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Tue, March 22nd, 2011 at 12:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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WONDER WOMAN HAS BLUE PANTS

Here we go again.

You might be familiar with this dance, having done it a few months ago when the Captain America costume debuted. Late afternoon on Friday, the first image of the new costume for David E. Kelley's "Wonder Woman" television series showed up everywhere on the internet all at once. The picture originated from Entertainment Weekly's scoop -- or, you know, closely negotiated deal for publicity in a controlled way as filming begins and leaks are inevitable and already occurring. (Mea culpa: I had a theory that DC and Warner Bros. had something special lined up for C2E2 this past week, as well. That didn't happen.)

Most reaction to the costume was, of course, bad. You may remember similar negative reactions for costumes from "Captain America," "Spider-Man," "X-Men," "Superman Returns," and, well, just about every modern superhero comic that hadn't been seen on a big screen at the time of the image release.

I'm sympathetic to some of the criticisms. It's very nit-picky, but I do think red boots would help offset the blue pants somewhat. Yes, the blue pants are a bit too powder blue in the same way that the Kansas City Royals uniform needed updating for so many decades. And, as many people noted when the costume redesign from Jim Lee hit last year, it borrows liberally from that new design, which I never hated, per se.

But, then, this is a promotional image shot against a seamless white background. It's there to show off the detail of the costume and to give a general idea of the materials used. It's straight-on hair and makeup and tights and bustier. I'm sure they've done some tests to see how it looks in motion and with better lighting. And you know what? The costume will likely look different by the time it hits your small screen, after a round of careful lighting, color correction, film grain addition, HDTV cable compression and your TV's horrible calibration. The shine will be dulled from the front of the legs, the blue will be a shade or two darker. In motion, you won't notice the exact fabric she's wearing, though you might still be distracting in asking yourself how she keeps herself in that top. (That's something the Jim Lee costume included, at least -- straps.)

Please note that the early Spider-Man costume shot we've seen for the upcoming movie is drenched in shadows, with much darker colors and not everything seen in perfect detail. Some of it is left to the imagination. Yes, that includes, the crotch, which some people have even analyzed in the Wonder Woman picture. ("Look! There's a seam up her crotch!")

Actually, those publicity photos might be a better example of how light changes things. Take a look at the two official publicity images we have of the costume so far. Here's the first and here's the second. Now, compare that to the snapshots taken on the ground from passers-by during the movie shoots in the street. See here or here. It's all about the lighting and the post-production. It's Hollywood magic.

The only "controversy" here is why Warner Bros. didn't bother to do a little extra lighting and post-production on the image they sent out. That might help helped quell the outrage. A little. Let's face it: Comic fans are never going to be happy.

My favorite overreaction to the costume so far has been the message board comment I saw where someone complained that the spandex was too tight. There's so many angles of wrongness to that statement that I'm afraid to unpack it. (You want loose spandex? You wind up with Wasp's wrinkly butt.) I think that statement is worse than the people claiming that it looks like a porn movie costume. It must really hurt when the reality of what you read this you between the eyes like that, right?

I could be completely wrong. Perhaps the show will be so cheap, so cheesy and so campy that the Director of Photography is planning on lighting everything flat and straight on. Maybe they're going for the look of a live action cartoon, just to be different from other superhero adaptations. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

We'll see in the Fall, I guess.

QUICK REACTIONS TO C2E2 NEWS

  • Matthew Clark is set to draw the new "Ghost Rider" series. Kudos to Marvel for remembering to include the artist's name in the announcement.

  • Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley are doing a new Icon miniseries together, "Brilliant." I'm in for the collection. I don't know if the pages they previewed are the final results, but I like the pencil artwork look. Lots of people don't, but you can't please everyone. I've always enjoyed tight pencils, often over the finished inks. The colors on those preview pages are paler than normal, which I think helps sell the pencil lines. If this is the final thing, then I'm OK with it.

  • Marvel now has "Art Architects." This is the marketing department looking for new ways to generate discussion and to promote artists it most likely has locked into exclusive contracts for all their worth. If it means those artists are staying with regular gigs for the rest of the year, I'll take it. Just look at the names -- three of them are "Avengers" titles artists (Romita Jr., Deodato, Immonen) at the center of the Marvel Universe. One is on "Iron Man," (Larroca) one is on traditional Marvel tentpole "Amazing Spider-Man," (Ramos) and the last (Mark Bagley) just announced "Brilliant." At least we know they didn't try to pick an artistic style and make it the house style.

  • I did a quick Twitter poll to see what comics were for sale at C2E2 this weekend and it came back about as I expected: Collectible older comics (Golden/Silver Age), cheap dollar bins and half off trade longboxes. Nothing inbetween. That probably explains why Matt Fraction tweeted at the show that he couldn't find "Batman Inc." #3. The last time I was in San Diego, I wanted to go buy an issue of "Thunderbolts" to get Mark Bagley to sign, but couldn't find one for the life of me. It's the changing tide of comic conventions. The only profitable places for retailers at a show is in selling higher end collectibles or moving volume on cheap dumpster bin diving back issues or trades that have sat unmoved on store shelves for so long that half price seems like a profitable idea.

    Don't get me wrong -- I've done lots of that lower end buying over the years. It's fun and it's unique to conventions. I just lament the loss of the full service retailer at major conventions.

  • Daredevil is moving uptown. A move is always traumatic, but I hear the Upper West Side Apple Store is just as friendly as the Fifth Ave Apple Store that he'll be deserting with this move.

  • Longbox is still having problems getting started. The latest issues come from their hosting service. At some point, one starts to wonder if an entire operation is just jinxed. Hey, It's not like they're relying on Adobe Flash and a non-Apple tablet for their business model to succeed. Oh, wait...

  • Cassandra Cain is returning to comics. Scott Snyder has the dirty job of bringing her back and trying to redeem her after the mess they made of the character when last we saw her. Good luck! Maybe if this storyline is popular, they'll reprint the Damion Scott-drawn series from a decade back. Those would make nice collections.

ADVENTURES IN MARKETING

Generally speaking, I'm not reading random comics sent to me over email for review. I don't have the time, and the low quality of 99% of the PDFs that come that way discourages me from wanting to see anything. But if your email sounds like English is your second language when it's not, then you stand no chance of me looking at your book.

Another great way to win my attention is to know all about me. Here's the opening sentence of an email I received from a marketer just last week: "Do your readers at Newsarama often wonder how in this age of digitalization..."

Don't ask me what they're shilling; I stopped reading at that point.

Then, of course, there is the marketing that stands behind a business case that doesn't work. With a foundation crumbling that hard, there's no hope. Let's look at one recent example.

"Indie Comics Magazine" #1 landed in comic stores last week, most likely with a dull thud. The press release that went out on Wednesday had this choice quote from editor Gary Scott Beatty:

"We have no huge overprint, no digital version and no back issue sales," Beatty explained. "Indie Comics Magazine #1 is an instant collectible."

Great job! Print something that's meant to be read and pro-actively make it as difficult as possible to read. Limiting your distribution has always been a winning strategy for comics in the Direct Market for the last couple of decades, after all.

I'll just say it now: this magazine is dead on arrival.

The cover is even better. It's pure cheesecake of a character nobody would recognize. That's a winning formula. Even "Wizard" knew better than that. Their cheesecake involved Hollywood actresses.

Finally, NBM sends out their solicitations every month and it always amuses me that it segues directly from their Eurotica listings to their PaperCutz line of titles. This month, it goes from "It Could Happen To You" (featuring "everyday situations gone very lubricious") to "Garfield & Co." #1. It's like instant topical whiplash.

I'll TAKE FULL CREDIT EVEN IF I DON'T DESERVE IT

Last Tuesday, I wrote:

I look forward to the eventual publication of "Batwoman" #1. And "Captain America: White" #1. And "Big Numbers" #3. And "15 Love" #1 by Andi Watson. And that Erik Larsen project with a haunted house that he teased three years ago.

The very next day, Marvel announced that it will be publishing "15 Love" #1 this summer.

What projects have you been looking forward to for years that everyone has forgotten about that you want me to mention in the column next week? I see this now as my public service.

DIGITAL COMICS

  • If this BleedingCool.com rumor bears fruit and there's one digital comics store offering all of the biggest Eurocomic publishers' output in English, then I'm setting that site up as my browser's home page. Heck, even if they never translate the works into English, I'd still pay to see some of that artwork and to translate every fifth word, myself, since that's about all I'd understand. Maybe with a little practice, it'll get easier.

  • Comixology announced their Affiliates program. I'd like to know how they're paying for it. The biggest problem that's been talked about recently with digital comics is the number of middlemen is takes to publish a digital comic. Now, you're adding another one. Since prices for the consumer aren't going up, where's that affiliate money coming out of? Is Comixology taking a smaller cut in the hopes that volume will make up for it?
WHY BOTHER WITH NUMBERS?

After the "news" that "The Flash" was ending with issue #12, I tweeted a message that amounted to "Who cares?" Really, that series, in particular, has been adrift for years. Starting and stopping. Creative teams churning. And, hey, it's a series at the center of a big company-wide crossover. So it gets cancelled and effectively temporarily replaced by the man crossover series and its dozens of one shots and miniseries accompaniments.

Once that's all said and done, "The Flash" #1 will be hailed as a publishing milestone and/or a "Collector's Edition."

Bryan Vaccaro then asked, "Why do they even still bother to number comics?"

He's got a point, given the way they're so often renumbered. It brought up an even stronger thought in my mind, though: Why publish on-going series? With rare exception, on-going series today are vehicles for character-themed series of miniseries. A creative team comes on board for a length of time meant to produce a collected edition or two, then shuffles off for the next either as their story ends or as sales predictably plummet. Why not just renumber with each new creative team? There is little in the way of creative consistency here.

This way, renumbering isn't an issue. Changing creative teams isn't an issue. Massive changes in the status quo are accompanied by a dramatic "renumbering." Marketing gets more #1s. Readers can find new starting points. Editors might be able to have two creative teams working on the same series at the same time, to help ensure deadlines are meant.

Why not make the weakness of the Direct Market work for the comics?

Next week: A happy positive review of a recent comic industry release. Seriously.

At AugieShoots.com, I went to a St. Patrick's Day parade and you're getting pictures of it all this week. Plus: Supermoon!

How to get in touch: Twitter @augiedb || E-mail || Pipeline Message Board

TAGS:  pipeline, wonder woman, david e kelley, adrianne palicki

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