For decades in the UK, one present which could be relied on at Christmas to bring joy was the Christmas Annual. They were normally hardbacks (with the notable exception of those still points in a changing universe, The Broons and Oor Willie books which were paperback and dedicated to reprints of those strips from The Sunday Post).
Usually these books had a combination of funny strips, short stories/articles in prose, and adventure strips. My favourite ever is The Beezer Book which came out for Christmas 1962. It is still fairly easy to buy, and often in good condition, so we can assume the print run was rather large. It had lots of cartoon strips from The Beezer: the hilarious Colonel Blink, Leo Baxendale’s Banana Bunch, and that strange alien Kup. There was science fiction: The Story- Teller of Planet X with the surprise ending. Factual articles with beautiful illustrations like the Signing of Magna Carta. An illustrated short story called The Arch of Time and the beautifully painted Story of Samson. Even Cap’N Hand was wonderfully coloured and dropped the black outline to give a feeling of depth in one large panel. And all of these were
original material not available anywhere else. Then most annuals deteriorated into flimsy reprints or even just cut-and-paste photo books based on toys or TV programmes
Now Comic Scene brings back the Christmas annual as it was meant to be with cartoon strips, horror strips, genuinely funny strips. It even starts with a “This Book Belongs To” section, just like my favourite Beezer Book.
Just to give you a flavour of what delights are contained between its covers, here’s my pick of a half dozen.
Geek Girl has a very witty script by Sam Johnson and the artwork and colouring (by Carlos Granda and Chunlin Zhao) are stunningly good. Despite the number of characters and all that is going on, the storytelling is never confusing and keeps the reader gripped to the very last panel. And the Mall where the girls meet looks like a real one, although a lot nicer than some I have visited.
For Father’s Day, it was great to see Phil Elliott back again with a different, wistful style for a different, wistful short horror story (written by Michael Powell).
Poker Night by Rich Carrington and Brian Dawson is a delight. It reminded me of the tone of The Tick and I can only hope that these guys have the same level of success which that hilarious American strip had.
Moon has an eclectic mix of styles which hark back to some of the great Underground cartoonists. Terrific use of colour.
John Farrelly gives us a delightful all-ages strip in Captain Wonder. Hey, when the lead character is jailed he starts to play harmonica and sing Johnny Cash – what’s not to like?
There’s a parody of Commando Comics and even a Western (or is it…?).
Yes, folks, the real UK Christmas Annual has returned. If none of your relatives get the hints about presents, just treat yourself this Christmas. You won’t regret it.
Order now for Christmas here
Read more from John as he looks at 1984, 1977, 1950 and 1986 in our History of Comics series coming in November here