These hardbacks, containing a mixture of features, prose and comic strips, marked a triumphant - and somewhat surprising - return of a publishing tradition that had petered out the previous decade. The last of the often unloved (by fans and the show's productiin team) World Distributors annuals had hit the shelves back in 1986. World pulled the plug on the long-running series because of falling sales, declining interest in the show and doubts over its very survival.
Marvel aggressively expanded their WHO offering - despite the TV show having closed at the very end of the previous decade - by adding the ongoing CLASSIC COMICS and POSTER MAGAZINES, continuing with the periodic specials and adding BLAKE'S SEVEN and HAMMER HORROR titles intended to tap into a similar nostalgia market.
The move was even more surprising because the annuals market had itself entered a slump. In previous decades, publishers were able to rely on the annual income from a myriad of books based on current or past media brands, comics, magazines, toys, movies, pop stars and anything else that might catch the buyer's eye on those big
table displays in WH Smith, Martins, Menzies, book and department stores (indeed, department stores often seemed to carry more obscure titles overlooked by the mainstream multiples... which made them an essential destination when making the traditional gift list for the Christmas season) but by the turn of the decade this market had all but collapsed. Which may have actually strengthened Marvel's hand by making them a bigger player in a diminished market.
Compiled by the editorial team behind the regular magazine, these were certainly a considerable improvemenI over the efforts of the previous decade. The line, along with all the spin-offs from the core mag, eventually floundered when Panini took over the Marvel UK operation and streamlined by closing the 'non-core' magazine line (including the about to launch PLAYBACK and BIZARRE) with the exception of last-man-standing DWM itself.