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Monday, March 10, 2008

Comics International makes a welcome return

The shelves of UK comic shops are not as busy with comics news magazines as they were a few decades ago so it was good to see Comics International return last week.

Launched in 1990 by Dez Skinn, Comics International has long been the "go to" news source for many comic fans as they lapped up every monthly issue. Last year, as Dez moved on, a change in ownership and other problems caused numerous unforeseen scheduling headaches for Mike Conroy, CI's new editor. (There has been a five month gap since the previous issue.) However, things seem to be on the upswing again with Barry Renshaw, Joel Meadows, and Richard Burton using their combined skills as editors of, respectively, Redeye, Tripwire, and Comic Media News to assist Mike in the current and future issues.

So, Comics International No.205 is now with us, and it's been worth the wait. Mike has expanded the focus of the mag to feature more in-depth articles alongside the news. The standout feature (for me) this issue being the first of a six part retrospective on comic strips based on Gerry Anderson's tv shows. In this first part, Shaqui Le Vesconte gives us a six page whirlwind history of almost 50 years of Anderson-related strips from Twizzle in TV Land in 1960 to the CGI New Captain Scarlet comic of 2006. When it comes to the Gerry Anderson comic strips, Shaqui knows his stuff, and I'm eagerly looking forward to further chapters as he covers TV Comic, Frank Bellamy, Countdown, and more.

Due to the delays, the news pages of Comics International have presumably had to be updated several times before publication. Even now, some of the items are a little out of date, but Mike goes into depth a bit more than some mags, so I still found much of it informative, and therefore still news.

Other articles in the mag worthy of mention include a feature on new Image comic New World Order, Wildstorm's World of Warcraft, Virgin's Dan Dare, and Nick Abadzis' graphic novel Laika, about the little Russian dog that became Earth's first cosmonaut.

There's been a few gripes on the net about CI's infrequency, and even when it does come out some people aren't 100% happy with the varied content. It's a news and feature magazine. Do people complain if not every item in Empire or The Sunday Times appeals to them? The nature of the beast is that they have a broad scope. Besides, as comic fans, shouldn't we welcome the opportunity to learn about types of comics we wouldn't usually buy? Sales of newsstand comics may be much lower than they used to be but we're living in an era of fantastic variety for the medium and it's good to see CI reflecting that.

Comics International No.205 has a choice of four different covers (two of them are shown here) so check the issue number to make sure you don't buy it twice! (Or, if variant covers are your thing, what the heck, buy all four!). £2.99 from comic shops for 100 pages.

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