Sunday, May 27, 2012
Flashback to 1990: Fleetway's new launches
It all seems very optimistic now. A UK publisher investing £1,000,000 to reinvigorate its line of comics. However that was the situation in May 1990 when this issue of Dez Skinn's Comics International revealed Fleetway's big plans.
Fleetway were taking a risk back then, as sales of comics had been sliding for some time. Rather than abandoning comics, they decided to try and reinvigorate what they had and launch a couple of new titles. Ah, how the comics industry was buzzing over the publication of Revolver and the new Judge Dredd Monthly (or the much-better titled Judge Dredd Megazine as it was renamed before its launch).
What high hopes we had for the 30th anniversary of Buster, which editor Allen Cummings said "deserves to be talked of in the same breath as Beano and Dandy". Little did we know then that Buster would be axed just under ten years later, and that the new publishers would focus more on children's magazines than comics.
Here then is the news of 22 years ago, when it seemed that British comics were on the verge of a renaissance. Noble thoughts, but of all of the Fleetway titles mentioned in the article, only Judge Dredd Megazine is still running (now published by Rebellion).
For those critics who think that the drop off of comic sales are a recent problem (and that modern content is to blame) it's worth considering the words of Fleetway's group managing director Terry Humphreys in 1990 when he spoke of falling sales being a "long and steady decline". The million pound investment back then was their way of trying to fight the increasing disinterest in comics, and today publishers try other ways and other investments to try and turn the tide. In some ways it may be seen as fighting a losing battle that's been waged for decades, but hopefully publishers will continue to fight and keep British comics alive.
PS: It's a good article by Simon Rogers but the bit about Tom Browne introducing comic strip narrative to the UK is quite an exaggeration. Browne was brilliant, and his style was (and still is) massively influential to British comics, but he didn't invent the comic strip.