Friday, 3 September 2010

CLiNT #1 - Review (Part 1 of 2)

If you haven't heard of this yet, CLiNT is the new British comics magazine put together by Mark Millar, writer of Kick-Ass. The first issue has had mixed reviews at best, most critics welcoming the fact that there is a new comic magazine of any description daring to brave the choppy waters of the UK's comics market, but being less than enthusiastic about the contents.

In its favour, it's generally acknowledged that conceptually CLiNT is trying something new. It isn't, for example, aimed solely at existing comics fans and is designed to sit on the shelves of newsagents like WH Smith, sharing shelf-space with other "hobby" magazines, rather than having to fight for attention among the glut of DC and Marvel titles in a specialist comics shop (although I did, in fact, buy my copy in London's Forbidden Planet!)

With a view to capturing that "non-comics" audience, its contents are something of a mixed bag. As well as five comics stories (more on those in Part 2 of this review), it has an interview with stand-up comedian Jimmy Carr and a selection of magazine style one- or two-page "novelty" filler items. For me, these were CLiNT's real Achilles heel.

The Jimmy Carr interview is no more probing or entertaining than an average fluff piece in a weekly TV guide (and there's not even a token question relating to comics!) The shorter fillers include a Top 10 of Hot TV Mums, a list of Charles Manson's other intended celebrity victims and the tongue-in-cheek Deeply Moral Babes - Overdressed Porn for the Religious Right. I know the magazine is aimed primarily at a male demographic, but these features seem deliberately designed to alienate completely any potential female readers. Worse, from a commercial perspective, the writing lacks the one thing that this kind of 1980s faux-laddishness needs if it's going to have any appeal even for a male audience - personality!

A successful magazine needs a voice of its own. It builds and retains its audience by speaking to its readers in a language they understand; by sharing their interests and enjoying the same sense of humour. Jeremy Clarkson is successful not because he knows more about cars than anyone else, but because he shares the fans' passion for them. Loaded (before it abandoned wit and irreverence for simple-minded crudity) was successful not because the writers were interested in most of the subjects they covered, but because they covered them in a way that shared their fans' sense of self-mocking, youthful exuberance.

Millar's CLiNT has no voice of its own. It seems to have a very clear idea of who it doesn't want to appeal to, but no clear idea of how to address those it does - if, indeed, it even knows who they are! Having alienated most of the female demographic, it must surely be even more important to ensure your offering will have twice the appeal for male readers. The non-comic features here, however, are random at best and covered in a way which is dry and humourless - hardly a house style likely to appeal to any male, old or young, fanboy or not.

Ironically, given the way it's been marketed, if CLiNT is to achieve any kind of success, then - based on this first issue - it will have to be in spite of its non-comic content, rather than because of it. So, are the comics strong enough to carry the magazine until it can sort out its problems in other areas? Answers coming up in Part 2 of this review!

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