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Tue, May 12th, 2009 at 2:28pm PDT | Updated: May 12th, 2009 at 6:28pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • The new larger-screened Kindle might make for an even more attractive manga reader, but could have ramifications past that. I haven't seen one in person -- and they won't be available until the summer -- but now that it can show PDF files, it would seem to me that black and white comics for the Kindle could be easy and affordable, whether manga or standard North American formatted.

    Think of those smaller sites selling PDFs of their comics. Think of the Twomorrows' lineup of magazines, which are now available as PDFs to download. There are some natural fits there.

  • I can't keep up with all the comic creator interviews on the web anymore, let alone just the ones CBR does. Back in the day, I ate up every comic book magazine I could find that featured creator interviews. There was something to learn from every interview, even with creators whose work I had never seen or just didn't enjoy. Nowadays, you can read a half dozen new interviews with major creators on a daily basis. Most of them are just fluffy promo pieces for the creator's next big release, but there's still interesting stuff in them, if you have the time and patience to sort through the usual rote answers.

    What's my point? I'm not sure if it has to do with media saturation, or the paucity of brilliant interviews I've seen lately. However, Tom Spurgeon's interview with Darwyn Cooke, Ed Brubaker, and Scott Dunbier is a welcome shot in the arm.

  • Speaking of interviews, sports stars have cliches they give to reporters after every game. They talk about leaving it all on the floor, or giving it 110%, or concentrating on one pitch/shot/frame at a time. They love their teammates and are playing with the best bunch of guys ever. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    Is there a similar list for comic book creators on the interview circuit pimping their newest releases? You know, "This is the book I've wanted to do for years." Or "I took it one page at a time." Or "That's asking me like picking my favorite child." What quotes do you see repeated to the point of losing their meaning?

  • We all saw this coming, but this is the first example I can think of in print. The New York Times new "Graphic Book" listing leads to some nifty imagery to stamp on any comic's book cover, don't you think? Robert Kirkman and Image sure think so. Check out this detail from last week's release of "The Walking Dead: Compendium One." It is, they proudly declare, "The Ultimate Edition of the New York Times bestseller."

    Is this the first cover usage of the New York Times logo on a comic book since the advent of the list?

TWITTER QUESTIONS

I asked on Twitter for your questions to help round out this week's column. Looking at the questions, now, I realize that capital letters aren't in fashion on Twitter.

Time now for some answers, in chunks greater than 140 characters, for the most part:

@jdunbar - what, if anything, are you excited about and/or looking forward to (comics-wise)?

The easy cop-out answer is, "rediscovering old favorites." I've devoted a lot of column space in the last couple of months to taking a look back at old favorites, many years after the fact. I've only just begun that series. There's a lot more to come, including a popular DC series from 15 years ago that I might be getting to next week.

But to answer more of the question that I think you were asking: I'm looking forward to "Image United." OK, maybe that ties back into my nostalgia phase here, but seeing the original Image founders drawing a book together seems like a pretty cool idea, if they can pull off the logistics and mechanics of it all.

Purely selfishly, I'm looking forward to Twomorrow's "The Comic Book Podcast Companion" book, just to see how my interview turned out and how many of those old pictures of me at various comic book conventions they wound up using.

@jdunbar - where did the volume numbers go? I noticed that little detail missing from newer comics. look at outsiders or new warriors.

I'm guessing it comes from mass confusion. These books have been launched and relaunched so many dang times by now that the publishers probably can't keep track.

Besides, it would cause too much confusion to call it Volume 2 Issue #49 this month and Volume 1 Issue #500 next month when they realize there's a milestone celebration and bonus marketing hook to latch onto. This is mostly Marvel's problem, and you cited DC's book. Those, I can't explain, though they probably need to relaunch some more of their relaunched books now.

@gardnerisgod - why are you so awesome?

Some things just come naturally.

Others are a constant struggle.

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which answer applies to this question.

@sktl - what the heck happened to "the twelve"? great comic.

I'm guessing creators' scheduling issues. (A CBR message board thread is tracking this same question.) I read the first few issues of the book and enjoyed it, too. I hope there's a nice hardcover when it's all said and done.

@Monsterfood - have you talked about where to find good examples of hand lettering nowadays?btw are you aware of the new Savage Dragon collections

Yes, the new "Dragon" collections sound very cool. And as I think I've mentioned on the podcast recently, I'll be happily buying some of those stories for the fifth or sixth time now.

I even own the original limited edition hardcovers of those books, that I paid (in retrospect) far too much for, but my fanboyism knows no bounds. It's all good, and I doubt those exclusive ribald tip-in signed plates will be showing up in the new releases, anyway.

As for hand-lettering: Yeah, that's an art with as much life left in it as the newspaper industry. Sad, but true. I raged against the computer lettering machine back in the day, but it's too late. The fight is over. There are too many benefits in computer lettering to writers who never get their scripts right in the first place, to foreign editions that just want to drop in their new copy, and to the merchandising machines that want clean original art for their licensees.

That said, it's fun to see Tom Orzechowski back behind the pen on "The Savage Dragon," which is also one of those book I'm looking forward to from month to month.

Next, Tim asks two related questions, so I thought I'd lump them together:

@Tim_Meakins do you think 2000AD would be more successful in US if they broke it up into monthly stories, eg a Dredd comic, Red Seas comic, etc.

@Tim_Meakins do you think that if Cinebook reformatted Tintin, Asterix et al to US Comic sizes (eg Digest or Prestige) they might sell better?

I think it's more than just the page size and price point that holds back European comics in today's North American market. I think there's a lack of awareness amongst the most likely to enjoy the material. And I think some of the snobbery of those who prefer their superhero comics exclusively prevents them from looking at Euro-Comics for the same reasons they refused to bother with manga. If anything, manga's success would work against Euro Comics with a certain segment. And I don't say that in a xenophobic sense; I think it's a matter of closed-mindedness of reading material. Those people don't likely read "Love and Rockets" or "Uncle Scrooge," either.

To a certain degree, that's fine by me. Read what you like. Enjoy. Don't feel guilty for not reading everything and anything you can get your hands on. But it is frustrating and sad for those of us who enjoy comics as a storytelling medium to see some treat it as a genre.

Besides which, I own a "Tintin" book that's already at digest size, collecting three graphic novels in one package for a reasonable price point. And I can tell you right now that more people will see a "Tintin" movie in one local theater in the eventual movie's opening weekend of release than likely ever bought that book here in the States.

That's the key to the success of Euro-Comics, sadly: they need a greater media tie-in. The most popular manga volumes have animated series linked in to them. That brings in the audience to try other genres in manga, and makes it profitable to attempt publishing a lower-selling series.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Asterix" won't succeed in this country until there's a popular animated series or well-marketed big screen feature produced for this country. That'll drive the interest, and then the publishing might (hopefully) keep up.

I think there's a chance that the eventual "Smurfs" CGI feature film might be the kickstart for that. A combination of movie tie-in and nostalgia could put new editions of those classic comics onto the front table of every major bookstore across this country, a la "Watchmen." If the move is successful, then Hollywood will want more of the same and we might see "Asterix" or "Lucky Luke" or something next.

As for "2000 A.D." material: I think your suggestion might work, specifically for those serials with "name" creators attached. In those cases, it's not a character that's going to sell comics; it's a creator.

Thanks, one and all, for the questions. We might have to do this again someday, so follow me on Twitter and wait for the next call to arms.

FIVE WAYS DIGITAL COMICS COULD CHANGE THE MEDIUM

Some random and disconnected thoughts I've had in recent weeks about comics moving to digital format might mean:

  • An end to double page spreads. Digital readers will be single page sized, mostly for portability's sake, or at least until they devise a reader that folders down the middle. See the Kindle, for example. You can tilt the new one on its side and the display will adjust itself, but reading a two page spread like that might prove tricky. Scott McCloud explains why this is a bad design choice on Amazon's part.

    Sadly, this eliminates storytelling like we saw on CrossGen's "Ruse." On the bright side, this means we won't get double-page sideways spreads like we did in, say, "Cable" of the early 90s. It will also make books like "Powers" easier to read. I'm not the only person who doesn't always understand where Michael Avon Oeming is going for a double-page spread versus a single one, right?

  • More "widescreen" format comics. The Sunday funnies were done sideways, right? And without the double page option open anymore, some will experiment with laying out their comics sideways. While this does appear to run counter to my first point, I think turning the device on its side will do the trick easily enough.

  • Stories not all 22 pages. It might take a while for this to take hold, but the lack of printing presses means you aren't limited to eight page signatures. If a story needs to run an extra page or two or ten, it can be done. If it falls a page short, that's not a problem, either. The only issue involved here is the pricing model. While it would be easy enough to create a formula to charge by the page in the digital format, the usual mindgames that marketers play might make us shy away from oddball prices.

  • Wednesday won't be New Comic Day. I'm sure it'll stay that way for a number of companies who'll use it as a marketing thing, but there's no reason to ask customers to spend all of their money on one day a week. Space it out across the week. Publish it when it's ready.

  • High Def comics. Comics are going to look better. They're practically going to look High Def by comparison to what we got in print. So many colorists' work today looks too dark in print, but looks clear in the digital files. The move to digital will let everyone see the difference for the first time. And, for the first time at Marvel, Frank D'Armata's colors won't look like mud.

    Theoretically, thin lines will appear more clearly in digital format, as well, but that will all depend on the display technologies. Don't be surprised to see more artists turn to crosshatching, feathering, and random little squiggly lines. You might see the return of Hal Foster, or you might get the worst excesses of the 90s.

Next week, we go back 15 years to a new launch from DC Comics. It's fun, and it even ties into modern DC lore. . .

My photoblog, AugieShoots.com has featured flowers this week, thanks Mother's Day.

My Twitter stream (@augiedb) is like my public e-mail box. I check it daily, looking for responses and new conversational threads. Heck, you're more likely to hear back from me if you ask me something on Twitter than my own e-mail box.

The Various and Sundry blog is eerily calm, sadly.

And there might still be a new blog on the horizon. . .

Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items this week. It's the best of my daily feed reading, now with commentary!

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.

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