Weekly British children’s comic The Phoenix is celebrating its 200th issue this week by becoming the first independent weekly comic in the UK to reach this milestone since 1969 – and will now be on sale in selected WH Smiths stores across the UK, wrapped in a cover by Children’s Laureate and cartoonist Chris Riddell.
With an army of fans across the nation and a string of celebrity endorsements from Britain’s best-loved children’s writers, including Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, the success of The Phoenix marks what the publishers see as the welcome return of the classic British comic – a success that has been carefully urtured from the start with slow but steady expansion of availability that already includes select Waitrose supermarkets.
Launched in 2012, and rated ‘the second best comic in the world’ by Time Magazine, 30th October 2015 will be a defining moment for The Phoenix when it publishes Issue 200; the first independent comic in the country to reach that issue since 1969.
(The 1960s comic in question, by the way, is TV21 and Tornado, which was not published by any of the ‘big’ British comic publishers such as DC Thomson or Fleetway, although it could be argued City Magazines did publish a number of mainstream titles in its day).
A milestone in the history of the British comic, we’re told The Phoenix 200th issue celebrations will include an array of exciting new comic strips, exclusive strips from young Phoenix readers, new partnerships and involvement from the most celebrated names in British publishing.
As well as endorsements and support from children’s authors including Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Frank Cottrell Boyce, Issue 200 features an exclusive front cover created by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell and a trail for a new strip launching in 2016, “Philip Pullman’s John Blake”, drawn by Fred Fordham, whose first graphic novel, Nightfall was published in three volumes by Editions Delcourt and as well as providing strips for The Phoenix (with strips such as “The Rocket of Rawangadalli”), has also created strips for David Lloyd’ digital anthology. Aces Weekly.
Alongside established favourites like the action-packed “Mega Robo Bros” by Neill Cameron, the enthralling “Adventures of Von Doogan” by Lorenzo Etherington, the wonderful “Corpse Talk” by Adam Murphy and the gloriously funny “Evil Emperor Penguin” by Laura Ellen Anderson, Issue 200 of The Phoenix will feature two new series; a new action comedy called “Battle Suit Bea” about a girl who finds a robot-suit from “Bunny Vs Monkey” artist Jamie Smart; and “St. Georgia and the Ends of the World” by Robin Boyden, a story set in a medieval world and featuring Georgia, a genius inventor girl.
Phoenix Search for a Star Launches
The celebratory issue also features two exclusive strips from young Phoenix readers, Jordan Vigay, 14 and Jonny Toons, 11 who are already creating their own comics inspired by The Phoenix. Their involvement will launch a new Phoenix Search for a Star competition where a young Phoenix reader will see their story published in the magazine in early 2016. Entries are open from Issue 200 and will close by the end of November. (Further information will be available on www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk)
“One of the most important things to us at The Phoenix is to encourage children to use their imaginations to create their own comic stories,” says Tom Fickling, editor . “Jordan and Jonny are both young talents who have a passion for making comics and I’ve lost count of the amazing number of things they’ve sent in or shown me.
“Issue 200 is a chance for us to support them and inspire other children to get creating!”
Readathon Charity Partnership Revealed
The Phoenix has also announces a new partnership with children’s charity READATHON, which encourages millions of children to read and raises money for children in hospital through its sponsored reading event in schools. Copies of The Phoenix will be inserted into Readathon schools kits with special subscription rates and a free prize draw that will include comic workshops and goody bags of Phoenix Presents books titles. In addition, The Phoenix will announce a designated comic artist who will take the Readathon in Residence role working with children in a hospital for one year.
“Readathon have a long and proud heritage of helping children to develop the reading habit,” says Tom. “As raising literacy levels for all children is a central goal for The Phoenix I can’t think of a better partner for us to work with. Comics are a great tool for encouraging reluctant readers and research shows that reading leads to a happier and healthier life. So it is vital we establish the reading habit when we are young!”
“We are delighted to be partnering with The Phoenix, a beacon in children’s comics who, like us, recognises there are all sorts of ways for children to start a life-long love of reading,” adds Justine Daniels, Chief Executive of READATHON. “At Readathon, we believe that reading should be fun and that all reading is of value. The Phoenix is a fantastic comic that sparks a child’s imagination and makes reading fun. We encourage pupils to reads whatever they fancy when taking part in Readathon’s sponsored read, and for some children, comics are just the ticket.”
• Look out for coverage of The Phoenix on the Guardian Children’s Books site, live comic workshops on national radio and a twitter takeover by Phoenix artists using the #HappyPhoenix200.
• The Phoenix being stocked in WH Smith (in high street stores – not railway stations or airports) for the first time from Thursday 29th October and the publishers have also launched a loyalty scheme for those children who buy the comic weekly from independent booksellers. For a list of stockists and the latest news visit www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk | Follow The Phoenix on Twitter @phoenixcomicuk