People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
- Dale Carnegie
Me: So, one hundred Phoenixes.
Me: It’s been quite a ride.
Him: I suppose so.
Me: My re-read’s been less successful than yours. I’m only up to issue 27 at the moment. I wanted to wait until we had them all before launching in.
Him: I’ve done fairly well with the re-reading. In fact, I’ve read twice as many as you now.
Me: Ah. And you read them all when they were still warm.
Him: Yeah, I read them weekly as well. Except for the first… Something.
Me: We had a bit of a problem starting off, because I couldn’t find it anywhere1 – so I think we were on issue… 6 before we managed to get you a subscription.
Him: How did you get them before that?
Me: We didn’t. Years ago, the Guardian ran an extra section called The Comic, which was excellent and you loved, so naturally it got cancelled in favour of… I don’t know, something about cooking shoes or how to wear yoghurt.
The Him makes a face.
Him: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Me: Trust me, it’s all true. Apart from the bits that aren’t. Anyway, some of the strips that’d been in The Comic3 – along with their creators – cropped up in something called The DFC, which was a marvellous magazine that Philip Pullman was championing. It sounded fantastic, perfect and wonderful by all accounts. Exactly the-
Him: ‘The Doughnut-Frying Competition’?
Me: I’m fairly sure that’s what it stood for. Whatever, it was exactly the sort of thing that I’d been looking for, for you. A comic.
Him: Like the ones you had as a kid?
Me: Exactly! It’s something that’s lacking in childhood now – which is a reprehensible cultural disaster. All the comics that are around – well, most of them – just come as free attachments to expensive stationary sets, or stickers or some sort of franchise-expanding merchandise. They’re all… Well, I’m being a bit sweeping. They look great, but they aren’t made with any more love than any other franchised product. Not really. In my opinion.4
Him: You don’t really get modern comics. There just aren’t any.
Me: You’re not into superheroes.
Him: That’s true. But then again, neither are you any more.
Me: No. That got away from me a bit. I can’t get you into ancient 2000AD either.
Him: That’s ‘cause I’m just not interested.
Me: Why would you be? That’s my childhood, not yours. Some of those things’ll grab you, but most of them won’t fill the same gap for you that they did for me.
Him: I don’t like many of the same things that you do.
Me: Of course you don’t. That’s great. However…
Him: My stomach hurts.
Me: That’s because you’ve turned into an omelette factory.
Him: Not a very good one.
Me: I liked them. Okay. Bone?
Him: By Jeff Smith?
Me: Yeah. I think you liked that.
Him: Who doesn’t like Groo?
Him: I don’t remember that one… I don’t mind Calvin and Hobbes.
Me: Masterpieces. How about The Far Side?
Him: Yeah, that’s pretty good as well.
Him: There’s not much of that. You’re not proving a point here. You’re just listing comics.
Me: So, yeah… You missed out on The DFC because it was subscription only.
Him: You always talk about it, but I don’t even remember it existing.
Me: Well, you never read any.
Him: I couldn’t.
Me: When I first heard about The Phoenix, which has definite DFC links - I got properly excited and decided that this was something that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Him: And I didn’t.
Me: Well, we missed the first two issues although you got a bulky chunk of – I think – 3 to 7 in one go.
Him: I think it was 3 to 8.
Me: That sounds about right.
Him: And then we continued to get them weekly.
Me: Up until the subscription ran out in the early-70s and you missed a couple. Hang on – it-
Him: I’ve got them all now.
Me: Yeah, I’m glad. The Phoenix set itself a high-quality standard from the outset and stuck to it. It’s a hugely impressive, brave, beautiful and positive comic – I’m glad it exists. It should be compulsory for every school in the country to have a copy.
Him: Schools don’t tend to go for that sort of thing, which is probably why there are less comics nowadays.
Me: I think telly has to accept a certain share of the blame, along with other distractions. Schools never understood comics though – well, not in Britain. They always seemed to feel massively threatened by them.
Him: By comics? I can’t think of any real reason why they should be threatened.
Me: Fear of the unknown. And vampires. Well, that’s what it used to be. My English teachers would – largely, not all of them – discourage me reading trash like Watchmen. I’d be arguing that it was literature and they would trot out dusty old worthies that I should have been reading instead. Never ‘as well as’ – it was always instead of. I should’ve pointed out that Dickens used to be populist before he was literature… Nah, that’s a bit unfair. I had a couple of teachers who still read comics. I ended up reading a lot of Robert Graves and- I’ve done it again, haven’t I?4
Him: I’m used to it by now.
Me: Tell us about The Phoenix.
Him: What do you want me to say?
Me: Whatever you like. Favourite stories?
Him: I like all the stories.
Me: You really like Star Cat.
Him: I like that one a bit more than the rest.
Me: Ha! Who edits it?
Him: That sentence doesn’t sound grammatically correct.
Me: Nice dodge.
Him: Don’t list stories, because you’ll miss one out.
Him: But we didn’t.
Me: This is going to make gripping reading.
Him: I don’t think it will.
Me: Shall we just say Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix?
Him: Yeah. That’d probably be for the best.
Me: The art’s always great.
Him: Which story do you like the most?
Me: Oh! That’s… Um… That’s really hard. I like Star Cat and Bunny Vs Monkey… I love CorpseTalk. Corpse Talk, I think. It’s all excellent though. There’re so many different styles of story and artwork that you can’t really choose a favourite. Planet of the Shapes is lovely. And I’d like a collected volume of everything featuring the Art Monkey. Everything.
Him: Alright then.
Me: Thanks! Is that for Christmas?
Him: What? I’m not making you one!
Me: Tch. Worth a shot. You know that list of things that we both like?
Him: Umm. No.
Me: I forgot to mention Oink.
Him: Oh, yeah! I haven’t read much of Oink to be honest.
Me: And that Doctor Who show. That’s not bad.
Him: I suppose. It’s not the best though.
Me: What’s the best?
Him: I don’t know. I was being sarcastic.
Me: Right, raise your mango juice.
Him: I’m all out.
Me: Never mind. Right. On three.
Him: What’re we doing?
Me: ‘Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix’. One. Two. Three.
Us: Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix!
1. As our long time reader2 will know, I don’t do things online. Or watch television.
3. It was basically a pull-out mini-comic – a bit like the Funday Times, but not – with rotating strips, quizzes and articles that didn’t patronise the younger readership. Seriously, it was ace.
Him: I wouldn’t mind if you mentioned the Impossiduko when talking about the Funday Times.
Me: You do it.
Him: Yeah, you’re probably right. Let’s mention it some other time.
Me: It had been printed wrong hadn’t it?
Me: What was it? Medium difficulty?
Him: Easy. They were all easy. It was the Funduko.
Me: Except this was the Impossiduko, because of a misplaced 5.
Him: 7. It was a 7.
Me: Does that make a difference?
Him: Yeah. I actually remember it really clearly being a 7.
Me: In the wrong place.
Me: How long were we doing it for?
Him: About five minutes. Then you decided it was impossible and filled in the remaining spaces with question marks.
Me: I might just be the Riddler.
Him: You’re just bad at Sudoku.
Me: It was impossible!
Me: I hate maths.
4. Mutter mutter… golden age… mutter… grumble… moan etc. etc.