With comics now firmly part of mainstream culture, it feels like there is a gap in the market for a publication about comics. (It’s certainly part of the reason we started The Pull List). As someone who grew up reading Wizard and Comics International there isn’t a really high profile magazine about the industry any more, let alone one that looks at it’s cultural impact as well. The likes of SFX and Starburst pay lip service with some content and magazines like Comic Heroes come and go but there isn’t anything with a mature and intelligent way of looking at the comics world – until now. Full Bleed is the first issue of a new quarterly anthology from IDW imprint PDX and is headed up by longtime IDW editor Dirk Wood.
Price: $25 from the IDW Store
Weighing in with a superbly slick 200 page hardcover book Full Bleed feels more like a coffee table art book than a throwaway dirt sheet and is packed full of interviews and long form articles on the world of comics and culture. This first offering features an in depth interview with Stephen King about the comics he’s written and that inspire him (a nice twist on a subject whose been interviewed about pretty much everything ever in the past), and there is also a lost interview with Alan Moore (mostly discussing his America’s First Comics work). This is backed up with (amongst other thing) profiles on Bernie Wrightson, a story about the adapter of the Dirk Gently comics and TV series, and perhaps our favourite which is a comment piece on Nigeria in comics looking at how it is represented and misrepresented.
It’s this kind of thoughtful article which makes Full Bleed into a compelling and articulate read that treats the comic world as worthy of discussing in the same vein as literature and art. A look at comics in Cuba and free speech reinforces this, however this attitude towards cultural inclusion also leads to there being an article about a punk singer which feels very out of place and like something left over from a Sunday supplement.
Although it’s great to read in depth articles on heavyweights like King and Moore, they are quite old school and we’d have preferred more articles on modern trailblazers like Jason Aaron or Gerard Way or modern legends like Mark Millar or Grant Morrison. (Or even an interview with some women like Kelly Sue de Connick, Gail Simone or Noelle Stevenson as it feels like male-centric.) Although it’s great to see these heavyweights interviewed in this way, the articles all felt a bit like old news – especially the Moore interview, which was 10 years old – and didn’t feel like anything fresh or trailblazing to live up to the forward thinking attitude and amazing production values.
The production values are truly incredible though! The whole thing looks spectacular with an attention to detail and sense of style and design that are impeccable. Each story is given plenty of room to breath with the design using lots of US magazine design staples like wide columns and long page counts to make the most of the imagery and tell a proper story. But again how you feel about this depends on what you’re trying to get out of it. If you’re not interested in Moore or King then 20+ pages are irrelevant to you. It also lacks a density of content and some quick and easy reads – or even some articles about actual comics – to make into something more than just a nice looking comics curio.
Although there isn’t much in the way of critique on current comics, there are at least actual comics! Including a great auto-bio tale from Gideon Kendall about a cross country trip to San Diego Comic Con, a bleak war story from Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Steve Beach, a story about sharks from Kim Dwinell and the best of the bunch – Teenage Boy by Erin Nations which looks at the issue of transitioning gender and is both insightful and very entertaining. All of which give Full Bleed an added depth and are a great showcase for some really interesting and diverse talents.
Getting a first issue of a magazine right is a near impossible task as you have to create a broad range of content to hook people in while also setting out your stall of what makes you unique and different. Full Bleed certainly manages to create a unique identity for itself with a truly gorgeous debut that fans will want to keep forever in their book shelf for posterity. Sitting half way between an intellectual broadsheet and hipster self-published vanity project, Full Bleed feels like it is pitching itself as being like Rolling Stone but for comics and it makes one hell of a first stab at this lofty goal. It’s difficult to say whether it will become the new go to product for comic culture and critique without reading more than one issue, however as a new one-off it is something rather special. Packed full of love and passion for comics it treats them in a mature and considered way and does an incredible job of showcasing that comics are more than just superheroes and blockbuster movies.