British comics, then and now

For a long time, I thought that I was the only person in the whole comics blogosphere who was obsessed with old British comics, but Super I.T.C.H. has proved me wrong. They have been running some stories from old UK annuals (the hardback comics that delighted us every Christmas), and their latest one is a corker: The 1970 Valiant annual, which includes two Billy Bunter stories (about a fat kid in boarding school—just read them!) and some other action tales. The stories are definitely dated but still a lot of fun for those who like old-school comics.

Back in the day, comics like Valiant, Tiger, Hotspur (and their girl-comic counterparts Bunty, Judy, and Mandy) appeared weekly on the newsstand. With color covers and black-and-white (or single-color) interiors, they were no-frills comics that delivered a lot of story, usually three- or four-page chapters of six or seven different stories in a single issue. The comics were filled with action and each week's episode ended on some sort of a cliffhanger, so you just couldn't wait until the next week to find out what happened.

A group of talented creators and editors are attempting to recapture that spirit in Strip Magazine, a new monthly action comic. Strip is actually the brainchild of Bosnian publisher Ivo Milicevic who, like me, grew up reading British comics in another country. The stories are a mix of genres: There's a story about black ops soldiers, a fantasy story, a story about a glamorous cat burglar, a couple of gag strips, and the return of a classic shark comic Hook Jaw. The stories are a bit longer than in the old weeklies, and the cliffhanger endings are gone—they don't work in a monthly magazine—but you get the same feeling that you will be seeing these characters for a while. Best of all, you don't have to go to the UK to get it; it's available as an app through the iTunes store. Issue 1 came out last month, and issue 2 is due out later this week, so this is a good time to check it out.

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