Pipeline

Tue, July 15th, 2008 at 3:24pm PDT | Updated: July 15th, 2008 at 3:24pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE #0

The regular mini-series will start later this year, but Marvel wants to remind you that it's still in the works. "Captain America: White" #0 is a standalone 17-page story giving us the origin of Bucky. I'm not well enough versed in Captain America lore to vouch for its "authenticity," but it works for me. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale glide across the story, giving enough character to hook us in while showing us a plot without overexplaining it. Steve Rogers provides the narration, which works well to give the story its final sad twist. It also provides some characterization that's not always explicit in the action. In other words, the text adds to the story instead of repeating the art. That's Comics 101 there.

As you'd expect in a Loeb/Sale collaboration, the storytelling is LARGE. You're getting splash pages, double-page splashes, and lots of big images in this story, though there are a few "talking heads" pages that comfortably squeeze up to eight panels in a page.

Tim Sale's art has one weak spot in this issue, but it's an important one. You know going in that Sale is a very stylistic artist, but his Captain America is a little too stylized for me. It's good to make Cap look gangly, given his origins, but it's a bit too much for me at the moment. I'm not sure yet if I need to get used to that, or if Sale is still searching for his "take" on Cap. Maybe this story is just a test run for that? I don't know. By the time the first or second issue of the mini-series officially hits stands, it'll be easier to tell.

Captain America is also not an easy character to abstract. You can contort Spider-Man or play up Batman's cape or Hulk's monstrous nature or Superman's superhuman musculature. I'm not sure what you do with Captain America -- make the star on his chest even bigger? Tim Sale has more than earned the benefit of the doubt, so I'll trust that he'll figure it out, or I'll grow used to it quickly enough.

Thankfully, Sale is back to using washes. I love the way they add a different dimension to his art than what we see in 99% of the rest of comics today. It really sculpts the art, and gives the pages a mood. (It's what made "Daredevil: Yellow" my favorite of the color mini-series.) The fantastic coloring of Dave Stewart strongly comes into play with this style, as well. Stewart is the one who makes the color-blind Sale look like an expert painter. It's brilliant stuff. I love this look, and there's nobody better at it in comics today than Sale and Stewart.

The last dozen pages of the issue are jam packed with an interview by Richard Starkings of both Loeb and Sale, accompanied by a lot of black and white Sale art -- convention sketches, pencil work of pages in progress, and more. If you liked the recent Sale art book at Image, you'll enjoy seeing this issue.

All in all, Loeb's story moves at a rapid clip, never forgetting characterization, and supplying a couple of nice moments that will make you smile. It's good to see Sale's art in a comic again, even if there are some rough edges that I hope will be worked out as the project develops.

Even if you're waiting for the trade/hardcover on this series, you can pick up this issue on its own merits and find something to enjoy, I think.

WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN -- EXCEPT COMIC PRICES

It's a miracle they haven't gone up already. We're lucky that the $2.99 price point has lasted as long as it has. I've been convinced for the last couple of months that the next edition of "Previews" would break the news that Marvel or DC was hiking up their cover prices across the line. At the rate the economy is going these days, I wouldn't be surprised to see them raised retroactively.

"Hey, you know those books we solicited last month that you already put your final orders in for? They're all returnable. They're all also $3.50 now."

In between issues of "Previews," those are the voices I hear in my head. It's maddening.

I think the next price jump will be to $3.50, and the muttering over the high price of comics will be heard again. I just don't think we'll see mass defections of readership until we hit $3.99, though. $3.50 is still too much, but the ratio isn't outrageous. When comics went up from $1.00 to $1.25, it meant you could only buy four comics for $5, instead of five. When prices rise up from $3.00 to $3.50, it means you'll only get six comics for $21, instead of seven. With a hike from $3.00 to $3.99, though, your $12 will only buy you three comics instead of four.

This is likely all mental and not based strictly on the math. The $3.50 price point is outrageous for a comic book these days, though not a complete deal breaker.

The answer lies in digital distribution, of course, but the system on which this industry is based -- the Direct Market -- won't make for an easy transition.

We'll see $3.50 for "Amazing Spider-Man" by December. I'm sure of it. Check back here in three months to see if I'm right.

Related: John Jakala wonders how long those free shipping offers will last at their current levels. I think the one thing that prevents Amazon, for example, from increasing its $25 minimum order is that most people are already overshooting that limit by a big degree. Why raise the minimum when the orders are already averaging $30 or more? It's just bad press for little change.

PREVIEWS FOR SEPTEMBER 2008

There will not be a PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST this month. As I've mentioned previously, I'm "between homes" at the moment, and setting up a two way podcast is impossible in July for me. Hopefully, we'll jump right back into it next month with the October shipping comics and beyond.

For now, though, there are three few things I caught in the latest catalog that deserve a mention.

  • The most exciting object for my inner geek is page 541. "Star Trek: The Complete Collection DVD" is a single disc compiling every "Star Trek" comic produced from 1967 through today. Yes, that includes the awful original series that Checker Books has reprinted, through to Peter David's memorable DC run, right up to IDW's titles today. The solicitation text says there are over 550 issues and annuals on the disc. For $50, it's a nice deal.
    And if they include the letters columns in the files, you can see my earliest published writings. I apologize in advance. I was young.
  • The ad for "Broken Girls" on page 193 easily wins the award for least effective black censor bars ever. But, then, that's probably the point.
  • Antarctic Press is publishing "Far West Pocket Manga," Volume 1. The 128 page black and white book will reprint Richard Moore's pre-"Boneyard" work in a smaller format that the kids love. I remember buying the first collection in an oversized black and white format a few years back. It's $15 this time around. It's not for kids, as I remember, but "Boneyard" fans looking for a fix might enjoy the art on it. (The last pre-hiatus "Boneyard" issue is also in this catalog.)
PODCASTING PANEL, 2008

A couple of weeks ago at Wizard World: Chicago, there was another Comics Podcasting panel. I wish I could have been there. Having listened to the audio of it now, I thought I'd answer a few questions that came up on the panel. I probably should do this as a special edition of the podcast, but I thought it would be good to cross-promote here in text.

Please, introduce yourself and your show.

My name is Augie De Blieck. I've been podcasting since the first week of January, 2005. The Pipeline Podcast is a weekly look at the new comics being released, complete with a Top Ten list of the most exciting ones for me.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed directly or through iTunes.

(And, yes, I would have included the links in my introduction on the panel. ;-)

Do you shoot for a specific show length?

Yes. I try to do the weekly show in 10 - 15 minutes, though lately it's been closer to 20. There are so many hour-long podcasts out there that a shorter show should reach a big audience. It can be more convenient. I really like to think of the podcast as something someone could listen to on their drive to the comic shop. That's why I try to get it out Tuesday night, also.

Why a solo choice? Is it a choice, or do you have no friends?

Yes. It's a personal choice. I do the PIPELINE PREVIEWS PODCAST with Jamie Tarquini most months, but trying to coordinate schedules and put in the time to research it properly is a lot of work. Doing my own thing means I'm in total control. I'm a control freak.

Is it difficult to get guests?

That's another reason I do a solo show. I fit it into my schedule. With an interview show, I'd have to fit it into a different person's schedule every week. That's a headache I'm not willing to put up with.

I have done some interviews, though, back in the fall of 2006. They came out well, but it's (again) more preparation, more editing, etc. Plus, I'm not sure I'm that good an interviewer. I'll leave it to the pros.

How do you feel about show notes?

They are great things. I really should do them more often. I try to add them in at the bottom of each week's Pipeline column now. That's the goal. Maybe we'll get back to doing separate columns for show notes in the future. I'm still new to the back end of the new CBR design.

Do you listen to each other's podcasts?

Yup. Currently, I regularly listen to Around Comics, iFanboy, Word Balloon, and Collected Comics Library. I also subscribe to Comic Geek Speak and Fanboy Radio, but only listen to those depending on the topic.

How do you not burn out?

There's a new batch of comics out every week. What's there to burn out over? There's ALWAYS something new. And I have the freedom to go off-format if I feel I need the break or just have another idea.

Is there a financial model?

Not a successful one. Not one that'll let me quit the day job. Stop reminding me of my pain.

There are people who successfully make their living podcasting, but their audiences are exponentially larger than any comics podcast will ever have. Or, they're doing podcasts for larger companies -- podcast-for-hire, if you will.

It's very similar to the blogging model.

Do you have a favorite moment from a specific podcast?

I'd have to go back to those interview shows I mentioned a while back. I can remember talking to Peter David for about an hour, and I think we spent half of it talking bowling. I left some of it in the interview, but left out the parts where he offered me some advice on my bowling swing. That was pretty cool.

What's the best part of doing the show?

I love sitting in front of the microphone after I have everything set up, and creating something. I love that feeling of production. I love knowing that there will be people out there listening to me. It's a great feeling of accomplishment and a great ego boost.

What is the future of podcasting?

The corporations and broadcast professionals will take over completely. They're mostly already there. Just look at iTunes.

But there will also be parallel tracks of "amateurs" and enthusiasts. The barrier for entry is so low that the major corporations can't destroy podcasting. They can change the majority of it into something else, but they can't kick the rest of us out. Maybe the independent podcast producers will fit on a separate track. Maybe a new open source iTunes-like delivery service will cater to just those folks looking for the kinds of podcasts that fuelled this movement before ABC, NBC, etc. attempted to co-opt it for themselves.

What other kind of podcast would you do, if you didn't do comics?

I used to a do weekly DVD podcast, but that time has passed. The exciting growth period of that industry is long over, and I don't have the time to watch as many movies.

If I had to do another podcast today, I'd like to do a show to accompany my blog, VariousandSundry.com. It could cover whatever I'd want it to cover. I could expand on my posts from during the week, hit on the news of the week that I didn't write up in the blog, etc.

Failing that, I'd love to do a music podcast. Sadly, the music industry makes it a near impossible task. At the very least, it's not worth the effort. I used to do music radio in college and had a lot of fun putting together some weird combination of songs. I did a couple of "All Cartoon Music" hours once upon a time. Any hour of radio that ends with the audio from "What's Opera, Doc?" is a classic, if I do say so myself.

LINKS TO THE COMICS UNIVERSE

  • We had a new COMMENTARY TRACK last week from Johanna Stokes, looking at her new mini-series, "Station," from Boom! Studios. It's a great book that made for an interesting Track.
  • I recently talked about the completion of Chuck Austen's "Boys of Summer" OEL series at TokyoPop. Guess what? It's not happening now. Consider it canceled, likely never to be seen despite having been finished. Shame.
  • Wow, the DVD set for M.A.N.T.I.S. has been delayed yet again. Meanwhile, nobody's hinted at a VR.5 DVD set. I'm sad.
  • Comic Sans sucks. Here's an improvement: Serious Sans.
  • Here's a tool for letterers: It's a thesaurus that returns synonyms with fewer characters. It's good for when you absolutely, positively have to squeeze that last word into a panel and don't mind ticking off the writer by changing his carefully chosen words.
  • The Comic Geek Speak interview with Joe Rubinstein is a must-listen. He's just far enough out of comics to speak his mind, and the Geeks let him. I look forward to his return.
  • CGS has also spun off a new podcast discussing French comics. Sounds like it'll be right up my alley.
RELEASE LIST FROM FIVE YEARS AGO

Over the last couple of weeks, I've looked at my comics collection spreadsheet to see what it tells me about my habits from the last 15 years of collecting. One thing the spreadsheet allows me to do is look at what comics I bought on which week. While I don't have all the dates from the earliest entries, they're pretty solid from the last 10 years.

Let's see what I was buying at my local comic shop five years ago this week:

"Arrowsmith" #1: This was the fun fantasy series from Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco, published through the "Cliffhanger" imprint. Haven't heard much from it in a long time now. I thought there was going to be a sequel, but I can't find any evidence of that happening.

"Batgirl: Year One" #8: This was a long shot for my choice of Absolute editions last week. It won't ever happen, but it was a very pretty book, done in the wake of the successful four-part "Robin: Year One" mini.

"Batman: Gotham Knights" #43: Where is Devin Grayson these days, anyway?

"Burglar Bill" #1: I liked this book. Too bad Paul Grist's track record for publishing things on a schedule isn't terribly good. Really, pick on Rob Liefeld or Joe Madureira all you want, but then take a look at Grist's history.

"Fantastic Four" #500: This was the "Director's Cut" from the anniversary issue by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo. Ah, those were good times.

"Gotham Central" #9: Soon to be reprinted in hardcover, five years later! I was still reading the book monthly at that point. I fell behind a few months later and never caught up. That's why I'm looking forward to the hardcovers.

"Hip Flask: Elephantman" #1: I just reviewed the Ladronn art book three weeks ago.

"Teen Titans" #1: This was the series Mike McKone started out drawing, wasn't it? I didn't read it for too long.

"The Thing: Night Falls on Yancy Street" #1: Evan Dorkin and Dean Haspiel combined for an entertaining four-parter. I think Tom Orzechowksi lettered it. I don't think the series ever got collected in a trade paperback, though.

"Y The Last Man" #13: Just about everything I wrote about "Gotham Central" above applies to this, though I lasted a lot longer in reading "Y" monthly.

Maybe next week I'll look ten years back. I hope I have the dates for those books. 1998 was probably an interesting year.

PIPELINE PODCAST FOR 10 JULY 2008

Sure enough, new comics were released on Thursday last week here in America, and THE PIPELINE PODCAST was released right along with it. You can listen to that podcast now. It's about 15 minutes long.

Here's the top ten list for the week:

10. Aces Curse Of The Red Baron GN

9. Captain Britain And Mi 13 #3, Guardians Of The Galaxy #3

8. Ultimate Origins #2

7. Captain America White #0

6. Comic Foundry Magazine Vol 1 #3

5. Criminal TP Vol 03 Dead And Dying

4. Kyle Baker Nat Turner HC or SC

3. Secret Invasion #4

2. Steve Niles Strange Cases #4

1. Halo & Sprocket TP Vol 02 Natural Creatures

Check out HaloAndSprocket.com for all the information on the #1 book of the week, including sample pages and dirt cheap digital comic samplers.

I'm still not attending San Diego this year. Nor am I doing daily updates during the convention. Pipeline will maintain its normal weekly schedule throughout the summer. Next week, I'll be looking more at comics of the past, including books whose second issues I'd love to see. And, maybe, just maybe, I'll highlight some interesting con panels I doubt we'll see coverage of at the major comics websites.

The Various and Sundry blog is still going strong, looking at very bad user interface design on ATM machines, DVD releases, and more.

I've become more active in discussing comics stuff on my Twitter feed of late, though I also muse on anything that catches my fancy at any given moment.

The daily news bits that grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more can be found at my Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.

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

TAGS:  pipeline, jeph loeb, tim sale, captain america: white

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