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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Crikey! It's another hit and miss issue

The third issue of Crikey!, the new magazine on British comics, has just been sent to subscribers. This edition is an improvement on the previous two, thanks to articles written by some contributors on their specific areas of interest, but when Crikey makes mistakes - it still makes some clangers.

Firstly, the good points: highlight of the issue is an interview with Dez Skinn on his days when he was editor of House of Hammer magazine. This is exactly the sort of thing Crikey! needs more of; an article that goes directly to the source to get the correct information.

Another main article is one on Trigan Empire artist Don Lawrence. As the artist passed away years ago obviously "going to the source" here was impossible, but the author has instead crafted an informative mini-biography with numerous examples of Lawrence's work.

An article on old IPC strip Adam Eterno is another highlight of the issue. Written by Eterno aficionado the pseudonymous "Captain Storm" it's a nice tribute to a memorable character. The only downside is that although pages from old comics are used to represent the feature, none of them are by the strips longest serving artist Solano Lopez! (Sadly none of the art shown is credited, which is a glaring omission that often mars articles in Crikey!)

Overall, Crikey! No.3 isn't a bad issue, but there's one article that is so appallingly researched it left me wondering how much comics knowledge the editors actually have. It's an article on Smash!, the Odhams weekly of the sixties. An article clearly written by someone with very few of the comics to hand for research, and based on unfounded assumptions. With no less than 17 errors in 6 pages the best way to partially remedy the damage is to list them here:

1: "Superhero strips were the mainstay of Smash for its first 167 issues". A bit misleading. Smash! was a balanced mixture of UK humour, UK adventure, Batman newspaper strips, and Marvel reprint. The first superhero strip (the Hulk) didn't appear until issue 16.

2: "The main superhero strip in Smash was the Fantastic Four". Wrong. The Incredible Hulk and Batman were the most enduring superhero strips in the comic. The FF didn't have a regular run until late in 1968.

3: The article says the editor of Smash rearranged the running order of the FF strips for "cunning" reasons, but the reasons given are completely wrong. The wedding story from FF Annual 3 was used earlier than expected because Fantastic had just merged into Smash! and the wedding strip, featuring a multitude of Marvel guest stars, was ideal to appeal to Fantastic's readers.

4: When IPC took over Smash!
they soon changed it into more of a traditional adventure comic. The author of the article makes the wild assumption that IPC delayed the change so that the Fantastic Four reprint could be neatly concluded! IPC management would not delay a major relaunch for such trivial concerns. (To prove this the final Thor reprint had new dialogue added to the last panel in a rushed attempt to try and tie up a sub-plot.) Fact is IPC waited until Spring 1969 to relaunch Smash! because a) new stories needed to be readied, and b) Spring was always considered a good time in publishing to come out with a new (or in this case revamped) comic.

5: "There were a lot of humourous strips in the Oldham (sic) run of Smash, many of them survivors from Pow and Wham". Fact is Smash always featured humour strips and the mergers only brought in a few from the other comics.

6: "Mike Brown's The Nervs". Nope. The strip was drawn by Graham Allen, and the last few months were by Ken Reid.

7: Lady Shady is mentioned as an enemy of The Cloak. She was his partner.

8: "Odhams had launched five Power Comics in 1966...". Actual dates: Wham! (1964), Smash! (1966), Pow!, Fantastic, and Terrific (all 1967).

9: "...only to close four of them fairly quickly." Only the three 1967 comics had relatively short runs.

10: "Obviously those comics lost money, or they wouldn't have been closed." Comics are closed when they dip towards a break-even point. Publishers don't wait for them to mount up "debts" as the article presumes.

11: "Why did they take such a big risk to launch five new titles, if it was obvious the market could only support one?" The nature of the comics biz was to clone a successful title before competitors did it. Simple research would show this had always been the case.

12: "Ultimately they were not even able to keep Smash itself going and had to sell it to IPC". The truth is more complex. From IPC's own website: "
The International Publishing Corporation Ltd was formed in 1963 following the merger of the UK's three leading magazine publishers – George Newnes, Odhams Press and Fleetway Publications – who came together with the Mirror Group to form the International Publishing Corporation (IPC). And IPC Magazines was created five years later, in 1968." Odhams didn't "sell" Smash to IPC. The International Publishing Corporation that already encompassed Odhams and Fleetway created a new Magazine division in 1968 to manage its titles more efficiently.

13: The article assumes IPC dropped Marvel reprints to save on licensing fees. Unlikely, considering those pages were replaced by brand new strips that would have cost more! Fact is IPC's Smash! was revamped to be similar to Lion and Valiant now that they were all part of a unified line, and Marvel reprints were incongruous to that template.

14: The article assumes Odhams suffered "crippling" losses on their comics and that Smash was sold off to pay debts. Untrue.

15: The article states that IPC's revamped Smash! mainly featured humourous strips. Untrue. Adventure strips were predominant.

16: "cover feature.... replacing Leo Baxendale's Swots and Blots". The Swots and The Blots cover strips had been drawn by Mike Lacey. Baxendale took over the strip with its move back inside the comic, and IPC's relaunch.

17: The article is illustrated with pages claimed to be from the Smash Christmas Special. No such title ever existed. The pages are from the 1969 Christmas issue of the regular weekly Smash comic.

What's most annoying about such a badly researched article is that most readers will accept it as gospel, and the myths it perpetrates will find themselves in future articles on the comic in other books and magazines. The criteria for writing is: Write what you know. Otherwise what is the point?

I hope the author and editor of the Smash article won't consider my comments an attempt to damage sales of the magazine. Far from it. I truly want a magazine on British comics to succeed as it's been a much-neglected area of comics for so long. I applaud editor Brian Clark's work in this direction and with the news that comics historian Ray Moore will be on board from issue 4 I'm confident Crikey! will rapidly improve.

You can subscribe to Crikey! at their website


colcool007 said...

Curse you Lew! You have finally persuaded me to become a Blogger. Thanks for an informative and lucid update on the omissions of the Crikey! Smash! article. As you so rightly point out, we cannot afford to let any error creep into UK comics historical record and let it stand uncorrected, as it will be considered as canon.

Lew Stringer said...

Most articles are prone to the odd mistake or presumption of course but this one in particular had more errors than facts.

On a website such errors can be corrected quickly, but the problem with a magazine is that it's not until the next issue (or two or three issues down the line in Crikey's case apparently) before an errata is published.

Anonymous said...

I think your jealous of Crikey? Even your blog name is similar.

Lew Stringer said...

Actually "gnasher" my blog appeared before Crikey. Also, the title is derived from my comic Blimey! It's Brickman, - from 1983!

Not that I'm accusing Crikey of copying of course! Both "Blimey" and "Crikey" are traditional UK comic expletives so it's just coincidence that we chose similar titles to represent our articles on British comics.

Anonymous said...

On a website, as you say, any errors can be corrected fairly quickly, but what if Crikey! suddenly ceases production with issue 3? There'd be no way for it to acknowledge its boo-boos. It isn't getting off to a very good start, is it, with an article so riddled with mistakes which if not checked will be treated as gospel. I'd suggest that the editor pulls his socks up!

Anonymous said...

Great piece, Lew. Shoddy journalism like this needs to be dissected and corrected -- and really deserves a bit more disdain than you actually give it! I would invite Brian Clark (who must take final responsibility, as editor) to write an apology on your site and promise that it won't happen again.

I certainly won't trust (or buy) this magazine unless he does this (or something similar).


Russell Willis
(A proud owner of "Blimey! It's Brickman" from 1983!)

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think I'd feel it appropriate for Brian to issue an apology here, but hopefully there will be a list of corrections in Crikey! No.4.

On the whole, Crikey isn't a bad mag and deserves support, - as long as it learns from its mistakes. I'm finding it a bit odd though that issue 3 contained no corrections for previous issues, apart from the retraction of their atrocious mistake reporting that Terry Bave had died. (Thankfully Terry is alive and well as we now know.)

Anonymous said...

Lew said..."On the whole, Crikey isn't a bad mag and deserves support, - as long as it learns from its mistakes."

Absolutely. However, a correction in the magazine should only be expected. A note posted here (because it was here where you took the trouble to correct the article) would show that they were learning from their mistakes and were serious about not making any more of them. (And one could be forgiven for thinking that mistakenly declaring someone dead might have inspired a bit of fact-checking before this..) But anyway...

A corker of a blog!

John Freeman said...

Good review, Lew, and constructive feedback, too. I always apareciated Andrew Pixley's feedback on Doctor Who Magazine and strove to include relevant corrections where possible. Newspaper editors do the same, nowadays

Norman Boyd said...

Hi Lew
Great review and I felt that, like you we must support Brian as we desperately need a history of UK comics. I wrote to Brian after Issue One's as I felt that there were too many errors in the Frank Bellamy article and it was something I know something about! He printed it as a letter in Issue Two and said that he applauded corrections like this.
Can I encourage your readers (and yourself?) to add to the knowledge out there by submitting an article?

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew,the pseudonymous Captain Storm here.I had nothing to do with the art chosen save for the 2 images on the first page of the article.For the record,the Lion Annual 1980 shown has an extract from "The Incas" featured inside-drawn by Solano Lopez!The other image was "The Gold Mines of Endless Toil"from Valiant Annual 1976 drawn by Ian Kennedy.The other strips shown were drawn by Colin Page.Hope that clears up any mystery as to the artists.I too bemoan the fact that they don't caption their scans with artist and issue details but as you say with Ray now on board hopefully that will change.

Lew Stringer said...

Hi Cap'n, Thanks for the artist credit info. Don't worry, I knew the pages that were chosen to illustrate your article would be an editorial decision. Perhaps it was for the best that they didn't try to identify them considing that on another page they wrongly stated that Rick Clark was a pseudonym of Alan Moore's! :)

Anonymous said...

Its all very well Lew for you and your friends to sit here bitching about Crikey. Why dont you get off your lazy arse and write an article yourselves, you'll know how hard it is then?

Lew Stringer said...

Yeah, there's a few articles on this blog "Stan", if you hadn't noticed.

Anonymous said...

Don't get funny with me. Brian M Clarke is trying his best. British comics didn't have credits so how the hells he supposed to know who drew what? There were millions of British comics published, no body can be expected to have them all, mistakes are natural. Its easy to sit there on your high horse.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm not going to waste time arguing too long with someone who hides behind an alias "Stan". The Smash article was littered with errors and wild assumptions because the author couldn't be bothered to check his facts. I see the same author has now put all that misinformation of Wikipedia. So the history of British comics gets corrupted. Don't you care?

Corfan said...

I'm sorry to admit that I've decided to give up on Crikey. Too many mistakes, not enough value for money. Why do they insist on using large text? The fanzine can be read in half an hour. I want more for my five pounds!!

Chas, Stafford said...

No wonder Crikey didn't last if it had so many errors. :-(

alanultron5 said...

I very much enjoyed `Smash` and was disappointed the `Crikey` article was so askew! I was very sad when it merged with `Valiant` and didn't get many of those because I didn't like strips such as `Captain Hurricane` (Probably my most disliked comic strip in my reading life!) It would have been nice to find out what became of the two `Smash` characters who made it to `V& S` "Janus Stark" and "His Sporting Lordship" Anyone know?

Lew Stringer said...

Janus Stark carried on having adventures until the strip ended but there was no special conclusion, just the end of another adventure. His Sporting Lordship ended with him taking the staff on "a long peaceful holiday". I've shown the final panel in this post:

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