Wil Overton Fans: proceed directly to your nearest WHSmith or Waitrose, and purchase issue 373 of The Phoenix. You will receive five pages of Quantum Turbo, illustrated in his distinctive style, the rest of a special comic, and absolutely no plastic tat whatsoever. Look for the one that isn't suffocated by a plastic bag.
If you're still here, then I'll assume that you have a milder interest in surreal humour, or venerable video games. The Phoenix and Quantum Turbo both feel like they could be better, yet considering the circumstances, it's a minor miracle that they exist at all. I shall elaborate, before the WOFs return with their comics and impulse purchases.
The Phoenix, subtitled The Weekly Story Comic, is indeed about comics which tell stories. These are a mixture of the serious, silly, and seriously silly. On a good week, it makes me laugh and think. The bad weeks still have more wit and nuance than most news reporting, and better storytelling. My subscription feels mildly indulgent as I whiz through each issue on Friday morning, but justified whenever I laugh and think on a second, or third, reading.
The Phoenix is a family business, and a largely benevolent dictatorship. It appears to trust creators to write and draw what they like, certainly with the young target audience in mind, but without nervous editorial culling of the excellent jokes and references over their heads. This approach also results in some stories with a flavoursome pinch of personal politics, though very, very rarely enough to taint the recipe. Unless you're a stringent authoritarian, in which case, you would probably be far more concerned by all the jokes and imagination.
The downside is that this comic was birthed and bankrolled by a book publishing business, which still comes knocking to claim pages for extracts and recommendations. Though far less intrusive than most advertising, words alone seem a waste of the colourful space, and they play to the educational prejudice that comics are just a stepping stone to real reading. It's a compromise, like pretending that early home computers were valuable learning tools, and any teacher who has actually read Looshkin is complicit in this new deception.
A less palatable part of the educational marketing push is snobbery about video games, like comics need something to look down on themselves. Fortunately, the artists and writers who reference such trifles do so with affection, or affectionate criticism. They understand pop culture well enough to spot the trends worth mentioning, while other creators prefer more timeless stories. The result is a blend of the familiar and fresh.
Quantum Turbo feels like a compromise. You see, Mr. Overton had already done his own comic, which you can still buy. However, this didn't make enough to feed his biscuit habit, so he drew someone else's script. Which does intersect with at least one of his passions, stompy robot cats, though sadly for Smart Bomb!! readers, not Mutalis J Kosmikat.
The second part of Quantum Turbo is scheduled for the next issue, and should be fine, for what it is. I prefer hardcore nerd thrills, but will settle for this fun little diversion until Pulsar Crash returns. Wil deserves this much wider audience for his work, who hopefully, will push him to believe that his silly pictures matter. He needs some persuading.
If his silly pictures matter to you, then there's no time like the present to tell him. You see, he spent part of last year in a coma. It's all fine now, more or less, but it wasn't even one of those fun comas, where you wake up comfortably unscathed in the far future of flying cars and finalised Brexit deals. So, cherish Quantum Turbo, and if the silly sausage gets back in touch with Mr. Biffo, then we may yet see Galactic Dandy 9000.
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