Monday, 20 June 2011

The CLiNT Experiment

Just over a year ago Mark Millar announced the latest in a long line of ambitious comic book projects - a monthly British comics anthology, with the long term aim of moving comic books back to the mainstream. A highly ambitious brief, and perhaps one that even Millar himself did not realistically believe that he would achieve. Nevertheless, CLiNT was announced in May last year, as a mix of comic strips, features and news, all produced by young British talent. At its inception Millar described CLiNT as The Eagle for the 21st Century, confirming that he would be aiming it at the 16-30 age bracket, ambitiously declaring that he wanted it to be 'passed around lunch halls and common rooms'.

The first issue (pictured above) launched in September, featuring strips by renowned British celebrities Jonathon Ross and Frankie Boyle. Largely a success, CLiNT #1 sold out and was confirmed for a second printing by its publisher Titan in November. Reviews were mixed, with seasoned comics readers praising the strips, while criticizing the magazines features for their somewhat low-brow nature. But they were missing the point. Seasoned comics readers were not the magazines target audience. I didn't like the features any more than they did. I was buying CLiNT for Nemesis, Kick-Ass and Turf, not for 'Sexy Chavs', or 'Top Ten Milfs'. But I understood why they were there, and accepted them, without ever really enjoying them. I loved Kick-Ass and its sequel was more of the same, Jonathon Ross' Turf was very good, if a little unpolished. Frankie Boyle's Rex Royd was not my cup of tea at all but nonetheless, there was a lot of good stuff in the magazine, something that hasn't changed nine months on.

In its early months CLiNT was dishearteningly ubiquitous, occupying pride of place in mainstays such as WHSmith and Tesco, and confusingly appearing on corner shops up and down the country. Had comic books finally cracked the mainstream again? The answer was of course, no. The confetti, premature. Since those heady days CLiNT has failed to maintain its position in shops, in my experience at least, and has shipped late at least twice. Can it be a surprise that interest is waning when the most reliable way to keep up with its erratic schedule is through its creators twitter feed? CLiNT will not be passed around lunch halls and common rooms if it can't be bought in the first place, and almost a year after its high profile launch, the public seem in danger of dropping out. The strips have for the most part been excellent, and Millar seems to have reigned in the spurious additional content, but in a notoriously fickle marketplace, no excuse can be given to lose interest.

I have no access to sales figures - for all I know CLiNT could be flying off the shelves, but for my money it is vital that the magazine sticks to a regular release schedule. I am a seasoned comic book reader, and avidly look forward to the magazine every month but even my affections have begun to wane. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the uninitiated to stay abreast of the magazines schedule. Lest we forget, to many not interested in comics Mark Millar is hardly a celebrity, let alone one deemed worthy of following on twitter (sorry Mark), whether they read his magazine or not. I was happy to read the release date of the magazine's latest issue on Millar's twitter feed, other readers may not have been so fortunate.

In short - Mark is doing a great job with the content. CLiNT is fantastic value for money, even if you skim over the features. My main criticism would be the scheduling. Mark cited the absence of any new Kick-Ass 2 content as the reason for this months latest delay, but I would put getting the product on the shelves ahead of ensuring that the selection of strips is as perfect as it could be. I can understand Millar wanting the product to be as good as it can be, but as long as the strip that replaces it can stand up to Kick-Ass 2, I'm sure that regular readers will not have a problem. What they may have a problem with is following a periodical that appears on an increasingly erratic basis. Retailers may feel the same way. Mark's choice of strips so far has been superb, and as long as what he chooses to replace any wayward ones is of a similar ilk I for one will still be happily buying.

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