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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Comic Cuts: The 2007 Wrap Party

The December 2007 Worlds Of Don Lawrence newsletter is out in a few days containing a rough schedule for 2008 -- so now I know what I'm going to be doing! The main news for the UK is that the final three Trigan Empire Collection volumes will be released in March, June and August, although the Karl the Viking has been pushed back once again to June due to the problems of coordinating the release of eight books at the same time (four in Dutch, four in English). There will be a third Legacy book out in September gathering together some of Don Lawrence's pencil sketches. I'm pretty sure if it will follow the same format as the previous volumes -- there will be a book plus a special collector's edition which will include the book, prints of the artwork and a piece of original artwork which can be chosen by the purchaser (obviously on a first come, first serve basis). If you want to see examples, I've scanned the covers of the first two volumes for the DLC section of the Comics Bibliography.

If you follow the adventures of Storm, the first book in the series under the new creative team (Martin Lodewijk, Romano Molenaar and Jorg de Vos) has been a sell-out, going back to print within a month.

Normally that would be the cue for lots of hand-wringing about "if only comics got the same kind of attention over here." But it's the wrong time of year to say that as the annuals are in the shops. I've not been able to follow the sales figures this year because my source for sales figures dried up. For those of you who like a mystery we'll call that source Deep Discount. If you don't like a mystery the real source was The Times, who used to run a top 50 bestsellers in various categories but now only run a top 10 (highlight the previous sentence if you really want to know!). If anyone has access to figures, please let me know, but for the moment all I can tell you is that (as of week ending 15 December) the Doctor Who Annual seems to be outselling The Beano Annual once again, followed by a handful of non-comic annuals -- Match! Annual, The Private Eye Annual, The QI Annual -- and the related title Maw Broon's Cookbook.

And we mustn't forget the highly successful release this year of Brian Talbot's Alice in Sunderland, which has passed the 10,000 sales mark, the fact that you can't find Virgin's Dan Dare comic anywhere until new stocks arrive (see, for instance, this story from the Southport Visitor, Southport being the birthplace of Dan and his crew) and the continued interest (and sales) of various reprint volumes -- including things like the Commando, War and Battle reprints which are solely comics rather than the 'annual'-style reprints which are a mixture comics, features, pin-ups and adverts. There are a lot more of these comics reprints planned for next year, including the Valentine Picture Story Library volume already announced for February.

We can compile a rough-guide to sales by doing a snap-shot of sales through Amazon. Not the perfect solution but as it's all I have available... here's the top selling comics related titles and various annuals released in 2007 as of 23 December:

Reprint Collections

1 More of the the Best of Jackie Annual: All Your Favourites (ed. Lorna Russell) (550)
2 The Broons and Oor Wullie: 1946-1956 The Golden Years (602)
3 Viz: The Pearl Necklace (612)
4 Eagle Annual: The Best of the 1950s Comic (ed. Daniel Tatarsky) (1,570)
5 Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 09 (1,666)
6 The Bumper Book of Look and Learn (ed. Stephen Pickles) (3,067)
7 Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 04 (3,760)
8 The Complete Nemesis the Warlock: Vol. 2 (3,810)
9 Commando: All Guns Blazing (ed. George Low) (4,730)
10 Look-In: The Best of Look-In from the Seventies (ed. Graham Kibble-White) (5,352)
11 Charley's War: Blue's Story (5,880)
12 Captain Britain Vol.2: A Hero Reborn (7,012)
13 Death or Glory (ed. Steve Holland) (7,180)
14 Judge Dredd: Origins (7,708)
15 Beano and Dandy: Crazy About Creatures (8,509)
16 Dan Dare: The Man From Nowhere (8,509)
17 Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files o2 (10,487)
18 Slaine: Time Killer (13,950)
19 Doctor Who: Voyager. The Complete Sixth Doctor Strips vol.1 (16,377)
20 Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 07 (16,859)
21 James Bond: Death Wing (17,322)
22 Dan Dare: Rogue Planet (17,877)
23 Unleash Hell (ed. Steve Holland) (20,668)
24 Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 01 (22,938)
25 Death's Head (26,539)
26 Modesty Blaise: Death Trap (29,323)
27 Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 03 (30,460)
28 The Complete Nemesis the Warlock: Vol.3 (30,825)
29 Aarrgghh! It's War (ed. David A. Roach) (37,441)
30 Battler Britton (40,877)
31 Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 08 (41,217)
32 Durham Red: Empty Suns (47,199)
33 Judge Dredd: Mandroid (49,469)
34 Invasion! (53,989)
35 The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics (ed. David Kendall) (62,584)
36 Doctor Who: The Flood. The Complete Eighth Doctor Vol.4 (62,714)
37 ABC Warriors: Khronicles of Khaos (67,877)
38 Slaine: Books of Invasions Vol. 3 (68,878)
39 Death's Head Vol.2 (71,505)
40 Captain Britain: Birth of a Legend (75,241)
41 Albion Origins (80,603)
42 The Best of June and School Friend (ed. Lorna Russell) (80,828)
43 Savage: Taking Liberties (93,009)
44 Caballistics Inc.: Creepshow (94,087)
45 Modesty Blaise: The Inca Trail (94,672)
46 The Red Seas (112,603)
47 Judge Dredd: The Carlos Ezquerra Collection (114,227)
48 James Bond: The Phoenix Project (124,232)
49 Bad Company: Kano (135,171)
50 Nikolai Dante: Tsar Wars Vol. 2 (162,249)
51 The Simping Detective (189,250)
52 Yesterday's Tomorrows (243,436)
53 Mega-City Undercover (255,916)
54 The Collected Hook Jaw (369,143)
55 Leatherjack (376,768)
56 Asylum (379,884)
57 Xtinct (463,387)
58 Thunderbolt Jaxon (616,093)
59 Robo-Hunter: The Slaying of Slade (1,704,325)
60 The Red Seas: Twilight of the Idols (1,913,237)
61 Storming Heaven: The Frazer Irving Collection (2,758,652)
62 The Thirteenth Floor (n/a)

Reference Books

1 The Fleetway Picture Library Index Vol. 1: The War Libraries (by Holland & Roach) (39,671)
2 Thrill Power Overload (by David Bishop) (43,160)
3 The Naked Artist and Other Comic Book Legends (by Bryan Talbot) (98,906)
4 The Art of Bryan Talbot (158,521)
5 Cult Fiction (by Paul Gravett) (286,327)

Annuals

1 The QI Annual (7)
2 The Beano Annual 2008 (55)
3 Strictly Come Dancing The Official 2008 Annual (71)
4 Doctor Who: The Official Annual 2008 (101)
5 The Dandy Annual 2008 (161)
6 Star Wars Annual 2008 (189)
7 The Broons (204)
8 Pokemon Annual 2008 (287)
9 The Rupert Annual (337)
10 Match! Annual 2008 (399)
11 Horrible Histories Annual 2008 (372)
12 Bratz Annual 2008 (395)
13 The Girls Annual (424)
14 Shoot Monthly Annual 2008 (447)
15 Charlie and Lola: My Completely Best Annual 2008 (460)
16 The Official Chelsea Annual 2008 (509)
17 Harry Potter Poster Annual 2008 (528)
18 The Official Arsenal Annual 2008 (557)
19 The Boys Annual 2008 (558)
20 WWE Annual 2008 (562)
21 Horrid Henry's Annual 2008 (624)
22 The Private Eye Annual 2008 (655)
23 Horrible Science Annual 2008 (830)
24 Scooby-Doo! Annual 2008 (889)
25 The Bash Street Kids Annual 2008 (963)
26 LazyTown Annual 2008 (967)
27 Noddy Annual 2008 (1,095)
28 Bob the Builder Annual 2008 (1,175)
xx Doctor Who Storybook 2008 (1,196)*
29 Match of the Day The Official 2008 Annual (1,290)
30 Disney/Pixar Annual 2008 (1,293)
31 Blue Peter Annual 2008 (1,316)
32 Pirates of the Caribbean Annual 2008 (1,353)
33 Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Annual 2008 (1,437)
34 Shrek The Third Annual 2008 (1,476)
35 The Official Liverpool FC Annual 2008 (1,539)
36 Power Rangers Mystic Force Annual 2008 (1,623)
37 Disney Animal Friends Annual 2008 (1,669)
38 Transformers Annual 2008 (1,756)
38 Fireman Sam Annual 2008 (1,784)
40 Barbie: Magic of the Rainbow Official Annual 2008 (1,904)
41 Art Attack Annual 2008 (1,964)
42 Disney Fairies Annual 2008 (2,183)
43 Bunty For Girls Annual 2008 (2,355)
44 Marvel Heroes Annual 2008 (3,519)
45 The Official Manchester United Annual 2008 (3.724)
46 Angelina Ballerina Annual 2008 (3,751)
47 The Ultimate England Football Annual 2008 (3,955)
48 The Brownie Annual 2008 (4,148)
xx W.I.T.C.H. Annual 2008 (4,353)**
49 The Official Tottenham Hotspur Annual 2008 (4,818)
50 Postman Pat Annual 2008 (5,508)
xx Pirates of the Caribbean Annual 2008 (6,288)
51 Tom and Jerry Annual 2008 (6,606)
52 The Official Celtic Annual 2008 (8,295)
53 Wallace & Gromit Annual 2008 (9,440)
54 WWE Divas Annual 2008 (9,763)
55 Dora the Explorer Annual 2008 (10,034)
56 My Little Pony Annual 2008 (11,219)
57 Bratz Babyz Annual 2008 (11,896)
58 Thomas & Friends Annual 2008 (13,598)
59 I Love Animals Annual 2008 (13,647)
60 Spiderman 3 Movie Annual 2008 (14,505)
61 The Official West Ham United FC Annual 2008 (20,196)
62 The Rainbow Annual 2008 (20,569)
63 Cartoon Network Annual 2008 (21,333)
64 Fifi and the Flowertots Annual 2008 (24,946)
65 Tweety and Friends Annual 2008 (26,515)
66 The Official Manchester City Annual 2008 (30,627)
67 SpongeBob SquarePants Annual 2008 (31,799)
68 X-Men Annual 2008 (33,478)
69 Animals and You Annual 2008 (37,116)
70 The Cat in the Hat Annual 2008 (39,514)
71 The Official Rangers Annual 2008 (44,744)
72 The Official Aston Villa Annual 2008 (44,772)
73 The Official Reading FC Annual 2008 (45,093)
74 The Official England Annual 2008 (54,890)
75 TMNT Annual 2008 (75,780)
xx Polly Pocket Annual 2008 (82,990)**
76 The Official Everton Annual 2008 (87,483)
77 The Kop Annual 2008 (93,176)
78 Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer Annual 2008 (96,061)
79 The Official Middlesbrough Football Club Annual 2008 (104,471)
xx Rooney Annual 2008 (119,537)**
80 The Official Sunderland Association Football Club Annual 2008 (128,254)
81 The Official ITV Sport Formula One Annual 2008 (136,179)
82 Birmingham City The Official Annual 2008 (212,328)
83 Sonic X Official Annual 2008 (451,857)
84 Jetix Official Annual 2008 (1,207,908)

* A late entry! Sales position as of 24 December (Cheers, Steve)
** More late entries. Sales as of 31 December

OK, I went a bit mad with the annuals (although I did leave out things like the Mills and Boon Annual and The People's Friend Annual). Life's too short to ever do that again.

But what can we learn from these insanely long lists... well, I think the top list having 62 titles reprinting strips proves that there's still a strong fan base for old British comics. The positions (horribly slewed by the fact that some books have been out for up to twelve months) are less important than the total. Five plus reprints a month have appeared in 2007, some classic (Dan Dare, the war libraries) some not-so-modern-anymore classic (Judge Dredd, Nemesis, Strontium Dog, etc.). There's an incredible diversity to the titles, too, everything from The Bumper Book of Look and Learn to Viz: The Pearl Necklace.

The trend seems set to continue next year, although it would be nice to see even more diversity; 29 of the 62 titles were from 2000AD and there are 130 years' worth of comics to draw reprints from and hundreds of newspaper strips that deserve a look. (When will someone please write a book about British newspaper strips!)

I did a very brief Top 3 of things for the FP Internation blog recently where I mentioned the Comics Britannia programme. The occasional boost like that is useful; unfortunately, it needs to come at a time when there are books on shelves. Praise was lavished on Dudley D. Watkins, Davy Law, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid amongst others, but sadly there are no collections of their work available outside of the brief glimpses available in the Beano & Dandy collections. Frank Hampson's Dan Dare has been widely released and the Don Lawrence Fanclub have made Lawrence's work available, albeit at a high price. But there are no collections for Frank Bellamy or Ron Embleton, although I'm pleased to say that the Complete Robin Hood will address part of that problem and we're already discussing doing a second book reprinting Bellamy's King Arthur. And these are high profile names. What of the workhorses of British comics, people like Mike Western, Eric Bradbury, Paddy Brennan, Joe Colquhoun...?

I'm hopeful that 2008 will see more books out covering a wider range of strips. Titan are reprinting Jeff Hawke (who also has his own fanzine, Jeff Hawke's Cosmos), Carlton are expanding their coverage to include Romance, SF and the Wild West (more news on that in the new year), we've recently seen the launch of a new fanzine, Crikey!...

Who knows what might turn up in the next twelve months.


Here's a round-up of various newsy items recently spotted...

* D C Thomson have expanded their official Commando website by adding some exciting new features, including a downloadable calendar, wallpaper, a shop selling t-shirts, cups and subscriptions, a serialised reprint from 1966 and more.

* Transformers guru Simon Furman answers 20 questions -- 15 of them at Seibertron.com and 5 more at his blog, appropriately named Simon Furman: The Blog.

* MI6, the James Bond website, has details of the next James Bond book, Shark Bait, along with an image of the finalised cover (above). The UK release date has moved forward a couple of weeks to 25 January 2008. [UPDATE: The book is actually out now. See comments.] For the rest for rest of the series (and the original proposed cover) see the Titan Books section of the Comics Bibliography.

* The St. Trinian's movie has just been released in the UK, as has a collection of Ronald Searle's original cartoons. Ronald Searle's St Trinian's: The Cartoons (ISBN 978-0141189352) was reviewed in the Daily Mail in the paper's usual on-the-edge-of-panic style, praising the book whilst complaining about today's fearful society: "Given the stories we read daily of the ever-increasing part schoolgirls play in the binge drinking culture, the behaviour of some of Searle's black-stockinged, chain-smoking, murderous little monsters seems positively de nos jours. At all events, it's great to have the little beasts and their sadistic mentors (or should that be mentresses?) captured again between soft covers, and to be reminded of the genius of one the greatest illustrators of the 20th century."

* It's worth noting that Overlook Press are bringing out the same collection above under the title St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business (ISBN 978-1585679584). While I was digging around, I also found the very good Ronald Searle Tribute blog, well worth a look if you want to get an idea of the style and range of his work.

























* The Manga Bible is one of the subjects of "Giftwrapping the Gospel" by Jane Sullivan in The Age (Australia, 22 December); the book -- "God's Word as you've never seen it before" is drawn by Siku, one-time artist on Judge Dredd and the Pan African Judges in the Judge Dredd Megazine a decade or so ago. This has been out for some time but any discussion about it obviously shot straight past me. It is still widely available in a Manga Bible Raw TNIV translation with features and commentary (ISBN 978-0340910450) and a Manga Bible Extreme edition with the full text of the bible itself (ISBN 978-0340910467), running to 1,168 pages. If that isn't enough, the New Testament also gets the manga treatment in The Manga Bible NT Raw (ISBN 978-0340910436) which includes an interview with artist Siku, and The Manga Bible NT Extreme (ISBN 978-0340910443).

* Shout magazine is one of the D C Thomson stable of titles for young girls. Editor Ria Welch talks about bucking the trend in "Sex doesn't sell ... to an 11-year-old" (Sunday Herald, 15 December).

That's it for the pre-Christmas Bear Alley wrap party. I'm spending the next few days with family and friends so I'll wish you all a happy festive holiday and see you after the break. Merry Christmas, everyone. Merry Christmas.

2 comments:

Steve Flanagan said...

Hi, Steve.

I'm probably just missing it, but I think that your list omits Panini's version of a Doctor Who annual, the "Doctor Who Storybook 2008", currently at sales rank 1196 on Amazon.co.uk. It's a much more creative publication than the BBC's scissors-and-paste job, so it's a shame it isn't selling as well. Perhaps it is doing better in outlets where people can see it, rather than picking up what they find when searching for "Doctor Who Annual".

Merry Christmas to you!

George said...

That Bond book is sitting on my shelf and has been for a few weeks - one benefit of shopping in Forbidden Planet? The Harry North art is interesting - I remember seeing him in the UK editions of MAD years ago.

As for a book on British Newspaper strips, yes please. I'd even settle for some good web-sites if they go beyond the obvious fan-favourites.

Happy Xmas,

George