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.