Badtime Bedtime Storybooks were pull-out mini-books inside
Britain's Monster Fun comic in 1975-1976. There's never been
like them. They were about us, the kids who read them: that was
that picture, I was an "under the bedclothes reader" along with
to 10 year old kids up and down the land. Each badtime book was
inspired by a classic of literature or 1970s culture. They
new world each week to impressionable little kids, kids who
read a whole "book" for the first time in their lives!
heard of them. What are they again?"
Badtime books were the middle four pages of
Britain’s weekly Monster Fun comic (1975 - 1976). The center
could be pulled out and folded over to make an eight page
each was a parody based on a classic novel or TV series. As the
suggests they were designed to be read under the bed clothes by
kids like me. To a six or seven year old kid like me, an eight
mini comic was a real book!
The classic Badtime books were the last mainstream comics work
Baxendale, immortal British comics creator, inventor of the Bash
Kids and numerous other timeless classics. Visit Peter Gray's
site for examples.
Baxendale is still at work creating comics, but this was his
to the regular weekly papers that used to be the heart and soul
British comicdom. And what a high point to end on! Part of the
why he left mainstream comics was that he felt betrayed by
people reprint his old stuff without him seeing a penny in
So I feel a little bit guilty in making the web site (but the
alternative is to have his best work completely forgotten, and
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
stuff there: www.reaper.co.uk
the Badtime books began
In the early 1970s Baxendale
was arguably the number one British comics artist. He was under pressure
create more and more work each week. Then in 1973 the British
took a downturn and there was less work to be had. Baxendale
review his career. He didn’t like producing rushed work, and
spend more time on each strip, to create higher quality work, so
was a good time to change gear.
With less work, he could spend more time on each page, and the
and editors loved it. In February 1975 he was approached by his
about a new comic to be launched in the spring, called Monster
They planned to give him the middle four pages to do with as he
Back in those days, comics were in black and white except for
covers and center pages, and the middle four pages were
reserved for posters, so to have the middle four pages was quite
opportunity. Also, comic creators had much less power over their
strips, so to be given complete freedom was something special.
editor suggested the title Badtime book and left the rest up to
the time, Baxendale was drawing three other
weekly strips: Sweeney Toddler, Clever Dick, and Snooper.
characters were always easier to draw than comics featuring a
multiple cast each week, but even so he needed to drop the other
in order to focus his energies on the Badtime book. the other
of course were heartbroken to see their favorite artist leaving
most popular strips, but I think history shows he did the right
He broke the news gently, and didn’t just drop all three at
this would have caused bad feeling that could jeopardize the
The scans below are the end of chapter 11 and the start of
of Baxendale's autobiography, "A Very Funny Business."
about the lettering
been looking through some of my old
Badtime books and noticed something. At first glance they look
The writing and pictures are often small and there's lots of
space. So they can look poorly designed and empty (at first
Well it's true that some of them were rushed out and there
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
Second, the books are printed sideways. Third, the panel shapes
positions aren't standardized. I don't know much about lettering
1970s, but I bet it wasn't highly paid so the letterer had to
make any money. And I bet they didn't get paid extra for hard
the Badtime books. So what was a poor letterer to do? Answer:
print everything very small. That way you don't have to worry
complicated layouts. When the artist says "put this text here"
print it very small in exactly that place. Job done. Onto the
The result is a little weird. The artist leaves big gaps for the
lettering, then the lettering itself is tiny, and requires
eyesight to read the finest print. And in order to maintain some
of legibility, the letterer has chosen the most unappealing
serif font imaginable. Baxendale noted that around this time the
were experimenting with mechanical lettering, so maybe that's
answer - they'd never done it that way before? I don't know the
but the lettering is a real shame. If these things were ever
re-released I hope someone re letters them using a computer, to
closer to the original vision of the writer/artist.
Baxendale left the Badtime books
wanted to create his best work all
the time, but the weekly pressure of mainstream comics meant he
had to make compromises or miss deadlines. Plus he was becoming
disillusioned with the industry, since it was always reprinting
work but he never saw a penny in royalties. His dream was to
whole year making just one comic and selling it himself. But who
publish it? At that time he read an article in the Guardian
Haycraft, the new manager at publishers Gerald Duckworth. here
man who really understood comics. So Baxendale sent some copies
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
some of the stories to others. Those other Badtime books were
not as great as his classics. It became a real headache for the
editors, since nobody else could do what Baxendale did. Readers
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
beings and not as machines crushed by deadlines who lost control
their work the moment it was mailed. He began to see a life
For all his working career, Baxendale had been working long
great pressure. He was a fan favorite, and everyone loved his
it was “work for hire” and he never got rich, and he never saw a
in royalties. In October 1975, Duckworths signed a contract to
Willy the Kid, and Baxendale would retain ownership of his work.
contract paid him in advance for a complete annual that had to
completed by the following May. As a freelance it was a simple
to resign from IPC magazines (the publisher of Monster Fun) and
full time on Willy the Kid.
From that moment it was only a matter of time before the Badtime
and Monster Fun folded. There was normally a six week delay
finished art and the comic coping on sale, so the Baxendale
books run ended in December 1975. Other artists and writers did
best in the next months, but readers noticed the decline in
and sales of Monster Fun declined. In those days, if an IPC
lasted a year then it broke even, financially. And two years was
great success. Monster Fun lasted 18 months, and finally merged
Buster in October 1976. There were a few more annuals, and that
Baxendale wrote and drew the first seven Badtime books, and in
drew 21 before he left. Most of the others were drawn by Mike
Jack Clayton also drew a couple and there were one or two by
and Artie Jackson. I don't have much more information on the
artists (hence the emphasis on Baxendale) but if I learn more
badtime book canon has never been reprinted
in any regular fashion, though individual issues occasionally
in Buster (in the example on the left the stories are recolored
prefix "Buster's..." is added to the title), or in reprint
Their popularity among fans was unprecedented (they were the
kids strip to generate adult fan mail) so why weren’t they
more often? I think there are several reasons.
The badtime books were designed to be removed from the comic,
they are missing from the vast majority of old Monster Fun
example, at time of writing (late May 2007) there are four
Comic auctions on eBay. The largest of these has 68 different
almost the entire set. Another has 13 issues, and the other two
single issues (issue 1 and the Christmas issue). Guess how many
books are included in those auctions. Give up? One. Just one
badtime book survived out of more than 80 issues. Those things
gold! Which is one reason why I made these web pages.
in the 1970s,
help? I'm hoping
to add just the first page of every badtime book to this site.
have a Badtime book that isn't represented here, and you have
a scanner, or you know any Badtime related information, my
address is tolworthy at hotmail dot com.
comic art copyright IPC magazines (1970s)
and Egmont International (today).
Muffy, the Hornet, Toonhound,
Gray, John Pollock, and Andy & Sharon Laney-Davis
most of the scans. Thanks to Kashgar, Lew Stringer, Bustercomic,
philcom55 and SteveZodiac of comicsuk.co.uk
for general help and information. And of course thanks to Leo
and all the writers, artists and editors who created these
gems in the
they were pullout pages designed for the
color center spread, a part of a comic that was seldom available
reprints. And they didn’t work as well in back and white.
Second, they were so memorable that readers would immediately
that they were reprints. Britain, until recently, had no
openly reprinting classics. And the lettering style, the frame
everything draws attention to itself as being something very
It just doesn’t fit in anywhere except as a centerpiece. But the
point of a reprint is to fill up space in a generic way.
Third, the lettering style, as noted, can detract from the
editor who was unfamiliar with the Badtime books would glance at
and think “nothing special, but hard to reprint.”
Fourth, the editorials by Leonard Rottingsocks assumed a
with readers and referred to Monster Fun and the letters page,
entire section would need to be redrawn or rewritten.
Fifth, the pages are printed sideways, and need to be removed
comic, cut out and reassembled to make sense. In a regular comic
readers can get used to this, but as an occasional reprint it
confusing. This is a serious matter when the entire British
industry was in decline and readers just didn’t care for them
By the 1990s the classic stories were largely published in
anthologies like “Funny Fortnightly.” Casual readers just didn’t
the dedication that these strips demanded. And neither did the
apparently. I have a “Funny Fortnightly” hardback annual where
title is misspelled.
Finally, all great comedy is largely of its time. The Badtime
were full of 1960s and 1970s style humor and references to 1960s
1970s pop culture. new readers just wouldn’t find them as funny.
(Except very cultured and intelligent readers like YOU, of
I have often thought that the Badtime books, with their small
size, would be perfect for a paperbacked anthology, where the
run could be published as a single book. Personally I would buy
least ten copies. But until then, this web site (and buying
comics on eBay) is the best we can do.
The one character who appeared in (nearly) every book was
Rottingsocks. Baxendale recalls:
I called the 'editor' of
The Badtime Bedtime Books (can't remember whether he was the
or the office boy acting as a commentator, but not to worry)
Rottingcorpse, but Bob Paynter, the editor of Monster Fun
changed the name to Rottingsocks on grounds of good taste.
new world, a new cast, and gave a complete story. Plus some
words from the editor, Leonard Rottingsocks. He made the world
publishing come alive (in a crazy way of course) and invited the
readers to write in. This just added to the pseudo realism, the
of familiarity, and the general fun.
I loved the idea of escaping under the bedclothes into a crazy
world in a new book every week. It just worked on so many
weeks, Rottingsocks would ask readers to
send in letters. Some of them were printed in issue 12 (because
printing time lag, these referred only to issues 1 to 6). Click
image for a giant size view.
about scan quality
scans are in JPEG format, and most are
kindly donated by visitors to this site. Obviously the quality
on the condition of the original comic, the scanner and settings
etc. Remember that the original badtime books are much smaller
size you see on the screen. And the original comics were never
for that kind of detail. In particular, the colors were
printed a few millimeters off, and the dot patterns were
large so the tiniest text is sometimes very hard to read even on
Anyhow, 'trevortoons' has kindly tidied up one of the scans so
see the difference. he's chosen a later one, in black and white,
because the earlier scans (in color, with the tiniest details)
probably be impossible to fix. Click on the images to the left
the original scan from a page and the same scan, cleaned up.
NOTE ABOUT SIZE
The badtime books were SMALL, but the scans on this site are
can be misleading. As full size pages they may look like nothing
special. But as tiny books, hidden in ordinary comics, they were
Try to imagine the excitement you'd feel as a six or ten year
you turn the page of a regular comic and find a tiny book
goodness. I remember that feeling. It was like a Tardis, or a
to Narnia, a small thing that formed a gateway to another world.
posters appeared in Monster Fun 29 (a
"Badtime Bedtime Book special" for the Christmas issue), and 59
right near the end of Monster Fun's 73 issue run. The badtime
presented the editors with an interesting challenge: they were
popular part of Monster Fun, but the hardest to exploit. They
difficult to create (so they were missing from some issues) and
have any single star (except for Rottingsocks). And much of
appeal came from their pull-out nature, something that would
with the middle four pages of a comic. It's hard to do with an
or with any other number or position of pages. Anyhow, here are
posters (click for a large version)
the badtime books
Monster Fun was not the first monster themed comic: Frankie
'editor' of Monster Fun, was a regular star of 'Shiver and
comic, published until 1974 (the year before Monster Fun). In
Shiver and Shake experimented with 32 page mini-comics, like
(Incidentally, the idea of a green non-human editor was used
year after Monster Fun ended... in 2000AD!)
The Shiver and Shake pull-out comics were longer than badtime
and had a number of short stories, just like the regular comics.
the Badtime books were different: each book had one complete
with a new set of characters, based on classic books. They had
own clear identity.
When Monster Fun was first advertised, the Badtime books were a
selling point: the ad on the right is from Whoopee comic, dated
Above: for me, a key element of the
badtime books is the feeling of discovering a new fantasy world
a small space. I got the same feeling from the wonderful
"Ticklish Allsorts" in Monster Fun and "World Wide