Pipeline

Tue, January 19th, 2010 at 2:28pm PST | Updated: January 21st, 2010 at 8:07pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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THIS WEEK IN DC COMICS

There's something weird about a publisher blogging their news releases, and then all the comic news sources reblogging them as news. It's like one giant retweet, isn't it?

In DC's case, it's their blog, The Source. It's been a busy place this year, releasing news of new projects on a daily basis. Something has bothered me about it, though, so let's run down the big multiple-releases-a-month announcements:


Not a single artist is listed for three titles which will produce more than 100 issues of comics in the next year, starting in about three months. Why is this? Here are some theories, in order of cynicism necessary to believe them:

  • DC is saving art team names for later promotions, thus getting a double dip in publicity for each title.

  • Artists are fickle and likely to blow deadlines, so why announce them until the multiple teams each series needs will be months ahead of deadline?

  • DC doesn't promote artists, just writers.

Before you think that last option seems too crazy, let's please remember that time DC forgot to announce Matt Clarke as the artist of the revived "Doom Patrol," the way their new lineup of Vertigo crime OGNs have the writers' names on the spines and not the artists', or take a look at the Twitter stream of Mike McKone this week:

  • Just received trade comp from DC to which reprinted, amongst others, a story I drew a few years ago. Three writers on the cover...

  • ...exceptional writers to be sure, but apparently the stories drew themselves as not a single penciler gets a cover credit.

  • Wonder how that would fly the other way around?

Excellent question.

As to the increased frequency of their big new titles: It looks like DC is trying to get more inches of comic store shelves. They publish fewer titles than Marvel on a monthly basis at the moment, don't they? Most stores I've visited keep the last month's worth of books on display. That's three series and eight slots on the racks taken up every month with series DC's announced above. Someone's making a bigger grab for the Direct Market's shelf space here, don't you think?

Two quick notes:


"Birds of Prey" is coming back. Gail Simone and Ed Benes return with it. Nothing against Benes, but wouldn't Alan Davis be a dream artist for this book?

Just for the record: My guess for Grant Morrison's "Wonder Woman" artist is Phil Jimenez. Too obvious? Has Morrison's "Wonder Woman" run even been confirmed by DC? Or is this the DC equivalent of Apple's tablet computer -- everyone knows it's coming, but no announcement will be made until, er, next week?

A NEW USE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY IN COMICS

Update: Jim Lee corrected me on Twitter. I misread his blog post. Williams still inks over Lee's art boards, on the paper, itself. The pictures are used as an early look at his work for his collaborators. I'll leave the rest of this section intact, though. Think of it as a "Wouldn't It Be Cool If He Did That?" type of thought experiment, instead.

We've heard about artists scanning in their original art and emailing it to inkers for finishes. The inker prints out the scanned image and inks on top of that printout, leaving the original pencil pages pristine in another part of the country or world. It's been going on for at least a decade now. The first I remember hearing of it was in the Gorilla days, between Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel. Mike Wieringo did the same with Kesel in their "Fantastic Four" days.

Maybe he's not the first, but Jim Lee is the first artist I've heard of to take this to the next level. He's doing away with the scanner and taking a snapshot of his art and emailing that to Scott Williams for inking.

This is doable for a couple of reasons:

First, he's using a Canon S90, which is a fairly high end point and shoot (over $400). It has some cool features, such a programmable control ring around the lens. (Twist the lens to control aperture or exposure or zoom, etc.) It has a larger sensor than your typical point and shoot camera, and so can capture more information. It's a fast lens, going down to f/2.0. And, here's the key, it saves pics with 10 megapixels. Canon could jam more megapixels onto a sensor that size, but they don't. That helps keep the quality of the picture higher and introduces less noise. In other words, it makes a cleaner image of the fine pencil lines in Jim Lee's art for Scott Williams to ink over.

Second, Williams knows Lee's work. He's been inking over it for a couple of decades. He has a pretty good idea of what Lee is going for, even in a case where some of the fine lines might be lost. Looking at the image Lee shows on his blog, though, I don't think Williams had too many problems there.

The photographic trick here, of course, is that Lee has to take the picture directly over the art so he doesn't introduce any skewed perspective issues in the art. But that's doable. The image is a little off-center, but a quick rotation in Photoshop will fix that. The natural border lines on the art page will be easy to level off. Also, I hope he doesn't use it at the widest zoom setting, because natural barrel distortion might stretch out the edges of the picture. The pic seen on the blog, though, would indicate he's OK there.

Welcome to modern technology, where pencil art is just the guideline for what gets published. It's a throwaway thing now, thanks to digital. Inkers never need to see it. Letterers haven't looked at penciled pages in years, since the advent of digital lettering. And the colorists do their own thing, except in the occasional case where they're coloring directly off scans of the pencils.

The pencils are just the foundation for the house: they prop everything else up over them, but are never seen.

HUMAN TARGET AND TECHNOLOGY

I haven't watched the pilot that aired over the weekend yet, though I have read some of the press for the series. The biggest thing for comic book fans to realize is that, due to the realities of making a mass market television series, the part of "The Human Target" in which Christopher Chance adopts the guise of the person he's protecting is gone. The show would be too cerebral and too confusing with that still in, plus it would mean the star of the series would be off screen for most of the show, and you'd need a revolving door for the star of each episode. Such is the danger of adapting a comic for television.

By shifting the premise towards making The Human Target just the guy who jumps in front of bullets for the person he's protecting, the series lives up to its title, I guess. It does make you wonder, as usual, why networks license properties and then rip out everything that makes it unique. Why not "create" something from scratch that meets their needs? It would save them a bunch in unnecessary licensing fees.

This is the second iteration of this series, as everyone has pointed out. I remember watching an episode of the original Rick Springfield series back in the day, but the fact that I can't remember a single specific detail about it speaks volumes for how good it was. And you know what? I bet they'll try it again in another ten or twenty years if this one fails.

And in that time, they'll be able to live up to the visual premise of the series. We have the technology today, but it's usually saved for bit parts in movies. Remember when Oliver Reed died during the filming of "Gladiator?" They digitally masked his face to say the lines he needed to say. It's technology that's been used since then, too, though my memory won't tell me where. In another decade, that kind of technology should be cheap enough and easy enough to use on a television series. Actors might still balk at their faces being replaced, but at least their bodies will be on screen the whole time.

Just yesterday, I read a story on Slashdot where James Cameron's "Avatar" technology could be used to de-age actors.

It's only a matter of time before you get "The Human Target" done right.

TUT TUT, TALLY HO, AND ALL THAT ROT

Imagine a world where an interplanetary war sets a bloody conflict for humans to fight against Venusians and Martians and more. Picture now, an oversized hardcover book that serves as an encyclopedia for the various races at each others' throats, the weapons used in war, and a brief look in at one or two battles along the way. And then have it all narrated by a haughty man from Victorian England. He's got to be a member of the Explorers Club in his local town, a regular at the pub, and the kind of guy who wants to tell you a story about how he so manly saved the world with his power and quick thinking. Wrap it up in packaging that gives in the feel of a pulp novel from the turn of last century, and give it to Dark Horse to publish.

The book is called "Dr. Grordbort Presents: Victory," and Dark Horse published it last month. It's an odd release, but a fun one. It's basically a silly and politically incorrect "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (minus a plot) for science fantasy of the 1930s. While it does have a couple of short sequential narratives in it, the bulk of the 64 pages in this book is illustrated text entries, from pin-ups to encyclopedic breakdowns of beasties and guns, to propaganda posters for the time. All very heavily designed with art noir typography and seemingly-naturalistic newspaper font types, the book comes together well as a piece, despite its choppy and somewhat random collection of gags. If you like British verbal humor, there's plenty of material in here to like.

For example:

"It is widely assumed, that on the eight day, or something thereafter, [God] started to populate Venus, Mars and the other Planets. Scientists speculate that it was during this stage that he started taking psychotropic and hallucinatory drugs (probably the same ones he experimented with during the Oceans) because, let's face it, he just got wacky."

Or:

"Integral to the success of the infantry are [sic] our front line Heavy Shock Troopers. What's so shocking about them, you ask? Well, their manners for one -- rude buggers. Ex rugby players mostly. Not a please or thank you to be heard and a lot of butt-slapping instead."

Occasionally, the designy parts get in the way, and I think the copy could have used another edit. The above paragraph is screaming for an extra comma or dash in a couple of places. This isn't humor that everyone will find funny. For every person who finds it infectious, there will be someone who finds it too thickly laid on or too mannered. To each his own. For my part, I laughed. And I think 64 pages is the right length for a book like this. Anything past that would get tiresome and redundant without a plot to carry you through.

Credited to Greg Broadmore, the book's copyright goes to the fine folks at Weta, best known for their work on the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It's hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg, but Dark Horse also offers scale replicas of the imagined guns in the book for big dollar figures. (Here's one for $600.) Maybe those sales are what helped to keep this book down to $19.95, with very high production values. Seriously, the pages are thick. It might be something you'll want to flip through at the store, at least. Give it a chance.

QUICK THOUGHTS

  • I have a friend who's looking to buy a page from Mike Choi's recent "Nation X" story, starring Jubilee. Looks like he's repped by Splash Page, but if you see the pages showing up anywhere, drop me a line, would ya? Thanks.

    Seriously, it's for "a friend." Not me. I like the art a lot, but I'm not buying art these days.

  • That said, I did page through my art collection recently. Running across all the original art from the fifth anniversary of Pipeline was a particular treat. The amount of detail and texture on that Carrie Stetko piece by Steve Lieber still boggles my mind.

  • "Whiteout" is available on Blu-ray today. I just added it to my wish list.

  • My reaction to the Blackest-Night-Covers-for-Deadpool-Variants trade-in scheme: Might be a little tacky, but I laughed. I laughed harder at the people who thought ripping the covers off the comics was some form of horrific comic book murder and not the method by which newsstand agents proved their returns for generations. Heck, I think they might still be doing that with paperback books. Have you ever seen the notice on a title page that says if you bought the book with the cover torn off, the retailer did something naughty?

  • The press release that "Siege" will not be reprinted -- except for this reprint we're doing of it next month -- is about the biggest reach for a press release I've read in some time. If they played it tongue-in-cheek, I might have laughed. The fact that it was so serious, though, made me cringe. Who's falling for this stuff?

  • The owners of the Buffy property are shrewd if they managed to license the character of Angel out twice to different comic publishers at the same time. Either that, or one publisher or the other looks bad for not getting exclusive licenses to their properties.


  • Graphic.ly came out of nowhere very suddenly, didn't it? And I still don't buy that Longbox will ship with the new Apple product. I wouldn't be surprised to see it launch officially on the same say as said product, though. We'll find out next week.

  • So, there's a movie coming out that features a little girl swearing up a storm. A parental advisory board notes it. Bloggers make headlines out of it? Really? Is that news? Is that what happens when your blogging contract forces you to post x items a day? Nothing else new going on? Something different from the usual, maybe? Do we all have templates set aside for this kind of thing now? Do we just pull them out of the files, do a Mad Libs insert into them, and publish them ASAP?

    You know what we need? A "Fanboy Rampage" type of site to keep its eye on comic blogs.

Pipeline Retro returns next week, complete with a creator interview! I'm very excited for this one. If you've been following my Twitter stream, you'll have a good idea what it is I've been reading.

And in my spare time: I'm podcasting. We had three last week, if you count the slideshow I'm selling comics. (I might even sell off some original art soon, though shipping logistics confound me.) I'm Twittering,

photoblogging, and blogging..

E-mail me!

Talk at the Pipeline Message Board, and catch up on nearly 13 years of columns in the Pipeline Archives.

TAGS:  pipeline, dr. grordbort presents

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