Monday, 23 January 2012

The Phoenix

I was going to get all coherent and organised in my posts this week and get some kind of chronological thing going where I start the week with a review for the littlies and work my way up as the week progresses. It may still happen, but I've been stymied today at least by the arrival into our house on Friday of The Phoenix (look I've learnt to do links an' everything) and the hopping from foot to foot, bouncing up and down general happiness and excitement it has generated in this household over the weekend.

This is a brand new story comic which The Grandparents put us on to and were kind enough to purchase a trial subscription for. It started at the beginning of January and thus we have started with Issue 3.

Now Bill had recently become an occasional eater of 'The Beano' comic and I've enjoyed it too- taking me back to rainy Saturday afternoons of my childhood in the Cambridge Children's Library working my way through their box of back issues. There's no doubt however that the format and storylines of 'The Beano' are pretty unvaried, much of the artwork is uninspiring and there's a lot of freebie plastic tat promotions attached which you have to fight through to get inside it. Not to start on their new Olympic 'Wenlock and Mandeville' strip which Truly Sucks. It all feels a bit lazy.

'The Phoenix' is as a rich and nourishing ham and vegetable soup to 'The Beano's' cuppasoup. It's put together by people who Really Love to Draw. They've obviously all been doing it obsessively on their kitchen tables since they were grasshopper size and have now seamlessly moved into sheds. They also tell Really Cool Stories. Bill's particular favourite in this issue was a strip called 'The Princess and the Peanut Butter Sandwiches' by Adam Murphy concerning the perils of making a wish for an infinite number of peanut butter sandwiches when you meet a magic unicorn. I liked the classy serial strip 'The Pirates of Pangaea' by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron which features a Victorian ship full of dinosaur riding pirates. Many of the strips are in serial form and it's lovely to have the excitement of tuning in next week for the next installment. There's a huge variety of drawing styles and formats demonstrated and in the middle a long text 'proper' story too. This week it was an extract from a new book by Dave Shelton called 'A Boy and a Bear in a Boat' (link!) which was so good I immediately had to go and order it. sigh. Terrible habits I'm developing in the excuse of blogging.

The team responsible for 'The Phoenix' were also responsible for a now defunct comic called 'DFC' which passed me by alas, but has led me to the discovery of their back issue comic books of the most popular strips, many by the same artists as 'The Phoenix'. More ordering may have occurred (blush) and more may be reviewed here at a later date. Given that this was also the weekend that Bill properly got stuck into 'Asterix' I can see a comic book/graphic novel strand emerging. That'll help me get organised then.

I should add that Bill also started his own drawing at the kitchen table this weekend inspired 'Playing By the Book' style- he created Pumpkin Face and his arch nemesis Birdie Man. It's unusual for him to choose to draw and another tribute to the power of  'The Phoenix'. I'll stick them up below for fun. Along with his Lego gun collection- off topic- but how we spent our Sunday afternoon and I'm proud of my handiwork.

'The Phoenix' is currently available by subscription but might also be found in specialist comic shops like Gosh or Forbidden Planet (although when we tried to reserve Issues 1 and 2 they'd already sold out) and in some branches of Waitrose.


  1. Wenlock and Mandeville is a paid advertisement for the Olympics and is so not representive of The Beano's quality.
    Oliver Forde - massive comics fan.

  2. And also:
    "The Phoenix is a rich and nourishing ham and vegetable soup to The Beano's cuppasoup. It is put together by people who Really Love To Draw".
    That opinion comes from someone who does not know the Beano's artists. I do, and they and The Dandy's artists are massive comic fans and would not do anything but draw. Why not try out The Dandy - you may enjoy that, it's very different from The Beano - more experimental with a wide range of strips. Not trolling here, just voicing in with my opinion.

    1. Fair enough Oliver- comments always welcome- and I'm sorry if you felt I was unfair on the Beano. They may be slightly imprisoned by their history I think as obviously the artists working on it now are confined by the individual strip's house style/backstory rather than free to innovate as they might like to. I'm a mum experiencing these things through my kids of course rather than a comics fan per se- and really I was just wanting to big up The Phoenix!
      I do think it's very sad that the number and choice of quality kids comics has diminished so radically since I was small- and rest assured both Beano and Dandy are regularly purchased and enjoyed in this house. I accept that Wenlock and Mandeville may be a revenue raiser- still sucks tho :)