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Friday, 27 August 2010

In Review: Clint Issue 1 - does it "Kick Ass"?

(Updated 31/8/10, added other review links): After months of speculation about what Titan Magazines new British anthology title Clint might feature, the magazine itself is finally out in the wild, backed by an impressive promotional campaign on the web, which includes its official web site.

So - does comic creator Mark Millar's baby live up to all the hype?

First things first: this isn't just a comic. Yes, much of the content is comic strip, but it's been styled like a magazine. Even the cover leans more toward the kind of title you might expect to see alongside Nuts, Zoo or Empire; a canny piece of marketing for a new stand where comics have wrestled, sometimes in vain, for attention.

This will not sit easily with many comics purists who've grown up enjoying Eagle, Battle, Action or 2000AD - but it is a brave attempt to make Clint look different to most other comics that have gone before. Whether that gambit will pay off in the long term, none of us yet know.

Content-wise, Titan have embraced Britain's joint obsessions with celebrity and innuendo and pulled them into a well-honed mix that includes Nuts and FHM-styled features as well as a carefully selected line up of comic strip, all of it new to the British news stand if not to the specialist comic store (but then, this magazine is not aimed at that market, so that doesn't really matter). That includes an interview with comedian Jimmy Carr and more, all delivered with the kind of design flair you'd expect from the team that has done so well with its specialist magazines such as LOST and Star Wars.

Again, in my view that's a canny move and one that gives the title a strong selling point beyond the numerous comic strips it features. Whether those features will actually boost sales, given that similar material is something available in other titles, is another unknown quantity – but full marks to Millar and the Titan team for trying.

As for the conics - well, it's a mixed bag of action adventure, heavily weighted toward violent and sweary superheroes. As you'd expect, the first appearance of Millar's Kick-Ass 2, drawn by John Romita Jr., takes centre stage. Given the success of the first Kick Ass series and movie, it's sure to have a following and is a strong sales point. (The series will be published in the US via Marvel's Icon imprint in the future).

Likewise, Jonathan Ross' Turf, drawn by Tommy Lee ticks the strong sales point box. You can be sure Ross will happily promote both the comic and Clint to boot, which will certanly help its chances of success.

While the strip isn't new to comics fans familiar with the US comic scene, published in magazine format I think it actually looks better than its US outing. You can't go wrong with a vampire story right now, and it starts strong in this issue, with plenty more twists and turns to come.

The rest of the comics are in a similar vein - high octane, edgy action adventure that some won't like - but will go down well with a potential audience raised on high spectacle summer popcorn movies who would never squirm seeing Saw 

Rex Boyd by Frankie Boyle & Jim Muir is another all-new strip and, to my mind, the weakest material in the issue - the script jumps rather suddenly half way through the story of a security guard working for someone whose life role appears to be devoted to killing superheroes. Nemesis, by Millar, features some superb art by Steve McNiven and is another Marvel Icon title, and another vicious anti-superhero tale.

The strip content rounds off with The Diner, a three-page strip by Manuel Bracchi that has won out over many other submissions to appear in this first issue, one of many submitted via Millar's own web forum for consideration in the new title.

So - is Clint any good?

Well, it certainly has a firm handle on its potential audience and has a heady mix of strips and features that will appeal to a target market of teens who can buy their own comics (because if Mummy ever buys this for their eight-year-old, we'll soon have the same kind of press hysteria that put an end to Action thirty years ago). In those terms, it ticks all the boxes.

Is it the kind of comic I want to read? Well, no – but it isn't aimed at me, a 50-something comics fan who grew up reading TV Century 21, Valiant and what are, today, other far gentler comics albeit ones crammed with eye-grabbing adventure and characters. I fully accept that, recognize how much work has gone into getting the mix of the first issue right, and sincerely hope Clint does reach its market and is a huge success, because if it is, it will benefit everyone in the British comics industry, long term.

Let's hope we just don't end up with a load of copycat titles, which is what happened when VIZ went large. Do what Mark and Titan have done - something different.

The big questions is: will that target audience buy Clint instead of Nuts, Zoo and similar titles? Right now, no-one knows, but you can be darn sure Titan have done their homework and are well aware they need to cleverly market Clint to ensure it gets the attention it craves.

At a time when sales of the titles it's emulating - aside from the comics element - are in decline, perhaps Clint will also give that sector a much-needed jolt in terms of sales. We'll just have to wait and see... But good on them for at least giving it a go.

Official CLINT web site. Jonathan Ross and Mark Millar will be signing copies on Thursday 2nd September at 4.30pm at WH Smiths in London's Victoria station.

Discuss CLINT #1 on the downthetubes forum (membership required)

News Items

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser (no, really): New comic called Clint from Coatbridge’s Mark Millar
1st September, 2010 (repeats earlier Titan PR for the title with local 'spin'): Coatbridge writer Mark Millar is launching a UK comic that will feature stories by TV presenter Jonathan Ross and comedian Frankie Boyle...

MTV: Mark Millar Drops 'CLiNT' Comics Magazine On Doorsteps Today, Previews The First Issue!
2nd September, 2010 - Includes interview with Mark Millar, who says "It’s really secretly selling people comics. My dad’s generation and my generation all read comics as children but my daughters generation, the boys in her class have never picked up a comic book. So I wanted it to be something teenage boys and young guys in their 20s would feel comfortable with, you know? Something that is a hybrid.”

Bleeding Cool: Copies of CLiNT Seen in the Wild
Bleeding Cool forum thread documenting some of the daft places WH Smiths staff (and other retailers) have racked the new comic. In one case, apparently next to Bob the Builder...

Other Reviews

Comics Alliance: CLiNT is definitely a Magazine
by Chris Sims: "I legitimately like the "Warning! Contains Comics!" blurb in the corner. It plays into the whole attempt at characterizing what they're doing as a faux-dangerous bit of counterculture along the lines of 2000AD's heyday, and while that idea is defeated pretty thoroughly by having a photo cover depicting characters from a major motion picture that starred Nicolas Cage, it does put the emphasis squarely on comics. And that's exactly where it belongs, because that's where CLiNT is at its best."

FHM: New Magazine! New Kick-Ass!

Geeksco.uk: Wossy and Boyle strips in new CLiNT Magazine
"Having had a sneak peek at the 100 page magazine, it’s certainly an exciting new direction for Mark Millar. Jonathan Ross’s vampire comic is a complete surprise and an excellent one at that. A dark tale of vampires and gangs in depression-hit New York, the second installment can’t arrive fast enough. We are also gifted with Millar’s explosive and controversial strip, Nemesis, drawn by artist Steve McNiven with whom Millar had previously worked on Marvels Civil War mini series. The jokey premise for the strip was ‘What if Batman was a total c**t‘ which understandably caused some concern with DC Comics..." 

Journalist Danny Graydon: Clint #1 - The Verdict

"... We have the latest attempt at pushing edgy and irreverent comics in to the mainstream, with the arrestingly-titled “CLiNT” – think about it – produced by writer Mark Millar and Titan Magazines. Ever the connoisseur of hyperbole, Millar grandly claimed that “This is The Eagle for the 21st Century!” and, having read the debut issue, I can only respond to that pearl of wisdom with: you bloody wish, old boy. No, no: the truth is that CLiNT is essentially TOXIC! resurrected... This is by no means a bad thing."

Lew Stringer - Blimey! It's Another Blog about Comics

"The promos talk about it appealing to 16 to 30 year-olds but maybe that's just to sell it to retailers. Personally I think CLiNT will really find an audience of 13 to 16 year-olds excited by the ultra-violence of Kick Ass and Nemesis. Don't be surprised to see some prudes rise up to bang on about comics "corrupting children". Every generation has those spoilsports and they've never proven their case yet. It seems to me that Millar and Titan have preempted such attacks by not making the cover look like a comic and clearly putting an 'Adult Content' advisory beside the barcode. The responsibility is now with retailers to choose who to sell it to, and with parents to monitor what their kids read. No passing the buck this time for the blame culture....

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