Yesterday’s news that The Phoenix had reached its 200th issue has certainly gone down well among British comic fans, but the publisher’s carefully worded claim that it was the first “independently-published weekly” comic to reach that landmark since 1969 has certainly put the cat among the pigeons as far as comic archivists are concerned.
After some research by top comics author and events organiser Paul Gravett, The Phoenix team used TV21 Issue 200 as their marker for the claim, published by City Magazines. The Gerry Anderson-inspired comic strips included “Captain Scarlet”, “Thunderbirds” and adventures strips such as “The Saint” (joining the title after its recent merger with TV Tornado with Issue 192). But some have questioned the claim that City Magazines – a company whose assets are today owned by the Daily Express – was really an ‘independent’ publisher.
Like the better known and very definitely mainstream British comic publishers DC Thomson and Fleetway, City Magazines also published a range of titles and should really be considered one of the major comic publishers of the 1960s. Along with TV21, originally titled TV Century 21, these included, during its existence, Candy, Huckleberry Hound Weekly, Lady Penelope, TV Tornado, the short-lived Joe 90 Top Secret and Solo and Yogi Bear’s Own.
The company also published the lavish nursery comic, Once Upon A Time, with stunning full-colour artwork by the likes of Don Lawrence, Jesus Blasco and Ron Embleton.
While it’s highly unlikely any regular downthetubes reader will want re-categorise any of those, and TV21, as independent comics, we of course don’t want to rain on The Phoenix‘s parade on a point of pedantry, but we couldn’t let them get off scot free on the matter!
It’s great news that The Phoenix is now available in WH Smiths across the UK and the creators and editorial team deserve plenty of praise for their efforts getting a genuine strip-filled comic into more retailers. Well done to them all.
• 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 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
With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Calum Laird and Lew Sringer for the online banter that prompted this. Thanks also to Philip Rushton.