Being curious, I checked the latest available circulation figures. Now, not all comic titles are listed by ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations) but the majority of titles published by BBC, Egmont, Redan, Panini and one or two others are and the top three titles (according to the latest audited circulation figures for Jan-Jun 2006) turn out to be:
The Simpson's Comic (Titan).................. 128,691
Toybox (BBC Worldwide)......................... 119,071
Viz Comic (Dennis Publishing)................. 112,288
One company not covered by ABC is D. C. Thomson, publishers of Beano and Dandy who have earned themselves a reputation for not revealing circulation figures. I'm not sure why as they've been releasing figures for some years, although usually in the form of a combined circulation for Beano-Dandy. However, it's relatively easy to break these down into numbers for each title. Unfortunately, they make rather depressing reading.
Please remember: these are estimated circulations based on the combined figure.
Historically, the Beano has been the better seller and, back in the mid-1970s, was still selling half a million copies a week, with Dandy not far behind on 400,000. By around 1992, Beano was selling 250,000 and Dandy was down to 100,000; total sales dipped slightly throughout the 1990s but not dramatically. In 1998 sales were around 230,000 for the Beano) and still 100,000 for the Dandy.
Five years on, which is when I started collecting data, sales had halved and the combined circulation was down to 167,153. This has slipped every year except for the second half of 2004 when Dandy was relaunched.
Jul-Dec 2003......... 114,082
Jan-Jun 2004........ 105,208 (- 7.8%)
Jul-Dec 2004......... 108,251 (+ 2.9%)
Jan-Jun 2005.......... 89,342 (- 17.5%)
Jul-Dec 2005........... 84,597 (- 5.3%)
Jan-Jun 2006.......... 76,663 (- 9.4%)
Jul-Dec 2003........... 53,071
Jan-Jun 2004.......... 51,515 (- 2.9%)
Jul-Dec 2004........... 52,896 (+ 2.7%)
Jan-Jun 2005.......... 49,452 (- 6.5%)
Jul-Dec 2005........... 43,599 (-11.8%)
Jan-Jun 2006.......... 39,511 (-10.3%)
Despite these declining figures, the Beano and Dandy are still profitable titles for D. C. Thomson. The Beano Annual is still the best-selling hardback children's book every year, selling over a quarter of a million copies annually and The Dandy Annual sells around half that number. Spin-off books featuring various comic characters, the collections of old strips that pop up every year, the Fun-Sized titles and sales of related merchandise, all add to the bottom line of Thomson's Youth Publications group.
In December 2007, Dandy will celebrate its 70th birthday and Beano turns 70 the following July. Will these soon-to-be-septuagenarians last much longer? Both papers have recently been handed over to new editors -- Alan Digby on Beano and Craig Graham on Dandy -- and Dandy has begun using European strip reprints ('Tootuff' ['Titeuf'] and 'Tony and Alberto') so it would seem that Thomsons are at least trying to do something to keep the papers alive. Fresh hands at the tiller might just guide these famous papers through the next few years safely. I hope so. I'd hate to see them go.
A very quick note of a couple of interviews I've spotted this evening (first chance I've had to look around since last week!):
- A 2-part interview with Charlie Adlard can be found at a German site called Comicgate.
- Another David Lloyd interview about Kickback at the Forbidden Planet blog.
(* Last thought. While I've enjoyed some of the archival collections Thomson have put out -- Focus on the Fifties, A Spin Round the Sixties, etc. -- what I'd really like to see is a hardback collection of Ken Reid's 'Jonah' strip which ran in Beano in 1958-63. One of the funniest strips ever! I read them in Buddy when they reprinted the strip in the early 1980s but only 130 episodes appeared, less than half the total number. "Aaagh! It's 'im!": The Complete Jonah. That's what I want for Christmas.)