PIPELINE CELEBRATES FIVE YEARS
I first met Tracie Mauk in San Diego last year. She was seated behind the Image Comics table alongside Craig Rousseau and Eric Wolfe Hanson to help promote an upcoming TELLOS book, SONS AND MOONS. Sadly, for various reasons, the story was never completed and the book (complete with Nick Cardy cover) has yet to see the light of day.
In any case, there was a preview of the art being done for the book, and Mauk’s portion of it was a really cute manga-fied story with Rikk and Hawke. When I got back from San Diego, I found Mauk’s web site with plenty of cool art samples, and found her hanging around at the Tellos message board. (Sadly, the board is down while the domain name gets resolved. Jeez, those poor TELLOS guys…)
Nowadays, she’s a semi-regular on the Pipeline message board and is working on several things, including one or two with previous Pipeline interview subject, Derek Fridolfs. Who knows what we’ll see in the end, or where we’ll see it, but it’s always fun to take a peak inside her sketchbook.
(And while you’re at it, you can read the two major TELLOS columns I’ve written. They were written for an interview for a magazine that never came together, but the material didn’t go to waste. One was written in the middle of the series, and contained some guesses and hints about what was coming up. The other appeared long after the original run finished, and included excerpts from the interviews I did with creators Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo at that earlier time.)
WHAT’S COME DOWN THE PIPELINE – PART TWO
I continue a look back today at 5 years of column writing. Yesterday included a run down of all the convention columns and DVD reviews you might have seen in this column. Today is quite a different selection, including the columns you haven’t seen. Read on.
When I hand in each column, I rarely hear from CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland. He takes each one, adds the graphics to the bare HTML template I use at his request, and everything works just fine. He usually reads each column as he posts it, and sometimes fixes a stupid typo or two that I might have missed. But he doesn’t shoot back a critique twice a week or anything. I don’t expect him to. He’s got too much going on and too many columns flying across his desk as it is. That’s fine.
The first time I can remember him shooting back an e-mail in which he was excited about a column was my “Open Letter to Rob Liefeld.” I had handed it in early, probably because I was heading out to a convention or going on vacation or something. In his column description that showed up on the front page, he dubbed it “the Pipeline you HAVE to read.” And, sure enough, plenty of you did. The hits for that column were pretty high for the time.
Times change and people change. I’ve talked to Liefeld about some of the stuff in that column since then. For a while, he was a regular columnist over at SpinnerRack.com, and one of the brotherhood of web columnists, if there is such a thing. (So sue me. I’ve got a soft spot for my fellow writing toilers on the web.)
I bring this all up now, in part, because I’m sick of the Liefeld bashing. The jokes about the Hollywood announcements for GALAXY GIRL and SHRINK are wretched. Much as all the pundits care to harangue Liefeld for not creating anything new, none of them have come up with a second joke yet to make about Liefeld. The worst part about it is that they seem to ignore information in the stories they’re reacting to in order to crack these insipid jokes. Let me give you a clue, folks: SHRINK didn’t sell on the basis of four gag panels. (And, BTW, the gag panel is no easier or more difficult than the strip style of cartooning. They’re different forms with their own rules.) It sold on the basis of those samples, a full script, and probably a bible, too.
Ah, who am I kidding? This won’t stop anything. Just don’t let me see it around here, OK? Thanks.
On the other side of the “hits” story: Pipeline is aimed at mostly the comics mainstream. It spends most of its time discussing things related to Marvel, DC, and Image. It also spends a lot of time on various independent books, but nobody seems to realize that and nobody ever reads the column when I do. I’ve learned to sneak those indie reviews in between X-MEN reviews to get people to read them.
One of my favorite lines of comics is, sadly, no longer made in the USA. For the better part of the mid-1990s, Gladstone packaged together a line of comic books based on the Disney Duck characters – Donald, Uncle Scrooge, the Beagle Boys, etc. I’m a big fan. It’s not because of some rush of nostalgia I get from reliving my childhood. I didn’t start reading the books until I was 13, and I haven’t stopped since that. I enjoy the stories to this day because the storytelling is so pure. And all of it came from the pen of Carl Barks, who created Uncle Scrooge, and gave the rest of the cast their personalities. His hard work and dedication to the ducks led to a wonderful library of comics stories that are second to none. At the very least, he’s the Jack Kirby of the anthropomorphic set. When he passed away a couple of years ago, I dedicated a column to his greatness and his importance to so many. Here’s a man who was, at his peak, writing and drawing the heart of the best-selling comic in America, moving millions of copies per month. He’s a comics legend and, sadly, all too often overlooked as being a simple drawer of funny animals. That’s too bad. Carl Barks was a master storyteller, up there with Eisner and Kurtzman and Kirby, in my opinion.
Just writing these words makes me want to dig through some boxes to re-re-re-read some of those stories. Sadly, the column I wrote after Carl Barks’ death also goes down in Pipeline history as being the least read. I probably shouldn’t even admit to that, but it’s what it is. So here’s your chance to make it up to me — do a guy a favor on his fifth anniversary and go click on the link above and read about one of comics’ legends. Let’s not forget him. I’ll be back to Marvel and DC on Tuesday, I promise.
I have three more creators to mention here, in columns which were much more successful.
When I first joined up with CBR, Jonah wanted me to review some of Brian Bendis’ books. Jonah had served on the Eisner Nomination Committee and he fell in love with the books. He pestered me to give one of the books a shot. When SAM AND TWITCH debuted that summer, I gave it a shot and found it to be remarkable. These characters didn’t talk like every other comic character. The pages were laid out in a dense way to account for all the talking going on. The story was intriguing without being too confusing. It was stylistic and expressive. Angel Medina’s art was a great help, and it was based on layouts from Bendis. I loved SAM AND TWITCH, and when I met Bendis at a New York City con a couple of months later, I picked up one of just about everything he had at the table. GOLDFISH. FIRE. JINX. A couple of short story collections. I left TORSO behind, so I had something to look forward to. I gobbled up the stories in short order and came out with a column on 28 January 2000 that I know caused a few people to give those black and white crime stories a shot. I still have some of their appreciative letters. (I love my job sometimes).
Here we are, a couple of years later, and Bendis is on the Wizard Top Ten, is writing a couple of the best-selling titles in comics right now (including the best superhero one, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN), and has no plans to slow down. The kid’s done all right for himself.
Chuck Dixon is a writer whose work I was vaguely familiar with for years. You couldn’t really read comics for any length of time in the 1990s without tripping over something he’d written, even if it was just a fill-in issue of your favorite super hero title. If you’re a Batman fan, there’s no way you missed him, as he set up camp there and threatened to never leave. (And he didn’t until CrossGen knocked on his door.) Like Bendis, his writing style is unique and identifiable. His fast-paced scripts and action-packed stories lead to generally quick reads that are full of character and heart. He talks about all of this in convention appearances, on his message boards, and most explicitly on his web site, where he gives writing tips. Amongst them is the popular 10 Commandments of Comic Book Writing.
Then there’s Chris Claremont, who comes in second only to Rob Liefeld as the object for mindless jokes told by people who don’t have the capacity to think of a new one. Claremont’s biggest problem is that his style doesn’t fit in well with the popular writing styles of today. His prose is too flowery and his dialogue isn’t catchy enough. His characters dare to use accents and catch phrases. But he’s still the man whose team comic book formula became the standard for all that followed him for two decades afterwards. There’s something to that style which still grips me to this day.
Trade paperbacks are the wave of the future for comics. We know that much now. I can look at my bookshelves and see that for myself. I don’t need any other industry prognosticators to say it anymore. It’s a great way to keep material in print for a much longer time than the traditional 4 week shelf life that single issues of comics series have today. Of course, it’s brought up a whole other series of questions, most of which are too large to ponder in a simple introductory paragraph like this.
I’ve spent some time reviewing trade paperbacks in the past five year. Right now, I’m trying my best to include TPB reviews in Pipeline2 columns every Friday, for example. It’s a lot of reading, but it’s worth it. Besides, single stories across four or six issues of a comic tend to read much more quickly than six separate issues. There’s a certain continuity of story and style that make it that much more interesting to read.
Here are some highlights of the trade paperbacks reviewed in Pipeline over the past five years. These are by no means all of them. These are just the trades that took up whole (or large portions of) columns on their own.
- BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
- CEREBUS, Volume 1
- CLAN APIS
- DARK KNIGHT 2, Volume 1
- ELECTRIC GIRL
- FROM HELL
- SPIDER-MAN: TORMENT
- SPIDER-MAN movie trades
- WHITEOUT: MELT
Art books, including Kaluta and Cardy
THE UNWRITTEN COLUMNS
As much as I’ve written over the past five years, there is plenty of stuff that I started writing but never finished..
The “Why SUPERMAN Sucks” column just came out to be too mean-spirited and not backed by enough facts for my tastes. I dropped all of the regular monthly titles about six months ago and haven’t regretted it. I’ve discussed all my reasons for it in Pipeline in the past, so part of it would be redundant. The rest would just be needlessly irritating. Besides, there are plenty of great books worth reading that I could focus on rather than spending an entire column banging my head against the wall.
Humanoids Publishing was due for its spotlight last September. I read two of their oversized hardcover albums. I enjoyed them — NOGEGON and THE BOOK OF JACK — both. I started the column the night of September 10th, 2001, and then promptly abandoned it two nights later to write a column focused more on the events of the day. I would like to go back and write that Humanoids column, but part of that idea still leaves a weird taste in my mouth to this day.
I started writing a review of MAISON IKKOKU, Rumiko Takahashi’s romantic comedy/soap opera, about a year ago when I read the first three volumes. I wanted to read a couple more before writing it up officially, and I’ve yet to get to volumes 4 or 5, let alone 6 through the end. There are paragraphs written already and bullet points to cover, but I have no idea when you might see that.
Another manga, SANCTUARY, is a favorite of mine. It’s a 9 volume political thriller with organized crime, illicit affairs, and more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. I didn’t write the review right away, and so it sat until I didn’t have the book fresh enough in my mind to talk about it. While this paragraph will hardly make up for a full-fledged review, let me just say this: It’s a great book. Give it a shot. Read the first couple of volumes and see if it doesn’t leave you gasping for more. Even the ending is satisfying.
COMIC BOOK NATION is a historical text discussing the evolution of the comic book as a mirror to our society, from the Golden Age to present. Spending most of its time in the Golden and Silver Age, it an interesting and informative read for those of us who’ve only lived through the Modern Age. This is a review that I intended to write in a style befitting a literary book review. That’s partly what strangled the piece. It got to be so tedious to write that I lost interest. By the time I had all my notes together, I was sick of the book. It happens. Maybe someday I’ll reread the book and present that column, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. It is, however, a recommended read.
A couple of Marches ago, I did a series of columns focusing on runs of specific titles. One of the books I had begun to read in preparation for an installment of that series was AMERICAN FLAGG. I picked up a large lot of those issues off of eBay, and quickly devoured the first 6 issues. I never got much further past that, though, as convention season and other distractions kept me from finishing it off. I’d have to start back at the beginning to get everything fresh in my mind again for a review. It’s a very good title, though, and rereading it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to do some lazy weekend. It’s just a bit disappointing to have to go backwards like that to get to a column.
There’s still one series of columns that I’m hoping to get to someday. I have some of them written already. It’s a series called “Great Comics.” Each week will analyze one facet of what makes a comic great, along with an example to review, and some thoughts about it. I have two or three of them written already with outlines for another dozen or more. Someday, I hope to put enough in the can to commit to the idea as a series of Pipeline2 columns for a few months. For now, though, it’s on the back burner.
THE GREAT PIPELINE COMICS GIVEAWAY: DAY FOUR
I have a large stack of comics to give away this week. They run the gamut from CrossGen to Marvel to Image and everything inbetween.
One lucky winner will take home some Marvel comics today. This includes the entire Garth Ennis/Darick Robertson FURY mini-series, the first DOOM mini-series from Chuck Dixon and Leonardo Manco, and the first four issues of the recently collected DAREDEVIL: YELLOW.
If you’d like a chance to take home this care package, send me an e-mail with a subject header of “Thursday Giveaway”. Include your mailing address in the body of the e-mail. I’ll be picking one e-mail at random later this week at a random time. Goody bags will hit the post office in the next couple of weeks. One entry per person per giveaway, please. Entrants are not limited to North America. If you’re overseas and would like a chance at this package, you’re more than welcome to enter.
Good luck! Tomorrow: More comics. I’ve still got a huge stack to give away…
Pipeline’s 5th Anniversary celebration concludes tomorrow with another comics giveaway and more looks back at five years of column writing. I’ll look at event comics, long runs of comics, some Pipeline milestones, and probably more. It should be jam-packed.
More than 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.