move them about in our own personal rankings each week.
I think it was the sum of the parts that made Jackpot so exciting. Here was a brand new comic - we didn't ask for it, we didn't need it, we already had plenty of other comics – with 20 brand new stories to really care about (21 in fact, as the excellent Marathon Mutt would begin in the second issue, after which a different story would be left out each week). It belonged to me – it belonged to us – it was our comic; these were our stories and our features, this was our layout, our design, our masthead with that cool thickening lines effect which was fun to recreate with a ruler and felt-tip pens. Jackpot gave me a sense of ownership and identity.