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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Comic Scene #0 (August 2018)

Comic Scene is a very welcome newcomer published by ComicFlix.org Publishing. The new monthly is due to come out in August, but before that we have an issue zero to promote subscriptions. To be published on 1 May, this 64-page magazine has a lot of top-notch content that will make fascinating reading to anyone with an interest in British comics and annuals.

We have not had a UK comics' magazine since Crikey! folded in 2011 and suddenly we have two: Fanscene was released earlier this year as a free-to-download study of British comics' fandom, a megalithic 328 pager; and now Comic Scene, an actual printed artefact that picks up the baton of those old fanzines and carries it into 2018.

British comics have a history dating back 150 years if you count that history from the debut of the first recurring comic strip character (Ally Sloper in 1867), but interest in and research about those ancient characters is as scarce as the papers themselves. Indeed, since the demise of Denis Gifford's ACE Newsletter, there is very little research done these days on any papers that appeared pre-Eagle.

And here we have the dilemma of creating a comics fanzine: do you concentrate only on titles that your audience is going to be aware of and ignore everything that came before, or do you try to put today's comics into some sort of context by looking at older comics and characters.

It could be argued that the original Eagle is already the subject of two fanzines (Eagle Times and Spaceship Away!), so it can be safely put to one side. I think Crikey! perhaps proved that older material and humour material didn't translate into sales.

Comic Scene takes the other route with very little content covering comics or events over 30 years old, thus pitching it to an audience of, say, 45-year-olds, which seems about right (I keep forgetting that 2000 AD started over 40 years ago and is itself ancient history to most people!). With the caveat that the paper covers chiefly the last thirty or so years, I think the debut issue zero might suffer from a desire to pack too much in. Most of the features are one or two pages, packing in 28 features into 64 pages, with 5 pages dedicated to a comic strip (Captain Scotland) and 4 pages to news (which will make a little more sense once the paper is monthly, although most people who want to to be kept up to date will probably have already found their needs met online). Longer articles with more depth would be more welcome.

For me, the top features will always involve reminiscences by or interviews with people who have been involved one way or another with the industry, so the pick of the content is, in no particular order, John McShane on the history of Toxic (part 1); Tim Pilcher's look back at Deadline; Pat Mills' opinionated 'The Last Word' on whether characters should die with their creators; an albeit brief interview with Peter Milligan about his upcoming Titan series The Prisoner; Steve McManus and Christopher Lowder both discussing the merger of Valiant and Lion; and John Wagner on the origins of his recent mini-series Rok of the Reds.

Benoit Peeters offers an interesting opinion piece, arguing that comics help us relive our childhood (although I would argue that reading, say, Preacher, was a very different experience to my boyhood reading of Valiant).  Meanwhile, in 'The Cartmel Factor', Ian Wheeler looks back at Doctor Who strips from the era of Andrew Cartmel's script-editing days on Dr Who Magazine.

The Best of Small Press Comics looks at Wolf and Flintlock and the June 2018-released graphic novel Apollo by Matt Fitch & Chris Baker (Selfmadehero) is previewed by Stephen Jewell. This is the kind of thing that I would like to see more of – previews rather than "news".

Elsewhere in Comic Scene we glance at an old Thunderbirds storyline from TV Century 21,  take a look at the debut issue of Shiver & Shake, look back at the Free Comic Book Day releases from 2000AD and the Batman v. Dredd crossover Judgement on Gotham, and discover a brief introduction to collecting books about Roy of the Rovers. Some choices seem a little odd, such as an article on the many faces of Dan Dare that doesn't include a page by Dan's creator, Frank Hampson. A chance to do something substantial on Steve Dillon is rather thrown away in a few hundred words and discussion of Mike Higgs' colour cover for Unicorn fanzine might have been better served in the pages of Fanscene.

Despite these misgivings – and let's not forget that this is Tony Foster's Comic Scene, not Steve Holland's Comic Scene – it's a solid start to what could become that rarest of things – a long-running magazine about British comics.

Details about subscriptions can be obtained from www.comicscene.org. Rates for print issues for the UK are £5.75 for one issue; £33 for 6 issues; £63 for 12 issues.You can get a pdf version for £4.75 (1), £27 (6) or £53 (12).

Payment can be made via PayPal to comicsceneuk@gmail.com. For other options, and for international rates for the print edition, visit the website.

Tony tells me that the monthly will include features on Judge Dredd v Judge Death, 2000AD, Halo Jones, Girls Comics including Tammy / Jinty / Bunty, 80 years of the Beano, The Prisoner, Return of Roy of the Rovers, Six Million Dollar Man v Mach One, Charley’s War, 20 years of comic blog DownTheTubes, 40 years of Starlord and Misty, 50 years of fandom and comic con, 30 years of Tank Girl, Deadline & Hellblazer, Vertigo at 25, the new Doctor Who Jodi Whittaker, Superman at 80, Captain Britain / Mega City One / V For Vendetta and comics on the big and small screen, Miracleman, DC and Marvel in the U.K.,  European comics plus all the latest news and gossip from the comic, small press, cosplay and related media industry.

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