Given Titan Comics recent publication of all-new adventures of Johnny Red, with a new Hook Jaw series following in December, you’d be forgiven for thinking the London-based company would be the ones to buy Egmont’s clasic comics back catalogue if the chance arose… but it’s 2000AD publisher Rebellion that now owns Roy of the Rovers, Misty, Tammy, Action and more.
Rebellion has just announced it has bought Roy of the Rovers and dozens of other out-of-print 1970s and 1980s titles in the biggest deal of its kind in 30 years – which could bring “long-vanished” classic comics back into print, the company saying the acquisition represents a significant expansion in its publishing portfolio, broadening its reach into the growing UK comics and graphic novel market.
Characters from Tammy, Battle, Whizzer and Chips will now join the Judge Dredd in the Rebellion line-up, all titles from the Fleetway archive, which which have now been sold by media group Egmont. (Yes, we’re just beginning to imagine the crossovers).
The archive includes banned title Action, humour comic Oink! and Whoopee, comics aimed at girls like Misty and Sally, as well as Battle’s World War One strip “Charley’s War“.
Rebellion’s owners and founders, Jason and Chris Kingsley, previously bought 2000AD along with Judge Dredd Megazine from Egmont in 2000.
“I particularly remember reading Action when I was a boy, and amongst other stories, ‘Kids Rule O.K.‘ and ‘Hook Jaw‘ have left an indelible impression on me, which is probably the reason Action caused such controversy at the time.
“My brother and I, and the whole team at Rebellion, are very happy to be reuniting this archive with that of 2000AD.
“I’m also delighted to see some of the ‘girls’ comics joining our company as they hold forgotten works by some of the industry’s creative giants and deserve to be read by all.”
The deal was negotiated by Ben Smith, Head of Book and Comics Publishing for Rebellion, with John Packard, Brands and Licensing Publishing Director and Alan Hurcombe, CFO for Egmont.
“This archive represents a huge repository of some of the finest British comics ever published and I am delighted we have the opportunity to return these to print and develop new stories based on iconic characters,” said Ben Smith. “2000AD has gained an international reputation over the last 15 years for the quality of both its new comics and the success with which it has re-issued classics from the title’s 40 year history.
“Re-uniting 2000AD with its comic book stable mates from the 1970s and 1980s is hugely satisfying and we look forward to delivering the kind of success to this material that we have already done for ongoing series such as Judge Dredd, Sláine, Strontium Dog and many others. We cannot wait to publish unseen material from this treasury of British comics.”
‘We are delighted that Rebellion have taken over custodianship of the Fleetway archive,” commented Alan Hurcombe, CFO, Egmont Publishing. “They have the expertise to really make the most of this extensive range of comics including Battle, Tammy and Roy of the Rovers. Rebellion’s management of Judge Dredd proves that these much loved characters will be in very safe hands.”
Quite what this will mean long term for Titan’s collections of strips from Battle and its new comics remains to be seen. Rebellion launches its first collection of Misty stories on 8th September.
British Comics: Who Owns What?
As we’ve stated many times here on downthetubes (your best source on this is our interview with former Time UK, then IPC staffer Andrew Sumner), IPC and Egmont cut a deal on classic comic character owner ships some time back. For the most part, any character published before January 1970 by Fleetway Editions is owned by Time UK (previously IPC). So titles like Lion and strips such as “Trigan Empire” are owned by them.
Comics such as Thunder, Battle, Misty and characters such as Roy of the Rovers – one exception to the “1970” rule, along with Buster comic and some of its characters – were, until now owned by Egmont, because for the most part they were first published after 1970.
The Dan Dare Corporation owns Dan Dare, some – but not all – original Eagle characters, and most characters published in the 1980s Eagle, although ownership of some will, I imagine be a matter of discussion, given later comic mergers.
DC Thomson has its own massive library of comic titles and characters, including Beano, Sparky, Commando, Bullet, Bunty, Judy, Jackie, Warlord and more.
If you’re at all confused by the situation, then you’re not alone. During licensing discussion I once had with Egmont, their lawyers weren’t even sure what characters or comics they owned – Starlord being one example that they thought was theirs, which of course had merged with 2000AD.
The confusion also led to problems for the team on TOXIC some years back when they sought to revive Frankie Stein – only to discover IPC owned that brilliant Ken Reid creation, because the character was created before 1970, even though his adventures continued in various titles well beyond that year.