A specifically British concept, these are usually hard-bound books tying into some kind of media property sold as Christmas presents, usually with 120 or more pages. (The "annuals" published by some US superhero comics are much less substantial.)
They date back to Victorian times (the introductory Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet was first published in Beeton's Christmas Annual), but their modern incarnation as Spin Offs began in the twentieth century. At first they were based on comics and comic strips, but soon radio and TV-related annuals began to appear. Now there are even ones based on teen pop groups.
Usual contents include:
- Stories, often both prose and comic strip, regardless of the original format.
- Interviews with creators, "behind the scenes" stuff, and Universe Compendium type material.
- Educational content unrelated to the original work, although sometimes "presented" by characters, so that the parents they're aimed at think there's something "improving" there.
Because these are published towards the end of the year, they are usually dated on the cover with the following year, which can cause confusion.
Notable annuals include:
- DC Thomson, publisher of numerous British Comics, has published hundreds of annuals over the years including:
- The Dandy: First published in 1938 and still running, even though the weekly comic isn't. Originally being called The Dandy Monster Comic before being changed to The Dandy Book and then finally The Dandy Annual.
- The Beano: The first annual was published in 1939, and they're still running. They only began to be dated with the 1966 edition.
- Until the 2000s DC Thomson always referred to these as "Books" rather than "Annuals".
- Ever since The Beano and Dandy's fiftieth anniversaries in the late 80s every year an annual is released featuring old content from both comics and occasionally from other DC Thomson comics.
- The Beezer and The Topper used to have annuals. For the Beezer the annuals continued after the comic closed.
- The Broons also has an annual, but theirs are every 2 years alternating with Oor Wullie.
- Popular characters from DC Thomson comics would often get their own comics. Only a few characters were considered popular enough to have annuals, these characters being Bananaman, Desperate Dan and Black Bob from The Dandy (though Bananaman was in Nutty comic when his first two annuals were published), Beryl the Peril from The Topper, and Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids from The Beano. Of these, the Dennis the Menace annual was the longest running lasting from the 1950s to the early 2010s.
- Commando had its own annual for a brief time. Two consecutive annuals were published the first being dated 1989.
- Blue Peter published a regular annual until 2011.
- Doctor Who: Published since 1965, sometimes erratically. Originally published by World Distributors until 1986. During the Wilderness Years, Marvel Comics UK (publishers of Doctor Who Magazine) published them (as the Doctor Who Yearbook) from 1992-1996, and then Panini (the current publishers of DWM) published one in 2006, following the relaunch of the series. Subsequent annuals have been published by BBC Books, although between 2007 and 2010 Panini published the Doctor Who Storybook instead. From 2011-2012, the counterpart to the Storybook was The Brilliant Book, also published by BBC Books.
- Several of the classic annuals were included as DVD extras in PDF format.
- Rupert Bear: A very Long Runner, since 1936. Has a bigger readership than the original comic strip in the Daily Express.
- Whizzer and Chips, Buster and many other Fleetway comics used to have annuals. They often continued after the associated comic ended and they finally stopped printing annuals in 1993 about 6 years before Buster finally ended. Some of Fleetway's annuals were flimsy paper back annuals rather than hard bound.
- Viz does annuals with a different title each year, usually with some obscure sexual or scatological Double Entendre. They mainly consist of reprints from the year's comic issues rather than new material.
- Thomas the Tank Engine has a healthy run of these that actually preceed the TV series (the earlier installments were based more on The Railway Series novels, though oddly still had the Thomas moniker). At early points the original creators actually made original stories and material for the annuals, some of which actually ended up adapted into the mainstream novels or TV show.
- 2000 AD used to have annuals from 1978 to 1995. As with DC Thomson's flagship characters, Judge Dredd was popular enough to get a solo annual from 1981. For the final five years, both annuals were softcover (and called "Yearbooks").
- Carl Giles had annuals which usually consisted of reprints. They still do these annuals although Giles died some while ago so they are reprinting stuff that has already been reprinted although these newer annuals do tend to show stuff that hasn't been printed before.
- Private Eye has a yearly annual, which collects the best and least time-specific bits from the magazine's comedy pages.
- Noddy gets these every year, with The Noddy Shop characters making cameos in the 2000 annual.
- QI had one between 2006 and 2010, accompanying the "D" through "H" series, featuring a variety of pieces written by the show's researchers and regular panellists.
- The Scarfolk Council Annual 197* was published for Christmas 2019, with all the things you'd expect in a seventies annual, filtered through the lens of Scarfolk.