Friday, December 11, 2009
That Damned Elusive Buster Special...
"We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell? That damned, elusive Pimpernel " - quotation from The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1905.
The fourth and final issue of Egmont Classic Comics, this time focusing on Buster, is out now, exclusive to WH Smith.
If you're lucky.
Reports are coming in that the comic is practically impossible to find. Collectors across the UK have met disappointment as they've failed to find the Buster special in their local Smiths. I was lucky enough to find the issue in my local branch today, (it wasn't there yesterday) - but they had just two copies, one of which was badly creased and dirty. Both were stuffed at the back of a crammed shelving system too small to accommodate all the comics out there.
This is bad news, considering that the first Classic Comic Roy of the Rovers had a prominent display of several issues when it was published back in April. What went wrong?
My guess is that as the specials come under the umbrella title Egmont Classic Comics Smiths have put it into their database as one title, not four individual comics. As the previous release, Misty, seems to have sold less than Roy of the Rovers, perhaps Smiths have assumed that there is declining interest in Classic Comics and have drastically cut their orders on Buster to suit? If so, this is an unfortunate situation as the fondly-remembered Buster (having been such a long running title) would potentially have attracted more nostalgic readers than the short-lived Misty. In my opinion this isn't impressive service from a retail giant that was given exclusive distribution rights on the comics.
There is hope that more copies will appear around the country next week though. The fan site bustercomic.co.uk has informed Egmont about the situation and it appears distribution has been delayed to many areas. However that doesn't mean they'll be in sufficient quantities when they do eventually turn up.
Back to the comic itself. Is it any good? Definitely, which makes it more annoying that there are so few copies around! The 52 page collection limits its scope to strips from the mid-1970s, which seems a bit odd considering Buster ran for just under 40 years. However, material prior to 1969 is owned by IPC, so that was out of the equation, and perhaps Egmont felt the 40 plus market was the right nostalgia audience to aim at.
It's a great mixture, showcasing what a strong comic Buster was in this period. Numerous funnies include pages from Leo Baxendale (Clever Dick, Snooper), Ken Reid (Faceache, Martha's Monster Make-Up), Reg Parlett (Buster, Rent-A-Ghost, Kid Gloves), Mike Lacey (Val's Vanishing Cream, X-Ray Specs) and more.
Curiously, a couple of Valiant strips are in the mix too: Baxendale's Bluebottle and Basher, and Nadal's Blarney Bluffer because they were reprinted in Buster during this period.
The special features a selection of adventure strips as well, which is fair and balanced considering Buster contained a variety of content for many years. Excellent material, featuring Joe Colquhoun's Sammy Brewster's Secret Ski-Board Squad, Mike Western's Leopard from Lime Street, Solano Lopez' Pete's Pocket Army, and John Stokes' Marney the Fox.
The downside is that due to space the adventure strips are only represented by one episode each, except for Pete's Pocket Army which has three chapters, so don't get too involved in the cliffhangers! It's a shame more pages couldn't have been given to Marney the Fox as this beautifully illustrated story showing some of John Stokes' finest work is crying out for a reprint collection and would make a great children's book.
All in all, this Buster collection is the best of the four Egmont Classic Comics that have appeared this year. It's such a shame that, so far at least, distribution is so bad on this edition. If you're looking for a copy good hunting and be prepared to rummage at the back of those shelves.
Egmont Classic Comics Buster; 52 pages (2 x colour, 50 x black and white) £3.99.
To order previous Egmont Classic Comics in this series see the ad below: