Pipeline: PCR Extra #15

Sun, July 22nd, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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SAN DIEGO: DAY THREE

Time is winding down fast. The increase in interesting panels and the increased congestion in all hallways today made for a busy and admittedly tiring day.

Saturday is the most crowded day of the whole convention. The time it takes to get from one end of the con center to the other is easily doubled. Plus, the con center is huge. As big as it's always been, the extra con floor space makes it almost seem impossible to comprehend. It's really gotten to the point where I'm trying to plan out my day the night before. I never had to do that before, but it helps to get things done from individual sections of the con floor as you go. I couldn't imagine only coming to this con for one day and being able to see more than a quarter of everything. If you attend any panels, you'd have to cut that in half. If you have a spare half hour between panels and want to head downstairs, you're going to waste half your time getting there and back.

I've been here for three days now and there's still a list of people I want to see, but won't. There are still people I was hoping to talk to but haven't. There are still books to be bought, sketches to be had, and pictures to take. And there's no way it's all going to get done. It wasn't this bad my first two times out.

I'm also packing tonight and it's clear that I bought way too much stuff. But I'm very resolute that I'm going to get this all home without shipping any of it. I fear this is a fool's errand.

But enough of my worries and ramblings. Let's do some name-dropping.

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland and I had an audience with the king. Mark Alessi, master of the entire CrossGen domain that he sees, chatted with us for a few minutes about everything CrossGen. We talked about his background in computers and his choice of retirement plans ("I'll start a comics company!"). We talked about how the company is growing in a confidant manner, how the people are managing within it, and how the future is looking. There's nothing newsworthy in there, so don't worry about it. But Alessi himself strikes me as a very confident man who organizes himself in a very businesslike manner. It probably explains a lot about how he's gotten as far as he has.

However, I'm not moving to Florida just yet.

Speaking of CrossGen, I attended their afternoon panel discussion about "The Cure For Short Story Syndrome." While CrossGen marketing guy Ian Feller moderated, CrossGen writers Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Ron Marz, and Barbara Kesel answered questions.

They talked about the overall plot designs for CrossGen comics and how they manage to tell definite stories within that framework. Each title has a rough layout for its next year, going issue-by-issue and identifying major plot beats. These get revised every so often so that everything stays up to date. As an added bonus, when a new writer comes on to a series (as Tony Bedard is on MYSTIC for Ron Marz), there's a pre-existing plot outline for him to work from. Bedard said he's got an idea of where the story of the past year is going, but that he's free to move things around a little bit as he wishes, to better incorporate the book into his style.

It's also, he said, a nice change of pace from his days at DC when he didn't know what the writer would be doing with a given title he was editing that month. Each of the CrossGen titles is plotted out pretty far. While Mark Waid still uses a tighter script method from issue to issue, the other writers on the panel talked more about a Marvel Plot method of writing. Since their art teams are just around the corner working in their cubes, they can discuss things about the plot then and there. No phone hassles at all.

Another big concern was in telling a story of some sort in each issue. While there's an overall story ranging across the greater span of time, each book still has a definite conflict that comes to a conclusion to help guide the book along its way. Of course, the problem with this is that is often causes a storyline to stretch out far too long while the writers concentrate on adding a fresh conflict to begin and end in each issue. I think that may be part of the problem with CrossGen's titles. It often takes a number of issues to get to the point where you feel the larger story is being served. I wouldn't go so far as to call it padding, but it does end up stretching out a story to a perhaps artificially extended length.

All of the CrossGen employees today were wearing CrossGen football jerseys with their names emblazoned on the back with individual player numbers. If my pic of the panel turns out, I'll be sure to post it here during the week.

CrossGen has a nice large booth, with plenty of space and plush red carpeting. The Marvel and DC Booths have proven impenetrable and annoying this weekend. They're useless to me. Both have had signing lines wrapping around their booths every time I passed by. It's so bad at times that you couldn't get inside the booths. And if you did, where would you go or who would you see? I suppose it's fine if you don't mind waiting a half hour at a clip for an autograph or an hour or more for a portfolio review. If you just want to look at some previews or chat with an editor or something, you're in trouble if you're the least bit claustrophobic.

THE OTHER PANELS OF THE DAY

The big draw today was all the big movie panels. There were panels set to discuss the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE 2, PLANET OF THE APES, SPIDER-MAN, and LORD OF THE RINGS, amongst others.

I have never in my life seen longer lines. The rooms couldn't possibly handle everyone who was there for the panels. I didn't go to any of them. I just didn't have the patience. Panel times got moved back as the day went on to accommodate the time needed to move the masses who wanted to get in and out.

From what I've heard, though, the panels had some great things to see. The first ten minutes of the Spider-Man movie were shown in rough-cut form, for one example. The Star Wars panel repeats tomorrow, but I don't think I will be wasting my time. Too much stuff left to do on the con floor tomorrow.

Today began for me, however, with Scott Shaw!'s Oddball Comics panel. Since this is my third such panel, I've seen a lot of the slides he's used here before, but they're still hilarious. They get funnier with age.

This year's slide show included the laugh-till-you-cry segment of crotch shots. You get Lois Lane strung up on the center of a cover. You get Lois Lane pointing a dripping spear towards Superman's crotch. And, finally, the grand finale of the crotch section of the slide show is when Supergirl is seen on a cover tossing a machine at the reader that looks suspiciously like giant male genitalia. I'll have to talk Scott into doing this as a week-long series sometime.

Giant Communists, The Bouncer, Planned Parenthood, and Richie Rich in his yellow tub all featured well in the show.

If you like Scott's daily presentation here at CBR, you haven't seen anything yet. The rapid-fire execution of the covers as well as Scott's narration of them adds a whole new level to Oddball Comics.

Scott also got surprised with a birthday cake for his 50th birthday. It's not for anther month or two, but who plans on being at the San Diego Convention Center then? The assembled crowd then attempted to sing Happy Birthday to Scott, but started at about three different times, thus offering a truly oddball version of the classic song.

Special thanks to the Comicon organizers who gave Scott a full hour and a half this year for the show. The more comics we can see every year, the better off we are.

I can't emphasize this enough: If you're ever at one of these conventions when Scott is doing this show, go see it. It's hilarious. You can't possibly not laugh at the sheer goofiness of 1960s DC Comics.

Scott gave me the honors of introducing him at the panel, which was a lot of fun. I managed to mutter something about the man in the Hawaiiain shirt. And Scott returned the favor with a nice Pipeline plug. Thanks, Scott!

The Image Founding Fathers panel was an interesting one. It featured three of the four remaining Image Founders: Eric Silvestri, Erik Larsen, and Jim Valentino. Todd McFarlane doesn't really do conventions anymore. And the rest were, as Jim Valentino so succinctly put it, "casualties of war."

You've probably all read the big announcement by now. There's a hardcover book called IMAGE COMICS due out in February 2002. You can find all the details in the Comic Wire, I assure you.

Erik Larsen will be telling Dragon's origin story, but the Dragon won't be learning it. As a Dragon fan from Image: Day One, I find this to be interesting. I don't honestly know how to react to it. It's always been the one issue when it comes to the Dragon that I've never come to a firm position on. It'll be nice for the mystery to be solved, but after nearly 10 years of holding back on it, Larsen is setting himself up for a big disappointment. Expectations on this should be raised plenty high.

I think I'll just live for the moment, though, and stay excited about the additional new Dragon material and a long asked-about portion of the mythos being revealed.

SAVAGE DRAGON #100 is due out next year, as well. It will be 100 pages, and Larsen already has most of it done. Marc Silvestri's reaction to that? "See, kids, there are benefits to smoking crack!"

The only negative reaction I had to the panel was with Silvestri's professed love of the comics medium. "We're all comic book artists at heart... We love comics... I love this stuff." If he ever drew anything anymore, I might take him seriously. But it all rings hollow when his only work consists of variant covers.

It is consistent, though, with his views of multiple revenue streams being necessary to fund comics. And, he pointed out, comics are in vogue in Hollywood today. All you have to do is look at the media weasels patrolling the con to see that in action.

It doesn't matter how good the adaptation is, really. As Silvestri pointed out, "for Chrissakes, TOMB RAIDER made money."

But Erik Larsen The Quote Machine won the day. When asked what they thought about comics on the internet, the panel agreed that it wasn't going to happen just yet. Valentino guessed that it was still a generation away. It took Larsen, however, to point out the obvious and provide me with enough quotes to completely lower the tone of this article:

"Bottom line -- you can't take a computer into the crapper." And when it was pointed out to him that perhaps you could (with an e-book reader or laptop), he shot back with, "OK, you can't wipe with it when you're done."

By the way, Larsen now has original art with him at conventions, from his Marvel work of the past couple of years. This is your chance to pick up his original art.

Finally, it was mentioned that Image had asked Jae Lee about reprinting HELLSHOCK in some form. However, Lee destroyed the film. It can't be done. Lee had real problems with producing that series, often redrawing the same pages three and four times. Those first pages that he didn't like were destroyed, as well. This is all stuff that you and I would probably find to be beautiful, but Lee was never happy with.

Valentino relayed a story about a con panel that Jack Kirby was on years back. Kirby said that he drew 17 pages per week. When asked how he accomplished that, Kirby said, "I learned what not to draw."

SOME QUICK NAME-DROPPING

Laura DePuy, Brian Bendis (with kid sidekick Jason Pritchett), Mark Alessi, John Lustig, Mike Brennan, Christian Gossett, Rick Geary, Ron Lim, Dawn Brown, Josh Blaylock, Jim Valentino, Anthony Bozzi, William Stout, David Olbrich, and Mike Mignola. That's the partial listing of names of people I met and/or talked with today. I can't think of a better advertisement as to why San Diego is so cool.

There will be no new Pipeline tomorrow for a change. But come back on Tuesday for another. Hopefully, it'll be a Sunday con wrap up, but there's a chance I won't make it. We'll see how the red eye flight home hits me.

I should be doing my version of the CBR Photo Parade soon, too. I got some pictures of some of the panels I've talked about here this weekend that I'd like to show.

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