‘3 Reasons Why You Need to Read…‘ is Broken Frontier’s semi-regular spotlight on a given serial comic that we think should be on your pull list. Whether it’s because of its thematic explorations, its craft and presentation, or if it’s something altogether more frivolous, we’ll provide you with a trio of pointers as to why you should be checking each chosen book out…
Seven years ago UK children’s anthology The Phoenix rose from the ashes of the subscription-only comic The DFC. Back in 2012 its market looked long dead and buried. But The Phoenix joined that great British survivor The Beano as a consistently entertaining regular dose of comics fun for a younger audience, and acted as a reminder that there’s life for weekly anthology comics for kids yet in terms of both content and method of delivery. Here’s just three reasons to check the comic out!
#1 – Upholding the Great Tradition of UK Weekly Children’s Serial Comics
For those of us who can remember an era when UK newsagents’ shelves were bursting with comics covering multiple genres there’s a profound sadness that print weeklies for kids are now pretty much confined to The Beano and The Phoenix (it’s been a long time since 2000 AD was aimed at a juvenile market!). And The Phoenix has survived and creatively flourished at a point in time when it seemed like their publishing model would be forever consigned to nostalgic reminiscences of yesteryear.
Aimed at the 6-12-year-old demographic it differs from The Beano in providing a mix of both serialised multi-genre stories and complete humour strips. Given that six year gap is actually a very significant one in terms of the evolving tastes of its readership it does a remarkably good job of pitching each strip at as wide an age range as possible. And it’s lovely to imagine there’s a whole new generation of kids eagerly awaiting their weekly comics fix every Friday!
#2 – A Fantastic Line-Up of Artists who Know Their Audience
The list of contributors to have appeared in the pages of The Phoenix over the last seven years reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary UK kids comics. Gary Northfield, the Etherington Brothers, Sarah McIntyre, Jim Medway, Kate Brown, Garen Ewing, Jamie Smart and Jess Bradley are just a tiny number of those who have been featured in the weekly in that time. They’re all creators who intuitively understand their audiences and create for them without ever patronising them. Material has ranged from the educational-with-a-twist like Corpse Talk wherein Adam and Lisa Murphy examine the life of historical figures via an undead commentary through to the slapstick fun of Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs. Monkey which despite its fast-paced, mischievously cartoonish antics can occasionally have moments of almost existential beauty (see the strip below left!).
Current standouts include the topical social commentary of the excellent No Country by Joe Brady and Patrice Aggs wherein a dictatorial Prime Minister abandons the electoral process and uses the army to maintain power, tapping into the “kids versus authority” motif that was such a recurring theme in UK comics of the past. Also instantly memorable from the recent crop of featured strips – some long-running, some newer – are the ever reliable Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros starring two brothers who also happen to be the most powerful robots on the planet, the wacky craziness of James Turner’s Super Animal Adventure Squad (first covered way back here at BF) and the science fiction epic of Robert Deas’ Trailblazers.
A recent example of jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs. Monkey and The Etherington Bros’ Long Gone Don, one of the earliest strips
#3 – Collections Aplenty to Bring in New Readers
If serial comics aren’t your favourite younger reader’s reading experience of choice then there’s also an extensive library of books collecting individual strips and serials in their own volumes, meaning audiences with more focused interests can concentrate on the characters that most appeal to them; adventure stories for the top end of The Phoenix age range perhaps or the more overtly comedic strips for the younger readers. The Phoenix remains a notable entry point to the medium for new readers at a time when such formats are few and far between and has been a vitally important presence in building an early interest in comics over the last few years. It deserves our support!