The new Doctor Who Adventures

Doctor Who Adventures (and it’s incredibly short-lived stablemate, Robin Hood Adventures) summed up everything that was wrong with modern British comics – characters imported from another medium, pages of filler pictures, terrible jokes and insultingly easy “puzzles”. Let’s not even mention the astronomical price, inflated by a bunch of cheaply-made toys stuck on the front. You’ll also notice I’ve left any mention of the comic strips until last – well that’s exactly how they were treated! A bit of penny-pinching filler, only shoved in so the publication can be branded a “comic”. They were no more than four pages, often just an extended joke, and ended with some terrible pun. Mind you, I once saw a website which listed every non-fanfic Doctor Who story, and apparently they did experiment with two-parters during the Ten/Rose era, but I never saw any of those.

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But NOOOWWW… There’s a new one! It’s been taken over by Panini, who also handle the reprinting of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. They also produce the UK editions of Marvel comics, which collect three American issues, about 3-4 months late, but for the price of 1.25 imported US comics. The new Doctor Who adventures is a big improvement in the most important area, it now has 9 pages of comic strip! Okay, they’re still a fairly fluffy story with a joke ending, but it’s a step in the right direction. At last, the UK has another ‘proper’ adventure comic which comes out every wee-er, wait a minute…

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Oh, okay then.

Oh, alright, they’ve gone and made it monthly. Still, comics. It also still comes in a bag, with a load of miscellaneous bits and pieces. This time round it’s a bunch of stickers, and what appears to be a notebook, with a 3D Cyberman on the front, plus some glasses. Surprisingly, they’re solid plastic ones, not the cardboard ones they used to give out when we had 3D nights on the telly (doubt there will be any more of those, though. Too many channels, not to mention that “wobbling” 3D thing).

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The issue opens with the depressingly-inevitable contents page. There ought to be a law against anything with fewer than 50 pages being allowed one. There’s also an introduction from the Doctor – promisingly, he actually uses words like “Disquiet”! I once read a blog, where some guy said he fed passages from The Magnet and The Gem into an “analyse your reading level” website, and it came back as “Master’s Degree”. Surely the twenties and thirties were not that long ago? Still, looks like his rantings were not entirely in vain!

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There’s also the first of a few puzzle pages, in the form of a message from UNIT. One of the puzzles is a “find the Cybermats” trail around the rest of the comic, as well as a series of “secret codes”, left by invasion-planning aliens.

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Somebody’s just discovered the Wingdings font!

Then, we’re on to the comic! It’s split into two parts (both in the same issue), and is set in modern-day India. It’s a more “serious” story than other DWA (or “Official Annual”, which I presume to be in a similar style. The 50th anniversary annual was pathetic – it should have been the size of a 30’s Chums volume, and had at least one novel-length text story) strips I have seen. The ending is still a bit coppey-outey, though. But I’ll carry on getting this for a few months, and see what else they do. Go on, do a proper serial, you know you want to!

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Oh, also, it features the current Doctor and Clara, as you’d expect. No flashbacks here! Clara also appears to have grown giant eyes XD. No doubt somebody’s describing it as “manga style”, as we speak.

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Yeah, look at those giant eyes.

The bulk of the issue is still filled with features and puzzles. Back in the day, Doctor Who Weekly (which is now Doctor Who Magazine) had features, too. But they were mainly intelligent text pieces about how the show is made – make-up techniques, how special effects are done, and so on. The DWA material is considerably more lightweight (though, come to think of it, if it gets more in-depth, behind the scenes, text-heavy articles, after having gone monthly, it will basically just be DWM 2!). There’s one section about the show’s current main characters, with mini-profiles.

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And also, a UNIT guide to monsters. This particular one’s home planet is so unknown, they had to tell us twice! It also has “advanced high tech” weapons – don’t miss anything, them UNIT guys! (Never mind, eh, it’s only for kids, after all. They probably won’t even notice, right?).

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Wait a minute – who is that, at the head of the school governors?

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There’s also a science page – with the old batteries-from-nails-and-lemons experiment. Nails, you say? But they’re sharp! And it asks the readers to cut the lemons! With a knife! There’s not even a “get an adult to help you!” warning, taking up a full quarter of one of the pages! That’s a big risk to take, in 2015. Shame we don’t have the judiciary the public clearly want, who will throw money-grabbing no-win, no-fee claimants out on their ears, eh?

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Where are you expected to get wire and an LED these days, though? The days of Tandy, and repairing electrical appliances rather than just buying a new one, are long gone!

There’s more puzzles, too. As well as more Zygon codes, there’s this one, harking back to the days of old DWM. Von Doogan it aint!

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Slightly better is this map reference hunt. In the old days, the black and white map would have had a colour picture of the TARDIS stuck on it, rendering the directions-following “puzzle” totally pointless. (A bit like “Where’s Dennis?” in the Beano a few years back. his vector face was photoshopped on to an old bitmap scan, and clearly stood out).

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After that, there’s something very unexpected, and very cool – a text story!! Sadly, it stars that Victorian trio who keep popping up on telly, but you can’t have everything. It’s three pages, but has very large illustrations, so is really more like one page. The illustration across the second two pages looks cool, but I can’t take a photo of that, it’d give away most of the story!

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There’s not much more to tell. There’s a “Who News” section, where the Doctor put in an appearance at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, while three school parties just happened to be there (why, it’s almost as if they planned it that way). This page also promises a letters section, to begin in the next issue. Sadly, I expect it will be a two-page letters section, in a very large font, and the text stories will be obliterated. But I may be wrong – the next issue is actually out by now, so I could just go and check XD.

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The content is rounded out by a poster, which can be unstapled from the middle. It’s of the 12th Doctor and “Missy”, the Master “shockingly” regenerated into female form, which ceased to become shocking and became totally ordinary in the very next episode – no doubt to “soften the blow” for the upcoming female Doctor.

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Never mind eh? Sci-fi fans need no longer be the shows audience. In fact, the identity of “sci-fi fan” is dead.

This new comic now sits alongside a totally different, monthly Doctor Who comic which is also seperate from the “canonical” strips in Doctor Who Magazine. This one is published by Titan, who produce the UK editions of DC Comics such as Batman and Superman, as well as UK editions of IDW comics such as Star Wars (which I was buying for a short time, a few years ago). Titan’s comic is the UK edition of the American IDW Doctor Who strips and, as usual, is 3 issues worth (several months late) for £3.99. The individual US comics, bought in the UK, are about £2.99, so the new Titan version is better value… if you wait! Oh, also the pages are bigger.

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Also, it’s got the world’s most obvious name

This one has three US-length strips. One for each of the most recent Doctors (though a Ninth Doctor series is starting, across the pond!). The Twelfth Doctor is once again in India, this time in the 1830’s and 2310’s. There’s also hints at an (unseen?) Fourth Doctor adventure in the same country!

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I wonder how a scene of Britain in 2314 with an all-white family and two white cops would go down?

The Eleventh Doctor is in Britain, taking his new assistant to her favourite singer’s first-ever gig, only to find him a bit, well, disappointing. Then there’s a trip to 1930’s America, and Bessie gets a bit of an upgrade. Some alien has been “stealing people’s souls” in return for stage presence XD.

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The Tenth Doctor is in New York / an alien world full of invisible creatures who feed on positive or negative emotions. It’s getting near to some Hispanic version of Halloween, and everybody’s starting to feel depressed, as the negative emotion aliens are becoming more dominant… or something. I’ve not actually read this one yet. Better get to it! (also, I snapped two random pages, may be spoilers!)

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There’s also an additional photo-strip, made with toys. In which the Doctor jokes about a Cyberman made of wood, and thereby “triggers” an artist. Todays Doctor Who fans won’t like that!

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Of the two, I greatly prefer Doctor Who Comic, it’s all comic! But Doctor Who Adventures is better for really young readers. It’s not as dumbed-down as it used to be, so will help them to “read up” to the level of the Titan comic more quickly.

MCM Winter Expo 2012

(Why yes, I am referring to them in the same manner as the Japanese refer to Comiket, though those are a couple of months later, entirely dedicated to comics, and four times bigger XD)

Last weekend I went to the MCM Expo, which is held twice a year in London’s Excel Centre. Also known for hosting various Olympic events. I actually got myself organised this time, and caught the same train as my friend from King’s Lynn, so we went together. I also finally gave her a Nendoroid (small, chubby figures of characters from nerdy things… where’s the Doctor Who ones?) I’d bought in Japan. She was with various friends in costumes, who said “We’re a bunch of freaks”. Except on the way down the train I’d walked past a loligoth zombie with her face all in stitches, so yeah. I’d intended to dress up as a 30’s American gangster, to “promote” Pulp Detective. In the event, I forgot to even take the first issue of Pulp Detective and shove it in people’s faces. The small WH Smith in the King’s Cross Underground didn’t have it either. Why yes, I would have bought a second £3.25 copy just to shove in people’s faces.

Anyway, on arrival we promptly lost most of the people from the train, who had spent the journey playing Mario Kart and screaming. The journey to the venue was uneventful… apart from when a few Japanese girls accosted my friend (dressed as computer-generated singer Hatsune Miku) and wanted pictures taken with her. Then they asked us where “the Harry Potter place” was. We also met a cowboy on the underground, but he was on a pub crawl, not going to the con XD. Also my friend’s friend, dressed as the second doctor (though with the hair of the fourth XD) decided to spend the rest of the day in character, which was amusing (he saw many of his future selves). We waited for somebody else, who was cosplaying a “Pyramid Head” from… some game. We had to wait for him to change, which appears to have involved taking most of his clothes off, which somehow took ages. His costume was very good, so loads of people wanted pictures taken, he also insisted on walking to the queue “in character”, dragging his huge sword. We decided to leave him to it.

The queue was as fun as ever, with many hi-fives and fist bumps. There was also a few “mexican wave cheers”, but as big as the MCM queue is, it was a bit too small for those to work properly. You really need 110,000 people, stretched across a gigantic field, with AC/DC at one end. Later on we tried to start a mass singalong, but unfortunately nobody else knew the words to any Spitting Image songs (or 19th century German propaganda anthems). Oh we also got everybody clapping at one point XD. After the qeue was finished I lost the other two by stopping to have Thai curry AND sushi… well you didn’t get very much of either. The sushi was the nicest pre-packaged kind I have had in this country, which isn’t saying much.

Once that was over and done with, it was on to the main hall! I’ve always said they should expand the convention into two halls, instead they appear to have taken out the partition between two and turned them into one huge one. It was far less crowded than it was in May, and even the small press “comic village” had a decent amount of space between tables. It was also the first place I headed for, of course! There was plenty else going on along the way, mind you. KITT was parked in the middle of the hall, and there was a Yu-gi-oh / Magic card tournament nearby. Also costume competitions, talks and that. All of which I sailed serenely and ignorantly past, I had comics to buy!

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The complete haul

Japanofail issue 6 (of 5) is a collection of very funny gag strips, I’ve lost track of how many of them I have, mind you. Better have a dig in the small press drawer.

I also got a couple of Victorian-set stories, though both involving elements of “Steampunk” and magic. Widdershins is pretty funny, and remarkably for a “vaguely manga”-type modern story, doesn’t depict Victorian Britain as “just the same as it is now but with a few gas lamps”.

Twisted Dark is great big 200 page wedge of horror for only £5, and Tortured Life is a new full-colour comic from the same creators. This one about a man who is able to see how people and animals will die when he looks at them, so becomes a hermit, then finds somebody who is apparently not going to die!

Allsorts is from Sweatdrop Studios (in-depth post really is going to be made one day, honest! …or just look them up yourself) and is an all-ages comic. There’s actually a few Sweatdrop comics that would be great for children, but which have swear words added for no reason. It puts me in mind of “daringly” watching 12-rated films when you are 10, or spotting one swear word in a translated manga. Completely pointless! Anyway, Allsorts is A4 sized and very thin, a format just like a traditional British weekly. Mind you it’s also £5 because it has a small print run and many people worked on it. It even has a text story! Though knowing the Sweatdrop lot, this was no doubt inspired by seeing text stories in The Phoenix, rather than a knowledge of the history of British (or real history of Japanese) comics. Also from Sweatdrop is Reluctant Soldier Princess Nami – a parody of Shoujo Battle anime from the late 80’s, which makes no sense to me, probably because I haven’t watched what it is parodying!

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Oops, some airfix paints fell conveniently into place

But the best buy of the con was this Doctor Who book. IDW in the US are producing their own Doctor Who comics (including a crossover with Star Trek) independently of the strips in Doctor Who Magazine or Doctor Who Adventures. The cover was signed by artist Al Davison! I’m keeping that one in an old Phoenix envelope. The story itself is about the tenth Doctor in the world of Hollywood during the roaring 20’s. I seem to remember a brief reference to that in one of his last TV episodes – making the book a neat ‘gap filler’.

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Posters n postcards

The most interesting thing I got was Sound, a compilation of Vietnamese comics(!). The theme of the collection is Sound, though there’s also plenty of stories with a ghostly horror element. One story, perhaps inevitably, mentions the war and another gives an insight into Vietnamese culture – they have a “Civil Defense” who are like Britain’s PCSO’s, only organised along military lines. The artwork is mostly Japanese style and the production of the book is in line with UK small press anthologies. I suppose Vietnam’s comic industry is tiny, under-funded and anaemic, with a very blurred line between the “small press” and “professionals”. Just like Britain’s comic industry, in fact!

After a lot of wandering about looking for my friends and appreciating cool costumes, I spent the last of my money on some Japanese porn comics and came home, going through several flurries of freezing cold rain. Winter is truly here now, so stay indoors with your favourite picture-books. My next convention will probably be the Spring MCM or Camcon II… depending on dates! There is a convention in Leeds next weekend, which The Phoenix will have a stand at, but that’s a bit far to go for a day trip, from here.

A comparison

…of Japan’s best weekly adventure comic and Britain’s best (only!) weekly adventure comic.*

It’s no secret that I hold Japan up as an example of how the comic industries of all countries ought to function. Thick, cheap weekly anthologies with exciting serials, which are then collected into better-printed book form for fans to collect. I’m not suggesting that Britain ought to start copying the Japanese art style or stories, though. And our comics don’t need to be as thick either, if we’re going to stick with detailed Commando-type artwork. But they do need to exist!

With sales dropping or barely holding across the board (mind you The Beano did recently gain just over 1000, which is a step in the right direction.) some drastic gambles may have to be taken. And of course comic fans all need to do their bit to promote the art form to non-readers in everyday life.

But enough of that, on with the comparison!

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The Phoenix issue 8 and Shonen Jump issue 12 (for 2012)

Here are the covers, and I think The Phoenix easily wins out,  with a big bold image and minimal text, as opposed to the “bit of everything” Japanese clutter. Some otaku hold that Japanese writing** is “more artistic” and so cluttered covers work better in that language. Well actually in Japan it’s considered “artistic” to scatter odd English around designs (usually it makes no sense). Cluttered covers are just ugly whatever language they are in!

Of course, the ideal is to have a strip on the cover. But we just aren’t getting that these days.

But enough of the fronts, lets look at the sides…

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That’s about the size of it.

Yes, Shonen Jump is still a weekly! It can be such a huge size partly because of the style of manga art, with many panels featuring only talking characters with basic backgrounds. Also manga usually uses screen tone to add shading, rather than time-consuming cross hatching. Oh and of course (at least if Bakuman is anything to go on) artists and writers only work on one story at a time, for which they are paid a decent wage and also receive royalties from sales of the collected books. This means they can concentrate on “their” story entirely. Most if not all of them also have assistants doing the donkey-work of, say, drawing the windows on distant skyscrapers. It is in effect the famous “studio system” used on Dan Dare raised to a state of perfection.

This particular issue contains 21 stories in about 500 pages (most of them aren’t numbered). The Phoenix contains 11 stories in a mere 32 pages. Though of course the length, style and pacing of them is so completely different a direct comparison is meaningless. Also the Phoenix’s editorial content is a ‘story’ in itself!

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Like so

Starting off, we have the latest information on “Phoenix land”, with the ongoing case of the missing feathers. One of the fictional editors of the comic has been arrested on suspicion of stealing them, which has not gone down well with the rest of the team. And then we’re into the first story. The stories in The Phoenix are all full-colour and the paper quality certainly beats Shonen Jump hands down. Mind you I’m wrong in the head so I actually prefer thin newsprint, but I’m not going to start claiming it’s better!

The first story is Pirates of Pangaea, which is actually pretty close to the “sort of thing” you’d see in manga! A fantasy world of dinosaurs and crazy pirates. Mind you though Pirates of Pangaea doesn’t feature a mysterious child with an ancient power locked within him, or elaborate, wordy mind-games. No it features shooting at rampaging raptors with flintlocks and then running like mad!

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A blonde guy teamed up with a “dumb animal” that’s more intelligent than him, shades of Tintin eh?

The other ‘serious’ adventure story in The Phoenix is The Lost Boy. This one is actually drawn in a kind of combined British / Japanese style. And it also features a seafaring adventurer on a mysterious island!

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Sweet sugar lumps!

The other “flagship” adventure story is the more comedic Long Gone Don, created by The Etherington Brothers. This pair are for my money not just the most talented writer and artist working in British comics at the moment, but are among the best in the world! The complex and detailed art is a joy to behold, the dialogue is fantastic and the stories rattle along at a good pace. The one criticism I can perhaps offer is with art that deep and detailed they ought to go about including some “where’s wally?”-style mini visual gags. That’d make their work just about perfect, and would encourage people to stare at it for longer, too!

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Crazy invention time!

The Phoenix also contains some purely comedy stories, such as this one by Jamie Smart. To put it diplomatically Jamie is a “marmite” artist. A little like a modern version of Eric Parker, in fact, in that he sure can turn ’em out. He’s almost made The Dandy his own of late – which has bought about some highly polarised opinions. I’d better reserve my own judgement on the matter, lest accusations of jealousy start flying around.

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What would the Rev’d Marcus Morris have made of this?

One of my favourite parts of The Phoenix is the educational Corpse Talk. The basic premise is that the skeletal, rotted remains of famous historical figures are dug up and interviewed about their lives. Like ya do. This week it’s the Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, and previous bodies in the chair have been Marie Curie and Genghis Khan. I should think more than one kid has got better marks on their history homework as a result of this! Plus just look at how many panels have been crammed in, it’s like 1950’s Jonah!

The feature content of The Phoenix includes the usual “letters and pictures from readers” section that has long been a staple of British comics (though of course the best letters sections appeared before 1930). I can’t see anything that looks similar in Shonen Jump. The Pheonix also contains a series of articles about creating your own comics, and encourages children to have a go themselves.

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 Mind you this one is about sound effects, which are overused, over dramatic and over here!

To my mind this is the most important part of the comic. It will hopefully instill in the readers not only the desire to try it for themselves (all kids draw, but if my own experience is anything to go on very few of them attempt to make comic strips. Though to my own young mind it seemed the logical thing to do.) but also an appreciation of the art form of comics and of the effort that goes into making decent ones. If The Phoenix can be sustained (apparently it’s secure for two years… are you doing your bit to make it run beyond?) and if those kids can inspire others at their schools to draw comics too we might see the long-wished-for comics “revolution” in Britain within the next 15 years!

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More Etheringtonism

The Phoenix also contains puzzles, including the ongoing series The Dangerous Adventures of Von Doogan. Some of these are harder than others and really require you to get yer brain in gear. This issue’s are a bit easy though. Readers are invited to “help” the adventurer by sending in the solutions to the puzzles, and if “chosen” by him receive prizes.

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Yep!

Finally one thing Shonen Jump definitely does not have is text stories! Text-filled story papers were the predecessors of British adventure comics, and even once the adventure strips started to appear in the late 30’s there was a long crossover period of mixed text and strip content. By contrast I’m not sure Japan ever had what could be considered an equivalent to story papers. But then most histories of manga begin in the late 1940’s and ignore everything that went before as being “too nationalistic”. Mind you certain ivory-tower preachers are attempting to act like British comics only began in 1976 and nothing that came before is worthy of note.

Possible candidates for Japanese story papers include books called ‘Yellow Covers’ that first started to appear in 1775 (the first British story paper was possibly The Young Gentlemen’s Magazine in 1777, but very little information is available on it). After these there was a genre of serialised stories called ‘Books for reading’. I’ve also seen an issue of a 1920’s “comic” (as described by my girlfriend of the time) called Boys’ Club. But I can’t find any information on it, and it was locked in a cabinet at a museum with all of the other information about it in Japanese.

Anyway, the Phoenix text stories are often extracts from children’s books, which means I don’t bother reading them as I won’t be buying the books. Occasionally however they run complete stories or mini-serials (including an adaption of The Minotaur). More of those, please!

The Phoenix is completely free of advertising, because it is funded by “anonymous backers” (why anonymous though, surely not ‘shame’ at being involved with ‘mere comics’? Stand up and be counted, true patriots!). By contrast Shonen Jump has quite a lot of adverts, even in the form of fold-out “colour plates”!

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 FURUKOOOOOOOOOOSU!

These adverts are generally for action figures, videogames or anime DVD’s. Almost all of which are based on the stories that have appeared in Shonen Jump! And yet in this country when a British comic character is adapted into another form (rather than a TV show being made into a ‘comic’ with hardly any comic) it’s generally either ignored or is met with a disgraceful shower of hate from hack journalists who have suddenly ‘discovered’ that the comics they read as a kid 30 years ago have changed since then. And this from supposedly ‘patriotic’ newspapers.

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Hand!

By contrast to The Pheonix, Shonen Jump contains only 3 pages of comic in colour. They are the first three pages of Haikyuu!!, a school and volleyball strip. It’s apparently a new strip, so this could be the very first part and the colour pages serve to introduce it. Of course in issues where a new story is not beginning it’s probable that a popular one is randomly chosen for the colour pages.

The Phoenix does not have any sport stories, but they were once a genre that ebbed and flowed through British comics. The Boys’ Realm became a sport-themed paper towards the end of it’s life, and even launched a smaller spinoff called The Boys’ Realm Sports Library, which I recently bought 6 months of. This issue of Shonen Jump has two, Hakyuu!! and Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko’s Basketball).

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 Is a small tsu in Katakana also a ‘sound extender’ like a line is?

Of course the staples of shonen manga (boys’ comics) are the adventure stories. There’s some comedic ones such as Toriko, which is about a “gourmet hunter” who tours the world looking for ingredients to create “the ultimate meal”. If British TV companies want to save a few bob they could always combine I’m A Nonentity Get Me Back On Telly (are you sure that’s right? -ed) and Masterchef into one show in this way.

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Also it has Mexican wrestlers

Another comedy adventure tale is the famous One Piece, which is about a crew of pirates captained by “Luffy”, who has some sort of superpower. In this issue we have the 657th (O_O) chapter…

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 With some English

…and you thought Varney The Vampyre ran for a long time! Like the early-mid 19th century Penny Dreadfuls, a successful manga will be extended and extended to make more money rather than allowed to end at the point the writers probably hoped it would. This of course usually leads to people beginning to describe long-running stories as “annoying” or “crazy” as the writers just stick in whatever they think up first, probably having long since given up caring.

Of course in Britain from about the 1860’s – 70’s onwards stories had a set length and finished when they finished. It didn’t do our industry any harm for the next hundred years! And of course a story ending doesn’t mean that the same characters can’t come back in a new tale later, but it does free up the creators to think of something totally different if they want.

The main stock in trade of the shonen story is, of course, giant monsters, giant lasers or, er, both.

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Oroboros? It always makes me think of Red Dwarf!

Some stories actually have quite a lot of detail despite still being 20-30 pages a chapter. There must be quite a crew of assistants working on Nurarihyon no Mago.

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Fields of swords!

And of course there’s the epic battles with magic energy beams. I wonder how people don’t get tired of this stuff… but then again somebody who can’t read English would probably consider every Commando comic to have the same story XD.

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 DOGOOOOOO. Mind you if the Treens were watching this they’d know not to mess.

Shonen Jump also contains a few examples of other genres, including one which was once very popular in Britain… up to World War 1 anyway, the “work” story. The Boys’ Friend used to be crammed with tales about boys who worked in mines, factories or shipyards. And the immortal Sexton Blake used to regularly go undercover in all sorts of industries. In today’s Shonen Jump we have Bakuman, a story of kids working their way into the manga industry. The old work stories in Britain were usually detective stories at their heart, with the hero overhearing some villainous plot and working to foil it.

Bakuman is instead basically a romantic story at it’s heart (well there’s not much scope for villainy in the manga industry, a serial pencil thief is not that threatening). Moritaka Mashiro dreams of being a manga artist, he loves Miho Azuki who wants to be a voice actress. They promise that when Moritaka has made a successful manga that is animated, Miho will play the woman in it, and then they can be married. But apart from that it also contains many other amusing characters and offers many insights into how the manga industry in Japan works (which is how I’m even able to write posts like this!). The Japanese books are currently up to 16, the English have just reached 9. This chapter will probably be part of book 17.

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“Everybody Listen!”

Other styles of stories include the purely humorous story, as we’d see in The Beano. Just longer, black and white and probably serialised to a degree (and later made into an animation without mouth-foaming, traitorous ravings in the papers).

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Teacups for heads? It’s PC gone mad!

One of the longest running comedy comics in Shonen Jump is called, and breathe in here: This is the police station in front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward. It’s been running continuously since 1976, and in fact the artwork still looks more like 70’s manga than the modern kind.

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“I’m gonna try and do 3 rotations!” “Aagh stop rotating!” …or something like that .

The story is probably more like Only Fools and Horses (or maybe Stop The Pigeon) as the characters try to use the latest fads or wierd inventions to either get rich quick, or catch criminals more easily. Of course these always go wrong. Also like the stories of Billy Bunter or Sexton Blake the main characters never age even though the world is changing around them. But actually in this story a few characters do age. A baby born in an early story is now a teenager, but his parents are still the same age.

This particular story appears to involve a pushy journalist constantly interfering with police work by trying to interview everybody. However he then helps them arrest an armed robber by popping up at the resturant he is holed up in and trying to interview him. While he is still wondering what’s going on he gets arrested!

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Myootsukee.

There’s also a school story apparently told from the perspective of the teacher. The only British example of that I can think of (except for maybe “Singled out: Teacher” Bash Street Kids episodes in The Beano from the 2000’s) was in The Captain in 1899!

You will probably have noticed that most of the print quality in Shonen Jump is not fantastic. That’s because these weekly anthologies are seen as ‘throwaway’, in fact the trains and stations in Tokyo usually have discarded copies laying on the seats. Of course in Britain for most of history comics were also seen as “throwaway” and were used to, say, light the fire once the kids were done with them. This has found it’s ultimate expression in the replacement of the printed US Shonen Jump (which was monthly and had half the page count… somehow) with “Shonen Jump Alpha”, which is at least weekly but ‘expires’ and deletes itself. Of course any comic that goes purely digital from print ceases to exist as far as I’m concerned. But having them ‘expire’ really is a step too far. I haven’t bought a videogame since 2009 because of the Orwellian excesses of that industry. It cannot be allowed to creep into comics too!

Of course, it’s okay to dispose of the weekly anthology copies in Japan because the stories that the readers like will come out in better-printed book form. Virtually every story will be printed in this way, whether they sell or not! It is of course these collected books that we get in foreign countries.

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But a little bigger

Of course this can help with Japanese study… an aspect of comics that must also be promoted by fans to the unbelievers, and a reason why it is essential that more countries begin to produce a wide range of varied stories in the manner of Japan, and export them!

Imagine the proliferation of enthusiasm for learning other languages and the cultures that go with them if all nations produced interesting-looking picture stories that people wanted to understand. Comics have advantages over plain books in that the pictures help to explain what’s going on, and the dialogue and descriptions are “broken apart” clearly.

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The English words actually seem to fit some of those bubbles better!

Of course book form reprints of stories from British comics are starting to proliferate now. But only haphazardly and occasionally in “best of” type books rather than full reprints. They’re also usually hardbacks with thick glossy art paper… even if the original artwork has been lost and the reproduction would have been just as good in lower-quality paperback. Of course this drive for quality of printing and binding drives the prices up to prohibitive levels, especially in a recession, and people stay away. Then series are left incomplete because of “poor sales”. Still if everybody reading this made up their mind to buy just one of the British comic reprint books this week…

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Serving suggestion

Of course it’s far more important that the risk is taken and that ‘vanished’ stories are once again reproduced thousands of times and distributed to the ends of the country, so that they may survive into future decades in an easily accessible form. But as usual those who “know the cost of everything and the value of nothing” win the day. Mind you unsympathetic shopkeepers don’t help. Classics From The Comics was just really getting into it’s stride, switching from purely reprinting 1/2 page humour strips to a little bit of everything from DC Thomson’s extensive back catalogue, even reaching back into the twenties! But bad distribution killed it off in it’s prime. It was probably the closest thing we have had to Shonen Jump, actually. Though only 100 pages and entirely reprints.

One other book Britain has had which was a bit like Shonen Jump was this one from 1989

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Intended as an annual, mind you.

It was a paperback reprint of a random selection of IPC / Amalgamated Press adventure comics from the 50’s and 60’s. It even had Jump-like print ‘quality’!

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A highwayman story probably originally from The Thriller Library

Even in 1989 this apparently didn’t sell well enough to be reprinted. But really it ought to point the way forwards, if the quality of the reprints is not going to be very good because of missing/deteriorated original artwork, cheapen the paper to match and knock it out for as low a price as possible! And of course all of us will then have to let other people know it’s out there!

It’s one thing to wish that we had regular big wedges of comic like Shonen Jump (not that thinner wedges of full colour like The Phoenix are a bad thing, we ought to be able to do both, really). But if we want it, all comic fans and creators have to stand together and do their bit!

*- Actually Doctor Who adventures is also weekly, and Doctor Who is an “acceptable” licensed character. But it only has 4-5 actual pages of comic strip per issue, the rest is dumbed-down articles with big pictures and “ooh scary!” captions.

** – The ‘fancier’ characters are actually almost all Chinese, though!

Proper British adventure comics are still around, if you know where to look – Part 1.

Well that title isn’t going to format well, is it?

Anyway, as the title implies, i have set myself up as the comic hanging judge, deciding what is worthy and what is not. So what do i consider a “proper” British adventure comic, then?

– Comes out weekly

– Printed on newsprint, or thin paper

– Black and white.

However those criteria are nonexistent today (though Commando comes closest!), so unfortunately must be ignored. Oh well, i don’t consider a car to be “proper” unless it’s rear wheel drive and has loads of chrome on it, but my own one has neither. Needs must in these dark, tasteless times. On with criteria we can fill…

– Original characters, or else characters that are not imported from some flavour-of-the-month American film, Japanese cartoon etc.

– Suitable for all ages

– Combined comic strips and illustrated text stories.

Now we’re getting somewhere! Titles that live up to these criteria can be had if, as the title says, you know where to look. Which brings us on to:

The Doctor Who Storybook 2007

jh

Remember “proper” annuals are dated a year ahead, so this came between the 2006 and 2007 series!

I had read a few times that these “storybooks” were better than the “official annuals”. Though not having seen any of the contemporary official annuals i can’t comment. I have however seen a scan of one of the 1970’s annuals (on a Doctor Who DVD! I wasn’t Warezing) and it was terrible. Mindlessley dull text stories, nonsensical psychadelic comic strips and about 75% of the book being general articles about space exploration. Mind you people were still going to the moon in the early 70’s.

Anyway, i came across this book in Mind for 20p, so i had to have it, and i’m glad i found out what I’ve been missing! There are several text stories, some “straight” but others presented in the form of diaries, ordinary people telling the story of what happened to them, and even an instant message conversation. They are also profusely illustrated.

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Most of the illustrations are fantastic…

For my money the first story (“Cuckoo-spit”, told as a diary written by a boy in the 70’s) and the last one (“Corner of your eye”, told as an IM conversation) are the best ones. Though one in the middle, narrated by the storyteller in an ancient European village, is pretty good too.

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And some aren’t.

 There’s also one long comic strip in the middle of the book which is also good. It’s set in “Venezia” but it’s not clear if this is Venice or an alien planet that looks like Venice! The inhabitants aren’t much of a clue, as everybody knows a good third of the intelligent life forms in the universe of Doctor Who look exactly like us!

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Also i’ve seen uglier bouncers on this planet.

About the only problem with this book is that it’s way too short! A single issue of the 1900’s Union Jack probably has the same word count and that came out every week. This comes out once a year… or should i say came out, as by the look of an Amazon search there isn’t one for 2011 (yet?). A lot of publishers are cutting back (ahem, Roy of the Rovers season 1), it will be a shame if this is a permanent casualty. Still that gives me another 3 to track down… and they are certainly worth more than just 20p!

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The room has two light switches. The room has two light switches. The room has two light switches…

In an attempt to update this blog a bit more often (i now have three ‘big’ articles i want to do but haven’t got around to!) i’ll post another part of this mini-series soon.