In celebrating British Comics Month the intrepid comics pirate crew has sailed forth into areas off their charts, the British Indy scene being a case in point. Well today we unfurl our nauticomical charts and fill in another area as we explore strips being commissioned from UK creators specifically for the younger male reader (like the Jesuits we believe if we get them young we can keep them comics fans for life). So we rubbed out the part of the chart, removing the ‘here be dragons’ wording and replacing it with ‘here be pet dinosaurs and fart gags’ as we decided it was time to go Toxic.
FPI: Today we’re talking to Matt Yeo, Editor of TOXIC magazine. Hi, Matt and thanks for joining us. This is an area I confess I know little about, other than the fact that TOXIC caters to young boys – could you tell us a bit about both TOXIC and how you got into the business?
Matt: Hi Joe! TOXIC’s been published for over three years now and we’re the number one selling lifestyle magazine aimed at 8-12 year-old boys. By ‘lifestyle’ we mean it’s packed with anything that’s relevant, entertaining and fun for our readers. The emphasis is always on ‘being a boy’, having fun and essentially living in a TOXIC world! The mag’s out every two weeks and always includes cool free gifts.
My background was primarily in video game magazines for a number of years, before I made the leap to kids’ publishing at Egmont Magazines with LEGO Adventures, Max Steel and other licensed titles.
FPI: TOXIC covers all sorts of interests, including movies, games and television, but it also commissions and publishes new UK comics material – could you tell us a bit more about this?
Matt: Yeah, I’m a massive comic fan and have always been really keen to include as many original strips in the magazine as I can. I often hear comments such as ‘kids don’t read comics’, but that’s something I totally disagree with. It’s been my experience that if you give children good comic material to read, they’ll love it. So I’ve kinda been on a mission for the last few years to include as much new comic material in TOXIC as possible.
Egmont Magazine’s heritage was built on the likes of Buster, Whizzer & Chips, Shiver & Shake, Roy of the Rovers, 2000 AD and the like and we’re trying to continue that sense of originality and creativity. Plus there are so many talented UK comic creators out there struggling to find work, it offers an alternative outlet for their abilities.
FPI: We know that many young boys love a good comics read, so presumably this makes it an attractive component for TOXIC, but is it fair to say there is also a desire to try and introduce them to new comics experiences? And with boys often lagging behind girls in the reading stakes, do you see offering them something they want, such as comics, as a way of perhaps getting them to read more?
Matt: I do like to think of TOXIC as a magazine with tons of comic content as opposed to just a straight ‘magazine’. Just seems a bit more fun and less serious to me. Within the title we’re always promoting reading with both book and graphic novel reviews and giveaways. With most comic shops being quite daunting places for young readers to visit, we can at least point them in the right direction by suggesting comic book titles they might be interested in. The more readers I can get to pick up comic books, the better…
Yeah, on the whole, boys do tend to shy away from reading, unlike girls, but our research and feedback has been extremely positive with both parents and teachers stating that boys they know are reading TOXIC and the important point is at least they’re reading something! Hopefully (if we’re doing our job properly) TOXIC’s acting as a good springboard to other reading material.
FPI: What sort of different comics experience does TOXIC offer to more established comics, such as The Beano or Dandy? What sorts of strips make up the mix for TOXIC – humorous, adventure, superhero or a mixture?
Matt: While we obviously can’t compete with The Beano and Dandy’s history, we’re definitely offering grosser, more toilet humour-based strips. TOXIC’s kinda like Oink! in that respect. We like to think that mums and sisters will be disgusted by the mag, but its dads and sons who’ll get the most laughs out of it. No girls allowed!
We’ve been running a two-page Team TOXIC strip in the mag since issue # 5. These guys are characters I co-created with the half-mad/half-insane genius artist, Jon Rushby, and they’re far-and-away the most popular part of TOXIC. The team consists of Doc Shock, Bog, Sludge, Krunk and Kid Zombie and their adventures range from world-saving capers to fart-based epics! The Team TOXIC strip is currently written and drawn by the legendary Lew Stringer.
We’ve also been running a number of single page strips recently that manage to feature everything from crap superheroes and footballing monkeys to naff aliens and giant pet dinosaurs. These include Rex (by John A Short and Alex Paterson), Grott the Mighty (by Nigel Kitching) and Chester Chimp (by Jaspre Bark and Paul Palmer). Those guys are all superstars!
FPI: In today’s market place the weekly or monthly comics are now only one aspect of the business, with most publishers keeping an eye on the graphic novel market. Are we likely to see any collected editions of some of TOXIC’s strips appearing in the future?
Matt: It’s certainly a possibility. We now have over three years worth of comic material to dip into, so who knows. There are lots of exciting TOXIC plans in the works, so watch this space!
FPI: Are most of the strips from established writers and artists or do you sometimes take a chance on new talent, or feature material from small press creators in the way some others like the Judge Dredd Megazine have been doing?
Matt: It’s a combination of both. Some named artists will approach us (or vice versa) and new talent will often send me stuff out of the blue. I’m always looking for new comic content for TOXIC, but the trick is to find stuff that will fit in with the tone of the mag without repeating what’s already there. If any creators out there want to pitch material to me, I suggest they take a look at the mag and drop me a line with potential ideas. They can contact me directly at: email@example.com
FPI: There you go comics creators – if you have something suitable, drop Matt a line. Can I ask if you have any particular favourites among TOXIC’s strips?
Matt: You can’t ask me to choose between my children! Well I guess it has to be Team TOXIC as it was the one element of the mag most people were convinced wouldn’t work and it’s now a runaway success. Oh, and Rex makes me laugh out loud every time the art arrives in the office! Classic stuff…
FPI: What strips would you recommend to the boy who hasn’t really read much in the way of comics yet?
Matt: Well, apart from TOXIC, I’d obviously steer them to other UK comics and US graphic novels. Titan Books do a great job of producing a range of titles for all age ranges. The Simpsons and DC Comics reprints they put out are spot-on for our readership. From there, as boys get older, it’s an obvious leap to 2000 AD and more mature comic books. Never did me any harm!
FPI: Which comics are you reading yourself at the moment?
Matt: Blimey. Far too many to list. I just devour the things every week. Always have. I’m currently reading this little lot: 52, Civil War, The Flash, JSA, Superman/Batman, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Walking Dead, Green Lantern, Batman, Thunderbolts, Captain America, New Avengers, Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil… loads!
FPI: Matt Yeo, thank you very for talking to us.
Matt: Cheers, Joe. It’s been a pleasure!