"A picture of a burning crocodile being attacked by a putrefacting zombie wielding a chainsaw - and make it snappy!"
Undoubtedly the trickiest job on AP was that of Art Ed.
While readers expected to be able to spot different writers,* the Art Ed had to be excitingly inventive (yet maintain a consistency of style), clear and thorough (yet incredibly quick - there were never more than two art people working on AP at a time, even with the 132-page issues), arty and fun (yet never get in the way of the words) and able to deal with people saying, "Anyway, just as a tiny throwaway joke, I thought it would be funny to have a cutout of Robert de Niro as Travis Bickle driving the taxi in this scene in Cabbie Go Loco," and spend hours putting this together only for everyone to agree it was a feeble punchline, without beating with sticks.
Naturally, we didn't get it right first time. Matt Williams, assistant to pioneering AP art bod Trevor Gilham, went on to Art Edit the squashingly pompous Edge, leading to Stuart's for about the first year of its existence pointing out that blank white layout had been done first by the same bloke in AP, and how come now it was a masterpiece of minimal design when then everyone had thought it slightly dull?
As befits the non-stop party that was AP, the Art Eds, though by necessity behind the scenes (we'd extremely rarely get letters praising the layout. Except perversely from a burst on the launch of the mag congratulating us on the clean, white, mature design from people who presumably went on to buy Edge) became stars in their own right. As it happens, every Art Ed (and Art Assistant) after Trevor and Matt was a woman (a real one too, which in the era of desperately unfortunate attempts to boost readerships by pretending bearded staff writers or whatever were girls was amazingly unusual) and aside from (tediously predictably) being great, they were famous because of these things:
Amanda Cook - Queen Of Clean, White, Mature Design
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Amanda's mathematical flanking of text with the pictures; her tremendous speed; her being a big hit with Marcus Dyson.
Jacquie Spanton - Queen Of Hilarious Alcohol-Related Stories
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Jacquie's incarceration in the Betty Ford Clinic.
Lisa Nicholls - Queen Of Picture Boxes Tilted To Ten Degrees
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Lisa's unflaggingly perkily-angled screenshots.
Sal Meddings - Queen Of AP33's Redesign, Severing The Links With White Space Forever
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Sal's unsuccessful attempts to bust Jacquie out of the Betty Ford Clinic; the "Sal drops her sprog" episode which went on for about four months after she'd actually left the mag and dropped her sprog, and a year in total; her Disney fan-worship.
Lisa Kellett - Queen Of Eye-Searingly Contrasting Consecutive Review Spreads
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Lisa almost but not quite being Miss Bristol 1993; the zig-zagging review names; her comical toying-with of Cam.
Sarah Sherley-Price - Queen Of Appearing At All Times Slightly Bemused By The Ridiculous Excesses Of The Non-Stop Party That Was AP
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Sarah's grudging, anchor-to-reality appearances in Who Do We Think We Are (the most famous being her "I'll be dead" in What Do We Think We're Going To Be?); the Portishead connection so we got to hear the album months before anyone else.
Sue Huntley - Queen Of Art Eds
Regular AP Readers May Remember Fondly: Sue laying out the entire mag single-handedly from AP47 onwards; her astonishing command of swear-words; her bothering to read copy; the four-month fight with the ever-personable Steve The Publisher to credit her as Art Ed.
And how did you, our readers, show your appreciation of their work? By writing in with offers of marriage.
For heaven's sake.