Tripwire Annual 2009: classy, classy magazine. As expected.
Editor-in-chief Joel Meadows
First of all, before we go any further into this one – isn’t that a great cover? The Nick Fury/Samuel L. Jackson image is by Jeff Carlisle after Shepard Fairey.
Okay, onto the insides: Meadows and crew have worked very hard, yet again, to make a magazine that could be, should be, far more widely read than it currently is. In these Internet days, the old style of comics magazine is as obsolete as Video Tape and, in a medium where there’s a real opportunity to fill the position once held by magazines such as Comics International, Tripwire seems perfect. It’s not as scholarly as Comics Journal but that’s not a bad thing. Tripwire is a fine, fine read; entertaining and informative as usual. That it’s fallen foul of the Diamond Distributor problem and isn’t widely available to comic shops is a terrible mistake on their part. For those of you that don’t know Diamond Comics Distributors have recently changed their rules regarding minimum order levels and have decided not to carry Tripwire based on this. Whilst some may argue that numbers don’t lie, the simple fact is that a magazine so professionally produced, so full of worthwhile, entertaining content should merit inclusion. Sales for things like Tripwire are always a slow and steady affair, and it’s annual status, full of timeless articles not dependent upon the latest, hottest or faddiest trends, means it will be just as relevant and entertaining in six months time.
It certainly shouldn’t be a surprise to find Tripwire is an excellent comic magazine, given the reviews I’ve already written of both the 2008 annual and the 2009 superhero special. As usual the layout and design of Tripwire is spot on, pages are designed to make reading easy and natural, there’s no slavish design overload here. Just well laid out with a good mix of words and images as we’ve come to expect by now from Tripwire.
The other design element that Tripwire uses very effectively is creating a good narrative flow through the magazine. There’s thought gone into the order of the features, each one flowing into the next, creating a near seamless reading experience. The theme of the first half of the annual is Adventure Comics and stories. I was initially somewhat reticent about this, not being a big fan of traditional adventure comics and never really having ventured into the works of Joe Kubert, Robert E. Howard et al. But it’s to Tripwire’s credit that I not only enjoyed the whole annual, but the articles are so well written that I’m actually tempted to go looking for some of the adventure titles featured. That’s always proof that a magazine has really done it’s job so well.
But within that adventuring theme, there’s scope to cleverly and fluidly bring in such diverse elements as Tintin, Garen Ewing’s Rainbow Orchid, Jason Lutes’ clear line style, Cinebook and Euro-comics and a fascinating and extremely enjoyable article on the Pulp magazines of the early 20th Century. The celebration of the 70th birthdays of both Batman and Marvel Comics are done with particular emphasis on their historical context and adds to the overall nostalgic feel of the first half of the magazine. But it’s a nostalgia tempered with a modern view, celebrating some of these older works, emphasising their perennial appeal and pointing out some of the great modern works derived from these antecedents.
From there, it’s a neat segue to the world of movies and TV via Marvel’s blockbuster output. Another clever link that helps the reader move on and makes the whole magazine a far better read. And onwards through a fun interview with the Simpsons’ Bill Morrison, a look at the Aliens series, Moon, the recent vampire, werewolf, ghost flat sharing drama Being Human and much, much more.
As usual, Tripwire ends it’s annual with three staples: A 10 to read of Two-Fisted Adventure, the top 25 power list and Stripwire; it’s collection of short comic strips. All excellent in their own way. The strips were perhaps a little bit Future-shock-y but that’s probably to be expected. Still, we get to see Roger Langridge’s Fred The Clown which is never a bad thing. Likewise Declan Shalvey’s darkly sentimental Ball Park means Stripwire nicely ends the magazine.
I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, but Tripwire is a bloody excellent magazine and certainly worth the £9.95 cover price. It’s substantial, and it speaks about comics, films, TV and more with an enjoyable yet accessible tone – something the world of comics magazines in particularly has never done particularly well. The magazine’s full of good writing, is always careful not to overwhelm the eye with a simple, clean and effective design and most importantly manages to talk about the past, present and future of the medium we love with equal interest and enthusiasm.