Hot on the heels of the news of the sell-out success of the latest collected edition of football strip Striker, comes an update on the planned release dates for the next two volumes – and more about the future of the strip itself from creator Pete Nash.
As Striker fans know, the strip reached an unexpected end-of-season finale in top-selling British newspaper The Sun, replaced by “McMisery”, a reprint strip first published back in 2004 in the weekly Striker comic – but a new story begins this coming Monday, in the run up to the the new football season.
While the strip has had its fair share of publication woes at the hands of The Sun, prompting storms of reader protest every time changes are made, this time around the decision to run a reprint strip was not the result of management shenanigans but part of a plan by Pete that reflects the economic realities behind the strip’s production.
“Early last year the recently-arrived new editor of The Sun, Tony Gallagher, decided to end the two surviving comic strips in the paper, Hagar and Striker, with no apparent intention of replacing them,” Pete reminds fans. “Less than two weeks later, after being bombarded with complaints from readers, the paper asked if I would bring Striker back. There was no apology, just an explanation that the decision was taken because of cost-cutting caused by declining sales and advertising revenue (a problem all newspapers have been suffering from).”
Although Striker returned to the paper the rate Pete now gets for the strip was, sadly, a shadow of what it once was and so far, rival newspaper offers haven’t even matched what he’s now getting – but under the new deal he can now at least take the revenue from exploiting the sponsorship opportunity of Striker being in The Sun, plus the ability to promote merchandise and take the profits.
“In theory it was a fair deal, but selling sponsorship is not as easy as many people think, particularly when brands now have many outlets to choose from, other than newspapers,” Pete notes. Self publishing the Striker collections has also been time consuming (all the strips in an upcoming collection have had to be recoloured, for example).
Overworked and looking at a black hole in terms of income, Pete went back to The Sun in May, seeking more money for creating the strip.
“While they were looking under the sofa cushions for some spare cash, I decided to save my sanity by ending Striker on a cliffhanger and running ‘McMisery’ through the summer while I explored options,” Pete explains, which include his long-held ambition to exploit the gambling opportunities of the strip, working with a company that makes a virtual football betting game.
A Striker version is, Pete reveals, now imminent.
The Sun has now reaffirmed its commitment to the strip with a better page rate, but it’s still not enough to cover production costs. But, combined with the potential revenue from merchandise sales and gaming, and “it could be the start of a successful, exciting and more independent era for Striker,” Pete hopes.
“Why independent? Because while the fee paid by The Sun gives them UK newspaper exclusivity, Striker is free to exploit all other opportunities in the UK and the rest of the world – including, for instance, a Striker ‘season-ticket’ subscription that could include an online comic and special Striker offers,” the creator hints.
“There’s also another attraction to this new deal with The Sun – albeit more attractive to me personally than the fans. In future, Striker will have ‘seasons’ that will more or less follow the football season from August to May. Then it will take a summer break, during which a classic Striker story will run, just as it has now.
“I know that will disappoint some fans, but I believe it will be to Striker‘s benefit,” Pete says. “TV series have always followed this pattern and I’m certain Striker will be better for having a beginning-and-end story arc to every season. And the summer break will allow me to recharge my batteries, which I’ve never really been able to do before.”
Part of that “recharging” means he won’t be re-launching the daily video version of the strip on the Planet Striker YouTube channel, which, so far, has again been a lot of work but hasn’t gained the subscriber numbers Pete clearly hoped for, or the level of views that would generate a good slice of advertising revenue.
“It amounts to pennies unless there are a million or so fans clicking on the ads every day,” Pete notes. “As an experiment, however, it was a good fact-finding exercise. And I’m not ruling out a re-launch, subject to more resources.”
Pete is also looking at crowdfunding future Striker developments – including revamping the Striker web site while completing work on the next two Striker collections, with Volume Three tentatively scheduled for August and Volume Four in time for Christmas.
As ever, loyal fan support has been instrumental in keeping the long-running and hugely popular strip afloat, and thanks to Pete’s confidence in the strip’s fans, the new era of Striker is very close to kick-off, with a new strip launching next Monday 31st July in The Sun.
“There will be a very brief catch-up followed by the revealing of the Li Ming back-from-the-dead mystery,” Pete reveals.
As for further developments, “there’s so much more to tell but I think it will be best to save the details as we go into the new era,” Pete enthuses.
“How long that era will last is down to the fans, but I hope they will be as excited by this opportunity as I am.”
• You can follow the latest news about Striker over on the Strikerworld forum | Follow Striker on Twitter @striker_planet | Follow Striker on Facebook | Planet Striker on YouTube