If you're reading this, it means that I didn't get the chance to finish writing up my San Diego experiences in time for the column. You can expect to see more about that in Friday's column.
In the meantime, here's a look at 2001 Eisner Nominee Michael Brennan's ELECTRIC GIRL, and information for all of you who wish to send something in for review.
Michael Brennan's ELECTRIC GIRL is a charming book perfect for all ages. It takes the story of a person "charged" with fantastical powers and brings it down to a much smaller level. Virginia has the electric touch, but she's not out fighting crime with it. She's not devising a costume to go along with it. She's not seeking to use it to better the world. She's merely trying to learn to live with it, and to control it as best she can. The book is more like a slice of life series starring a girl with odd electrical powers. Of course, this isn't helped in the least by her traveling companion, the misanthropic invisible gremlin named "Oogleeoogg." (Whew, my word processor's spellchecker just went ballistic.)
This trade paperback collects the first four self-published issues of the series, along with a new eleven-page story, and a full color cover gallery at the back. The trade's production values are high. The paper stock used here is a nice heavy white paper. This isn't newsprint. Pages don't bleed through. The book feels heavy, which is always nice. The cover design is minimalist, which should only help it stick out on a shelf of crowded cover designs. It's really nice stuff.
There are a variety of stories throughout the volumes. They're all self-contained. None of the stories originally carried over from one issue to the next. Some take place with Virginia as a youngster, while most of them are set during her freshman year at college. Brennan's art makes it easy to distinguish between one age and the other. Each issue also contained a shorter backup story or two, often being silent. Virginia's cute pet dog, Blammo, gets the spotlight in one of them as he chases a fly through the house. While a couple of left-to-right transitions in the story were mysteriously reversed, the story still works and the storytelling is generally clear.
While the stories are not superheroic at all, that doesn't mean that Virginia doesn't fight off enemies such as robots and robbers and dead people who've come back for vengeance. It just means that none of the associated clichés follow. Virginia keeps a lower profile and, with the help of her mischievous gremlin friend, manages to put together the situation and solve the problem before it escalates too far. The stories are inventive. While many bad things happen around Virginia – thanks to Oogleeoogg's intervention – some of it happens just because of who she is. The most clever story, I thought, was the one in the fourth issue where the first humid day of the years has profound implications for Ginny. He hair's a mess. Everything she touches gets a shock. And her computer science final – well, that would be telling.
Creator/writer/artist Michael Brennan doesn't have any previous credits in the world of comic books before this, which is part of what makes this book so amazing. He's a natural. The stories are told in two- and three-tiered grid format, with anywhere from four panels to nine panels per page. The art is consistently clear and clean. It never gets too busy. Brennan focuses each panel on only the action that needs to be considered. At the same rate, he's just as good drawing the architecture in the background as he is the character at the fore. Establishing shots are not lost on him. His art is starkly black and white through the four issues that are reprinted in this volume. A new eleven-page story in the front that details the events surrounding Virginia's birth makes greater use of greytones. For those of you familiar with Andi Watson's recent work, you'll recognize a similar style here. I like it and hope to see more of it in future ELECTRIC GIRL stories. The gray spots do help pop the art out just a little bit more.
The material in the collection gets progressively better. Brennan is getting more familiar with his characters and is learning what makes them tick and how to make them more entertaining to their audience. Another two or three issues have been printed since the trade was released, and I'm looking forward to picking those up at a convention this summer.
PIPELINE REVIEW POLICY
After San Diego, I thought that this policy should be spelled out for one and all. One of the great things about a con is trying out new things. Wandering from table to table and finding stuff that looks cool – and ultimate is cool – is one of the thrills of con going. But what if you can't make one of the cons or are there and didn't attract my roving comics eye?
You say that I should read your comic. You want to send me a copy for a review. Herein lies my official statement of policy regarding such matters:
I'm not looking to accept freebie comics for review. Generally speaking, I shun them. The truth is that I do so because the vast majority of them are crap that I don't have the time to waste on. I read enough stuff every week to keep me busy writing this column. It's just a matter of time that prevents me from writing more about more of them.
However, if your book is sure to set the world on fire and I simply must read it, you can snail mail it to the main CBR address listed in the contact section of this fine web site. It will get forwarded onto me from there.
Some warnings: Things don't get forwarded right away. I might not see it for a month after you mail it. So if time is of the essence, you're probably out of luck. I promise that I'll look at your book and read it if it looks promising. I'm not guaranteeing that I'll do a review in Pipeline. Don't expect a response from me personally, either. I just don't have the heart to beat you down in e-mail.
It's a complete crapshoot on your part. You're sending your comic into the black hole and hoping for the best. That's about all I can offer right now.
Back to goodness and light on Friday.
I'll be back – tanned, rested, and ready – with the daily con journal from Sunday at San Diego and the red eye flight on the way home that wrecked me to the point where I couldn't write something new for today.
More than 225 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 are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.