Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #126

Tue, November 2nd, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

LAKE WOE-BE-GON

Sorry, all the other "Gon" puns were taken in previous volumes of the series. =)

Paradox Press doesn't put out all that many books. At this point, the BIG BOOK OF… is the only regular series. The only other book to come out on a slightly irregular schedule is the excellent GON series. The latest book is GON UNDERGROUND and it's a lot of fun. This one is different from the previous collections. This book contains one full story at 166 pages in length. Pretty amazing.

"Tanaka draws all of this in a breathtaking style. He's a master of pen and ink illustration."

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Masashi Tanaka painstakingly draws GON. Gon is an orange dinosaur seen journeying all over the globe, encountering all different manners of animals and beast. Generally speaking, he beats up the bad guys, helps the good guys, is ferocious in self-defense, and is really cute. It's also completely silent. No thought balloons, captions, dialogue, or sound effects. There doesn't need to be any of this. These animals act like animals, protecting themselves and feeding themselves. That's all there is to it. Gon is the outsider who comes in and stirs things up. Tanaka draws all of this in a breathtaking style. He's a master of pen and ink illustration. The book is all black and white, so the fine line work (and there are plenty of lines) shows through just fine.

In this story, Gon journeys to the center of the earth, encountering all sorts of fantastic creatures and landscapes. Giant spiders, big glowing bugs, bat, you name it.

At $8 for this square bound book, the price might scare you away. But don't let it. If you can afford it, this is a very fun book. Paradox Press has put out a half-dozen others or so by now, and they're all worth a look. I'm a bit jaded at this point. Having read so much, the art doesn't blow me away like it used to. However, I'm still amused by the book, and every now and again a double-page splash comes by and stops you dead in your tracks.

In a recent "From the Desk Of" column, Warren Ellis lamented the lost opportunity that is Paradox Press. As he lays out the case, it's tough to argue with him. Paradox Press could have brought more "mainstream" readers into comics. Selfishly speaking, Gon is enough to please me. =)

While I'm following this train of thought, I just wanted to welcome Warren Ellis to the CBR "family." His column will be starting in December, and will join Pipeline2 on Fridays. I have a lot to live up to now. Can't wait to read it.

THE AUTHORITY #8 came out last week. Apollo and Midnighter are gay! Who'da thunk it?!? Maybe I should check to see if Beau wants to write a story about this. . .

"Even if you haven't a clue as to who John Constantine is, you could probably enjoy this story."

HELLBLAZER #143 did, as well. This is Warren Ellis' last issue on the series. Very funny story. Stands alone nicely. Even if you haven't a clue as to who John Constantine is, you could probably enjoy this story. Just be aware of the harsh language used therein. Marcel Frusin is a big surprise for me. This is the first time I've ever seen his name attached to anything. I don't know what he might have done before, but this book is very well drawn. Storytelling is great, for a story which is just two people sitting across a table talking. His layouts are terrific, showing an artist not too afraid or too lazy to go ahead and draw the occasional odd angle.

SOME NON-SUPER-HERO EXPERIENCES

Outside the arena of super-heroes, Vertigo published PROPOSITION PLAYER, from the pen of Bill Willingham, with help from HEARTBREAKER Paul Guinan. This is the story of a proposition poker player - the house pays him to play at their casino - who gambles away the souls of his friends. And then he's called on it. This is a good start for the series, which is sarcastically funny, sexy, and done on a very low level - it's a human-interest story, first and foremost. Yes, there are elements of the supernatural towards the end, but it plays out almost farcically. It's a 6-issue mini-series. There's no telling if it will be successful enough to warrant a TPB collection when it's done, so hop aboard now.

Scott Lobdell and Ale Garza's BALL AND CHAIN #2 is just as good as BALL AND CHAIN #1. If you liked the first issue, I imagine you'll like the second one. It's a nice blend of romance, comedy, and super-hero action.

I wonder if we're not all working from the inside out, when we should be working from the outside in. It's great that comics are diversifying, in ways both large and small. BALL AND CHAIN is a smaller step - super-hero comics with a romantic-comedy twist. It's sort of like QUANTUM AND WOODY, though. Q&W was the same thing, but with a buddy movie twist. There are larger steps, of course. STRANGERS IN PARADISE is one. ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE is one. Both are non-super-heroic in nature. Completely.

"What this means is that our base comics readership is diversifying beyond standard super-hero comics."

What this means is that our base comics readership is diversifying beyond standard super-hero comics. That's a very good thing. But it's not all. The readership is still relatively small. We need to bring outsiders in. Is the solution to bring the outside world towards super-heroes? That would be the converse of the first paragraph, but it would also be wrong. We need to have more books like SiP and AiT to be of interesting to outsiders to show them there are comics worth reading. Of course, if those books have no inherent readership, you can't attract new readers to it. Thus, the Catch-22.

This brings us all back to distribution and marketing, but I don't want to go there again this week.

FROM THE PIPELINE ARCHIVE - GIANTKILLER

I keep a file hanging around to write bits and pieces for PCR as they come to mind. Imagine my surprise to find a comic review I haven't used yet, despite writing it over two months ago. Since it fits in so nicely with the column this week, and since the mini-series is just about over, I had better include it now! So here goes:

I met Dan Brereton at his booth in San Diego, where he was hawking his latest DC mini-series, GIANTKILLER. Being a big fan of his THRILLKILLER mini-series for the Elseworlds imprint, I decided I'd give it a shot and plopped the first issue down in front of him. He wouldn't let me get away with it. He told me I had to buy the second issue and the GIANTKILLER A TO Z one shot, because once I'd read the first issue, I'd want the rest and people are having trouble finding them. I'm an easy mark -- er, open enough guy that I went with him on that. Sure, I thought deep down that this was a line he was throwing me, but I jumped right in after it.

"I'm generally not a fan of monster movies or Godzilla stuff or Japanese comics, so there's no way I should enjoy this."

And I'm glad I did. My apologies, first of all, to Dan for second-guessing him like that. This is a great little series. I'm generally not a fan of monster movies or Godzilla stuff or Japanese comics, so there's no way I should enjoy this. However, it is a dark science fiction/fantasy tale, with a couple of interesting characters in both the Giantkiller himself and the mysterious and lovely Jill Sleet, who's covering up her past. If it helps -- as crass as this might be -- picture it as a cross between Jurassic Park and Pokemon. You have 100 big monsters taking over a section of California. Oh, and they're spreading out. And spawning. The issues are almost formulaic. Set up a little bit of back-story and actual plot, and then go a kill a monster for a few pages.

Brereton's beautiful painted art, clear storytelling, and sense of fun and wonder make this worth reading. If you haven't picked it up by now, hope for a trade paperback next year. It might not sell well enough to warrant a collection later on, ironically enough, but it is worth picking up if you're not going too far out of your way. I imagine you'll be able to find these issues for a not bad price. Cover price is $2.50, and I doubt you'll find back issues for more than $3. It's not a hot book. It may be scarce due to low orders, but since when did that factor into value and prices? What a backwards industry this is . . .

COMING THIS FRIDAY

It's Pipeline Reader Appreciation Day! Ask me anything! I'll talk about anything you want to ask me on Friday. Get your e-mails in (or posts to the Pipeline message board) now to be included on Friday's column.

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