COMICS WEB SITES
Something struck me this past weekend.
--besides my copy of PROGRAMMING PERL as I pulled it off my top bookshelf, I mean.
Anyway. It is commonly discussed that we're missing a generation of comics readers. Kids today don't read comics. We need to do more to get to them. There are outreaches being made, but they're few and far between.
Why isn't there a comics web site aimed at the youngest possible set of comics readers? (And don't give me your snide Wizard jokes here. I'm serious. For now.) We've got plenty of comics-related web sites out there these days. I won't list them all because I'd fill up CBR's server space. More and more of them are looking at comics from a more adult perspective, but none of them are covering the opposite end of the spectrum. Where's the web site designed like a Disney web site to entice kids to read comics? Something, maybe, with some simple comic strips and comic book stories posted on-line. One that has a reading list of books geared at younger readers or all-ages, like AKIKO or BONE. Something that has reviews of comics for parents, so they know what they're getting their children into. Maybe something with a little bit of activism on why it's a good thing for kids to read comics.
No, I'm not volunteering to create such a thing. I'm not a kiddy person. But why is it that in an increasingly crowded field of web sites, this one idea hasn't been attempted yet?
Last week, Marvel announced a whole raft of trade paperbacks for the year 2001. This is, needless to say, a great idea. Marvel is repackaging a lot of great ideas and lot of great issues.
But I wouldn't be a good columnist if I didn't look the gift horse squarely in the mouth and complained that a tooth was missing. (Wow, how's that for a strained metaphor?)
BLACK PANTHER is a critically acclaimed series. Spent its first 12 issues under the Marvel Knights banner, and then moved into the mainstream Marvel banner without missing a step. "Black Panther: The Client" collects the first five issues of the series.
Great, right? These issues are long out of print, and since the series is still on going, this could make for a nice introduction to the series. But here's the rub: Just 5 issues? How about the first year collected inside a set of covers? The first story arc lasted 12 issues. That would make for a nice collection. I like thick paperbacks, with lots of story for the money.
Most of these reprints are good and thick, but I'd like to see Marvel attempt more regular series of trade paperbacks, the likes of which you see over at DC for NIGHTWING or TRANSMETROPOLITAN.
To that end, the volumes collecting AVENGERS issues 8 through 15 are fine by me. The CAPTAIN MARVEL volume with the first 6 issues plus #0 is OK. The VISIONARIES (can't wait for the Todd McFarlane one!) and MASTERWORKS and ESSENTIALS are great.
It's nice to get the second BLACK WIDOW mini collected, for one, but wouldn't it be even better if the package included the first mini-series, as well?
Correction: The BLACK WIDOW trade will, indeed, be collecting both of the Marvel Knights mini-series. My apologies to Marvel for reading too quickly on that one.
I think we should have a new motto: No trade paperbacks should be less than 100 pages. Anything less than 100 pages is merely a thick pamphlet. Not a trade paperback.
THE PIPELINE MANIFESTO
I'm a political conservative. Steven Grant is politically liberal.
I like Master of the Obvious. I think it's the best column on this web site. Puts my piddly Pipeline to shame. I don't have it in me to write such long form essays on a single topic every week. Steven has a unique perspective on this industry, having arrived here from another journalistic form. He has enough years of experience to make the rest of us look like freshmen. (Well, most of the rest of us, at least…)
Boss man Jonah Weiland is the greatest boss you could ever ask for. He hires us here at CBR to write columns about comics, and doesn't ever edit anything we write. Well, occasionally he'll correct a misspelled word or an obvious grammatical faux pas, but he's never asked me to change my opinions or refused to post a column I've written because he's disagreed with something or feared pissing someone off. All he asks is that we write columns about comics. We're not an all-purpose web site. We're not a science fiction web site. We're not a DVD web site. Unless it has a comics angle to it. He leaves us alone and cuts the checks at the end of the month, and they invariably clear. And CBR has yet to go belly-up.
In the end, it's the readership of CBR that has the final say. If a given column isn't drawing enough hits, he'll do what he can to help it along. If that doesn't work, it would get dropped, I imagine. It hasn't happened yet, mind you, but that's my understanding.
Steven Grant's Master of the Obvious (MOTO) column last week began with another inane attack on President Bush. Steven has never been shy about his political views. They're sprinkled pretty liberally (pun intended) throughout his columns. You have to know by now that he's liable to hit you over the head with another one at any given time. And last week's column even mentioned Bush's name in the description on the front page. So what were you expecting in the column?
But most importantly, as much as I disagree with him on his mischaracterizations, it all led back to comics. It wasn't thrown out there just to get people mad or to vent his political spleen. Sure, it's controversial, but none of us here are immune to that.
Shortly after the column went up, the hate mail started pouring in. I've been copied on a couple of them. I can feel their frustrations and understand their ire. But I think it's much ado about nothing.
There's a very simple way to get back at MOTO for these transgressions. Don't read it. Sounds cliché and simple, but that's it. If you'd like, don't support any of Steven Grant's other efforts, whether it be his @venture web site or X-MAN or whatever else he's got cooking up. If you want to punish CBR as a whole for supporting this venture, don't visit CBR at all between the hours of midnight Wednesday (Pacific Time) and midnight Thursday.
But, for goodness' sake, don't blow off CBR en toto. MOTO is but one arm on the octopus that is CBR. And it's pretty much the only one that ever touches on politics. It's part of Steven's shtick.
From a purely selfish perspective: By blowing off CBR as a whole, you also blow off what is probably the only comics column written by a conservative on the web, Pipeline. I just don't get into it that often. I think I may have referenced politics two or three times (tangentially) in the time that I've been here. (The HELLBLAZER "Shoot" storyline comes to mind.) If you agree with me on politics, you help nobody by blowing me off.
Besides, Steven's attacks are nothing new. Anytime any Republican anywhere comes into power, the left gets hysterical. The sky starts falling. It's when they're the funniest. Let these silly inane overblown attacks roll off you like water on a duck's back. They're meaningless. They have no power for the next two years, at least. (Traditionally, the mid-term elections go against the president in power, so the odds are unfortunately good that the Democrats will retake the House and/or Senate in 2002.)
I'm here to write a comics column. Occasionally, politics will intersect with that, and most likely I'll ignore it.
Oh, what the hell. I'm this deep already. Let me get a couple of things out of the way.
I never formally reviewed Brian Wood's CHANNEL ZERO here. You know why that is? I didn't want to get into a political screaming match here. I didn't like the book because it proceeds from the clichéd premise of the "religious right" winning and everything else going straight to hell. The storytelling technique was interesting, but the premise was as warped as that of HIGHLANDER 2 – oh, look, another post-apocalyptic story starting with the destruction of the ozone layer. ::yawn:: But if you're amongst those that are afraid that a National Day of Prayer is the harbinger of state-imposed religion (which is utter nonsense) or that a rethinking of supporting abortions in other countries will lead to a repeal of the Civil Rights Act (and I've heard that argument already), then this book will probably entertain you. Me? I get my paranoia quotient from X-FILES.
Secondly, why aren't there more conservatives in comics? You'd think that an art form ruled by superhero comics, in which vigilante justice is rewarded, would attract more conservatives. I can think of two or three off the top of my head, but the list of liberals in comics is much longer. Or maybe it's just that the liberals in comics can't keep their politics to themselves, while the conservatives can, and thus hide better.
There's a larger issue here, too. When do a creator's politics become something you can't support in an entertainment field? For example, I think CHEERS was one of the funniest sit-coms of all time. Yet its star, Ted Danson, is one of Hollywood's biggest political lefties. Does this mean I can't enjoy CHEERS? Of course not. Danson's politics were never an issue to Sam Malone.
On the other hand, Rosie O'Donnell's politics are so pronounced and so ugly that I couldn't possibly ever enjoy her talk show. Her politics are part of that show, so I don't watch it. (Thankfully, since I work full time I don't ever run the risk of running across it.)
Steven Grant occasionally shows his politics, and when that happens, I can't enjoy his column completely. They don't really show when he writes X-MAN, though. I just didn't enjoy the series on its own merits. Not my thing. (And, wow, was the art ugly.) That's why it was the first and only "Counter X" book I dropped.
So enjoy the good stuff. Ignore the politically pandering stuff. And don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
I'll leave you with Bob Barr's (R GA) words of wisdom last Friday after Clinton's plea agreement with Independent Counsel Robert Ray:
"With today's announcement, we should stop focusing on President Clinton's actions in the past, and start working on repairing the damage he did to our legal system, our national security, and our political system. Returning respect to the presidency and the Department of Justice is more important than worrying about what happens to a retiring President."
Hopefully, this balances out some of MOTO's meanderings.
Now I'm going back to tucking my politics into my back pocket and sitting on them. I come here to write about comics. And that's what I plan on doing.