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Friday, December 20, 2019

A Seasonal Selection of favourite Annual Covers

We always associate comic annuals with Christmas Day because, traditionally, that's when we received them. In reality of course they're published in August, (or these days as early as July). It's only because they're given as presents that we think of them as "Christmas annuals". 

However, as it's Christmas I thought I'd show a gallery of some annual covers that were my favourites when I was a child. The excitement and joy of tearing off the wrapping paper of a brand new annual was certainly a highlight of my Christmas in the 1960s. I'm sure you'll agree that the bright colours, the smell of fresh ink, the texture of the paper were a delight for the senses even before we started reading the books. 

At the top is the first Fantastic Annual (1968, published 1967). The cover painting by an anonymous British artist is based on Jack Kirby's splash page drawing of the first Thor story from Journey Into Mystery No.83.

The Fantastic Annual for the following year had an interesting cover. A montage of Iron Man illustrations by a UK artist based on the work of Jack Kirby and Don Heck. The head shot was wrongly coloured silver instead of gold but it worked better in this context. This was a very eye-catching composition. 
Christmas 1967 saw The Beano Book 1968 with this glorious cover by Dave Sutherland. (The D.C. Thomson Annuals were called "books" back then. I always preferred that.)

...and to compliment it, another character close-up that same year on The Dandy Book 1968 with art by Charlie Grigg.

A year earlier saw these two smashing covers by Graham Allen...


Also for 1967 (published 1966) was this cover by Dave Sutherland which totally fascinated me as a child...

A huge favourite of mine was The Dalek World, an annual I had on Christmas Day 1965 and one I've almost read to destruction...
That same year I also had this TV Comic Annual. Actually I'd had two identical Beano Books that year so a few days after Christmas I exchanged one for this book at a local shop. The art is probably by Neville Main...
The TV21 Annual for 1970 (published 1969) had this great cover. Not an illustration but the design was really bold and direct, and so 1960s...

A year later, the Smash! Annual 1971 (published 1970) gave us this dynamic cover of British superhero Tri-Man drawn by Geoff Campion. (Although Geoff never drew the strip itself.)
The Pow! Annual for that year was unusual in that it featured all new superheroes never to be seen again. Memorable for that and the impact of its cover...
I'd never heard about The Broons until my mum bought me this annual for Christmas 1972. She wasn't sure if I'd like it, saying I might think it too "old fashioned". Naturally I loved it! A whole book drawn by Dudley Watkins, who I'd only known as "the Desperate Dan artist" until this Broons annual revealed his signature to me on the great strips inside... 
The annual cover that remains my favourite though has to be the first one I ever saw. The Dandy Book 1965, which I still remember opening on Christmas Day 1964 and reading a bit of it in bed. A memory of 55 years ago when life was simpler, happier, and filled with magic and hope...

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If you're interested in the history of Children's annuals I'd recommend tracking down this superb book that was published in 1988...

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9 comments:

Jasper Bark said...

Fabulous post Lew, thank so much for this. I wasn't born when most of these were published, but I collected old annuals as a child in the 80s, mainly from jumble sales and charity shops. I actually had (or still have) about three quarters of the annuals you posted above. I remember finding the Pow annual while rummaging through a box of books on our local town dump (it was a thing we kids did in the 80s in the North West of England). You're the only other person I've encountered who has ever seen it. Wonderful it was too, if I remember.

Lew Stringer said...

Oh I know a few people who have that Pow! Annual. It remains a mystery though as to why they'd create a bunch of new heroes just for one book. I suspect they'll be back one day, now that Rebellion own the rights. The Esp[er Commandos have already made a cameo in The Vigilant.

Thanks for commenting, Jasper, and for sharing your memories. A Happy Christmas to you and the family.

McSCOTTY said...

Great stuff again Kew. The 67 Beano annual also fascinated me with the cover featuring all those characters comming from a picture the cover itself. The Wham annual was a favourite of mine as a kid and I managed to pick up a copy a few years ago, still love it.

Lew Stringer said...

To this day I'm still intrigued as to whether Dave Sutherland drew the characters that are obscured by the Beano Book logos on that 1967 book. I'd imagine they told him the exact dimensions where the titles would be placed and he perhaps just sketched in figures in those areas but it wouldn't surprise me if there are detailed coloured figures totally obscured by the logo.

Colin said...

Great post Lew with some amazing covers.
Same age as yourself but I don't remember these from the time - I always got a Blue Peter annual at xmas and Look and Learn. I think my mum would have frowned on the likes of Fantastic.
I was allowed Sparky/Beano/Dandy and later Hotspur or the like, but American comics were frowned upon.
Apart from the wonderful Trjgan Empire, my strongest xmas annual comic memories are probably from my sisters Bunty!

ric_mac said...

Lew, I doubt that the TV Comic Annual cover was by Neville Main. He had a simple style, while this cover is quite dynamic. I suspect it's more likely to be by Bill Mevin (or, at a pinch, maybe Dick Millington). The airport buildings in the background are quite reminiscent of the kind of architecture Mevin drew for the Supercar feature in TV Comic. What do you think?

Lew Stringer said...

I think you're right, ric. I often mix up Main and Mevin's work. Not that they're similar but I forget who's who. Bill Mevin was who I was thinking of. I'll correct that later. Thanks.

I had three Blue Peter annuals, and two Look and Learn ones, Colin, but it was the comic ones that always attracted me. My mum didn't mind me reading any comics as long as I was reading something. Never did me any harm, and actually increased my vocabulary and my knowledge of Americana as a child so I always loved the Marvel stories.

ric_mac said...

Sorry to learn, via the Bear Alley blog, that the aforementioned Bill Mevin died at the end of December (2019). The last work of his that I remember seeing was his cover for an issue of Dr Who Classic Comics some years ago, having drawn Doctor Who, Supercar and Space Patrol (and probably more) for TV Comic in the 1960s.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I was sorry to hear that too. He had a very pleasant style. I didn't see a lot of his work as TV Comic wasn't a comic I had on a long term basis but I've been impressed by what I've seen.

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