At long last, after much anticipation the first issue of the John Freeman-edited Strip Magazine has hit the shelves this week, a brand new comic in the grand British anthology tradition, boasting serials from PJ Holden and John Freeman, Stephen Walsh and Keith Page, Mike Penick and Dean Deckard, Phil Hester and John McCrea, David and Graham Stoddart and James Hudnall and John Ridgway, as well as features on past Brit comics, such as the classic (and censor-baiting) Action, which is appropriate since the comic also boasts a fully restored version of Action’s Hook Jaw (a wonderful Jaws pastiche with a wicked sense of humour from the 70s), an interview with PJ Holden and spotlights on some of Print Media’s related graphic novel collections (nice idea to tie them in close with the regular comic).
Now I’m guessing I’m a tad older than the target audience for Strip – I really did enjoy it, although a couple of strips I did rather just zip through without much thought, but I think if I was a young lad then they’d have appealed to me more. But I can’t hold that against the mag – as I said, it’s probably not aimed squarely at readers my age (besides we have 2000 AD!). It is, according to the introduction, an all-ages adventure anthology and it certainly seems to fit that nicely. The all-ages part means perhaps, as I said, older readers like me might not take to every strip, but to be honest regardless of age that has always been the case with any anthology style comic I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot, it is the format many British comics readers were raised on, after all). And with an anthology if one strip doesn’t spark with you, well, there’s another one right along after it! And it does mean there’s bound to be several items to appeal to various tastes.
Stand-outs for me? Well, nostalgia compelled me to turn to the revamped Hook Jaw. The team have done a nice job restoring Ramon Sola’s artwork and colouring it – it is slightly odd to see the art I remember from those bloodthirsty childhood reading days with a very modern colour job on good quality paper, but I got used to it quickly and they guys did a good job. The strip is still funny (despite all the people chomping) and a blast after all these years. Hudnall and Ridgway’s Age of Heroes is intersting and, as you’d expect from Ridgway, it looks bloody gorgeous. Penick and Deckard’s Recovery Incorporated, a tale of a hi-tech, Catwoman-like superthief in Hong Kong was stylish and fun, and Walsh and Page’s On Her Majesty’s Hush-Hush Service is a jolly steampunk romp, complete with midget submarine, manned by dwarf sailors (much to Queen Victoria’s delight) and ties in with the fine Iron Moon graphic novel. The reproduction is excellent, good colours on high quality paper (miles away from the cheap newsprint and bleeding colours we had in anthology comics when I was a kid!), all in all a nice package. First issue is out right now and also available digitally, you can check out a preview on the Strip blog – please do give them some support and help them make a success for a brave venture.