Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #105

Tue, June 8th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

MONKEY BUSINESS

In the past week or so, Kurt Busiek has left THUNDERBOLTS. Mark Waid has left CAPTAIN AMERICA. Joe Kelly has left DEADPOOL. The Gorilla (nee Bulldog) rumor continues to look more and more like a certainty. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement from George Perez that he'll be leaving AVENGERS next. He's not fast enough to do both that and a Gorilla project.

It's amazing that so many details on this story are still unknown. All the principals have been REALLY good about keeping this secret so far, although they're starting to make it more and more obvious that it's happening. All three creators took the occasion of their respective exit statements to mention creator-owned material in the futures.

Once again, silly Marvel policies cause a whole group of creators to up and leave for creator-owned work.

FISCAL SILLINESS?

I'm sick of these pennies I get back for change at the comic book stores. Can we end this silly charade now and let DC and Marvel charge $2.00 for a comic instead of $1.99? Does it really make a difference to anyone but the advertising and sales people who get to brag that the books cost "less than two bucks"? I think the average consumer is smart enough to know what that means. When a car is advertised as being "under $20,000" we all know that means the price is $19,999.

While we're at it, let's up the price of these $2.95 comics to $3 even. The extra nickel won't matter to me, but it might to the creator. Those who would complain that the price increase would affect their purchasing habits can afford the nickel. I remember when I used to have a strict comics budget. The difference in price between a $1.50 and a $1.75 comic was real. But the price difference between a $2.95 and $3.00 book would be negligible.

Finally, let's do this all in a way so that the creators get the extra pennies and not the monopoly that is Diamond.

Am I dreaming or what?

WRITERS ON COMICS SCRIPTWRITING

…is the title of a new book just published in North America by Titan Books. (Yes, I know it's been available in the UK for a while now.) Written by Mark Salisbury, it's a compilation of interviews he's done with current comics writers describing the art of comics scriptwriting. The list of interviewees is long and distinguished in their own ways: Kurt Busiek, Peter David, Chuck Dixon, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Devin Grayson, Dan Jurgens, Joe Kelly, Jeph Loeb, Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, and Mark Waid. It's a pretty decent stretch from relative newcomers (Grayson and Loeb), to veteran writers (Jurgens, David), to writers who have most of their experience outside of comics (Loeb, Gaiman), to a writer who is primarily an artist (McFarlane).

So the cross-section is nice. Each writer has a mini-bio and a couple of pages' worth of script. The interviews often go somewhat astray from the topic at hand. Morrison discusses his alien abduction, for example. But for the most part there's a lot of insight in this book as to how writers write. What do they start off with? How do they write? What do their scripts look like? Who did they learn from?

There are a couple of other bits of whimsy, too, along the way. It's really strange to read Dan Jurgens' mid-west words come out with a British accent, like when he talks about the "tyres" on a car or the "colours" of a comic. In fact, I think Jurgens comes out best here. I may have to retract my Pipeline Idiot of the Week Award he earned for his comments last year about Internet fans being to blame for poor comics sales. He seems to have wisened up to the fact that the past couple of years' worth of Superman stories stunk.

(Tangent [pun intended]: Jurgens also seems to be aiming for the crown of Busiest Man in Comics. He's picking up after the Bulldog/Gorilla writers now, too, as he will be writing CAPTAIN AMERICA in Mark Waid's absence. Don't forget AQUAMAN, THOR, and that AVENGERS/FANTASTIC FOUR crossover.)

Grant Morrison also has an interesting viewpoint on the cyclical nature of comics. I hope his theory proves, right. But you'll have to get the book to read the theory.

Anyone who fashions him- or herself as a wannabe-scriptwriter should read this book. A lot of it is information you might have previous read on the Internet, but there's plenty of new stuff in here. And it's nice to have it all in one place.

The book clocks in at 240 pages or so, and probably should not be read by the young and impressionable. Warren Ellis doesn't mince words, and I think just about everyone uses the s-word at least once in their interviews.

QUICK TAKES

Message to DC: If you're going to set up a website for children, you probably shouldn't call it DCKIDS.COM. Any kid with a half-decent imagination will take one look at that URL and giggle mischievously.

One brief reminder that the Babylon 5 spin-off series, CRUSADE, begins on TNT this Wednesday. If you're a fan of great comic book writing or RISING STAR's J. Michael Straczynski, then watch this. (Then write letters to TNT in protest for, in effect, canceling it after 13 episodes.)

I miss the Gladstone Comics ads on the back cover of the Comic's Buyers Guide. Heck, I miss the comics they published even more. Anyone have any info on the future of Duck comics? There were some rumors after Gladstone ceased publication that it wouldn't be gone long, but it's been quite a while now with nothing to show for it. I need a new Don Rosa fix!

COPYBOOK TALES Update: J. Torres' MONSTER FIGHTERS INC. #1 comes out this week. In order to put the schedule back on track, MFI #2 has been pushed back to August. And Tim Levins first DC work showed up this week with BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #15. Haven't had the chance to read it yet, but the art looks pretty good as I flip through it.

I laughed when ARIA #5 was solicited for summer release. But now I know how they plan on getting that done: ARIA #3 was released this week with only a cover by Jay Anacleto, despite having his name attached on the cover. Somehow, I feel cheated. If you put the guy's name on the front of the book, he had better do something on its inside! The cover's nice and all, but it's hardly the muddled story which is selling this book. This issue's story was just a nice excuse to throw in a bunch of near-naked babes.

I'm also starting to come to the conclusion that there might not be anything wrong with that. Comics should appeal to a wide base. And some of that base might just include the heavily hormonal. I think the problem lays in its overuse. It was toning down for a while, there, but now with DANGER GIRL doing so well, everyone is coming back out with his own "bad girl" or "skimpily-dressed girl" books.

The concepts of books like THE TENTH and DARKCHYLDE seem interesting enough. I just can't take them seriously, when all they get marketed as are T&A fests. If a book can sell a swimsuit issue -- or a lingerie issue, as I believe Top Cow once did! -- you're in trouble.

Here are three quick things from the new PREVIEWS magalog:

  1. Dale Keown is soliciting for a PITT TPB, collecting the first four issues of the series, plus the one half book. Featured therein is an incomprehensible story with some of the nicest looking art in comics. Look for the next issue, which will most likely feature a new on-going storyline with an all-new look and attitude for the all-new characters and writer, to debut sometime before the millennium begins in 2001.

  2. What does Adam Warren do, other than covers? I see he's attached to a couple of issues of GEN13, but does he actually draw anything? It seems like every manga comic solicited features one of his covers.

  3. Also solicited is a comic book based on DIABOLIK, the 1960s Italian movie that is soon to be featured in the series-ending episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. And the debate rages on over whether it's a good movie or not.

Whatever happened to the proposed MST3K comic book that Acclaim was supposed to do? I guess their stumble last year killed that comic. Too bad.

QUICK REVIEWS

VEXT #6 is the finale of that series. The cover is hilarious, and I'm sure it'll appear next to this paragraph somewhere. The inside is a little lacking, though. If I had to make a guess, I'd say this was originally part 1 of 2. It's just a bunch of dream sequences. As well as they might be handled, the whole thing seems generally useless. The Keith Giffen Resource Page indicates that there's a chance Giffen might put the scripts for the following issues up on the web. Since he owns the character, this is possible. I hope it happens. I'd love to read them. It just seems like a terrible waste, though, for the great art team of Mike McKone and Mark McKenna. They did their best work on this book.

PROMETHEA is another terrific Alan Moore comic from America's Best Comics. (It's getting harder and harder to argue with that name, don'tcha think?) Moore touches on ground here that others have considered -- the idea of a spirit inhabiting different hosts through the years. Heck, it's even something he touched upon for THE NEW SHADOWHAWK a few years ago. But this one is pulled off really well, with some nice art from J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray. The lead character seems to be the sane and curious one in a world full of weirdos. Her language is pretty well worked out.

Two storytelling choices stood out at me: The first is the use of the "widescreen" or "cinemascope" panels. I've liked this idea for awhile now, and it seems to be coming more and more into its own. More creators are using it, it seems. Alan Moore does so here to great affect, using it only in the flashback sequences, which feel like something out of a movie anyway.

The second is the annoying thing. What's with the patterns and designs around the border? It distracted me when Chris Bachalo used them in the DEATH mini-series. It still bugs me here. I suppose it's very artistic and fills up some negative space, but it just annoys me. This is, however, a very minor bone of contention when it comes to this comic.

100 BULLETS #1 by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso came out last week, via the kind offices at Vertigo. It was a surprisingly good book. I had no plans to read it until I caught the preview for it in TRANSMETROPOLITAN recently, but it has a wonderful hook: What if someone gives you the means to exact revenge and a promise that you'd get away with it? Would you go through with it? The first issue sets up things well. Although it's heavily steeped in street slang, I managed to work my way through that. (I'm still a suburban white boy. I can't understand much of what goes on in Brooklyn or the Bronx. Just Yankees games. =)

Also on my list of books to look out for is Vertigo's upcoming FINALS, drawn by Jill Thompson. It's about a college where "comparative religion majors start their own cults, international studies majors sponsor overseas wars," etc. Sounds like a lot of kooky fun. It's due out next month.

GEN13 #41 is the last issue in the Arcudi/Frank era. It was a mixed bag, but generally agreeable. It ought to be interesting to see where Scott Lobdell goes with this next. I'll hang around a little while longer. I still think this is a book that hasn't lived up to its potential yet. (Heck, I have a full-scale proposal on how the book might be done better. If enough of you want to see it, maybe I'll post it here or on my own script-writing web site. Write if you do want to see it!)

Quick note to the GEN13 computer wizards: Computer lettering can be nice and all, but don't you think it would have been worth the time to angle the lettering on the tombstone on the second page so it appears to lay on top properly?

CORRECTIONS

PCR #103: Phriend Phil's web site is devoted to Star Wars items and vehicles, and not Trek stuff. UGH. I never made that mistake before going to see the re-release of Star Wars ep. IV when the usher made it. Stuck in my head ever since.

PCR #104: That person in the electric blue uniform with electricity flying out his fists in the New Warriors promo piece? That ain't Justice. That's a new character named Bolt. Sorry for the mix-up. Thanks to all the kind souls (Leo, Sam, Jay) who dropped me an e-mail to alert me to that. I hope this week someone will write to me whose first name has more than three letters. =)

Also, thanks to Jim Demes who wrote in to explain why it wasn't odd at all that my second anniversary issue would be PCR #105 instead of #104 (52 weeks in a year time 2). The gist of it is that issue #105 will be 104 weeks after issue #1. Issue #2 actually occurs at the end of the first week of the column's existence. Thus, there's the off-by-1 error, as we call it in CompSci.

This is similar to those people who used to complain that by splitting Don Rosa's stories into three parts in the bi-monthly WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES that it would take 6 months to finish a story. In actuality, it only took 4 months, give or take a week. If the first part comes out on 01 January, then the second part is due on 01 March and the third on May 01. May - January = 4 months.

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