I covered a few reference books last week, so today its the pick of the reprints. 2008 has been one of the best years for reprints of classic British comics ever, with titles covering most of the major genres: football (Roy of the Rovers, Hot-Shot Hamish), science fiction (Rick Random—Space Detective, Jeff Hawke, the latest Dan Dare), historical adventure (Robin Hood, King Arthur, Karl the Viking), war (Commando: Bandits at 12 O'clock, Against All Odds, Let 'Em Have It!, the latest Charley's War), crime (the ongoing James Bond and Modesty Blaise reprints), western (High Noon) and even hospital romance (Love on Ward B).
Notably missing from this mix is humour and girls' comics (although there was a Best of Boyfriend). With the exception of The Broons & Oor Wullie and the annual gathering of old Beano & Dandy material, there's a distinct lack of humour collections. Even the obvious choices (gatherings of strips by Leo Baxendale or Ken Reid, a book of Dudley D. Watkins' Desperate Dan or David Law's Dennis the Menace) seem to have been missed by the reprinters to date. Maybe they've tried and been rebuffed.
It's difficult to choose "the best" from this year's crop because my choice would include some of the books I've been involved in putting together. I was especially proud of the Karl the Viking books: four volumes which can be picked up individually (Karl the Viking Vol. 1: The Sword of Eingar, Karl the Viking Vol. 2: The Powers of Helvud, Karl the Viking Vol. 3: Island of the Monsters, Karl the Viking Vol. 4: Quest of the Long Ships) or as a box-set in a slipcase. Took years to complete this one (as long-time readers will know from the various delays) and I'm proud to have a box-set of 'em on my shelves. The Robin Hood and King Arthur books are, despite glitches, two more I'm very pleased with. I want to see sales of both the Rick Random and High Noon volumes soar so I can do more of them.
Of the ones I've not been involved in, I'd say the second Jeff Hawke volume (Jeff Hawke: The Ambassadors) and the The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s were the most welcome arrivals—the Jeff Hawke for the odd reason that I'd read half of one of the stories (the title story) and have spent years wondering how it ends and the Roy volume because it covered a period when I was reading the originals and, in nostalgia terms, it probably had the biggest impact. Most of the stories reprinted I never saw first time round; the first time I read them was because I was planning to write something about them. Roy I read purely for entertainment and both Hot-Shot Hamish and Charley's War fall into that same read-for-pleasure area (although I was reading Hot-Shot only after he teamed up with Mighty Mouse).
Where do draw the line at what's 'classic' British comics? 2000AD was launched over thirty years ago, not long after Battle Picture Weekly, and now falls into that category. I didn't think much of The Best of 2000AD volume—a missed opportunity if ever there was one—but Rebellion have kept up a steady output of classic reprints. The Judge Dredd volumes probably lead the pack, although I'd also include Nikolai Dante in my list of favourites, mostly on the grounds of John M. Burns' gorgeous artwork.
So that's a rough idea of my own favourites from the year. A bit of a random selection admittedly but each chosen for different reasons—some because I'm like everyone else and love re-reading great old stories that I read years ago and others because I'm excited by the opportunity to present them to readers who might not have seen them before. I'll also add a little caveat that I've not seen all the books that have appeared this year; review copies seem to be getting scarcer as publishers start to look after the pennies. If your book hasn't been included, give your publisher a nudge and get them to send over a copy for review.