Despite the recent release of Johnny Red Volume 1 by Titan Books, it seems there are plenty of British comics fans who are totally unaware that attempts are being made to republish a lot of our classic comic material.
Johnny Red is just the latest British comics collection from Titan Books, whose other reprints include Charley's War, James Bond, Modesty Blaise and Dan Dare, with more character-focused projects in the works. These include the release of an uncensored collection of John Wagner and Mike Western's classic but perhaps controversial Darkie's Mob from Battle Picture Weekly, on sale in late March.
Johnny Red is surely one of the best-loved aerial combat comics ever, plucked from the pages of Battle. When pilot Johnny Redburn is discharged from the RAF for striking an officer, he is forced to join the Merchant Navy. But a German sneak attack forces Redburn back into the air - in a stolen Hurricane. Redburn aims for Russia, planning to save his plane and career, but on landing, meets the 'Falcon Squadron' of the 5th Soviet Air Brigade, who are under German attack! Redburn takes to the skies once more - to fight for Russia.
This first collection of the classic strip by Tom Tully (whose credits include Roy of the Rovers) and, features the first strips which were all drawn by Joe Colquhoun (Charley's War) and includes a new introduction by Garth Ennis and a feature on real-world origins of the strip by downthetubes very own Jeremy Briggs.
Titan have also published a number of Dan Dare collections from the original Eagle, The Misadventures of Jane, compiling strips from the femme fatale's early adventures in the Daily Mirror, and seven volumes of Charley's War, with Volume 8 in pre-production - a volume that will include hero Charley Bourne's dangerous encounter with a young Adolf Hitler.
Collections of other strips from Battle are in development, although one major issue is finding good quality copies of the original comics.
Elsewhere, the monthly anthology STRIP Magazine is to re-publishing Hookjaw from Action, with the first issue on sale later this year. This will be in colour and re-lettered (but not censored), which may upset purists but the work being done is top notch (declared bias - I commissioned it), with some stunning re-presentation work by Jim Campbell and colouring by Gary Caldwell.
DC Thomson has been no slouch in getting some of its classic comics work in print. Quite aside from collections of Beano and its other humour comics, Carlton have published several collections of Commando stories and of course The Best of Victor was released last year.
In terms of sheer volume of re-releases, however, 2000AD publishers Rebellion surely win hands down, with a wide range of collections featuring the likes of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and other. Here's a link to a search for 2000AD titles on amazon.co.uk.
Reynolds and Hearn published four collections of TV Century 21 and Countdown stories inspired by the Gerry Anderson science fiction shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO, with a fifth in the series on its way from the same editorial team (but different publisher, no matter what Amazon says).
And then there's the work of the Book Palace, who have been republishing a lot of Frank Bellamy's work, and a glorious (but pricey) collection of Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton from Express Weekly.
There is, of course, a huge amount of British comics material that could be reprinted. Of the companies that own rights, the newspapers are perhaps the most receptive, with Rebellion and DC Thomson leading the field in terms of keeping their properties in print. Egmont is supportive of licensing deals - Billy's Boots was re-published in Striker, for example.
IPC Media own rights to a lot of British characters, revamping many of them back in 2007 in the Albion mini series by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Shane Oakley. There have been limited attempts to reprint other IPC characters such as Steel Claw and Spider (again by Titan Books), but apart from the superb Trigan Empire collections from The Don Lawrence Collection, there's so much more that could be reprinted from their archive - but that's of course dependent on many factors, not least of which is finding an audience. But here's hoping!
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