Pipeline

Tue, May 6th, 2008 at 3:26pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

A SOMEWHAT MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Mrs. Pipeline and I married a year ago. This year, we've decided to do this:

For those of you unfamiliar with the orange blurb you see above, that's a picture inside my wife's mid-section. There's a baby in there. The small child will grace the world with its presence 'round about October 2nd.

So listen up, comics world: I want you to clean up your act in the next five months. No more raping, killing, murdering, planet-breaking, torturing, decompressing, marriage-undoing, retconning, impenetrable continuity-ing, and delaying. I apologize for the late notice, but no child of mine will be putting up with that kind of crap. I refuse to expose the little darling to it.

Also: Pipeline might be late that month. My apologies in advance, but I'm sure you'll understand.

A SAD FAREWELL

A couple of weeks ago, Dave Campbell closed up his Long Box for good. We all mourn the loss of one of the comics blogosphere's brightest lights, while at the same time envying his current career as a professional blogger for ABC. Not a bad step up, eh?

Dave and I shared a strong belief that Drake Hogestyn is the unsung acting hero of our generation's time. He's William Shatner and Sir Laurence Olivier combined, yet trapped on daytime television. Read Dave's Ode To Drake ,and view the YouTube videos for just a few morsels of the man's hammy genius.

Dave is also the man to blame for AIRWOLF!, The S.H.I.E.L.D. Career Power Seminar, Boob War, and (my favorite) Saliva Strand Syndrome.

The blog will be missed. Thanks for all the laughs, Dave!

ROBIN ME BLIND

"Robin" #173
Chuck Dixon has been back on "Robin" for a few issues now, and his teasing of the Spoiler mystery continues with "Robin" #173. This is another fine outing for Dixon, who moves the book along with a swiftness that many veteran writers still haven't figured out how to do. Dixon knows how to move a story. Even the quieter moments have settings that lend extra tension and interest to them. It's often the little things that make a book so interesting, and keep a comic book from looking so static.

I had to look up artist Chris Batista's history over at ComicBookDB.com. His is a name I know I've heard of somewhere, but couldn't quite figure out where that was. I know he did some more recent work in "52," but surely there was something before that. There was: He did a short run on "The Legion" five years ago, and before that followed up Kevin Maguire on "Trinity Angels." His artistic history goes back even further, though. His first published work came in 1992 in an issue of "X-Men Adventures," before moving onto "Marvel Swimsuit Special #2" that same year.

I think it's the "Trinity Angels" gig that makes the most sense to me. His artwork in this issue of "Robin" has that Maguire-esque feel to it. His characters have weight and volume. Their faces are very expressive, and built to be so from the outset. Characters look realistically-posed without being obviously traced through Photoshop. His art might not be the most dynamic, but it gets the job done in an entertaining way. His storytelling is particularly sharp, though the speedlines and bursts that appear when a character is physically thrown against something are a little jarring. They feel like slightly older-school comic book storytelling.

While I'm at it, kudos to colorist Guy Major for keeping this book bright and not overly rendered. He's not afraid to use more than one color in a scene, and makes sure the reader can clearly read the art. He's not showing off here by adding five o'clock shadows to every man's face, or adding shadows in parts that the artist hasn't drawn. He's letting the artist carry the book, and is supporting the storytelling with the colors. That's an increasingly rare trait in an age where Photoshop makes anything possible and far too many colorists kneel at the altar of "realism" and fancy effects shots.

That all said, if there's any way to reunite Dixon with Pete Woods on this title, I'd be a very very happy man.

It might be too early to tell if you can go home again in this case, but I think the early signs are promising and strong. "Robin" is well worth a read again.

I AM (watching) IRON MAN

"Iron Man" opened worldwide this weekend
I think the last movie I saw in the theaters was "Transformers." This past weekend, I saw the sequel, though they curiously called it "Iron Man."

Kidding.

Though I thought the street battle sequence at the end reminded me of "Transformers," this one definitely stands on its own. "Iron Man" is two solid hours of fast-paced superhero spectacle. I'm not going to rank it with the other superhero movies right now. It's too soon. I will say, though, that I was not disappointed, even after the incredible build-up the movie has had in the last couple of weeks. If anything, I feel sorry for "Hulk 2," which has a lot to live up to in a couple of months.

I went to the movie theater in my preferred viewing window: Saturday morning at 10:45. Some relatives and friends find it absurd to go to the movie by yourself on a Saturday morning, but that's when I have the best time. If you wait for a couple of weeks, you'll often get a mostly-empty movie theater with the best seats in the house available, and considerably fewer cell phones ringing than you typically get on a Friday or Saturday night. I can't recommend it enough. Judging from some interviews I've read in the past, it seems a number of comics professionals also enjoy the freedom of their freelancing lifestyle to hit the theaters alone on a weekday afternoon.

Having said all that, I didn't necessarily get all the benefits of that time slot on the opening weekend for a movie like "Iron Man." In fact, I think half the audience was packed with soccer moms toting their eight to ten year old boys to the movies. I don't mean that as a pejorative. I saw several boys decked out in the soccer uniforms in the theater. I thought soccer was more a fall sport than spring, but what do I know?

In any case, it's always a good thing to see a younger generation excited by a superhero. I wished I had brought a stack of Free Comic Book Day fliers with me to the theaters. I bet 95% of those kids have never held a comic book in their hands, and none of them were about to beg their parents for one. They more likely went across the street to the toy store for an action figure, at best. More likely, they all went to the Wendy's across the street and took whatever the Kids Meal toy was there. Judging by the product placement at the end of the movie, I think the only Iron Man toys out there would be at Burger King.

That all said, the kids were remarkably well behaved. I didn't have the usual problems with tykes constantly asking their parents what's going on through the entire movie. Stadium seating is also a big help. Those kids aren't at ear level in front of or behind me. It's worth driving the extra ten minutes down the road for that.

It's a lot of fun to pay attention to the crowds at a superhero movie, content with the knowledge that you know more than anyone else in the theater about the movie and the characters therein. No, I am not being condescending here. I'm honestly curious about "civilian" reaction. It's nice to blend into the crowd and take it all in.

The 20-something gentleman with his girlfriend and her sister seated next to me, for example, thought "The Spirit" movie trailer stunk. He hissed "Dick Tracy" during it. I hadn't considered that before, but I can see where someone would see that trailer and be reminded of the Warren Beatty vehicle from 1990. (I happened to enjoy that one more than most, though.)

I also greatly enjoyed the new "Indiana Jones" trailer, and even the "Hulk 2" trailer, though I had just seen it the night before thanks to the glory of an Apple TV.

The oddest reaction to a line of dialogue in the movie was near the end when the character referred to his agency as "S.H.I.E.L.D." I heard a couple of "a-ha"s and "cool"s muttered in the crowd. I had two reactions to that. First, they didn't put that together the first two times in the movie the agency's horrific mouthful of a name was said explicitly? Second, if they couldn't figure that out, how did they know "S.H.I.E.L.D." in the first place? From the David Hasselhoff movie?!?

I stayed through to the end of the credits to see the Nick Fury cameo. The theater was packed during the movie, with something along the lines of 100-150 people in it. That can't be considered bad for a 10:45 a.m. showing of a movie that's playing at least once every hour all weekend long. An interesting subset stuck through to the end, either because they expect an extra scene at the end of a superhero movie now, or because they had heard about it. I have to believe you need to have heard of the extra scene before sitting through ten minutes of credits with the lights turned up and the employees of the theater darting through the rows to throw out the popcorn and sodas that the patrons are too lazy and self-important to take to the garbage at the bottom of the stairs themselves. (Don't get me started.)

Those who stayed were the comics folk. I could tell. There were about a dozen of us. Maybe 15. Only five of those people were there with others. The rest of us were loners who just wanted to see the movie on our own schedules and fit it in where we could. While I wasn't seeking vindication on my enjoyment of seeing movies by myself, it was nice to see I wasn't alone.

These were probably the only other people in the theater who had an inner geek moment when a "Roxxon" sign showed up briefly in the background during the movie. They're the knowing ones who expect "Iron Man 2: Armor Wars" (my title, not anything officially announced or anything) to include the War Machine. They're the ones most likely to be reading this.

I won't get into a full review here. You've likely read a dozen reviews of the movie already. I have one or two nit-picks, but they're not show stoppers or mood dampeners. I even liked the cartoon physics of the whole thing. I'm glad I made the time to see it. I look forward to the sequel. Let's hope the rest of the summer lives up to this high standard.

One comics-related oddity: This week, Marvel releases "The Invincible Iron Man" #1 (the subject of this week's COMMENTARY TRACK), "Marvel Adventures: Two In One" #11 (featuring a reprint of "Marvel Adventures: Iron Man" #3), and "Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas" #1 (written by the movie's director). I'm hardly a marketing guru, but wouldn't those three books have been perfect items to sell to the fresh-from-the-movie crowd on Free Comic Book Day last week?!?

MORE BOOM! BOOKS TO GO

A couple of weeks ago, Boom! provided an autographed copy of their LEFT ON MISSION trade paperback for one lucky Pipeline fan. This week, we have two books and two contests to go along with them.

The first is "Keith Giffen's Tag: Cursed," the sequel to "Keith Giffen's Tag," I would imagine. This time, Michael S. Leib handles the writing duties, and his autograph adorns the book. This was a five part mini-series, and the trade carries a list price of $14.99.

The second is "Cover Girl," autographed by co-writer Kevin Church. Yes, that's the same Kevin who writes for the CBR Reviews section. Andrew Cosby is the co-writer, with art from Mateus Santoluoco. This is another five-parter that lists for $14.99. I reviewed it back in December.

We'll use the same rules as last week: No geographic limitations. Come on, come all. One entry per book per person. Send your name and the mailing address you want me to send the book to in an e-mail to me at augie@comicbookresources.com. You can enter for both books, but you must do so with separate e-mails. I'll pick two winners at random. Just include "Tag" in your subject header for the first book, and "Cover Girl" for the second.

Entries are due by noon on Friday, East Coast USA time. I'll announce the winner or winners in next week's column. Good luck!

And, yes, I'll delete all the e-mails after the winner has been picked, and will not be selling addresses, either snail mail or e-mail.

Void where prohibited by law. I've always wanted to say that.

TWO OTHER THINGS

First, check out the Free Comic Book Day coverage of the Image Founders signing here at CBR. It looked like a lot of geektastic fun. I was happy to see lots of the original Image books showing up at the signing for autographs, not just the post-millennial stuff.

Second, Dateline: NBC will be telling the story of the Michael George murder case on Friday night. Sadly, it looks like the graphics whizzes over there have already broken out the Comic Sans font and will no doubt add plenty of "BAM! POW! ZAP!" crappiness to the tale. ::sigh::

Next week: We go back to the original art files. And a few reviews. The comics business is an amorphous thing, so you never know what will hit the news in the next week to inspire me to write a thousand more words. Click back here next week to find out!

The Various and Sundry blog carries on, with all the stuff you've come to expect from the blog and occasionally something new: DVD releases, Twitter compilations, "American Idol" recaps, oddball musings, and more. Also: Barenaked Ladies have a new children's CD out this week, and Steven Spielberg releases a Wii game. Interesting week.

If you're really interested in what daily news bits grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more, the best way to track is it at the Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.

The only social network I regularly appear on is Twitter. It's a very fun place with low overhead and the least number of annoyances of any Web 2.0 site, aside from an unstable infrastructure.

Everything else: The Pipeline Podcast, ComicSpace, and a Tumblr Blog.

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.

More than 800 columns -- nearly eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

TAGS:  iron man movie, robin, boom! studios, chuck dixon

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