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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comic Cuts

Following up on my comments about the sales of Virgin's new Dan Dare comic, the sales figure for the second issue is now out. ICv2 publishes estimates based on sales of comic books via Diamond Distributors US, the biggest distributor of comics to what's known as the direct market -- comic shops in both the USA and UK. It's a good indicator as to how a comic is doing as one imagines that Dan Dare has very few sales outside of comic shops in America and there has been no sign of distribution outside of comic shops in the UK.

ICv2 has estimated sales for issue 2 are 7,838, down 1,596 from 9,434. That's a 17% drop, almost a fifth. All I can say is, if you want to see the rest of the series, make sure you're ordering it from your local comic shop because it's only going to get harder finding copies.

A couple of new sites relating to British comics have recently appeared: Peter Gray is covering a range of old humour titles at Peter Gray's Cartoons and Comics and Adrian Banfield is doing for Victor and Hornet -- at The Victor Incorporating The Hornet website -- what Paul Winsall is doing for The Wizard.

I recently had a discussion with someone trying to explain why most of the research I've done in the past has related to Fleetway comics rather than D. C. Thomson titles. The simple fact is that my favourite boyhood reading was Valiant which I discovered via a friend when I was seven or eight. I also read TV 21 and Joe 90 because I was a big Gerry Anderson fan. When I had pocket money to spare, I tended to buy other comics I'd seen advertised in Valiant, so I'd pick up Smash! or Lion rather than Victor. When I started researching, it was mostly to discover other work by my favourite artists who, at the time, were Jesus Blasco, Mike Western and Eric Bradbury. As they worked for Fleetway almost exclusively, my research took me backwards through the history of Fleetway titles.

I was certainly aware of the Thomson titles. I did read Victor for a while (probably when Valiant et al were on strike) and I picked up Starblazer when it came out. But -- and this is the point of this ramble -- I'm really pleased to see that young fans are putting the time and hard work into rediscovering some of the old Thomson papers. It's all new to me and all very exciting to see information turning up on dozens of strips that I've never had a chance to read.

I hope all these guys can keep up the pace! (And I'm going to stop because I'm starting to sound like an old fogey... "young fans" indeed! When did I become so middle-aged?)

Talking of Thomsons, Commando is now running artist and writer credits -- Lew Stringer discusses it over at his blog but I thought I'd mention it here. I have to agree with Lew's comment that "If readers know who the artists and writers are it adds another dimension to buying the comics." While it's true that you can enjoy a comic without knowing the names of the creators (there weren't credits back in the days when I started reading comics and it didn't spoil my pleasure of them) I do think that it adds and element to the enjoyment. And I can say that there isn't a shadow of a doubt that fans -- rather than casual readers -- are desperate to know the names of the creative teams. 90% of the mail I get is divided between "how much is such and such worth" from people rooting around in their attics (50%) and "who wrote/drew such and such a strip" (40%).

The new credits are a first for Thomsons but, many years ago, they did start announcing the names of the creators of Starblazer. It was rather late in the day but it certainly added to my enjoyment to discover the names of many new artists. With the launch of these new websites dedicated to Thomson papers, hopefully we'll also begin to learn the names of some of the older creators. I also heard from Peter Richardson recently who tells me that he's working hard on the Commando Index which will cover that title all the way back to its beginnings in 1960. It should make a fascinating companion to The War Libraries when it appears later this year.

A few more news item...

* Forbidden Planet International have posted audio of the talk on 'Graphic Novels - Literature of Pulp Fiction' at the 2007 Edinburgh International Book Festival featuring Alan Grant, Ian Rankin and Denise Mina.

* A new official Brendan McCarthy fansite has just been launched. Above is the alternative cover that will appear on Dan Dare #3.

* Alan Moore is giving a talk at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery on 26 January between 1 and 3 pm. Tickets cost £8 and are available from the museum (01604 838 111) or e-mail museums AT (link via Lying in the Gutters)

(* Dan Dare images © Virgin Comics; Commando and The Hornet © D. C. Thomson. The Commando cover is by the late Phil Gascoine, by the way.)


  1. I am Merry and Bright and very Sparky.

    Whoppee!! Thanks for the Plug! You have a Cracker of a blog. Wow! it is really Dandy. I like to Look and Learn about the artists you mention. Cor!! I sure used a lot of comic names in what I'm typing.

    Yours Nutty and Cheeky
    Peter Gray
    Must hold a Beano for my friends one day! Oh-No! I've missed the Bus-ter erm that doesn't work!

  2. Well, your Valiant efforts deserve to be a Smash! hit. Your blog will soar like an Eagle and be number one with a Bullet, Buddy.

    I can't keep this up... you win. (Insert Victor joke here.)

  3. Re Dan Dare

    Since Virgin collects their comics into books, I'm certain that their Dan Dare comic will appear in book shops, probably later this year -- it's the kind of book that I'd expect to get British bookshop distribution, maybe even a UK edition

    David Simpson