There's been a lot of hype and brouhaha preceding the release of the debut issue of CLiNT, the brainchild of Ultimates scribe Mark Millar, at least there has been if you keep tabs on comics websites and the comics blogosphere in general. Outside, in the 'real world', there doesn't seem to have been that much fuss made over it, from my vantage point anyway. Straight off the bat there's a problem there, because without serious visibility it's unlikely to find its potential audience. It took me a while to locate it in my local branch of WH Smiths, which wasn't reassuring; rather than being racked with 2000AD (the most obvious place for it to reside) it was buried away elsewhere with the likes of Bizarre. I can't comment on how well it's being displayed by other magazine sellers, but, again, there seems to be a lack of fuss surrounding its release from those not already in the know (so to speak).
If you're reading this then I'll hazard a guess that you're already familiar with what CLiNT is. If not, then basically it's Millar's attempt to reinvigorate the British comics scene with a new title aimed at a more 'adult' audience, the hope being to expand beyond 2000AD's reach and bring in new readers to the medium. You can't fault that goal, and he's filled the book with material that is probably the best fit to maximize the appeal: the beginning of Kick-Ass 2 (only 8 pages, mind) and reprints of the first issues of both Jonathan Ross' Turf and Millar's Nemesis. Along with this we get a brand new strip from Frankie Boyle (yes, that Frankie Boyle), and various articles in between (including pieces on Charles Manson, and er, ‘Hot TV Mums’!). The Kick-Ass story is too brief to get a handle on, but it did seem very forced and has me seriously doubting whether lightening can strike twice. I’ve already put up my thoughts on Turf (good) and Nemesis (not so good) so I won’t repeat them here, although I will mention that the larger format allows more breathing space for Tommy Lee Edwards' art in Turf, and that I'm not entirely happy paying out for Nemesis #1 again! Boyle's Rex Royd is all sex and violence without much discernible point, and it feels like he’s going out of his way to emulate more accomplished writers who are more adept at this kind of thing. The articles feel generally disposable (an interview with Jimmy Carr? I can barely contain my excitement!) and not entirely appropriate, as though Millar's making a bid for a share of the kind of audience Loaded garners (I mean, really – ‘Hot TV Mums’?!). This ‘dumbed-down’ pandering to a certain kind of outdated lad mentality is where CLiNT really falls down.
Whatever audience Millar is going for, truth be told I don't think I'm part of it, not at this stage anyway. Sure, the comics material inside is stuff the kind of stuff I read, but I'm far too attached to the US comics format to want to change. I'll continue to pick up Turf and Nemesis (begrudgingly) in the US editions, and that goes for Kick-Ass 2 when it arrives (although when Ross gets around to a collected edition of Turf, this is the size he should go for). I think that's going to apply to the majority of people who frequent UK comics shops on a weekly basis, and if CLiNT is content to prioritise material published elsewhere rather than brand new, original stories, I think it will remain the case. That's not to denigrate the choice of stories included at the moment, but existing UK fanboys aren't likely to plonk down the cash when they can pick the same comics up in a format they're used to (and neither the Boyle strip nor the articles are likely to change their minds).
Which means the audience for CLiNT, as far as I can see, will need to be made up of folks who don't already pick up comics on a regular basis. And, as much as it pains me to say, that's going to be one hell of an uphill struggle. I'd very much like to see it succeed as it could provide a valuable gateway into a wider world for new readers, but while I can fully support the idea of CLiNT, the current package isn’t something I can support with my wallet. Kudos to Mark Millar et al for mounting this ambitious project, but if it can't get a dyed-in-the-wool comics fan like me onboard straight away it makes me dubious about its future. Until CLiNT starts including new material and more engaging articles I can't find elsewhere I'll continue to approve of its existence from a distance. 6/10