PREVIEWS FOR MARCH 2003
There's a lot of exciting stuff happening in the "back half" of PREVIEWS this month, so I'm jumping straight to there. We'll get to a short list of items from the "front half" at the end of this column.
As always, this isn't meant to be a definitive look at the books being solicited for March 2003. I would heartily suggest picking up a copy of this tome to take a look through it for yourself. All choices in this column are the results of my own idiosyncrasies.
We start with a company called About Comics, which is publishing a sequel book that should interest everyone who's ever thought about writing comics. This one's called PANEL TWO: MORE COMIC BOOK SCRIPTS BY TOP WRITERS. In this $21 trade paperback, you'll find scripts from Peter David, Gail Simone, Mark Evanier, Scott McCloud, Judd Winick, and more. There's more to it than just that, but it looks to be a good read. The first volume, appropriately titles PANEL ONE came out in 2002. Let's hope this might be an annual tradition from Nat Gertler.
If you're more of the mind to become a letterer, Comicraft wants to help. Under their publishing banner, Active Images, they are soliciting a 64 page book (for $10) called COMIC BOOK LETTERING THE COMICRAFT WAY, featuring samples written and drawn by the likes of Kurt Busiek, Jeph Loeb, Stuart Immonen, and Ian Churchill. The book promises a look at how to form word balloons, sound effects, and title pages, in addition to all the rest. Right now, about the only other book out there to touch on lettering is Stickman Graphics' DIGITAL PREPRESS FOR COMICS. Everything else has to be scoured from the web. (I'm working on compiling some of those sites for a column later this month.)
They're also offering a CD starter set of fonts for $30. That's not a bad deal when you look at what the individual Comicraft fonts available at their web site are selling for. There are numerous free fonts available on the web, as well, but their usually slightly limited in some way. (Many don't include bold-faced schemes, for example.)
Jay Hosler's Active Synapse collects THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES in March for $20. The five issue mini-series just recently concluded. Although I haven't had a chance to read the last issue yet, I can tell you that the first four are worth your time and money. Hosler is very deft at mixing humor and entertainment with education. You'll learn things from the book without realizing it, and without it slowing you down.
More tough crime fiction can be had through AiT/PlanetLar's collection of Max Allan Collins/Terry Beatty's JOHNNY DYNAMITE. Weighing in at 144 pages, the final black and white book will cost $13.
Astonish Comics comes out with the softcover edition of its HEROBEAR AND THE KID collection. If you didn't want to lay out the extra cash for the hardcover with a couple of fancy extras, this one will get you the original stories plus some new pages, sketches, and more. At $18, it's a real steal.
CrossGen has taken the format its using for FORGE and EDGE and is applying it to their standard trades now as an additional line. The first such volume is MERIDIAN TRAVELER: FLYING SOLO. It reprints the first 7 issues of the series in the 5.4" x 8.2" format in full color. That's 192 story pages for $10. It's an amazing deal for comics these days.
SCION shows up with another trade paperback. SANCTUARY is the fourth such volume, collecting 160 pages' worth of stories in the regular 6.6" x 10.2" format for $16.
George Perez makes his return to CrossGen with the beginning of SOLUS, a new series that spans the CrossGen Universe. The story setup (with writer Barbara Kesel) will let Perez do what he was doing with CROSSGEN CHRONICLES: skip around a lot and draw plenty of different characters and environments. The first issue features 32 pages of story for only $2.95.
WAY OF THE RAT gets its first trade, at last, in the middle of March. This one I'd definitely recommend. Even if the first issue doesn't hook you, keep reading. By the time you get to the fourth and fifth issues, you'll see things get paid off and be hooked like I am.
My favorite trade paperback of 2002 gets its second volume in 2003. Dementian Comics comes back with STYLISH VITTLES VOLUME 2: ALL THE WAY. This is a new 300 page graphic novel from Tyler Page, whose first volume of STYLISH VITTTLES was one of the most realistic comic book romances I can ever remember reading. Ignore the listing on page 270. They snafu'ed it pretty bad. (What else is new with Diamond?) The book isn't 32 pages in full color for $17. The price is right, but it's black and white and closer to 300 pages, like the first volume.
Rick Veitch's much-loved BRAT PACK finally arrives as a trade paperback in March, courtesy of his own imprint, King Hill Press. This sordid look at superhero sidekicks will run 176 pages (in partial color) for $20. I'm looking forward to reading it now, after all the good word of mouth it's gotten in the past decade.
NBM has a couple of interesting things in store for the end of winter. First, Bill Plympton's newest story is called HAIR HIGH. It's a graphic novel in much the same format as MUTANT ALIENS. 208 pages, black and white, 6" x 9" in size. $12. This one promises to be a send up on the 1950s teen horror movies. Can't wait.
Also out that month is Richard Moore's BONEYARD SPECIAL SWIMSUIT ISSUE. Given Moore's background as an erotic artist, one can only wonder how far he'll go with this, but I imagine he'll keep it tame in comparison. BONEYARD is a bright spot for humor comics these days, with its love for monsters and the mayhem they cause. Moore's art isn't as recognized as it should be by the fans. Maybe something this bold is what's needed to attract attention. There's always the first oversized trade paperback collection of BONEYARD #1-#4, if you're interested.
Oni debuts J. Torres' latest bit of work, DAYS LIKE THIS. It's an 80 page black and white graphic novel, at a price of $8.95. The book is a look back at a fictitious 1960 girl group's rise to fame. Think of it as a Behind The Scenes narrative without the inevitable downfall, in-fighting, drug use, and alcoholism. The artwork is by someone new to comics, Scott Chantler. The limited artwork that's been available so far points to a more iconic, cartoony style, which should fit in with the time period the book is set in.
TokyoPop has a new two-part COWBOY BEBOP mini-series, sub-titled SHOOTING STAR. Each volume is 192 pages in black and white in the standard pocket-sized format for ten bucks. I'm not entirely sure what the book is about. The write-up points to "an alternate telling of the famous television show." Does that mean this is an "Elseworlds" type story? Or is it just a different look at the characters from the TV show before the TV continuity started up? It looks to focus on Spike's mafia days. I don't know for sure, but I do know I'll be reserving this one right away.
Vanguard Productions has a new hardcover in March called VISUAL STORYTELLING DELUXE SIGNED EDITION. It's a 200 page black and white book for $50, but features work from Harlan Ellison, Steranko, Tony Caputo, and more. It's meant to be a primer on ways to visually tell a story. It could be indispensable for wannabe comics artists, but I'm not sure why they can't just put out a trade paperback first. Hopefully, one will come out down the line for something closer to $20.
TwoMorrows is offering up MODERN MASTERS VOLUME ONE: ALAN DAVIS. Since he's on my short list of favorite artists, you can be sure I'll be lined up early to get my copy. The book promises an in-depth interview with Davis about his entire career, plus interviews with Mark Farmer and Paul Neary, and a large sketchbook section. For $12.95, the 128 page black and white book is a steal.
MEANWHILE, IN THE FRONT OF THE CATALOG...
Dark Horse has the surprise hit for the month, with the publication of the first volume of XENOZOIC TALES. This first volume collects 128 pages of Mark Schulz's long-missed black and white series featuring Cadillacs and dinosaurs and all the rest. This is an advanced solicitation. The book is due out at the end of April. The second volume will collect the rest of the material at a later date. This first one costs only $14.95.
DC brings Phil Noto back to interior work with DANGER GIRL: HAWAIIAN PUNCH, a new 48 page one shot written by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell. The solicitation copy indicates "painted art" from Noto for the interior. Since the coloring on his covers is so distinctive, I'm hoping it carries through to his panel-to-panel work. Final price is $4.95.
Paul Dini and the amazing Rick Mays bring back Zatanna for a new one-shot, ZATANNA: EVERYDAY MAGIC. This one is full color and 48 pages, but will run $5.95.
Y: THE LAST MAN gets its first trade, called UNMANNED. It collects the first five issues of the surprise hit series from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. It's well worth a read, and only $12.95.
Marvel, meantime, brings out the mysteriously missing DAREDEVIL: VOLUME 1 hardcover, which collects the entire Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada run on the title, plus the follow-up David Mack storyline that introduces Echo. Absent from the hardcover is the "filler" issue by Jimmy Palmiotti and Rob Haynes. You get 14 issues of comics for $30 in the oversized format. Not a bad deal, at all.
ULTIMATE X-MEN also gets its second hardcover volume to collect that title's second year, and then some. ULTIMATE X-MEN #13-25 get packaged for $30.
Marvel also goes back to print with THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA under the new "Legends" title. This is one book that would have worked well as a Marvel Hardcover. It's classic Claremont and Byrne X-Men. It should always be in print, and something this important should have the best possible format.
VariousAndSundry.com has been meagerly updated, as the holiday syndrome kicked in and I went blank for most of a week.
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 that might soon go away. Eventually. I think.