Rebellion signals ban on plastic free gifts on all its titles, hint of further “2000AD Regened” brand expansion?

Rebellion Publishing – owners of 2000AD, 2000AD Regened, and hundreds of classic British comic characters, spanning comics such as Battle, Buster, Cor!, Misty, Roy of the Rovers, Tammy and Whizzer and Chips – has committed to never include plastic toys or gifts with any of its comics or magazines.

The commitment to go plastic-free comes as some major retailers move to ban magazines and comics aimed at children that include toys or other promotional items made of plastic as “cover mounts” on their publications.

2000AD Regened Prog 2246 - cover by Steve Roberts
2000AD Regened Prog 2246 – cover by Steve Roberts – still on sale now

As newsagents and shops reopen and restock after the pandemic lockdowns, the publisher of 2000AD2000AD Regened and the Judge Dredd Megazine sees this as the chance to recalibrate the British newsstand towards a more sustainable future.

(Rebellion’s identification of 2000AD Regened as a separate brand is an interesting development, although we are informed that this doesn’t mean a new title is on the way with that name. Regened remains part of regular 2000AD).

Jason Kingsley OBE, CEO of Rebellion, said: “The environment should matter to us all so I am delighted that we are able to give a commitment to never give away plastic ‘cover mount’ gifts with our titles. This sends a strong message that our work to support and expand the British comics industry won’t come at the cost of more plastic waste – a particularly important message when we are increasing our all-ages offering with 2000AD Regened.

“We support quality comics that stand on their merits and I am very proud that we can rule out resorting to adding plastic free gifts to the covers of our titles.

“We have already moved toward greater environmental sustainability by using bio-degradable packaging, for example the Judge Dredd Megazine comes in a fully compostable bag that can be disposed of in any compost bin or council food waste scheme.

Judge Dredd Megazine 435 - Cover by Alex Ronald

“As newsagents and shops steadily reopen after the last 18 months, we believe now is the time to make a change. It’s may be a small step, but hopefully other publishers will also stand with us and give similar commitments against producing plastic gifts with their titles.”

An advertisement for Comic Cuts promoting  a forthcoming "boots issue" with free gift, published in October 1926. Image: The Peter Hansen Collection
An advertisement for Comic Cuts promoting a forthcoming “boots issue” with free gift, published in October 1926. Image: The Peter Hansen Collection
Beezer No. 1, cover dated 21st January 1956, with free gift
Beezer No. 1, cover dated 21st January 1956, with free gift
Action Issue 1 with free gift
Action Issue 1 with free gift
Starlord No.2, cover dated 20th May 1978, with free gift
Starlord No.2, cover dated 20th May 1978, with free gift

Cover mounts have long been a staple of British comics, free gifts used to “boost” sales and give newsagents confidence that the publisher was committed to continuing a title. But in the 1990s, as distribution systems changed, arguably to publishers’ detriment, they responded to demands, led by supermarkets with their growing market share of comic and magazine sales, to include cover mounts more regularly.

The move was seen as a means to revive a widespread decline in comic sales and since then, cover-mounted free gifts on every issue of a title have since become the norm in children’s magazine publishing, particularly on pre-school titles.

However, while the strategy may have worked at the time, it has led to a glut of unwelcome plastic bags and other plastic clogging shelves.

Comics shelves at WHSmith St Annes - Photo: Mark Hetherington
Comics shelves at WHSmith St Annes, taken in 2019 – Photo: Mark Hetherington
WHSmith Lancaster - 10th July 2021
WHSmith Lancaster – 10th July 2021

This also creates a barrier to browsers, meaning children are no longer able to judge a comic’s contents before buying and parents prioritising the “value” of the cover mount over the quality of the work inside.

Inspired by campaigns started by children calling for an end to free plastic toys, major retailers such as Waitrose have already committed to banning titles that include them from their newsstands. (Although it has to be said, they haven’t replied to any of our emails confirming they have indeed taken action).

The UK is a major contributor to the world’s plastic crisis, generating more plastic waste per person than any other country except the United State. Free toys and giveaway items add to this – they not only have a short lifespan but cannot easily be recycled.

A recent Greenpeace poll found that 85 per cent of people in the UK want the government to make retailers cut the amount of plastic packaging.

DC Thomson Media and Beano Studios, who publish BEANO and Commando, and David Fickling Comics, who publish The Phoenix Comic, also do not regularly use cover mounts as a sales boosting tool.

2000AD – also available digitally – is online at 2000AD.com

This item was updated at 1230 31/8/21 to clarify that identification of 2000AD Regened as part of 2000AD, not a new project

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. 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.



Categories: 2000AD, British Comics, British Comics - Current British Publishers, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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4 replies

  1. No loss. Comics should be comics. I’ve always thought toys stuck to the cover look tacky (although I quite liked my Scream plastic fangs at first until I realised they were just drool generators). I don’t know if this is true, but someone told me that modern comics are often bagged with toys to justify the price as Smith’s and the supermarkets refused to stock comics under a certain price.

  2. It’s kinda moot as 2000ad has never really been one for plastic giveaways. Indeed as far as I can recall, there’s been the space spinner in #1 and a 2-3in metal Dredd badge later on.
    The biotronic stickers in #2 had a plasticly feel.
    Maybe some small 1in metal badges.

    Plus there was a plastic Dredd badge at one point. But don’t recall if that was with 2000AD or the short lived Judge Dredd “Lawman of the Future”.Another ‘unsure about’ was some Letraset Star Wars Transfers, possibly a tie in with Kraft/Dairylea for the release of either New Hope or Empire.

    Mostly anything “free” was paper based such as the wraparound/poster covers, forcing you to either buy two issues or trash your copy. Hard call when you only got 25p pocket money each week! Or inserts such as Action Force mini-comics.

    Also recall, as well as the Space calculator, Starlord had a blue “passport” with a lighting flash on. If anything the real biggy for plastic giveaways is either Lego, which is valid as let’s face you want to make Lego not read about it!

    Or Dr Who Adventures, where the magazine felt like an adjunct to the toys or stationary sets. But again that wasn’t anything worth making a fuss because that’s what we bought it for. Especially if you wanted loads of dalek/cyberman/etc figures or yet another sonic screwdriver. The former great for RPG’s and the latter great for making unique pens with.

    • It would be great to think that this announcement is a signal here of a new title from Rebellion, one perhaps that was in the works pre-COVID, and given the wealth of characters, brands they own and talent they have access to, it must be something that’s been considered and plans drawn up. The issues in general are the difficultly gaining traction on the news stand and making a good return on your investment, when a huge percent cover price goes to the distributor, not the publisher. It’s no wonder the bulk of the BEANO’s sales are through subscription, as are The Phoenix.

    • Now Rebellion has announced its upcoming bi-monthly Monster Fun title, arriving April 2021, this statement makes more sense. It’s a good move.

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