Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #81

Sun, December 20th, 1998 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

WORK AND HOLIDAYS

(What a dreadful combination)

Hello, everyone. I sit down in front of this computer tonight not having any idea what I'm about to write. I'm in a 24 hour lull between business trips and it's killing my comics equilibrium. (I just got back from Baltimore and am heading out to Albany, NY tomorrow. For those of you unaware, Pipeline is headquartered in northern New Jersey.)

THE GLADSTONE OBITUARY

Gladstone is folding up their table and going home.

Reviews of their comics have been absent from this column lately, but Gladstone Comics deserves better than this. In two reigns over the past 12 years or so, they've brought us the finest in Disney-licensed comic books. They've done a masterful job of reprinting Carl Barks' classic works, using new formats, paper weights, and coloring processes to bring the books into modern times. Not just that, but they introduced us to creators such as William Van Horn and Don Rosa. And for that they will always be remembered. Who knows if these creators would have even entered the duck comics scene, let alone flourished as they have, without Gladstone's initial investment into their talents. (And it's not just those two, although they are the most-often referenced and arguably the most popular duck creators working today. You'd also have to take translator/writer David Gerstein into account. His work has been integral in the development of Mickey Mouse back to his real character.)

Alas, the trends in comics have gone against Gladstone. There aren't as many kids reading comics these days, so Gladstone was forced into printing their comics exclusively for the high-end comic afficionado. And so UNCLE $CROOGE and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES became all that was left of a once robust line.

Sure, they made mistakes. Plenty of them. But they were all done for the sake of keeping the comics going. The coverless comics and letter-column-less books were tough to pick up. They were also tough to handle since the covers would wilt under the pressing of a sweaty hand. The current thinking of WDC&S and U$ can only stifle the readership of the titles. You have to be a Real Fan to shell out $7 per month for these books. And as pretty as they are, the stories continued over several issues were enough to drive you nuts. I pay $7 -- I want complete stories.

But in the end, they provided us with a well-thought-out collection of stories, with new attention to detail, a new sense of history and scholarship, and a new respect for not just the material, but the people behind it. (Special praise goes to Susan Daigle-Leach, whose superbly rendered colors deserve an Eisner Award, at the least, and who always gets my vote in the annual CBG Awards.)

I've grown up on Gladstone books. One of the first comics I ever picked up was Don Rosa's "His Majesty McDuck." It also remains my favorite of Rosa's stories: for its craziness, its lunacy, its detail, its hilarity, and for the way it opened my eyes to these comics. (Rosa has since crafted some of the most outright clever and respectful stories, in turn, of any comic book creator whose work I've ever been honored to read.) William Van Rosa is on the

opposite end of the art spectrum from Rosa. His work is lighter, more cartoony, more reliant on linguistics, less obsessed with detail and history, and often act as parables. But he is nonetheless respectful of the past, and his lettering even resembles that of Carl Barks'. (Or Gare Barks's lettering. Whoever did those early stories. . . ) It's a completely different kind of duck tale, but one just as enjoyable for its own reasons.

Now we also have a good crop of stories coming from overseas. William Van Horn's son, Noel, does some excellent turns at the art board. And Caesar Ferioli's Mickey Mouse stories are some of the best-drawn Mouse stories I've ever read. David Gerstein tends to be the writer on those, and he shows great reverence to all which came before him, while dusting off some of the more oscure things we've forgotten about in previous stories.

And now all of that is gone in America. We don't know for how long. Rumors abound that Diamond's Steve Geppi bought Gladstone for $1, or that Europe's publishing giant, Egmont, wants to take its turn in the American market. And there are strong hints that the absence will not be long.

Let's hope not. We need more quality comics, not less. Especially in this market. And the best way to bring fresh blood (I was tempted to say "young blood" - heh heh heh) is to produce comics that not only Dad can read to his son, but can also enjoy on his own.

FOR THOSE WHO CELEBRATE

Merry Christmas! Here's hoping there's lots of comic-themed goodness under your tree this year. And put the new BATMAN ANIMATED book at the head of your list -- it's possibly the finest comics-related publication I've ever owned. Maybe I'll do a review of it next week.

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