Pipeline: The X-Vengers Assemble

Tue, September 11th, 2012 at 2:58pm PDT | Updated: September 11th, 2012 at 3:14pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist
3

FINALLY! A PREDICTION (NEARLY) CAME TRUE

Let's go back to February 28th of this year when I wrote this:

So let me put my crazy theory into the mix now: Following the events of "Avengers vs. X-Men," the two teams will merge. A new X-Vengers will rise from the ashes. Bendis can claim he's leaving the Avengers and not just writing the X-Men and be both completely correct and wildly misleading at the same time. It's a brilliant move. It is also..."crazy."

Cut me off after that second sentence and I'm golden.

We can see from all the Marvel NOW! promotions that the X-Men and Avengers teams are merging, though Bendis is writing what appears to be a straight-up X-Men title. Rick Remender will be handling the flagship "X-Vengers" title. I get some credit for getting close, though, right? I was in the right neighborhood.

On the other hand, my proposed Joe Quesada reboot of a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise hasn't happened yet. Well, Peter Parker does have his secret identity back, but Marvel hasn't turned its back on the new 'norm' for Peter Parker and pals. I can check off one item from there, but that's really about it. Congratulations to Marvel for their success in the last four years of the "Brand New Day" world of Spider-Man, and for sticking to their guns.

This hypothetical might still be a good idea, though:

At our last creator summit, we invited all of the spouses of our creators to come along to discuss the marriage and how to make it dramatic. With the help of all the "outsiders," we have some great new ideas for how to make his marriage work. We're not sure if those ideas came from their own lives or too many soap operas, but we'll try anything new at this point.

Or how about this alternate universe plan for X-Men vs. Avengers:

Now, onto our next item on the agenda. Who wants to talk about our bold new plan to kill every mutant through autoerotic asphyxiation? X-MEN: CHOKE IT is a new four issue mini-series from indy darling...

Maybe Remender might qualify as that "indy darling"? Surely, the man who wrote "Black Heart Billy" could handle that kind of comic!

HOPE FOR LETTERING

The big win at the Harvey Awards this weekend came in the lettering category. Since nobody pays much attention to letterers, it's an impossible category to predict. Often, the winner is the person who lettered the book that won all the other categories. Or it's Todd Klein. For a decade at the Eisners, Klein was untouchable, and for good reason. As much as I can't personally enjoy "Sandman," I could stare at the lettering in the book all day long.

Chris Eliopoulos won the lettering award at the Harveys for "Fear Itself" in a year in which many major categories -- Best Writer, Best Inker, Best Continuing Series -- were won by "Daredevil." Maybe the voters assumed Eliopoulos was lettering that title (Joe Caramagna did) and so voted for him? Maybe, but the nomination specifically stated "Fear Itself." Maybe it's just name recognition? Maybe, but Todd Klein was nominated, as well. Maybe it's because alphabetically Eliopoulos was first? Would Caramagna have won if he was nominated instead? Maybe.

There's no way to tell without blindly surveying the voters, many of which might lie to cover up the truthful and embarrassing reasons they vote in any category. But I would like to submit the optimistic point of view here. I'd like to think the voters took a serious look and gave the award to Eliopoulos specifically for his work on "Fear Itself" because it was a departure from the letterer's own style. As the book was a Thor-centric title in many ways, Eliopoulos adapted bits of noted "Mighty Thor" letter John Workman's style into his own. The end result was a noticeably different look than in many other Marvel titles, though with a familiar letterform quality to it. The larger balloons, the open borders, the zig-zaggy tales -- they're all created specifically for "Fear Itself," and it was an awesome look for the series. It helped the book look as good as it did, and not by simply blending into the background so nobody noticed it.

I continue to reject that definition of good lettering. If I'm reading a comic and don't see what it is I'm staring at (you know, the words), then the lettering has failed. If I read 20 pages and find some satisfaction in the lettering -- whether it's an agreeable style, integration with the art, some one-off design choice -- then it has done its job. There are plenty of comics out there with lettering that neatly blends into the house style of choice. That's competent lettering. That gets the job done. That doesn't hinder the reader. But it shouldn't win awards or be publicly called out. It's boring, safe, and rote. Let the assembly line churn the rest out, which is what deadline-conscious editors really want, anyway. Give me the ones that stand out in a good way, instead.

Chris Eliopoulos' lettering stood out to me in "Fear Itself," and I'm choosing to believe that it did so, as well, for the voters of the Harvey Awards.

Now, onto those deadline-conscious editors:

EDITING: THE HIDDEN ART

Of all the jobs in comics, the role of the editor is the one least understood by the public. They're the grunts who make all the decisions and all the moves that we don't hear about and likely never will. They face the reality of creator management and availability. They battle the internal politics that don't get discussed at convention panels or on message boards. They catch mistakes long before we would see any of them, and then we never hear about them. The only times we hear about the jobs they do is when they goof something up and we all blame them (rightfully or wrongfully), or a creator blows his stack about something related to an editorial decision.

I bet there are even specific personality types that become editors that make their jobs completely different. Some are more creative, some are more administrative, some are more political, some are more gland-handling. There's no way for any of us to know one from the other by peering through the curtain. That curtain doesn't open very wide very often. It's a wall of silence necessary to keep jobs in the industry.

I get the feeling the editor's role is more political than anything any of us will imagine or could deal with. Negotiating peace between creators or between upper management and creators, or between themselves and those above them or on their creative teams -- it's all part of the job. Every damned day.

The jobs you imagine them doing of keeping track of the traffic of pages coming and going, and catching typos in the lettering or making sure the costumes are colored correctly? Grunt work. The assistants get that, if they're around.

I don't stop to think about the editor too much. There's not much need to review their role in a book review, you know? In a longer-form review it might be useful, but if you think letterers and colorists get the short end of the stick in comic reviews, please note that there is rarely an "Editor" credit in any comics reviews on-line.

This isn't to say that a bad editor can't screw things up and you're always wrong for blaming the editor. Stuff happens. I just think that we never really know what goes on that far behind the scenes. For that matter, we don't always know what goes on with the creative teams, either. Decisions are often made for good reasons that result in bad products and things just can't be helped. I started reading "Modern Masters: Eric Powell" this weekend, and Powell recounted an issue of "Angel" he drew in a week and a half to help keep the book on schedule. It wasn't his best work for obvious reasons, and he believes it's the reason he stopped getting work at Dark Horse at the time. Reviews of it weren't good, internally and externally. That's just one of the behind the scenes things that aren't mentioned in reviews because (A) it's not known and (B) it ultimately shouldn't matter to a reviewer who is reviewing the work and not the process. Life is filled with compromises. But there are always consequences, whether well-intentioned or not.

There is a lot about the comics world we do not know. I learn that everytime I talk to a professional comic creator. And that's part of the reason we all need to be a little more careful about the assumptions we jump to.

PURGE UPDATE

My on-going mission to inventory comics I want to get rid of has now moved into the monthly comics boxes. This is where things will slow down and harder decisions will need to be made.

First, there's a physical issue. These boxes are crammed together and blocked in by other boxes. It's going to make a much bigger mess to run through all of them. This is also the time I start cursing out longboxes. The shorter ones may only hold two-thirds of the longer boxes, but they're certainly easier to carry and move around.

Second, there are more books (thousands more) and the decisions will be tougher as to which to keep and which to get rid of. We'll soon see how good I am about sticking to my "rules" for what to keep and what to get rid of.

I'm still inventorying the boxes of collected editions I'll be purging, but the number of books getting the heave-ho currently stands at 453. I have at least two more heavy boxes to sort through, so I suspect that number will push closer to 600 before all is said and done.

There is one pleasant side effect to this process. Even if I don't find a single new home for all of these comics, I'm more organized and could put together lots for eBay a lot more easily.

The other side effect is that it has me cleaning up all sorts of random cruft that's accumulated in the Man Cave for the last four years. It's amazing how all of those little things that seemed too big a bother to throw out or put away somewhere suddenly turn into objects worth your time when you're trying to make something look neat. I'm learning that it's the little things that create more clutter and chaos than the big things. Those knick-knacks will kill you.

Also, as it turns out, my collection isn't really a problem. No, it's not anywhere near the problem of squeezing two million comics into 6,000 square feet. That's just nutty, but awesome at the same time.

Me, I'm most interested in those bound copies of Uncle Scrooge comics they mention at the end of the article.

A COUPLE OTHER THINGS

* If Greg Land went un-inked, would his stuff look this good? Land is much faster, though. The aforelinked "hyper-realistic" pencil artist needs three to six weeks to complete a single image. That firmly lands him in Frank Quitely territory.

* I'm not alone on the continuity front, and that goes double with Disney Princesses. Josh wrote in to point something out in response to my discussion with my daughter last week:

As a fellow continuity stickler, and father of daughters interested in princesses, isn't it possible your daughter was Ariel post-Ursula's death/human transformation but pre-wedding? The amount of time between those events is not firmly established. This would allow her to have a voice.

In reality, by the time that conversation was over, my daughter had already moved on to play Rapunzel. I was Flynn Rider. And she wanted to start at the part where Rapunzel knocks out Rider with a frying pan.

Being a Dad is painful sometimes.

* Congratulations to WizardWorld for launching a comics convention [sic] in Portland, Oregon. As a bonus, they've even found three or four comic book creators to invite to the show. I'll be more interested in seeing how many of the local comics professionals in that area specifically choose not to go to the show.

* Tech Geek Question: Is anyone out there using Dragon Dictate? Does it laugh at you when you say names like "Bill Sienkiewicz" or "Sergio Aragones"?

* Tech Geek Moment: While playing a round of "Stump the Apple Store Genius" the other day, I saw these cases for the iPod Touch. They're cute as all get out:

* Am slightly depressed that Dave Sim is so depressed that he's planning his exit from comics. The post-Cerebus years have not been easy for him, commercially, despite producing some very interesting work. He explains it all in the editorial I've linked here. . I don't know that I ever got past the third phonebook in my reading of 'Cerebus' (plus "Jaka's Story," which I read first, oddly enough), but it's such brilliant stuff. We need more of it today. I hope there's some alternate path for Sim to stick around in comics somehow in a commercially sustainable way.

* I took my daughter to the movies to see "Oogieloves" so you didn't have to. You're welcome, Internet.

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TAGS:  pipeline, chris eliopoulos, uncanny avengers, rick remender

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