Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When blogs go wonky

Seems my blog behaved strangely last night, repeating a post from years ago as a new post. I've only just noticed, and deleted it, but subscribers may have already received it, wondering what's going on, so I felt this explanation was necessary. Sorry for any confusion. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

POPEYE Sweet Cigarette Cards (1960s)

Just for a change of topic, let's look at something different, but kind of related to comics. "Sweet Cigarettes" were a very popular treat when I was a kid and there were numerous brands associated with them. Today you'd know them better as "Candy Sticks" but back in the 1960s they had a dob of red colouring on one end to give the illusion of a lit cigarette. 

They became "Candy Sticks" later because it was deemed inappropriate for little kids to mimic smokers. Although they never inspired me to start smoking, they did encourage a sweet tooth! 
There were loads of characters who had their own Sweet Cigarette packets; Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, Huckleberry Hound, and many more. Each packet had a free full colour card inside, encouraging kids to collect the set of 50 or thereabouts. This was, as you may know, a junior version of the cards given with packs of real cigarettes in the early to mid-20th Century. 

The examples I'm showing here today are from the Popeye sets produced by Primrose Confectionary of Slough. I think there were four sets in all, but I only have the few shown here. (I doubt anyone ate their way through over 200 packs to get every card!) They originated from the early 1960s but they must have been reprinted as I had these in the late '60s.
As for their relevance to comics, I believe that some Popeye cards (if not all) were drawn by Denis Gifford. That certainly looks like his lettering, and he could mimic the style well enough to do a convincing Popeye. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New DWM out this Thursday

Here's the cover to Doctor Who Magazine No.517, which will arrive in shops on Thursday 21st September. It features another 84 packed pages of interviews, news, reviews, and features, plus the regular 12th Doctor comic strip, and another Daft Dimension strip from me. 

Here's a preview of one panel. It's always a thrill to draw the Daleks for the official magazine! 

You'll find Doctor Who Magazine in WH Smith, Asda, Tesco, and various other stores. 

The unrivalled Phoenix?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the latest issue of The Phoenix in my local Sainsbury's yesterday. Apparently it's a four week experiment in certain areas to see how it fares in those supermarkets. The comic is already available in WH Smith and Waitrose, (as well as many comics speciality shops), so let's hope it does well. 

The Phoenix is fast approaching its 300th issue (out in two weeks time) so there's no doubt that it's a successful comic. Its 32 pages feature all-new comics content every issue from some of the UK's top creators. It has clearly engaged with its readers, and proved that today's kids still like comics. 

To my mind though, the big question is; where are the rival publications? The closest is the perennial Beano of course, still the king of comics, and there are numerous children's magazines, some of which, like Toxic, feature a few comics pages, but aren't devoted to comics content like Beano and The Phoenix are.

Years ago, competition between comics companies was fierce, with publishers imitating each other to capture the attention of readers. IPC and D.C. Thomson would compete with their own lines of comics, and, later, the soaring popularity of Viz saw numerous imitators on the stands. Yet here we have The Phoenix, almost 300 issues old, and nothing new has yet attempted to imitate its successful format.

I would guess the reason is in the way The Phoenix has been a "slow burn" title; starting with subscription-only availability, then very gradually widening its distribution, firstly into Waitrose, then Smiths (and even then, only selected branches). That's not a business model that would be rewarding for the major publishers. They're more geared up to publish titles that need to start big from the outset (and if they don't, they're dropped). 

It's understandable then, why Egmont or Future Publishing haven't released their rival to The Phoenix. At present, The Phoenix probably isn't seen as a threat to them. However, if the Sainsbury's experiment works, giving The Phoenix even more exposure, who knows what might develop? 

As I understand it, The Phoenix is an independent comic, but one with a lot of money behind it thanks to David Fickling. What's needed is another entrepreneur willing to take the same risks with a new comic. There doesn't seem to be anyone on the horizon at the moment, but as The Phoenix continues its upward climb, the evidence strengthens that there is a market for more children's comics in this country.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dan Dare No.2!

Here's Chris Weston's variant cover to Dan Dare No.2, coming soon from Titan Comics! 

(W) Peter Milligan (A) Alberto Fouche (CA) Chris Weston
The classic British hero returns for brand-new adventures, written by Peter Milligan with art by Alberto Fouche! Featuring cover by superstar artist Christian Ward (ODY-C, Black Bolt)! For the first time in human history,the Sol system is at peace and Dan Dare, pilot of the future, is bored out of his mind - and praying for something to break the monotony of peace. When an unknown alien vessel of biblical proportions arrives in the solar system and obliterates a moon of Saturn in a show of strength, Dare finds himself thrust back into a new adventure that threatens not just Earth - but all life in the entire universe!
In Comic Shops: Nov 08, 2017
...and here's the cover by the interior artist, Alberto Fouche. (Cover number is incorrect. It's No.2).
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