Sunday, 7 January 2018

Annual Report:
The Sweeney / 1978.

If there’s one thing I always like to find under the tree on Christmas morn, it’s a bloody good annual, and as such, I’m happy to be able to revive the ‘Annual Report’ feature I instigated here two years ago, this time with a look at one of the gifts I was lucky enough to receive during the recent festive period – The Sweeney Annual, as published by Brown Watson in 1978.

For readers outside the UK who may be unaware of the precise significance of The Sweeney, or indeed unfamiliar with the concept of annuals as a whole – never fear. Basically the cover reproduced above tells you everything you need to know. I’m sure that your own home country must have boasted its own equivalent TV show (and questionable cash-in merchandise thereof) during the 1970s, thus equipping you perfectly to conceptualise the riches that The Sweeney Annual (1978) is about to rain down upon us, swept in upon a magnificent tide of orange, brown and grey. [If you do require further clarification however, here's a wiki link.]

As was usual practice in this era, the writers, artists, editors and designers who contributed to The Sweeney Annual remain entirely anonymous – and indeed a case could be made that they may have been happier that way, given the obvious haste with which this volume seems to have been thrown together. There’s not even a contents page, or any introductory text – it just gets straight down to business with the comic strip below.

As you’ll note, the art here is a tad inconsistent, although the decision to lead with a story in which The Sweeney take on international terrorists, rather than the domestic crooks who normally filled their schedule, is an interesting one. Otherwise, the mixture of casual racial stereotyping and a notable lack of the usual pungent Sweeney badinage leave me feeling a bit “meh” about this one, although there are some very nice individual panels here and there.

After a space-filling article on ‘Famous East End Criminals’ (no prizes for guessing which one gets the most space), we move on to that highlight of any annual – the crossword!

Remember what I said about suspecting this annual was put together in a bit of a hurry? The prevalence of pages like the one below speaks for itself I think.

I love the combination of the photo and title/font accompanying the text story below. It would have made a great readymade record cover for some second wave aggro-punk band that might have formed a few years after this was published.

If the earlier comic strip was a bit of a disappointment, the colour one scanned below is an absolute belter I think, neatly compressing everything that was good and right about The Sweeney into a concise six pages. A bang-up job by whichever anonymous British comics freelancers were responsible.

No, me neither.

There follows another boring article about the applications of science in modern policing, but…. cor, strewth, turns out maybe I should have scanned those bits for you anyway – looks like we’ve got to take a test! What is this, school!?

And, that’s it! Final page – we’re outta here!

To check your answers to the Sweeney crossword and quiz, please check Found Objects postings for January 2018.


Elliot James said...

The Sweeney was never picked up for USA broadcast, unlike The Persuaders, UFO, etc. Why so, I couldn't find out. BBC America programs endless episodes of the numerous Star Trek shows instead of UK TV despite many requests from a lot of people in the States to run Brit classics.

Ben said...

It's a shame to hear The Sweeney never made it to the US. Maybe it was considered to be too heavy on British slang and references to UK law, culture, locations etc...?

If you've not seen them, the two Sweeney films are well worth tracking down - unlike most movies spun off from popular 70s TV shows, they're both excellent.

Ben said...

(Oh, I should probably clarify that I mean the two films MADE in the '70s of course - not those awful looking Guy Ritchie remakes from a few years ago!)

Elliot James said...

There are a few clips on the great equalizer, Youtube. I also see they are charging for a Sweeney 2013 film with Ray Winstone, which I have no interest in seeing.