Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Back in the day, before we had all these lovely deluxe hardcover reprints of newspaper strips, we had a number of magazines devoted to strip reprints. Tabloids like The Menomonee Falls Gazette and its sister paper The Menomonee Falls Guardian collected current strips on a weekly basis, while there were other magazine collections devoted to specific strips such as Twin Earths and Steve Canyon. Then, in the mid 1980s, a new monthly magazine entered the market. Comics Review started off reprinting a months worth of current humour strips such as Garfield, B.C., Wizard Of Id, Hagar The Horrible, Tumbleweeds and Bloom County. With its fourth issue many of the humour strips were phased out as adventure strips were added to the mix. Star Wars by the team supreme of Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon, Spider-Man were all added to the line-up, followed in later issues by Modesty Blaise, The Phantom, Secret Agent Corrigan, Tarzan and Flash Gordon amongst others.
With the eleventh issue the title changed to Comics Revue and is still running under that name over a quarter of a century on. The format has pretty much stayed the same over that time, although the emphasis shifted gradually away from current strips to vintage reprints, usually from the 1930-60s. Eventually the line up settled down to a range of classic continuity strips. Flash Gordon by Harry Harrison & Dan Barry, Buz Sawyer by Roy Crane, The Phantom by Lee Falk (sometimes alternating with Falk's other classic creation Mandrake The Magician), Secret Agent Corrigan (also by Goodwin & Williamson), Tarzan by Russ Manning, Krazy Kat by George Herriman, Alley Oop by V. T. Hamblin, Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray, Rick O'Shay by Stan Lynde and Casey Ruggles by Warren Tufts. A veritable cornicopia (or should that be comicopia?) of classic strips.
Last year saw a major change to the magazine as Diamond Comics Distributors, who supply the title to comics shops, made a number of changes to their minimum order requirements. In order to meet Diamond's new order levels, publisher Rick Norwood took the title down to a bi-monthly schedule but at double the size. Now priced at $16 US, the magazine now boasts more colour pages and better quality paper, which in turn leads to much better reproduction. The extra colour pages enable Rick to run more Sunday page strips, which he is currently using to run the Mandrake story "Doorway To Z" and the classic Phantom tale "Return Of The Sky Band". In addition some strips such as Steve Canyon and Gasoline Alley now have their Sunday strips in colour as well, whereas in earlier issues they were run in black and white.
This new look is an improvement on what was an already fine magazine. I hope the higher price point doesn't deter the magazine's loyal readers. As far as this reader's concerned the new style is a winner. If you have any interest in vintage strips, you owe it to yourself to check out an issue.
Sadly, not many comic shops get in copies for the shelf, so you may have to ask your local store to order one in for you. Do yourself a favour and do it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

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