Both Waterstones and W H Smith are confidently predicting that this year's Official Doctor Who Annual will outsell the Beano Annual. The Waterstones chart, published in a report headlined 'Dr Who exterminates Beano at Christmas' in the Daily Telegraph (11 November), lists their predicted Top 10 as follows:
1 Doctor Who
2 The Beano
5 Disney's Princess
6 Thomas and Friends
8 The Dandy
9 Star Wars
10 Oor Wullie
I made a few comments on annuals and sales a month ago ('Best of the Best') which included what sales figures I could gather. It's interesting to note that Bratz Annual, which was supposed to be giving The Beano a run for its money last year, is now down to #4 in the charts. Also, the Telegraph gives overall sales figures for 1998 (1.1 million annuals) and 2005 (2.2 million annuals), which is quite a jump (last year's sales also topped 2 million). The Bookseller, which bases its charts on Nielsen BookScan sales figures, has placed the Beano Annual at #3 for weeks ending 28 October and 4 November, whilst Doctor Who jumped from #2 to #1 in the same weeks, replacing The End by Lemony Snicket at the top of the Children's Books chart.
The Telegraph also published a leader article in which the editor complained of the "too little timlessness" in the new Doctor Who series, pointing out The Doctor's "habit of reading Heat, a trashy celebrity magazine. Worse is the inevitable connection with the sexually ambivalent world of the Torchwood Institute, which now enjoys its own "adult" television series."
"This is all very 2007," the article continues. "In Beano's timeless world, by contrast, the Bash Street Kids' teacher still wears a mortar board, Little Plum still speaks in a cod Red Indian pidgin and Dennis the Menace still mocks the softy Walter. Best of all, their unreal world does not depend on television."
But let's not forget that, whilst the sales of the annual seem bouyant, the weekly Beano has been suffering from falling sales for years and nowadays only sells around 75,000 copies a week. I'm not suggesting for a moment that they completely modernise it -- it would completely lose its charm. Unfortunately, what we oldies see as charm isn't what attracts a young audience.