Within the past couple of weeks, a pair of new publications hit the stands primarily (and perhaps exclusively) in comic-book shops. Both were the same size as comic books, but they’re purposes was something other than that. Bleeding Cool Magazine #0 and Creator-Owned Heroes #1 debuted this month, and they can really be described as magazines more than comics (even though the latter features two comics stories). In an age when online media seems to dominate material about the world of comics, it was interesting to delve into print publications trying to do the same. Both carry with them a lot of promise, but the execution is a bit off to varying degrees.
Bleeding Cool Magazine #0 (Avatar Press)
by Rich Johnston and others
Rich Johnston is one of those writers about comics who’s been around for what seems as long as there’s been discussion about comics online. He’s build a brand — moreso his name rather than Bleeding Cool — with what was initially a comics gossip column he did he free, to a popular column on one of the premiere comics news and discussions websites to his own corner of the digi-verse. And in every incarnation, his work has been must-reads for those with an interest in the comic-book industry. His move into print actually struck me as a logical evolution of the growth of his brand (even though some might see print as a step backwards). Like it or not, Johnston is a powerful presence in the industry (for his writing about comics rather than the comics he writes), and the opening essay shows off his strong, direct and blunt voice.
Obviously, Bleeding Cool Magazine can’t compete with the timeliness of online comics reportage, so the print incarnation focuses on features and interviews. It’s a logical approach, but I was disappointed to find Bleeding Cool in print is much more of cheerleader and much less of a rabble-rouser than its online sibling. I’d rather see a focus on issues and personalities rather than promotional interviews for resurrected comics publishers and ideas. For example, Johnston touches upon “Before Watchmen” by way of an interview with Len Wein, but it tiptoes around the controversy and offers little more than a PR boost for the project. Obviously, such pieces have their place; in order to succeed, the magazine has to appeal to as broad an audience as it can within the niche market of comics aficionados. Probing, longer-form pieces would be a welcome addition to the magazine, especially since online reading tends to be a get-in-and-get-out-quickly sort of experience.
I did enjoy the focused Walking Dead price guide, as it spotlights a cultural and economic trend in the industry that’s a vital cog in the retail marketplace. I also found the fonts chosen for the magazine to be pleasing to the eye and easy to read. However, the magazine needs a more engaging look. the layouts are repetitive, and rather flat and boring. Bleeding Cool Magazine definitely needs a stronger sense of design. My hope is it’ll be around long enough to address its flaws and fill its gaps. 5/10
Creator-Owned Heroes #1 (Image Comics)
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles and others
Creator-Owned Heroes definitely has a stronger sense of design, with more variety to be found from feature to feature. Though awkwardly titled, the mission and focus of this magazine is clear, and there’s definitely a lot of interest in creator-owned work, the challenges it poses and the benefits to be reaped. This first foray, though, mainly offers some creator-owned heroes and introduces us to the creators. It doesn’t really delve into the issues themselves, and my hope is that’ll change with future issues.
The first two features in Creator-Owned Heroes are comics features: “American Muscle” by Steve Niles and Kevin Mellon, and “Trigger Girl 6” by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Phil Noto. Both are entertaining stories that boast a lot of personality and plenty of thrilling action. Both feature characters/properties that belong to the men who tell the stories, not some corporation looking to exploit ideas around which it can sell ads. And both are incredibly familiar. Elsewhere in the magazine, some of the folks behind Creator-Owned Heroes talk about ideas — specifically, original ideas. “American Muscle” and “Trigger Girl 6” are fun, but they’re far from the most original comics stories I’ve seen.
Where Creator-Owned Heroes is lacking is in its editing, but I’m not suggesting there’s a plethora of typos and errors that are distracting for discerning readers. The credits on the inside cover indicate the magazine is edited by “the Gang,” suggesting there’s no clear leadership. I can see that, based on the non-comics content. For example, I thought the feature on two sisters — one designer, one model — wrapped up in the world of cosplay was a great idea, but rather than a bunch of cheesecake shots of the model dressed up as Trigger Girl 6, I wanted to see some behind the scenes. I wanted to see a bolt of material being cut and measured, the sketched pattern the designer used to bring a costume out of the two-dimensional world and into ours. An editor could have offered more direction in this respect. Furthermore, the Neil Gaiman interview is awfully gushy and doesn’t seem as concerned with the “creator-owned” focus of the publication as it is with Gaiman’s success and congeniality.
Creator ownership is a deeply personal issue for storytellers, and it’s also a controversial one, but the material here doesn’t really bring out that edge. I want to read a feature about the Tokyopop fiasco. I want to read about the legal labyrinth newer creators must navigate when their creations are optioned for other-media treatment. I want to read horror stories, and I even want to read about the value in doing work for hire so creators can build their reputations to make the successful transition to independence. There’s plenty of potential for features and interviews that dig into harsher realities while also making room to celebrate creator-owned visions and successes. 6/10
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