PIPELINE ANSWERS: CROSSOVERS AND TRADES
Over the past couple of weeks, I've encouraged you to send in your questions, comments, or requests on what you'd like to see in Pipeline. This week, I'm answering a couple of those questions. There are more to come in future columns. So feel free to write in with your questions. I'm always willing to take more.
To start it all off, Scott Brady chimes in with a timely question:
"Why do the two major comics companies continue to employ gimmicks so frequently in their effort to sell comics when for years now I have been seeing message boards, chat rooms, and comic book shops filled with fans screaming for consistent art and story, not wacky one off gimmicks?? In particular I am referring to this months "Last Laugh" story line in the Batman books at DC and December's "'Nuff Said" event at Marvel. Are there hard numbers that these things produce sales spikes, or is it just a case of upper level management clinging to outmoded ideas?"
Yes, there are hard numbers to indicate that crossover issues boost sales. Make of that what you will. You may tick off the regular readers, but you do it in the hopes of picking up some new readers. After all, the regulars will return, right?
The "Last Laugh" storyline is not a crossover that bothers me to a great extent. The various tie-in issues to the main story are not must-reads. They just use the idea and go in their own direction with them. If you want the whole story, you don't need to read all the side issues. You just need to read the weekly series. I can deal with that. I don't like the fact that storylines may need to be refigured to deal with the crossover, or that writers are forced to interrupt the flow of their on-going storylines for the sake of the crossover. I've only read a couple of tie-in issues for this one so far, and I think they handled it really well. The YOUNG JUSTICE one, in particular, is hilarious and fits in well with the on-going angst of the characters.
What I can't deal with so nicely is "Our Worlds At War," the crossover that dragged on for about three months, included seven special double-sized issues, and a whole slew of crossover issues. The party line that you don't need to read all of them to follow the story rang a little hollow to me. If you want to understand half of what happened, you did need to read a lot of non-Superman books. And at a time when the Superman books were starting to lose their direction, this attempt to refocus them only alienated them some more from fans.
"Last Laugh" is now suffering from the after-affects of OWAW. It looks like one is piling on top of the other. It is too quick to have another major event, but it looks much worse than it really is, just because OWAW wasn't a simple 5th week event, or one month crossover. It went on and on and on.
"Nuff Said" and DC's upcoming covers month don't bother me at all. It's only a most superficial tie-in event. Each utilizes a certain storytelling style. There is no crossover plot. You don't need to read any comics other than the ones you normally do. It's a concept month more than a crossover or "event."
Truth be told, I'll probably be picking up an extra Marvel comic or two in December to see how other artists and writers are using the silent story format. I don't think I'll be doing the same with the DC event. It's just an extra pretty cover and a better chance at jumping into a story of an on-going series. I don't need to start reading any more series than I am now, thanks.
Having said all that, I wish they would stop doing company-wide crossovers. I'd love to see DC go a whole year in which the regular on-going creative teams on their books would be trusted with them completely, and not be subjugated by an edict to cling to some forgettable crossover, thus interrupting carefully-planned out storylines. Ironically, it's Chuck Dixon - who, along with Scott Beatty, is the architect of this crossover - who is most usually hurt by these crossovers. He writes his books so far in advance that he's often scrambling to shoehorn an issue into a run in record time to cope with the crossover du jour.
The most shocking thing is in looking back at the past ten years of crossover titles. How many do you remember? How many do you remember liking? How many ticked you off because their interrupted all of your monthly titles for an issue or two?
So why are people still buying them in droves? I just don't know.
Thanks for the question, Scott!
Josh Kern writes to ask:
"What are some trade paperbacks you'd like to see, yet you know that you never will? ... for me personally, I'd like to see some (or all!) of John Byrne's Namor series (well, #1-25, where he handled both writing and art)..."
Sit back, I've come up with a list. (And thanks for the great topic, Josh!)
John Byrne's SHE-HULK or his NAMOR, for sure. I agree with you that cutting NAMOR off at about the time Jae Lee came in would be a very good idea. Even Lee has admitted that his work there was less than inspired.
I think that SHE-HULK might be a possibility, though. It's not like Marvel is publishing a competing vision of the character right now. And there does seem to be some fond memories of the series from much of fandom to this day.
How about a complete trade collection of Byrne's SUPERMAN work, while we're at it? Can you believe how very little of it DC has collected in the past 15 years?
More trades of the Nicieza/Bagley NEW WARRIORS would be nice. I think there's only one of them, collecting the first few issues of the regular series. Bagley did two good years on that title, and the Darick Robertson issues right afterwards were very good, as well.
How about Todd McFarlane's run on INFINITY INC.? It's so far off the reservation of DC continuity today that I doubt you'll see it. But the page designs sure are inventive in there, and worth studying if only for them.
Alan Davis' EXCALIBUR run. The prettiest art you'll ever see.
Keith Giffen-era JUSTICE LEAGUE, of which we only have the first seven issues (of JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL) currently in print. Since the JLA is strictly a serious, big name creator book these days, I don't see this happening anytime soon.
John Ostrander's original SUICIDE SQUAD series. There's a competing version on the stands right now.
How about Ron Lim-era SILVER SURFER. Or Mark Gruenwald and Ron Lim's CAPTAIN AMERICA?
Peter David's X-FACTOR. This one might be a possibility. It depends on if E-I-C Joe Quesada has a soft spot for his own run on the title. The book, itself, was designed to be different from all the other X books. Ironically, that means it should fit in with the current batch of X-books.
Peter David's THE ATLANTIS CHRONICLES.
The Complete Joe Kelly DEADPOOL collection. Three neat hardcovers.
The Complete FREAK FORCE in one hardcover full-color edition. Heck, I'd settle for a trade paperback. A trade was solicited once upon a time, but sales were too soft to justify its publication. FF remains one of my favorite fun comics series of all time. It's not great literature, but it's fun stuff from Keith Giffen, Erik Larsen, and Vic Bridges.
The Complete Peter David HULK run. One or two storylines are collected now, but PAD did more than 100 issues of the series, including some memorable runs with Dale Keown and Gary Frank.
The Complete BATMAN ADVENTURES with art by Mike Parobeck. Or the same with Tim Levins art. DC's publication of trades based on their animated series has been rather anemic.
BOOF AND THE CRUISE CREW. Just kidding. I wanted to make sure you were still reading. (The series did have good coloring by the vastly under-appreciated Susan Daigle-Leach, though...)
Eric Stephenson and Todd Nauck's NEWMEN. There was an early trade of the series, but it only collected the early issues with wretched Jeff Matsuda art. (Yes, Matsuda got better. But these early issues of his career are almost laughable.)
Kurt Busiek's complete REGULATORS mini-series collection. It was an examination of a team of bad guys, and a precursor to THUNDERBOLTS. The mini-series never made it past the third issue, so the odds of this happening are pretty pathetic.
Sam Kieth's THE MAXX. I have a funny feeling we may see this someday yet, though. With Kieth's star rising again after ZERO GIRL, FOUR WOMEN, and the upcoming HULK/WOLVERINE, the Maxx property might get real attractive again.
The Complete BORIS THE BEAR by James Dean Smith, late of Nicotat Comics and Dark Horse Comics. That was a fun series. A lot of the humor in it derived from parodies of comics of its time, but there's still plenty of cool stuff in the issues worth rereading.
WildStorm's SAVANT GARDE, with story by Barb Kesel and art from Ryan Odagawa, a horrifically under-appreciated artist.
The Complete YOUNG HEROES IN LOVE.
The Complete TELLOS hardcover. Forget the two trades. I want one big thick hardcover bound edition. Sadly, I doubt the economics would ever work on such a behemoth, though.
That's a good start.
Speaking of trades, I received an e-mail this week from Mark Thompson, the publisher of Checker Book Publishing Group. They're the people who are reprinting an ALIEN LEGION story by Chuck Dixon and Larry Stroman in trade form in December. I worried in this space last week about the reproduction values in the book. Having never heard of the company before, I didn't know what to expect.
Thompson wrote in with some kind words of reassurance:
"You raise the question of reprinting quality concerning Alien Legion: Force Nomad, an upcoming title from Checker Book Publishing Group. We will be printing from the original film, which was then digitally retouched page by page, and finally reprinted on glossy paper stock. I can assure you the quality will be high. Initial proofs of the project came into the office yesterday. It almost looks like a different comic than the original series. The colorists on the original project must have cried when they saw the original comic books in print..."
That's good news, indeed. Thanks, Mark!
One quick trade paperback thought: The same crowd that delights in telling us that graphic novels and trade paperbacks are the future because they allow a property to be in print and available for a longer time, now decries the mass embrace of reprints of GI JOE and TRANSFORMERS and STAR WARS in trade paperback form. Strange, don'tcha think?
More than 250 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 or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.
Next year's con schedule tentatively includes Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, Bethesda, and New York. I'm seeing the country, one con at a time.