The Phoenix Weekender – 100 Issues!
The Phoenix Comic makes it to a milestone 100th issue, a fabulous achievement for a limited distribution, mostly subscription comic with no ad revenue, no crappy plastic toys plastered over the cover. It’s something no other independently produced children’s comic has done in the past 40 years. Wow.
It’s been a fantastic run of issues as well, loads of fun for myself, loads of fun for Molly, and loads of fun for the children at school, so much so in fact that we have to limit it to just Year 5 & 6 to put a slight cap on demand!
The whole idea of a weekly comic, with continuing stories running with a 7-day wait is something very old fashioned, very British, harking back to most of our childhoods, no doubt just thinking about it will bring back fond memories of The Beano and The Dandy, or Topper, or Whizzer & Chips (insert your fave memory here) and reminding us of tuppeny mixups and the like. But times change, The Dandy has recently gone, The Beano isn’t selling mega numbers anymore, and some might say the weekly comics market, in these days of instant entertainment, screens everywhere with entertainment for the little ones, just isn’t sustainable in 2013.
Well, The Phoenix, through it’s loyal subscribers and readers is hopefully well on its way to proving the assumptions of the death of the weekly childrens comic wrong. It’s done so much in just less than two years of publicaton, energising a community of writers and artists, thrilling a new generation of readers who’ll hopefully be comic readers for life. A lot is written in education about the importance of reading for pleasure and how that encourages literacy and helps improve performance at school and in life. More and more it’s becoming acceptable in the classroom to see comics as part of that. Hoorah, it’s certainly taken long enough!
Less is made of the importance comics for children have in sustaining a comics industry in this country. I bang on about this regularly to those who’ll listen, bemoaning the fact that children simply can’t enter comics the way that I did anymore. Superhero comics that I read when I was a pre-teen just don’t exist anymore, Marvel and DC et al are all pitching their stories older and older, chasing the ageing existing fan rather than doing the smart long-term thing and creating new fans. Thankfully, there are more and more children’s comics out there now, and The Phoenix is a very important part of that.
So congratulations for 100 issues. Now, shall we give this special, oversized 100th issue a quick run through… yes we shall…
Right then… first up we have Two Ficklings and Dan Boultwood’s 3 & A Dog, a caper adventure serial that looks great, Boultwood’s colours and style really vibrant and fresh. Initially it read really funny as well, all sarcastic family vibe, but that’s dropped into the background somewhat and now we’re left with a straight out adventure. Fun and looks great, but it could have been so much better.
Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron are back this issue with a done in one Pirates Of Pangaea, where we catch up with Sophie, Kelsey and their tame Tyrannosaur Cornflower traipsing through a very inhospitable but oh so gorgeously green jungle. Fantastic cartooning, great adventuring….
Jamie Smart’s been with The Phoenix since issue zero, I think I’m right in saying he’s not actually missed a single issue. Must be worth a certificate or something? This issue sees another very important piece of the mystery in Bunny Vs Monkey uncovered… in fact we get to see a lot of very important stuff, including… how Skunky got to be so clever, the secret origin of Le Fox, the reason Bunny can’t remember much of his past life.. and it all starts (as these things invariably do) with a time machine…
Jamie Smart’s been getting more and more involved with the events in Bunny Vs Monkey, and here he creates a mind-bending loop completing time-travel adventure, very clever, very silly stuff.
Adam Murphy’s Corpse Talk has a special double feature this issue, with both sides of gangster culture represented with Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and Eliot ‘Untouchable’ Ness. If you don’t know by now, Corpse Talk is where Murphy digs up historical characters and chats to them. It’s both ridiculously funny at times and incredibly and sometimes unexpectedly informative.
Gary Northfield returns here for another great episode of Gary’s Garden, where this time we’re witness to another wonderful moment in the garden….
Nothing can match the surreality of Gary’s Garden at times, and this is one of those times. Here we get a decidedly arty art teacher determined to bring out the artist in every bug, and even gets to bring forth the artist’s natural enemy, as Gary gets to utter the ultimate closing line…
“Um, yeah, can I call you back?”
“There seems to be a horse in my garden…”
Oh genius, wonderful genius, thou art silly.
Robert Deas also returns in this 100th issue with another fast paced and very enjoyable episode of Troy Trailblazer, this time facing off against The Horde Queen. We open as we mean to go on, with Troy and Barrus in desperate trouble, action-packed adventure the order of the day here, with Troy relying on Jess Jetrider to save the day (again)….
… it’s a good job she’s so darned good at what she does…. and whilst we’re on the subject, it’s great that Rob Deas has becomes so very good at the mix of adventure and comedy he’s injecting into Troy Trailblazer, with its hapless hero and its incredibly cool heroine. Loads of fun.
On top of all this, there’s a special Von Doogan version of Guess Who alongside the usual brain-teaser at the end of the issue, a double page look at the Phoenix wall of awesome, a special single page strip 12-year old Jordan Vigay, proof it were needed that great comics don’t just lead to great readers but to more great comic makers. In addition to all this there’s a running strip featuring the editorial crew of Tabs, Bruno, Chops, Ellie, Scoop and Quincy as drwan by Matt Baxter, going behind the scenes of this special issue to investigate just what makes the comic work…
So congratulations to all involved, to the various Ficklings and other behind the scenes making the comic and to all the writers and artists who’ve contributed.
I’ll raise a glass to the first 100 issues, and hope to do the same for many centenary issues hence.
Why not give the gift of The Phoenix this year – you can pick up a subscription as a wonderful Christmas present.