MISCELLANEOUS COMIC BITS
This week's column is a bit of a bait and switch, and I apologize for that. I didn't have the time available to put together the column I had promised last week to write. Instead, I'm running through a variety of topics that have sprung up in the past week to see what's going on in the world of comics. With any luck, I'll have the Comics on CD discussion I promised last week in this very space next week.
- Christian Bale is now Batman. I like the decision. I thought he showed the acting chops necessary to play Bruce Wayne and Batman during EQUILIBRIUM, which I just caught on DVD a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't a perfect movie by any means, but Bale could play emotionless and driven at the same time. I think it'll suit the movie well.
The thing that I find really funny about all of these announcements is how much stock everyone puts in the actor playing the lead. They forget completely about the script. That's the little thing that guides everything else about the production. I don't think we've seen any actor yet who was a flat-out bad Batman. Even George Clooney did a great job as Bruce Wayne, no matter what you think of his caped crusader. But he was given utter crap to work with for a script, and the whole movie stunk for it.
Let's concentrate less on who's playing the lead character and a little more on the script. I still have an uneasy feeling about that.
- I spent a good chunk of time that I usually spend writing this column at the Digital Webbing lettering message board this week. The Marvel Epic submission package was posted for letterers there, and everyone got to take their shot at it in public. It's been quite a crash course in many aspects of lettering I hadn't played with before. There's nothing more challenging than finding spots to place all of Brian Bendis' word balloons, either. You pretty much have to throw out half the "rules" of lettering to get there. It's a fun challenge. You can see the results over there now, and pick up all the raw materials (font, art, script) if you'd like to play along. Deadline for posted entries in this round of practice is midnight, Tuesday the 16th.
- Last week was the biggest comics week I've had in some time. It put a sizable dent in my wallet. Take a look at some of what Marvel alone put out last week: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, ULTIMATE X-MEN, NEW X-MEN, 1602, and SUPREME POWER. On top of that you have to add the Buzz Books like EL CAZADOR (CrossGen's pirate book), Todd Nauck's WILDGUARD, Steve Rolston's ONE BAD DAY. I haven't had the chance to read most of them yet.
Here's the mini-review I posted to the Pipeline message boards for WILDGUARD:
"It's a pretty cool book. Lotsa fun. Nauck does a good job in emulating the feel of a reality TV show in the comic, by giving us plenty of "diary room" chatter interspersed throughout the issue.
"There's something different about the art. Don't know if it's the way it was scanned in, the way it's being colored, or the inking style. It just looks different. A little more cartoony, perhaps, if I can use that term. You'll see when you get it. Still, it looks great.
"The only nitpick I have are the typos that are scattered throughout the book. OK, it's not that bad, but there are three or four that stuck out like sore thumbs to me in the first few pages."
- Welcome aboard, James Sime. In case you didn't catch it on Friday, James ushered a new column into life here at CBR. "The Comic Pimp" promises to delve into aspects of comics retailing as well as some good ol' fashioned comics pimping. Sime has great taste and should prove an interesting addition to the Web site.
- Paul Jenkins wrote in to mention that as far as he can remember, he didn't write any fill-in issues of WITCHBLADE recently. As far as I can remember, he's right. When I mentioned his name in a recent column, I was thinking of the Chuck Austen-penned fill-in issue that had me recoiling in horror. That was due mostly due to the art, though. Jenkins did, however, do a brief stint as the regular writer of the series. To me, it says all I need to know about the character that even his writing skills couldn't make the character interesting to me in the least.
- Count Oni's LAST EXIT BEFORE toll as one comic book I will not be reading because the lettering bothers me too much. Check out icomics.com for a multipage preview of the original graphic novel and then ask yourself: What's the nutritional content of a word balloon? Most of the characters seem quite eager to have them forced down their throats.
- Funniest Clueless Fan Comments Award for the week goes to the discussion at Newsarama over the upcoming Free Comic Book Day 3 event. As if people who find the event to be worthless needed further proof that it preaches to the converted, you can find people in that thread complaining that there's nothing new for them to read on Free Comic Book Day. They go on to say that FCBD is so important that the artists should give of their own time to create new content that would really only be for them, the pre-existing audience. They forget the fact that FCBD is not for them. It's to bring new people in, for whom a reprint would still be new. UGH
- ALIAS has turned into one of the most brutal books on the market today. It's a testament to Brian Bendis' writing that I care enough for Jessica Jones -- a somewhat self-destructive loner, as she's been portrayed so far -- that the events of the current "Purple" storyline hit so hard. This is the kind of book that a Mature Readers line is made for. No gratuitous sex or swearing. It's just a mix of hard-hitting crime along with personal tragedies and dialogue that benefits from the occasional four letter word. As an extra bonus, Mark Bagley and Rick Mays step in to draw a pair of short sequences this month (ALIAS #26). But Gaydos' art shouldn't be overlooked for that. He's kept this book at the street level throughout all the madness that Bendis has thrown at him so far - including the return of Speedball, for goodness' sakes. Characters continue to look real and act naturally. There's nothing melodramatic or over-the-top about the way they act, despite the bizarre nature of their lives as Marvel Universe characters.
- C.V.O. (Covert Vampire Operations) is a neat idea. Picture a covert arm of the federal government with perfect deniability. They're a team of highly trained agents capable of using their fangs and shadow-melting capabilities to do the jobs that might otherwise be too messy for American operations. It's a natural fit for IDW's line of comics, and a strong concept for Alex Garner to hook his first writing/creator credit on. Unfortunately, the execution is too sloppy to get high praise from me. This book is a muddy mess. The coloring gets the bulk of the blame for that. While it's a smart idea to keep the book colored darkly when you've got a team of vampires, the unrelenting brownness and sameness of all the colors in this issue get murky fast. The art doesn't look any more dimensional for the colors than it probably did in black and white. There are also far too many spotted blacks in this book. It's tough to make out distinctive faces from crowds of darkness, and oftentimes it's done for no good reason in particular.
The story keeps popping out of itself. Just as momentum is building in the story, it flashes back to explain the origin of a character. This happens far too often. It adds story for the 45-page count of the book, but it's done at the expense of the pacing. This is definitely a story where I'd suggest starting it back in time, showing us how one of the vampires came to be in order to establish the team and the tone of the book, and then flash to the "present" to carry the rest of the story. As it is, it hurts the pacing.
On the bright side, perhaps this is the small price we have to pay as an introduction to the concept. There are more issues coming out from IDW starting soon. With the "origin" taken care of already, perhaps a more straight-ahead narrative structure can be introduced, and experience will guide the art team to better results.
- The WB is trying to bring THE FLASH back to television, using the successful SMALLVILLE formula.
All this announcement does for me is put me in the mind to request a DVD set of the John Wesley Shipp series. Now THAT was a great television superhero show.
- Don't forget that this week is the finals for Comic Book Idol. The final announcement of the winner will be made in Thursday's "Open Your Mouth" column. Follow all the excitement at the CBI message board. We're down to Jonathan Hickman and Patrick Scherberger drawing three sequential pages for all the marbles. If the voting patterns of the first few weeks taught us anything, it's that this ought to be a tight race to the finish. Both of our remaining contestants' three-page entries are posted at the message board. Judge for yourself and vote starting Wednesday at noon, Eastern time.
Since it's the last week, though, I'll confess that I was rooting for Martin Redmond. Sadly, he didn't make the final cut this week, although I'm dying to see what he'd do with this week's assignment.
Patrick Scherberger, in the meantime, will be getting my vote this week.
Pipeline returns next week. I'm hoping I'll have reviews of some great CD tutorials and comics stories on DVD. Cross your fingers.
Various and Sundry is my on-going blog for non-comics-related reviews, commentary, and trivial links. This past week we've looked at the possible Next Big Search Engine, more on the RIAA madness, TMBG on DVD, Hold 'Em Poker, The X-FILES at ten, an ode to the late Commodore 64, the new Barenaked Ladies single, and much much more.
Somewhere around 500 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.