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The X-Files (Topps) – Circle Game (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

There are any number of events that suggest The X-Files was on the cusp of exploding into a phenomenon. The show was spawning conventions and merchandise. It was becoming a hot property in international markets, moving from BBC 2 up to BBC 1 and then across to Sky. It was quickly becoming compelling water-cooler television. The first season had been lucky to avoid cancellation. The second season had rocketed up the ratings. The third was going to be a pretty big deal.

In light of all of this going on around it, a five-page comic doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Written by Stefan Petrucha and illustrated by Charles Adlard, Circle Game would almost seem as business-as-usual for Topps’ popular X-Files tie-in comic. The only significant difference was that Circle Game had been written and illustrated specifically for the July 15th issue of TV Guide. As part of their “stellar summer sci-fi issue!”, the magazine had given over five pages to Petrucha and Adlard to tell an entire X-Files story.

X marks the spot...

X marks the spot…

Even ignoring the narrative challenges posed by such an assignment, that’s a pretty big deal. Even in the age of the internet, time-shifted viewing and multi-channel television, TV Guide still has a circulation of over two million readers. To give a sense of scale, the biggest-selling contemporary comic books would have a readership of less than a tenth of that. To give it a more relevant sense of scale, the July 1995 issue of The X-Files comic book – the version on the stands at this point – sold approximately 72,000 copies.

All of this is just to stress that giving The X-Files comic book five pages of TV Guide was a pretty big deal.

Lights in the sky...

Lights in the sky…

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