Friday, November 04, 2011

Strip Magazine is here!

After delays outside the publisher's control the first issue of the new British adventure comic Strip Magazine has finally arrived in comic shops.

It's an impressive debut. Kicking off with an eye-catching cover by PJ Holden we're treated to 68 glossy pages for a mere £2.99. Considering that most US comics now cost around £2.20 for 20 story pages Strip Magazine is a definite bargain. (There's also a free gift in the form of an A2 sized Mirabilis poster.)

The comic is packed with brand new comic strips and a few features about UK comics, plus, by arrangement with Egmont, the return of Hook Jaw (from the notorious Action weekly of 1976) in colourised reprints with new lettering by Jim Campbell (replacing the flat typeface used on the original).

Intended for an all-ages readership Strip Magazine features an emphasis on action-adventure rather than a reliance of talking heads or gore. The strips move at a fast pace but still cram a lot in to establish the characters and plots. Subsequently that can lead to a bit of overload in places, somewhat like being introduced to loads of new people at a party and expecting to remember everyone's names while the music's blaring out. This is particularly evident in the lead strip Black Ops Extreme, which is a brilliantly lively opening for a new comic but might need a couple of re-reads to remember who's who.

Every strip in the new comic has good things going for it, from the aforementioned fast moving Black Ops Extreme and Recovery Incorporated, to the humourous touches of the alternate-Earth complete story On Her Majesty's Hush-Hush Service. There's an interesting supernatural element to Warpaint (and a great cliffhanger), and some very nice John Ridgway artwork in Age of Heroes.

Above: A panel from Hush-Hush by Keith Page.

The articles in the first issue include an interview with Black Ops' artist PJ Holden, a feature on the history of Action by Moose Harris, and items about Print Media's graphic novels. There's also a couple of humour strips; Cosmic Patrol by Mauricet and Janssens, and Autospy & Ape by Toxic's John Rushby.

If I have any criticism it's that, as yet, there's not really one strong standout character that could be the next Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, or Steel Claw. However it's possible that Mia Raven of Recovery Incorporated might prove me wrong after a few issues. (Personally I'd have simply called the strip Raven. Strips with the names of the hero tend to be more memorable than the organizations they work for. I doubt Roy of the Rovers would have had the same impact had it been titled Melchester Rovers for example.)

It's early days yet though and Strip Magazine is off to a great start. There's not a dud strip in the comic and all the stories contain action and intrigue. What more could you ask for? Comparisons to 2000AD and CLiNT will be inevitable, but perhaps unfair. 2000AD has had over 30 years to build up its fanbase and its characters, whilst CLiNT is deliberately post-watershed and ultra-violent. Strip Magazine has its own approach and is closer in spirit to all-ages traditional UK comics such as Lion but uses contemporary storytelling techniques and attitudes. Let's hope this is the beginning of a long and successful new era for UK comics. Issue 2 is scheduled to be published on December 1st.

Strip Magazine No.1 is available from comic specialist shops such as Forbidden Planet (not newsagents). It's also available to download on the iPad, and postal subscriptions will also soon be available. See the official website for more details:


Kimota said...

Now if only it were weekly... I do still strongly believe that this kind of anthology title works best when a narrative isn't confined to only half a dozen pages per month. It removes any momentum the stories may have in building an audience.

Jim Campbell said...

No love for the new lettering on Hookjaw, Lew? You really know how to hurt a chap… ;-P


Nice Blog Lew, Will go pick up a copy of Strip now.

Lew Stringer said...

Sorry Jim. I'll correct that because your lettering does need a mention.

Kimota, good point. That is the very reason why UK publishers used to avoid doing monthly comics. Unfortunately weeklies aren't as economically feasible these days.

Jim Campbell said...

Aw, thanks, Lew! You didn't have to that -- I was just teasing. :-)

Lew Stringer said...

Credit where credit's due Jim. :)

twitter @MLPasterisk said...

Picked up issue 1.

The format is essentially a modern take on a 70s boys comic or a Junior Megazine.
Like the Megazine there are certain economies involved, so there's a reprint, articles and a "reader submitted" strip.

Black Ops Extreme is the opening strip. Sadly I don't think either the strip or the cover are P J Holden's best work, and the attempt to introduce the whole team at once just makes the storyline very muddled. Old School 2000ad would have done it more crisply by putting clear mugshots of the characters with their bios underneath at the top of the very first page.

Hookjaw is great as ever and it's a testament to the quality of the original strip and the remastering that it fits seamlessly alongside the new stuff.

Hush, Hush is a prelude for for a graphic novel from the same publisher and Ex-Agent, although it has some very nice artwork, is a one off "pilot". I'd question the wisdom of having either in the first issue as I think they should have included as many ongoing strips as possible, giving them the best chance of hooking the maximum number of readers to return next month.

Strongest strips so far are Warpaint and Recovery Inc.

Age Of Heroes has some wonderful John Ridgway artwork but the story is all set up so it's impossible to judge at this point.

The articles largely promote graphic novels from the same publisher. I can see this potentially becoming dull in future issues.

There's also a couple of one page funny strips.

Totally agree that the biggest lack so far is in strong identifiable leading characters. There isn't a Dan Dare or a Judge Dredd yet. I guess to some extent Hookjaw gives the title some name recognition but I think it needs more strips based around a strong anti-hero or anti-authority character rather than a bunch of strips based around some interesting but not all that immediately arresting concepts.

Seven full length strips for £2.99 certainly compares favourably with the Megazine or even 2000ad. I'd suggest it's a title worth supporting for any fans of old school British adventure comics.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for posting your review. I think it's a shame that some other comics blogs, often happy to slag off the UK industry for not trying anything new, have still not reviewed the issue. Ditto for some major comics websites, which promoted CLiNT when it launched but have ignored Strip Magazine's first issue.

Sentinel14 said...

I see No.2 is delayed as well!!It's becoming as unreliable as Multi Verse, another magazine that never keeps its readers updated.


Lew Stringer said...

I'm sure the editors of both titles are as annoyed about the delays as readers are, if not more so. Hopefully an announcement will be made soon.

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