Tuesday, 31 August 2010

CLiNT - The Saviour of British Comics?

I've touched on this before in a previous post, but way back in time, Britain had a great comic industry. In fact you can go back as far as the 1800's to the original 'penny dreadfuls' . The format may have been rather different back then, but the idea was much the same - a selection of original stories that continued week-on-week ('anthology' comics). In fact one of them, 'Boys Own' comic, ran from 1879 through to 1967.

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.

• Nemesis - A second Millar classic, getting it's debut printing in the UK.

There are more strips than this, but I think it would be fair to say that the above are very much the 'selling points'.

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!)



Mondo said...

Hadn't heard of this one P, but sounds right up my Fleetway Street. The 'sleeve notes' in Turf's first issue are one of Mark Millar's key pieces for me. A great way of nailing and expanding on comic culture and real-deal enthusiasts.

Buzzed for Clint. As a sideline, Ironic isn't that TV titles have become the heavy hitting sellers. When I was buying Whizzer, Whoopee Krazy (still the finest UK kids comic in my opinion) - TV themed com's were always the starchy naff ones ie - Look-In

Furtheron said...

Blimey - Hotspur, Cor, Beano, Dandy... used to get them all at times. Good old British institution comics like them :-)

Mondo - I'll admit I went the Look In way as I started to slip into teenage consumerism

Mondo said...

I'd also recommend anything by Geoff Johns for updating comic traditions with a more modern snap. Check out his recent Green Lantern Blackest Night run for a taster. Coop's, me and the eldest mini-Mondo, all claimed (independently of each other too) it's the best comic arc we've read in ages..

Anonymous said...

I might check that out if it's reasonably priced although i'm not a regular comic reader any more. I really want to get some American Splendor , the Batman graphic novels you talked to me about and Ghost World too. It took me back seeing Cheeky , Whizzer etc , do you remember Monster Fun ?. I had a huge huge box of comics in my room as a kid and they were such a joy. When you were ill the first thing you reached for was your comics (and Mum would go and buy you more :-). I only have some old Marvel left from my youth , like so many things i've let them go.


Artog said...

It looks very adult orientated, I might be wrong but with Frankie Boyle onboard I doubt it. I only had The Beano and 2000AD on order but I used to regularly read most of the others you mention - I remember reading Topper when it was still a broadsheet!

I didn't know all those titles had vanished, I'd not really thought about them - I try not to buy into the good old days, but a world without Whizzer & Chips etc. just can't be as innocent.

Piley said...

Mondo - well worth a look, and deserves to be supported - especially in the current climate... it's never a great time to try a new British comic, but in these days of woe it's a very brave move. You are right about the old TV Themed comics. Look In did always seem a bit naff. TV Comic was a bit 'starchy' too. And who was that old bloke always chasing a moth in it??!

F-Ron - I hope they are all still packed up nicely in a loft somewhere?? (yeah, yeah, i know the answer!). Do give CLiNT a go if you see it about - love to know what you think.

Carl - Thanks. In real terms CLiNT is a steel. I pay around £3 an issue each for the US versions of Turf and Nemesis alone. Kick Ass will be a similar price too when it comes out. Add the extra strips in and you are quids in (erm... well I won't be of course, because I'll continue to buy them AND CLiNT... DOH!). I still have a lot of my old British kids comics, and just opening them up still transports me back like almost nothing else does. My old TV progs look dated and boring, but my old comics are just full of atmosphere. I even remember a lot of the stories.

Artog - Definitely aimed at a teen to adult audience. Kick Ass Volume 1 is VERY graphic in both art and dialogue. The titles all carry the 'for mature readers only' warning on the US versions.


Heff said...

I haven't looked at a comic in YEARS.

I TOO, was big into them in the early Seventies. The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Spiderman, The Avengers...You know - that American shite, lol !

Nazz Nomad said...

jeez- i read the term "CLint" too fast and thought it was an entirely different word and subject matter

Piley said...

nothing wrong with a bit of seventies Spidey and Iron Man, Heff! I was so Spidey obsessed back then that my Aunt (who had moved to America) used to send me Spiderman every month - it was impossible to get over her in those days. There was a UK 'magazine size' version, but nowhere near as cool as the American.

Nazz - watch out for the next post on FLiCK! ;-)


John Medd said...

You'd sold it to me Piley, and then I read the words Frankie and Boyle. We had tickets for his latest tour but,after his shocking Down's diatribe, we offloaded them.

I can remember the buzz in the mid 80s when Viz hit the newsstand - it reminded me of having that fixed time of the week when you'd go out and get the latest Beano or Shoot, and later on Sounds, Melody Maker etc.

Piley said...

Yeah take your point JM... be a shame to miss out on the rest though, just coz of the Boyle... Turf is worth the money on it's own. I could sell you a copy with the offending pages ripped out for just 50p more?!!

John Medd said...

You're very kind Piley! I may start with Issue 2 if B**le's mughot isn't plastered all over it.

Piley said...

and MISS the first 25 pages of the JR story??!! you crazy! ;-)

Simon said...

As it has been years since I last read comics other than as collections I've splashed out on this. Mainly to see how I get on with the monthly wait for the next episode of each strip.

Looks good value on a quick flip through on the bus last night, hopefully the standard will keep high.

Martin said...

Getting a bit behind with the comments as I've just been reading the 2nd issue. Generally I've enjoyed it so far apart from the fact that I haven't got the slightest idea what Rex Boyd is all about. It also reminded me what a pain it is to have to wait a month for the next part of theb story.

Piley said...

hope you are enjoying the comic Simon, hope it becomes a regular!

Martin - yeah, bring back weekly comics (sigh, I wish someone would, but it's unlikely to ever happen)