Strips out for the lads

So the possible revival of British comics has come, again (it’s not been that long since The DFC was the great hope and then died before a year was out). And this time, Mark Millar’s running the show and he’s brought his celebrity mates Frankie Boyle, Jonathan Ross, and Hit Girl and Kick-Ass with him.
On the face of it, this is a good thing: British comics could do with a successful revival, and the twin tactics of celebrities and a film franchise could see Millar’s magazine succeed. One problem though. He’s trying to make it like a lad’s mag, similar to tits-and-trivia titles Nuts and Zoo that dominate UK newsstands. And he’s quite upfront about this, and it’s a valid approach to take if you want to appeal to teenaged boys who don’t read comics (and by all accounts it’s selling gangbusters).
Except… well, the magazine is called CLiNT. Spelt exactly like that. Cos then it likes like a swear word based around vaginas, see.
And that’s going to amuse the target audience, but it’s a massive ‘up yours’ to, say, the 50% of Britain who don’t have willies. The name is a clear barrier. And if you get past that, then you’ll find several strips with only two female characters (Hit Girl and the journalist in Ross’ Turf; admittedly both are lead roles) and then… then you find the text features. They’re going for the lad’s mag feel too, and include features like a list of Hot Mums on telly, breathless descriptions of how the Manson Family planned to kill some people, and a list of embarrassing things said during sex. One such thing was about a woman yelling ‘Goldfish!’ during rough sex, because that was the safe word with her last boyfriend because rape, of course, is hilarious.
Now, yes, CLiNT is going for a very specific market. That doesn’t mean it has to be so unwittingly hostile to others, and this is very ‘you are not meant to read this’ stuff: this has been noted by female comic fans on the 2000 AD forums up to female panellists and Kirsty Wark on the BBC’s The Review Show. ‘The Mighty Tharg’ (or Matt Smith no, not that one as he’s otherwise known) at 2000 AD has also stepped in, using the editorial for prog 1703 to state ‘I’d hope that anything from the House of Tharg was never so exclusive as to make a portion of the readership feel sidelined… I like to think that I’m an equal opportunities Thrill-creator, crafting tales for all to enjoy, but let me know if you feel there’s something missing’.
Obviously, this is a clear touting of ‘look, we’re better than a competitor, keep buying us’, but the point is still clear besides that, and 2000 AD is also a primarily male-read comic. (It’s also unusual to see an editor outright say ‘tell us if we’re not doing representation properly’) The one time it flirted with similar territory was with the lads mag oriented ‘Women Just Don’t Get It’ ads… which, as covered in the book Thrill-Powered Overload, were foisted on it by then-publisher Egmon Fleetway, much to the horror of the editors who pleaded with them not to run the ads. (Sales went down after)
Millar has since stated he intends to make a girls comic along the same lines as CLiNT, but why does the current title have to raise barriers? And, based on it, can Millar and Titan Magazines be trusted to pull off a sister title? And that’s unfortunate. I want to trust him, because most of what he’s done with CLiNT makes tactical sense. I want him to succeed in his admirable goal of causing the UK industry to be as big as it was when he started out, and for other companies to create their own comics to match Titan’s Millar titles. I want, basically, lots of comics around for lots of people, some of which I’ll enjoy and others that others will.
But I don’t want something waving a ‘it’s not FOR you’ flag at a mass of the population. It doesn’t strike me as the right way to do things.
On the plus side, we are already seeing other publishers start their own comics: coming up next month is Strip Magazine, with intentions to be ‘general audience’, from Print Media Productions. And PMP are also planning European-style comic albums, their first being a female-led steampunk adventure called The Iron Moon. With luck, CLiNT’s opened the door to, well, better comics than CLiNT, and if it has I’ll have to eat a lot of the words I just typed.