What's in a name?
Mark Millar's new magazine has arrived, censor-baiting title and bullet-riddled cover leering out from the shelves in your local WH Smith. In his foreword, Millar describes his new venture as a "boy's comic", going on to tell his presumably acne-ridden readers that "Grandpa had the Eagle, Dad had 2000AD and now you've got CLiNT, you lucky people". Personally, I'd expect the mag's readership to slant more towards the average Forbidden Planet-frequenting 30-something, but Millar tells us that "kids have been crying out for a monthly like CLiNT", so I'll have to bow to his superior market research.
Years ago ( Warning! History lesson approaching! ) you knew where you were with ( British ) boys' magazines..... or comics as we weren't afraid to call them. They had names like Lion or Thunder back in the 60's, or like Battle or Warlord in the 70's. These were tough, proud titles that gave some indication of the contents inside: action-packed adventures of soldiers, cops, cowboys and spies - macho, shallow and often jingoistic. But fun, obviously.
And now we get CLiNT, which is a whole new ball-game. Or is it? The title is a sniggering, adolescent joke. You can imagine the advertising meetings: "Ha ha ha if you cover up the bottom of the title ha ha ha on the shelf ha ha ha it almost looks like ha ha ha "see-you-enn-tee" ha ha ha!!" Oh, my aching sides! Of course, this stems from the old days of comics printed on cheap paper when the letters "l" and "i" would run into each other to give whole new meanings to the words "flicker" and, indeed, "Clint". No superhero could be called Clint for that very reason..... er, except for Hawkeye, but it kinda suited him.
The actual contents of the mag are..... strange, really. It's almost schizophrenic in its approach somehow. There's an article on an actor who dubs Tom Cruise's voice for Chinese movies; an interview with Jimmy ( not Alan, thank God! ) Carr; the Manson family killings are dredged up yet again in a tasteful ( sorry, I meant tasteless ) little article; some "glamour" shots of the likes of Mylene Klass and Holly Willoughby, contrasting with a strange Nuts / Zoo / FHM parody called "Deeply Moral Babes: Overdressed Porn For The Religious Right." And assorted "humour" filler. That's the "magazine" side -
But then you get the comics:
The main selling-point for the mag is Kick-Ass 2, Millar's and John Romita Jr.'s sequel to the wildly successful comic and movie. I have to admit that I've never properly read Kick Ass ( only leafed through it in Waterstone's ) or seen the film, so I'm probably not the best person to judge this strip. The first instalment is only 8 pages long and features some strong, expressive artwork, a reasonable amount of violence, some serious swearing and an off-colour joke about Rihanna. Pretty much what I'd expected.
Millar and artist Steve McNiven bring us ( a reprint of ) Nemesis, the story of a Batman-like supervillain waging war on Washington's police. More ultraviolence, more swearing, and widescreen, dynamic artwork. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would - I know, I know, it's called "damning with faint praise".
Ignoring the insubstantial violence/swearing/graphic sex-fest strip by cover star, the beaver-bearded and unfeasibly popular Frankie Boyle, we come to the best comic strip in the mag, Turf by Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee. A dense and unfashionably wordy tale of vampires and aliens in Prohibition-era New York, Turf demonstrates that Ross has ( unsurprisingly ) soaked up enough pop culture over the years to come up with a new twist on the gangster story. The richness and detail of the strip's world makes a change from the usual "decompressed" story-telling so prevalent today, and Lee's artwork effortlessly captures the atmosphere of smoky jazz clubs, seedy motels, Italian barber shops, the whole mobster milieu.
So, am I going to seek out that cheeky title again next month? Probably. I'm still not sure about that "boys' comic" tag: the sex, violence and bad language remind me more of Heavy Metal or ( gulp! ) Warren's 1984, and I certainly wouldn't want my 10-year-old reading it. I definitely think the magazine has an identity problem, but it's early days yet. As for its future, all I can say is:
"Okay, you CLiNTs, let's see what you can do!"
Soundtrack: My Generation ( album ) by The Who.