Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Robin Hood comic launches


BBC Magazines have just launched issue one of Robin Hood Adventures, a 36 page glossy fortnightly based on the current tv version of the character. The publication is in the same format as the company's popular Doctor Who Adventures, but with sadly even less comic strip content.

As with most children's titles these days, Robin Hood Adventures comes bagged with a bunch of free gifts. In this case; postcards, stickers, and a Robin Hood "Activity CD-Rom". The gifts are clearly the selling point here, as the magazine could hardly be seen inside the sealed plastic bag because of the freebies and promotional blurbs.


The magazine itself is nothing special. The now standard mixture of "educational" features with snappy captions, puzzle pages, and simple stories all featuring a "busy" layout (ie: logos slapped all over the place). The only comic strip, a two pager by Craig Donaghy and Paul Cemmick, is bizarrely a humour strip. Although the BBC's Robin Hood isn't as dark as Robin of Sherwood was, it seems strange that its comic strip version is so lighthearted.


The other story in the magazine is a four page photo strip adaptation of the first tv episode. The presentation is incredibly simplistic, with as little dialogue as possible within word balloons that have tails which annoyingly touch the character's mouths. (A no-no in lettering.) As if that wasn't dumbed-down enough, each photo-panel is not only numbered but features cartoon arrows between each panel to instruct the reader which direction to follow.


And if that wasn't simple enough, the four pager is split into two double page "parts"; one on pages 10/11, the other on pages 32/33, as if reading a four page strip in one go might make kids heads explode.

What has happened to children's comics, or to children for that matter, for publications to be so dumbed-down (or "younged up" in dodgy-sounding media speak)? Forty years ago the age range that Robin Hood Adventures is aimed at were quite happily managing to understand TV Century 21 without such gimmicks to guide them through the pages. If today's kids can manage to read Harry Potter or the latest Jaqueline Wilson book, I'm sure they're sophisticated enough to grasp something with a bit more substance than this.

Having said that, the kids will probably love it.

16 comments:

Tom Daylight said...

Can't say I was impressed with the TV version in the first place, so my expectation for this magazine was pretty low to begin with.

Anonymous said...

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Wil said...

Christ, that's depressing.

Anonymous said...

Sad thing is, that if the Robin Hood magazine is indeed successful, the muppets who produce such dumbed down garbage will be able to cite it as evidence that said dumbing down is what people want these days, and further titles will be just as cretinised.

LauraH said...

That's terrifying. Do kids read comics so little these days that they're lacking the ability to understand how sequential art works? (and it is a learned skill - I've met a handful of people who never "got" it.)I'd like to think it's just the magazine makers assuming kids are insultingly dim, but realistically they must have market-tested this on real children before going to press... dear God, the next generation is doomed >_<

John Freeman said...

I like Paul Cemmick's work, but it's very strange that the title should take a humorous route just as the second series of Robin Hood takes much darker tone. Still, the fact that the BBC have launched this title might be good news for the show, which I'd read (in Broadcast) was being cancelled, allegedly due to budget cuts across the board at the BBC. Perhaps they've changed their minds.

Haven't seen the comic yet - what a shame the BBC don't seem eager to let the comics press know about their products, but then again, maybe they're just too embarrassed.

Free gifts are pretty much de facto now Lew -- you can't get a comic into the supermarkets without them apparently, and when they command such a massive market share of any sales they can't be ignored. Sadly.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I think that's what's happened here already. Doctor Who Adventures has been very successful so the BBC have continued that simplistic approach with Robin Hood Adventures. Somehow I don't think RHA will be anywhere near as popular as DWA, but time will tell.

The free gift in issue one, a DVD ROM is very good value, so it'll sell on the strength of that. However, issue 2 has the less impressive gift of a Robin Hood Stationery Set. Just like the one Robin Hood never had.

Lew Stringer said...

Hi John,
Yeah I appreciate that free gifts (and the unsightly bags) are inevitable now, but it's a shame the magazines/comics can't be more substantial.

Wil said...

My thoughts about the content and design aside I'm not sure I'd want my son reading it even if he was a RH fan. The only thing it seems to be about is fighting. From the plastic bag the mag seems to be called Fight!Fight! and the actual cover promises the best fight scenes as well as fights galore.

Still, I have high hopes for a future feature about sticking it to the tax man and redistributing the wealth to the less fortunate - by fighting!!

Lew Stringer said...

Ironically there are no fights in it, except for a few static shots from the tv show. Anyway, fighting in comics never harmed any kid. They're smarter than to copy things they see in a comic.

robin hood said...

Thanks for such a well illustrated review. Much appreciated. One of my readers put a link to it on the Robin Hood 2007 comments.

Wil said...

As much as I'll sound like a grumpy old dad I say there's a difference in fighting as part of an overall story and seemingly selling a whole mag on just that.

fústar said...

Well given that it's based on one of the most preposterous and glammed up/dumbed down versions of the Robin legend I can't say I'm that surprised.

Though I'm certain that kids can learn to handle (and interpret) practically anything one could throw at them in comic book format one could argue that "comic literacy" has decreased among the age group the publication is aimed at.

Given that comics have (in some ways) moved from the mainstream into a niche (appreciative) market it's probably not surprising that kids who don't immerse themselves in the current comic culture might lack some of the interpretive skills kids in d'old days took for granted.

Then again, this might just be the perception of the producers. Either way it leads to the sort of "idiot's format" pictured above.

Anonymous said...

post more pics of the comics plz!

Lew Stringer said...

Not possible Anon. The Robin Hood comic didn't last long and has been cancelled for quite some time now. Can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous said...

IT DIUDNT LAST LONG DID IT MUST BE COS IT WONT VERY GOOD MORE

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