Taking A Trip Through 30 Years
We don’t do this very often as Tripwire is about the endeavours of others and we would rather remain behind the scenes. But since it is our 30th anniversary, Tripwire’s contributing writer Paul Neal spoke to Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows about three decades of the magazine, the website and his other journalistic work over the years…
Paul: Joel, can you recall the first comic you especially enjoyed? Do you still have it? And how did you come to read it?
Joel: It was New Teen Titans issue three by Wolfman and Perez. That series blew me away as a kid.
Paul: So, you loved comics from a young age?
Joel: Yes, my brother introduced me to them since I was about six or seven. I remember going to New York when I was five or six and seeing a spinner with US comics on it
Paul: Have you any idea what comics were on that spinner?
Joel: Oh, I can’t remember exactly as it was a long time ago, but I think they were Marvel and DC books. This was around 1978. Some Spider-man and Superman maybe.
Paul: What was the first UK-based comic you recall reading? And how old might you have been when you did so?
Joel: It would have been a lot later as I was an American comics reader. I read a UK indie company called Trident and I read Saviour from them, then probably Marvel UK’s Strip magazine in the 1990s. I was about 18 at the time.
Paul: What inspired you to create the first issue of Tripwire?
Joel: We wanted to create a magazine that covered comics and music and it was created with an ex-neighbour of mine. The first issue was very basic indeed.
Paul: But what inspired you to do it in the first place?
Joel: Because we felt there were no decent magazines about comics at the time. I was a big fan of Speakeasy and wanted to try and capture some of that essence again.
Paul: Joel do you have a journalist background, or was it a love of comics and films in general?
Joel: I have worked as a journalist since 1997 but Tripwire predates that. So since then, I have been published as a journalist in places like The Times, Time magazine, Independent On Sunday, the Guardian and Variety.
Paul: That is certainly an impressive CV.
Joel: As well as Empire and Esquire too.
Paul: Many of your answers say “we”, would it be fair to say Tripwire is a group effort?
Joel: I do a lot of the work but my friend Andrew Colman who writes for us is also someone I turn to for advice and he did a lot of work on the anniversary book. He does put in quite a bit to all of our Tripwire enterprises.
Paul: But did Tripwire start out as a one-man passion project?
Joel: I suppose it did although the guy who used to do our music, Simon Teff, was part of it too. When we started it, I had no idea it would still be around 10 years later, never mind 30.
Paul: Where did the title Tripwire come from?
Joel: The name had to be dynamic, and it couldn’t have the word comics in it, so it fit the bill nicely
Paul: It was in the era of Comics International by Dez Skinn. Was there ever any competition?
Joel: I did read Comics International from the start. I always modelled Tripwire more on something like Speakeasy or Fantasy Advertiser: A more features-driven magazine.
Paul: Roughly, what was the circulation of the first issue of Tripwire magazine?
Joel: It was very small, around a couple of hundred and produced at a copy shop in Finchley.
Paul: You quickly became successful. How did that happen? How did you come to interview Alan Moore?
Joel: I guess I was just lucky. My first interview was when I was 16 with Alan Grant when I was at sixth form college. I got Moore’s phone number from someone, and he kindly agreed to an interview. That was sometime in the late nineties and the magazine built up a following as we got a reputation initially as being rather snarky and sarcastic.
Paul: Yet then you went onto interview legends like Drew Struzan. How did that occur?
Joel: I interviewed him back in 2009, and we stopped being sarcastic after our first decade or so. We have cemented our reputation over the past twenty years and I like to think we have a passion that comes through with whatever we cover.
Paul: can you expand upon that comment please?
Joel: We dropped the music and switched to TV, film and related fields which was a better fit with the comics. We honed our craft and got the respect of the movers and shakers in comics, film and TV.
Paul: At what point in Tripwire‘s development did it become vital to have a presence online as well as in print? In any way do the magazine and website serve two different purposes?
Joel: When the print version became tougher to fund, we made a decision to switch to the web. With the idea of an online presence becoming more important in 2015 when we launched the website, we thought it would make sense. The magazine returned to print because we found out a way of making it work again and I really missed having a physical publication. The print mag serves as a prestige version of the website, showcasing the work of the subjects we cover in a way that we can’t on the website.
Paul: That makes a lot of sense.
Joel: It also keeps us out in comic shops and the UK newsstand with a print mag and we also attract advertisers who are more interested in advertising in a physical mag than on a website. I am very proud of the two print mags we have published in 2021. The website is great, but the magazines do offer something different
Paul: So, you should be PROUD Joel. The magazines are amazing. What is the future of Tripwire? Where do you see the “brand” in say perhaps ten years’ time?
Joel: Our 30th anniversary book will take a look back at our legacy and a look forward too. So hopefully we shall be able to build on returning to print. We are planning another print magazine coming in November too with the usual range of quality features on things like the 40th anniversary of Grendel.
Paul: At what stage did it feel right to organise your own conventions? Surely that must have been a risk?
Joel: We were approached by Portsmouth Guildhall to put the first show together there for 2018. We did one more and then the pandemic hit.
Paul: You get a few perks because of the success of Tripwire such as tickets to film premieres. Which has been your favourite?
Joel: They’re press screenings and that is a good question. I got to see a restored Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen as part of the London Film Festival which was amazing.
Paul: Where do you see yourself as a writer? You’ve been working on Sherlock Holmes, which is certainly a character rich for use. Can you describe your approach to the character?
Joel: In terms of Sherlock Holmes, I hope I do justice to Doyle’s creation although I don’t always feel confident as a writer of fiction, whether that’s prose or comics. Holmes in the Empire Builders is an older figure who has lost his best friend, so he is diminished a little. I have always admired him as a fictional creation, and I am very proud of the two shorts we have published in Tripwire so far. I have just started the longer story with him too which hopefully will see the light of day sometime next year.
Paul: Who would you say is the most famous person you have met because of creating Tripwire? A person who isn’t comic related.
Joel: I have met Guillermo del Toro a few times and am still in contact with him occasionally.
Paul: And in the world of comics who would you say?
Joel: I spent an afternoon interviewing Frank Miller in a bar in New York for our first studio book.
Paul: Who would be your absolute dream guest for a convention?
Joel: Someone like Neil Gaiman would be a huge draw or Phillip Pullman too.
Paul: Finally, Does Tripwire have a mission statement as such, or an ethos it follows?
Joel: Tripwire has always been about shining a light on interesting figures in the worlds of comics, film and TV including those people who perhaps haven’t got their full due as creators. When we started we described ourselves as just off the mainstream and while that has shifted a bit, our remit is still to cover quality in whichever field we find it.
At this stage it only felt appropriate to check out Joel’s true Geek credentials. So as occurred in the classic movie Speed here was his…….
POP QUIZ HOTSHOT!
Paul: Name me your favourite comic or comicbook storyline?
Joel: ok it would have to be Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli which shows off Miller’s virtuoso writing. A close second could be Batman: Year One also by Miller and Mazzuchelli which showed off Miller’s economy as a writer but also the brilliance of Mazzuchelli.
Paul: Star Trek or Star Wars?
Joel: Star Wars
Paul: Batman or Captain America?
Paul: DC Or Marvel?
Paul: Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton Batman?
Joel: Christopher Nolan.
Paul: Arrowverse? Cool or not cool?
Joel: Not great, so not cool.
Paul: Zack Snyder’s Justice League or Joss Whedon’s version?
Joel: Both are pretty awful to me. I couldn’t finish the Snyder version.
Paul: You have to pick one you hate less.
Joel: Okay then Whedon’s but it’s still crap.
Paul: Who would you prefer to have a pint with Batman or Superman? In costume!
Joel: Batman, I think.
Paul: But would you prefer to share a drink with Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent?
Joel: oh, ok Bruce Wayne.
Paul: Who on screen is your personal favourite Spiderman?
Joel: I think Tobey Maguire probably.
Paul: What would be your favourite animated comic-based cartoon?
Joel: I always had a soft spot for the Batman Adventures cartoon in the 1990s.
Paul: Matt Smith or David Tennant?
Joel: Tennant is a better actor, but modern Who isn’t really for me.
Tripwire 30 anniversary zoop campaign to fund a limited edition hardcover is running now
Taking A Trip Through 30 Years We don’t do this very often as Tripwire is about the endeavours of others and we would rather remain behind the scenes. But since it is our 30th anniversary, Tripwire’s contributing writer Paul Neal spoke to Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows about three decades of the magazine, the website and
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