Thursday, 15 September 2011

The demise of the annuals

I've noticed recently that the age old tradition of getting comic annuals at Christmas is fast dying out. Two years ago, I got five annuals - The Beano, The Dandy, Dennis and Gnasher, The Bash Street Kids and the Beano-Dandy reprints annual (which this year has a free Dennis 1996 cartoon DVD and a reproduction of a 1951 Beano, something they haven't done previously). But 2010's Bash Street annual and 2011's Dennis annual turned out to be the last, so this year, I'm only getting three. Most annuals these days seem to be licensed books with feature material and no comic strips. Boring! Twenty years ago, there was a multitude of proper comic annuals for kids to open on Christmas Day. Now, they're released in July - rather than September - which is turning them into a summer treat instead. If you can even get hold of them that is. WHSmith, Waterstones, that's about it where I live. Maybe Tesco, but their range is always poor. Oh, how I wish the selection was more like that of twenty years ago. Back then, you would often find annuals for titles which closed years ago, alongside all the popular current comic titles. There were fewer licensed titles, and the majority of annuals did contain comic strips, unlike today. I always used to get the Beezer Book. The last one was the 2003 edition - the comic itself folded 10 years earlier. Oh I wish we could turn back the clock. The annuals do sell a lot better than the weekly comics do. So why aren't there more of them? And why release them six months before Christmas? Illogical. Especially when they also release "summer annuals" which for the Beano means a book mainly filled with reprints, with a 3D glasses gimmick (and most of the others, except for Broons/Oor Wullie, are activity books by another name). And which I never saw in the shops. Pretty obvious why. Summer Special comics have died out too, do they think gimmicks and calling them annuals will bring them back, because I don't.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Big Eggo

The Beano's cover star from 1938 to 1947 was Big Eggo, an ostrich. Drawn by Reg Carter, a postcard artist, he would spend his early adventures searching for his lost egg. When war broke out in 1939, he would start fighting Nazi scum on occasion, and other strips showed him giving an important message to the readers, not to copy his behaviour. In one strip, to get revenge on a man, he put lights up outside the man's house... thus breaking the blackout. Of course, the hapless man got arrested by a police officer, a timely warning to readers not to use lights outside in the blackout as it attracts the enemy bombers.

In January 1948, it was decided that readers couldn't relate to Eggo as he wasn't humanoid, didn't have two arms and two legs like a human, just hands on the ends of his wings. So he was relegated from the colour front cover to a black and white two-line strip inside. There he stayed until 1949, when Reg Carter died. This ended the strip in The Beano, although that wasn't the end for him forever. He remained next to the Beano logo until 1954, when Dennis the Menace replaced him. He wasn't forgotten when the comic celebrated 2000 issues (in 1980) and 60 years (1998), as the issue 1 cover was shown on the back page on those two issues, the second time showing Gnasher in place of the crocodile that hatched from the egg! In a 1980s Beano Summer Special, he was shown at Beano Retirement Home alongside Lord Snooty, Jack Flash, and Jonah. And in 1986, he appeared in a single line full colour strip in Hoot comic. Here's the page from issue 49, which also features Big Uggy from the Topper, Desperate Dan from The Dandy, and a strip called Flip 'n' Flop, which I've not seen anywhere else. I don't know who drew these.

Welcome to the British Comics blog!

Hi, I'm James, and I enjoy reading comics. I particularly enjoy the British humour comics, which used to be published in abundance by D.C. Thomson and Fleetway. Unfortunately, only two such titles remain now - The Beano and The Dandy, both from DCT. The Beano has always been my favourite, I've been reading it for over 15 years and have more than 700 issues. I also collect the annuals. Anyway, enough of the introductions, let's get down to business... see you soon!