Over on his excellent Down the Tubes blog (the place for UK comics news) John Freeman has updated his post about the current state of the British comics industry. John has worked as an editor and writer in comics for a few decades now so he knows his stuff. It's well worth a read:
Those who complain about today's comics for kids being bagged with toys might want to take note of this bit which explains why:
"This has unfortunately led to many titles being “bagged” and sold as a product unseen by consumer at their sales point, particularly in supermarkets which have insisted on free gifts as part of the package in order for them to stock them. Since supermarkets now cover 40 per cent of publication sales, their demands have not gone unheeded by most publishers in order to secure a slot on their shelves."
Of course there are those who claim that Britain no longer has a comics industry. This is very misleading. It's true that the number of UK comics around are only a fraction of those in decades past, it's true that several UK comics are full of American reprints, and it's true that most titles in newsagents are merchandise-related publications with mostly feature based content that can't really be called 'comics'. However, originated comic strips do appear in some of those magazines (eg: Toxic, Mega, Doctor Who Adventures, Epic!, Doctor Who Magazine, Adventure Time).
Then of course there are the titles that are predominantly comic strips: The Beano, The Phoenix, Viz, 2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, Funny Monsters Comic, Commando.
What's sometimes ignored by the pessimists is that, as in other countries, Britain's comic industry now includes graphic novels. UK publishers such as Jonathan Cape, Knockabout, Blank Slate Books, Myriad Editions publishing the work of Bryan Talbot, Alan Moore, Daryl Cunningham, Warren Pleece, Hunt Emerson etc.
There's also the small press of course. Admittedly most of those titles don't have print runs that could provide a living wage for the creators but nevertheless it's a growing area with some publications that rival mainstream comics in their professionalism. The same applies to digital comics, and in the case of Aces Weekly it does pay its contributors, albeit via a different business model than the up-front page rate. (Contributors receive payments from a percentage of sales related on how much they have in each issue.)
Yes, it's a shame that there aren't the numerous weekly comics of our childhoods around anymore and unfortunately we're unlikely to see those days return. However if we are to appreciate what British comics have to offer us in modern times we have to look beyond the comic shelves of Tesco or the corner shop. The UK comics industry isn't dead yet!