Pipeline: The SDCC Post-Show

Tue, August 5th, 2014 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist
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POINT OF VIEW: PERHAPS OBVIOUS, BUT A GOOD REMINDER

Another convention in San Diego has come and gone, leaving those of us in its wake to pick winners and losers. Some debate over the value or merit of the convention. A predictable number of people claim it was either the best or the worst convention of all time. Or that the news was the most or least exciting ever.

How can that be?

This isn't a problem with the convention in San Diego. This is a matter of human fallibility. We're all opinionated and we all have our own worldview. There is no subjective scorecard for the convention, as much as many may fall for that siren's song.

From my point of view, I can't make a pronouncement of who the biggest winner was or what the most exciting announcement was. I can tell you the things that piqued my own interests, but I can't sit in judgment of the efforts of the companies there and tell you who did it right or wrong.

From my point of view, it was uneventful. I don't watch any of the TV series. I catch the movies in the theaters about half the time, but I like going in unspoiled. (That takes care of half the announcements.) I don't follow the monthly habits of Marvel or DC's characters anymore. (There goes the next half.) I'm lost in wading through a sea of crossovers, events, and the always-changing status quo. It's gotten so bad that not even waiting for collected editions is fixing that. Even the collected editions that I thought might save me from the rigors of the monthly grind and all its crazy numbering schemes and crossovers can't do that job anymore. I can think of two or three series I was excited about at the beginning that I trailed off from by the third collection because I didn't care about the crossovers I'd have to spend money on to get the whole story.

This isn't meant to be an attack on the way the comics publishers handle themselves, though. It works for some people. It must work for a lot of them, because the books keep selling and those events keep happening.

Good for them. They can have it. I hope they're enjoying it. We all do at one point or another. I've jumped off that bandwagon, so I can't sit here and tell you whether Marvel's big announcements at whatever the next event will be is all that meaningful or not. Ditto DC's next event or cover stunt or any of it.

It's not aimed at me anymore. I can't sit in judgment of it. They make those announcements for another class of comics reader, many of whom eat it up and feel like one particular company or announcement won the convention.

Enjoy. Have fun. Comics has a big umbrella we can all gather under. But there are others who are more in tune with things where they can fight these things out.

I can't tell you if Marvel or DC won. I can tell you that John Cassaday drawing "Star Wars" sounds cool to me, for as long as that lasts. (What, three issues? Followed by a $25 collection of those three issues with a small sketchbook section in the back to pad the page count? Sorry, I'm getting cynical again...)

The point is, it's all about perspectives. Please keep that in mind when reading an analysis of things that attempts to be conclusive or too sure of itself. As much as the convention now caters to ten different crowds, the analysis of it can come from just as many places.

PIPELINKS

  • IDW continues to launch itself at Hollywood, picking up the rights to Douglas Adams' other novel series, "Dirk Gently." They aim to put it to series on television while doing a comic. What else might they adapt to television? I have an idea:

  • Chuck Rozanski changed his mind and will return to the convention in San Diego next year. Most everything I wrote last week still applies. I'm glad he was able to step back, reassess his business model, and plan to make the changes he needs to make to survive. That's business.

  • I saw a few Marvel hardcovers in the remainder rack at a bookstore over the weekend. They're getting very thin-feeling for the price point, aren't they? Even at half price, I didn't bother with them. They barely fit five issues in for $25. I thought monthly issues were bad, but the standard sized hardcovers turn out to be even worse. That's impressive.

  • Looking for inspiration for drawing a story? Here's a blog post with Dreamworks' suggestions for storyboard artists that will teach you a thing or two. Yes, it's meant for animation, but at first glance I don't see a single suggestion that wouldn't help out a large number of working comic artists, too.

  • Animator Toby Shelton shows you how to draw hands. I just copied Peyo Smurf drawings for a while, but this will probably give you a better foundation.

  • Count me in as one of those who could in no way handle "Quack Pack" and those redesigns of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. 20 years later and they still make me gag. (The backwards baseball cap! Ack!)

  • Some classic examples of composition, contrast, and shapes.

  • There was supposed to be a "Guardians of the Galaxy" review here in the column this week, but other things got in the way and I never got to the theater. Maybe next week?

  • And there was no happier story this week than the one of Bill Mantlo getting a private screening of the movie. Made me smile.
"THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" #313: "Slithereens!"

In the craziness of Inferno, Curt Conners has reverted to his Lizard form once again and threatens his family. Spider-Man, thankfully, happens to be in the area...

This is the issue where David Michelinie took the mandate to cross over with Inferno and turned in a script with as many crazy hijinks as he could think of.

The book starts with Mary Jane and Peter in a taxi in the Midtown Tunnel, where a shark attacks. Don't worry, Peter can use his web shooters to stop the shark and punch him out.

Then, the Spider-Man balloon from Macy's Thanksgiving parade comes out of storage and takes on a life of its own. He strolls down the city streets. Spider-Man is forced to pop the balloon using a giant pin -- the needle at the top of the Chrysler Building.

Like I said, crazy hijinks, but played under the right umbrella to give them plausibility. It's Inferno, man. Sit back and enjoy it. It was played seriously in the X-books, but here in a tie-in, things can go their own way.

The main story of the issue is Curt Conners, who had thought he was gaining control of his changes into the Lizard before Inferno struck. That confidence is rattled, and Spider-Man must intervene to keep everyone alive long enough to realize what's going on.

This, by the way, is not The Violator.

The Lizard is right up Todd McFarlane's alley, as is this whole Inferno deal. He gets to draw a few demons in this issue, too, but it is The Lizard who is the big star. McFarlane's interpretation of him is scary and animalistic. His textures and exaggerated physical features give him a new weight and horror. It's no wonder that McFarlane would later use him in his opening storyline on the adjectiveless "Spider-Man" title.

In the end, Michelinie's superhero story has another somewhat somber ending, as bad things happen to another of Peter Parker's friends. First, it was the good doctor at ESU (who was reinstated a couple of issues later), and now to Curt Conners (Stan Lee couldn't pass up a good alliteration), who by the end of the issue realizes he can't return to his normal family life, just for their own safety. It's classic Spider-Man, though, isn't it? He does all the right things and still can't be happy. Spider-Man can't win, even when it seems like he does.

In the tease at the end, we see Jonathan Caesar preparing his legal exit from prison, promising a not terribly nice life for his one try love, Mary Jane. As I recall, this storyline doesn't actually happen until after McFarlane's departure from the title. It's during Erik Larsen's tenure that Caesar returns.

Now, for a long tangent away from the details of this issue and into a more general feeling I had in reading it:

I flipped through the last couple of issues before reading this one. I relived a feeling I had lost in comics awhile back. There was that anticipation each month for the next issue of a series. Today, everything feels safer. There are more comics to choose from in a greater variety. You know that they'll eventually be available in a collected edition. Heck, if the comic shop sells out of it, you still have the digital download option.

Those safety nets weren't around 15 or 20 years ago. You picked up the issue when it came out, or you paid back issue bin prices weeks or months later, maybe at a local show or through a mail order dealer or something.

I remember buying "The Amazing Spider-Man" at the newsstand when McFarlane was on it in his last few months. I bought other comics, and even other Spider-Man comics, but I practically counted down the weeks until the next issue would show up at the stationery store I bought my comics at. I'd rip into it instantly. Every other comic would recede on the stands to a place I barely noticed until that one cool series could be read. Repeatedly. Maybe even copied with a pencil and paper. I drew a lot in those days.

Today, I tend to read a comic and throw it into the stack. I might read it again before the next issue comes out, or maybe if I plan on reviewing it here. There are books I'm excited for when I get them, but rarely any that I count down the weeks until the next issue. I read too many series to get locked too much into one, though still far fewer that I did in my biggest collecting days.

I still get excited when I see specific books come out, but I don't get excited waiting for them.

I still love comics, but it's from a different point of view.

When it came to a book like "Amazing Spider-Man," you just never knew what you were going to get. Yes, you'd get Spider-Man web-slinging through the city and Peter and Mary Jane chatting, but everything else varied wildly from month to month. Look at the selection of villains we've seen in the last 16 issues already. Yes, some are forgettable, but there's a good variety of them. There's new and classic, cool and not-so-exciting, and those McFarlane breathed new life into with his art style.

You just never knew what the next issue would be. While there are comics whose plots take major twists and turns these days, none feel quite so varied as a monthly series of smaller stories that ramble from one plot to the next. I'm enjoying that as I read this Omnibus. In comparison to today's comics, it feels like anarchy.

That doesn't mean it doesn't have its drawbacks. I'm aware of those. But I'm enjoying the different feeling these comics give me today with a bit of new self-awareness brought about by experience.

And, just for a little while in reading this issue, it was fun to have that feeling again.

Felix Watch: He's right there on the dashboard of the taxi driver's cab. Pay no attention to the shark just outside the window.

More Rembrandt Lighting: I've made reference to it before, but I spotted five instances of it in this issue, so I gathered them all up. That triangle of light on the subject's cheek? It's all Rembrandt.

Next Issue: It's Christmas time! Mary Jane and Peter get evicted! No villains! Todd McFarlane has a whole issue of "civilians" to draw! How will it go? Stay tuned. . .

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TAGS:  sdcc2014, pipeline, the mcspidey chronicles

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