• Bad news for British comics publishers. As reported over on Bear Alley by comics expert / writer Steve Holland, sales are down on almost every title (see table compiled by Steve), as much as 16 per cent in some cases — a decline in print sales reflected in other quarters such as mens magazines and others.
As cartoonist Lew Stringer says over on his comics blog, the results make for depressing reading. The Dandy, revamped as Dandy Xtreme last year in an attempt to ward off the decline, is now down 5,000 copies to 23,869. Even the high sellers Simpsons Comics and Doctor Who Adventures are down, with the latter suffering a massive drop from 154,989 to 93,791 in the last six months.
Steve Holland suggest the decline is often down to the fact that these days, most comics/pre-school magazines are based on licensed material.” The initial hype surrounding a new series will give a new title a solid launch,” he points out, “In the Night Garden being a prime example from 2007.
“Sales will, naturally, decline once the first set of free gifts has run out but remain bolstered by continual appearances on television over the next couple of years.”
Lew Stringer suggest more practical reasons for decline publishers may not have considered in the rush to put a free gift on every issue of their title, bowing to the demands of supermarkets in this regard.
“A comic can have as many revamps as it chooses, but if the kids can’t see the finished product it’s not going to attract them,” he suggests, posting a photograph of overcrowded shelves in a supermarket with comics strewn on the floor. “Comics are gaudier, glossier, and bulkier (with gifts) than ever before, but when crammed into the shelf display of supermarkets and newsagents it’s hard for individual titles to stand out. The displays often soon become untidy, with comics sprawling in all directions and even spilling onto the floor. Unless one is looking for a specific title it’s very difficult for a comic to uniquely grab the attention of a passing customer. How is a child expected to discover The Beano or TOXIC for the first time when comics are rammed into displays that are so overwhelming and unkempt? As retail giants charge a premium for front-of-shelf displays most titles are stuck at the back, in darkness in some cases!”
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.