Since Starburst was relaunched in May 2011 I have been inundated with news and press releases from publishers in the UK wanting to promote original comics and graphic novels. Having associated myself with the comic industry in the UK for the past decade I can honestly say that I have never seen a landscape that looked so promising for UK fans and comic creators, with publishers like SelfMadeHero and Blank Slate Books producing some stellar work and British anthologies like Mark Millar’s CLiNT soon to be joined by The Phoenix and STRIP Magazine. As a writer this is brilliant news for me because for the first time in years there are new platforms on the horizon that could potentially act as a showcase for my writing, but as a reader this is even more exciting because the quality of the comics being created by some of my contemporaries is phenomenal. I aim to cover as many British comics as possible in the coming months, but with the imminent planned release for STRIP Magazine in October I took the opportunity to catch up with John Ridgway, one of STRIP’s contributors and a legend in his own right among the UK’s comic community.
Starburst: To get the ball rolling could you please tell our readers what to expect from STRIP Magazine and why we should be excited about it?
John Ridgway: STRIP Magazine is an anthology. As such, each issue is a varied showcase for work by creators who have ideas but, until now, have had no place for their creations to be seen. Now they have the chance to produce their best work and this can only benefit the readers.
In Europe there is an enormous variety of work in graphic novel (or graphic album) form, which, because of the language barrier, we have little access to. Until now, this country has lacked, or rather, has lost the variety our comics once had. STRIP Magazine is endeavouring to bring back what we have lost. There is science fiction, fantasy, action, adventure and humour. But more than that, the people behind STRIP Magazine are prepared to listen to what readers request. This is something the readers can be a part of.
Your own resume speaks volumes about the level of talent involved in STRIP. Can you name one other contributor that we should look out for particularly?
Actually, I’d like to name two artists: Julio Radilovic and Michael Penick. That’s not to say that the other artists aren’t good – they are – but these two appeal to me personally. Julio (Jules) for his remarkable range of styles – Hemlock Sholmes is his humour stuff, but I’ve also seen his Western and Spy stuff. Michael Penick’s work is brilliant – take a look at his website for samples of what he can do.
Your work on Age of Heroes looks fantastic. Where would you direct readers that wanted to see more of your work?
My work on Age of Heroes is work I have enjoyed producing – both in its original black and white form, and in the coloured version I am producing for STRIP Magazine. I can think of no other work I have enjoyed anywhere near so much since my work on Warrior and Doctor Who but that was in black and white. Collections republishing my Doctor Who stuff have been produced by Panini and IDW.
If STRIP Magazine is a success where would you like to go from here? Will Age of Heroes be an ongoing story or do you have another project lined up to succeed it?
Ivo Milicevic, the publisher, appears to like my work. I will continue to work on Age of Heroes – completing the original story arc and going on from there – for as long as Jim Hudnell wants to continue writing it, or for as long as I am capable of drawing it. This does not mean that I will not be working on other things. Another series – Frontiers (a science fiction series) – is something I am writing for artist Nick Spender to draw. Nick was trained at Epson Art College by one of this country’s greatest comic creators – Frank Hampson
Before we finish, could you name one other British or European comic creator that you'd like to draw our attention to? Anybody that's showing a promising start to their career or perhaps somebody whose work you always felt deserved more acclaim?
I’d like to put forward the name of my pal, Tim Perkins. He has worked for a considerable time in comics but his name is not known to many outside the business. This is not through lack of talent or ability – Tim is a very fine and dedicated artist. It is really through a lack of outlets for the work he does best. Tim’s solution has been to self-publish, and this is a long and exhausting process. I admire Tim’s dedication to the task and the enormous effort he has put in. I admire the support his wife, Margaret, has provided over the long period. Self-publishing is a terribly risky business – something I could never contemplate attempting. With the advent of STRIP Magazine, and the facility for graphic albums that will provide, much of the risk will be reduced for creator-owned projects.
Of course, some of the risk in self-publishing has been reduced by e-publishing (which eliminates printing and distribution costs) but, for me, there is nothing like the feel of a “real” comic or book. To me iPad's and Kindle's are sterile devices and what is on them are things of the moment without any permanence – the difference between listening to a rock band on the radio and seeing them in live concert.
(Tim Perkins’ graphic novel World’s End is now available to pre-order on his website)
STRIP Magazine Issue One will cost £2.99 and includes Black Ops Xtreme, drawn by PJ Holden; Warpaint by Phil Hester and John McCrea, Age of Heroes by James Hudnall and John Ridgway; Hookjaw, re-mastered by Jim Campbell and Gary Caldwell; 'Hush Hush' a prequel story to Stephen Walsh and Keith Page's Iron Moon graphic album; Recovery Inc. by Michael Penick and Dean Deckard.
From October 2011 STRIP Magazine will be distributed by Diamond to comic shops in the UK with a planned roll out to the UK high street in 2012 after assessing how all the different content in STRIP is received by readers. If you have a passion for comics or any vested interest in the UK’s comic book community then I implore you to seek out a copy of STRIP Magazine and show some support for an anthology that fills a niche left empty for far too long. 2000 AD is, of course, a British institution, but there must surely be room on our shelves for an anthology of comics that might not fit their remit. I don’t want my children to grow up in a country where comics are marginalised and misunderstood by the mainstream, I want our newsstands to be overflowing with more original comics than I could ever afford to subscribe to!