Review by Joe Gordon
Editor and publisher Joel Meadows sneaks into the deserted Castle Frankenstein on a dark and stormy night, and attaches the electrodes – ZAP! Tripwire Magazine is given life once more, as Joel rubs his hands with glee (a special anti-bacterial glee, I should add, ideal for these Covid times).
Of course, we know Tripwire didn’t go away, it is there as an online journal covering comics, books and movies and more, and during the long, long weeks of the first pandemic lockdown it hosted a series on 100 graphic novels you should read while furloughed, to help suggest good reading ideas to people in the Lockdown (I contributed a handful myself). But this is a physical resurrection, taking the venerable Tripwire out of the ethereal realm of the interwebs and back into actual print media where it truly belongs, for the first time in some nine years.
That’s quite an achievement, and more so given the last twelve months we have endured here on Planet Earth (indeed it was hoped originally to have this out several months ago but like so many plans had to be redrawn).
So what reading delights do we have within the pages of this special issue (which comes with either a James Bond cover by Russell Walks or a Flash 80th anniversary cover by David Michael Beck)? Well, for starters, there are some very timely chats with a number of figures in the comics industry, such as Image’s Eric Stephenson, Diamond’s Steve Geppi, and Ross Richie of Boom Studios. Of course, like any other activity the comics industry was not expecting to find a large chunk of the year shut down with lockdowns, closures of shops, freight and distribution. (Even Diamond Comics had to stop distribution for a while to ensure staff safety and also because many of their customers in the comics shops had also had to close down and couldn’t receive deliveries even if they were available).
While all have their personal takes there is a shared theme of determination to overcome the obstacles and of how reliant the publishers and the retailers are: the comics shops need new content that will enthuse readers and entice them back, the publishers, especially the Indy ones, rely on enthusiastic staff in shops who recommend good new works to their regulars, and there’s a lot of talk about how each can try and help the other get by during these troubling times.
There’s a fascinating article looking into The Kingdom, talking to the legendary Alex Ross, Mark Waid and Gene Ha about the series that never was, a follow up to Ross and Waid’s excellent Kingdom Come. There is always something compelling about works that almost but didn’t quite get made, be it Jodorowsky’s take on Dune or that wonderfully odd sounding “wooden planet” story for Alien 3 that got dropped, and it’s interesting not just to learn what might have been, but also the back and forth even major creative talent like this had to go through to nearly get DC to make the vision they wanted (makes you realise how much harder it must be for lesser known new talents).
“We create for the ALL-AGES market. Kid’s comics suggest something simplistic (and plenty of titles take the easiest path) but truthfully I never wrote a story for Titan, or the DFC or the Dandy that I didn’t create with a potential adult reader in mind… There’s no reason why a comic that appeals to a 7-year old can’t also be appealing to a 70-year old.” Robin Etherington from the interview with him and brother Lorenzo.
There are two 80th anniversaries commemorated – cover star, the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash, and the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker are both explored. Eight decades is a remarkable run for any pop culture character, and these have both been through so many iterations, and both still have legions of fans to this day. There are interviews with Kieron Gillen, Ram V and the Etherington Brothers, a feature on the evolution of Neil Gaiman‘s career (complete with a fabulous pic of Neil in the 1980s!), the great Jimmy Palmiotti remembers his friend, the frankly brilliant Darwyn Cooke, who was taken far, far too soon, and a look at the history of British Indy SelfMadeHero (one of my personal faves)
There’s also the welcome return of Stripwire, the strip section which here features work from Sean Phillips, William Simpson, Ed Brubaker, Roger Langridge … Oh and there’s the a wee peek at Sherlock Holmes and the Empire Builder, art by Andy Bennett and script by Tripwire‘s own Joel Meadows (yay!), and a number of classic archive pieces too (including a cracking interview with the great bearded magus of Albion, Alan Moore).
• Tripwire Winter Special 2020/2021 is available now from the Tripwire website
Joe has been a bookseller since the early 1990s, with a special love for comics, graphic novels and science fiction. He has written for The Alien Online, created & edited the Forbidden Planet Blog and chaired numerous events for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He’s more or less house-trained.
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