Although helping boost subscriptions, the ongoing COVID pandemic badly impacted comic and magazine sales in the UK across the board last year, largely, for many publishers, because of high street distribution issues. The crisis continues to cause economic disruption and more cautious activity from publishers – including, sadly, a much-reduced slate of newsstand Specials from 2000AD publishers Rebellion for 2021.
Rebellion has told downthetubes their Specials sold strongly last year, despite the logistics issues caused by the COVID crisis. However, continued distribution uncertainties have had a knock on effect, so just three Specials are planned for 2021, including the always welcome 2000AD Sci-Fi Special, and the return of Monster Fun.
The COVID crisis looks set to continue past Easter and well into 2021, which means there will be no return, this year at least, for Rebellion’s well-received one-shots such as Buster Cor!, SMASH or, more surprisingly, Scream! & Misty.
This decision has disappointed fans, but there’s still plenty of other releases in the works this year. Let’s not forget that Rebellion is in the process of publishing an impressive range of comic collections throughout 2021, under its 2000AD banner and through its Treasury of British Comics arm, and in partnership with publishers such as Book Palace and Hibernia.
It’s only prudent that the company would do focus more on book releases alongside the regular publication of 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, since there are many more assured sales points for books, especially online, and book releases have a much longer “shelf lives” than newsstand Specials.
(Fortunately, the company’s newsstand efforts have not been hit as badly as some other publishers, such as Panini UK, who put their Marvel Collector Editions on hold because of the closure of many high street WHSmith branches).
The three announced Specials for 2021 we are getting also offer something for everyone, from mighty warriors fighting through way across distant lands to the high-danger streets of Judge Dredd’s future megalopolis – welcome bonkers Halloween monster fun.
“We’ve got an eclectic mix of specials this year,” says Specials editor Keith Richardson, “from a whole special dedicated to swords-and-sorcery character Black Beth and a revival of Monster Fun, one of those fantastic all-ages titles from the 1970s.
“Despite the many obstacles put in our way last year, Rebellion’s 2020 roster of specials were a great success,” he says. “While the world strives to resolve the terrible crisis that we still find ourselves in, we’ve scaled back the number of specials this year – but we’re keeping the quality high thanks to our roster of brilliant creators.”
All three Specials will be available from all good newsagents and comic book stores, as well as from the 2000AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops.
Black Beth and the Devils of Al-Kadesh
Publication date: 23rd June 2021
After her appearance in Rebellion’s previous Scream! & Misty Specials, the sword-swinging Black Beth is back, a character that whose first appearances was in a 1988 Scream! special, a strip drawn by Blas Gallego whose author remains unidentified – but was probably intended for a more adult title that never got off the ground.
Written by Alec Worley (Durham Red) and drawn by DaNi (Coffin Bound), Beth is a warrior-woman born in anger and forged in rage. She and her blind aide Quido have travelled to the wicked city of Shadrivar, in search of the evil witch Anis-Amuun.
Many think that she is long dead, but a mage called Estevan believes otherwise. He charges Beth with a quest to destroy the witch, initiating a sea-spanning quest which pits Beth’s curved blade against all manner of mystical creatures…and possibly Anis-Amuun herself!
2000AD Sci-Fi Special
Publication date: 7th July 2021
This year’s 2000AD Sci-Fi Special – a staple part of 2000AD’s publishing DNA for decades – offers a fantastic collection of original Dredd-world stories, all connected to the same over-arching narrative and plotted by writers Mike Carroll (Judge Dredd) and Maura McHugh (Anderson, Psi Division).
Dive into the dystopian world of Judge Dredd as he brings law to the lawless on the mean streets of Mega-City One!
The Monster Fun Halloween Spooktacular
Publication date: 22nd September 2021
The popular 1970s comic book Monster Fun is back for Halloween 2021! Join the Treasury of British Comics’ creepiest and coolest goblins, ghouls and vamps for brand new, HELL-arious comic strips.
Launched in 1975, the weekly comic Monster Fun was first published by IPC Media and ran for 73 issues until it was merged with Buster in 1976. Its ongoing popularity meant the Monster Fun logo continued to feature on Buster’s cover until the summer of 1979. Two Monster Fun Specials were also printed, in 1975 and 1976, and characters such as Kid Kong were revived for both of Rebellion’s Buster Cor!! Specials.
Everyone’s favourite monsters – including Frankie Stein, Kid Kong, Draculass, Teddy Scare, and the Hire A Horror crew – have returned, courtesy of creators including Tom Paterson, Chris Garbutt, Matt Baxter, Juni Ba and Lew Stringer!
If that wasn’t enough, a brand new Leopard of Lime Street tale sees Selbridge’s premier superhero face off against a fantastic new foe!
“Writer Kek-W, best known for his work on 2000AD, and I pitched the idea for the ‘Wiz War’ revival to editor Keith Richardson last year,” Lew Stringer reveals, “hoping it might be in the new Smash! Special. However, as the new Smash! contained solely fantasy heroes it wouldn’t really be a good fit. I’m pleased that it’ll be in Monster Fun though. A much more suitable home.”
• All three Specials will be available from all good newsagents and comic book stores, as well as from the 2000AD and Treasury of British Comics webshops