Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Comic Zone: The Phoenix Comic

Since the launch of the DC New 52 I have started to buy a lot of comics, and I'm loving it. I am fairly new to the world of comic buying, as we do not have a comic shop anywhere near us and so they were things that just did not come onto my radar, although I have an ever growing collection of trade paperback editions, especially Batman stories. However, with the relative success of The Book Zone leading to me being invited to various blogger events and book launches I found myself travelling into London a lot more often. On one such visit I discovered Gosh Comics, a wonderful comic store that was located near the British Museum but is now located in new store in Berwick Street, Soho. The DC New 52 gave me the excuse to open a standing order with Gosh, so that every time I go into London there is now a pile of new comics waiting for me. Sometimes, if I haven't been able to get in for a while, this pile is rather large (and expensive) but I get hours of enjoyment out of catching up with the stories.

However, my comic buying is no longer just restricted to the DC New 52. Each time I went in there were other titles catching my eye, and my standing order would soon increase by another couple of books. And then I started reading Bleeding Cool regularly, finding out about new comics months before they were published, and my standing order increased even more. I am currently buying titles from DC, Marvel, Image and DC Vertigo, as well as a handful of others, and now that I have my iPad this is likely to increase even further, and so, as comics are a brilliant way of getting reluctant boy readers to start reading for enjoyment, I have decided to have an occasional blog feature that I have christened Comic Zone. I say occasional, as I'm not sure I have the time to make it a regular feature, but I aim to use it to highlight some of the comics I have enjoyed recently. But, as you can see from the title of this post, I'm not kicking off with a comic from DC, Marvel, or any of the other big name US companies. The comic I have chosen for this launch is the very British, and very brilliant, The Phoenix Comic.

When I was a child I always looked forward to Thursdays. Thursday was Beano day, and I was a huge fan. I joined the fan club (I still have my badges and membership card), and each new issue would be a topic of conversation in the playground at school the next day. I can't remember exactly when I stopped getting The Beano - perhaps it was when I started buying Marvel's Star Wars as funds were pretty tight and probably couldn't stretch to two comics - but I still have very fond memories of that first introduction to the world of comics. I have no idea how popular The Beano is these days, but I have witnessed first hand young children looking forward to Saturdays, and not just because it is the weekend. For Saturday is now Phoenix day!

Long Gone Don by The Etherington Brothers
The Phoenix was launched at the beginning of 2012, and from what I can make out it is going from strength to strength. It is a high quality weekly comic, featuring stories from some of the greatest names in the current British comic world. Some of those names will be familiar to long time readers of The Book Zone, as I have posted reviews of their books in the past. Writers and illustrators such as The Etherington Brothers, Neill Cameron, Ben Haggarty, Chris Riddell and Garen Ewing to name but a handful. Their talents are given the respect they so richly deserve as the physical quality of The Phoenix is outstanding as well, with the stunning high-quality printing of the full-colour pages a perfect magnet for young readers.

Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton
The Phoenix is the perfect mix of serial stories, standalone stories, competitions and puzzles, with letters pages and various other features thrown in for good measure. It is the story strips that are the shining light of the comic though, as they are invariably exciting, thrilling tales told by very talented writers and illustrators that will have readers wishing Saturday would come around again a lot sooner so that they can find out what happens after each cliffhanger ending. Several times over the past few months I have been in my local Waitrose on a Saturday and witnessed kids racing from their parents as soon as they have entered the store, straight to the magazine racks to grab the latest issue of The Phoenix. It really is a joy to see!

The Pirates of Pangaea by Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron
You can buy The Phoenix from branches of Waitrose, and many independent comic and book shops. You can also subscribe through The Phoenix website, which will also give you a lot more information about the comic, its stories and other features (and save yourself some money in doing so). I wonder how many kids around the country now sit patiently by their letterbox on a Saturday morning waiting for the next issue to be delivered? The comic costs £2.99, and I know that for some this may seem like quite a large weekly outlay on what some might call "only a comic". However, I wouldn't be surprised if the same people don't question the amount they spend weekly on newspapers, when news can be read just as easily online. Newspapers which are consigned to the recycling pile mere hours after purchase - I can guarantee that this is not a fate that will face The Phoenix as it is a comic that kids will want to keep safely, and go back to time and time again. If all it cost was £2.99 a week to instil in a child an enjoyment for reading that could last a lifetime then this truly is a bargain!

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