The Badtime Bedtime Storybooks were pull-out mini-books inside Britain's Monster Fun comic in 1975-1976. There's never been anything like them. They were about us, the kids who read them: that was me in that picture, I was an "under the bedclothes reader" along with other 6 to 10 year old kids up and down the land. Each badtime book was inspired by a classic of literature or 1970s culture. They introduced a new world each week to impressionable little kids, kids who could now read a whole "book" for the first time in their lives!
"Never heard of them. What are they again?"
The Badtime books were the middle four pages of Britain’s weekly Monster Fun comic (1975 - 1976). The center pages could be pulled out and folded over to make an eight page “book,” and each was a parody based on a classic novel or TV series. As the name suggests they were designed to be read under the bed clothes by little kids like me. To a six or seven year old kid like me, an eight page mini comic was a real book!
Who is Leo Baxendale?

The classic Badtime books were the last mainstream comics work from Leo Baxendale, immortal British comics creator, inventor of the Bash Street Kids and numerous other timeless classics. Visit Peter Gray's site for examples.

Baxendale is still at work creating comics, but this was his farewell to the regular weekly papers that used to be the heart and soul of British comicdom. And what a high point to end on! Part of the reason why he left mainstream comics was that he felt betrayed by having people reprint his old stuff without him seeing a penny in royalties. So I feel a little bit guilty in making the web site (but the alternative is to have his best work completely forgotten, and that would be a bigger crime). So please, readers, visit Baxendale's web site and buy something so I feel less guilty. There's some seriously good stuff there:
How the Badtime books began

In the early 1970s Baxendale was arguably the number one British comics artist. He was under pressure to create more and more work each week. Then in 1973 the British economy took a downturn and there was less work to be had. Baxendale took this review his career. He didn’t like producing rushed work, and wanted to spend more time on each strip, to create higher quality work, so this was a good time to change gear.

With less work, he could spend more time on each page, and the readers and editors loved it. In February 1975 he was approached by his editor about a new comic to be launched in the spring, called Monster Fun. They planned to give him the middle four pages to do with as he wished. Back in those days, comics were in black and white except for the covers and center pages, and the middle four pages were sometimes reserved for posters, so to have the middle four pages was quite the opportunity. Also, comic creators had much less power over their strips, so to be given complete freedom was something special. The editor suggested the title Badtime book and left the rest up to Baxendale.

At the time, Baxendale was drawing three other weekly strips: Sweeney Toddler, Clever Dick, and Snooper. Individual characters were always easier to draw than comics featuring a whole new multiple cast each week, but even so he needed to drop the other titles in order to focus his energies on the Badtime book. the other editors of course were heartbroken to see their favorite artist leaving their most popular strips, but I think history shows he did the right thing. He broke the news gently, and didn’t just drop all three at once, as this would have caused bad feeling that could jeopardize the badtime book work.

The scans below are the end of chapter 11 and the start of chapter 12 of Baxendale's autobiography, "A Very Funny Business."
A note about the lettering
I’ve been looking through some of my old Badtime books and noticed something. At first glance they look ugly! The writing and pictures are often small and there's lots of empty space. So they can look poorly designed and empty (at first glance). Well it's true that some of them were rushed out and there wasn't time to do them properly. But mostly it's because of THE LETTERING.

The earlier classic Badtime books presented unique challenges to letterers. First, there’s much more detail than on regular pages. Second, the books are printed sideways. Third, the panel shapes and positions aren't standardized. I don't know much about lettering in the 1970s, but I bet it wasn't highly paid so the letterer had to rush to make any money. And I bet they didn't get paid extra for hard jobs like the Badtime books. So what was a poor letterer to do? Answer: just print everything very small. That way you don't have to worry about complicated layouts. When the artist says "put this text here" you print it very small in exactly that place. Job done. Onto the next page.

The result is a little weird. The artist leaves big gaps for the lettering, then the lettering itself is tiny, and requires incredible eyesight to read the finest print. And in order to maintain some kind of legibility, the letterer has chosen the most unappealing plain and serif font imaginable. Baxendale noted that around this time the comics were experimenting with mechanical lettering, so maybe that's the answer - they'd never done it that way before? I don't know the answer, but the lettering is a real shame. If these things were ever re-released I hope someone re letters them using a computer, to get closer to the original vision of the writer/artist.
How Baxendale left the Badtime books

Baxendale wanted to create his best work all the time, but the weekly pressure of mainstream comics meant he always had to make compromises or miss deadlines. Plus he was becoming disillusioned with the industry, since it was always reprinting his old work but he never saw a penny in royalties. His dream was to spend a whole year making just one comic and selling it himself. But who would publish it? At that time he read an article in the Guardian about Colin Haycraft, the new manager at publishers Gerald Duckworth. here was a man who really understood comics. So Baxendale sent some copies of the Badtime books to Haycraft

Rather than produce second rate work (Monster Fun comic came out weekly, but a good Badtime book took ten days to make) Baxendale left some of the stories to others. Those other Badtime books were good, but not as great as his classics. It became a real headache for the editors, since nobody else could do what Baxendale did. Readers noticed that the quality was becoming patchy..

At this time, Baxendale was becoming more aware of the fan and independent comics world, a world where artists could live as human beings and not as machines crushed by deadlines who lost control of their work the moment it was mailed. He began to see a life beyond the rat race.

For all his working career, Baxendale had been working long hours under great pressure. He was a fan favorite, and everyone loved his work, but it was “work for hire” and he never got rich, and he never saw a penny in royalties. In October 1975, Duckworths signed a contract to publish Willy the Kid, and Baxendale would retain ownership of his work. the contract paid him in advance for a complete annual that had to be completed by the following May. As a freelance it was a simple matter to resign from IPC magazines (the publisher of Monster Fun) and work full time on Willy the Kid.

From that moment it was only a matter of time before the Badtime books and Monster Fun folded. There was normally a six week delay between finished art and the comic coping on sale, so the Baxendale Badtime books run ended in December 1975. Other artists and writers did their best in the next months, but readers noticed the decline in quality, and sales of Monster Fun declined. In those days, if an IPC comic lasted a year then it broke even, financially. And two years was a great success. Monster Fun lasted 18 months, and finally merged with Buster in October 1976. There were a few more annuals, and that was it.

Other artists

Baxendale wrote and drew the first seven Badtime books, and in total drew 21 before he left. Most of the others were drawn by Mike Brown. Jack Clayton also drew a couple and there were one or two by Terry Bave and Artie Jackson. I don't have much more information on the other artists (hence the emphasis on Baxendale) but if I learn more I'll post it here.

The badtime book canon has never been reprinted in any regular fashion, though individual issues occasionally surfaced in Buster (in the example on the left the stories are recolored and the prefix "Buster's..." is added to the title), or in reprint comics like “Funny Fortnightly.”

Their popularity among fans was unprecedented (they were the first IPC kids strip to generate adult fan mail) so why weren’t they reprinted more often? I think there are several reasons.
The collectors market

The badtime books were designed to be removed from the comic, and so they are missing from the vast majority of old Monster Fun comics. For example, at time of writing (late May 2007) there are four Monster Fun Comic auctions on eBay. The largest of these has 68 different issues - almost the entire set. Another has 13 issues, and the other two are for single issues (issue 1 and the Christmas issue). Guess how many badtime books are included in those auctions. Give up? One. Just one single badtime book survived out of more than 80 issues. Those things are like gold! Which is one reason why I made these web pages.
Baxendale in the 1970s, and today
Can you help? I'm hoping to add just the first page of every badtime book to this site. If you have a Badtime book that isn't represented here, and you have access to a scanner, or you know any Badtime related information, my address is tolworthy at hotmail dot com.
All comic art copyright IPC magazines (1970s) and Egmont International (today).

Thanks to Irmantas, Muffy, the Hornet, Toonhound, Peter Gray, John Pollock, and Andy & Sharon Laney-Davis for most of the scans. Thanks to Kashgar, Lew Stringer, Bustercomic, philcom55 and SteveZodiac of for general help and information. And of course thanks to Leo Baxendale and all the writers, artists and editors who created these gems in the first place!

First, they were pullout pages designed for the color center spread, a part of a comic that was seldom available for reprints. And they didn’t work as well in back and white.

Second, they were so memorable that readers would immediately notice that they were reprints. Britain, until recently, had no tradition of openly reprinting classics. And the lettering style, the frame style, everything draws attention to itself as being something very different. It just doesn’t fit in anywhere except as a centerpiece. But the whole point of a reprint is to fill up space in a generic way.

Third, the lettering style, as noted, can detract from the story. Any editor who was unfamiliar with the Badtime books would glance at them and think “nothing special, but hard to reprint.”

Fourth, the editorials by Leonard Rottingsocks assumed a familiarity with readers and referred to Monster Fun and the letters page, so that entire section would need to be redrawn or rewritten.

Fifth, the pages are printed sideways, and need to be removed from the comic, cut out and reassembled to make sense. In a regular comic readers can get used to this, but as an occasional reprint it can be confusing. This is a serious matter when the entire British humor comic industry was in decline and readers just didn’t care for them any more. By the 1990s the classic stories were largely published in reprint anthologies like “Funny Fortnightly.” Casual readers just didn’t have the dedication that these strips demanded. And neither did the editors, apparently. I have a “Funny Fortnightly” hardback annual where even the title is misspelled.

Finally, all great comedy is largely of its time. The Badtime books were full of 1960s and 1970s style humor and references to 1960s and 1970s pop culture. new readers just wouldn’t find them as funny. (Except very cultured and intelligent readers like YOU, of course.)

I have often thought that the Badtime books, with their small page size, would be perfect for a paperbacked anthology, where the entire run could be published as a single book. Personally I would buy at least ten copies. But until then, this web site (and buying Monster Fun comics on eBay) is the best we can do.
Badtime Bedtime Checklist
Leonard Rottingsocks

The one character who appeared in (nearly) every book was Leonard Rottingsocks. Baxendale recalls:
Originally I called the 'editor' of The Badtime Bedtime Books (can't remember whether he was the 'editor' or the office boy acting as a commentator, but not to worry) Leonard Rottingcorpse, but Bob Paynter, the editor of Monster Fun Comic, changed the name to Rottingsocks on grounds of good taste.
      Bedtime book title page: a kid in bed reading a scary badtime
      book, with a crazy world outside his room
Every week introduced a new world, a new cast, and gave a complete story. Plus some closing words from the editor, Leonard Rottingsocks. He made the world of comic publishing come alive (in a crazy way of course) and invited the readers to write in. This just added to the pseudo realism, the sense of familiarity, and the general fun.

I loved the idea of escaping under the bedclothes into a crazy new world in a new book every week. It just worked on so many levels.
Most weeks, Rottingsocks would ask readers to send in letters. Some of them were printed in issue 12 (because of the printing time lag, these referred only to issues 1 to 6). Click on the image for a giant size view.
A note about scan quality

The scans are in JPEG format, and most are kindly donated by visitors to this site. Obviously the quality depends on the condition of the original comic, the scanner and settings used, etc. Remember that the original badtime books are much smaller than the size you see on the screen. And the original comics were never designed for that kind of detail. In particular, the colors were sometimes printed a few millimeters off, and the dot patterns were relatively large so the tiniest text is sometimes very hard to read even on the original.

Anyhow, 'trevortoons' has kindly tidied up one of the scans so you can see the difference. he's chosen a later one, in black and white, because the earlier scans (in color, with the tiniest details) would probably be impossible to fix. Click on the images to the left to see the original scan from a page and the same scan, cleaned up.

The badtime books were SMALL, but the scans on this site are BIG. This can be misleading. As full size pages they may look like nothing special. But as tiny books, hidden in ordinary comics, they were magical.

Try to imagine the excitement you'd feel as a six or ten year old when you turn the page of a regular comic and find a tiny book bursting with goodness. I remember that feeling. It was like a Tardis, or a doorway to Narnia, a small thing that formed a gateway to another world.
The posters

These posters appeared in Monster Fun 29 (a "Badtime Bedtime Book special" for the Christmas issue), and 59 and 61, right near the end of Monster Fun's 73 issue run. The badtime books presented the editors with an interesting challenge: they were the most popular part of Monster Fun, but the hardest to exploit. They were difficult to create (so they were missing from some issues) and did not have any single star (except for Rottingsocks). And much of their appeal came from their pull-out nature, something that would only work with the middle four pages of a comic. It's hard to do with an annual, or with any other number or position of pages. Anyhow, here are the posters (click for a large version)
Before the badtime books

Monster Fun was not the first monster themed comic: Frankie Stein, the 'editor' of Monster Fun, was a regular star of 'Shiver and Shake' comic, published until 1974 (the year before Monster Fun). In 1974, Shiver and Shake experimented with 32 page mini-comics, like these two examples -->

(Incidentally, the idea of a green non-human editor was used again, the year after Monster Fun ended... in 2000AD!)

The Shiver and Shake pull-out comics were longer than badtime books, and had a number of short stories, just like the regular comics. But the Badtime books were different: each book had one complete story, with a new set of characters, based on classic books. They had their own clear identity.

When Monster Fun was first advertised, the Badtime books were a major selling point: the ad on the right is from Whoopee comic, dated 7th June 1975.
Above: for me, a key element of the badtime books is the feeling of discovering a new fantasy world in a  small space. I got the same feeling from the wonderful "Ticklish Allsorts"  in Monster Fun and "World Wide Wierdies" in Whoopee.