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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Comic Clipping - 11 September 2006

It's rather sad to see how far the sales of Beano and Dandy have declined over the past few years. I've been thinking about the recent history of British comics because I put together a set of links a few days ago for current kids' magazines and comics (which you can find over on Bear Alley Links -- something I will try to keep updated whenever I get a chance) and I was amazed to see how many titles there were. Over 90 papers still being published.

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.

The Beano

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%)

The Dandy

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.

(* 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.)

5 comments:

john adcock said...

I agree with you about Jonah although I haven't read that many strips. I do have some Buster Comics from 1985 with another great character by Ken Reid, Face-Ache, about a character with a rubber-face who can change faces at will accompanied by the sound effect SCRUNGE!
John Adcock

Steve said...

My favourite Ken Reid remains 'Queen of the Seas' from Smash! which I suspect may have been written by Walter Thorburn, who also wrote Jonah. I'll try to dig some more examples of Reid's work out when time allows.

Phil Rushton said...

What a wonderful artist - and what a crime that virtually all of his work should be out of print! I've no doubt that if he'd worked for 'Mad Magazine' there'd be all sorts of retrospectives available by now. I agree that the Collected Jonah is a must - closely followed by Reid's brilliant Frankie Stein strips from Wham!

Also, I can't help but feel that a collection of his inspired 'Creepy Creations' illustrations from Shiver & Shake (along with the 'Wanted Posters' and 'World Wide Weirdies' from Whoopee!) would find a ready market today alongside modern bestsellers like the 'Horrible History' books!

Steve said...

I couldn't agree more: you see occasional flashes of Reid's genius in reprints like last year's A Spin Round the Sixties but imagine a whole book full!

Any book of Reid's creations would be a must -- Jonah, Queen of the Seas, Frankie Stein and Face Ache are usually the ones I think of first but he did dozens of other. Let's not forget he was the first artist on Roger the Dodger, just to give one for instance.

I strongly suspect that neither Titan nor Carlton would be terribly interested in a book of Reid's work: it just isn't their kind of thing. (I don't want to do the staff of these companies an injustice here; I imagine some of Titan's editorial team would love to publish Reid!)

DCT could, I'm sure, get a book of Jonah together but their other books work in the nostalgia market because they're Beano and Dandy books featuring a range of characters. I think their marketing department would rather spend their days nailing clouds to the sky than try to promote a book featuring the adventures of a character who hasn't been seen for 25 years.

Which leaves the collector's market -- low print run, high price and no guaranteed audience.

I'm not saying it couldn't be done but I can understand why it hasn't been done to date.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to bump up an old thread here, but he has been seen in the last 25 years. He appeared in "The Beano retiring home" in 1988. He appeared a few times in The Dandy between 1994 and 2003 (he was drawn by Keith Robson, who drew General Jumbo too). Some of these stories were reprinted in BeanoMAX last year (as well as Phoot and Mouse and Auntie Clockwise), and finally, he made an appearance in "The Beano all-stars" this year!