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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the stands this week...

Here's a couple of comics I've contributed to that are on sale now from newsagents and supermarkets. First up, Toxic No.192 from Egmont has 40 pages of strips and features plus a few free gifts including a 300 page Jack Christie novel, Day of the Assasins, by Johnny O'Brien. Great value for £2.75!

There are six all-new strips in this issue: Busted Bieber, Captain Gross, Bro vs Bro, Luke's Spooks, my Team Toxic strip and the debut of Quiff & Rooney by Stik. (Unfortunately my punchline "It looks like Hallie is going to meet the stars after all" as a starstruck Hallie Tosis blasts off into space is missing. Perhaps it was too corny even for comics!)

I was also commissioned to design an X-Factor Bonkers Maze for this issue which was great fun. I was pleased to see it spread across pages 10 and 11. The published version has a few tweaks, with artwork rearranged and blown up, so I thought you might like to see the original version here. (Captions would have filled the white areas.) Start from the centre and avoid Jedward's Dressing Room, Simon Cowell in the shower, and the Zombie Judges! Your goal is fame, fortune, a castle, a pool and a robot butler...

Elsewhere on the stands today you'll find The Dandy No.3554 from DC Thomson at a mere £1.50, assuming your newsagent is one of the ones still stocking it. (Distribution seems patchy in some towns these days sadly.) Including the eye-catching Nigel Parkinson cover there's 22 pages of new material including the start of a new series, Rocky's Horror Show by Wilbur Dawbarn.

Usually, David Mason provides the scripts for Postman Prat (and a great job he does) but I was asked to write the one that appears this week. As well as drawing and colouring it I was also asked to letter it, (previously this was done in-house by DC Thomson staff) and I will be lettering it every week from now on.

There you go, two ongoing titles proving that the mainstream UK humour scene is still in there fighting. Chortle!

Commando classics - By Special Request

Breaking from the usual balance of two new/ two reprint Commando releases, this week's four editions are all reprints from the 1970s. "These are “By Special Request” — the quartet chosen by Commando readers as their best-remembered stories" says editor Calum Laird. "There were more than these four suggested (far more!) but these came up again and again so they made the grade."

"We have the chance to do this again early next year so we’ll carry over the other suggestions and throw the floor open once again."

Here's the details of the four comics, with info from Calum...


It is said that if the British troops at Waterloo had used longbows instead of muskets they would have won the battle far more quickly. In the hands of an expert the longbow is a fearful weapon with its accuracy, range and rate of fire. And it is almost completely silent.
Tim Rollins was an expert, and he passed his knowledge on to his secret group of French Resistance fighters. From now on, not one of the enemy soldiers in his area of France could ever feel safe.

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor
When I decided to ask Commando’s readers to choose some favourite titles for another airing I wasn’t sure what reaction I’d get. Would they be interested in the idea, were our stories lodged in their heads and, if they were, would they know their names?
I was not disappointed, though, they came up trumps. Not only did they know all the details they were only too keen to help. In fact there were so many suggestions that we’ll have to do this again. This story was suggested over and over so it must have caught the imagination. I wonder how many of you knew it was written by Mary Feldwick, one of our handful of lady contributors? No doubt you recognised Ian Kennedy’s cover artwork, but did you know it was one of his personal favourites. With inside art by Ibanez, it is obviously a tale to remember.

Legend Of The Longbow, originally Commando No 1354 (September 1979)
Story: Mary Feldwick
Art: Ibanez Cover: Ian Kennedy.

Commando No 4432: V FOR VALOUR

All over occupied Norway the sign appeared — a big letter “V” hurriedly painted on buildings, walls…even on German vehicles! To the watching world V stood for victory — the eventual destruction of the Nazis and all they stood for. But to those who knew how often the Norwegian patriots risked imprisonment, torture, even death, V had another meaning…

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

This classic tale of two very different brothers was a popular request. Maybe it was Gordon Livingstone’s dynamic inside art or the dramatic tension of Penalva’s menacing cover. Or perhaps Cyril Walker’s well-spun plot. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed reading it again and I hope you will too.

V For Valour, originally Commando No 672 (August 1972), re-issued as No 1828 (September 1984)
Script: Cyril Walker Art: Gordon Livingstone Cover: Jordi Penalva.


Since 1713 the mighty Rock of Gibraltar has been British, a massive stone fortress guarding the Mediterranean. But in World War Two, the Nazis had plans for capturing the Rock and knocking out the garrison by using deadly nerve gas.
And all that stood in the way of the Germans was one lance-corporal and one small Barbary ape.

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

I was surprised that this title cropped up so often as animal stories aren’t Commando’s most popular line. However, with a colourful story by Eric Hebden, an even more colourful cover by Ian Kennedy and inside artwork by Cam Kennedy, it’s easy to see why it was a winner.

Boss Of The Barbary Apes, originally Commando No 568 (July 1971)
Script: Eric Hebden Art: Cam Kennedy Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4434: NEVER GIVE IN!

Hungry, cold and desperate, Bert Rankin crept forward. The thunder of the tropical storm covered the sound of his careful footsteps. Any second now he would strike the first blow in his mission to wrest Mindos Island back from the Japs. For Mindos was HIS island. He would never let them keep it. He would never give in…

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor
In all our readers’ suggestions, several creators’ names popped up over and over, showing how well they’d fired their imaginations. Jordi Penalva, whose dynamic cover this brings menace and movement to a static picture in a way that was all his own. With a story from the masterly Eric Hebden and illustrations from Franch, this is a classic Commando tale of the burning desire for revenge driving the hero to almost superhuman efforts.

Never Give In!, originally Commando No 654 (June 1972)
Script: Eric Hebden Art: Franch Cover: Jordi Penalva

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sixty years of Menacing

For over 20 years D.C. Thomson published an annual "Golden Years" book collecting classic pages from The Dandy and The Beano. In recent years the format of the book has changed, and this year it's in the form of The Beano and The Dandy Celebrate Dennis the Menace. With the 60th anniversary of the World's Naughtiest Boy being the main focus of the hardback it has to be said there's not a lot of Dandy in this year's collection.

Readers looking for a thorough history of Dennis the Menace and his creators might find themselves a little short changed but this isn't intended to be an analytical insight into the character. Any accompanying text is lightweight and brief, and instead allows the strength of the strips themselves to carry the book.

Almost half of the book is taken up with reprints of classic 1950s/60s pages by Dennis' original artist Davy Law. With a masterful mixture of energy and subtlety Law's work demonstrates why it's still so highly regarded today. A couple of the early half-pagers are actually scanned from the original artwork which is a nice touch.

The shift in tone that comes with later post-Law strips in the book is quite startling when viewed within the confined time frame of this book. Although the strip continued to be superbly illustrated by some of the best talents in the business there's a visible editorial change to make the level of humour younger and perhaps more formulaic to appeal to changing tastes and new generations.

The popularity of Dennis outside of The Beano is also covered, including his annuals, the Robert Harrop figures, and the various cartoon series. The book even comes with two free gifts, - a 48 minute DVD of the old Dennis the Menace cartoons, and a full reprint of The Beano No.452 (March 17th 1951), the first issue to feature the Dennis strip. (No doubt greedy opportunists are even now plotting to sell that facsimile on eBay as an original.)

A handful of other strips are also included to show Dennis' influence on characters such as The Smasher and Bully Beef. All in all it's an excellent book for all ages. A nostalgic treat for older readers and a fun history lesson for younger ones.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sixty years of annuals

Some of you will already know of the website I'm about to plug but for those of you who haven't seen it, is well worth bookmarking for any fan of British comics. Every year, covers of the new annuals are uploaded to the site and with the recent addition of the 2012 editions there are now 60 years of annual covers to appreciate.

British annuals have been around longer than 60 years (see this 1935 Funny Wonder Annual for just one example) but Tony's selection begins with the 1953 dated books and still manages an impressive gallery of thousands of covers. It's interesting to see how changing tastes and fads were reflected by annuals, including Westerns, TV shows, pop stars, and video games. Comic titles thrive and die, with the only constants being The Dandy, The Beano, The Broons and Oor Wullie. Both a sad reminder of what we've lost but also a celebration of the glory days of UK comics. Not every published annual of the last 60 years is up there but the majority certainly are.

Don't forget to look around the site for galleries of other interesting bits and bobs as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Super School goes Max

Super School, absent from The Beano for a while for various reasons, makes a return this month to the pages of The Beano's companion comic BeanoMAX. A pleasant surprise for me as I only drew this strip three weeks ago!

The 44 page monthly features a great cover by Nigel Parkinson and he's drawn a fantastic seven page Beano All-Stars inside. There's also Kick-Ass Koalas, Evil Edgar, Billy Whizz, and selected reprints. And a free catapult! Out now for £3.50.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classic Solano Lopez art in Commando this week

There's another four Commando comics in the shops now. One of them reprints Mad Schultz, a story from 1963 illustrated by Solano Lopez, who passed away recently. Usually associated with DC Thomson's rival publisher Fleetway (where he drew Kelly's Eye for Valiant and Galaxus for Buster amongst many other classics) this 64 page Commando story comes as a welcome surprise.

Here's the info on all four of the current issues from editor Calum Laird...

Commando No 4427: Sons And Fathers

There they stood, back-to-back, Beretta sub-machine guns stuttering as they fought for their lives.
It had been the same many years before as their fathers had battled shoulder-to-shoulder in a heroic but doomed last stand.
Would history repeat itself? Or was there another twist to the tale?

Story: Mac MacDonald
Art: Vila
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4428: The Panther’s Claw

After a run-in with his boss’s snooty, arrogant son, young Joe Gallagher quit his factory job. He wasn’t bothered, though, he’d wanted to join the Royal Engineers anyway.
Trouble, however, seemed to follow him wherever he went. But that nothing compared to the danger Joe and his Churchill AVRE crew faced against a ruthless, fanatical Nazi and his squadron of a deadly tanks… THE PANTHER’S CLAW

Story: Peter Grehan
Art: Morahin
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4429: Boss Of The Sky

Flight-Lieutenant Alvar Brenner was a real mystery to his fellow fighter pilots in the RAF squadron he flew with. He came from Balkovinia, a country very few of them had even heard of. And when he first went into action with them, he seemed to know every move the German pilots would make — as well as just how their aircraft would perform.
So they all began to wonder where he’d learned all this…and whether he might just be a Nazi spy planted in their squadron…

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

A couple of years ago, I found a box of my own Commandos lurking at the back of the garage. Goodness knows how many times I’ve moved them from house to house. When I went through them though, I knew there was one missing.
Like many a Commando reader before me I just could not remember its name so it was a great surprise to stumble into it while looking for something else.
Re-reading it was not a disappointment. The Wilkinson/Mira combination provided an intriguing plot and crisp, accurate line art. Ken Barr has seldom done a better cover for my money. Hidden treasure indeed.

Boss Of The Sky, originally Commando No 347 (August 1968), re-issued as No 1063 (September 1976)

Story: Wilkinson
Art: Mira
Cover: Ken Barr
First published 1968 No 347

Commando 4430: ‘Mad Schultz’ – He Shot The Union jack To Ribbons!

Out of nowhere they appeared, miles behind the front line, falling on undefended convoys like wolves on a flock of sheep. Machine-guns blazed, trucks were blasted to pieces, and men fell in roadside ditches. Then they were gone as swiftly as they come, and yet another British supply column was left a smoking ruin.
They were German guerrilla fighters, trained killers every one, and they were led by a man as fearless and cunning as any. Captain Schultz was his name — special Nazi commando.
Soon the question was on every British soldier’s lips…where will Mad Schultz strike next?

Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor

While we were scouring the Commando archives for the material we needed to put together “Commando: 50 Years a Home For Heroes” the cover of this book was brought out for scanning.
Now, you have to admit that, whatever else it might be, it’s an eye-catching illustration. So, with the doors to the vaults standing open, I had to reach in for the copy and take it away for a read. I had to, you understand, it would have been dereliction of duty otherwise.
The hard-hitting Redbridge story lives up to the promise of Ken Barr’s cover and Lopez’s inside artwork has a dark quality which really suits the story even if his touch is a little cartoon-like in places.
The icing on the cake is that line under the title though, “He Shot The Union Jack To Pieces.” Priceless!

Mad Schultz, originally Commando No 65 (April 1963)

Story: Redbridge
Art: Lopez
Cover: Ken Barr

In Conversation with Ian Kennedy

Fans of veteran British comic artist Ian Kennedy will be pleased to know that there's a video conversation with him at the Commando website. In a round table discussion with Commando editors Calum Laird, George Low, and Scott Montgomery, Ian talks about his covers, strips, and posters for the 50 year old comic.

You can watch the discussion here:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lazy journalism at The Sunday Times

Last week's Scottish edition of The Sunday Times featured an article about the latest circulation figures of The Dandy. It contained comments from myself...

...except I was never interviewed for the paper. In fact I've never spoken to any Murdoch newspaper on this subject or any other.

The journalist who wrote the dreary, negative article (credited to Marc Horne) had lifted my comments out of context, and without my permission, from my blog post of August 31st. He claims that I'm "baffled" by the fall in sales, despite the fact that I'd actually speculated several reasons why sales may have fallen on the very post he took my comments from.

You'd think that after the phone tapping disgrace of the News of the World Murdoch's newspapers would be a bit more cautious about how they obtained their "news".

The Sunday Times has also suffered a drop in circulation by the way. Analyze that Mr.Horne.

My thanks to David Mackenzie for the scan of the newspaper.

Drawing for the funnies

This week's Dandy (issue 3552, out now until Wednesday) features a Postman Prat story which I scripted as well as illustrated. Usually writers such as David Mason supply the scripts for this strip and they're always a pleasure to draw. On this occasion I was asked to write it, so I enjoyed turning in a bit of comedy cause-and-effect, and a closing pun, in the style of the Tom Thug strips I did for Buster. I've also written the one for issue 3554.

I'm also back drawing Super School for The Beano (or BeanoMAX. Not sure where it'll appear yet.) Only a couple of episodes of this second series drawn so far so I don't know yet when it'll be scheduled to start. Watch this space!

And I can't go without mentioning Toxic of course. I've recently completed another Team Toxic strip plus a few extra bits and bobs for the magazine such as double page spreads for features, games etc. All good fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Days of Thrills and Laughter

The photograph above is taken from the excellent book Great British Comics by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury. It originally appeared in the Daily Mirror in 1943 and shows kids queuing for their comics outside a newsagent. British comics were so popular back then that due to wartime paper rationing supplies were limited and sold out quickly. Therefore the newsagent in question (and, no doubt others) sold them only at 9.30 on Saturday mornings, with eager kids forming long queues to buy the latest Champion, Dandy, Funny Wonder or any of the other classics of the era. As you can see, this was the high point of Saturday mornings for some children. Comics seemed essential back then.

How times have changed!

The recent news of falling circulations, particularly that of The Dandy, has brought forth lots of comment and speculation these past few weeks. Everyone has an opinion, from concerned comic fans, to experienced professionals, to a few ever-vindictive people on the periphery of comics. Some have focused mainly on content, accusing The Dandy of featuring "poor artwork", and they have that right to that opinion of course (just as others should have the right to contradict them without fear of venom). What they don't have a right to is making nasty, venomous personal comments about artists, and good on Jamie Smart for standing up to that attitude the other day. (Not that it did much good as it brought forth more bile from some quarters, but it also encouraged constructive criticism and positive comments about The Dandy so it was worth it.)

Naturally content does play a part in the popularity of a comic. When I was a kid I'd usually skip the strips I didn't like (eg: The Steel Commando) but there'd usually be something in there (eg: Adam Eterno) which kept me coming back for more. Obviously some kids and their parents will drop a comic completely if they dislike the strips, especially at today's prices. However we need to look at the bigger picture to appreciate that sales on practically every publication, comics, magazines or newspapers, have fallen over the years. Sales of Dandy and Beano have been falling since the 1950s! Clearly, there's more to the situation than modern art styles not appealing to some kids.

Sales of comic have been falling for decades. Some of today's critics forget that many of the titles they hold up as exemplary examples of How Comics Should Be Done didn't actually last very long. (Monster Fun, School Fun, Shiver & Shake, and Jag to name but four.) Proof, sadly, that a top quality product has never been a guarantee of success. In a perfect world it would be, but it isn't in reality.

The early comics, Illustrated Chips and Comic Cuts, ran for over sixty years before succumbing to changing trends in the 1950s. Some post-war titles had a longevity of 20+ years, such as Buster, Topper, Victor, Bunty, Whizzer & Chips etc. (With Eagle coming close at 19 years.) Many other comics only lasted for a few years tops, some only a few months. Talent was never a guarantee of success. Master craftsmen such as Eric Bradbury and Joe Colquhoun could be working on big sellers such as Lion (which ran for over 20 years), but also on failures such as Thunder and Jet (which ran for 22 weeks). A sobering thought for those who insist that "content is king".

That said, even comics that only ran for a few years, such as Oink!, were not considered complete failures. Over the decades, as sales continued to slide, a run of two to five years was considered a success. Publishers knew to lower their expectations, focusing on licensed comics for (hopefully) quick hits before moving onto the next fad.

So although content and art styles might play a part in a comic's fate, it's by no means the main reason. Here's a few other factors to consider:

For the kids in the photo at the top of this post, comics were pretty much the only provider of their escapism. Today, kids have a multitude of distractions; TV, DVD's, games, mobile phones, the Internet, sports centres, and, very often, solvent parents who can afford to take them on trips at weekends. Flat pictures on paper must seem very primitive in comparison. The more distractions kids have had, the more sales of comics have fallen. Coincidence?

Falling literacy
A disturbing factor is the falling standard of literacy amongst children. This in itself is worthy of wider debate but it's bound to play a part in comic sales. Indeed, some UK comics themselves have become "younger" in tone to try and appeal to struggling readers but conversely this may have a negative effect in putting off better readers who consider such tactics "babyish". Ironically it could be argued that today's children need comics more than ever, as an entertaining stimulus to reading. (After all, I'm sure many of us advanced our reading abilities due to comics. I certainly did.)

Comics used to be approximately the same price as a bar of chocolate or a packet of crisps. Today, that would mean a comic should be about 60p. Unfortunately they're between £1.50 and £3.99, an inevitable result of retail giants charging huge sums for shelf space and falling circulations causing higher unit price costs.

Originally, the standard format for comics (from about 1890 to the 1930s) was eight tabloid pages crammed with strips and text stories. Eventually the popularity of a smaller format such as the approx A4 size of Film Fun and the Dandy and Beano became the norm, with page counts increasing. (Then decreasing due to wartime paper rationing.) By the mid 1960s, the 32 page comic was becoming the norm. However that's hardly changed since. Perhaps 32 pages today seems too flimsy for kids? With graphic novels such as The Rainbow Orchid, the Cinebook line of Euro reprints and Manga proving popular perhaps books are the way forward, as they are in other countries?

Time was when comics were displayed flat on the newsagent's counter, beside the daily papers and right next to the til. A perfect position for "impulse purchases"; seeing something that catches your eye as you're at the counter, which you buy before you've had chance to change your mind. Over the years, positioning changed, with comics relegated to other parts of the shop. In the larger shops, such as Smiths or Asda, comics are often crammed into areas far too small to accommodate all the titles effectively. It's a viscous circle; falling sales have meant that shops give comics less priority, but giving them less priority means sales fall even more.

In 1960s and 1970s, with TV being the big rival of comics, it made sense for publishers to advertise their titles on television. With only two or three channels, and only one of those being a commercial channel, it was a fair bet that most kids in the country would see an ad for Sparky No1, or for the latest free gift in The Wizard. Even though only a percentage of those viewers would buy the comic, it was enough to allow publishers to justify the expense of TV advertising. Newspaper advertising was also often used, with ads for new titles taking up anything from a small corner box to a full page. (It helped that the Daily Mirror and Odhams were part of the same group, but D.C. Thomson also advertised Bunty in the Mirror.) A very effective way to grab the attention of parents. However, as sales of comics continued to fall in the 1980s, and print-runs decreased, it was no longer practical to pay for expensive TV and newspaper advertising. Therefore comics had to hope that in the main passing trade and word of mouth would be sufficient. Hardly reliable at all.

Changing Habits
The standard frequency for British comics was almost always weekly, until a couple of decades ago. I remember a senior IPC editor in the early 1980s saying they would never even consider a monthly comic because a month seemed a long time for a child and the reader could easily forget about the comic in that time. However, due to falling circulations making weekly comics less economical, fortnightly and monthly frequencies replaced most of the weekly schedules. Publishers were damned either way; weeklies were too expensive to keep going, but monthlies carried the risk of losing reader loyalty. This may be another reason for The Dandy's falling sales since it went weekly; have children simply gotten out of the habit of a weekly comic fix?

The end of continued stories
One thing that used to hook the reader was the use of serial stories. The exciting cliff-hangers of comics such as Valiant, Tammy, and Lion were a great way to bring back those readers the following Saturday. Unfortunately continued stories tended to go out of favour somewhat, due to readers drifting between different titles. That said, Egmont's Sonic the Comic managed to keep the momentum going and proved to be a big hit for the company, as did Marvel UK's Transformers in the 1980s. Both were fortnightly comics. This proves that if it's managed well, with the right characters and creators, a serial comic can still attract loyal followers, even with 14 day gaps between episodes.

Retail attitudes
I know some fans think that publishers should just put out more product and experiment to see what sticks. If it was that simple, we'd see a return to the days of the 1960s/70s with new comics appearing all the time. Sadly, the retail system has changed. Today, publishers are more at the mercy of retail giants who are only interested in license-based comics and titles with cover mounts (or bagged toys). It really is a struggle to get a new comic off the ground, and extremely expensive. I wish those critics who heap scorn on the industry would try it themselves. (And I hope all of those critics will put their money where their mouth is and support Strip Magazine when it launches next month, - an original, non-licensed UK comic.)

The British attitude to comics
Unlike in France, where comics are regarded as the Ninth Art, the British have always regarded them as childish trash. The industry itself isn't blameless in this, as, for the most part, comics have been simple lowbrow entertainment for children produced to a factory system. That of course does not mean the content shouldn't be respected, (anything that cheers up a child should surely be praised) but most people in the UK don't give a damn about that. (A newsagent once questioned why I was always buying children's comics. I cheerfully told him I was one of the artists on the comics. His female assistant muttered "Why would anyone want to do THAT for a job?" as though it was akin to drowning kittens.) Over the decades, as less and less people in the UK read comics, respect for the medium falls even more.

Even though sales of American comics are also down, they still have a loyal fanbase which keeps hundreds of titles afloat. Fandom for British comics has never been as united, or as numerous. The UK industry itself is partly to blame for this because it never had anyone with the vision or editorial freedom of a Stan Lee to bring in the right mixture of characterization and sophistication with a united "universe" of comics. In Britain, comics mainly focused on comics for the very young, so there was nowhere for readers to go once they grew out of those comics... except towards the rival American comics. (There have been a few exceptions, such as Warrior and 2000AD, and the Marvel UK titles of course.) This was fine when children's comics were selling huge numbers, but once tastes began to change there was less to keep readers interested. Even British fandom is mainly an extension of American fandom, with conventions focusing mostly on US product because naturally most adult attendees are not interested in UK comics aimed at eight year olds. Subsequently fans of UK comics are often only interested in comics of their own nostalgia.

The recession
Need I say more?

Toys with free comics?
Years ago, free gifts in comics were a special treat. They'd accompany the first three issues of a new comic and then be given on rare occasions known then in the trade as "boom issues" (with a new look or new stories to boost its circulation). As sales slipped, free gifts became more frequent in the 1980s. Several years back, Lucky Bag Comic presented a comic and several gifts enclosed in a plastic bag. Initially it sold well, and soon other publishers were following suit. Today, practically every children's comic and magazine comes in a sealed plastic bag with an increasing number of plastic toys, cards, stickers etc. Publishers have found that a bagged comic sells better than one without, despite the fact that kids can't even browse through the comic before buying it, and despite prices often being higher depending on the number of "gifts"! (At least they no longer all them free gifts.)

That's why The Dandy's brave move of putting out a non-bagged, no-gift weekly should be respected. For all the parents who complained about "plastic tat" and comics costing over two quid The Dandy gives 100% comics for £1.50. Unfortunately it seems that kids today expect a gift with their comic so occasionally The Dandy has started to do gift issues again, often with extra pages, for a higher price. (Usually during school holiday periods.) Those issues appear to sell higher than average.

It seems you can't go back to the old days, so the only way is to go forward. Small press and independent comics are improving both in sales and quality but the big question is; where do commercial British comics go from here? Pessimists are predicting the end, but if the history of British comics tells us anything it's that comics adapt to survive.

To discover more about the rich history of British comics I thoroughly recommend the aforementioned book Great British Comics by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury. It's packed with examples of comics from over the past 100+ years with a well-researched commentary by the authors. It was published in 2006 but is still available from Amazon.

UPDATE 16/9/2011:
On his own blog, John Freeman has opened a forum regarding the Dandy situation:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jamie Smart Speaks Out

"Inevitably, sensing blood, the parasites have come out. Sensing a wounded animal they’ve pounced, picking at it from a safe cowering distance. In this canyon of the internet, the wretched scabby vultures don’t waste a second."

So speaks Jamie Smart, current artist of Desperate Dan and author/illustrator of the Find Chaffy book, in his scathing comments about certain critics of The Dandy.

Clearly tired of the "whiney criticism" he's read online, Jamie is now expressing his own opinion of the critics. Let's see how they like them apples.

"I’ve seen the attacks on the other artists, some of them brutal, and it’s nothing but childish jealousy" says Jamie.
"Forums and blogs, suddenly filled with the barely-concealed glee of a thousand old, bitter, failed cartoonists who declare they KNEW it wouldn’t work. I say they’re failed cartoonists because you can usually follow the trail of bun crumbs back to their own portfolios, as they’ve clearly tried to infiltrate the world of children’s comics but obviously never quite made it. Instead of crying salty tears into their own pisspoor efforts, they bitch and whine their stupid opinions online, content that there’ll always be some other bitter tit who feels the same."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

You can read Jamie's full blog entry here:

Update: Jamie's posted a follow-up:

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

He Stole Doc Shock's Brain!

Since the start of this year, Team Toxic have on occasion been subject to the nefarious plans of Baron Spyboss, a brand new villain I introduced to the strip back in January. In this week's issue of Toxic the baddie puts his ultimate scheme into action, and the Team finally meet their nemesis.

Regular readers of Toxic will know that in an earlier issue Spyboss stole Doc Shock's brain. (Don't worry. Doc had a spare.) Transferring Doc's technical knowledge to his own mind, Spyboss uses it to take on the Team.

How can Doc Shock defeat a foe who knows as much as he does, and what is the gob-smacking, jaw dropping secret of Spyboss? Find out in Toxic No.191, on sale now from newsagents and supermarkets. £2.75

This issue comes bagged with a bunch of free gifts including a pair of spy specs. Visit for more details.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Phoenix: New details emerge

New information is coming in regarding the brand new British comic, The Phoenix, which launches next year. There's the official mast head above, and the release date is now set for Saturday January 7th 2012.

Every issue will feature seven strips. Presumably this means that each strip will be longer than the traditional single or double pager. At last! This is a move that has been long needed in order to give humour-adventure strips the same depth and luxury that most European comic strips have enjoyed for decades.

Strips will include The Pie Thief, an adventure set in Victorian London by Faz Choudhury, Ghost Ant by Dave Shelton, and Bunny vs Monkey by Jamie Smart.

It all sounds good so far! For more details visit The Phoenix blog here:

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