Pipeline: Halloween Shopping Edition

Tue, September 18th, 2012 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

HALLOWEEN SHOPPING

It's that time of year when empty store fronts play host to new Halloween Shops. If you don't have those by you, they're pop-up stores. They open up, pay rent for two months, and then leave town. With lots of people looking for lots of costumes in a short period of time, it's a solid business. I'm sure the owners of the unused buildings are happy to have someone pay a cheaper rent for a short-term store. Locally, there's one in an old Borders location and one in an abandoned car dealership.

We took our daughter out looking for a costume over the weekend. While she was busy looking for a cat costume or a fairy tale costume or something, I kept drifting over to the superhero section to see what it was the kids wanted these days. Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man were the biggest hits. That's no doubt due to the popularity of their well-written and well-drawn sequential narratives, available on a monthly basis at your local comics shop.

Right.

But I did see a couple of things I had to snap pictures of to show you all.

A pair of Marvel costumes intrigued me. The first was Spider-Girl. As you might expect, it's Spider-Man with a skirt. There's an attempt to claim it's May Day Parker, star of Tom DeFalco's fan-favorite "Spider-Girl" series, but given that that character wasn't wearing a skirt while swinging over the city, it's safe to call that tie-in tenuous. But, hey, if a little girl wants to be a superhero, give her a chance.

The one that piqued my curiosity, though, was the American Dream costume, sold as being Captain America's daughter. Part of the same MC2 Universe, American Dream even starred in her own mini-series a couple of years ago, as drawn by Todd Nauck. That's the only familiarity I had with the character. Again, she's Captain America with a skirt, but that still seemed less obvious to me than Spider-Girl.

And now we see why Marvel kept the MC2 Universe in print for as long as it did. Have to keep that IP alive!

No, there weren't any X-23 or Jean Grey costumes for sale that I saw. I imagine you can roll your own Mohawk Ororo pretty easily, though. If you do, please send pictures. That would be cool.

The one mask I saw that I never would have expect? The Goon! I kid you not:

I wonder who'll pop up next?

A COMICS FAN DOCUMENTARY DONE RIGHT?

I'm a bit burnt out on comic book reality shows. Try to forget Stan Lee's "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" We've all been trying for years now, and we've mostly been successful.

Last year came the Kevin Smith "Comic Book Men" series, which came under criticism for a bunch of different things. My biggest problem with it was just that it was too much of a "reality show" with forced books to keep the show interesting.

Over the summer, National Geographic tried their hand at producing an hour of comic retail reality with "Comic Store Heroes" and I never saw one discussion of it. It debuted during San Diego Comic-Con as I recall, so any fanboy clamor for it got drowned out instantly. I never got past the halfway mark of the show. Between the forced scripted and staged bits and the general buffoonery of "comic geeks are GEEEEKY," I just couldn't be bothered. And it doubly pissed me off that National Geographic would stoop that low, right down to using the comic book fonts for the lower thirds, faux panels, ben day dots, etc. etc.

Last week saw the cherry placed atop this pile of drek with "Collection Intervention" being outed as a cheap ambush show.

What hope could there be?

I finally watched Morgan Spurlock's documentary, "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" last week. While I might pick at a couple of nits and I did cringe once or twice, it's about the fairest and most "normal" depiction of comics fandom I've ever seen committed to film. Yes, it shows some of the extreme geeks and a bunch of cosplayers. Yes, it has the faux panels as scene transitions and fonts that probably came straight out of Comicraft. Putting away all the surface cliches, it did a smart thing by focusing on specific "characters" and following them through the show. Ad it felt honest, not staged, scripted and plotted.

"A Fan's Hope" follows four people going to the convention. Two are artists showing off their portfolios. One is a cosplayer with hopes of doing it professionally. And one is a retailer dealing with the shifting tide of the show, trying to keep his head above water while mounting a large scale retail operation inside the con hall. That was Chuck Rozanski, by the way, head of Mile High Comics. Honestly, I would have watched a two hour documentary on just his experiences with the show. (When he gets cranky and starts blasting LucasFilm for co-opting the loading docks, I wanted yell "Preach it, brother!" to my television screen.)

This minor cross-section of the types of people who go to the convention represent a good chunk of the show, and allow Spurlock to tell specific stories while leaving breathing room to analyze the overall themes. I am easily bored when people try to explain fan shows in high-minded scholastic tones. I don't want to hear about tribes and brotherhoods and like-minded people and blah blah blah. I don't want to know about anyone else's tortured childhood or the troubles they have forming relationships today as adults because of it, and how a comics convention helps them through it. I don't care. But seeing four people going to the convention for all the right reasons, following them without making fun of them, and watching their highs and lows? That's entertainment. I suppose it helps that the filmmaker, Spurlock, is an actual documentary producer and not a reality show veteran.

Interspersed with those stories are talking heads (shot on a blank white screen that must have been fun to light) giving a general overview of the convention experience. Lots of them are Hollywood types, which is ironic to some degree, but at least Spurlock picked out ones who had more to say about Comic-Con than whatever they're P.R. people spoon-fed them in the days before the appearance.

It's a light-hearted hour and a half, but it's one that made me miss San Diego. I can watch the other shows and not feel like they really represent what I see in comics. This movie, though, made me feel like someone "got it." I wasn't looking past the annoying people in front of the camera to pick out obscure bits in the background that few might recognize. I was watching the movie. It gives an overall impression of Comic-Con that's favorable without being fawning.

Yes, they cover Fanboy Funk over the final credits, but they don't use that term. Shame. Since they saved it as a winking smiley face at the end kind of thing, I'm not horrified at the use of the cliche. Besides, I saw the cloud over the LucasArts Pavillion that year the air conditioning wasn't working. I can't deny that such a thing exists.

Give the movie a chance. You'll find yourself rooting for the cosplayer, cheering for the retailer, and only slightly cringing at the artist who's more eager than talented.

WE'VE LIVED THROUGH CRAZY TIMES

This week in Pipeline, ten years ago:

At long last, it happens this week. Marvel's long and protracted attempt to look foolish and silly ("U-Decide") comes to a head with the release of CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, MARVILLE #1, and something from Ron Zimmerman that I just couldn't bring myself to read, but would appear to be attached to the Ultimate Marvel universe.

"Captain Marville" won, by the way, without using alternate cover schemes. Now, Bill Jemas is writing books about waking up teenagers that almost make me yearn for the subtleties of "Marville."

MORE ON CEREBUS

Fantagraphics has reached out to Dave "I'm Leaving Comics" Sim with an offer to be the new "Cerebus" publisher. On the face of it, it seems like a natural fit. Fantagraphics does an amazing job with archival hardcover reprints of large-scale projects. They have the infrastructure in place. "Cerebus" would be given a brand new spark of life from such a re-energized publishing effort. Right now, one of the biggest problems with selling "Cerebus" isn't the political differences most of humanity has with its creator, as much as the whole operation feeling old and antiquated. We've "been there and done right," right? Those same phone books have been in constant production for decades. There's no demand for it because there's no reason to rush right out to get them. Nothing ever changes. Maybe reprinting them in a new and updated format to take the modern realities of the publishing field better into account would be the way to bring new attention to this masterpiece of graphic literature.

Dave Sim has effectively shot the offer down, but for a compelling reason. He points out that such a publication effort would tie "Cerebus" up for the next 15 years. At the rate the publishing world is changing, is that such a bright idea? The obvious counter-example to that, obviously, would be "Peanuts." They're doing just fine in a long-term contract.

While Sim has always been one to look at the long game, I wonder if he isn't being a bit short-sighted. He's talking about leaving comics completely. What does he have to lose? "Cerebus" at Fantagraphics would be stable for at least the first few years. And with a carefully constructed contract, he could be assured that he'd retain rights to the book and regain control if something goes sideways with the publishing company.

The next question is, what would the new packaging look like? Given other Fantagaphics reprints, I'd guess the phone books would need to be broken down into two books a piece, perhaps even three. Make them hardcovers. Retain the page size, be sure to throw in plenty of commentary at the front and back of the book. Maybe a critic opens the book and Sim closes it? Sim would be very picky as to which critic he'd let discuss the book, though. Maybe throw in a summary of the comics world during the time of that run's publication? There's no doubt that Sim set a model for many self-starters in the comics world during the series' lifespan. Those epic letters columns are famous for their controversies, planning, and more. Might there be a little room in the new books to include the meta-story of "Cerebus"?

You know what else would be cool? Let IDW publish a "Dave Sim and Gerhard Artist's Edition: Cerebus" volume. I imagine that with some of those intricate Gerhard backgrounds, original "Cerebus" art would look amazing at such a size. I'd buy it just for the lettering.

Put enough of this kinds of packages together and suddenly you have a Cerebus Renaissance on your hands.

BITS AND PIECES

* Special thanks to Robot6 for linking to the Deadpool Gangnam Style parody video. I may not quite 'get' the hilarity of the original, but the parody's guerilla filmmaking style made me laugh out loud. I like the good-natured discomfort of the whole thing, combined with the innocent bystanders who get the reference and have fun with it. That's cool.

* I'm a bit bemused by the on-line reaction to MorrisonCon. It seems that we've all been so accustomed to conventions being as cheap as possible to attract as many people as possible to account for as many sales as possible to the dealers on the floor, that the very concept of doing a convention with a different model is not just foreign to some, but outright offensive.

Yes, MorrisonCon is a more expensive ticket. It's also a boutique show, with a smaller attendance and a wildly different model. It's not about getting people to the show floor to sell them more comics/variant action figures or gather more eyeballs for banner ads. It's about selling a specific experience. I don't know that it'll actually change anyone's life, but it's about time the world of comics experiments more with the format of its fan gatherings. I'm hoping MorrisonCon is just the start. I'm still waiting for the TED of comics. It seems like such a obvious thing, but it still hasn't happened.

If you disagree with all of this, you're more than welcome to #OccupyMorrisCon.

* Speaking of Morrison, his new comic, "Happy!" is due out next week, with art by Darick Robertson. It might just be the first Morrison book I liked off the bat. Sure, there will be some who will attempt to find ways to explain to us how this story sparks the secret to the universe inside all of us, and the allusions to meta-critical fictional adventures are meant to be obvious, but screw it -- I just liked it for what it is. And it is slightly bizarre in a good way. Robertson, artist on "Space Beaver," is the perfect choice for this title. I look forward to seeing where this one goes.

* Bon Iver front man, Justin Vernon, wants a tattoo in the art nouveau style, a popular look amongst comic book cover artists. CBR has a new spin-off blog devoted to comic book-related tattoos. Somehow, I picture these two getting along rather well.

* The video for the new Ben Folds Five single features the gang from Fraggle Rock. BFF is opening the New York Comic-Con next month. Do you think there's any chance of a Fraggle Rock cameo at that show? That would make that crowd go nuts.

* Purge update: Nothing going on this week. Put together another box, but no real progress made past that. This week, I plan on organizing the loose assortment of monthly comics spread out over three boxes that have accumulated in recent months. That will lead to catching up on my reading, I hope.

* I'm celebrating my tenth blogiversary this week. VariousAndSundry.com turned ten yesterday, and I've got a lot to say. Check out the site on Wednesday for a lot of extra writing, timed for something I can't talk about just yet.

It should also be noted that I've written over 1000 columns for ComicBookResources.com in just over 15 years. As usual, thinking about it just makes me tired.

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TAGS:  pipeline, cerebus, comic-con episode iv a fans hope

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