WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU TURN OFF THE LIGHTS?
THE DARKNESS #1 is written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Dale Keown. You might vaguely remember the latter for his breakthrough work on THE INCREDIBLE HULK a decade ago. Since then, he's been a whisper in the wind, but one whose tune is to be enjoyed when heard. (That, boys and girls, is called stretching your metaphor.)
But is the book any good?
The series is about Jackie Estacado, a dead mafia hit man. He got better. Now, he's returned home to figure things out, and that's when things get weird. There's a two paragraph description of Jackie and his "powers" on the inside front cover that give you just about all you need to know. Jenkins does a good job of keeping the references to the previous series as minimal as possible. If, like me, you only read the original Garth Ennis-penned issues, it seems you didn't miss all that much. Jenkins has even simplified that down for the purpose of his story.
Jenkins has shown that he can be a master at characterization with PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN. His problem with the Top Cow books he's worked on so far is that the characters don't run very deep, and don't have the rich history to draw from, as Peter Parker does. In the end, you have a mildly interesting book about a mob hit man, but not the kind of book that's going to make you count the days down to the next issue. You might be better off taking your chances on a trade compilation later down the line just to admire the artwork from Dale Keown.
Keown's art is shot directly from pencils here and that takes some getting used to. The trick with books created like this is in the coloring. THE DARKNESS has a good coloring job from Matt Milla. While it's dark and not terribly distinctive (even the red of blood or a child's balloon doesn't pop out), it keeps Keown's art clear and doesn't get in the way. You're never squinting your eyes trying to make out details in the art that have been obscured by some special coloring effect or tone that was too dark for the paper it's printed on. Milla also does a good job with his sculpted coloring, bringing out highlights and setting shadows in such ways that the art looks three dimensional at times.
In the end, the book isn't going to reinvent any genre or blaze much new ground. It is, however, easy on the eyes and not insulting. Keown's art makes it visually appealing, and Jenkins' name means that there's hope for the book as it moves along.
THE DUCKS WADDLE BACK
I was hesitant to get excited by the initial story that the Disney Ducks would be returning to the comics scene again in April. Nothing against The Pulse, but we've been waiting for that line of comics to return for three years now, and very few of the details have changed. Since Day One, Steve Geppi was the one going after the license. The Gladstone editorial staff was also on board. It was just a matter of getting Disney's lawyers to settle on something. Every now and then, someone would say that a deal was forthcoming or just around the corner, and nothing would happen.
Now, however, with something akin to a press release being issued from Steve Geppi's corner, I can breathe a sigh of relief that this drought is soon to come to an end.
The next round of questions, of course, has to do with content and format. It's not a big concern for those of us in America just yet, but how long until Don Rosa's strike affects what we see in this country? (I imagine there's quite a backlog of his existing stories to keep Geppi's company happy for a while.)
Gladstone's last run ended with two monthly titles, UNCLE SCROOGE and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES in a 64 page square bound prestige format that cost $6.95 a shot before it folded. Sure, that satisfies the hardcore fans, but how many new fans will you pick up at that cost? If you want to get new fans into the Duck books, you have to do two things. The first is to get a monthly comic in stores that kids can afford. It doesn't have to be $2, but something under $5 would be nice. Why $5? That's how much these kids pay for a pack of Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh/Digi-mon trading cards. I think you might find some willing to part with a deck of cards for a comic. The trick is to make it worth their money. 48 pages for $4 or $5 would be ideal. If you can squeeze in 64 pages, all the better.
I also hope Geppi will be smart enough to use that newfound bookstore presence that Diamond has to get Disney Ducks out to bookstores in some sort of album or trade paperback format. Hardcovers would be even nicer, but beggars can't be choosers. Pack together 200 pages of stories into one $20 book and you have an attractive package for parents to pick up for their children, and for collectors to put on their shelves. Since there are no royalties involved in reprinting these stories, it is not cost-prohibitive.
Also, please consider your first issues after the relaunch very carefully. These are not just any issues. You need to convince the established fan base that you're serious about this, and wow them right out of the gates. There is no patience in any entertainment media anymore. Television shows get cancelled after two episodes or less, and movies are deemed bombs if they don't make their budgets back on opening weekend.
As much as I know this irks some of the longer-term fans, I'm hoping for continued reprints of the classic Carl Barks story in the most accessible formats possible. Yes, this means reprinting some of those stories in UNCLE SCROOGE and WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES again. They should never go out of fashion. The trick is in complementing them with a good selection of more recent stories. Let's see William Van Horn in WDC&S and Don Rosa regularly in UNCLE SCROOGE. Let's see more of those David Gerstein/Cesar Ferioli Mickey Mouse stories in WDC&S. I'd like to see more one page stories as filler. I'd like to see letters column, as Duck letters columns have traditionally been filled with insightful criticism of the stories and interesting tid-bits of trivia about both them and their creators. (Yes, they also printed mine fairly regularly, too. Since I'm mostly retired from letterhacking, though, it won't affect me anymore.)
It's good to be excited about these comics again. The buzz amongst the faithful will only grow in the coming months. April 2003 looks to be a great month. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best now. More Uncle Scrooge is right around the corner.
Cover goofs: DAREDEVIL #39 left the issue number off its cover, and CrossGen's THE FIRST #24 left off the creator credits from the cover.
Marvel released three different Spider-Man books last week. Sounds like it's time to reorganize the Spidey Editorial Staff's schedule.
Separated at Birth? LORD OF THE RING'S Sean Astin and soon-to-be AGENT X's Buddy Scalera.
For an excellent defense of the letters column, check out Brian Hibbs' take on the matter from a couple months back.
CrossGen has a great idea in launching new series with a PRELUDE issue and then a number 1. It gives them the chance to effectively have two #1 issues, which should sell better. Weird, but true. BRATH gets one in January, but I'm surprised WAY OF THE RAT and ROUTE 666 didn't get started that way. I suppose there wasn't a story need for it.
Something else to consider when writing about CrossGen: Its monthly pre-ordered comics sales through Diamond do not represent its sole income. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if all of CrossGen's other revenue streams (from re-orders to overseas licensing to Hollywood money) is greater.
I'd like to recommend Derrick Fish's Dandy and Company this week as an interesting on-line comic strip to look out for. I really like the character designs, although the Whizbang lettering drives me up a wall. There's a dead wood compilation of strips planned for Spring 2003, as well.
PIPELINE HOLIDAY GIVEAWAYS
My comics collection is now officially out of control. It's gotten so bad that I recently looked into the costs of a self-storage facility. I'm less than eager to pay $60 or $70 a month, though, to store my comics in a five foot square cube.
Instead, I've decided to get rid of some of the overrun right here in Pipeline. I'm going to spend $60 or $70 to get rid of some of my comics. These are all relatively recent comics and trade paperbacks. I don't want them. Or I have doubles of them. Most of them are books I like and would love to get other people hooked on. I've got SAVAGE DRAGON comics, CrossGen comics, Dark Horse material, oddball Marvel and DC books, Image stuff, and more.
Just e-mail me your name and address in an e-mail with the words "Holiday Giveaway" (no quotation marks needed, but I won't hold them against you). I'm not going to make any grand announcements here. I'll just pick out some names and addresses over the next two or three weeks and send random grab bags of comics out to lucky winners. I don't care where you live, but if you're age 13 or younger, I'd suggest getting your parents' permission first. Also, please let me know about that so I can send you something age-appropriate if you're chosen. None of these comics are Mature Readers titles, mind you, but I'd feel better about targeting these books a little better.
(Also: All e-mails with addresses will be deleted upon the completion of this contest, and none of them will be shared with anyone else. I'm not selling you out to some Spam King somewhere.)
Next week: Some ideas on how to do mixed case lettering correctly.
VariousAndSundry.com has been updated with a plea for FIREFLY's future, a bowling ball homicide, the ultimate Twilight Zone DVD set, Survivor talk, and more.
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's soon going away.