Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Radical Comics – The Four Colour Movie Publishing House

Radical Comics have been slowly cementing their foothold in the system, which is impressive because the system is heavily flawed, doesn’t usually give time to new entities, and even recently pushed others out of the game. But still Radical stands high and not only earns money but also is getting critical acclaim. It’s time to have a think about the comic company that is definitely getting a name for itself, and is also committing one of the cardinal sins in the comics world, and relishing in it.

Radical Comics only kicked open their doors with steel capped boots in 2007 and yet today they are most certainly a publisher to watch. There are a few reasons Radical have been able to separate themselves and excel in certain areas of their comic publishing endeavours. Let’s have a look at what makes Radical stand out.

$4.99 Price Point

While the rest of the comic world argues between $2.99 and $3.99, Radical decided to massively buck the trend and price their comics at $4.99. They also made their comics larger in size, akin to the old prestige format, and so when you weigh out the dollars for pages, Radical is one of the best priced sets of comics on the shelves.

It isn’t just a matter of getting your money’s worth, by making their comics thicker Radical is setting themselves out against the rest of the industry. When you sample one issue from them you get much more story than you would in most other debut issues. There is more room to breathe and explain and so the reader can be better hooked. It is something that requires the readership to alter their thinking, because a $4.99 issue feels so expensive, but it really is a great way to see if you like what is on offer.

They are also utilising another price point, the free one, to place luring debut issues on platforms like ComiXology to see if the fans might enjoy a little taste. I think the more a publisher is willing to give out some free content digitally the smarter they are. It cannot be a bad thing for certain issues to be available for free, especially for a nascent publishing house.

Quality Creative Teams

You only need to look through the catalogue of titles Radical has already published and you’ll see a few fan favourite names represented. Radical have managed to lure in much top tier talent and are seeing great stories come out of these minds given free space to express. I’m not sure what kinds of favours Radical called in, or how many naked goat photos they own, but they managed to collect a stable of real names in a very short amount of time.

It’s a true aspect of the comic business that names do sell comics. Fans now, more than ever perhaps, will buy a comic purely for the writer or artist attached. Thus, Radical have massively helped their chance of being noticed by not having to rely on an exclusive stable of no names on their covers. Buying a Radical comic gives you the opportunity to buy the works of names like (and yes, I will just rattle them off in a brash name-drop style list): Steve Niles, Rick Remender, Alex Maleev, Warren Ellis, David Hine, Peter Milligan, and those are just a number of the comic names.

Using Hollywood Talent

Now, in comics, using Hollywood talent to create a comic is pretty much synonymous with much mockery and a terrible end product. You can try and launch any kind of counter argument to this feeling but most people will then drop the whole Jennifer Love Hewitt Music Box example on you and then end the case. But there have been valiant attempts and to see the likes of Guy Ritchie, John Woo, and Nicholas Cage previously throw their weight and geek cred into the ring has been promising, inspiring, and atrocious in equal doses. Radical hope to go down a similar path but experience a very different journey.

They’ve recruited Wesley Snipes and Antoine Fuqua to put together a comic that will be written by someone else, natch. They also pulled in Nick Simmons, the son of KISS legend Gene Simmons, to write a comic though it turns out he wasn’t exactly doing his own writing. News leaked he was plagiarising his work and while that’s not good news it did still put the publisher back into the news cycle. I highly doubt any of this tale was set up beforehand but surely Radical had to smile that they’d create one of the strangest and yet highly talked about news items of the year.

In any record, by using Hollywood talent Radical is sure to gain further exposure and possibly be one of the first publishers to truly strike gold with a star led property.

Playing The Hollywood Game

Comic readers generally like their comics to be comics, if you know what I mean. They don’t want vanity projects, they don’t want all prose issues, and they certainly don’t want glorified storyboards from failed/hopeful movie pitches. There’s one very high profile comic writer whose current work has sometimes been mentioned as feeling as if it only exists for the movie companies to buy before the project is completed, or sometimes even started, and fanlads rage on about that. Comic readers want to feel like they’re in on the ground floor and they love nothing better than to hold onto that subversive knowledge without it becoming mainstream. (This might be a little generalised but it also matches Patton Oswalt’s essay so at least it’s topical.

Yet, Radical have done something quite interesting. Not only have they sold many of their properties to film studios, they’ve openly revelled in the fact that their comics exist in a large part to fuel the sales to film companies. With each new flick making team they laud the news and laugh all the way to the bank. Nothing has actually been made yet, and said film making is well out of Radical’s hands once the sale is made, but there are some good possibilities on the horizon.

Radical properties have already been linked to Bryan Singer, Peter Berg, Johnny Depp, and Sam Worthington. They have proven success at their intended goal, to sell these properties. It’s an impressive feat and one that Radical looks set to continue to repeat.

Quality Comics

This is probably the most important point. It helps that Radical are also publishing some very good material. You can bluster and preen all you like while name dropping and plagiarising all you like but eventually you have to put your money where your mouth is and Radical have indeed done that. I recently reviewed Ryder On The Storm by David Hine and Wayne Nichols on CBR and gave it a 4.5 star review. The introductory issue was a brilliant mash up of Hammett, Philip K Dick, and Lovecraft and the second issue has me convinced they’re remaking Chinatown as a gritty and bloody sci-fi. It’s a great series, and I completely stand by it.

The Last Days of American Crime by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini is a comic that our Matt enjoyed greatly, even getting a pull quote on their advertisement for the trade, and it also appeared on the Top 100 Comics of 2010 list on CBR, coming in at #95. This was a comic that was simply solid and well liked. It has also been optioned for a film but it is a comic first, and a good one.

The other Ryan on this site raved about Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead by Steve Pugh from a story by Warren Ellis. It was another comic that stood up on its own, and Time Bomb from Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Paul Gulacy might have been better, if you believed Ryan’s continued high quality reviews.

If Radical can continue to push out content this good then they’ll certainly have a bright future as one of the better independent comic publishers. And if they continue to sell these comics as movie pitches, then that’s just gravy on the side. I’m happy to enjoy a great comic whether it was envisioned as a movie first, a comic, or a street theatre play designed for puppets. I just like good comics and don’t overly care about their progress to the page.

It must also be mentioned that Radical comics so often have great covers. They obviously spend money getting good talent to come on board and knock a great image out that will sit on the shelf and really catch the eye. I appreciate that.


Radical comics are becoming the next possible big thing in comics to watch. They have great talent lined up, good stories hitting shelves, and the movies that eventually get made will only make them more of a prominent star on the horizon. I am very slowly but surely becoming a massive fan of Radical. They’ve earned the right for me to take a look at most of the product they put out, and I’m loving that I really dig so much more of their work. It’s nice to see a new publisher survive, and even nicer to see them survive because they have quality work. If you haven’t checked out any of their stuff then maybe you should, take a look at some of the aforementioned titles, we’ve liked them for a reason. So, what are your views about Radical? Let us know in the comments.

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IronFist Fan said...

Radical is the next big thing..with or without the Hollywood hype,they release high quality comics.I enjoyed every single issue of The Last Days of American Crime and Time bomb as well. Not forgetting most of their artists give one of a kind artwork

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of the 'painted' style they use on most of their titles (usually looks lifeless, IMO), and pass on most of them for that reason.

With that said... _Last Days_ was great, as was _Time Bomb_.

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