Monday, August 02, 2010

It's Summer, so here come the Christmas annuals!

Hardback British comic annuals were traditionally given as Christmas presents to children and the covers of the books often displayed seasonal scenes of snow and festive celebration. Even though the annuals would arrive in the shops in September most kids wouldn't receive them until Christmas Day. Over the years that tradition has weakened, and surprisingly the 2011 Annuals arrived in the shops last week, at the end of July!

With the demise of the Summer Specials some publishers have been experimenting with hardback Summer Annuals instead, so perhaps their rivals felt they'd be missing out if they didn't adjust the publication date of their books? Or perhaps kids and parents just don't bother saving the books until Christmas Day any more? Whatever the reason, W.H. Smith now have the 2011 annuals in stock, presumably for people to buy as birthday presents or for a treat for the summer holidays.

I've just bought two of the titles available so far, so let's take a quick look at the contents. The Beano Annual 2011 kicks off with a lively non-Christmassy cover and inside features 112 pages of full colour strips. There are not one but two board games across the endpapers by Hunt Emerson and Tom Paterson respectively, and Laura Howell provides a Happy Bunny Green frontispiece setting the humour mood to lead off the book. (Detail below.)

Nigel Parkinson has several pages in the book including Dennis and Gnasher, Billy Whizz and Lord Snooty the Third...

Fans of Billy the Cat will be pleased to know that Nigel Dobbyn is back drawing a ten page new story featuring the British superhero. General Jumbo returns too, in an all too-short two pager drawn by Steve Beckett. Good to see some adventure strip material amongst the funnies.

I received my first Beano Book 45 years ago and I'm as proud as punch to finally contribute to the series myself with four pages of Super School in this 2011 edition.

The annual also features work by Tom Paterson, Ken Harrison, Dave Eastbury, Dave Sutherland, Nick Brennan, and Barrie Appleby. Lots of fun for £7.99. (Or buy two annuals, get one half price in Smiths at present.)

The Dandy Annual 2011 will please haters of Dandy Xtreme because, as with last year, the Xtreme aspect of the comic has been ignored. Therefore it's 112 pages of solid comic strips with no photo features or game reviews. Nigel Parkinson provides the covers and a lot of material inside. (And why not? Nigel is one of our best humour artists.) Curiously, although Jamie Smart contributes to the book it's not his distinctive new version of Desperate Dan that's in the strips, with Nigel P handling the art duties instead. (And look! Dan still eats cow pies, despite what the anti-PC lobby may claim.)

Whilst not as tightly packed as last year's exceptional Dandy Annual, the 2011 book still offers a lot of fun. Good to see old Korky the Cat back, with a fun, frantically modern style by Clive McGhie.

McGhie also draws Bananaman for the book, whilst Wayne Thomson is here with Jak and Todd and Agent Dog 2-Zero, zipping along with the pace and style of an animated cartoon.

Other artists include Karl Dixon (on what may be an Ollie Fliptrick reprint), Duncan Scott, and Nick Brennan. So along with Nigel Parkinson, Jamie Smart, and Clive McGhie it's quite a small ensemble of artists this year but the quality of the work is still top of the league.

Like the Beano book, The Dandy Annual 2011 is £7.99. Something that may annoy purists is that this year the books are bigger! The format is now wider and taller, the same dimensions as the weekly comics. Personally I don't mind, as it gives the books more visibility on the shelves and makes them feel better value for money, even though they have less pages than they did years ago.

No sign of the much-anticipated Century 21 Annual in the shops yet, but I did notice the Oor Wullie/Broons hardback, Tinkerbell Annual, Dennis and Gnasher, and several more. The annuals are here. Happy Summermas!


Tim Perkins said...

I love nice bright and happy Blogs like this, especially when the weather outside the Keep studio would not look amiss in a new Conan the Barbarian movie...grey, melancholy, etc,

The scans make one want to own them, some nice fun stuff!!!

I saw the books too yesterday, but was in a rush, so didn't get chance to stop, look and buy - but you have convinced me to do so ASAP.

Well done on your inclusion - personally I can't believe they took so long to do so...but like they say sometimes one has to wait for the best stuff to be


Lew Stringer said...

Ha! Cheers Tim! (Check out Tim's blog folks for the development of his World's End graphic novel and other good stuff: )

Arild Waerness said...

don't get - in Norway, when the Christmas annuals (all 40-50 of them!!!) are released in November - they are dated with the relevant year. So, last year, we had the 2009 Xmas Annuals, this year, it's 2010. Why are they one year ahead in the UK? Btw, the annuals look great!
All the best from Norway; Arild (Raptus)

Lew Stringer said...

Hello old friend! It's always been a tradition here Arild. I think it's because the books were originally given as Christmas gifts so the advance date wouldn't make them feel "old" as soon as it was New Year a week later. A psychological reason.

I suspect that if July is to be the release date from now on we might see a change to that policy in years to come.

James Williams said...

Wow Lew,
You always seem to make your post long and enjoyable they all ways make me want to own a copy! You made my get an idea for my own blog (Click my name)


Lew Stringer said...

Thanks James. Could you use your own images though please, and not take pics from my blog? Cheers.

Simon Williams said...

Thank god for Classics From The Comics... these new versions of the Dandy and Beano do nothing for me. At least Desperate Dan looks normal again... he's always been a favourite of mine, and I hate the newer version that's been featured in recent years.

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