Comics Now! Magazine

Comics Now! #1 cover

Comics Now! is a new quarterly magazine put together by some of the folks behind the Comic Geek Speak podcast. (Editor in Chief is Bryan Deemer; Editor is Kevin Freeman; and Peter Rios is the Assistant Editor.) It “striv[es] to provide fair and equal coverage to ALL segments of the comic book marketplace, mantaining a ‘FAN to FAN’ perspective, and by striving to promoting [sic] the readability of comic books over the collectibility.”

Those are all great goals, and they definitely get the “fan” part right. The opening editorial adds to those goals, saying that they aim to celebrate comics with positive coverage and focus on books within the past five years. To kick off, the cover feature explores Nova’s history. There are light mentions of the circumstances surrounding various title runs, but it’s primarily an overview of the type “and then Nova appeared in that comic title, which ran for that many issues” along with comments from some of the creators known for working on the character.

Other articles include a rundown of recommended podcasts, a lengthy piece about the need to hook readers from the first issue (good advice, but I’m not sure why it needed 12 pages to cover the topic; then again, if I’d been hooked enough to read the piece, I might know better), and a guide to Crises in the DC Universe. This is where I started thinking, yeah, it’s definitely by fans. This is what fanzines now look like, in a world where everyone has desktop publishing.

I’ve never known much about or been that interested in Nova myself. The piece’s author acknowledges that kind of apathy in a near-concluding paragraph:

While Nova has never been a major player in the comics industry, he certainly has a fan following. The only question that remains is will these fans, as well as new readers, help support the new series and bring the character up from his B-list status?

If we’re in agreement that the character’s history and future are both somewhat uncertain, why choose him as the kickoff cover feature? I’d think a better known selection would be more marketable (or more interesting). I’d also like to have seen more art included with the article, and for the covers that were used to have been identified with captions of source and date. The art pieces that were included were treated more like design elements than illustrations. (That problem is more developed in the Crisis essay, which at times resembles an ad more than an article.)

Judging from the magazine size (like a comic), the glossy paper, and the full color, Comics Now! is interested in providing an alternative to Wizard, and they seem well on their way. I did find it difficult at times to tell the ads from the content. Speaking of which, I was glad to see the inclusion of actual comic strips. They’re only one-pagers, but they’re varied and entertaining. The first one, by Marty Devine, mashes up Exterminators and Mouse Guard (two books I can’t imagine have much other overlap). There are also two promotions for webcomics, Girls With Slingshots and In His Likeness.

Some of the items I thought could be improved, like formatting and layout concerns, will be addressed in the second issue. There are multiple designers listed on the masthead, which may have contributed to the varying looks of the different articles and departments. More cohesion — especially in such simple things as font choice — will help. Also, some of the articles are quite lengthy. In-depth coverage is good, but not when page count is due to too much line spacing. I figure those involved just didn’t have much actual print experience, so they just didn’t realize (for example) that the margins were too close to the binding until they saw the first issue on paper.

Comics Now! #2 cover

Oh, I haven’t yet mentioned the columns. There’s one about trade paperbacks (the first mention of graphic novels in the magazine) that looks at changing sizes for reprint material. There’s one on webcomics that starts by basically saying they exist and then including a page listing some. One on older comics about Superman’s origin. (No, really.) One on indy comics that says they exist and recommends seven. One on being a fangirl that will hopefully get past justifying its tokenism next issue. That’s a problem with most of these, really… they worked too hard at introducing the concept of their particular department instead of jumping in and talking about something significant in the area.

The most forgettable part of the issue was the Meanwhile… section, which summarizes recent issues of Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, and Batman. Unfortunately, by the time I read this, they were six issues out of date. There’s also a feature on how the cover was put together and a letter column. With the lack of information on graphic novels and the focus on DC, Marvel, and serialized genre indy comics, I’m not the target for this, but I still think it’s handsomely produced and shows potential. My overview may sound harsh, but I wouldn’t bother pointing out room for improvement if I didn’t think the publication had a chance for a promising future.

Issue 2 is due in early March. I couldn’t find an order code online (it appeared in the December Previews). Find out more at the magazine website, and here’s a more favorable review by a friend of the creators. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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17 Responses to “Comics Now! Magazine”

  1. James Schee Says:

    “If we’re in agreement that the character’s history and future are both somewhat uncertain, why choose him as the kickoff cover feature? I’d think a better known selection would be more marketable (or more interesting). ”

    I wonder if it might be more of a strength going with a fairly uncovered character though? For a new comics magazine I wonder if yet another feature on Superman/Batman/Spider-Man might have got readers to have gone “been there, done that.”

    Of course I don’t have much interest in Nova either. He’s an odd sort for me, as I liked him when I first saw him in New Warriors. Yet the more I went back to read (especially Essential Nova) the less I liked him.

    Yet he’s getting some noteriety currently, and seems to be one of those characters that keeps getting new looks (sort of Marvel’s Aquaman without the other media tie?) so I guess there’s stuff to be covered.

    I’ll be curious to see how a magazine focusing on so much of todays comics will do. There’s so much of that type of stuff online these days already for free, that it seems a tough sale. We’ll see I guess.

  2. Johanna Says:

    You make a good point, and I should clarify: there’s a difference between a lesser known character that, once introduced, a reader will find interesting, and one that makes a lot of people go “eh”. I put Nova in the latter category. Of course, it’s a matter of opinion, but I would think that there were better choices without resorting to someone overplayed or too familiar.

    I do think CN is competing well with the web by doing longer, in depth pieces that would be fatiguing to read online.

  3. James Schee Says:

    True, true. For me personally a character I think on the same level, but more interesting to me. Would be Booster Gold, who has also been getting a big push lately as well.

    That is true, I tend to blank if I read something online too long. I saw this book somewhere recently, I may thumb through it if I stumble upon it again.

  4. Derek Coward Says:

    Although it doesn’t look like it, the podcasting ‘article’ is actually going to be an ongoing column. There are at least 125 comic book related podcasts that I know about so it will take some time to get to most of them.

    Also, it’s not really a list of recommended podcasts, but more of an overview of what’s out there. And because of delays, it also features at least four podcasts that no longer exist.

    I just wanted to point this out because I have already caught flak from some podcasts that weren’t featured in the first issue. Like I said, it was due to the whole ‘at least 125 of them’ thing.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, neat, thanks for letting us know.

  6. Peter Says:

    Excellent review Johanna. And your points on type/printing/the Meanwhile columns are already being addressed. (We originally were going to go the staple method, but had to switch to bound last minute. So there was no way to change the overall layout. All good for #2). We’re excited about the future – and we know full well not to compete with the internet. Which is why you’ll rarely see press releases or newsbites. For a quarterly mag, it’s just not timely enough. For me, I’m a huge fan of the old Amazing Heroes which mixed fandom with “journalism” (for lack of a better word). I miss that mag. Thanks again!

  7. Johanna Says:

    I think I really missed out, not being around for Amazing Heroes. From what I hear, that’s a great model.

  8. James Schee Says:

    Since you guys are discussing podcasts, it brought to mind something I had a discussion about with someone. Are there any that do transcripts or recaps for those who are hearing impaired?

  9. Derek Coward Says:

    James, I don’t know of any podcasts (comic book or otherwise) that offer transcripts.

    This is something that I was considering a long time ago, but without a potential audience for it, I decided it was something that would be put on the backburner.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    Nova—good choice for cover article for when this was supposed to come out…back in November or so, when the series was still going/just finishing.

    The switch (explained above) from stapled to square bound explains why the articles and art bled into the center of the book.

    I still haven’t read the whole issue, but I welcome its presence as an antidote to Wizard. Best of luck to Comics Now!

  11. James Schee Says:

    Thanks Derek, it was just something I was curious about. I did do some for a couple of deaf posters on a forum I frequented at the time. So when I saw the mention of them getting a spotlight I was just curious if there were any that did the transcript.

  12. Peter Says:

    Amazing Heroes can usually be found in the back issue bins at cons for cheap. I came across a nice run at Eides during last year’s Pittsburgh Comic Con. It’s a kick to see “Ace” MacDonald talking comics from that time. Sweet stuff.

  13. comicfoundry.com » Tim Looks at Comics Now! Magazine Says:

    [...] I was surprised because I hadn’t heard of it before then and still didn’t until Johanna posted a review this week. Having worked on print publications in some capacity for the past 9 years, I’m a [...]

  14. Thought-Provoking LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] designer (and competitor as Editor-in-Chief of Comic Foundry), looks at Comics Now! (which I reviewed last week) and has some harsh criticism. Based on the reactions I’ve seen from the CN crew, [...]

  15. Magazines Take Second Chances » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Comics Now!’s second issue came out last week, March 19. I haven’t seen it yet, but some early respondents suggest that they addressed some of the concerns readers had with #1. [...]

  16. Comic Foundry #3 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] — too many magazines these days seem to miss out on some of the basics, like readability (Comics Now!) or approachability (the grey blocks of TwoMorrows’ publications are off-putting) — [...]

  17. Two More Comic Magazines Die » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Comics Now!, which launched early 2008, has been confirmed as ending. #3, the last issue, came out on September 10, [...]

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