In 1920 the popular 'Film Fun' comic was launched, giving readers a glimpse of how comics would soon look. But a huge turning point came in the 1930's when DC Thompson released two new titles:- The Beano and The Dandy. Their impact on the British comic scene was incredible, and even now, they are almost always the titles people will think of when you mention British comics. These two comics paved the way for more important titles to hit the shelves (e.g. The Hotspur, Radio Fun and Knockout).
The 1950's and 1960's must be the heyday of the British Comic - The Beezer, The Eagle, Battle, Whizzer and Chips, The Topper, Tiger, Victor, Valiant, TV Century 21, TV Comic, Bunty, Jackie, Buster, Wham, Pow!, Smash! and many more were all released during this time. I view the 1970's particularly fondly, as this was my era - but although there were plenty of titles to chose from every Saturday morning (Krazy, Cheeky Weekly, Plug, Whoopee!, Monster Fun, 2000AD, Shiver and Shake, Cor! Roy of the Rovers, plus a number of those comics from the previous decades still going strong), things were on the wane, and whilst there was plenty of quantity, the quality did not match that of the 50's and 60's.
Despite being around for many decades in some cases, nearly all of these titles died in the 80's (and those that didn't had gone by the early 90's), and by the end of the 90's only 2000AD, The Beano and The Dandy remained. And that's still the story today. There is no British comic industry any more. A few new titles have tried their luck over the years, but all have failed to reignite this great British tradition. Sure, you'll find racks worth of comics in your local WH Smiths, but apart from the three mentioned above, they are all TV Related titles. The top 10 selling comics in this country are currently (monthly sales figures included in brackets):
• The Simpsons (81,862)
• VIZ (76,408)
• Ben 10 (74,013)
• Simpsons Comics Presents (63,172)
• Doctor Who Adventures (53,559)
• In the Night Garden (60,060)
• The Beano (46,656)
• TOXIC (40,235)
• Doctor Who Magazine (35,374)
• BeanoMAX (29, 067)
So bar the Beano (which is terrible now by the way!), no original characters and stories, and certainly no original continuing stories to grip readers for months on end.
This week sees the release of a brand new 100 page monthly 'anthology' British comic - CLiNT.
This is the brainchild of Mark Millar - one of the UK's biggest and best comic writers (for the US market of course!)... The Authority, Nemesis, The Ultimates, and of course the now legendary Kick Ass all came from him.
The title is taken from a well known 'no-no' in the comic industry, you never call any characters this name, as once hand written and 'inked', it can look like a very different word indeed! So best just steer clear (see also 'FLICK'!). And that just about sets the scene, for what looks to be a rather racey, teenage to adult aimed title.
Mark has described CLiNT as The Eagle for the 21st Century, and has been very clever in how he has pulled it all together. He's seen other try and go to the wall, due to failing publicity, and the difficulty involved in getting new titles into WH Smiths (do you know you have to PAY WH Smith to stock your comic\magazine these days??! REALLY!). So Mark has called in the big guns...
• Titan Magazines to publish and distribute - one of THE biggest and most successful in the country (they also happen to own the comic shop chain Forbidden Planet, which is handy when you are starting up a new comic!)
• Jonathan Ross as a writer - Most people know that JR is a genuine comic nut. His collection is legendary, and his monthly comic pile at Forbidden Planet is over two foot high!! (Mondo's seen it!). But Ross completely 'gets' comics, and during his BBC sabbatical (for Manuel-gate) he sat down and wrote a peach of a comic - Turf (prohibition era gangsters, vampires and sci-fi). I've been buying the American release of this gritty, dialogue heavy title, and it's simply stunning. Turf is now being given it's UK premier in the pages of CLiNT. It's worth buying CLiNT for this strip alone. Never exactly a shrinking violet, you can bet your life that Ross will also provide much needed fanfare and promotion for this new title too.
• Frankie Boyle as a writer - An unknown quantity in the comic world, but certainly an edgy performer on the stand up comic world. His new strip - Rex Royd - is exclusive to CLiNT (Millar describes it as "imagine Lex Luthor, as seen by Frankie Boyle").
• Kick Ass (Volume 2) - Mark Millar is premiering the new Kick Ass story in CLiNT - A real scoop, as this is even ahead of the US market - Marvel don't publish issue one until well into October. The only thing is, how on earth is volume two going to compete with the first series - one of the greatest comics in recent years.
At first glance, I have to say I was a little disappointed at the cover... which with it's use of photos rather than artwork, just looks like one of a dozen or more magazines aimed at the same age group. A flick through CLiNT shows that it isn't strictly all comic strips either, with articles and interviews covering all the usual subjects (film, TV, comedy, games etc). It's bound to irk the traditional British comic lover, but then maybe Mark is being clever here too. There obviously aren't enough 'traditionalists' about to keep a new title afloat anymore, so he seems to be tapping into the 'lad-mag' market a little bit too.... but if it's the difference between this title surviving or failing, then it's a compromise I'm happy to take.
And lets just for one little moment imagine that it IS successful.... it could be the lighting of the blue touchpaper for a whole new generation of British Comics - all be it a million miles away from the Beano and the Dandy!
If you see CLiNT on your travels, give issue 1 a go, if only for the Jonathan Ross strip. Your country's comic industry needs you! And at £3.99 it's a bargain - There's a full USA issue of Turf and Nemesis within (25 odd pages of each), which on import would set you back £6 alone. Jonathan Ross and Mark Millar are launching CLiNT at WH Smiths in Victoria train station this Thursday (2nd Sept) at 4pm. You can find out more information over at the official CLiNT Website
And here's the trailer for Issue 1 (yes, even a comic gets a trailer these days!)