Comic The Phoenix is collaborating with big-name children’s authors Philip Pullman and Chris Riddell for its 200th edition, which will be published on 30th October.
The comic will feature a taster of a new strip, Philip Pullman’s John Blake, by Pullman and artist Fred Fordham, which is about a schooner that can travel in time. The hero, John Blake, travels on the ship as it appears in different time zones; The Phoenix editor Tom Fickling described it as a “classic adventure story”. The strip will run for 30 weeks in 2016 before being published in book form in 2017.
Riddell’s contribution to the magazine is the front cover image (pictured), which is his interpretation of the phoenix theme. Fickling said he was “thrilled” to work with Pullman and Riddell, both of whom are fans of the comic. “They both recognise the power of comics in storytelling. All the big storytellers—I’m also thinking of people like Eoin Colfer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Malorie Blackman— loved comics when they were children.”
The 200th edition will feature several new comic strips, including Georgia and the Ends of the World, about the origins of myths and stories, by Robin Boyden; and Battle Suit Bea, an action comedy by Jamie Smart, the artist behind the publication’s Bunny vs Monkey strip. Fickling is also including two strips by young readers of The Phoenix (Jordan Vigay, aged 14, and Jonny Toons, 11), and launching a competition to find other stories by young readers.
“One of the most important things to us is to encourage children to use their imagination to create their own stories,” said Fickling. “I’ve lost count of the amazing number of things [Vigay and Toons] have shown me. Issue 200 is a chance for us to support them and inspire other children to get creating.”
Special goodie bags will be circulated to schools by Readathon, a charity that organises sponsored reading sessions in schools in order to raise money to buy books for hospitals. The bags will include copies of the 200th edition and entry forms for a prize draw to win comic workshops and books. The Phoenix will also appoint a comic artist to fulfil a “Readathon in Residence” role, Fickling said.
When asked why he thought the comic had reached 200 editions, Fickling said it was down to “the readers and their families enjoying the comic and telling their friends about it”, as well as the “absolutely amazing comic creators we work with, the brilliant in-house team we have at Phoenix HQ, and the acknowledgment that a project like this takes time and patience”.