After a difficult birth and an even more difficult “childhood”, with waits of many months between some issues (and the entire consignment of one issue, which ended up being ‘combined’ with another, going missing in Italy. Anybody who finds those ought to hang on to them, might be worth a bit in years to come!), Strip Magazine has now finally reached UK Newsagents!
The occasion is marked with a new first issue, which has an entirely new look and several new stories, though others are being reprinted for the benefit of new readers.
The issue opens with the customary Cosmic Patrol strip. This is one that has not been seen before. I don’t know if they’re reprinted from somewhere else, but the artistic style suggests franco-belgian to me, as do the “strange” sound effects.
In the same manner as 2000AD and The Phoenix, they have gone for a fictional editor to introduce the comic. In this case, an educated ape! (I wonder if it’s one of the apes from that Not-I-Spy-Honest strip in the original version? XD).
The new “lead” strip is a re-creation of DC Thomson’s hero King Cobra! They kept this under their hats, I remember it being announced not too far in advance of the release date. I was worried they’d do the usual hatchet job, turning him into a “Patriotism as She is Spoke”, over emotional character who would be dropping to his knees and screaming “NNNOOOOO!” all the time. I voiced these concerns on a forum and got the usual response of “the character needs to be modernised”. For modernised, read americanised.
BUT, so far anyway, they have actually done a decent job (though he does shout “No!” in a speech bubble with a red outline). The new Cobra is the usual martial arts expert loaded with gadgets, such as wrist-mounted arrow firers and limited invisibility. He is also in contact with a woman “in the background”, monitoring CCTV images and police radios, which at least means he isn’t talking to himself XD.
Several references are made to “the old Cobra”, and the introduction blurb states that the original Cobra disappeared in 1982 (the year Hotspur was merged into Victor XD). The villain of the strip (costumed dictator of his own nuclear-armed country, no less!) recognises him too. There’s an interesting backstory here, and I for one can’t wait to read it!
One quirk of the original King Cobra was that his “human form” was really clumsy. I expect this aspect will be “modernised” (removed entirely), but Strip often gives me pleasant surprises. Mind you, the clumsiness wasn’t seen in all the old King Cobra stories. I didn’t know about it until I saw a reprint of one of the weekly strips in Classics From the Comics. It’s not mentioned at all in some annuals!
Black Ops Extreme also returns, in a brand new story! I think this is actually the best one so far (though the Embassy Siege one was good too). Though this “continues” from the old Strip Magazine, the stories are all more or less complete in themselves. The overall plot (disgraced former special forces soldiers have to undertake suicide missions for pardons) is pretty easy to grasp. No doubt it will slowly work towards them all being betrayed, almost killed, then escaping and going on the run XD.
To reiterate – A BOSNIAN CARES MORE ABOUT BRITISH COMICS THAN BRITISH PEOPLE.
Next up is the Comic Cuts article, with news about what’s happening in the British comics ‘scene’. Of course, the biggest news at the moment is Strip Magazine itself! They talk about the origins of the UK version, the titles Print Media already publish in Bosnia (including Strip Magazin) and the endless troubles the test issues faced with customs. Hopefully things are smoothed over and the new version will reach shops in a timely manner, though as I write there have been some problems with subscriptions.
Next is the fantasy story Crucible. This is quite confusing to begin with, lots of characters and elements of the world to take in at once (anybody else who is going to do one of these ought to read early Long Gone Don in The Phoenix, Broilerdoom is very strange, but introduced in an easily-understandable manner). Anyway, the story opens with the main character, Sylvana, looking for a job. She ends up being recruited with the usual motley crew of adventurers who are off on a quest. Then they get into a fight, with another crew of adventurers, whose “job” they “stole”!
Sylvana appears to have been punched in one eye, and it’s closed. But we don’t see the punching happen, is she perhaps blinded in one eye, and always has it closed? One of my friends is blinded like that, so I notice these things.
Other artists draw both eyes… but then so do my friend’s fans XD
Black Dragon is another reprint, but this time in colour! And it’s going to be continued, too. It’s set in an alternate steampunk(sigh)-ish world. Though it’s 2012 in this world, it’s all steam-powered airships, elaborate braid-covered uniforms and monarchies. This story was originally a one-off, but is now going to be continued!
Strip Magazine also carries interviews with writers and artists, much like the Judge Dredd Megazine. Here Richmond Clements is interviewed about his work on Black Ops Extreme and Black Dragon, as well as work further afield. He also edits the 2000AD fanzine/comic Zarjaz, and helps to run the Hi-Ex convention.
Next up is Denizens, an “eco” story which is also reprinted from the old Strip Magazine. There the first two installments were presented as a complete(ish) story, but now we have the first one repeated again. Unlike a lot of these stories, it actually has a scientific background and isn’t all about rune magic and leylines (which were actually dreamed up in the 1920′s, anyway). After a deforestation protester’s wife is killed accidentally, he creates a formula which causes rapid plant growth, then spreads it around the world, so nature can reclaim the cities.
Books Spotlight primarily focuses on the books Print Media are producing. This one talking about Frontier, which I believe originally appeared in The DFC. They are also releasing Mirabilis (another DFC one?) and The Iron Moon in book form. Though some other DFC stories are collected in their own DFC Library book line. Hopefully a Phoenix Library is not too far away!
After that, the final adventure strip for this issue, Warpaint. This IS the sort of rune-magic eco-mysticism that has terminally infected 2000AD (A “department of magyick” even showed up in Judge Dredd). Fortunately in Strip Magazine it’s safely quarantined in the one story. This is also a reprint, which ran through several of the old issues, but has re-started for the new version. Oh well, I suppose it will hook the 2000AD readers.
On the back cover is Bogey Man Bob, another comedy strip, and another repeat, but a good one! And it is, of course, a strip on the cover (though The Beano currently has cover strips too, in a “new retro look”. Just like the “new retro look” they tried last year XD).
Strip Magazine is a bold attempt at launching a new comic into a country that has largely given up on them. It can be found in most of the larger WH Smith branches, as well as some comic shops and smaller ‘general’ newsagents. They maintain an informative web presence and always keep fans updated on distribution and delivery problems, as well as listing shops where the comic may be bought:
There’s also a digital version for iThings, but no decent person is going to be lowering themselves to that, are they?