This is the last instalment of the comic industry posts. I hope you have enjoyed them.

Perhaps the worst decades for the industry were the ‘00s and ‘10s. Just after the highs of the millennium, the industry had a shock after Buster closed in 2000. IPC’s Goliath was beaten after merging with at least 20 other comics including Whizzer and Chips, Cor!!, and Radio Fun. Buster was IPC’s best rival to The Beano and Dandy, but ended up being mainly reprints during the last decade of its existence. It also suffered from a lack of readership towards the end of its tenure. One great touch in the last issue told the readers how many of their favourite stories ended, and also went on to reveal that under Buster’s cap he had a Dennis the Menace hairstyle, as a playful nod to their long time rivals.

last ever buster comic
How it all Ended in the Last Buster Comic

The Beano and Dandy also lost many readers during this period. These losses were mainly down to the new ways of reading like e-readers, and the many distractions for children like video games and television. Due to the lack of readers, the longest running British comic, The Dandy, closed in 2012. Because the comic had few readers, it made economic sense to stop the comic before it operated on a loss. Another contributing factor was its revamp in 2008. Dandy Xtreme, an aim to modernise the comic by focussing around television programmes and video games, lost the comic many of its readers who used to read it as a child. Parents would also not buy the comic for their children, as it was completely different to how they knew it. Therefore, when the comic went back to humour strips the brand had been spoiled. The last issue was on its 75th birthday on December 4, 2012. This issue featured the 75 best strips of the comic, and because of the many older readers who picked up a copy, it became very hard to find in newsagents to buy. Back in the 1950s, the comic was consistently selling 2,000,000 copies a week, but by the end it only had 8,000 regular readers.

last ever dandy comic 75th anniversary
The Last Ever Dandy Comic

These few bad decades did have some triumphs. Some new comics came out during this era but they either had a low budget or were Beano and Dandy specials or tributes. There are only three main comics left now: The Beano, still going strong, Toxic, started in 1991 and later in 2002 with more comic strips than the average magazine, and the Phoenix, which contains mainly adventure stories that was started in 2012 by some of the best contemporary artists. Children’s magazines today are here today and gone tomorrow mainly because they follow the latest trends or fads. The magazines rarely have comic strips or cartoons, and would rather centre on celebrities, video games, or films in an attempt to modernise the format. For me a country without comics is very sad, as many children now will never be able to enjoy the laughs, comradery, and enjoyment that a simple comic can bring. Children will also miss out the great artwork and the gripping storylines. School playgrounds will never be the same without the questions, “Are you a Whizzer or a Chipite?” or “Did you read Dennis the Menace this week?” Without a market for new comics, the main publishers now have to bring out nostalgic comics for their older readers. Just last Christmas a The Beezer, The Topper, Whizzer and Chips, and Roy of the Rovers annual were published with the old style of strips.

best of annuals Roy of the Rovers Whizzer and Chips Topper Beezer
The Best of Annuals 2015

The industry has not gone yet, though, and you can do your bit by reading and enjoying the comics out today.

The Phoenix – A Quality Weekly Story Paper – Buy Here

phoenix comic

Toxic Magazine – More Comics than the Average Mag – Buy Here

toxic comic

The Beano – The World’s Longest Running Comic – Buy Here

Beano Comic

Dennis the Menace NES

By the ‘90s, computers, video games, and mobile phones were starting to find their market in the modern era. This meant comics also had to modernise. During this decade, it was technology and pop culture that prevailed. The Beano would have a guest appearance of a Radio 1 DJ, or Buster would give away Nintendo NES games. The comics were becoming more childish catering for a younger audience.

90s Games
Some of the distraction for 90s kids.

Many classics also were lost during this era; The Topper and The Beezer merged in 1990 but only lasted together until 1993 after 1,963 and 1809 issues respectively, and Whizzer and Chips ended in 1990 after 21 fun packed years.

One of the Last Whizzer and Chips
One of the last Whizzer and Chips
One of the last beezer and topper
One of the Last Beezer and Toppers

This decade also saw the rise of political correctness. Dennis the Menace could no longer be “slippered”, racial stereotypes had to be taken out, and comic violence was a no go. Any older reader of the classics would have not recognised their beloved comics during the ‘90s.

Dennis the Menace Slipper
Slippers became Un PC

Much like the ‘70s, the ‘80s were full of many comics that failed to sell. The two publishers brought out more comics into their line-ups that had disappeared less than ten years later. IPC brought out School Fun, Oink, and Nipper, while D.C. Thomson released Hoot and Nutty.

School Fun was the first comic that IPC created in this decade in 1983. This comic’s gimmick was that every strip was based around school. Obviously, most children thought they already had too much time taken up with school and the comic ended only 33 issues later in 1984. Oink, dubbed as the Viz for children, created in 1986, featured all the things you would expect from a comic centred on pigs: poo, wee, mud, gunk, and pimples. The comic often came into the spotlight because of the regular, controversial storylines for children. The comic, however bad it sounds, featured many accomplished artists that used it as a step up to the big time. The comic lasted 68 issues until it folded in 1988. Nipper was a comic made around half the size of the other comics on the shelves, hence the name “Nipper.” Unfortunately, because of its small size, it was often not seen on the shelves or easily stolen. This gimmick did not save it however, when just 16 issues in it ended in 1987, the same year it was launched in.

3rd Issue of Nipper Comic

D.C. Thomson’s comics of this era fared only a bit better. Their first humour comic of this decade, Nutty, only lasted from 1980 to 1985. It did however bring one new character that many people would still know today– Bananaman. Bananaman was a super hero whose alter ego was a young boy named Eric. Whenever Eric ate a banana, he would transform into his superhero form. When the comic ended Bananaman went into The Dandy comic and stayed there until that eventually ended, at which point he moved to The Beano.  The same year that Nutty ended D.C. Thomson brought out Hoot. Hoot was nothing special, but it turned out to be D.C. Thomson’s last ever humour comic. Therefore, when Hoot ended it also ended the influence of the comic powerhouse that was D.C. Thomson in the industry. With the old publisher’s waning, new publishers were attempting to take the new business. However, these comics were not of the same quality that IPC and D.C. Thomson had produced.

1st Nutty Comic
1st Nutty Comic

Two new comics from this decade prove my point. Triffik, created by Communications Innovations, set out to become the main rival to The Beano. Unfortunately, the artwork and story line could not live up to the hype and bowed out only 12 issues later. Bog Paper published by Marvel UK was one of many comics brought out by this publisher in this decade. As you can imagine the comic left a lot to be desired. Many comics decided, rather than be original, to be copycats of more popular comics. Triffik wanted to be The Beano and other comics wanted to be the Viz. These comics lacked the artwork needed to become successful, and thus gave the industry a bad name. All these comics saturated the markets, meaning readers had more choice, but the comics had less readers making them not last as long as the cherished classics.


When the 1960s came, many comics had settled in and found a reliable reader base, because of this the comic stalwarts sold steadily throughout the decade. Now comics were seen as a staple for British children, and each child bought their favourite comic weekly. Comics were now coming into their own because of their new contemporary approaches, the artists began to find their own style, and the artwork became as popular as the storyline. The two main publishers brought out many new comic during this decade. IPC created their first real competitor to The Beano and Dandy in 1960. and named it Buster. Buster was an amalgamation of all they had learned from their previous comic ventures. Its title character, Buster, was originally billed as the son of Andy Capp, the star of his own strip in the Mirror. Andy Capp never alluded to Buster in his strip, while only a few cameos appeared of Andy Capp in Buster’s strip. Later on, to avoid any link with the unsavoury nature of some of the Andy Capp strips, Buster’s links to his father were cut and thus became a standalone character in his own comic. Buster comic, being a standout publication for IPC amongst its other less unsuccessful comics, became a “graveyard” for almost all the IPC comics that folded. Just in the ‘60s alone Buster merged with four other IPC comics including Radio Fun and Film Fun in 1961 and 1962 respectively. Often during a merger, the best characters from the deceased comic would join the bigger, more popular comics. Unless these characters were very special they would eventually stop appearing in the comic and all trace of the merged comic would disappear. Whenever a comic was to closed or merge, the ironic tag line read “Great News Inside,” which to most of the readers would signal the end of their favourite comic; this phrase has now become an “in joke” between collectors. Buster was the first comic launched by the newly merged IPC, and paved the way for many more IPC comics to come.

Andy Capp
Not a good example
Buster Capp
Buster appearing on a stamp

One of these comics was Whizzer and Chips. IPC brought out this title to add to their stable, and give Buster a sister comic. Whizzer and Chips launched in 1969, nine years after Buster, produced many memorable characters. IPC actually billed Whizzer and Chips as two comics in one; Whizzer, whose leader was Sid and his snake, and Chips, whose leader was Shiner. The two comics in one originally billed as companion comics, soon became rivals. Later on, the rivalry played out in the comics as well as between groups of children. Back in the 1970s, being either a Whizzer or a Chipite could cause cliques and gangs among the children. The comic would also play on this rivalry by having what they called “raiders.” These raiders would be a character from the opposite comic that hid in amongst the other comic’s strips. This provided children with an extra bit of fun once they had finished reading the comic. If you were wondering, I would call myself a Whizzer.

First Whizzer and Chips
First Whizzer and Chips Comic

After the launch of Buster, and before Whizzer and Chips came out, D.C. Thomson put out their fare for the ‘60s. Sparky, launched in 1967, became their fifth humour comic. It contained the same zany and fun filled pages as its predecessors did. Sparky took many of the defunct characters from the early Beano and Dandy comics and refreshed them for the modern audience. Keyhole Kate, Hungry Horace, and Freddie the Fearless Fly from The Dandy and Pansy Potter, Hairy Dan, and Frosty McNab from The Beano had makeovers when they reappeared in the Sparky. Apart from these standout humour comics, IPC and D.C. Thomson also brought out many boys’ papers during this period. D.C. Thomson launched the Victor and Hornet in 1961 and 1963 respectively, while IPC brought out Valiant in 1962 and the five Power Comics, Wow!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic, and Terrific between 1967 and 1968. Sadly, with the success of the new humour comics coming onto the market, D.C. Thomson’s “Big Five” disappeared in this decade. The industry became humour only with a pinch of adventure offered by the boys’ papers. Text stories also lost popularity during this period. If children wanted a comic, they did not want to read stories as if they were from a book; they wanted action, jokes, and japery from the comic strips. The 60s were known as an era of psychedelic colour and the comics were no exception; the new comics brought out reflected the mood by adding more colour on the front cover as well as the content inside.

sparky comic 1
First Issue of the Sparky Comic
History of the British Comic Industry The 50s

After the trials and tribulations of the comic industry during World War II, came a sales peak that is yet to be replicated. As per usual The Beano and The Dandy were on top of this booming market. During the 50s, The Beano and Dandy were selling over 2,000,000 copies per week each, and were well loved by most because of their morale boosting efforts during the war. By the mid-1950s, the paper shortages were over, giving publishers a chance to innovate and bring new comics to market again. The sales boom of the ‘50s can be put down to four main reasons. Firstly, after the atrocities and realism of the war, children needed a place to escape to, hence the fantasised worlds in the comics appealed. Secondly, they just wanted some relief after the war; a chance to sit, read, and laugh without fear of bombs or explosions. A third reason for the boom was down to the money available to spend on entertainment. During the war, money was tight and people could buy only what they needed, but after, more money was accessible and people could spend it on something they could enjoy. Also in the 50s, all the “baby boomers” were old enough to read comics, and because their parents knew them from their childhood they bought them for their children. Lastly, the rationing was ended in this decade making the common person more frivolous with their food and forms of entertainment. It was also during this period that publishers started making separate comics for boys and Girls.

The Dandy Coronation Issue beside the Diamond Jubilee Issue
The Dandy Coronation Issue beside the Diamond Jubilee Issue

Hulton Press, a publisher that eventually merged into Odham’s Press and then into IPC, brought out two comics that took the concept of “sister comics” to a new level. Hulton brought out the Eagle comic in 1950 and it’s literal “sister comic” Girl, in 1951. The reason I say they created a literal “sister comic” is that many brothers would buy the Eagle while their sisters would buy Girl. These two comics catered for everyone. The boys could enjoy the adventurous Eagle comic with stories based on space, the jungle, and the front line, while Girl was providing female heroes falling in love, having fun, or saving the day for the Girls. Fleetway also brought out two comics that were “just for boys.” As well as the usual sci-fi and adventure stories, these comics also had many strips based around popular sports and history. In this decade, D.C. Thomson brought out three noteworthy comics: The Topper, The Beezer, and Bunty. The Topper, started in 1953, was the first of a new line of comics brought out by D.C. Thomson to complement their two “big sellers” The Beano and Dandy. The Topper broke the D.C. Thomson mould, by reverting back to the tabloid size allowing readers to enjoy larger pages with more detail. The Beezer, The Topper’s sister comic, came out in 1956. Its contents were just as fun filled and seam busting as its D.C. Thomson stable mates.  These two comics became partners much like The Beano and Dandy, and eventually merged before their demise. D.C Thomson also brought out a Girl’s comic around this time called Bunty as a direct competitor to Girl, Hulton Press’ offering. All the stories in the Bunty revolved around Girls and the things they liked at the time.  

The Beezer and Topper Merged Comic from 1993
The Beezer and Topper Merged Comic from 1993

The comics that came out in the ‘50s also brought with them many well-known characters. Dan Dare, a space pilot, became a huge hit for the Eagle, while Roy of the Rovers enjoyed a lengthy career in the Tiger. The D.C. Thomson characters that came out in this decade also left us with a lasting impression. The ‘50s saw the beginning of Dennis the Menace, perhaps the most well-known British comic character ever. Dennis was of his time and has since been modernised to fit in with newer audiences.  In his early stories, he would behave in a “menacing” way towards his parents, Walter the Softy, and his neighbours. Often at the end of the story he was seen bent over his father’s lap being belted with a slipper. In his later days, Dennis became more mischievous, and, with the political correctness, less violent. Dennis has stayed one of the greatest characters because he was able to adapt to the audiences of the day. As mentioned, the ‘50s brought about new girl comics as well as ones for everyone. Two popular characters, Beryl the Peril, from The Topper, and Minnie the Minx, from The Beano, took the idea of Dennis the Menace, changed it to a female character, and ran with it. After the great work of the women during World War 2 as land girls and air-raid wardens, they were seen as strong and heroic rather than just a housewife, so were portrayed more in comics. I believe the ‘50s can be summed up with two phrases, “girl power,” and “new favourites.” Due to all the different publishers, it may be slightly confusing for the reader to know which publisher published what, especially after many publishing mergers. D.C. Thomson are a separate company and have always had the same name and office since it started in 1905, however, Amalgamated Press’ history is slightly more confusing. Amalgamated Press was founded in 1901, but had created comics before this time under the name of Harmsworth. They had another name change in 1959 when they were bought by the Mirror group and renamed Fleetway Publications. In 1961, Fleetway bought Odhams who had many comics in its repertoire, as well as the recently acquired Eagle. In 1963, Fleetway merged with IPC. Today Egmont owns the rights for Amalgamated Press/IPC/Fleetway’s comics and characters.

The Land Girls Empowered Women After the War
The Land Girls Empowered Women After the War
British Comics During War Time

World War II had an interesting effect on the comic industry in general. D.C. Thomson was forced to print The Dandy and Beano on alternate weeks due to paper shortages. These comics had fewer pages in them, but were still able to pack in all the fun from its pre-war days, as well as new characters that lampooned the Axis leaders. Because of all the propaganda The Beano and Dandy were supplying to the thousands of children reading them each week, the UK government waved the compulsory conscription to D.C. Thomson staff so they could carry on with their work. The Dandy strip, Addie and Hermy, poked at Adolf Hitler and Hermann Gӧring, while The Beano strip, Musso the Wop, ridiculed Benito Mussolini.

Adolf Hitler in the Dandy Comic
Adolf Hitler in the Dandy

The regular characters also played their part: Korky the Cat joined the army, Desperate Dan used his super strength to weaken the Axis powers, and Lord Snooty utilized his riches to create new plans to foil the enemy. These characters helped the children on the day laugh at the enemy rather than be scared of them.

Desperate Dan During the War
Desperate Dan During the War

These war time comics were so popular they were often one of the first things the child would bring to an air-raid shelter to pass the time during bombing raids. Although The Beano and Dandy were kept running, D.C. Thomson had to close The Magic Comic, and Skipper.

The Ill-fated Magic Comic
The Ill-fated Magic Comic

The UK government, because of the paper and ink shortages, created a new law that forbid any publisher to create a new comic unless it was a “one-off” publication. In addition to the loss of The Magic Comic and Skipper, many other comics succumbed to the paper shortages and ink shortages. The World War II conscription also led to many publishers being short staffed.


By the late 1930s, comics were becoming more popular, and publishers were starting to innovate. The new comics of this era were made with smaller pages instead of the cumbersome tabloid size. Humour comics also got some upgrades; the speech bubble was first used during this period making the picture and caption style rarer to find in the comics of the day. The two main publishers, D.C. Thomson and Amalgamated Press, started to create ranges of comics based solely on humour. Amalgamated Press brought out Radio Fun and the Knock-Out Comic to add to their extensive range, while D.C. Thomson published The Dandy and The Beano to complement their “Big Five” adventure comics. The Dandy, launched in 1937, followed the same format of humour strips combined with adventure stories that Funny Folks pioneered. In their first issue, they presented three characters that are still popular today: Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat, and Keyhole Kate.

The First Ever Dandy Comic
The First Dandy Comic from 1937

The Beano, The Dandy’s sister comic, started being published by D.C Thomson a year after The Dandy in 1938, and has since become the longest running British comic ever. The comic can still be seen on newsagent’s shelves today. This comic combined many comic strips with illustrated text stories similar to the format of Funny Folks. It also introduced many iconic comic characters that are still known and loved throughout the country, although they only had one recognisable character in their first issue – Lord Snooty – while The Dandy had at least three. Throughout the last 80 years or so of British comics, The Beano and Dandy have been the standard that each publisher tries to reach, mainly because of their fan base over the years, but also their quality artwork and artists, great storywriters, and their longevity. Amalgamated Press did attempt to compete with the new “upstarts” by bringing out Radio Fun and the Knock-Out Comic. Radio Fun was brought out the same year as The Beano and featured many characters and stories around the popular radio themes and personalities. The Knock-Out Comic, brought out in 1939, was made to be direct competition to The Dandy and Beano. This comic introduced readers to Billy Bunter in comic form, a plump schoolchild whose main ambition was to eat. Billy Bunter outlived the comic when it folded in 1963, and found homes in various other Amalgamated Press offerings, as well as on television, films, and novels. Like The Beano and Dandy, it started off with a half and half balance of prose and comic strips, until after the war, when, unlike its competitors, became mainly adventure stories.

Radio Fun Issue from 1938
Radio Fun Issue from 1938

With the success of Rupert Bear to emulate, D.C. Thomson also attempted to jump on the newspaper strip bandwagon. Being a large publisher, D.C. Thomson had its own newspaper named the Sunday Post so they decided to include their new strips in this publication. The two new strips they created were Oor Wullie, a normal, 9 year old Scot, and the Broons, a regular Scottish family. This paper is only available in Scotland; hence, the language used in these comics takes a bit of getting used to for people below the border. The publishers made a masterstroke by appointing their relatively new artist, Dudley D. Watkins, to draw the characters. The strips immediately touched the public’s heart becoming icons of Scotland and its culture, and lasting until the present day by still appearing weekly in the Sunday Post. Oor Wullie even made a guest appearance during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

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Oor Wullie! Your Wullie! A’body’s Wullie!