A celebration Thomas & Friends cake and the first issue of the magazine published by Marvel UK as Tank Engine "Thomas and Friends" in 1987 and the current issue of "Thomas and Friends" (Issue 756)

Happy Birthday, Thomas & Friends – 30 Years Young!

A celebration Thomas & Friends cake and the first issue of the magazine published by Marvel UK as Tank Engine "Thomas and Friends" in 1987 and the current issue of "Thomas and Friends" (Issue 756)
A celebration Thomas & Friends cake and the first issue of the magazine published by Marvel UK as Tank Engine “Thomas and Friends” in 1987 and the current issue of “Thomas and Friends” (Issue 756)

The UK’s biggest specialist children’s publisher, Egmont Publishing, is celebrating the 30th birthday of Thomas & Friends magazine with licensing partner Mattel.

The title is based on the popular railway stories by Reverend Wilbert Awdry (who I met as a youngster thanks to my father, a fellow priest) and his son, Christopher. Thomas & Friends magazine, has delighted young pre-school readers through the decades.

Thomas & Friends magazine is the oldest single character magazine in the UK market, phenomenal performance that’s testament to the strength of the Thomas & Friends brand, as well as the successful publishing partnership between Egmont and Mattel.

The latest ABC results demonstrate that Thomas & Friends magazine is still delivering sales growth 30 years after it first launched into the UK market. The title was initially published by Marvel UK as Tank Engine Thomas and Friends in 1987, then Redan as Thomas & Friends, the title being celebrated today.

Back in 2015, Oink! comic fan Phil Boyce documented how, as a railway-obsessed youngster, the cheery title captured his imagination from the get go.

“I can still remember innocently walking down to Clark’s newsagents in Whitehead to get my Oink!, I walked in front of the dozens and dozens of comics (remember those days?) to see if it was there and then stopped suddenly. There was a new comic on the shelves and I jumped for joy!

Phil's treasured copy of Marvel UK's Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends Issue 1, cover dated 31st October 1987, the cover clipped to join the The Thomas Club and receive a membership pack
Phil’s treasured copy of Marvel UK’s Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends Issue 1, cover dated 31st October 1987, the cover clipped to join the The Thomas Club and receive a membership pack

“I grabbed my Oink! from the newsagent who had it behind the counter for me, ran home and told my mum who dutifully gave me 35p and I instantly ran all the way to the shop and back again!  As I’ve said before, this was the same price as the thirty-two pages of Oink! at the time, but this was a lot thinner at only twenty pages and on much smaller paper too.  But it was full colour, glossy and of course a licensed product so did I really care? No… Though my mum might’ve.”

The title may have seen changes through changes of publishers, but at its core is true to the original stories and Thomas and Friends TV series.

Kiran Vara - Egmont Publishing
Kiran Vara of Egmont Publishing

Thomas & Friends magazine is a joy to work on,” enthuses Kiran Vara, Publisher of Thomas & Friends magazine at Egmont.

“The introduction of new characters and locations keeps our young readers engaged and devoted to the magazine.

“The fun and interactive magazine content deepens their love for the brand and the free toy train cover mounted with every issue adds to their delight!”

Maribel Rivas Le Gelebart, Senior Licensing Manager across UK & EMEA at Mattel said, “To have a children’s magazine celebrating 30 years of existence before a 75th birthday is super exciting. Egmont has been able to convey and capture the spirit of storytelling, which is at the heart of Thomas and Friends, and we look forward to another 30 years.”

Thomas & Friends magazine is on sale every three weeks, with a cover price of £3.99 | More information on the Egmont Publishing web site at www.egmont.co.uk/magazines/thomas-friends

Thomas and Friends Official web site: www.thomasandfriends.com

• Find out more about Thomas the Tank Engine, the Reverend W. Awdry and Christopher Awdry, Thomas and Friends on Wikipedia – and there is a full list of the original books here

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Thomas & Friends – 30 Years Young!

  1. It’s great that the Thomas comic is still going strong after 30 years! I didn’t realise it had been running for so long. I had a couple of second hand Thomas books in the early 1960s and I’m sure I wrote one Thomas story for the comic many years ago. Will have to find it one day.

  2. Thanks very much for the quotes and reference to my own post about the classic comic John! It’s great to see something I treasured so much as a young child is still going strong, complete with continuing issue numbering too as they never reset to an issue #0 at any stage. What I find confusing is celebrating it’s 30th birthday this year. Marvel began the comic 31 years ago in 1987 and published the first 300+ and continued to do so as the original full name of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends until past the year 2000. So I can’t help thinking this celebration at Egmont is a year late?

    1. Yes… I am a bit bemused, too on that front. In the absence of dates for the title name change (thanks for that info) assumed, as you can see from the copy, that the “30 Years” was in celebration of the current title name. That’s now not the case. Egmont even sent a picture of the first Marvel UK edition, cover dated 31st October 1987, with their celebratory release.

      However – although the Thomas and Friends show had its first broadcast on the ITV network in Great Britain in 1984, in the United States, it had its first broadcast on Shining Time Station in 1989. Given the property is now owned by US company Mattel, perhaps that’s the reason for the 30 year celebrations?

      It’s still one heck of a milestone!

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