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Tue, August 19th, 2008 at 2:32pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

KIRKMAN AND CREATORS

Robert Kirkman's creator-owned "Invincible"

One of the big talking points of the last week in comics was Robert Kirkman's Manifesto. Man, we haven't had a good public Manifesto-reading since, when, the earlier days of the Warren Ellis Forum? We had one a week back in the Manifesto's Golden Age.

Maybe Kirkman will start a new trend?

Seriously, though, Kirkman started the conversations he envisioned, so his mission was successful. He's never going to get that dream cruise going with Quesada and Levitz, et. al., talking about how to stop their money-printing machines in favor of Kirkman's business fantasy. Even if he could, the concept of the Captains of 80% of the Comics Industry coming together to discuss their best ways to limit top creators' salaries to push them elsewhere just smacks of collusion and would never hold up in court.

But the main thrust of his argument is sound. Creators need to create their own intellectual properties as a means of providing themselves a long-term future. Their retirement plan can't be Marvel and DC reprints of their latest works. It has to be self-fulfilling. Creator ownership and control is a huge part of that.

The part where he thinks those creators need to run away from Marvel and DC to create a brand that can only be found on an independent title is a little iffier. Those words sound like Todd McFarlane's, at the start of Image Comics. It was Todd who thought the other partners who had plans of continuing their work at Marvel were nuts. In the end, they all left Marvel for a while, anyway, but it was Todd's belief (and likely still is) that a successful creator needs to give his or her fans only one place to find his or her works -- and that place isn't Marvel/DC.

In the end, the point is obvious, but it's always a good idea to have someone bring it up again and make people think about it. Ask 100 different creators, though, and you'll likely wind up with 100 different plans on how to make it work. Kirkman found a way that seems to be working for him, and we all wish him luck on it. Some creators might benefit from taking that same path, others not so much.

Taking the argument out to its logical ends, would comics readers who were denied Superman and Spider-Man comics stay in the medium? Would they just follow their favorites Superman and Spider-Man creators to romance comics, westerns, thrillers, or crime dramas? I'd like to think that's possible, but I think it's a pipe dream.

I'm naturally cynical, though, and think the biggest problem facing comics is more of a distribution and economics one, not a raw IP material one.

Let the conversation begin anew.

PREVIEWS AND SPOILERS

Scott V. has a modern dilemma, thanks to the "Previews" catalog he's recently been picking up:

. . .because the solicitations are so far ahead, the descriptions of the comics contain spoiler references to events that haven't been published yet!Doesn't this bother you?  They aren't major spoilers, but just the annoying kind. Like, I know now that the citizens of Kandor are going to descend on Metropolis... clearly a climax or conclusion to the current Braniac Superman arc...Curious to know your thoughts on this issue...

Scott knows this, but for those coming in late: "Previews" wasn't created to be a consumer-level magazine. Its original focus was to give retailers enough information to order comics two or three months in advance in sufficient and profitable numbers. It morphed into a consumer publication in the early 90s. (It was much thinner at first, with fewer cover images. Like the web, it started off text-driven with simple column layouts.)

One of the problems with this is that those who craft the write-ups have to be careful not to spoil the next issue or two of a series that are due out before the issue solicited in "Previews." And, sometimes, plans change. Books are delayed. Crossovers make everything into a wild card. Stuff, to put it succinctly, happens.

Marvel redacted names and details in their "Civil War" solicitations a couple years ago. (Can you believe it's been two years since that series started already?) DC has obscured characters with silhouettes from their covers to keep their appearance a surprise, such as in a team book's first issue when a character's status is meant to be a surprise. And Marvel's write-ups have just gotten funny to help cover up the fact that it's often difficult to discuss an issue at all without spoiling next month's.

It hasn't bothered me that much, honestly, because I tend to skim through the monthly comics in "Previews." The Pipeline Previews Podcast -- when it happens -- focuses on the collected editions. There are just way too many single issues for me to read about all of them. I look at the pretty covers, scan for first issues, and check creative teams, especially on titles such as "Jonah Hex," where the artistic lineup is a revolving door. Rarely do I read the text associated with an issue.

When I do, though, the spoilers don't bother me so much. When it comes to Marvel and DC books, in particular, we know Lois isn't really going to die (or stay dead for long, if she does). We know the epic conclusion of a storyline will result in the hero's win. In the end, it's not about the "what" but about the "how." How do we get to that epic finale? How does Spider-Man win the fight? How does that fight lead to repercussions in his life months or weeks down the line?

I do try to avoid spoilers, but I'm not terribly annoyed when I see them anymore. Part of that is an occupational danger. I edit the CBR Reviews section these days, and read plenty of reviews of books I haven't had the chance to read yet. But I can still enjoy those books later on.

The only other wrinkle is the trade-waiters. If you're avoiding monthly comics to buy the trade paperbacks and hardcover collections, avoid "Previews" completely. It's the only way to stay sane.

Thanks for the question, Scott! If anyone else has a burning question they'd like answered in the column, drop me a line. I'll see what I can do.

THE STARMAN OMNIBUS AND A CASE OF BAD TIMING

I've spent the last couple of weeks praising the glory that is the first volume of "The Starman Omnibus." But I mentioned at the end of last week's thoughts on James Robinson's work on the series that DC frustrated me a great deal with the book. How's that? It's all about the scheduling.

Why is it going to take nearly a year for the second volume in the series to come out? DC has had great buzz with this first volume. I haven't seen a single bad word written or spoken of it yet. It's a revitalization of a series that never got the collected editions it deserves in today's market. For many, it's their first chance to read about one of the books oft-praised as being a shining light in a sea of drek that was mid-1990s comics. (That time frame wasn't nearly as bad as you'd think, but there were some tropes and ticks that far too many creators synched up on for whatever reason.)

I'm not saying that the second edition should come out the next month, or even a month later. But I would think that six months is as far apart as you'd want to push it. Release two volumes of "Starman" a year and you'd wrap up the series in less than three years. As it is, I'll have forgotten nearly everything I've read in this first volume by the time the second comes out sometime in the first quarter of 2009.

Let's give DC the benefit of the doubt, though. It's possible that production work on the book takes up more time that we can imagine, particularly given that the original issues were shot from film, not digital files. That shouldn't be a problem with the concurrent "Y the Last Man" and "Ex Machina" Omnibus editions, though. I also hope having three such projects running at the same time isn't impacting the schedule.

Or, perhaps this first book was a dipped toe in the waters. Maybe they didn't realize it would be as popular as it seems to be. Now, they can act on that knowledge and schedule volume 3 for sometime earlier than 2010. I hope so. I'd hate to see sales on future volumes plummet when the momentum is lost on the series.

"The Starman Omnibus" is still worth a read. DC has a good record when it comes to keeping things in print. In the worst case scenario, I'd suggest not buying the books right away until more have been released. Create your own accelerated pace by giving DC more lead time.

In the meantime, the rest of us who've already read the Omnibus can either go dig out our original issues -- if we still have them -- or keep ourselves busy reading the ten thousand other interesting comics that will come out before Volume 2 sees the light of day.

QUICK THOUGHTS

  • In seeing headlines announcing Image's new "McKeever Library," my first reaction was, "Great! Finally we can read 'The Waiting Place' in one big book format!"

    Then I realized it was Ted McKeever, not Sean. Nevermind.

  • There was once a time when you didn't have ComicList.com to rely on. You'd just go to the comics shop and see what was new and arrange your budget on the spot. How did we do it? And is that why I can't keep track of what books are "due" from week to week? I rely on seeing an internet-based list of comics, so I don't think about the next issue until it's either (a) really late or (b) on the new comics release list for that week.

  • Will DC announce a new "Spirit" collection to go along with the movie? With "Watchmen" getting a new printing, and Dark Horse always slapping stickers on their books when movies are made of them, wouldn't a "Best of Spirit" trade with stories featuring characters from the movie be in order here? If the movie is a hit, they'd sell as a single point of interest for those movie-goers. They'd sell well on that front table in Borders in the mall attached to the movie theater.

  • In case you missed it -- and I nearly did -- the latest edition of "Previews" solicits for a new four-issue "Top Ten" series written by Zander Cannon, with art by Gene Ha. That's the best news of the month.
TEN YEARS AGO

Let's go back to the archives and take a look at the comics I bought this week in 1998, ten years ago.

"Captain America" #10: I admit that I had to look this one up to see just which "Captain America" #10 issue this was. It's post-"Heroes Reborn," with Mark Waid writing and Andy Kubert drawing. I have to admit that I don't remember the story this one at all. I should plunk in that "Complete Captain America" DVD to freshen up my memory.

"Heroes for Hire" #16: This was such a fun series when John Ostrander was using the over-the-top Stan Lee narrator voice. Sadly, it didn't last long enough. This is also the series that died before we could find out about the return of K'un-Lun for Iron Fist, a plotline that Marvel would be asked about sealing up for years afterwards. And, go figure, Iron Fist would get a popular series eight or nine years after this.

"Superboy" #56: This was a fun series, back in its day. This issue, "Here There Be. . . Monsters" was written by Karl Kesel and drawn by Tom Grummett. Can't go wrong there.

That run would be followed by one with writers Eddie Berganza and Joe Kelly, then Jimmy Palmiotti with his writing partner, Dan DiDio. Seriously. DiDio was the co-author of a book that got cancelled in 2002.

"X-Men" #80: It cost an extra buck because it was a "Giant-Sized Milestone Issue!" A new team was created, a dream was reborn, etc. etc. Joe Kelly wrote and Brandon Peterson drew. I enjoyed the X-Men in those days, even with Maggot and Marrow. Andy Kubert -- him again -- resumed as regular artist on the series with the next issue.

"Young Heroes in "Love #17: That's funny. I thought this series died earlier than this. I'd still like to see an Omnibus-style collection of it in full color, though. It was a fun series.

The first three titles had standard $1.99 pricing. The X-Men issue was up to $2.99, and "Young Heroes" was treading water with a $2.50 price point.

In some ways, it's interesting to note that comic prices have only gone up 50% in the last decade. In other ways, it's alarming to note that the average comic price has jumped up 50% in the last decade.

PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR 13 AUGUST 2008

The tour of the new De Blieck house reaches its end, as last week's podcast was recorded in the kitchen. Next week, Pipeline World Headquarters settles into its new home upstairs in the spare bedroom at the new computer desk. We'll see how the acoustics work in that room.

The podcast runs about 15 minutes and will cost you four megabytes' worth of bandwidth. It's a small price to pay for such a rich podcast, don't you think?

Also, Pipeline is joining the fight for iTunes' notice. Please click on this link and leave your review of the podcast today! Every comment helps rank the podcast higher than Comic Geek Speak -- wait, no. I mean, it helps the podcast rise up the ladder of podcasting prominence and benefits all of comics kind.

Yeah, that's it.

Let's get to that top ten list now:

10. "Frank Frazetta's Dracula Meets The Wolf-Man"
9. "Secret Invasion" #5 (of 8)
8. "Punisher" #60
7. "Black Diamond Get In The Car And Go" TP
6. "Walking Dead" #51
5. "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #11
4. "X-Men Origins: Jean Grey"
3. "Justice League International" HC Vol 02
2. "Treasury Of 20th Century Vol 01 Murder Of Lindbergh Child"
1. "Robin Year One" TP (New Printing)

And I stand by that choice. That's a great "Robin" book right there.

Don't forget to check out one of the other podcasts I mentioned in the show this week: Around Comics, Collected Comics Library, Comic Geek Speak.

That should keep you busy until next week!

Seriously, I have no chance against the CGS Army. They are too numerous. But I thank you for your reviews.

Next week: I'll be back. This column will be back. We'll talk comics. It'll be fun.

The Various and Sundry blog is still updating daily. Barely.

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:  robert kirkman, starman, preview

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