John Sanders Tell-All Book About Action and Other UK Comics Secrets

John Sanders was the editorial director at British comic and magazine publisher IPC/Fleetway in the seventies and eighties, publishing a tonne of British weekly comic books, including 2000AD. He was also the editor of Action, the controversial and early-cancelled comic book that directly paved the way for 2000AD. He hired many famous British comic book names for the first time, including Dez Skinn. And now he is going to spill all.

John Sanders Tell-All Book About Action and Other UK Comics Secrets
Cover to Action.

In January, the current owner of Rebellion will publish King's Reach: John Sanders' Twenty-Five Years at the Top of Comics. It had a bit of a COVID-related delay but now it's back on track. I am looking forward to being able to search through the index for some familiar names.

John Sanders Tell-All Book About Action and Other UK Comics Secrets
Cover of King's Reach by John Sanders.

John Sanders masterminded the output of Britain's biggest comics publisher, IPC, over 25 years – launching more than 100 titles, selling millions of copies every week, battling censorship and industrial disputes, and coming up against one of the century's most notorious crooked business tycoons!

For the first time, he now steps into the limelight to reveal his story and that of the medium that would go on to dominate global culture, even as the newsstands it relied upon declined.

King's Reach: John Sanders' Twenty-Five Years at the Top of Comics will be published by Rebellion Publishing in paperback on 9th July 2020.

From King's Reach Tower in London, Sanders oversaw the launch of hugely popular titles like Tammy, Battle and the revolutionary 2000 AD, all while fighting corporate battles to expand the UK's comics output, facing down the government and the media in censorship battles, and witnessing the effect of changing tastes on a decades-old industry.

At the head of an industry that, at its peak, sold 10 million comics per week, Sanders details how he strove to keep comics relevant to generation after generation and, with artists employed across the globe to service the voracious appetite of readers, he was in the hot seat for one of the biggest cultural shifts in living memory.

The story of British own-brand comics belongs almost exclusively to the twentieth century – the era in which they were born, flourished and died. The millions of children who read them were aware that despite their weekly publications being often derided by adults, the stories were finely crafted, and the pictures were commercial art at its zenith.

Now, resurrected by serious adult readers and by academics, comics are recognised as being an important marginal note in the story of English literature.

"The story of British own-brand comics belongs almost exclusively to the twentieth century," says Sanders. "The era in which they were born, flourished and died. The millions of children who read them were aware that despite their weekly publications being often derided by adults, the stories were finely crafted, and the pictures were commercial art at its zenith. Now, resurrected by serious adult readers and by academics, comics are recognised as being an important marginal note in the story of English literature.

"This is a book written for those grown-up comic fans. But I hope it will be also read and enjoyed by the millions of people whose dreams were enlivened, and whose youthful years were made enjoyable, by comic book heroes they still remember with affection."

January isn't that far away… looking forward to his take on Action, especially. TV presenter Frank Bough, now best known for his cocaine-and-hooker parties went ballistic on John Sanders when he appeared on the BBC news programme Nationwide to defend it, over its lack of morality. It saw Action debated in the House of Commons, with WH Smith rumoured to have declared that unless Action was axed it would refuse to stock any other IPC titles. It made it to issue 36 – issue 37 was pulped. Now we get to hear that story from the top…

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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