Monday, 18 June 2007

Review: Crikey!

Crikey! The Great British Comics Magazine! issue 1, edited by Brian M Clarke, cover by Mike Kazybrid, Sequential Media, 2007, 48 pages, £3.99
Features: “Nutty Notions” by Brian M Clarke, “Fiendishly Interesting: A Terrifying Tale of the British Horror Comic” by Bob Norton, “My Comicy Saturday” by Brian M Clarke, “Ken Reid” interviewed by David Britton, “The Terrible Toys of Dr Droll” by Tom Sweetman, “My Comic Hero: Frank Bellamy” by Glenn B Fleming, “Play Misty For Me” by Tom Sweetman, “Wham!: The Funniest Comic in the World” by Brian M Clarke, “The Devil in the Shop” by Tom Sweetman, “Um letters”, “Jackie Who?” by Helen D Bennett

After reading about this on the web, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in a bricks-and-mortar shop, Travelling Man in Newcastle. Crikey! is a new fan magazine about British comics from the 1950s to the 1970s. I’d guess that those dates (“from TV Comic and Eagle through to the end of Smash and Valiant” as it says at the Crikey! website) were picked not so much because of any trends in comics or society – say, from the end of paper rationing to the arrival of the first home computers and mass-market video recorders – but because that was when the authors were children. The tone of the magazine is mostly and unashamedly one of nostalgia rather than comics scholarship.

So there are a couple of articles on Brian M Clarke’s comics shopping habits in the 1960s and Tom Sweetman’s pleasure at spending a night at the local newsagents. The article about Frank Bellamy is about how inspirational Glenn B Fleming found his work, rather than about Bellamy’s career as such (newcomers would be better off with the essay about Bellamy in the TwoMorrows volume True Brit). And while it’s nice to see that girls’ comics are not neglected, Helen D Bennett’s essay about Jackie is rather odd, as it’s a comic she claims not to have read.

This nostalgic approach is fine as far as it goes. There is always some pleasure to be derived from reading about what makes writers happy (though the website sometimes crosses into rather dubious “my childhood was better than yours” territory). But rather more to my taste are the more historically minded account of how Leo Baxendale founded the new humour comic Wham! in 1964, the overview of girls’ horror comic Misty and the 1979 interview with the late Ken Reid, one of the great humour cartoonists of his day. The article on the horror comics scare of the 1950s which led to the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act of 1955 – still on the statute books, I believe – would have been of more interest to me if I hadn’t already read Martin Barker’s book on the subject, A Haunt of Fears, but the bibliography here makes me realise that that book came out 23 years ago, so there’s plenty of justification for going over the ground again.

Like Lew Stringer, I would have liked more facts and figures, although, unlike Lew, I am not knowledgeable enough to supply corrections. Since British comics so rarely ran credits in those days, I appreciate that the names of writers and artists may not be available, but it would be helpful if the issue numbers and dates of the comics scanned for illustrations were given. And while it is a great pleasure to see so much vintage comic art, I am not wild about the approach of printing thin slivers of pages, with only fractions of some panels showing.

Still, this was an entertaining and, in places, informative read, and I’ll certainly be getting the next issue.

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