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Tue, September 16th, 2008 at 2:28pm PDT | Updated: September 17th, 2008 at 12:55am

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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A TOUR OF THE BOOKCASE

The move that I've seemingly talked about all summer is complete. In the last couple of weeks, I've been busily loading in as many comics as possible into the spare bedroom that functions as guest room and den. It comes complete with a closet that currently holds a dozen DrawerBoxes, but will soon hold more.

The best part of the room, though, is the bookcase. It's an IKEA "Billy" special, measuring about seven feet tall and three feet wide. As I loaded it up, I was amazed at how many books it could hold. I brought box after box up the stairs and into the room, trying desperately to fill the shelves, and then even harder to organize them into something that made sense.

Here's what I came up with, shelf by shelf.

The top two shelves are a little taller, so they hold the oversized Marvel hardcover books well. Half of that space is devoted to them. As you can see, I'm a couple volumes behind on my "Ultimate Spider-Man" run.

Those Duck albums on the second shelf were purchases at a comic book convention three or four years ago. It's a random assortment I got for a good price. Most are still wrapped in plastic. When I was randomly unloading boxes, they spilled out. I have a feeling that they'll be amongst the first to go back into storage when I need space on the bookshelf.

Also up there is the Frank Miller run on "Daredevil" in trades, and the start of Walt Simonson's "Thor" run. I know I have volume two somewhere, but then I lost track of the releases. There comes a time when you shouldn't buy books in a series you haven't read yet. I used to labor under the assumption that someday in the future I'd have time to read all the books I was bringing home with me. Now, I'm working harder at not buying the next trade or hardcover in a series until I've read the previous one. It's saved me a bunch of money, even though it makes my fantasy "To Buy" list a mile long.

I also found Warren Ellis' original run on "StormWatch," mostly with Tom Raney. I had to pull those out. Those were different times -- for starters, there's no numbering on the spines, until you get the to the last one. You need to read the back cover copy to figure out what order to read the books in. Flipping through the volumes -- which I do hope to reread someday -- brought back a lot of memories. I first heard of Ellis' start on the series from the Comics and Animation Forum on CompuServe, where Ellis was a participant at the time. I hadn't read "StormWatch" for a long time, but I gave Ellis' first issue a shot. Then his second. And his third. And so forth. It's interesting to see where Ellis got his start in this kind of storytelling, and how fresh it all was at the time. It's also fun to see Bryan Hitch's art starting to evolve in the latter collections, though some of it looks awkward, with heads pasted onto bodies that are too big with manic expressions on their face.

The same box with all those trades also had my complete run of "Transmetropolitan." Yes, it's another series worthy of a reread, but I know my limits. I can't reread everything. DC should release that series in the same sort of hardcover run that all the Vertigo titles seem to be getting these days.

I like how the "Ultimate Fantastic Four" hardcovers are almost exactly below the "Fantastic Four" hardcovers, though I wonder if Marvel shouldn't vary the colors used in the two series just a bit more. I could see someone accidentally picked up the wrong book from the shelf due to that. They look so similar.

Volume 2 of the "Daredevil" hardcover has slightly different spine lettering from the rest of the run. It's annoying in a graphic designer way and a comic geek way, but hardly a deal killer. Looking at all those books, you can see why buying the recent "Daredevil Omnibus" collection wasn't necessary.

That's a pretty good run of "Savage Dragon" hardcovers over on the left side, too. I picked those up the hard and expensive way -- direct from Erik Larsen at CCI, mostly. They came out at a time when comic companies weren't doing hardcover series all that much. Larsen added in special front page art exclusive to these hardcovers in the early days. They're insane and not all family friendly enough to run here.

NBM's "Book of Schuiten" is over on the left, and by far my favorite art book of all time. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Shelves three and four are more random, needing more organization. Maybe I could sort them by company? They're all the trade paperbacks I wanted to keep handy. Honestly, I haven't read most of these yet. But I know when I'm looking for something to read, I can just grab something in here at random and be happy for a little while.

I like the way the "Marvel Visionaries" series started lining themselves up as I put this collection together. That string of "B.P.R.D." trade paperbacks is handsome, also, with consistant trade dress starting with the second volume. (Really, though, that first book or two was like a whole 'nother series that just happened to have the same name.)

I noticed that the first volume of "Spider-Man Visionaries: Todd McFarlane" is a little shorter than the next two books in the series. That's odd.

�€�A couple of non-comics books show up on the shelf, too, if you look closely. "Photoshop Lightroom Adventure" is a great manual for Adobe's photo catalogue and manipulation program that I swear by. "Tales of the Black Widowers" is a collection of Isaac Asimov's wonderful mystery short story series. "Getting Things Done" is there for irony, just because I never read it.

Shelf five is more random, though the left side of it is mostly oversized books in the realm of comic creation. They came out of a box labeled "Books About Comics." History, How To, Commentary, Criticism, etc. They're mostly there. As new books come into the house, though, I get the feeling these will be the first to go.

Two copies of "The Copybook Tales" are on the far left because (a) it was a great series that everyone should own two copies of and (b) I wrote the introduction, so I got contributor copies.

The bottom shelf is the anchor. It's the tallest shelf, and it holds the heaviest books. It's "Absolute" mania down there. Not pictured here is "Absolute Watchmen," which I have out on my desk, as I'm in the middle of reading it again. (It ages very well.) Those of you who've followed the "Absolute" books can figure out when it was my budget tightened up by which volumes I have and don't have. Whenever "Absolute Planetary, Volume 2" appears, though, I'll find a way to get it. I've been waiting to read the rest of the series just that way.

I'm not going to pick up "Absolute LOEG: Black Dossier." From everything I've read about it, that edition is not worth the money. If I ever work up the energy to read the book, I'll grab the standard hardcover edition. Thanks, DC, for saving me that much money that easily!

To the right there are some very pretty Barry Windsor-Smith books that Fantagraphics went through a phase of printing a few years back. Next to that are a couple of Euro-album reprints and the much beloved "Leave It To Chance" hardcovers. I want to reread them all, looking at them now like this.

That's the joy and the frustration of looking at one's entire comic collection with fresh eyes. Everything is new again. Everything has memories associated with it. There's just never enough time to go back to it all.

At least I know there will be something there for me when I'm ready to revisit an old friend. Or when I retire. Perhaps that's just the hope of every comic fan whose eyes are bigger than their watches?

IT'S THE GOSHDARNED BATMAN

Blacking out words in a word balloon has always been an odd practice. The inevitable production error finally happened last week, and DC spun up their virtual pulping machines to rectify the error on "All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder" #10.

I would like someone at DC to explain to me, though, why those words are so awful, but the "gd" epithet sprinkled through the series' run (to the point of becoming a catch phrase) is considered proper for a Batman comic.

For some, this whole topic also brought up the specter of Wertham-like inquests into comics. I would think by now that we've all gotten over that. It ain't happening. Those worries have been there for decades now. It was going to happen when Marvel dropped the Comics Code Authority nearly ten years ago. It was going to happen when George Bush was elected President. It was going to happen when Doctor Light did something nasty to someone's wife. It was going to happen when Jessica Jones engaged in certain practices with a man with unbreakable skin.

The boy cries frequently; the wolf never comes.

There will always be issues with community standards, but don't think for a moment that a misprint calling Batgirl a particular four letter word is going to bring Congress down upon us at this point. As easily misguided as politicians can be, I think they're all wrapped up in other things at the moment.

The only comic more valuable than "ASBAR" #10 today is "Google Chrome" #1 by Scott McCloud. That one had a very small print run. As I write this on Monday, a paper copy auctioned off by TechCrunch for charity is up over $1500.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: MOVIE EDITION

The comics industry is awash in Hollywood money these days, with a series of money-makers stretching back to "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" and straight on to "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight." It's a major topic of discussion today: Is the Hollywood tail wagging the Comic Book dog?

That's a new topic, right? It's a matter of degree, I suppose. The different between today and twenty years ago is that the movies are actually being made now with big budgets and high profit potential. Twenty years ago, everything was in development and relatively few made it out to the public. Many were done on the cheap.

I came across a stack of "Comics Scene" magazines this weekend. They brought back a lot of fun memories, as they were often my link to creators and comics news at the time. In the pre-internet age, newsstand magazines were your source for interviews and information -- that and the then-weekly newspaper, "The Comics Buyer's Guide." I ate them up, even for creators whose work did not interest me. Plus, the magazine was $5, so I had to justify the purchase by reading as much as possible.

I opened up an issue of "Comics Scene" from 1988 and looked at the interviews with luminaries such as Todd McFarlane, Chuck Jones, Howard Chaykin, John Ostrander, and Bob Burden. And then I laughed at the closing pages. "Comics Scene" always had a breakdown of the Hollywood deals with as many comics and animation properties as they could fit in. In this particular month, the listings ran over three pages, though each had a half-page sidebar written up with it.

The first sidebar was for a "Little Orphan Annie II" movie set to film in Budapest:

At one time, the sequel was to be a non-musical adventure flick (nicknamed "Raiders of the Lost Annie"); another version was known as "The Further Adventures of Little Orphan Annie."

I just checked on the Internet Movie Database. I don't think the film ever got made. I demand J Torres and J Bone do that "Raiders of the Lost Annie" comic book, though. Or, better yet, they should bring back "Alison Dare!"

The second sidebar was a short interview with Tim Burton on the "Batman" movie he was about to make. It changed a bit from its original plot, obviously:

What is certain is the storyline, which, according to Burton, will focus on the beginning of Batman's crime-fighting career (although one source claims there will be no origin sequence), a major conflict with the Joker and the introduction of the Boy Wonder.

Jack Nicholson had already been signed on for the role of The Joker, but everything else was still up for grabs. The Michael Keaton firestorm had yet to begin. Another quote further in the story said that "Robin" was a given, as he was so identifiable with the Batman brand. You couldn't do a Batman movie without him, they said.

Twenty years later, we know you can't do a good Batman movie with him.

The third sidebar was a post-mortem for the ABC series, "Sable," based on Mike Grell's First Comics series. Rene Russo was a regular in that series, as was a man who looks a lot like that saxophone guy from The E Street Band.

In any case, here are some scans of all the stuff in the pipeline (pardon the self-referential pun) for comics in Hollywood, circa 1988:



Some funny bits:

  • "Thor" had a proposed television sitcom. Those "thou"s and "thee"s were sitcom gold, weren't they?
  • "Tin-Tin" was in development at Amblin. Twenty years later, "Tin Tin" is in development at Amblin.
  • "Watchmen" was slated to be a movie, with a script by Sam Hamm, and Joel Silver signed on as producer. Pending lawsuits, the movie will finally hit screens in the spring.
  • "Spider-Man" was in the works at Cannon Films, with this note: "Still some question as to who has rights to make movie." No kidding.
  • "The Rocketeer" was being shopped around, and Disney looked interested. Great movie, but with a very shoddy DVD release.
  • "Cerebus" animated plans were abandoned.
  • "The Flash" was in the works as a movie. The TV series came a couple of years later. Now, DC might be looking into the movie again.
  • "Iron Man:" "Movie versions proposed." It only took twenty years, but at least they did it right.
  • "The Punisher" had just been greenlighted as a movie. Soon, the sequel to the second movie is coming out.
  • "Antman" was in development. Nothing ever changes, even with the C-list characters.
  • "Captain America" was in the works as a musical, with the movie dead. If only that had happened, instead of the Matt Salinger abomination. . .
  • "Dr. Strange" was in development, with script by current "The Amazing Spider-Man" writer, Bob Gale.
  • "The Spirit:" "TV movie pilot unsold." Does that mean one was filmed, or is it just a script? If it was filmed, is there a YouTube link for it somewhere?

The point is, Hollywood has always been there, and movie deals are often floated on a very slow boat to China.

There's a lot more of interest in those magazines. Perhaps we'll get to them in the coming weeks. I'm having a lot of fun reliving those memories.

PIPELINE PODCAST FOR 10 SEPTEMBER 2008

It was the longest solo podcast I've ever done. What can I say? There was a lot to talk about.

Listen to more than 30 minutes of audio glory today at this link.

Here's what the Top Ten list looked like:

10. Marvel Spotlight Marvel Knights 10th Anniversary (Incentive Monkey Variant Cover)
9. Wolverine Saudade
8. Green Arrow Black Canary #12
7. Ultimate Origins #4
6. Criminal 2 #5
5. Stand Captain Trips #1
4. Invincible #52
3. Dugout GN (AiT/PlanetLar)
2. Secret Invasion #6
1. Gotham Central HC Vol 01 In The Line Of Fire

"Ultimate Origins" turned out to be a great issue. It tickled me to list specifically the "Incentive Monkey Variant Cover" for the "Marvel Spotlight" issues. "Green Arrow/Black Canary" had a satisfying conclusion to the year-long storyline, with more nice art. And "Secret Invasion" had a lot of double page splashes, but isn't it nice to see the old band back together again?

In other news: Jamie and I recorded a "Pipeline PREVIEWS Podcast" over the weekend, for items shipping in November 2008 and beyond. Look for that later this week. It should run just about an hour.

Due to the impending child birth event in my life, there definitely will not be such a podcast next month. We'll be back, hopefully, to look at January's books in November.

Next week: For the first time in a while, I'm writing ahead of schedule. That doesn't mean I have a clue as to what part of that writing will appear next week. I do have some more "Comics Scene" scans I want to follow up with, and some older reviews to get to. Tune in next week to see what I come up with. It'll be fun.

The Various and Sundry blog is still updating Monday through Friday. Who's playing "Rock Band 2?" Who's buying what DVDs? Click over and join in on the conversation.

I'm still terribly busy on my Twitter feed of late, musing on comics, house upkeep, and life.

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. Column #600 is due out in December.

TAGS:  captain america musical, tim burton, frank miller, comicscene, all star batman and robin

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