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Pipeline, Issue #529

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Pipeline, Issue #529

PREVIOUSLY. . .

In case you weren’t around this weekend, here’s a recap of everything Pipeline that you missed.

First, the daily Pipeline Podcast news wrap-ups:

  • Thursday – Indiana Jones, The Godfather, USPS and Marvel, Iron Man, etc.
  • Friday – Ellis on X-Men, licensees out the wazoo, and digital comics.
  • Saturday – Spider-Man, Babylon 5, The Eisners, and more

Pipeline Commentary and Review also appeared each day of the con:

  • Thursday – Another San Diego, another problem commute.
  • Friday – I tell you everything that happens at the Image Founding Fathers Panel before it happens.
  • Saturday – What the busiest day of the weekend will bring. And there are some not-so-kind words for the Hall H Stalkers
  • Sunday – What to expect on your last day of the show

Some thoughts now, what with Comic-Con 07 in the rear view mirror and all:

CONUNDRUM

Here’s the conundrum of San Diego:

It’s energizing. There’s nothing like four and a half days of “Nerd Prom” to get the juices flowing again. Forget the big events from Marvel and DC. Forget the oddball breakout books. Forget the whirling controversies of the internet that happen so often that they fall on deaf ears.

San Diego is all about the energy. Sure, by the time it’s over you’re sapped and want to sleep for two solid days. (I always took both Monday and Tuesday off from work after San Diego to recover.) But there’s a fresh stack of books you want to read still in your luggage. There’s a whole new slate of comics and creators to get excited about in the months ahead. And there’s more to absorb in the fall-out of the days and weeks ahead.

I wish the comics industry would just take the month of August off after San Diego, though, so all of it can be properly assimilated. With all the fancy collections and big name books that were rushed out of Quebecor, et. al. in time for San Diego, there’s a fresh stack of unread books sitting next to my computer right now. That’s in addition to all the overflow of previous months I still haven’t tackled.

I could, theoretically, catch up on most of it, but not without some time without anything new coming in. So if the comic book industry could just do me a favor and shut down for a month, I’d sure appreciate it.

There is one benefit, in that direction, to not attending the show. Every year, I pick up more books than I can handle. Talking to creators, flipping through display copies, hearing the buzz. . . It all leads to bringing more books home than I can handle. Seriously, I can point to the stack in the closet from San Diego last year that I still haven’t touched. And, often times, by the time you get home you can flip through those books and wonder what you saw in them on the convention floor in the first place. Was their elevator pitch just that good? Did the constant bombardment of comics wear you down into thinking any piece of crap could be entertaining? Were you hoping to find the needle in the haystack by buying five separate haystacks?

I wish I had Jeff Smith’s new book in my hands right now. I wish I had picked up Rick Geary’s latest and greatest from him. I wish I had the San Diego Comic Con book this year. But I know with those would have come a raft of less enjoyable unmentionables doomed to collect dust and rot away in the back of long boxes.

So I’m slightly ahead of the game right now and feeling pretty good about it. Most of the announcements at the con this weekend won’t be kicking in until at least December. I just cracked open my copy of THE ULTIMATE GALACTUS TRILOGY and will be working my way through more. Let’s use this time to dive into the books, stop making apologies for all that we haven’t read, and start making time to read more.

WHO WON?

Now that the convention is over, the inevitable question becomes, “Who won?” It’s a silly question, really, but it’s the kind of thing we all like to gossip about and discuss over the water cooler. Here’s my answer:

Nobody.

There wasn’t anything in there that wasn’t pre-announced, or anything new that threatened to change the game or disrupt something in a major way. It was a lot of clarifications of things we already knew about, really.

DC had some strong announcements for their fans this weekend, but I don’t think there’s much there to convert new ones. They unveiled “Final Crisis,” announced a creative team for it, announced the second round of MINX titles, showed off TEEN TITANS EAST, and had a couple of Vertigo books to debut.

I just don’t see too many people yakking about it yet. It’s probably too early. We should wait until everyone gets back and the normal Monday through Friday crowd starts piping up, but I don’t think there’s anything in there to create long-lasting discussion.

Marvel had the exclusive announcements, including Marc Guggenheim and Butch Guice. Sure, neither were exactly stolen from DC, which is what generates the exciting headlines. The closest we came to that this weekend was Mark Waid announcing his Editor-In-Chief role at BOOM!, but even that comes with a caveat: it’s not an exclusive. Todd McFarlane speaks a lot about this in IMAGE COMICS: THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE. This is a missed opportunity. If the only place to get Waid’s writing was BOOM!, then it would be a huge announcement. Instead, it’s a curiosity. It’s interesting. It’s worthy of discussion. But then we can all go back to reading THE FLASH and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD safely. Will we feel Waid’s pull on the GODFATHER comic? Who knows?

In any case, I think the announcement of the creative teams on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is big news. I think the release of a launch date for THE ULTIMATES 3 is worthy of discussion, even if it’s all snark. More big Ultimate Universe announcements carried the day, mostly from Jeph Loeb. Not all of it was new, but it was exciting for those fans.

The Ellis/Bianchi team-up for ASTONISHING X-MEN is probably the biggest and most surprising news of the weekend.

DC might have capitalized on the Batman movie lunacy, from the Joker face paint Friday to the debut of a teaser trailer filled with dialogue and nothing else, really. But Marvel had the stars of IRON MAN in their booth and a better gag with the Iron Man armor debut.

So maybe Marvel managed to edge out a win with Iron Man, but I’m so much more of a Marvel fanboy that my perspective is likely skewed.

I thought Image might have missed the biggest opportunity. With the Image Founding Fathers panel, they should have had some big announcement. Instead, it was a friendly chat between old friends/rivals with some good one-liners and some nice press. But it felt like, in the end, there was no pay off. It was a day and a half later when the much-rumored Kirkman/McFarlane book was announced. McFarlane’s only doing covers for it, and so the comics reading universe yawned. He could have done the interior art for a one shot and it would have been a huge hit.

Even the big Image panel on Saturday was filled with creators giving status updates on projects we already knew about, plus some teases for stuff that’s coming out eventually, but without details.

And as much as I like Erik Larsen, I’m not sure the rest of the comics fanbase will be as excited as he is about reviving Kirby properties or Golden Age titles nobody alive today is old enough to have ever purchased.

Dark Horse did a nice job in piggy-backing on the appearance of the INDIANA JONES cast in Thursday’s panel by announcing their own reprints of classic INDIANA JONES comics, but by the time Sunday rolled around, I don’t think too many people cared anymore. Or, maybe they’re just waiting for when the books actually get solicited to be excited by them.

In the end, I think the big news items for San Diego were undercut by the principals talking about them to the internet press in the weeks leading up to the convention. There’s not much there that wasn’t already hinted at or announced. Aside from maybe Ellis writing X-Men, there isn’t anything shocking. It all seems to be flowing naturally from what’s come before it, you know?

The internet has ruined the fun of PREVIEWS, and now appears to be ready to suck the life out of the convention cycle news coverage.

Interesting.

Let’s see what happens in Chicago next week, and how much of that news will be announced in the short interim.

STRATEGY

Sunday was its usual dead day for announcements. It’s traditionally the slowest day of the convention. Lots of people are scouring the dealer’s room for one last big deal. Many are leaving early to catch flights. Saturday night parties are notorious for delaying people to the con on Sunday. And the coverage might be a bit slow on the internet, as fatigue from the craziness of Friday and Saturday start to grind.

But it was still a sell out and early reports (as I write this) say that it felt as busy as Saturday.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the policy of making all the big announcements on Friday and Saturday. With all four days sold out, there’s no distinguishing between them, crowd-wide. If Sunday is presumed to be the day for the biggest announcements, then there’s a lost opportunity there for a smart p.r. person. When the news cycle is at its slowest, a big announcement is guaranteed to win the day. Since most people only remember the last or latest announcements, those bits of news will stick in the comics mindshare longer.

You want to be the headline at the top of all the websites on Monday, when the rest of the world returns to work and starts hitting the websites for information. While San Diego weekend is a busy traffic weekend for all the sites, it’s still the Monday through Friday period where hits generally peak. Don’t you want to be the one with the big story on the front page of all the sites when people look for all the weekend news? It’s not going to get lost, that way.

It didn’t happen that way this year. I wonder if there won’t be some strategic rethinking going on at Marvel, DC, et. al. after this con season.

HOLLYWOOD

Watching the G4 coverage of the convention, I found it funny that they were polling the audience to see if they thought Hollywood was ruining comics — between interviews with the likes of Ridley Scott, Jessica Alba, the Troma guy, and some cheap looking schlocky comedy about geeks. Hunh. Not surprisingly, the G4 crowd came back to say 60/40 that Hollywood isn’t. I was surprised it was that close.

During a particularly painful series of bits, users on the internet streamed video of themselves calling in to talk to one of the hosts about the show, and they all wanted to talk about movies and TV shows.

The serious problem with all of this is that newspaper blurb at the start of the convention, wherein some locals expressed concern that the convention gets serious financial breaks as a non-profit charity while playing host to Hollywood’s P.R. flacks. I don’t know if this is a movement that will gain serious traction. In the end, the convention brings enough money into the city that they might be willing to overlook it. But there should be some concern that the convention now looks like a Hollywood Press Junket and not a forum for furthering the sequential arts.

Make the claim all you’d like about how a bigger convention means more space for more comics, but when you’re cutting Artists Alley down every year and the paid Hollywood booth monstrosities grow larger, it’s going to be falling on deaf ears.

I’m all for having a bit of Hollywood at the convention to bring in more people who could be sucked into the world of comics, but you have to be careful that the tail doesn’t start to wag the dog. We’re fast approaching that.

I think I might have suggested it last year, but the easy solution to this is in only allowing Hollywood to pitch products based on comic books. If you want to bring in the cast of the latest Batman or Spider-Man movie, great. If you have some action romp starring Clive Owen, there’s no comic link there and you might as well stay home. Of course, there’s a way to game every system. . .

With every step away from comics and towards “geek culture,” you lose a part of the mission of the San Diego Comic Con to promote the art of comics. I hope we don’t lose that entirely, but I can’t blame local charities for keeping an eye on things when they look the way they do.

Having said all of that, of course, I nearly screamed like a little girl on Monday. “Jonah interviewed Jan Wiedlin on the CBR Boat?!?”

We’re all a little hypocritical, at times.


Next week: A review. Of something. I promise.


Wizard World: Chicago begins August 9th. There we go again. . . I’m not going, but I’ll be keeping my eye out for the Marvel news that traditionally comes out of there.


Now, for a quick list of links to all my Web 2.0 content:

The Various and Sundry blog — my personal home site. Come read about everything that’s not comics-related.

Twitter, Tumblr Blog, The Pipeline Podcast, MySpace, ComicSpace, and Google Reader Shared Items.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 700 columns — maybe even 800 — are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically.

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