Dirty little secret: The most tedious part about writing is the rewriting. And that's what I save for the last minute every week. This week, that's come back to bite me in the butt. Due to some problems with systems crashing at work, I just don't have the time to finish off the announced JUSTICE LEAGUE column and give it the attention it deserves. So I'm pushing it back to next week.
In its place are a couple of bits that I've written up in the recent past. These are items which got pushed out of Pipelines before, or which I was saving in case I needed them. This week, I need them.
I'll be back next Friday, though, with the JUSTICE LEAGUE for sure.
LOOKING BACK A COUPLE OF YEARS…
SUPERMAN: THE ODYSSEY is a prestige format book with a cover date of June 1999. It's co-written by Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, with Nolan providing all the art. It's an early tale of Clark Kent, as he journeys out of Smallville to see the world and decide what direction his life will take. This is all before the big 'S' started appearing on his chest. While in Paris, he meets up with Terri Chung, who is doing a little running of her own. She's running away from her father, the Rhana Butra. (Think Dalai Lama.) When the Chinese government begins making moves against him, she (at Clark's urging) journeys back to her home country to help out however she can, Clark Kent in tow. Romance and adventure follow. It reads very much like some sort of Saturday afternoon serial in places, or as a Sunday funnies adventure strip. I guess it's fitting as Nolan can now be seen drawing THE PHANTOM in your Sunday funny pages. (Oh, he also draws REX MORGAN, M.D. but that doesn't fit in very well here. See The Comic Wire for more details.)
The issue as a whole is a pleasantly diverting read. It's not anything that will stick out in your mind for decades to come, but it's entertaining on its own. A couple of bits in there will no doubt stick in your mind, such as the brief appearance of another DC Universe superhero, and Clark Kent's thoughts on pre-marital relations. There's a nice feeling of sentimentality in the issue, particularly at the end, and seeing a young Clark Kent exploring the world to find himself is interesting. It's especially interesting in light of all the subsequent rumors that went around about a television series with either Kent or Bruce Wayne traveling the globe to discover himself. In the end, we're getting a Smallville show, but it might be good. We shall see.
It's tough to tell who wrote which parts of the book, but whoever's responsible for the framing sequence should take the blame for it. It follows one of Dixon's commandments for writing comics to start with an action bit, but it's also completely unnecessary, and not linked very well.
The book starts with a four-page sequence of Superman bashing some heads. It looks like some of Kobra's men in a hidden installation. (I'm sorry; my DC universe knowledge just isn't good enough to be conclusive with that, and no names are mentioned in the story itself.) Just after Superman knocks them all on their collective keister, a newsflash comes across the television screens that were thankfully left intact in the fight. The Rhana Butra has died. This causes Superman to flash back to the story. The problem is that it's completely disjointed. If there were a thematic link between the two, I could almost go for it. If Superman started the issue by fighting some young up-and-coming supervillain who's just learning his way, it would resonate better. Instead, the story starts with a fight against a bunch of nameless supervillains before the segue gets us to Paris, ten years or so ago. It feels too forced to work.
In the end, it's a nice read and one worth picking up if you find it in the dollar bins at a con or a comic shop. If this review really whets your appetite, though, you can order it through Diamond's STAR system: #09461D.
I've redoubled my efforts this year towards letterhacking. I've been very lazy in the past year about it. I've complained that writing this column keeps me too busy to pursue those interests. Not any more.
I've learned some little things about writing this much, this often. I thought I'd pass those along to you, particularly if you're a budding letterhack.
The first thing is that you have to strike while the iron is hot. Write as soon as you're done with the comic. Hop straight to the e-mail program (I use Pegasus Mail), punch up the e-mail address (you'll probably have it in your address book by now), keep the comic open in front of you and start typing. I had a letter printed this week in the latest SIGIL issue. I wrote that letter less than a month ago. Most columns aren't done that quickly, but it's something to keep in mind.
Secondly, you don't have to say everything. Remember that the letters columns are barely a page anymore in most books, if they exist at all. Three paragraphs is enough.
You only need to write about one facet of the book. What struck you the most? The opening double-page spread? The big plot revelation for the issue? Was it the way the guest artist drew the title character? I've written letters in this past month that were about those things. Three ideas. Three letters.
Finally, spoil away! Most of my reviews in Pipeline are spoiler-free. Heck, 99% of them are, and it's the exception when I spoil something. Letters columns can be considered full-blast spoiler zones. Go ahead and talk about the comic you just read, with the assumption that everyone reading your letter has already read the issue it's about. It's not like you're writing something in the hopes that you will convince someone that they should buy the book. They probably already have!
OK, folks. That's it for the week. Class is dismissed early. Go read Larry Young's latest Loose Cannon. He's got great stuff over there.
Close to 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR. I can't believe Pipeline is entering its fifth year in a few short months…
I will definitely be in attendance at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego), and the Pittsburgh Comicon, which requires no second name.
Finally, I write DVD movie reviews for the gang over at DVD Channel News. If you're into DVD, check out my stuff there.
Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Tuesday with the usual column filled with guerilla warfare style review and commentary!