Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Introducing... Comic Heroes

Future Publishing, the UK company behind the highly successful SFX magazine, have today launched a brand new mag, - Comic Heroes.

As its title makes clear, Comic Heroes focuses on heroes from comic books, and the spotlight falls mainly on American superheroes. This is to be expected, what with the ever-increasing number of superhero movies around and in production. It's also a canny way to sell a magazine about comics to retailers like WH Smith and Asda because even their staff must have heard of Iron Man by now.

Comic Heroes doesn't come cheap. It's a staggering £7.99. For your money you get a 132 page glossy magazine that's packed with articles, and three free gifts (2000AD fridge magnets, a huge poster, and a free "mystery comic" - mine was Wolverine and Hulk No.6), - all packaged within a sealed cardboard envelope (shown above) so you can't thumb through the mag in the shop. Not sure that's a great idea but maybe it'll mean a few less browsers who clog up shop aisles selfishly reading mags they don't intend buying. (I saw one bloke sit on the floor to make his browsing more comfortable yesterday. That's just taking the p- anyway, I digress...)


The contents of issue one cover the new Iron Man and Kick-Ass movies, give a run through of recent "events" in the DC Universe (reminding me why I stopped buying DC Comics), spotlights the art of Guy Davis, interviews brilliant writer Al Ewing, features a five-page preview of an upcoming Superman comic, begins a feature on How to Write For Comics, and much more.


While it's fantastic to see a proper, slick, high profile magazine on comics in UK newsagents it's sad that, once again, British comics are low on the priority of contents. This is the same thing that, for me, blighted such previous magazines as Comics World and Tripwire. I can fully understand that superhero / sf fantasy material must take the lead in these mags because a) they're trying to attract the people who will be going to see Iron Man 2 etc, and b) they're also trying to attract core fandom.

Although The Beano sells more copies than The Incredible Hulk, the readers of The Beano are younger and not as integrated as fans of American comics are. And if the forum ComicsUK is anything to go by most nostalgic fans of old British comics tend not to like current comics very much, so as they're unlikely to plonk down £7.99 for Comic Heroes anyway it'd be pointless pitching the mag towards them.


So... by necessity Comic Heroes mainly focuses on the sort of comics you'll find in a comics specialist shop, not the ones you'd find in a newsagent. 2000AD does get a look in though, and there's a nice eight page article on French comics, so I'm optimistic that future issues might give some space to British comics of the past 100 years, particularly humour comics which mags like this always tend to overlook. (Just because comics such as Wham!, Funny Wonder, and Buster were created for children and not teenagers/young adults it doesn't mean the skills involved in producing them were any less accomplished. Let's hear it for those comic heroes Eagle-Eye Junior Spy, The Cloak, and I-Spy.)

It's one thing to give a necessary bias towards overseas material but quite another to ignore our product altogether. The mag's tendency to play down UK comics is most noticeable in the introduction to the French comics feature: "Comics aren't just an American thing, oh no. Guy Haley crosses the Channel to take a look at the bandes desinées of France...". Hello? Over a century of British comics right here? Sheesh. Consider if a similar sentence had been written about music, or film, or literature, and imagine how crazy it would be to read that in a British publication.

However perhaps I'm being a little unfair in focusing on one criticism that will no doubt be rectified in forthcoming issues. Comic Heroes is a good magazine; well written, expertly designed, and with a tone that's just right, being more mature than Wizard and not as aloof as The Comics Journal.
It's the sort of comics magazine we need and now is the best time to launch it. At the moment the magazine is quarterly, so that eases the strain on the wallet a bit. Let's hope it's a success.

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2010/03/17/comic-heroes-on-sale/

15 comments:

Steven Henderson said...

Are there any actual original comics in it? Sounds like the perfect place to put some of your mini marvels or something similar. Beside the free reprints is they anything new? Also - £7.99!!! Good job its not weekly!

Lew Stringer said...

No original strips Steve. It's a magazine about comics, not a comic in itself. It would be nice for it to feature a little gag strip though but I don't expect it will.

Mike Noon said...

Eight pounds an issue? That's totally insane. What's worse is the main story for the first issue isn't comics based, it's movie based, and there are already more than enough magazines covering Kick Ass and Iron Man 2.

Also, the free comic thing isn't really going to work if you get, as you did, issue 6 of a random title. Is the USP of it that there may be some 'super rare' comic hidden in a few issues.

It's all a bit wrong.

Lew Stringer said...

That price does seem crazy but apparently they did a Comic Heroes special in the same format and price a few months back and it was very successful so they decided to do it as a quarterly.

I think the £7.99 price is part of the incentive for Smiths etc to stock it. Retailers probably wouldn't give shelf space for 12 weeks to a cheaper mag. Yes, I'm sure it'll put off readers but that's retail logic.

Steven Henderson said...

If they are talking movies and its out every 3 months then its got to be super ahead of everyone else. People wont be buying this in a months time when Empire or someone has even newer exclusive pictures of the new Iron Man film and Kick Ass has been and gone in the cinemas. Maybe its going to find itself needing original comics or some exclusive content along the same lines in it??

John Field said...

*delurks*
Lew, this has prompted me to buy my first printed magazine in years. I also agree on the eight pounds! I often spy the endless array of glossy mags in supermarkets etc. & wonder who buys them all on a regular basis. Let's see if I'm up for issue 2...

(Fortean Times around 2007, if anyone's wondering!)

James Spiring said...

If people are worried about Comic Heroes not covering the British stuff, they shouldn't worry about it. We already have Crikey! for that anyway.

Lew Stringer said...

Very true James although since the collapse of Borders Crikey is no longer in High Street shops so Comic Heroes is the only mag out there for people who don't go into comic shops.

Emperor said...

You should get in and offer your expertise and/or give Michael Molcher a nudge - he interviewed Al Ewing for that piece and might be signed up for more (I've not asked him), so might be open to ideas...

Kid said...

Regarding the price, perhaps this is just an introductory price to cover the cost of the "free" gifts and cardboard envelope. Let's hope it's only about £4.99 when it gets to issue 2.

I'm not surprised that it didn't cover British comics (2000AD apart) because, as you say, THE BEANO and THE DANDY are seen as kids' comics - whereas American Superhero comics have a teenage and adult audience, and foreign comics like ASTERIX and TIN-TIN are also aimed primarily at an older readership than 5 to 12 year olds. (Also, BUSTER, WHAM, and the like, are no longer current publications, and I assume that the mag isn't really intended to appeal to nostalgists - it's aiming at the contemporary comics scene.) Just about every other country in the world that produces comics regards them as a legitimate artform and not just kiddie-fodder as they're viewed in Britain. However, hopefully we will see some mention of yesteryear's gems in future issues.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how they figure that France is "the world's 3rd largest producer of comics". Of course, Japan is the first, but sales figures in France are much bigger than in the USA, so I'd say they're number 2, and I think even Italy could compete with the USA for number 3.

Dave Mullen said...

The prices for Genre magazines such as SFX, Doctor Who etc is unfeasable when compared to more mainstream lifestyle publications like Bella, TV Quick or whatever.
I think the way magazines have to be produced as bound slick volumes is largely to blame as the stapled and more disposable mags or comics are notably far less expensive.

I got far more enjoyment & information out of 'Comics Retrospective' then any attempted mainstream effort like this new 'Comics Heroes' and i do wish we could see a return to less ambitious modes of publishing...

(Is there a site that actually lists Sales for british comics BTW?)

locusmortiis said...

unfortunately Kid, I doubt that there will be a price decrease for subsequent issues. This is a spinoff of the SFX Specials series. I got the first 30 or so SFX Special magazines when they were £5.99

About a year ago they put up the price to £7.99 for which they put the mag in a cardboard packet and included some "free gifts" like beer mats and fridge magnets and posters advertising current films.....crap in other words.

I wrote on the SFX forum complaining about the price increase and was told that since the price increase sales had gone up and that people liked the "free gifts".

So it seems that just like kids comics are now festooned with plastic crap on the covers in order to sell them to adhd addled kids so it seems that is now translating into publications aimed at adults.

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think the price would decrease that much even if they switched to the flimsy TV Quick format Dave. The women's mags you mention have a huge circulation so the unit cost is lower to produce them.

Also, readers of genre mags tend to like good quality photographs that the slicker production can give them.

Mainly though I think the higher price is used as an incentive for supermarkets and retail chains to stock them. Sadly such shops wouldn't be interested in giving shelf space for three months to a quarterly genre mag unless they were getting a good percentage out of it.

Lew Stringer said...

PS: Dave, here's the site that has circulation figures for some UK comics: http://www.abc.org.uk/

Put the name of a comic/mag in the search bar and you'll find it. Not all comics are included though.

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