Pipeline: Pipeline2, Issue #16

Fri, September 24th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THEY'RE ASTRONAUTS! THEY'RE IN TROUBLE!

Some people are confused. They wonder how I could have heaped praise upon Larry Young for his forthcoming script collection of ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE when I hadn't even read the mini-series yet.

Simple. Forgive me if this is redundant: I'm a process-junkie. I like reading scripts. I like seeing the pencils before they're inked. I like looking at the color guides. I'm even collecting original art and comics scripts now.

Aside to all those writers at the San Diego Con who weren't selling copies of their original scripts at the con: You missed a golden opportunity. I can understand not selling them if you fear they might give away upcoming plot points, but if it's just lack of forethought, then fooey on you. =) Ask Larry Young; he had a successful weekend off those scripts alone. Peter David sold a few at the Madison Square Garden convention back in April. It's a cheap thing to do and the profit margin is high.

Anyway, back to AiT: I hadn't read the series yet, but I was looking forward to reading the scripts. The script collection was enough for me to go back and seek out the original issues to the mini-series. Those I finally read on the flight out to San Diego. This does not make me a two-faced weasel. I'd encourage more creators to put out script collections for their books, even if I don't read the series regularly or am a big fan. I may not buy the book, but I think it's good for comics readers to be better informed of the format and the making of the books they read. Also, as Larry pointed out in his original press release on the book, how cool would it be to see other such collections, such as Warren Ellis' TRANSMETROPOLITAN, or Alan Moore's WATCHMEN?

So what did I think of the series? I thought it was great. It's very character-oriented. It's a five issue mini-series that reads like a movie. There's one central plot going on throughout the series. But it is the core cast of 3 to 5 characters that really shine and make this book so much fun to read. Heck, about the only problem I had with the book was one of the plot points near the end, which came across as a bit of a deus ex machina at worst. (Sorry, Lar. It's too much for me to swallow to believe she can control the nuke like that. . . )

Here's a basic rundown: It's the future, but not too far. And a private citizen wants to build a moonbase. Our gang of intrepid reporters from Channel 7 ends up going to the moon to cover the story. That's an extreme simplification of the story, trust me. There are conspiracies, mafia men, politicians, paranoia, stupidity, and spin control.

The art is by Matt (DC's "Day of Judgment") Smith for the first three issues, and then Charles ("X-Files") Adlard for the last pair. Their styles fit together very well. It's never a good thing to switch art teams in the middle of a storyline or a mini-series like this, but their style can both be considered Mignola-centric enough to keep things consistent enough. Personally, I think I almost prefer Smith's slightly more stylized stuff, but Adlard's work is just as good.

Adlard also drew the COOL ED'S one-shot which just came out this month. It stands on its own, but also clears up one mystery leftover by the mini-series.

So if you're putting in your PREVIEWS order today, flip to page 215 under the AIT/PLANETLAR banner and go ahead and order the $13 collection of the series. Warren Ellis introduces it and Darick Robertson draws the cover.

For more info, check out the official web site.

HEROBEAR AND THE KID

The other book I wanted to highlight is one that has been getting a lot of positive press in the days since San Diego. It's a booth I passed by a bunch of times early in the convention, but kept reminding myself to get back there. There was a steady stream of people at Mike Kunkel's booth all weekend. His booth stuck out in the crowd. His backdrop was a giant polar bear wearing a red cape. Quite eye-catching.

Astonish Comics and Mike Kunkel give us HEROBEAR AND THE KID, a $3 comic. The production qualities are high. The cover is cardboard and the paper is heavy and glossy.

I imagine part of the reason for that is to show off the artwork better. Kunkel reproduces his pencils direct to the page, foregoing the inking stage. It's great-looking stuff. His animation background is shown off here, as the characters move around the page as fluidly as anything else you've ever seen in comics, including BONE. The artwork has a nice unfinished look to it. You can still see the guidelines on some of the characters' faces and bodies. There's also a fair amount of shading going on, naturally from the pencil. This isn't distracting at all. It's rather endearing. It also allows for a much more organic look than finished inking could show.

This is the story of a little boy, Tyler, whose grandfather just died; whose new school and new school chums bully him; whose childhood crush is getting him in trouble. The kids act just like kids, warts and all. Tyler is very lovable in that innocent kid way. He's not saccharin. He acts his age, though, and that's refreshing. And at the end, when things are looking about as down as they could, his polar bear beanie baby comes alive. Is this Calvin and Hobbes? We don't know yet. I'm really looking forward to the second issue to find out, though.

About the only downside to the book is the Whizbang! computer lettering. But even that isn't annoying enough to distract from this book.

Tell your retailer you want to see this one, too. I don't want to go so far as to call this one "The Next Bone," but it's as close to it as I've seen in the past 5 years. I can't wait to see where the story goes and how Kunkel handles the scheduling.

Although not yet available, keep an eye out for the grand opening of the official Herobear web site.

EDITORS AND X-MEN

Sometime soon, I hope to run some of your letters here about last week's X-themed column. There's been one semi-common thread through most of the letters. It's something maybe I didn't stress enough: the role of the editor.

Tonight, reading through COMICS INTERVIEW #86 (published in 1990), I ran across this quote from John Byrne. I think it sums things up nicely:

"The best editor for me is, by definition, someone who hires the people he thinks can do the best job, then stands back and lets them do it."

'Nuff said

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