Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #354

Tue, March 23rd, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

COMICS SOUTH OF THE SMOG

Wizard World: West/Los Angeles/Long Beach certainly made an impressive splash this weekend. They had cooperation from Marvel to officially announce a number of new projects, leading to a lot of name-dropping in all the on-line comics news sites. All of this, of course, ties into the forthcoming issue of WIZARD Magazine. Give WIZARD credit for their marketing machine. They know a little about timing. If only the on-line news sites hadn't already broken better than half the news in the past week first. . .

This can't be good for MegaCon, which just held their show a couple of weeks ago. Their big source of cooperation and news is CrossGen. I like CrossGen and all, but I don't think I'd want to tie my financial boat to them right now. On the brighter side, MegaCon is the only big comic convention in Florida, so it still has a novelty factor to make it inviting. If Wizard World decided to expand to Florida, though, there might be a problem.

The fun part of this news cycle is watching the reaction to it. The most boring bit of news is that Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld are returning to do a new X-FORCE mini-series. I was a huge fan of that book more than a decade ago. I'll definitely be picking up this new one. I say it's boring, however, because the same old Liefeld sniping is being dredged up for another go-around. There's nothing new to add, but the mouths just foam at the thought of the giant bull's eye putting himself back out there again for darts to be tossed towards. I'm not saying that they're all wrong or that the criticisms are unwarranted, but it's just boring. You can cut all the same messages from these threads and paste them into the Return Of YOUNGBLOOD threads from a year ago and nobody would notice. I'm counting the minutes until the first "Captain America's chest can hold a coffee cup" joke resurfaces. Since I'm writing this on Sunday night, we'll have to see what the Monday blogs bring us.

The only joke I haven't heard so far is the one that asks if Marat Mychaels will be ghosting the fifth issue for old time's sake.

In any case, this is a great deal for Marvel. Even if this thing explodes, they're getting lots of publicity out of it and the most talked about news story of the convention.

DC's panel didn't have all that much of interest. We already knew about DOOM PATROL, although this is the first I've heard of Doug Hazlewood's involvement as inker. Hazlewood is a great inker who'll work well over Byrne's pencils, I think. The retrosolicitation of the first issue to keep the characters a surprise --whoops, that didn't work -- has lead to wild conspiracy theories and predictions of doom and gloom, though. Sometimes, I think DC just can't win.

A new 12 issue ASTRO CITY mini-series is good news, but you have to wonder what that means artistically, with Brent Anderson now aboard as artist on Bendis' THE PULSE. Will that book need to maintain a bi-monthly schedule to give Anderson enough time to draw both books? I hope not.

Speculation runs rampant that Marvel is releasing IDENTITY DISC to confuse DC readers off their own IDENTITY CRISIS. It's a profoundly arrogant attitude to presume DC fans are that stupid. If they're that caught up in things that they know about the upcoming series, then I'm sure they'll know the difference between a series with Marvel characters and one with DC characters. If your mind works that way, though, perhaps you should wonder why DC is countering Marvel's announcement of the long-delayed WITCHES mini-series with their own Vertigo THE WITCHING series. Are those evil Goth editors sowing the seeds of confusion, too?

I also see in some threads on-line that people are disappointed that these panels don't tell us more about story content. Whatever happened to the days when people would be excited to read a story that they didn't know the ending to? Why does everything have to be known three months or more in advance? PREVIEWS has really spoiled some people. DC is only teasing at IDENTITY CRISIS for now, and people then complain that the hype machine should calm down so as not to raise false hope. When did the hype machine start up in the first place?!?

It seems to me that people complaining about too many Spider-Man titles coming out this summer should be looking at DC for its Superman family of titles. Superman doesn't even have a movie coming out this summer, yet it seems like every other book in the DC catalog is related to him.

I also thought that people would be cheering Quesada's pronouncement that, in so many words, Kirby didn't draw manga. We've heard complaints for a couple of years now that every artist in comics today attempts to draw in an anime/manga style. Now that Quesada is trying to move Marvel away from that, why do I get the feeling we'll just hear things like, "Marvel wants to close its eyes to the only artform bringing in the teenagers." I'm telling you -- it'll come. It may already have happened by the time this column sees print. Drop me a line when you see it.

And, of course, our serious CBR photojournalists were there, showing that they haven't a clue as to who Magdalena or The Huntress are. But we love 'em anyway. (It does show how heinous the new Huntress costume is, though.)

The convention was good news over the weekend, though. Usually, the comics world on-line dies for Saturday and Sundry. All the news sites and the blogs were very active this weekend, for a change. As I was stuck behind the computer for much of this weekend working from home, it was nice to have a steady stream of news and opinion to read for those two days.

WIZARD ON THE EDGE

[Wizard Edge]All was not well in the world of the Wizard this week, however. The latest edition of WIZARD'S EDGE arrived in stores. At $5 for a 72-page pamphlet, your value for the money is a consideration. The usual round of Internet sniping (over WIZARD trying to be "edgier") started the day it came out, but there's more to carp about than just the definition of "independent" or "edgy." Let's talk about fact-checking and proofreading.

Steve Niles' introduction attempts to be so grandiose, that he gets ahead of himself. He writes, "How do you find reviews, articles or even sidebar mentions of books that aren't put out by the BIG TWO?"

Answer: Look at just about any comics-related web site. Yes, even this very column. COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE manages. Heck, WIZARD dotes on all of Niles' independent offerings, too.

I'll give Niles the benefit of the doubt, though, since he did make a joke of EDGE putting TRANSFORMERS on the cover last year.

Now, it's grammar time. The write-up on the excellent QUEEN AND COUNTRY asks the question about Greg Rucka, "how is Oni able to always supply him with the best artists [i.e. Steve Rolston] imaginable?"

First of all, "i.e." should be set off by commas and not brackets. I'll set that aside as a style thing, though. The heart of the matter is that "i.e." is the wrong abbreviation to use here. What the author is looking for is "e.g." "i.e." equates, roughly, to "in other words," while "e.g." is "for example." Any crossword puzzle solver can give you that information. Unless Steve Rolston qualifies as multiple best artists (another logical fallacy as "best" means "one"), the author should have written "e.g." here.

Under the write-up of STRAY BULLETS, EDGE compares David Lapham's series to "Law and Order" and its creator Tom Fontana. Sadly for EDGE, Fontana was one of the creators of HOMICIDE. Dick Wolf is the creator of L&O. The two did crossover once, but that's the extent of the relationship.

On the other hand, I can't keep the price of Y: THE LAST MAN straight. (See below for details.) Perhaps I shouldn't talk.

Aside from those nit-picks, there are simple one-page interviews with Dave Sim and Frank Cho, a new 9 page POWERS story, a quick rundown of 25 worthy graphic novels to read, a CONAN feature, a buzz book listing, and other assorted odds and ends. Metron Press has a one-page article written about it, after six full-page advertisements. Finally, since this is a WIZARD publication, there is a two page Kevin Smith trivia test. I'm not kidding. WIZARD inevitably finds a way to sneak Kevin Smith into anything they can.

The publication is far too light and breezy, but you might just find something in here that sounds interesting to read. Borrow it from a friend, if you can.

WHEN YOU LOOK INTO THE ABYSS. . .

[Mister 0]The man stood on a cliff, wanting nothing more than to cross it to the cliff just feet away. Round and pale of skin, the man had an expressive face and twigs for arms and legs. Running and jumping over the chasm proved to be too much, so his plans grew more and more intricate. He used local flora and fauna in desperate attempts to reach the other side. When those failed, he used rocks and rockets. Always, he met with failure. Like Wile E. Coyote, Mister O had set a task for himself that proved impossible for him to achieve. His limits were too great, and his plans inevitably backfired on him.

Imagine that set-up as a comic book. It's a simple premise done with a complicated execution in the hands of Lewis Trondheim. MISTER O is the story of a man trying to cross from one side of a cliff to another. Trondheim gives us 30 variations of this simple gag in an oversized hardcover book, published this month by NBM.

There are three catches to the book, though, which make it such an interesting read: The characters are stick figures. The stories are silent. And each story is spread across 60 panels on one page: ten tiers of six panels each.

Trondheim goes back to basics to great effect. Stripping down a comic to its most bare essentials -- no lettering, simple story, simple graphics -- he manages to tell funny stories without relying on the flash of poetic prose or complicated cartooning. Yet, each page is an amazingly complicated thing. It takes 60 panels to tell relatively simple gags. Each story is in color and often with entirely different color schemes. When the art is as simple as this, the color can help to tell the story by pushing the background back and pulling the foreground forward. This would be a harder book to read without the color, and impossible to read at the manga reprint size.

This comic proves that anyone can make a funny comic without utilizing today's faddish art styles. It's the storytelling and the simplicity of it all that makes this comic so fascinating. While there are moments scattered throughout the book that will remind you of those classic Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote animated shorts that Chuck Jones, Mike Maltese, Maurice Noble, Ken Harris, Ben Washam, et. al. did so well, Trondheim adds his own flavor to the mix. He goes for a couple of off-color jokes, too, including some morbid gags.

MISTER O is the most insane comic I've read in a long time. I'm not sure if it's the simplicity of the presentation that impresses me so much, though, or the fact that NBM would issue this as an oversized hardcover for what amounts to a stick figure comic book. Insane though it might be, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

I wonder if Walt is looking for the original art right now?

CORRECTIONS, UPDATES, QUICK THOUGHTS, AND MORE

* I mentioned last week how impressed I was at FABLES and Y: THE LAST man being only $2.50 per issue, despite relatively low sales. Well, I goofed. Y is $2.95, and always has been. I'll stand by my surprise at FABLES, though. I guess the movie deal helped, and the trade sales must be very good.

* Also from last week: Robert Kirkman writes in to note that the reason for CLOUDFALL: LOOSE ENDS' cancellation was simply low sales. Don't cry for him, though, as he still has another dozen books to write, including a run on CAPTAIN AMERICA later this year. E.J. Su can currently be seen drawing the pages of VOLTRON.

[Fantastic Four 511]* When I heard that Marvel's family of superheroes met God in FANTASTIC FOUR #511, I immediately knew what the gag would be. Johnny's "Anyone see that coming?" made me laugh out loud. Thankfully, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo take it to a level beyond just the obvious, and add in layers that are sweet and meaningful. While I'm sure many will think of this as a cheap cop-out, I'm inclined to be a softie on this one and enjoy it.

* Congratulations to Scott Shaw! on reaching his 1,000th edition of Oddball Comics on Friday. That's one heck of an impressive run. I shudder to think that Pipeline is only halfway there.

Pipeline Commentary and Review continues on next week. I think I'll have an interview for it. At last.

Various and Sundry updated this week with a detailed account of my visit to Avril Lavigne's mall concert tour, more AMERICAN IDOL dissections, Amazon's disappearing wish lists, a memo to Mandy Moore, news on the SLEDGEHAMMER DVDs, pre-ordering lessons in the videogame world, and more.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

Nearly 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.

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