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Tue, March 8th, 2011 at 2:28pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist
5

EMERALD CITY COMIC-CON

I've seen it said a couple of times already that nothing was announced at the Emerald City Comicon this weekend and all the panels were a disappointment for it. Was this really a surprise? Company-led panels are dog-and-pony shows, trotting out the talent on current releases to mutter, "Read the book," to all the inane questions that those who would be most likely to step up to a microphone to ask a question would have. (This comes just after the slideshow of things previously announced where the PR flak reads from the script to accompany each image.) The only entertainment at such panels is the playful teasing between panel participants who've been working together for so long that they can handle the playful teases and taunts each other dish out. Honestly, you can get that on Twitter.

As far as pushing news out? The big stuff is saved for larger media, usually one of the New York newspapers. DC is now working on announcing its news exclusively on its own blog, to the point where I'm not even sure they write press releases anymore, let alone send them out. Everything is carefully planned and staged for maximum impact on a 24 hour comics news cycle in which no secrets can be kept. The only announcements that come out early anymore are those that do because someone couldn't keep their mouth shut and accidentally leaked something so the company had to get ahead of it.

This isn't anything new, by the way. It's always been like this, except in the past the lead time was a couple of months until the issue of "Amazing Heroes" or "Comics Buyer's Guide" came out with the news. Weeks or months later, reaction to that news would hit the letters column in the publication. There was no "Previews" to spoil everything two months in advance as a matter of course. It wasn't quite so transparent. Panel details weren't leaked out as they happened. Heck, I doubt much of anything that went on inside a panel was ever heard outside of the room. Today, everything is recorded, podcasted, transcribed and broadcast. Can you blame the participants for being more cautious and guarded? They have to pay the bills at home, so there's no need to tick off the check writers by blowing their carefully planned publicity campaigns.

Nothing against the Emerald City Comicon, but it's still not a convention the major publishers are focused on and want to be sure to make big announcements at. That might change as soon as next year, however. With news being as quiet as it is at a con like this, any news bit from a major publisher would likely make a much bigger splash on the internet sites covering it. More bang for your buck. News (that's not other-media related) gets lost in the midst of the hype of San Diego. ECCC provides a much calmer back drop. If there's news to be released and the timing is right, I wouldn't be surprised to see more coming out of the con next year.

On the other hand, with a "major" con hitting every couple of weeks for the rest of the year, it can be hard to have major news at all of them. C2E2 is just a couple of weeks away, after all, and we know there's news coming out of there already. (Brian Bendis, at the very least, has teased the announcement of a new book out of him there.)

It's not that there was no news coming out of ECCC. One-month-"Supergirl"-writer Nick Spencer's Marvel exclusive was a thing. Dark Horse made the biggest news splash of them all, but we'll cover that in the next segment, for the relatively low number of comic readers who are affected by it.

From all accounts, though, the con was a major success. Aside from the "no news" complaints, everyone I was following on Twitter had a great time. Imagine that: a comics-focused con catering itself to a comics clientele was a crowd pleaser. They didn't even need Lou Ferrigno. I'm happy for "Savage Dragon" Super Fan/Comicon organizer Jim Demonakos and his crew up there and hope to make it out to a future show some year.

FIVE FOR FRIDAY

Chris Samnee does Tintin

As part of his weekly "Five for Friday" series, Tom Spurgeon last week asked for the five artists whose work you'd like to see fancy art books made from. I never see the topics or have time to put my two cents in before the deadline on that looms, but this is a topic I love to think about. Here, then, are my five suggestions. Yes, I considered listing Todd McFarlane first just to point out that his art book is now more than two months late, but I didn't want to clog the list with jokes.

1. Mauricet. No, not the Moritat guy who does "The Spirit" and "Elephantmen." This is the Belgian artist who's worked on "Tellos" and a bunch of European comics that look good but have never been translated in the States. His work might be deemed "too commercial" for such a project, but it sure would look cool. Check out his blog for occasional sketches.

2. Chris Samnee. Is it too ridiculously early to put together such a book of his works? Yes, probably. But the more of his sketches that I see, the more I want. Between his Twitter stream and Comic Twart, the man has produced enough to fill three volumes of art books.

3. Guy Davis. Everything he does is pretty, even the monsters exploding from the earth. There is a "Modern Masters" volume dedicated to him, but I would like a fancier hardcover sampler of his career works. I haven't read "Sandman Mystery Theater," but the pages I've seen of it are beautiful. Give me more of that, too, please.

Yes, I am saddened by Davis' departure from the "B.P.R.D." series of miniseries. Even when the stories lost me, the art never did. There's a nice solid chunk of a bookshelf right now dedicated to those trade paperbacks, and they will remain always there. Davis' work on the title is nothing short of spectacular for the last number of years. I should be happy he lasted as long as he did, particularly in this market. Instead, I'm disappointed to know the end is near.

Sean T. Collins writes up the move even better at Robot 6.

4. Erik Larsen. His work is all over the place. He's done covers and pin-ups for countless other Image books. He changes styles for his other works, like "The Herculian." I'd love to see a collection of all that randomness, as well as his "Dragon" stuff.

5. Alan Davis. Seriously, there hasn't been one yet? That's criminal. You could do an entire art book based on his "Excalibur" work alone.

Those who did respond to Spurgeon came up with better suggestions than mine, perhaps, but I get into this tuff and wanted something more mainstream, perhaps. Commercial, maybe? In the end, this is all a good thing. The biggest names I could think of already had artbooks made already. Most notable on that list is Francois Schuiten.

THE DIGITAL WIZARD

"Wizard" is back, with a new weekly PDF magazine to replace its print edition. Let's walk through it to see what we can find.

We begin on Page 1 with Chief Executive Officer Gareb Shamus' opening letter:

On the cover of this inaugural issue, we set the tone and tenor of Wizard World Digital by featuring Who is Jake Ellis?, written by Nathan Edmondson.

So far, so good. On page 1, Wizard is taking a step in the right direction. Shamus continues:

"Why would we do that?" you might be thinking. Well, because the book deserves it -- check out why we think Hollywood is gonna come knocking on his door.

Silly me. For a second there, I thought there was hope for "Wizard" again. Once again, "Wizard" defines the success of a comic book by how well it does in Hollywood.

According to the masthead on the same page, the editorial staff for the on-line magazine is three people, including "Wizard" mainstay, Mike Cotton. Six people are listed as contributors.

The first ad in the PDF comes on page 3. It's for CGC, i.e. the company that slabs comics. That's a great case of synergy between target audience and advertiser right there.

Then we get to the first page of real content: the world-famous Wizard letters column. It was once the place to see a plethora of comic professionals dropping by to answer questions, alongside Wizard Editorial's informative and light-hearted take on reader questions. That degraded over time, too, but there's a chance for a new beginning now with the digital edition and --

Nope, Man on Toilet picture. First letter headline? "We're Number Two."

I should have just shut the PDF then and moved on with my life, but I'm here for you. I don't want you to suffer the way I suffered.

The full-page ad for the "Wizard World Comic [sic] Con Tour" runs down the 13 cities with dates and locations on the schedule for 2012. The New Jersey convention remains absent. It's been over a year since that convention was announced. There's still no sign of a date or location for it.

A two page article on what the world of digital comics needs to be less "boring" is almost worth reading. The problem is, there's maybe 500 words spread out across two pages here and one is an image from "Guerillas" of a simian that they added a "poo" word balloon to.

Really, it'd be embarrassing if we ever expected anything more from the company.

Page 9 has the first virtual printing error of the digital age for Wizard, as the image that's supposed to take up more than half the page is missing. Only the word balloon remains.

By the way, that page lists three comics that should be video games. Again, because being a comic is never enough for "Wizard."

There's a lot of toy stuff in here. I guess "ToyFare" is blended into "Wizard" now, too. Are toys still selling? Yes, I know kids still love them, but do they have the active interest from collectors that they used to? I ask this not as a put-down to "Wizard," but because I'm curious. I never got into that scene, but I thought it faded away.

On page 13, we get to our cover feature on the new Image series, "Who Is Jake Ellis?" The opening blurb promises that the article will cover how Hollywood is already interested in the series. Heaven forbid a comic be successful in print, eh?

Giving credit where it's due, though, it's a nice interview with the book's creator, Nathan Edmondson, written by Carlos Mejia. It's immediately followed, of course, by a casting call for the movie.

The cover claims this feature is exclusive, but I have no idea what that means.

By far the biggest feature of the magazine, though, is the ten page photo spread from Toy Fair, featuring the Top 10 coolest things they say there, including a nice picture of a Gremlin with a word balloon added to say, "I'm gonna feed you guys your a**es after midnight." I added the stars in there. That's our Wizard. Staying the high road...

Follow that up with four pages about the "The Walking Dead" -- toy line. Then, a four page excerpt from that self-help guru Gareb Shamus associates himself with. The ever-popular "Toy Fare Theater" makes its return, with original series "Star Trek" action figures doing the yapping.

Overall, the graphics look the same as they ever did in the print magazine. Much of the content is the same, too, with pictures of action figures making fart jokes, or pics of the editorial staff making funny faces while dispensing with the innuendo. (Or, in one case, "in YOUR end-o.")

But it's not a lost cause. "Wizard" is reaching out beyond its core audience. They're looking to bring in woman to read their magazine. I know they're being actively courted because next week's edition will feature the "Wizard World Girls" and their take on the video games of the day . Why, there are even pictures on the last page of the PDF. They're not wearing any pants.

Yup, same old Wizard.

At least "Wizard" isn't claiming to be a comic book magazine anymore. They claim "pop culture." It's obvious that "pop culture" to them means "Hollywood" and it means "toys." Comics are a distant fifth or sixth, though. Out of the 46 pages this PDF runs, I'd say four of them are about comics. Even when the magazine attempts to discuss comics, it can't help but derail itself with juvenile jokes and Hollywood stories.

I'm not going to be optimistic and say there's hope for this thing. It is what it is. If you liked "Wizard" before, you'll like "Wizard" still. If you thought it was a shameless waste of dead trees then, you'll think it's a shameless waste of bits today. It'll just be far cheaper to pick it up every now and again when, against all odds, something interesting pops up in it.

ONE LAST NOTE...

"The Infinite," the new Robert Kirkman/Rob Liefeld comic debuting this summer, has potential. Mix a little bit of Tron costuming with classic Liefeld pouches and you've got instant comic book gold. It's also some of the cleanest rendering of the final line I've seen Liefeld do. Some extra variations in line weight might help the areas that are so smooth that they're flat, but it's a league apart from some of his scratchier renderings I've seen in the last couple of years.

At AugieShoots.com this week, you see why the Cineslider is the coolest thing since sliced bread, how Syl Arena fought back against theft, what HDR styles haven't been invented yet and why "America's Next Top Model" is a great behind the scenes instructive photography tool.

Over at VariousAndSundry.com, I'm still blathering on about "American Idol," mostly.

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TAGS:  pipeline, emerald city comicon, chris samnee, wizard magazine

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