Happy 30th Birthday Deadline!

by Oliver MacNamee

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Tank Girl (something we’ve banged on about all year long), but it also means the seminal magazine she first appeared in, Deadline, is also celebrating 30 years, too. And that shouldn’t go without marking the occasion.

I remember picking up the first issue and I’d never seen anything like it before. With it’s mix of anarchic comic strips by the likes of Brett Ewins and Steve Dillon (the co-founders of the magazine) and, of course, Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlitt’s aforementioned Tank Girl, it felt like an extension of the 2000AD’s ethos of punk rock, political satire and social commentary through comic strips. A more grown up kind of read, mixing hard hitting articles alongside the comic strips. As a student growing out of 2000AD and just starting studying Sociology, it was a time in my life for political awakenings, and this magazine hit me hard.

It’s where I learnt that, under Thatcher’s Britain, the homeless population had doubled, something of a pattern with Conservative governments ever since it would seem, and it evolved and hardened my embryonic liberal, left-leaning beliefs and values that were beginning to stir within me in my informative years. I’m not saying this magazine put me onto a path of social responsible thinking and acting, but when you mix that up with the head-hitting street politics of Public Enemy, Consolidated and the Dead Kennedys, and you have a potent mixture that could only really lead me in one direction politically and vocationally. Teaching is still one of the few careers in which you can feel you are making a difference without feeling exploited by the system.

But, I digress.

The magazine was loud and proud about it’s DIY design and output and as it grew it started introducing reprints of popular American indie comics such as the Hernandez brothers Love & Rockets, and Evan Dorkin’s Mike and Cheese strips. Hell, as a result of the collaborations with Dark Horse, they even put out an American version, Deadline USA.

Keeping up their hip vibe and image, soon bands, and friends of the comic mag, started popping up on covers. Blur, Curve and one of my all-time favourite age-punk-pop band, Carter USM, all appeared on the cover of Deadline, and some (Carter USM) even turned theirs (illustrated by Phillip Bond) into tour t-shirts. This was achingly hip, but was very much a product of its time as the Britpop musical phenomena of the mid-90s was just about to envelope Britain and beyond. Unfortunately, Deadline wouldn’t be around to bask in it’s glory, another title failing to pull in the readership as, equally unfortunately, the lads’ mag culture became the dominant cultural stance many took as a result of all the posturing and drug taking of such bands as Blur, Oasis and many, many more.

It was a breath of fresh air when it first landed, and without nay fanfare don’t forget. There was no internet at that time, and I doubt they had much to spend on advertising. It was a magazine you had to find out about at UKCAC (where it initially launched) or by accident when buying your monthly copy of Viz, itself no stranger to anarchic strips and social commentary creed up as a pastiche of The Beano) but it was always a good read with plenty to keep you thinking about days after you’d read the magazine.

So, from one of the first, and loyal readers you’ve had, Happy Birthday Deadline! I’ll raise a pint in your honour!

I’ll leave you with a bit of Carter USM too while I while away the rest of my day reminiscing about the ‘good old days’. For me, the quintessential band that embodied everything Deadline stood for, but in musical form.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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