Tripwire Superhero Special 2009
Edited by Joel Meadows
In a comic world where we seem rather bereft of regular magazines about comics at the moment it’s nice to have another Tripwire appear so rapidly after last year’s annual. For those who don’t know, Tripwire started out as a well regarded comic book news and interviews magazine; 50 issues in 9 years between ’92 and ’03 before turning out two well received (and huge) annuals in ’07 and ’08 (review of 2008 Annual here). This year we see the first in a proposed series of Tripwire specials, filling out the year before each annual. This Superhero Special, although thinner than the annual still clocks in at an impressive 82 pages which makes it a damn good value read for the £4.95 cover price.
The great thing about Tripwire is that it sticks very doggedly to what it is. And more importantly is well aware of what it isn’t. There’s no hint of news, Internet gossip or long lists of new comics coming out in the next two week. Similarly there’s no attempt to produce some 50 page feature interview each issue. That sort of thing has it’s place and that place is in the Comics Journal, which is still the premier magazine about comics for many. Just not the same sorts of comics that Tripwire concerns itself with. Comics is a big enough medium and there’s plenty of room for more magazines about comics on the racks. Tripwire does what it does extremely well: covering a wide range of comics and related film and TV stories with a mix of interviews and short articles.
Any magazine has to perform on two important levels: design and content. A terrible design can make even the most interesting article practically unreadable but even the most innovative and beautiful design work will not be able to make a pearl from a swine of a badly written piece. Thankfully, Tripwire’s design is, as usual, splendid; no overly flashy layouts, sensible use of visuals and a great use of the white space on the page:
(Typical page layout from Tripwire; clean, readable and attractive. Double page Dan Didio interview from Tripwire Superhero Special.)
As for content; it’s equally good. The thematic nature of this issue could have constrained the magazine and limited it’s appeal, but thanks to a combination of good timing, careful selection and a good variety of writers and subjects there’s a sense of balanced, wide ranging coverage of all aspects of the Superhero genre.
As you might expect, the magazine leads with a series of features on Watchmen; a summary of the trials and tribulations of getting the graphic novel onto the silver screen and an interview with Dave Gibbons about his recently published book: Watching The Watchmen. I’m still rather surprised that there wasn’t a Watchmen cover, but perhaps Joel is looking towards what may well bee the next big comics to film event with Kick-Ass instead and plans to keep his magazine relevant beyond the Watchmen release.
The film connections continue with several features on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s Kick Ass comic currently being filmed by Matthew Vaughn, the man responsible for Stardust, Lock Stock and Layer Cake. Personally I didn’t rate the first issue of the comic but the filmmakers are all saying the right things about their film, so I’ll reserve judgement on the film version until I’ve actually seen it. It definitely looks like it will stir up the Daily Mail readers out there though, with it’s mainly teenage cast and relatively high levels of violence and language. You can almost see the “Ban this comic filth” headlines already can’t you?
(The visually impressive opening double page spread to Tripwire’s Watchmen coverage.)
After that initial one-two punch of big name film and comic properties we head off for a chat with Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Carey about the latest goings on at Marvel, the ever entertaining Paul Cornell chats about his great Captain Britain and MI-13 series and Matthew Badham provides us with a quick but exhaustive look at the history of Captain Britain. And if Marvel gets covered in depth, DC is never far behind; interviews with Geoff Johns and Dan Didio cover the DC half of the superhero world.
Rich Johnston, gossip-monger extraordinaire, gets a chance to have his say away from his usual Lying in the Gutters column. And very interesting he is too. One day he’ll sit down and write the book on all of the nasty little (and extremely nasty very big) secrets he’s sitting on and we’ll all be buying it before the law suits come flying in.
And lest you start thinking this is a purely Marvel and DC show, there’s ample representation from many others writing about superheroes; a Golden Age feature, Mark Waid of Boom Comics gets a piece, Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers gets discussed and there’s a nicely respectful feature on Jack Kirby before the magazine ends with the hit series Heroes being discussed by Tim Kring, Mark Verheiden and Bryan Fuller who fill us in on where we can expect the show to go next.
As with the annual, we have a 15 of the best section; this time it’s 15 Most Important Superhero Graphic Novels ever. And as always there’s much room for debate over some of the entries and some surprises in there as well; how they can put Jamie Delano and Alan Davis’ run on Captain Britain in is beyond me (it was good, but obviously nowhere near Alan Moore’s run – being released again any day in a huge, doorstopping omnibus edition). And Spawn? Spawn? Bloody hell, there’s so much that would get the nod before that I can’t even start the list without fear of blowing a blood vessel.
It might be too much to ask for, but I’d really like to see Joel commit to making Tripwire a more regular thing, maybe bi-monthly, definitely quarterly, as I think it’s perfectly primed to take it’s place amongst the best of writing about comics, and god knows, we need something sitting comfortably in the vast gulf between the Comics Journal’s interview based art approach and the dross that is Wizard magazine. I think Tripwire could become that rarest of things; a literate, intelligent yet highly entertaining magazine about the comics we all love. The next issue is the Tripwire Adventure Special and it should be out in June. Make sure you look out for it. This current issue should be in all good comic shops right now.