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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Comic Heroes No.3 unleashed

The third issue of Future Publishing's new quarterly magazine Comic Heroes hit the shops this week, once again featuring a busy variety of content.

Comic Heroes has come under fire from some fans for its high £7.99 price tag, but new magazines need to attract retail interest while they establish a readership, and a high price does grab the attention of W.H. Smith and Asda etc. Business methods aside, what does the reader get for his hard earned cash? Well, if the free DC Comics promo poster and Walking Dead badges aren't your cup of tea there's still the 132 page Comic Heroes mag itself plus Sidekick, a 36 page comic showing preview pages of upcoming comics.

Compared to other comic mags such as Alter Ego, Spaceship Away, Back Issue, or Crikey!, which feature far less pages than Comic Heroes, that still seems good value to me. (Not to dismiss those other excellent publications of course.)

The other plus point is that Comic Heroes is packed. There are thirteen articles in this issue plus columns, reviews and news, all featuring small text, so you're getting value for money here. Let's take a brief look at a few of those features...

The issue kicks off with an article on The Walking Dead, the long running zombie comic by Image, soon to be a tv series. This is one of those comics I keep intending to buy but never have as yet, but the article gives me a good incentive to seek out the books. I was a little disappointed that the promised interview with artist Charlie Adlard on the cover only turned out to be enough to fill a sidebar, but there are some good examples of Charlie's excellent artwork on show.

Bryan Talbot comes in for a more in-depth interview in a spotlight on his Grandville graphic novels. It includes a nice step-by-step item showing how Bryan develops a panel from pencils to finished colour artwork. It's good to see Comic Heroes featuring the nuts and bolts of comics in this way. (Further on in the mag there's an article on How to Draw for Comics by various professionals in their own words but it's mainly about how they broke into the business.)

The main interview in this issue is with writer Grant Morrison. I've never met Grant but he comes across as a decent sort here, showing positive enthusiasm for superhero comics because he can still bring something new to them. It's a refreshing alternative to much of the cynical comments often made about the genre.

Lest you think Comic Heroes is only about mainstream comics, Matthew Badham presents us with an item on the UK small press. This is the sort of thing that is admirable about the magazine; draw people in with cover features on blockbusters to satisfy their interests in mainstream American comics then offer them a side order on Manga, Euro comics, or, in this case, the small press. It all helps to expand the reader's awareness (and hopefully make them appreciate) the wider world of comics.

Comics reporter/writer Rich Johnston gives us his opinions on digital comics and how they might be developed to suit the devices they're on. There's some fresh ideas here and Rich makes some excellent points, one of which was so true it made me laugh out loud: "All this technological wonderment at our fingertips and what do we do with it? Show photocopies of slices of dead trees. It's like buying a car and using it to keep pigs in."

The Art of Sean Phillips comes under the spotlight with a good overview of Sean's career including an interview with the artist, known for his superb work on Criminal, Incognito, etc.

That's just a sampling of the latest issue. There's a lot more besides what I've shown here, but I have to admit the bit I liked best was this:

Blimey! The phrases "dead chuffed" and "I'm not worthy" spring to mind.

Vested interest announced: I'm working on another feature for issue 4. Would I be recommending Comics Heroes if it wasn't for that? Definitely, as I've been plugging it since issue one. Surely a magazine about comics, available in the High Street, is just the sort of thing comic fans have hoped for? Yes, it is a little expensive but as it's a quarterly it's hardly going to break the bank.

If one only has an interest in a single type of comic, such as humour or superhero, then the variety of features might not appeal, but for fans interested in exploring the wider aspects of comics this is ideal. The style of writing is positive and accessible without the low key irreverence of Wizard or the aloof aspects of The Comics Journal. Websites and blogs such as Blimey! are okay for a quick browse but Comic Heroes is a good magazine to relax with.

Comic Heroes No.3 is on sale for three months, until December 14th, but copies often sell out before that. It's available from WH Smith and other major retailers (and, I would hope, even some corner shops).

The official website is now open and accepting subscriptions:


NP said...

Hey, Harlan knows who you are! Way to go, Lew! What's left to achieve?!

Leeann H said...

Gah, wish there was a WH Smith over here. I miss buying those exclusive-vy magazines I can rarely find over here. :\

Lew Stringer said...

It should be available in comic specialist shops too, as well as in supermarkets. Good luck!

boo909 said...

Well done Lew, one of my favourite articles on comics in ages, totally deserves the praise.

One thing though. I get all my British comics and mags from my local cornershop. If you ask them they will be very happy to order them in. Just annoys me slightly that people constantly recommmend WH Smith, I know they do tend to have a lot of stock but they treat it terribly most of the time, just shoved in anywhere. OK rant over had to get it off my chest, sorry.

Altogether now: Grimly Fiendish...wears a coat that's black and long

Lew Stringer said...

Fair point boo. I'm not a great fan of how Smiths treat comics and mags either. In my experience their attitudes to comics have been very poor, stocking titles back to front, upside down, or crammed into shelf-space that's too small. The design of the shelves doesn't do mags much favours either. The design that Borders had seemed much better.

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