I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Robert Sutherland, who was Managing Director of Marvel UK between 1980 and 1990, and CEO of Redan Publishing for 27 years.
Shrewsbury-based Redan fast became the UK’s leading publisher of pre-school magazines, winning numerous awards, including PPA Publisher of the Year in 2007 and a 2012 LIMA award for their best selling Peppa Pig Magazine.
I cannot claim to have known Robert well, and I had not seen him for many years, the last occasion a small but enjoyable Marvel UK reunion (where he was far more relaxed than I ever recall him at work). He enjoyed considerable success as a publisher, his Redan titles such as Peppa Pig achieving chart topping sales success on more than one occasion, success he also cultivated with titles such as Transformers, The Real Ghostbusters and Thomas the Tank Engine.
While it was Richard Starkings who got me “through the door” at Marvel UK back when it was based at Redan Place, Bayswater, it was Robert Sutherland and Sheila Cranna, the head of the company’s magazines department who decided I should stay, for which I am forever grateful.
Robert was deservedly renowned within the licensing community for his publishing acumen, even if his vision of publishing may have been, for some, at odds with the realities of a changing news stand market back in the 1980s and 1990s.
As supermarkets gained an increasing market share in terms of magazine sales and children’s buying preferences changed in favour of TV and film-influenced brands, Robert was one of the few to recognise early on that the changing environment was rapidly outpacing and burying the visibility of traditional comics titles, with a consequent affect on sales.
I don’t think many will appreciate how much of a role Robert had in shaping the news stand comics “landscape” of today. While of course there are those who point to the past of non-licensed comics “brands” commanding the news stand, the simple fact of the matter was that Robert recognised the news stand was changing in the 1980s and was, like others at Marvel UK, a pioneer in supporting the bringing of toy-related comics and other non-comics concepts to the children’s market.
The modern British comics industry simply, I think, would not be as it is now, still fairly stable, still a sector of new launches and success in a very changed retail world, without him and those who worked with him.
My commiserations to all at Redan Publishing and his family. Tributes posted on social media over the last twenty four hours indicate I am not alone in mourning his passing. I am sure there will be many more.