Sunday, June 10, 2007

Crikey! No.1 reviewed

I had a pleasant Saturday morning yesterday when Crikey! number one arrived in the post. A very appropriate day for it to arrive, I thought, considering that Saturdays used to be the main day that weekly comics were published, and that Crikey! is a magazine devoted to those nostalgic days of the 1950s to 1970s. And, like all nostalgic comic memories, yesterday was a warm summer's day, - perfect weather for sitting in the back yard and reading the mag, just as I had with my comics in decades past.

Forgive the self-indulgent opening to this review, but that gives you a flavour of what Crikey! is mainly about. Far from being a serious examination of the comics genre, the aim of Crikey! is to be bright and breezy, tinged with the nostalgic recollections of its contributors.

However, that is both Crikey's strength and its weakness. Whilst the personal touch works on the whole, and helps to carry the reader back to those days, it can also distract from the focus of the articles a little bit at times. (Not enough to worry about though.) I also spotted a few errors that really should have been picked up: Wham! did not merge with Smash! in July 1968 for example. (It merged into Pow! in January 1968.) The Toymaker did not first appear in Smash! in 1965 (Smash! didn't come out until 1966!), he appeared in Buster.

Don't get me wrong, the light approach to the articles is refreshing and pleasant to read, but I was left wishing there had been a little more research done on some features. The article called The Terrible Toys of Dr Droll speaks of "the dark artwork" but doesn't bother to mention the artist's name (Solano Lopez). Crikey! is well illustrated throughout with pages and panels from numerous strips, but the images rarely feature artist credits or specific dates. Don't nostalgics want to know the identities of their anonymous childhood favourites?

There's a few other niggles too: a good article chronicling Leo Baxendale's involvement with Wham! is accompanied by artwork by Gordon Hogg, Mike Lacey, Ken Reid and others (all uncredited again) but none by Baxendale himself. On another page, an example of House of Dolmann artwork appears in the Terrible Toys article for no reason whatsoever.

That's the minus points out of the way. Thankfully Crikey! has many more positive than negative aspects. The design is good; lively without being cluttered, the layout is professional, and the printing is sharp and clear. There's an excellent mixture of content: nostalgic recollections such as Brian Clarke's My Comicy Saturday; a look at the history behind the anti- American comics campaign in Britain in the 1950s; an interview with Ken Reid (reprinted, I think, from a Fudge book); features on the origins of Wham! and the tone of Misty... all good stuff. Although an article on Jackie written by someone who admits to never having read it, seemed somewhat lacking.

Topped off with a great cover by Mike Kazybrid featuring tons of characters from the past (can you name them all?) Crikey! is well worth checking out. (Some will no doubt moan at the price for a black and white mag but remember this is a fanzine, with a far limited print run to things like SFX or Empire magazines. It's all about unit costs. You're getting a bargain here.) Despite my slight reservations on the lack of depth to some features, I would recommend the magazine to everyone who has a genuine interest in British comics.

Yes, the magazine has its annoying faults, but Brian Clarke should be congratulated for getting off his backside and producing what many of us have been wanting to see for years: a fanzine about UK comics! It's up to us to support it as much as we can. I can't see why anyone who really likes old British comics wouldn't subscribe to it. The focus of Crikey! is on a classic and prolific period in UK comics history so there's plenty to cover in future issues and I for one am eagerly looking forward to issue 2 (out in October).

Crikey! No.1 is out now, 52 pages for a very reasonable £3.99. Ordering details are at the official website here:

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