So WHY Are UK Business Entrepreneurs NOT Getting Involved in Comics?

T Terry

This is going to be lengthy. It cannot be done any other way but it is important to make certain points. I doubt I’ll make friends -what’s new there!

The first major point is this: the UK has no actual “comics industry” and this has been true for a number of years.

The “Big Two” of IPC/Fleetway and D. C. Thomson no longer exists –in fact, due to years of bad management and equally bad editorship, Thomson’s sales do not even compare with some small, independent publishers sales.

I would like to present here the last ever Annual Report on The British Comics Industry (ARBCI) I ever produced which was in 2007 –an up-date of the 2006 ARBCI.

It has been repeatedly said that the idea of successful  comic book publishing  in the UK is just that –a dream.

 

The person claiming this has no idea what he/she is talking about.  Between 1990-2003 I produced an Annual Report On The British Comics Industry [ARBCI].  When I began the report was around 70% accurate: by 2000 the reports were up to 90-95% accurate.  Sadly, the ARBCI predicted the quick demise of Neptune/Trident Comics, Mindbenders, Dark Horse UK and others between 1989-1992.

 

The problem was that these companies had all decided that the buzz-phrase “comics aren’t just for kids” meant that only adults ought to be catered for and catered for with specific genres that might only interest between 7-10% of those buying comics.  Also, the material was published for news stand, yet anyone interested in the strips they contained could quite easily pick up the full U.S. version of the comic –in one go and for much cheaper than waiting a couple of months and spending much, much more.

 

Even Fleetway/Egmont with its new and trendy titles such as REVOLVER and CRISIS, though very good [I contributed work] were again aimed at a very small percentage of the comic buying market in the UK.  This would not –not– have been a problem had they also been focussing as much time, attention and originality on comics for other age groups.

 

Sadly, the major problem is that, during the 1960s, comic fans began working in companies and rather than focus on maintaining regular quality and following standard industry guidelines, the “new brooms” began to produce comics they liked.  Interestingly, this is the same situation that occurred in the U.S. at the same time.  By the early 1980s the U.S. market was on the verge of total collapse.

 

What did the U.S. publishers do?  They offered British creators being paid low fees [for scripts I was paid £35.00 per strip page while the artist received £275 per page] much higher rates.  British creators therefore jumped onto the DC or Marvel ships –and both companies saw their industry go through a rebirth.

 

In the UK the situation was grimmer.  Editors and management decided that TV had quite literally killed comics as a viable form of entertainment –yet comics were still selling high numbers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  Again, the problem was the inflexibility of management and this bordered on the verge of “headless chicken” territory.

 

Say a comic, a weekly, sold 155,000 copies at 5p a time [1 shilling in old money].  That was £775,000 a week.  However, if the sales dropped by 1% to 153,450 copies  [ or £767,250] that title was cancelled or merged with another.  Therefore, the profit from 153,450 sales per week were lost.

 

In 1954, the EAGLE was selling 750,000 copies per week, but by 1969 this was down to 25,000 copies per week.  Arguably, this is one of the worst drops in sales I have heard of though the reason may well be in the fact that Frank Hampson and the Reverend Morris were no longer in control and those in charge seemed to have no idea how to keep the comic relevant to the changing times.  EAGLE had become a not too very good comic.

 

Interestingly, in 1963 the Audit Bureau of Circulation [ABC] was created and we can focus in on one particular title to see how sales varied between 1964-1971: the LION.

 

1964                 313,097

1965                 266,135

1966                 260,409

1967                 265,549    [merged with CHAMPION]

1968                 259,268

1969                 234,954

1970                 236,714    [merged with EAGLE]

1971                 205,766

 

 

This was a drop in sales of 107,331 in a nine year period.  However, these were still pretty reasonable figures bringing in a profit –printing used was not expensive.  The truth is that, from 1967/68 on those in charge of companies lost interest or faith in their own product.

 

 

Over the last ten years I have talked to businessmen and women in various fields who just cannot believe this was the policy –and when they are shown the documentation to prove it there is either  stunned silence or tutting followed by the words “morons” or “idiots”. There is absolutely no logic for such cancellations –the  comics’ printing cost nowhere near what they were being sold for.  Profit was literally cut off from the company.

 

With these cancellations the dogma set in: ”comics are dying out –not worth investing money in”.  This from the people who had cancelled the titles making the profit!  Off course, then one company purchased another and the new management continued the dogma –because the old hands were still on board safe-guarding their jobs and not being willing to even attempt to do a serious re-launch.

 

We saw IPC-Fleetway split up and eventually Roy Of The Rovers, 2000 AD, Dan Dare and much more were sold off for a quick profit.

 

I can recall on an edition of BBC 2 ‘s (TV) The Money Programme, a senior member of D.C. Thomson’s staff stating that “in ten years the comic will be a thing of the past” –that was around 1984.  Thomson still publishes yearly comic annuals as well as its Pocket War Library, Beano and Dandy.

 

Egmont, sadly, produces what we call “advertising comics”, basically promoting toy and other related merchandise, but with outlets in over 20 countries world-wide has the greatest potential and, in Scandinavia does produce new material and reprint old Fleetway material.

 

Panini, operating as Marvel UK, is making its mark on the UK market, mainly with UK reprints for the news stand.

 

Thomson, Panini and Egmont are quite capable of revitalising the UK market.  This is notas impossible as some might think.

 

Where the big mainstream companies started cancelling titles the British Small Press and Independent comic publishers have flourished –many selling out of their titles quickly.  The print runs may only be in the hundreds or 2-3,000 but they have cornered the niche left by the larger companies.

 

Shane Chebney, who owns and runs the Small Zone mail order service trading in Small Press and Independent comics, mainly from the UK, told me [9th November, 2005] that in the last year his sales have risen by 20%  -while mainstream comic sales in shops are said to have dropped.  An indication of a recession in the US market looming for 2006 and a perfect opportunity for the UK to build its industry up.

 

 

Although the U.S. has its own Independent publishers, as does Europe, the UK appears to be unique in not only the number of publishers but the selection of material they publish. In Europe, where the same doom and gloom had settled, there has been a strong publishing revival: there were companies that weathered the storm and continued with established comic characters as well as new ones –Standaard Uitgeverij, Dupuis and Casterman shine out.

 

There is also an international market that can be catered for, whether via comic album series or monthly comics.

 

Firstly, there needs to be a comic that takes kids from Beano and Dandy onto the next stage of 11+ years comics. The one reason Panini is doing so well is that kids can latch on to U.S. comics from W. H. Smith or local newsagents because they have not yet discovered the comic book speciality store!

 

A mix of humour and action would be the ideal 11+ comic.  There are still many active long time comic artists who were ‘retired’ early and whose ability to stick to deadlines is proven. All three companies referred to have old characters that could be revived and lead into the new generation of characters.

 

Obviously the idea of sales of 150,000+ are not likely these days and even the oft quoted “must have” sales of 65,000 per issue [a figure referring to the number of copies printed and not achievable sales even in the late 1980s] is not likely.  The number of copies printed needs to be re-assessed along with format.  If a UK printer cannot handle the printing for a fair price then there are plenty of foreign printers who will.

 

There must be 100% support by company heads for the Managing Editor who would oversee the whole potential comics line.  Someone who is a “penny-cruncher” would be useless in such a position; the job calls for 100% commitment and no doubts.

 

The Small Press and Independent comics in the UK have shown the way but I feel we need to look at how the European comic industry/comic buying population varies with the UK’s, because this shows some very significant findings.

 

BELGIUMhas a population of 10,152,000 (est. 1999) and within this population those aged 1-14 years of age total 17%, or 1,725,840.  Those between the ages of 15-59 years total some 61%, or 6,192,720, of the population.  These are, of course, the prime ages for comic buyers, though, as they get older, these buyers do not necessarily stop buying comics or comic albums.  The age group of 60+ years totals some 22% of the population, or 7,918,560 people.  And the population growth rate for 2000-2005 is 0.1%.

 

Unlike the UK, there are five official languages in Belgium; Flemish (Vlaams) at 55%; Walloon (a French dialect) at 32%; German at 0.6% and bi-lingual totals 11%.  Despite this the country has a fantastic array of comics for both young and old.  Of course, French, German and Dutch publishers can export there without costly reprinting in a foreign language.

 

Standaard Uitgeverij is a Flemish language publisher, part of the larger Dutch PCM Group. It publishes some of the biggest series in the country including Suske & Wiske –the adventures of two 11 year olds.  Created by Willy Vandersteen in 1947, the duo have had

some 272 comic albums published to date and in many languages, including English editions by Intes International.  Another series of comic albums created by Vandersteen  (taken over by Karel Biddeloo in 1968) is De Rode Ridder (Red Knight),currently at album no. 188. The Kiekeboe series stands at no. 91. A football series,F. C. Kampionen (The Champions F.C.) by Hec Leemans stands at no. 20.  Other titles include the Napoleonic adventure series Bakelandt with 82 albums in the series.

 

And there are others aimed at pre-school to adults with cover prices ranging from E 3,60-4,50.

 

Castermans, of course, is the home of Tin-Tin and looking at the company’s 2002 Catalogue is like being a child in a toy shop –the variety!  The company has a large number of album series for 7-10 year olds and a similar variety for 12 years and upward and that includes adults for whom there is a very large selection.

 

France has a population of 58,333,000 (est. 1996) with 1-15 year olds taking up to 19.6% or 11,433,268 of the population. The 15-65 year olds comprise 65.5% or some 38,208,115 while the over 65’s total 14.9%, or 8,691,614.

 

Casterman’s, as noted, publish in other European countries and beyond.

 

 

Dargaud is another publisher. Set up in 1959, the company caters for all ages and its material can be found translated and published all over Europe; the range of genres and quality puts U.S. companies to shame.

 

SEMIC is part of  Semic Sweden and has, since 2000, revitalised its publishing out-put by using new and old material and even broke into the U.S. market –no small achievement since English is not its prime language.

 

Netherlands has a population of 15,575,000 (est. 1996) with the 1-15 years age group comprising 18.4%, or 2,865,800.  The 16-65 years group totals 68.4%, or some 10,653,300 while the those over 65 years equal 13.2% or some 2,055,900.

 

Again, the Netherlands has a very healthy comics industry catering for all ages and publishing both new and imported material.  Companies include ArborisBig Balloon BVand so on.

Germany has a population of 82,177,000 (est. 1999) with 1-14 year olds comprising 16% or some 13,148,320.  The 15-59 year olds comprise 61% or 50,127,970 and the 60+ years old group 23% or 18,900,710.

 

 

Having lived in Germany as a child and on- and -off thereafter, I have a fair knowledge of the companies there.  In fact, prior to its selling off the Youth division, I did some work for the oldest publisher there, Bastei Verlag.  Other companies included Kauka Verlag(Ralf Kauka having been called at times “Germany’s Walt Disney” –he created characters such as Lupo and Fix & Foxi), DisneyEhapa, Carlsen, Hethke and Editions Quasimodo.

 

 

These companies were publishing in the hey-days of the 1960s and 1970s, however, in the 1980s both myself and others were looking at Carlsen and taking guesses at how long it could last as a publisher. It looked as though it was doomed to vanish from the scene. Despite this, Carlsen stormed back with a vengeance and its publishing out-put looks fantastic.

 

Sadly, Bastei only publishes reprints of its old ghostly stories title.

 

A shining example of what can be achieved are the efforts of IP & Paul who, with little publicity launched a full colour, glossy comic based on a role-playing game. Helden/Heroeshad an initial print run of 10,000 copies and the publishers were told that they were over-estimating and that they would have thousands of copies left on their hands –this from those in the industry who “knew better”.  The title sold out so well that the publishers were caught unaware; yet the initial sells were only via the hobby market.  The title sold out and was later translated for the American (not British) market where it was quite successful and several other foreign language versions appeared under license in Europe.

 

In 2003/2004 the follow-up, Dorn: Der Morgenstern/Thorn: The Morning Star appeared and did well.  The people at IP & P were not, it must be emphasised, comic professionals but proved that the right comic aimed at the right readership can be a success beyond what you plan.

 

It is very interesting that Dutch, German, French and Belgian companies get “many orders from the UK” –and some specialist shops will order regularly from European publishers simply because the UK market has “nothing to compare with these comics”.

 

Canada has also revitalised its comics publishing industry after a very poor period –though publishers such as Aardvark Vanaheim and Vortex weathered this.  Indonesia, Australia and many other smaller countries are also revitalising their industries.

 

Between 1999-2005 I was consulted by publishers and groups in countries such as Singapore, China, Russia and India on how to develop and maintain a healthy comics industry as well as putting together comic packages for them.

 

So why is it that the UK, where the comics industry was created and from which some of the best writers and artists sprang, has such a restricted industry?  Why has someone decided and passed along as industry dogma that the UK “cannot” have a fresh and revitalised industry? In all seriousness I have to say that anyone within a publishing house that says this needs to have a change of career.

 

The population of the UK is 58,744,000 (est. 1999). Age group 1-14 years comprise 19% or some 11,161,360, while the core comic buying age group of 15-59 comprises 60% or some35,246,400. The 60+ age group comprises 21% or 12,336,240.

 

The UK’s population is almost five times that of Belgium and bigger than France or the Netherlands and yet we publish not even 1% of what these countries do.

 

Other European countries with very strong comic industries supplying a good variety of material are:~

 

Spain, with a population of 39,134,000 (est. 1996) with 1-14 year olds comprising 16.5% or 6,457,110 of the population; 15-65 year olds 68.6% or 26,845,924 and 65+ age group some 14.9% or 5,830,966.

 

Greece with a population of 10,490,000 (est. 1996);1-15 year olds comprising 16.7% or some 1,751,830 people.  The 16-65 year old group comprises 67.4% or 7,070,260 and the 65+ group totalling 14.9% or 5,830,966+.

 

Italy has a population of 57,343,000 (est. 1999) and the 1-14s group comprises 14% or 8,028,020 and the 15-59 year olds group some 62% or 35,552,660.

 

It is worth looking at this overall.

 

 

Population Age Group Comparisons

 

Country         Age group 1-14         Age Group 15-65                        Age Group 65+

 

UK                   11,161,360                  35,246,400                                   12,336,240

France              11,433,268                  38,208,115                                   8,691,617

Belgium           1,725,840                    6,192,720                                     7,918,560

Italy                 8,028,020                    35,552,660                                   13,762,320

Netherlands     2,865,800                    10,653,300                                   2,055,900

Spain               6,457,110                    26,845,924                                   5,830,966

Greece             1,751,830                    7,070,260                                     1,667,910

Germany         13,148,320                  50,127,970                                    18,900,710

Figures compiled by T.Hooper 2004

 

 

 

According to these figures the UK should be rivalling France and Spain in comic publishing but it doesn’t even rival Greece’s.

 

In 2003 I surveyed 1000 comic buyers at comic marts in Southern England and the survey revealed some interesting results.

 

Ages ranged from 13-20 years 8% (80 persons); 21-29 year olds 12% (120 persons) and the 30-65 year olds totalled 80% (a staggering 800 persons). Only those who were regular or semi-regular comic buyers were included –no casual buyers.

 

A display book with old British comic strips was shown and the following questions asked/answers given:~

 

[1]Were this material available now would you buy it?

[All age groups]

YES….80% [800]     NO….5% [50]   MIGHT….15% [150]

 

[2] As [1],but in full colour?

[All age groups]

YES….95% [950]    NO….2% [20]    MIGHT…3% [30]

 

[3] Same characters, new stories?

[All age groups]

YES…95% [950]    NO…2%[20]      “Not Sure”…3%[30]

 

Only 3% of those spoken to had no knowledge of these old characters and they were in the youngest age group.

 

To back up this survey, I posted polls to popular comic sites as well as on my own web sites. There were 500 responses all –all– in the 30-45+ age group.  All were familiar with most of the old characters and all responded that they would  purchase a new comic with these and 10% added that this was “yes beyond a doubt”.

 

All of those surveyed stated they would buy a new comic featuring new material and commented on the lack of comics in the UK.

 

So, juveniles might buy, especially those into colour super hero comics, if it were aimed at them.  However, excepting the Panini reprints noted earlier, no such title has been offered in the last 15 years.

 

However, the main market, are the older 30-45 year olds who were brought up on British weekly comics. This older group being the main comic buyers is born out by information from the U.S., Australia and Europe.  These are also the people buying books and comics for their own children – a perfect opportunity to draw in the next generation of comic buyers.

 

I have had the opportunity of talking to parents, teachers and even a professor of English who all refer to the poor literacy rate in the UK. I was rather surprised when they all pointed out that “years ago kids had comics to give them a basic literacy level” –no one knew of my interest or work in comics!  Having interviewed comic creators and buyers as well as other people over the years I have had them all referring to having “learnt to read from comics”.

 

Comics are not just entertainment but they can be educational –as proven by the Japanese who use comic strips to inform and educate on everything from tax to hygiene.

 

The problem is that the current dogma is that you must sell this mythical 65,000 copies per week.  As pointed out, this was not a reality even in the 1980s.

 

There is also the fact that comics have been put together and presented to a peer group of children for their views.  In the 1980s I tried this for Marvel UK. Changes were made and the comic re-presented to the same group. They rejected it and more changes were made to their specifications….at the next presentation the changes called for took the comic back to its first version!

 

If the person putting the comic together has to resort to this type of market research then the project is defeated before it gets going.  Get your best package and then promote!

 

There is also the very useless “launch party”.  Editors and managers have told me since the 1970s that “you cannot publish a comic without a launch party”; basically, this is to get a bunch of journalists together to publicise your comic while eating and drinking –a lot, according to some ex-editors.

 

A launch party has never guaranteed a comic will sell. In fact, it is arguable as to whether they had any positive effect –kids who would buy comics rarely, if ever, purchased newspapers for reviews!

 

In 2005 there are so many outlets to get free publicity for your comic that the launch party is an out-dated waste of money. Many childrens’ television channels and programmes, etc., can be utilised for advanced and ongoing publicity –publicity outlay being really minimal.

 

British comic strip characters are still being published today in India and Europe and the potential from licensing  and merchandise agreements is well worth the initial outlay. In Summer, 2005, Wildstorm Studios, a subsidiary of DC comics, published a comic titled ALBION, intended to be a 6 issue mini series introducing “up-dated characterisations of classic British adventure characters.  This series is said to be the most over-hyped, disappointing series to date by people within the industry and comic fans.  The writers being too young to know anything about the original characters produced a bland story that only sold because of the art by Briton Shane Oakley and Canadian inker, George Freeman. The option of going for proven former scripters was not even considered.

 

 

At the same time, Titan Books purchased rights to reprint books of adventures of characters such as THE SPIDER and STEEL CLAW.  Release dates of May, June, July, August, September  have come and gone but nothing has appeared.  The policy of IPC/DC has been to squeeze every penny out of reprint rights but put in  no real creative back-up.

 

It is widely believed that the two announced Titan books have been delayed over monetary payments required.  From start to finish IPC/DC/Wildstorm Studios have shown an inability to understand how to handle or use these characters –the UK comic shop market only has been offered the series thus by-passing 50-70% of possible readers/buyers at news stands, etc..

 

I do have ideas regarding this but the purpose of this paper is to show that the market isthere. It is true to say that either a new company will come in and seize the major market share leaving established companies far behind or even struggling to keep what it already has in sales –as a consultant I’m aware of two such possible companies.

 

The alternative is for an existing company to make the decision and go for it.  There is everything to win and little to lose.

 

On Friday, 16th October, 2004, D.C. Thomson launched the new look DANDY [issue no. 3282],looking more like a Cartoon Network comic, the launch created a flurry of interest and used UK as well as European talent.  Thomson obviously realised that no one was catering for Afro-carribean readers and introduced “Dreadlock Holmes”.  In October 2005, the BEANO re-introduced classic adventure characters BILLY  & KATY THE CAT by Nigel Dobbyn.  A true adventure strip finally re-introduced to a British weekly.

 

In fact, the BEANO and DANDY 2006 annuals are a real joy and improvement with BILLY & KATY CAT, The COMET and General Jumbo [though not a patch on the Jumbo of old]. It seems Thomson may be getting the point at last.  However, consumer research, etc., for the new look DANDY ,according to Comics International, had cost over –over– £600,000! I’m told this is not a misprint.  It is an almost unbelievable figure and how it was justified I’d not like to even guess at!

 

The problem with British comics has always been that ethnic characters were either racist stereotypes or of no real importance.  This lack of characters for ethnic groups I pointed out to companies over and over between 1982-1994.  Lack of interest meant that a huge potential readership was ignored in favour of all out Anglo-Saxon strips.

 

According to figures from the Government National Statistics Office, the UK population breaks down as:~

 

 

 

 

White                                                                                            54,153,898   92.1%

Mixed                                                                                            677,117        1.2%             

Indian                                                                                           1,053,411      1.8%              

Pakistani                                                                                      747,285         1.3%            

Bangladeshi                                                                                 283,063         0.5%             

Other asian                                                                                  247,664         0.4%             

All Asian/Asian British                                                              2,331,423        4.0%

Black Carribean                                                                         565,876          1.0%

Black African                                                                              485,277          0.8%

Black Other                                                                                 97,585            0.2%

All Black or Black British                                          1,148,738         2.0%

Chinese                                                                                        247,403           0.4%

 

 

Other ethnic Groups                                                                  230,615            0.4%

ALL minority ethnic population                                        4,635,296          7.9%

 

 

 

 

 

That is 7.9% or 4.6 million belonging to ethnic groups, generally ignored by most UK media and entertainment.   Looking at the Indian population, those up to 15 years of age total 33.8%, the 16-24 years of age group total 18.2%.

 

Ignoring race, if we look at the figures released on 24th June, 2004, relating to age breakdown the 0-15 year olds comprise 20% of the population and the 16-64 year olds 18.2%, the main comic buying age group, comprises some 64%.  65 years old + comprises 16%.

 

This means that the UK has a potential 84% of the population at comic buying age and not being catered for.  This situation exists nowhere else in Europe.

 

Not only does the UK have the population to sustain a a good sized comics industry but it has the ethnic diversity to keep it fresh and draw in future readers.

 

In summary: anyone who says the UK cannot support a comics industry should not be involved in said industry –its defeatism through ignorance.

 

A UK comics industry is achievable but will take between 3-5 years for a company to establish itself and expand.

 

 

Should you have any queries or wish more information then please feel free to  get in touch. An additional document pertaining to publishing costs, etc., is attached to this paper.

 

*********************************************

 

 

 

 

ADDENDA: 4th September, 2007

 

 

Since this document was originally presented a number of things have happened.

 

Firstly, I’ve been employed as a consultant by comic publishers based in China, India and other countries, proving, perhaps, that they are prepared to use experienced people to adjust to changes in their market-place, etc..

 

Secondly, through movies and TV, comic book merchandise sales has rocketed and there are no mainstream companies in the UK producing original material from which they financially gain.

 

D.C. Thomson & Sons Ltd., are possibly the only UK company taking advantage of this boom, however, it is in such a small way that profit is negligible.

 

Panini/Marvel UK help promote, via their reprints, sales of Marvel Action Figures, etc., but do not get the reward from original creations.

 

Egmont are often referred to in comic circles as “producing toy advertising with a comic accidentally attached”  – though, in fairness, in must be pointed out that Egmont is not the only company doing this in the UK.  Egmont in Finland, for instance, produce a wider variety of material than Egmont in the UK.

 

 

Thirdly, the UK Independent Comic and Small Press scene has also grown proving that there are a great many comic buyers out there who cannot buy what they want from mainstream publishers.

 

 

This is interesting because Thomson have now merged The Dandy into “Dandy Xtreme” due to poor sales.  Thomson, without a doubt, has a very rich, untapped wealth of characters that it has never developed or exploited.

 

Also, the Small Zone service operated by Shane Chebney has grown to an extent that he now operates from a comic retailer shop.  Small Zone has also had to add many more U.S. Independent titles to his stock because of demand.

 

Ordering of titles from outside the UK using the internet has also increased in the last two years.

 

It is worth noting, again, that all of this financial gain is going outside the UK because the material cannot be found in titles published by  UK companies.

 

What has also happened since 2006 is that a new publisher of top quality colour comic albums has been established in the UK.  Cinebook The 9th Art is a company run by Frenchman Olivier Cadic and publishes European material not seen in the UK before,  with the exception of a title such as Lucky Luke.   Cinebook has outlets in book stores, can be found in Public Libraries and constantly promote via the international Comic Expo held each May in Bristol, BICS in Birmingham each year, the Frankfurt Book Fair and so on.

 

I have reviewed Cinebook publications and interviewed Olivier Cadic for CBO [one of the internets most popular  comics news and interviews sites — www.comicbitsonline.com   –future plans seem set to make the company a long term profit-maker.

 

In other European countries the industry seems to be developing well; in Germany the new ZACK comic has reached it’s 72nd issue.  Other success stories abound.

 

But in the UK there seems little new coming from publishers.

 

There is a great need to actually re-think school age comics; far less emphasis on photo-advertising stories and more in the traditional action, fun and adventure –even educationalists are advising that parents get their children to read more comics to help improve literacy while having a fun read ;so it’s nice to see they have caught on to the fact that lack of comic reading pre-school and during school years has contributed to decreased literacy!

 

But there is also the need to latch on to a largely unexploited age group:10-16, and later, 16+ because, apart from 2000 AD with its low readership, no one is catering for these groups with original UK material.  Odd since British creators have more than once stopped US publishers going out of business.

 

Cinebook will, after 2008, be looking at new 16+ Age group material.

 

Simply put, what we need in the UK are new titles for three specific groups:

 

Pre-school  -one needs to only look back at titles from the 1950s-1960s for examples which were fun for children but taught them to read, spell and use their imaginations –and encourage reading comics when they get older!

 

School age (8-15) –from personal experience I can state that many 8 year olds read the Panini reprints of Marvel comics, though they are meant for older readers which shows there is a market there.

 

16+ years.  Super Heroes, ghost stories, action and adventure are the popular genres and in an industry worth many, many millions it is odd that no one from the UK publishing industry has “dipped their toes” in yet.

 

Richard Branson and Virgin Media have gotten into the comics with Virgin Comics, though it seems to be looking at the rich gaming movie market.  Sadly, Virgin Comics release schedule shows which it considers the more valuable markets.  Comics are released first in the US, secondly in the UK/Europe and, lastly, Asia/India.

 

 

A company could, quite easily, establish a publishing power base in the UK, gradually spreading out into Europe and North America –where the work of British comic creators is still  much respected.  So why not just revitalise the British comic scene and reap the long term rewards?

 

 

To actually publish a new title and lose money would be difficult in the extreme if you know what you are doing.

 

I think that there has never been a better time for UK publishers to stamp their feet and shout loudly “We’re going to publish comics!”

 

One has to ask “What happened?”

 

People at banks often say, if you are trying to get funding to produce a comic line: “Hmm. We don’t know much about comics. Mainly for youngsters isn’t it? It’s an ‘unproven’ commodity”

That person, basically in every bank, is an ass. Yeah, who ever heard of a comic that made money?  Let me see if I can draw up a short list…just by checking Wikipedia.

From DC we have had:

Adventures of Superman        1952–1958      Six Seasons

Batman                                    1966–1968      Three Seasons

Shazam!                                  1974–1976      Three Seasons

The Secrets of Isis                   1975–1976      One Season

Wonder Woman                      1975–1979      Four Seasons

Legends of the Superheroes   1979    Two TV Specials

Superboy                                 1988–1992      Four Seasons

Swamp Thing: The Series       1990–1993      Three Seasons

The Flash                                 1990–1991      One Season

Human Target                         1992    One Season

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman     1993–1997      Four Seasons

Smallville                                2001–2011      Ten Seasons

Birds of Prey                           2002–2003      One Season

Human Target                         2010–2011      Two Seasons

Arrow 2012-present

In development

Amazon

Blue Beetle

Booster Gold

Deadman

The Spectre

The Sandman

As for DC Comic based movies:

1966    Batman: The Movie    20th Century Fox

1960s  Batman television series

1978    Superman        Warner Bros.   Won 1 Special Oscar, nominated for 3 more

1980    Superman II

1982    Swamp Thing Embassy Pictures

1983    Superman III   Warner Bros.

1984    Supergirl

1987    Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

1989    The Return of Swamp Thing Millimiter Films

1989    Batman            Warner Bros.   Won 1 Oscar

1992    Batman Returns          Nominated for 2 Oscars

1995    Batman Forever          Nominated for 3 Oscars

1997    Batman & Robin

1997    Steel

2004    Catwoman

2005    Batman Begins  Warner Bros.  nominated for an Oscar

2006    Superman Returns       Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures Related to Superman and Superman II; nominated for 1 Oscar

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut Warner Bros.

2008    The Dark Knight         Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures/Syncopy Films      Won 2 Oscars, nominated for 6 more

2009    Watchmen       Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

2010    Jonah Hex Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

2011    Green Lantern Warner Bros.

2012    The Dark Knight Rises Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures/Syncopy

Films Forthcoming

2013    Man of Steel Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures/Syncopy Films Post-production.[1] Reboot

Announced

2015    Justice League             Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures       In development[2]

TBA    Batman Reboot           Warner Bros.   [3]

From DC imprints

Year    Title     Production studio

Paradox Press

2002    Road to Perdition DreamWorks Based on the series by Max Allan Collins

2005    A History of Violence New Line Cinema Based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke

Vertigo

2005    Constantine     Warner Bros.   Based on the Hellblazer character

V for Vendetta  Creator, Alan Moore, not credited

2007    Stardust  Paramount Pictures Storybook by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess

2010    The Losers Warner Bros. Based on the re-imagined series by Andy Diggle and Jock

WildStorm

1998    Gen¹³   Buena Vista Pictures   Animated film; never released in the United States

2003    The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 20th Century Fox Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore

2010    RED    Summit Entertainment Based on the miniseries by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner

2013    RED 2

Forthcoming

Will Eisner Library

2008    The Spirit Lions Gate Entertainment Distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment outside the U.S.

Animated films

Year    Title

1993    Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Theatrical release. Related to Batman: The Animated Series

1998    Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero          Related to Batman: The Animated Series

2000    Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker             Related to the Batman Beyond TV series

2003    Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman   Related to The New Batman Adventures TV series

2005    The Batman vs. Dracula Related to The Batman TV series

2006    Superman: Brainiac Attacks

2007    Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo Related to Teen Titans TV series

Superman: Doomsday

2008    Justice League: The New Frontier Based on DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke

Batman: Gotham Knight Collection of six shorts. Set between the events of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

2009    Wonder Woman

Tales of the Black Freighter    Related to Watchmen film, an animated adaptation of the comic Tales of the Black Freighter within the story

Green Lantern: First Flight

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies    Based on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies storyline by Jeph Loeb

2010    Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths             Adapted from an unused movie plot meant to bridge Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Loosely based on JLA: Earth 2 series by Grant Morrison

Batman: Under the Red Hood Loosely based on the Batman: Under the Hood storyline by Judd Winick

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Direct sequel of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies release. Based on Superman/Batman: The Supergirl from Krypton storyline by Jeph Loeb

DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection Compilation of short films under DC Showcase label

2011    All-Star Superman Based on All-Star Superman series by Grant Morrison

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Collection of six shorts. Coincided with the release of the Green Lantern film

Batman: Year One Based on the Batman: Year One storyline by Frank Miller

2012    Justice League: Doom Loosely based on the JLA: Tower of Babel storyline by Mark Waid.

Superman vs. The Elite Likely based on the What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? storyline by Joe Kelly

The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 Based on the The Dark Knight Returns storyline by Frank Miller

2013    The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2

Superman: Unbound   Based on the Superman: Brainiac storyline by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

Forthcoming

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Based on the Flashpoint storyline by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

And from Marvel Comics…

Spidey Super Stories   1974–1977 Segments on seasons 4–6 of The Electric Company

The Amazing Spider-Man       1977–1979

The Incredible Hulk    1977–1982

Spider-Man     1978–1979      Japanese co-production with Toei Company

Night Man       1997–1999      From the Malibu Comics imprint

Mutant X        2001–2004

Blade: The Series        2006

Forthcoming

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2013             Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Incredible Hulk

Mockingbird

Powers From the Image Comics/Icon Comics imprint

Animated series

Title     Original running

The Marvel Super Heroes       1966

Fantastic Four             1967–1968

Spider-Man     1967–1970

Fantastic Four             1978

Fred and Barney Meet The Thing       1979

Spider-Woman            1979–1980

Spider-Man     1981–1982

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends           1981–1983

The Incredible Hulk    1982–1983

X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men 1989    Only pilot episode

Solarman

X-Men             1992–1997

Fantastic Four             1994–1996

Iron Man

Spider-Man     1994–1998

Ultraforce        1995    From the Malibu Comics imprint

The Incredible Hulk    1996–1997

Men in Black: The Series        1997–2001      From the Malibu Comics imprint

Silver Surfer    1998

Spider-Man Unlimited            1999–2001

The Avengers: United They Stand     1999–2000

X-Men: Evolution       2000–2003

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series         2003

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes        2006–2010

The Spectacular Spider-Man   2008–2009

Wolverine and the X-Men      2008–2009

Iron Man: Armored Adventures         2009–2012

The Super Hero Squad Show             2009–2011

Black Panther 2010

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes        2010–2013

Marvel Anime             2010–2011 (Japan)

2011–2012 (US)         Four twelve-episode series, based on Iron Man,

Wolverine, X-Men, and Blade

Ongoing

Ultimate Spider-Man 2012-present

In Development

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. 2013

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble 2013

Power Pack     2013

That’s TV but for movies:

1986    Howard the Duck       Universal Pictures Co-produced by Lucasfilm

1989    The Punisher   New World Pictures   Unreleased in the U.S. and Sweden

1990    Captain America         21st Century Film Corporation Direct-to-video

1994    The Fantastic Four      New Horizons Unreleased

1998    Blade   New Line Cinema

2000    X-Men             20th Century Fox

2002    Blade II           New Line Cinema

Spider-Man     Columbia Pictures Nominated for 2 Oscars

2003    Daredevil 20th Century Fox   Co-produced by Regency Enterprises

X2

Hulk    Universal Pictures

2004    The Punisher   Artisan Entertainment Distributed by Lions Gate in the U.S. and Columbia Pictures internationally

Spider-Man 2 Columbia Pictures Won 1 Oscar, nominated for 2 more

Blade: Trinity New Line Cinema

2005    Elektra 20th Century Fox Co-produced by Regency Enterprises

Man-Thing Lions Gate / Artisan Entertainment Direct to video; released as a feature outside the U.S.

Fantastic Four             20th Century Fox

2006    X-Men: The Last Stand

2007    Ghost Rider    Columbia Pictures

Spider-Man 3

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 20th Century Fox

2008    Iron Man Marvel Studios Distributed by Paramount Pictures. Nominated for 2 Oscars

The Incredible Hulk    Distributed by Universal Pictures

Punisher: War Zone    Lionsgate Entertainment Distributed by Columbia Pictures outside the U.S.

2009    X-Men Origins: Wolverine     20th Century Fox

2010    Iron Man 2      Marvel Studios Distributed by Paramount Pictures. Nominated for 1 Oscar.

2011    Thor     Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

X-Men: First Class      20th Century Fox

Captain America: The First Avenger Marvel Studios Distributed by Paramount Pictures

2012    Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Columbia Pictures

Marvel’s The Avengers Marvel Studios Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.1. Nominated for 1 Oscar.

The Amazing Spider-Man       Columbia Pictures

2013    Iron Man 3 Marvel Studios Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Forthcoming

2013    The Wolverine 20th Century Fox Post-production[1]

Thor: The Dark World Marvel Studios Post-production,[2] Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

2014    Captain America: The Winter Soldier Marvel Studios Filming,[3] Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Amazing Spider-Man 2    Columbia Pictures       Filming[4]

X-Men: Days of Future Past   20th Century Fox        Filming[5]

Announced

2014    Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Studios In development,[6] Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

2015    Untitled Fantastic Four reboot 20th Century Fox In development[7]

Untitled The Avengers sequel Marvel Studios In development,[8][9] Distribution by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Ant-Man

Obviously this is not a full list as I’ve left out the pre-1960s.

For Independent comics you have (including the UK):

The Archie Show (1968-1977, various formats)

The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot (1999-2001)

Billy the Fish (1990)

The Boondocks (TV Series) (2005-Present)

Captain Pugwash (1957-1975, 1997)

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998)

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future (2002)

Dennis the Menace (UK):

Dennis the Menace & Gnasher (1996)

Dennis & Gnasher (2009)

Duckman (1994-1997)

DuckTales (1987-1990)

The Fat Slags

Harsh Realm (1999-2000)

The Mask: The Animated Series (1995-1997, animated)

The Maxx (1995)

The Middleman (2008)

MPD Psycho (2000)

Night Man (1997-1999)

Painkiller Jane (2007)

El Pantera (2007)

Roger Mellie (1991)

Sable (1987)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003)

Savage Dragon (1995)

Sid the Sexist (1992)

Spawn:

Spawn (1997-1999, animated)

Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996, animated)

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997-1998)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003-2009, animated)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012-Present, animated)

The Tick:

The Tick (1994-1996, animated)

The Tick (2001-2002)

Timecop (1997-1998)

Tintin:

Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin (1958-1962)

The Adventures of Tintin (1991)

Ultraforce (1995, animated)

The Walking Dead

WildC.A.T.s (1994-1995, animated)

Witchblade (2001-2002)

Dark Horse Comics –one of the “Big Three” which includes Marvel and DC:

1992    Dr. Giggles Largo Entertainment / JVC Entertainment.inc / Dark Horse Entertainment

1994    The Mask New Line Cinema / Dark Horse Entertainment Received 1 Oscar nomination.

Timecop          Universal Pictures

1995    Tank Girl United Artists

1996    Barb Wire PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

1999    Mystery Men   Universal Pictures

Virus   Universal Pictures / Mutual Film Company / Valhalla Motion Pictures

2003    Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision Direct to video sequel.

2004    Alien vs. Predator 20th Century Fox

Hellboy Columbia Pictures     Revolution Studios

2005    Sin City Dimension Films / Troublemaker Studios     Written, produced and co-directed by Frank Miller.

Son of the Mask New Line Cinema   A sequel to The Mask.

2007    300 Warner Bros. Pictures / Virtual Studios / Legendary Pictures     Frank Miller served as executive producer

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem 20th Century Fox A sequel to Alien vs. Predator.

2008    Hellboy II: The Golden Army Universal Pictures A sequel to Hellboy

Upcoming

2013    R.I.P.D. Universal Pictures Post-production[1]

300: Rise of an Empire Warner Bros. Pictures / Virtual Studios / Legendary Pictures Filming, A prequel to 300.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Dimension Films / AR Films / Troublemaker Studios / Aldamisa Productions Filming, A sequel to Sin City.

Dark Horse Comics animated films

2006    Hellboy: Sword of Storms Revolution Studios The first of the Hellboy Animated series. Premiered on Cartoon Network October 28, 2006.

2007    Hellboy: Blood and Iron IDT Entertainment             The second in the Hellboy Animated series. Premiered on Cartoon Network March 17, 2007.

TBA

Beasts of Burden Reel FX Creative Studios CG-animated

Chickenhare    Sony Pictures Animation        CG-animated

Dark Horse Comics television movies

2004    The B.P.R.D. Declassified      FX Network

Website Comichron The Comic Chronicles had this to say (this excludes US sales):

“International sales (of graphic novels). Diamond UK sells about 10% again its U.S. direct market sales of comics and graphic novels to comics shops in the United Kingdom — so that’s another $45 million or so that publishers here realize. This may or may not expand out to the UK bookstore market the same way, given rights issues, but if it did, the United Kingdom could add $70 million…”

$45 million is £ 29,664,071.35. And the $70 million figure comes out at a grand total of £46,143,472.26.

 

You see, ‘not much’ to be made from comics.  If we look at action figures and video games as well as all the merchandising such as t-shirts, et al, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and even Top Cow then we are looking at many, many millions more.

 

In fact, Franco-Belgian comics/graphic novels are worth millions in sales and merchandise each year. Comics are, quite simply, big business in most countries and characters and even expressions and catch-phrases from these can be found throughout popular culture.

Franco-Belgian comic albums for all ages have been published in the English language by Cinebook The 9th Art –which has just sold its millionth book. This makes them the largest UK comic publisher. You can see just what they are publishing here:

http://www.cinebook.co.uk/

You will be staggered.

But why has Cinebook been so successful? Firstly, Olivier Cadic started out with a five year plan and he stuck to it –choosing only titles he felt passionate about.  Cinebook also are the exceptions at conventions because they do not just sit back, arms folded watching the “punters” –they talk to and engage with individuals and even family groups.  They attend all the conventions, push book deals for schools and libraries.

I love to keep pointing out that there were many “critics” who kept telling me, as well as writing on their blogs, that “there is no interest in this European stuff. If they (Cinebook/Cadic) are lucky they may just last a year –two at the very most!”  Those critics are mostly no longer in comics having failed in their own publishing attempts.

Let me make this clear: if comics survive in this country then it will be down to the efforts of Cadic and Cinebook who are drawing in all –age readerships and, very importantly for the future, younger children.

There are now (2013) more conventions in the UK than ever before. But not just for mainstream comic fans. As CBO has reported over the last few years, the number of Alternative Press/Small Press events has grown dramatically.  London has a high number of these –some tied into music or other media as “events”.  In many cases, those involved in producing their own Small Press titles have no knowledge of comics history or in general: they are just doing what they like to do.

“Small, amateurish, not run by business people” is how you might describe the Alternative/Small Press and yet it sells more than D. C. Thomson, a ‘big’ publisher. Though many were sadly not present at the 2013 Bristol Comic Expo, the Small Press is the UK industry.

The greatest stumbling block has always been those involved within comics.  The big UK companies were always about making money, paying low rates but pulling in lots of extra cash from overseas licensing.  But the books kept ticking over.  It is interesting that, now retired, some senior managers at IPC-Fleetway are more open and not towing any company lines.  A very common statement I’ve had repeated to me is: the bosses just said one day “Oh, Television is going to kill comics. Not much point to it” –and the rot set in.

 

This was a bad situation worsened when the fan boys were allowed in as editors. Some, even today, relishing their reputations as being a tad more than “dodgy dealers”. A few good ideas but aircraft was still diving into the mountain at full speed. The 1970s are when UK comics finally started curling up their collective toes –statements about great new projects that never happened were quite common.

New bosses were not interested and new nothing about comics: it was a money grab/sale project.

Worst of all were the comic creators working in the industry. Comic events became more like pub crawls and (as noted by those involved themselves) and taking drugs when they should have been promoting their industry.  In fact, one lecherous top comic writer even took meet-ups as events to try to chat up and seduce certain artists wives!

Come the internet we saw the flamers –anonymous and even known trouble makers attacking other creators on websites.  These moronic individuals ran to publishers telling tales on other creators to secure their positions while publicly putting on a cheerful and friendly “nice guy of comics” face.

Attempts to get creators to back a campaign to re-start and rejuvenate the UK comics industry resulted in negativity on a grand scale.  Heading the campaign I was accuse of having a “Jesus/Saviour complex” –that was the politest name calling— and I was even very openly attacked in CBO comments page for daring to bring up Creators Rights and one artist famously stating those running companies were the bosses so creators should do what they were told –“who cares about creators rights??”

To be successful I think any new comic company would need to remove itself from message boards and fan sites.  Like Cinebook The 9th Art, a Face Book page is good to answer any fan questions and announce news –a back-up to a company website (not allowing commenting).

Allowing Creators Rights is a must but those working for the company are paid to do the work fairly and are not friends who brow-beat the boss on how it really should be done.  It’s not a democracy. It’s a business.

Can a new comic company emerge in the UK and succeed?  Yes. But it needs the financial backer and a controlling editor who has “the plan”.

Wanga/Hexago Comics in France has proven a market exists amongst all the Bandes Dessinnee and The NextArt Verlag in Germany has proven the same thing.

It is not a case of publish a comic and rake in the money. Publishing comics needs a long term plan and for the financial to be very patient –Cinebook did not achieve its success in just one year.

So where have all the business entrepreneurs gone?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s