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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 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:


Peter Gray- said...

It sounds really good.
I want one..:-(

I really hope they do more of these specials..

love a Whoopee!! one..Cheeky..Krazy..Whizzer and Chips...
lets hope it arrives soon and sells really well..

Glad there is more inside than just Pete's Pocket Army and some great artists comic work to marvel at..

james corcoran said...

Will try and track one down, I have fond memories of the Leopard from Lime Street, has the Battle one been published yet?

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I've got to get this - RE: Misty's low sales - I think these classic comics are a male thing and that's boy's titles will sell better. I am right here? Do women read as many comics as men?

John Freeman said...

In Lancaster, WH Smith have shelved the Buster Special right where they shelved Roy of the Rovers, Battle and Misty i.e. alongside the Panini titles, which are alongside SFX etc: i.e. in the 'teenage'/niche sector of their shelves. This sort of makes sense but if the shop manager had any nouse about them (although they simply have to do what they are told by Head Office) they would at least have put some copies alongside TOXIC and The Beano, which is a separate section of the shop, right by the door and checkouts with a higher profile.

WH Smiths have completely mishandled the way they displayed these specials, to the cost of sales - I'm told that Misty sales were disappointing for example. Given that this was an exclusive deal, which they heavily promoted when they did ROTR, they have muffed it completely. The sad thing is, their stupidity has affected sales and as a result puts further collections in peril, which is a shame, because actually, the Misty and Buster specials are great - pretty much self-contained (unlike ROTR and Battle).

Lew Stringer said...

James, I'm afraid you missed the Battle one. It was on sale from June to September. See the Egmont ad above for details on how to order a copy.

Chris said...

Well I've dug through the many layers of plastic in a few Smiths to no avail. I did find a few Misty specials upside down in the dark behind the Cbeebies type comics. So if you had been on the lookout for those you still probably wouldn't have found them. No wonder they didn't shift.

The hunt goes on!

Lew Stringer said...

John, I'm not sure if all branches of Smiths take much notice of Head Office, or at least don't appear to pass info on to staff. My local Smiths has always had the Egmont Classics shelved with the kids' comics. Roy was prominently displayed and sold very well. Battle and Misty were stuffed at the back and didn't sell well. One has to wonder what the point was of giving Smiths an exclusive if they're going to treat it that badly. Unfortunately the situation is impossible for publishers to monitor across the thousands of Smiths branches.

Dave Whit said...

I visited my local Southend branch of WH Smith again today and sure enough there is still no sign of the Buster Special here either.

Isn't it incredible that this comic is exclusively for sale at WH Smith and yet they seemingly are not stocking it?

Does Egmont have any legal rights here, I wonder?

Lew Stringer said...

I would hope so Dave. Retail giants are quick to fine publishers for having the wrong barcode etc so let's hope it's payback time!

Anonymous said...

I don;t believe any of the specials made it to the Belfast W H Smyths. Or if they did were hidden from the staff.

Egmont have not been any better, they have not replied to my e-mail asking about buying them directly from the publisher.

Lew Stringer said...

When did you enquire to Egmont? These things can take a few days. They're unlikely to respond straight away. Keep me posted.

Simon said...

In Liverpool WH Smiths have been useless, we were lucky enough to find a copy of the Misty special but none of the others. The staff didn't have a clue.

John Freeman said...

WH Smiths exclsuive window means Egmont cannot sell the Specials direct when on sale in shops. When they go off sale, they can offer them as back issues, and Lew's run the link to that above.

If you're having problems finding the Specials in your WH Smiths, tell Egmont. As Lew says, they won't know there's a problem otherwise and it will help them assess sales and in future negotiations. Be polite: tell Egmont where you live, where the Specials were stacked if in store, and also, what response you got when you asked staff for copies.

If you don't want to contact Egmont, I'm sure Lew won't mind people posting their reports here - as some people have already done and, between the two of us we can definitely pass on this combined 'intelligence' to Egmont.

Reuben said...

Wasn't going to buy this one, but the pages posted tempt me.
Needless to say that I couldn't find a copy in Smiths. I did manage to find the previous 2 specials with a little hunting, but no joy with this one. Even tried randomly looking in other sections, but it wasn't hidden in the fishing or current affairs sections either.

I also noticed I after buying the last copy of the Xmas 2000ad last Thursday they haven't had any replacement copies. May be they don't bother about such things, but the shelf life is for another 2 weeks on the special.

Anonymous said...

Stigandnasty919 says

The Buster special made it into the Belfast W H Smyths today (31st December) I never did get a reply from Egmont on the other specials but will try again this week.

As far as I can tell none of the others went on the shelves and my questions each time a new one came out were met by blank looks.

Anonymous said...

I remember having problems finding Buster summer specials in the 1990's. I didn't even know they existed until I found one in a shop miles away from home, on a family outing, Buster and Monster Fun Holiday Special. Never heard of Monster Fun until then.

If there's one thing I can't stand about "classic comics", it's the non-conclusion oif strips! I like to read a story to the end, not be cut off abruptly as things get exciting! For that reason, I haven't bought it, as it's the cliff hanger strips I like best.

Lew Stringer said...

"For that reason, I haven't bought it, as it's the cliff hanger strips I like best."

Hmm, sounds like Egmont may have misjudged the audience as I've heard that opinion from others too. The idea of these Classic Comics is to give collectors a nostalgic taste of bygone comics but some buyers do seem to be comic readers rather than comic historians. I'm noticing that more and more of today's adult collectors are more interested in the stories than in the artwork or their historical aspects. A curious development.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with comics this, but: I loved it when Crossroads returned (having not been around when the first episodes were aired, and too young to watch it when it ended), but I loved it when it came back in 2001 as did almost everyone I know, despite almost all of us being in out twenties.

But when it was taken off-iar for the "revamp", and returned later, the cliff hangers were ignored and it was like a whole new show, and with audiences either puzzled, or angry, it spelt the end of what would have been a success. It was actually my favourite soap opera until the revamp. It became my least favourite afterwards.

So it's a bad idea to ignore cliff-hangers, and continuation of a seriel, as it can spell the end of what would otherwise have been a sucess.

Reuben said...

This week my local WHS had a pile of the Buster Special on the shelf.
Better late than never.

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