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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Bestsellers of 2007

The Guardian ran a list of the top 100 selling books of 2007 (as of week ending 16 December) so I finally have a couple of sales figures for this year's annuals. Only two made the top 100: Doctor Who: The Official Annual 2008 at #54, released on 5 September, with sales of 207,704 and The Beano Annual 2008 at #88, released the same day, with sales of 161,123.

To put these in context, J. K. Rowling's final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was at both #1 and #2 (the children's and adult editions with different dust jackets) with combined sales of 4,063,663. At #3 was The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld with sales of 797,081. The Guinness Book of Records 2008 sold 543,206 to reach #7. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn & Hal Iggulden, released in June 2006, continued to sell well and reached #98 with sales of 148,149.

The Times has noted sales for The Girls' Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Juliana Foster (165,660) and The Boys' Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Guy Macdonald & Dominique Enright (116,119), both published by Buster Books, and both as of late November. The former (which ended the year with sales of 187,037) was partly serialised in The Daily Mail and isn't a children's book per se, I would have thought. Not quite sure what you'd classify them as... retro children's book maybe? None of the latest slew of similar titles made it into the top 100, although the final position in the chart had sales of 145,699 so that's no indication that one or other of them didn't score well with readers.

The annuals will continue to sell well for a couple of months yet as they fall rapidly in price shortly before Christmas (Amazon have the Beano Annual and other annuals such as The Bash Street Kids Annual 2008 at £1.99). Sales are, however, down on last year. Around this time in 2006, the Doctor Who Official Annual had sold 271,500 and The Beano Annual had sold 187,000.

Something that surprised me turned up during a bit of digging I've been doing while writing the introductions for the next Trigan Empire collection. H. Rider Haggard's most famous novel, King Solomon's Mines, is a classic that has never been out of print; it was first published in 1885 and, by that September, had sold 30,000 copies. By the time of his death in 1925, more than 650,000 copies had been printed. averaging some 16,250 a year. The initial sales -- maybe 40,000 by the end of its first year? -- are dwarfed by things like My Booky Wook, Russell Brand's autobiography, which has sold 266,324. I somehow doubt that My Booky Wook will still be selling in 120 year's time but it just goes to show how book selling has changed over the years.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Flogging the Beano

One of the Holy Grail's for collectors of British comics has to be the first issue of The Beano, published in July 1938 and worth an absolute fortune these days. With around a dozen copies known to exist, a copy coming up for auction gets plenty of coverage and it's interesting to see how prices have fared over the past few years.

Olly Driscoll is a big fan of The Beano and bought his copy of the first issue at a Compal auction in February 1999 for £6,820, as reported here by the BBC. The sale also made the TV news a couple of times and Olly has posted clips to You Tube. The first is from ITV...



.. and the second from BBC News 24...



I'm not completely certain where this next clip comes from but I'm guessing that it post-dates the 1999 Compal auction. I believe it might be from the 1999-2000 ITV show Find a Fortune which starred Carol Vorderman.



A second copy of The Beano number one was sold by Compal in December 2002. It was owned by a Lincoln man in his seventies who had kept it since childhood, hidden away in a plastic folder under his bed. It was estimated that the price could fetch over £3,000 and eventually sold for a new record to an unidentified Hertfordshire book collector. The Compal report (December 2002) gives the final knocked down price, including premiums as £7,565.

A third copy to pass through Compal in March 2004 sold for an astonishing £11,000 -- and when you add the 10% buyers' premium the total was £12,100.

Compal, again, sold a fourth copy in March 2006 with some margin tearing and foxing; this went for £4,401. This sale had included a 4-page advertising flyer, issued with D. C. Thomson's story papers ahead of the launch of the new comic which alone had fetched £462 in the summer of 2005.

Our last clip comes from the Richard and Judy Show from August 2006 and relates to the Autumn 2006 sale of a fifth Beano number one...



The copy on offer eventually sold below the estimate of £8,500. The Compal report stated that four bidders were willing to offer up to £7,000 and the winning bid came in at £7,750 (£8,525 with buyers' premium).

It would seem from these various sales and reports that the price of a Beano number one has kind of stabilised at around £7,000, which is about what Olly Driscoll paid for his back in 1999, although I suspect that finding a Beano complete with Whoopee Mask now would send the price soaring once again.

Allen Andrews

As far as I'm aware, Allen Andrews was only credited with a single contribution to Look and Learn, a brief piece on Herman Melville's Moby Dick in issue 9, 17 March 1962.

He was born in Greenwich, London, on 15 April 1913 and educated at St. John's College, Oxford. After serving as a sergeant with the RAF during World War II, Andrews became a feature writer with the Sunday Pictorial in 1946, subsequently working for Public Opinion, Illustrated, the Daily Herald and other newspapers and magazines before turning freelance in 1957. His first book, Proud Fortress, was published the following year. In the 1960s he penned three books which were turned into movies: The Mad Motorists: The Great Peking-Paris Race of 1907 (1964), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) and Monte Carlo or Bust: Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Jalopies (1969). Other books included Kings and Queens of England and Scotland, (1976), The Whisky Barons (1977) and a number of biographies and company histories. Andrews died in London, in September 1985.

(* Illustration © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Looking for Dan Dare

The new Dan Dare from Virgin Comics had a mixed reception from comics fans although it has to be said that most reviews were fairly positive. John Freeman did a roundup of reviews recently which gives a fairly accurate snapshot of reaction. A more negative view of the new title was aired by a number of fans of the original Frank Hampson strip, although many were willing to give it an open verdict and wait until the story had played out before condemning it.

Because of the way comics are distributed in the USA (and Virgin Comics is based in New York), copies are pre-ordered by shops some months ahead of publication. Retailers base their orders on what they expect to sell, usually basing their figures on what similar things have sold in the past. The recent WildStorm Albion Universe titles were probably used for guidance and as these generally sold below 10,000 copies, the initial orders for Dan Dare #1 (released in November) were low. The Top 300 listing at ICv2, based on comparative numbers sold by Diamond, the biggest comics distributor in the US, placed the first issue at 187 with sales of around 9,434. The Comics Buyer's Guide estimate was almost identical at 9,431.

Given the comparative size of the US and UK markets and the number of comics shops, the chances are that less that 1,000 copies of Dan Dare #1 were ordered in the UK.

What copies were available were snapped up quickly and the Virgin Comics blog posted a list of comics retailers in the UK where copies could be bought... except you couldn't, of course, because most of them had sold out. Planet Ace in Colchester summed up the problem: they had ordered what they thought were reasonable levels based on pre-orders. But, as interest in the title spread around the internet, more customers asked for the title to be put aside for them, meaning that less than half a dozen copies were left to go onto the shelves.

Virgin have reacted sensibly and you can read the comic on their website. Comics shops are trying to reorder copies but

The interest generated by the new release can be seen using Google Trends which measures the volume of searches internet users do for various phrases and words. Searches for 'Dan Dare' increased dramatically in 2007:

Google Trends also gives a few details for where searches are being made from and interest was (as you would expect) high in the UK, Australia and Canada (where the original Eagle was distributed) but far lower in the United States; Italy, Spain and Germany also registered some interest. Farnborough seems to contain the most avid searchers for Dan Dare via Google, followed by Manchester, London, Thames Ditton, Birmingham, Brentford and Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately, the graphs generated by Google Trends don't give numbers, only a comparison.

The chart for 2007 only gives a clearer picture of the volume of searches over the year. The early peaks are from announcements made about the comic and the final, highest peak is when the publicity for the comic really kicked in shortly before its release at the end of November.

Unfortunately, given some context, the interest in Dan Dare is still pretty meagre compared to, say, Spider-Man, who starred in a major film in 2007. The Google Trends chart comparing the two barely registers Dan.

That's Dan Dare in the red. The labels refer to news items featuring Spidey, the peak (B) being the release of the movie.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Art of Bryan Talbot

The Art of Bryan Talbot is a roughly chronological look at the career of one of Britain's finest comics artists. Bryan Talbot has been in the business for over thirty-five years and has earned a huge amount of respect in that time.

The milestones have been many: early highlights include Brainstorm Comix and contributions to other underground publications; the quality and confidence his work showed soon earned him a shot at something far more ambitious and the result was The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, a Moorcockian, multiverse-spanning tale of a war taking place across parallel worlds. Complexly plotted and intricately designed, Arkwright was years in the making and, twenty-five years after it was first collected together, it's still one of the best graphic novels ever published.

Talbot went on to work for 2000AD (Nemesis, Judge Dredd) and as an illustrator, drew episodes of Sandman, wrote and drew The Tale of One Bad Rat, Arkwright sequel Heart of Empire and, most recently, has produced the best-selling Alice in Sunderland.

The Art of Bryan Talbot covers these and a lot more, from portraits of Adam Ant to SF posters, magazine covers to book illustrations, all with a running commentary from Bryan. Along the way we also get to see a few unpublished pieces, pencil sketches from life drawing classes, and plenty of illustrations that you've probably not seen (contributions to the Radio Times, for instance).

It's a big, glossy book, mostly in colour, the repro is good and there's a bibliography of Bryan's work at the end so you know where to find more. That's my only criticism: I did want more. At 96 pages it's a substantial book (and reasonably priced at $19.95 which translates to about a tenner these days) but I would have liked to have seen a little more about Bryan's techniques and a few examples of some of his comic strips. He mentions, for instance, a 72-panel sequence that encompasses only a six-second time frame which highlights one of the problems with art books dedicated to comic strip artists: art for comics isn't just about drawing, it's also about storytelling, something Bryan is very good at but which doesn't come across in the book.

For the newcomer it's a fine introduction to Bryan's work. For anyone who already has a substantial collection of Bryan's work, you'll find plenty of new things here and, like me, by the time you get to the end you'll have his other books teetering in a pile nearby begging to be re-read.

Further reading: Bryan Talbot books available at Amazon; Official Bryan Talbot Fanpage; Wikipedia.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Comic Cuts

I'm back. I've eaten too much, slept too little and I'm just doodling around the internet while backing up some files on the computer. Very soon I will be eating again. I was planning a full-blown photo montage of what I've been up to but I stuck my camera in a bag with a change of clothes and completely forgot about it. I'm suffering from camera envy anyway, having seen a slide show my sister put together. I'm desperately resisting the temptation to get a new camera.

I'm away from the house for at least part of tomorrow so I thought I'd post a couple things today that I've had lined up for a while. Immediately below is a little piece written by Jeremy Briggs last May (!) when we were talking about setting up a forum on the Look and Learn website. Jeremy reminded me about it recently so this seems the perfect opportunity to use it.

And below that we have a complete 4-part adventure advertising KP Alien Spacers. Nothing says Merry Christmas like an adventure set on the brink of a new Dark Age!

* Raymond Briggs was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph's Benjamin Secher (24 December). The Telegraph's Saturday magazine (23 December) also included a piece on Briggs' daily routine in their My Life column.

* Simon Spurrier was interviewed by Alex Fitch and Duncan Nott for their Strip! show on Resonance FM (13 December) and is now available as a podcast at the Reality Check/Panel Borders blog. An interview with Mark Buckingham broadcast on 25 December will shortly be available as a podcast.

* Lew Stringer has been running a festive flashback series taking a look at annuals of the past... there's also a Christmas episode of his Combat Colin strip. All can be found at Lew's Blimey! blog.


IN THE POST

A couple of magazines recently received:

Eagle Times v.20 no.4 (Winter 2007). The Christmas issue of Eagle Times includes a cover made from a selection of Christmas cards sent out by Frank Hampson (the front cover image, above, is dated Xmas 1947). Inside is the usual broad selection of Eagle-related features; recent years have seen more of a diverse collection of articles, including a number on related topics -- features on pop music of the 1950s, a 5-part feature on Dick Barton (concluding in this issue) and a piece on Alex Raymond's influence on Hampson. The bulk of the magazine remains Eagle-oriented with a look at Hampson's very early strip work in the Union of Post Office Workers' magazine The Post, features about untold Dan Dare stories, real locations from the Jack O'Lantern strip, artwork by Harold Johns and Cecil Orr, Eagle novels, autographs and the concluding episode of a PC 49 story (based on an old radio script).

Subscriptions are £22 a year (£26 overseas in sterling). Cheques and whatnots can be sent to the membership secretary, Keith Howard, 25A Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 2UA.

Don't forget Eagle Times now has its own blog run by Will Grenham, one of the ET editorial team.

Paperback Fanatic no.5 (Winter 2007). A little off the comics' track but another fascination of mine. I've collected old British paperbacks for years and a decade or so ago published a paperback fanzine called PBO. Maurice Flanagan also published a paperback fanzine in book form (Paperbacks, Pulps and Comics) but, when both folded, there was a void. Now superbly filled by Justin Marriott's Paperback Fanatic. Justin's main interest is the paperback boom of the 1970s and the various issues of PF have included an astonishing array of covers and genres. This issue includes an interview with 'Big Bob' Tralins, who churned out dozens of sleazy novels for the US paperback market in the 1960s before going semi-legit. writing genre fiction in the 1970s -- everything from horror to slaver novels. There's more horror as Justin takes a look at the paperback 'nasties' that sprung up in the wake of James Herbert's The Rats (1974) and Guy N. Smith's Night of the Crabs (1976). Before long, every insect, rodent and reptile had a novel named after it as nature rebelled and eviscerated mankind with every tooth, claw and mandible available. There are articles on the rivals of Conan and the second part of a look at Leo Kessler-esque war books. Next issue promises an interview and features on the late Peter Haining.

You can obtain copies (£3.50 UK, £5 Europe, $8 US and Canada) via PayPal from Justin by dropping him a line here: justinATjustincultprint.free-online.co.uk (replacing the AT with an @).

The Bionic Arm

SPEED & POWER : THE BIONIC ARM by Jeremy Briggs

One of the joys of going through old copies of Look and Learn, and the majority of it siblings, is in admiring the illustrations. Since many of these were used elsewhere within the IPC Fleetway stable of titles, the realisation that the picture you recognise from elsewhere actually came from Look and Learn happens quite often. Here is a twist on this particular subject.

Going through some copies of Speed & Power, I came across a black and white photo send in by a reader of a model he had constructed of a bionic arm. Ken Roscoe, the editor of Speed & Power, obviously thought highly enough of it to print it on the letters page of issue 55 dated 4-11 April 1975 and to reward the sender, G Symons of Basildon, Essex, with £1 for his efforts. That may not sound much but in 1975 it would have bought 8 copies of Speed & Power with money left over for some sweets. This was one of those times when I realised that I had seen the picture of the arm before.

It took a while, but I did eventually find where it was also published. In the mid 1970s there were several short lived magazines published in unusual formats in the UK. One of these was TV Sci-Fi Monthly, published by Sportscene Publishers Ltd, which lasted for 8 issues and was a glossy colour unstapled A3 magazine which was folded to the more normal A4 size for distribution. It covered the then current television science fiction shows such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, Space:1999, and more importantly for this story, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Sure enough in issue 6, which is undated but has a 1976 copyright, was the same B&W photo of the model bionic arm sent in by the same reader, G Symons. This time the "honour" of the printing of the photo had to be enough for him since TV Sci-Fi's fictional editor, The Wanderer, did not stretch to rewarding his letter writers with cash.

TV Sci-Fi Monthly, like Look and Learn or Speed & Power, was a magazine heavily devoted to its visuals, be they large colour photographs or large colour paintings. Artists providing the A3 (and sometimes A2) colour illustrations included Joe Petagno, better known for Motorhead album covers, and Jeff Cummings who would later illustrate Doctor Who Target book covers. Artists providing black and white illustrations included Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland, before then became "art droids" for 2000AD.

I wonder if G Symons ever did anything professional with his modelling talents?

KP Alien Spacers

Following on from the appearance of the KP Outer Spacers advertising strip (which I've now put together in proper reading order here), Richard Sheaf sent over a similar styled ad. for the KP Alien Spacers -- as Outer Spacers were rebranded. These adverts appeared in the new Eagle in the 1980s and were drawn by... well, it looks like Robin Smith who also drew 'Detective Zed' for Eagle but is probably best known for his work as an art droid for 2000AD and as the artist of The Bogie Man.

With thanks to Richard for the scans. Coming Soon: Clarks Commandos - Series Four!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. My thanks to everyone who has supported Bear Alley over the past twelve months. A special thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Richard Sheaf and Steve Winders who have all contributed columns at various times when I've had my nose to the grindstone trying to hit a deadline. Thanks too, to those folks who have shared their memories of their work and the work of their relatives with us, especially to Charlotte Fawley and Karenina Bennett who have been good friends of the column. John Herrington, Jamie Sturgeon and Victor Berch also deserve a pat on the back for sharing their hard-earned research.

Everyone who has commented, shared information, sent in corrections or dug deep into their collections and taken the time to send scans... every generous action is hugely appreciated. I hope everyone has enjoyed the results.

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.