Comics Revue: a 1988 cover. Artists: Ron Frenz and Fred Fredericks.


Medium: Comic books
Originally published by: USA Comics
First Appeared: 1983
Creators: Don Chin, Rick Norwood and Don Markstein
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Comic books started out as reprints of newspaper comics, beginning in 1898 with The Yellow Kid magazine. By the mid-1930s, when they settled into something resembling their modern …

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… form, long-running monthly titles such as King Comics, Popular Comics and Famous Funnies were serving up concentrated doses of Mandrake the Magician, Mutt & Jeff, Buck Rogers and many, many more. Within a few years, the reprint comics were pretty much supplanted by ones featuring original material — but the idea never quite went away.

Comics Revue is possibly the only sustained effort to reprint American comic strips on a regular basis, where the material has mostly been chosen according to aesthetic considerations rather than what was available or what was cheap. From the beginning, its editorial decisions have been driven mostly by knowledge and appreciation of the comics form on the part of the people putting it out.

Comics Review (it was in #11 that the title assumed its current form) was founded in 1983 by fledgling publisher Don Chin, under his imprint, USA Comics. Its format was the one pioneered by Mad magazine — larger than a regular comic book, printed in black and white. The first issue contained nothing but current humor strips: Garfield, Peanuts, B.C., The Wizard of Id, Frank & Ernest, The Born Loser, Tumbleweeds and Bloom County. It continued in that vein for two more issues, losing a few and replacing them with others. By #3, the last one published by USA Comics, it was running a few articles and interviews in between strips.

But before it even appeared, Rick Norwood and Don Markstein, both long-time newspaper comics enthusiasts, had been talking about putting out something similar, with Norwood as publisher, handling the business end, and Markstein as editor, preparing the magazine for print. When Chin decided to turn his attention elsewhere, instead of starting one of their own, they simply took it over and replaced most of the gag-a-day material with adventure strips. #4, the first one published by Norwood's Manuscript Press, contained Star Wars, Hagar the Horrible, Steve Canyon, O'Neill, The Amazing Spider-Man, Popeye and Bloom County. A few years afterward, Chin started another magazine specializing in gag-a-day strips, Comics Express, which, by an odd coincidence, Markstein also later edited.

Under Norwood and Markstein, Comics Revue also ran current releases of Secret Agent Corrigan, Flash Gordon, and Gasoline Alley. Its first "Classic Reprint", starting in #6, was Stan Lynde's Latigo.

Markstein left in 1987, and was succeeded by Anthony Tollin (also a colorist for DC Comics). He was back, doing production work, and Norwood became editor, a couple of years later, when Fictioneer Books (Southern Knights) took over as publisher. Fictioneer dropped it in 1992, and it was back to Norwood as publisher and Markstein as editor. Currently, Norwood is both publisher and editor, with Markstein working on other projects — such as this Web site.

Gradually, the current strips were phased out in favor of Classic Reprints, a mixture of humor and adventure. Its last current strip was Modesty Blaise, which it carried until the strip ended, in 2001. The current lineup includes Little Orphan Annie, Krazy Kat, Buz Sawyer and several others. Strips that have appeared in Comics Revue over the years include (but are far from limited to) Alley Oop, Sky Masters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Casey Ruggles, Sir Bagby, The Phantom, Judge Dredd … The list goes on and on.

Now that Cerebus the Aardvark has ended, Comics Revue is the longest-running independent comic book in America. And it's achieved another distinction, as well. It's now put out more individual issues than any of those reprint comics that helped launch the modern comic book industry back in the 1930s.


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Text ©2001-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Manuscript Press.