Pipeline: Secret IDs & Brutal Endings

Tue, July 31st, 2012 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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LINKS FOR THE END OF JULY

  • Did you see the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 ad during the Olympics? Marvel Films and Marvel.com get a lot of play in the second half of the ad. Microsoft needs all the help it can get to look "cool." The answer lies in comics. Ten years ago, did you ever dream something like that would be true? (OK, but what about 15 years ago?) Still, my favorite comment comes from another IE9 ad, after which a YouTube commenter asked, "...does IE download Firefox and Chrome faster now?"

  • I would like to officially go on record as stating that I am not Dave Lizewski, though I agree with him completely. Vertigo's paper stock is atrocious. Of course, if I was fighting crime at night, you'd expect that I'd deny the whole torrid affair, wouldn't you? So maybe I am. Won't my editor be pleased?

  • Check out this warm-up sketch by Mike Maihack, of Cleopatra In Space fame. It's a cute and relatively simple drawing, but I can't stop staring at Mary Marvel's chin. You know what separates good artists from great ones? The great ones know instinctively how to use line weight. There are a lot of good artists whose work sits flat on the page because every line is the same width. It's boring and flat.

    The character designs here are good enough be interesting, but when you realize all the different types of lines you see that were accomplished with just the tip of a pencil (not an ink brush!), it becomes doubly impressive. Check out how the lines of Marvel's jaws grow progressively thinner, until they disappear at the bottom. It seems like such a natural progression, but it's not something that comes naturally to all.

  • The previous bullet point is also a good defense for the use of inkers in comics. Shooting directly from pencils often loses that depth that a good inker's line weight adds.

  • EXTRA's Jerry Penacoli is creepy. Check out how Scarlet Johansson and Anne Hathaway respond to his ridiculous questions on superhero movie fitness.

  • The original art to Todd McFarlane's "Spider-Man" #1 took in a final bid of $358,500, which was a lot lower than I thought it would go. The big shock was that McFarlane's cover for "Amazing Spider-Man" #328 went for $657,250. It's a nice drawing, but has nowhere near the iconic status of "Spider-Man" #1's cover.

    Two things worked in its favor. First, the iconic cover went up for auction first, leaving room for all those who didn't win that one to bid bigger money than expected on the rest. Once all that money loosened up, the floodgates opened wide. The value of the other McSpidey cover suddenly jumped up. Secondly, there was a bidding war. Two engaged bidders are all you need to drive a price in a crazy direction. If you've ever seen an item go bigger than expected on eBay, that's what's usually happened. It happened here, too. The final bid was $550,000, with the fees and whatnot adding up to another $107,250, to be paid by the winning bidder. And you thought TicketMaster fees were tough. . .

  • I'd read a number of pieces critical of "The Dark Knight Returns" in the last week. (Here's my review.) While I admit that there are a few fair points to be made against the movie, there's also a lot of people who seemed incapable of suspending their disbelief just an extra inch more for the sake of the film. Most criticisms of the film can be answered with a simple one-liner, though: "Because he's the g***amned Batman."
WALKING DEAD #100: NOW WITH SPOILERS!

I had to keep my review of "The Walking Dead" #100 spoiler free out of fairness for all involved. Plus, I handed it in before the official publication date, and it's standard policy around these parts that we don't spoil unreleased comics. Now that it's been a couple of weeks, I want to talk more about the issue in detail. This means spoilers. If you're reading the series in its collected editions, you might want to leave now. We'll talk again next week.

Things are pretty dark for Rick right now, aren't they? While it's Glenn who took the bat to the head -- repeatedly -- this story is still about Rick. He made a big mistake. He knew he was taking a chance, but he had a smidgen of overconfidence about it. And then his refusal to "play the game" cost Glenn his life. Don't get me wrong; I'm all about dignity and strength and all, but when 50 guys with weapons are surrounding you and threatening you, just promise to give them some of your food so you can walk away. If you want to plan a rebellion, plan it later. Being outnumbered nearly 10 to 1, Rick was in no position to start bargaining.

Eeny. Meenie. Miney. Mo.

Why do children's rhymes always sound so ominous when brought into a horror context? It works every damned time.

In any case, Rick lost a lot in this issue. He lost Glenn, obviously, but he has to lose his own confidence, which was teetering on the brink in recent months as it was. He's going to lose some of the people in his camp. They're not going to trust him for his actions in this one. There will be fallout. I think the big cast shakeup I saw coming for the 100th issue might just be spread out over the next few, as our cast starts to think a little more for themselves and not follow Rick's lead. They've never exactly been sheep, but this stings.

What I had expected in this issue was a big violent blow-out. Forget the zombies; one group of malevolent people were about to attack and invade another less-power group of people in their home while many of their biggest defenders were a far ways away. Divide and conquer. With blood.

Kirkman flipped the script on that one, though. He only needed to kill one person to achieve roughly the same thing. With a curse-laden speech by our new antagonist, Negan, he managed to keep everyone else alive and in more fear than one big bloody blowout would otherwise have provided. And, to the plot's point, it makes sense. He's not looking to take over someone else's home or two. He wants more supplied and is looking at farming out the work. He needs more people to help him. Unless they don't. The second they don't help him, then he can take them out. Glenn was just a sacrificial lamb used to get the rest to follow his rules. (Unbeknownst to him, he just took out the strongest tool in the hunt for more supplies. Ironic.)

At the same rate, how did I not see it coming with Glenn? It made sense. Take the guy expressing happiness and a future with his wife and kid away from the main storyline of the on-going series, and you get the most obvious victim. Kirkman has never let happiness live and go away quietly. Look at the body count, particularly nearest to Rick.

But as Negan pointed his bat from potential victim to potential victim, your mind played the same game his did, I bet. I chuckled at how he initially eliminated the non-white characters from contention so he didn't look bad. That instantly reminded me of the letters column (and internet) attacks on Kirkman for both the gay character in "Marvel Team-Up" and Michonne's brutal treatment 70 issues earlier. It was like Kirkman was calming the gentle readers that he wouldn't do anything to offend -- and then turned the tables and offed the Asian kid. Nice misdirection.

I suddenly feel a headache coming on from the beating again, just as I write this. I'm not sure if that's my squeamishness, Charlie Adlard's storytelling, or Kirkman's sadistic writing. I hate us all.

Pass the aspirin. And then get me the next issue as soon as possible!

READ AND READ AGAIN?

Alan David Doane -- on his revived ComicBookGalaxy site -- writes about the joy of rereading comics:

. . .there are comics readers . . . who read even the best comics and never again pull them off the shelf. That's a Wow Moment for me, as I can't imagine not returning every couple of years to re-immerse myself in the very best comics ever.

I admit to being one of those readers who doesn't give enough comics a second or third read. The biggest reason is that the release of comics is never-ending. There is no time to stop to catch your breath, short of the occasional freak Christmas week where nobody ships anything.

There's a standard conversation I see repeated on-line often. People are telling anyone who'll listen that they "have to read" the latest hot comic. There are dozens of those every year, though. Who has time to read all the great comics that came out this year, let alone read all the greats from previous years again? And if you did manage to find that time, don't you want to read something new? Don't you want to "catch up" on the stuff you missed that everyone else has said you should check out, before you go back to reread an old favorite?

Why take the risk, though, on something new that you might not like when there's something you know you like that you could enjoy all over again, perhaps on a new level? Do you risk, then, getting stuck in a rut or in not trying new things?

My "To Be Read" stack is measured in boxes now, not even shelves. The intention is there to read it all, but I know it'll never happen. Ever-shifting taste plus ever-shrinking time lets that stack grow. The acceleration has slowed down, but it never stops. Having more good reading material than time is a much better problem than the opposite, thoughs.

That all said, I have been making a better effort in recent years to get to that backlog and to look at older series in new lights. I wrote a whole series of columns in 2009 going back to books of yesteryear that I had enjoyed to see if they still held up. I even once suggested taking a break from the weekly grind of Wednesday Comics to catch up on your backlog or to read an old favorite. (You can imagine how thrilled comics retailers were with me that week. . . ) Right now, I'm in the middle of reading "Y the Last Man," which is a book I never made it past the halfway point of when it was coming out as a monthly series. I reread the first two years as a refresher and am already into year four now. But if I had already read those last three years, would I be so excited to read all five hardcover collections again? Probably not. It's the thrill of the new that keeps me going.

There are, however, comics that I think are great that I flip past on occasion and wish I could take the time to reread them. Maybe I need to make that time now. Otherwise, what's the purpose in accumulating all of these bookshelves and longboxes of reading material, besides playing "Junior Comics Librarian: Home Edition."

You may have noticed this already, but I've dropped off the Wednesday Comics bandwagon in recent years, due to family reasons. I don't have the time or money to go to the comics shop every week. It's tough to give up on it at first, but it gets easier as time goes by. (That sounds like dieting advice to someone addicted to carbohydrates.) I've reached the point where spending $4 for a single comic seems like a ludicrous notion that repels me from the local comic shop. I'm lucky that I get lots of comics for review and PDFs to open up, but I'd still be buying far less than I used to, even without those. When I do pick up things, it's all collected editions of previous works, or things that stand alone. I still find myself "collecting" things, but it's along the lines of Cinebook's "Lucky Luke" series or PaperCutz's "Smurfs" volumes. Everything else is handled on an individual basis, and feels more disposable. There's another problem with a serious lack of room to put everything, but that's a different column all together.

I haven't kept up with all the crossovers and events. I tend to isolate myself from those. I read enough reviews and interviews to have a fair idea of what's going on, but I don't pursue that. When the event is done, maybe I'll read the collected edition. I did that with "Spider-Man: Spider Island" and Marvel's "Fear Itself," for two examples. As collected standalone editions, I can enjoy them on their own merits without getting caught up in the rush of a thousand tie-ins. It's too bad so many such stories need other tie-in titles to explain everything that's going on, but I can at least enjoy the art and the fact that the story is, sort of, over when I get to the last page. I haven't been reading "Avengers vs. X-Men," but I'll definitely be buying the hardcover of that when it comes out. There's too much good art in there to ignore it completely.

There are lots of people who do reread certain favorites every year. ("Watchmen" used to come up in those discussions all the time. I'm not sure if it isn't so over-exposed that some are taking a break from it these days.) Isn't that the point of owning these books? If you never read it more than once, aren't you just paying a high price to buy a slab of pages that sits in a box somewhere to collect dust? I look at my collection these days and think that if three-quarters of it fell off the face of the earth tomorrow, I likely wouldn't notice.

Maybe Alan is right and maybe this is a wake-up call to remember the good times and to go back to them. Don't do it out of nostalgia, but rather do it to remind yourself once again of why comics are so great, and how the best ones might be made even better with a fresh perspective.

I've been itching to dig up my "Transmetropolitan" trade paperbacks lately. Maybe I should start there? I think enough time has gone by now that the politics of it might take on a completely different meaning, or look portentious. Either that, or I'll catch up on that stack of random trade paperbacks I've been stockpiling all year. The fun never ends.

Or maybe I could go completely crazy and use Tim Callahan's "Year of Alan Moore" as inspiration and -- nah, nevermind. My attention span is not nearly long enough for that kind of thing.

It's something else to think about, that's for sure. In the end, it's all the same: I read comics because I like them. I want to read lots of great comics. I want to be entertained. It shouldn't matter if they're new or old, previously read or not. There's something to be learned from all great comics. And life's too short to spend on the rest, though nobody's filter is so perfect that they'll always know which books to avoid. Isn't that what makes life interesting?

I'm also in agreement with Doane's compatriot, Christopher Allen, when he says that he can never see himself reading "Daredevil: Born Again" in any format again after reading the Artist's Edition. I have the trade paperback, and it'll forever collect dust in the shadow of the AE.

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TAGS:  pipeline, the walking dead, robert kirkman, kick-ass, mark millar, john romita jr

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