A chance find during work on the indispensable FANSCENE British comic fanzine archive has thrown an interesting light on some weekly titles sales figures back in early 1982 – and while Buster and Playhour were enjoying newsstand success, it wasn’t looking good for 2000AD, or Tiger or Whizzer and Chips.
British comics archivist David Hathaway-Price came across the average sales figures for January – July 1982, in Fantasy Trader, Issue 54 (December 1982), originally compiled and analysed by Steve Green.
2000AD’s line-up during this worrying period for the title included “Ace Trucking Co.”, “Mean Arena”, “Nemesis the Warlock”, “Rogue Trooper” – and Judge Dredd was embroiled in the Apocalypse War.
Luckily, whatever was ailing 2000AD back then was clearly addressed by editor Steve MacManus and creators of the day, but it’s strange to think that if its publishers at the time, IPC, hadn’t held firm and kept the Eagle Award-winning title going, we might never have seen either the best strips of what some regard as the Galaxy’s Greatest Comics “golden age”, or the decades of thrill power that have followed.
Of the titles featured, Buster, launched in 1960, continued until 2000, Fleetway Editions longest-lasting humour comic of modern times; girls comic Tammy, launched in 1971, which had itself absorbed titles such as Sally and Misty down the years, continued until 1984, merged with Girl (Volume Two); Whizzer and Chips, launched in 1969, continued until 1990, merged with Buster; Tiger, launched in 1954, continued until 1985, merged with The New Eagle; Roy of the Rovers, which span out of Tiger in 1976, continued until 1993, a title that was selling about 450,000 copies each week at its height; Whoopee!, launched in 1974, continued until 1985, merged with Whizzer and Chips; and Battle-Action, launched in 1975 as Battle Picture Weekly, becoming, simply Battle, continued until 1988, another title absorbed into Eagle.
In his analysis, Steve highlighted the astonishing sales growth of Playhour, and its success surely wouldn’t have passed unnoticed among publishing companies, who perhaps saw the potential in parent-purchased nursery titles over fickle cheap computer game distracted teens. That said, Playhour’s success in early 1982 may have had more to do with its merger with Fun-To-Do in February, combining titles usually giving them a major sales boost.
Originally titled Playhour Pictures for its first eight months, comics writer and archivist Michael Carroll has previously noted Playhour, launched in October 1954, was a monster of a comic, at one point selling over 300,000 copies per week. During its long 1700-issue run between 1954 and August 1987, the title absorbed eleven other titles: The Chicks’ Own (in 1957), Tiny Tots (1959), Harold Hare’s Own Paper (1964), TV Toyland (1967), The Robin (1969), Hey Diddle Diddle (1973), Bonnie (1975), Fun-To-Do (1982), Chips’ Comic (1983), Play-Group (1986), Jack and Jill (1985).
Founded back in 2015 as the Classic UK Comic Zines site, artist and comic archivist David Hathaway-Price has been constantly adding to what is now The Fanscene Project.
Now residing at comicsfanzines.co.uk, The FANSCENE Project is an online, read-only archive of British comic fanzines compiled by David Hathaway-Price, featuring titles published across the last 50 years, including, with the permission of their original editors, titles such as BEM, Comic Media News, Fantasy Trader, Infinity, Speakeasy, and many more. It even includes incredibly rare digital editions of very early zines such as Ka-Pow, published by Phil Clarke and Steve Moore back in 1967/68.
Alongside providing this treasure trove of zines, David has also published FANSCENE, “a love letter to British Comics fandom”; celebrating the comics and zines from the 1960s through to the present day. This terrific series of eight digital and print magazines offer a huge range of material on fandom, and more.
The aim of The Fanscene Project is to create a digital repository of as many of the Comics Fanzines published in the UK as possible; fan publications containing work by artists and writers who would sometimes later move into, and shape, the industry that they loved.
Equally, they contain work by people who simply appreciated the sense of community offered by taking part in fandom, and who may now look back fondly on a hobby no longer followed.
• David’s archive of Fantasy Trader features on the FANSCENE archive site here
• The Playhour Timeline – compiled by Michael Carroll
• The Fanscene Project is at comicsfanzines.co.uk
• Digital editions of FANSCENE, available to download, can be found here | The latest and final issues of FANSCENE can be purchased here
downthetubes – British Comics Facts and Figures
I get a lot of questions from students in the UK and further afield about the British comics industry, so I’m posting some of my replies to often asked questions on this page. I hope it’s useful — but if there’s anything that isn’t covered please feel free to ask me!
• UK Comic and Children’s Magazine Sales
A Google document compiled by downthetubes of comic sales in the UK based on ABC-reported titles, from 2006 onwards. Not all comics are ABC registered
• British Comics: 1960s Sales Figures
A snapshot of the sales of some of the best comic titles of the period
Categories: 2000AD, British Comics, Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News