THE COLUMN IN WHICH AUGIE DOESN'T REVIEW A SINGLE COMIC BOOK
First of all, a hardy welcome aboard to Rich Johnston. In case you haven't read his two "Lying In The Gutters" columns so far, click here and go check them out now. Rich's column of rumors, gossip, innuendo, and -- dare I say it -- breaking news has been a must-read for years now, and it's great to have him right here at CBR.
Without a doubt, I think the biggest pure comic book announcement of the year happened last week with CrossGen's CGE Entertainment press release and subsequent RED STAR acquisition, first rumored in the aforementioned Lying In The Gutters column..
It's a concept that makes a lot of sense, works well with the people involved, and stands to be a benefit to not just the creators involved, but possibly the comics industry as a whole.
I'm afraid, however, that those who've been sitting on the sidelines and throwing pot shots at CrossGen for the past three years are going to find ways to undermine this one, as well. It's a classic cutting off of the nose despite the face situation.
I've already seen messages from people who are excited about this and are preparing their pitches as we speak. I don't think CrossGen is aiming to be the clearinghouse for every small press comic wannabe, though. I think what you'll see from the two new divisions of the company are two types of books. The first is a book like RED STAR that's well established, has proven quality behind it, and a sizable following. The second kind of book will be a new property from a known creator. If Kurt Busiek wants to launch an independent title of his own, Code 6 might be a good place for him to go. If Humberto Ramos decides to do his next book away from Cliffhanger, I'm sure CGE would welcome him to the fold.
I think the initial titles will all be full color books. I think they'll all be solid books with mainstream potential, designed to fit in with CrossGen's current lineup of titles, with dependable creators (whether that means monthly or bi-monthly or quarterly shipping), no superheroes, and the potential to be a crossover hit to other media, such as TV or film. The latter is true particularly in the case of Code 6 books, where CrossGen shares a financial interest.
Just because CGE won't be printing "edgy" books doesn't mean that they're invalidating the medium of comics, doing a great disservice to creators' rights, or copping out on their commitment. CrossGen is a company built on family entertainment. I don't see them doing a MAX or Vertigo line. It's not their thing and it's not what their brand stands for. If you've got a problem with that, it's your problem and not theirs.
The move also puts CrossGen in a better position with Diamond, which will be a help to the CrossGen Universe titles. That equally helps the creator-owned or creator-participation comics they'll be publishing as CGE and Code 6. I don't see a problem there.
Personally, I can't wait to see what comes out of this new company structure. CrossGen has spent a lot of time, money, and effort to set up an infrastructure that reaches out beyond today's comics fans. It's been fun to watch, and this latest announcement is a logical next step in their development.
Just maybe it also means we'll see Chuck Dixon's western comic sooner rather than later, too.
On a bit of a personal note today: I bought my first comic book, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #318, at Philips Stationery Store in Midland Park, NJ back in 1989. It had a great newsstand with magazines lining a wall and a small section devoted to newsstand editions of recent comics. Dad worked at the pharmacy in the same shopping center, and I would often accompany him on Sundays. I picked up some comics to read to keep me busy during those long days. Then I'd redraw them on scrap paper. It was lots of fun.
At that store today, there's a sign in the window that says after 34 years, they've lost their lease and are closing down. Everything must go. The comics left the store years ago, though. After the boom and bust, comics weren't financially feasible, I suppose.
When a chain pharmacy opened up a couple doors down, the small family-owned business didn't stand a chance. Greeting cards, magazines, office supplies: Why pay full price when the chain has them at a lower price a couple of stores down?
I have no greater point to make here. I have no parallel to the sad state (but improving) of comics in America today, or the lack of newsstand distribution, or the problems of the comics format. I just write because another piece of the puzzle that got me to where I am today -- writing this column, traveling to conventions, making new friends, and sweeping entire categories on Jeopardy! based on knowledge gained from reading comics -- will be gone shortly. It seemed only right to spend a few words marking the moment.
Taken from a recent DC e-mail newsletter:
BACK TO PRESS!
As part of DC's commitment to retailers and readers alike, selected items go back to press when quantities become low. The following titles have been reprinted and are available for order:
It's followed by a couple of trades hitting their 2nd and 4th printings. That sounds all well and good, doesn't it?
The not-so-subtle swipe at Marvel would probably be overlooked if it weren't so immediately followed by this section:
Please note that the following items are now sold out at DC:
Guess they're not overly committed to retailers and readers alike after all, eh?
This isn't to say that all is goodness and light over at Marvel. Things are quickly getting out of hand over there. This U-Decide campaign of theirs has long ago outlived its usefulness, as evidenced by handing Ron Zimmerman yet another new comic. It's become self-parodying and embarrassing to see this crap get dragged out month after month.
And when did Marvel become a wannabe Howard Stern enterprise? I discussed the connections in my review of SPIDER-MAN: SWEET CHARITY here last week. In this month's PREVIEWS, it is noted that some character designs for THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURES OF HAWK-OWL & ZIPPY were done by someone associated with the Stern show, in association with Joe Quesada. Even more astoundingly, the next page shows character designs for that series -- as drawn by Duncan Fegredo. And they add this embarrassment to the otherwise respectable Ultimate line of comics -- ?!?
Hey, Marvel: It's time to drop this attempt to name-drop yourself onto the Stern Show and start aiming a little higher.
In this month's WIZARD, there's a great article about Axel Alonso. I recommend it as one of the better pieces the magazine has done in quite some time. I'm a little taken aback, though, by Alonso's philosophy on WOLVERINE being "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." WOLVERINE does not fit in at all with the other revamped Marvel titles of late. It's a throwback title, often relying on villains not seen in more than ten years and more costumed fights and inanities. It's the one title in the X-lineup that deserves a second look and a new thinking put behind it. While I understand Marvel's decision to not make their most famous mutant character's title into a Mature Readers book, I do think it's time for the book to start taking itself more seriously and to stop feeling like such a -- for lack of a better term -- comic book.
On the other hand, good for Joe Quesada: Check out the latest edition of "All The Rage," where Quesada points to artists who can't complete 12 issues a year to answer those who say they can't afford to lose a page a month to a title page with a "Story Thus Far" update on it.
There are, of course, two solutions to this:
Cut out the letters page. Not my preferred solution, but when push comes to shove, it's there.
Or, have a 13th issue every year. This fits in better with Marvel's stated publishing plan goals. If the artist of a title truly believes he can draw 12 issues at 22 pages each (264 pages) a year, he'll have his chance to show it by drawing 13 issues at 21 pages each (273 pages). If those extra 11 pages are a problem, you can have that last issue be split into two stories of 10 and 11 pages each. A writer might also opt for some sort of flashback tale, where a secondary artist could be used to draw the flashbacks occurring in the midst of a tale set in the modern day as drawn by the regular artist.
There are ways around this, if the artists are serious about dropping work because of that one page less a month.
The true advantage to that recap page each month is that it means the trade paperback collections will flow much more smoothly. Take a look at Bendis' current DAREDEVIL story arc. If you read all the issues together, you wouldn't be able to tell where one issue ended and the next began if it weren't for the fact you have to pick up a new book. There's no space wasted in recapping the story so far in the middle of the story pages. It allows for much smoother storytelling, and less exposition that sounds twice as clunky upon reprint.
Tom Beland writes to inform that TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD: MOMENTS will hit the shelves the week of July 17
Larry Young writes in to prove that Darick Robertson does know how to draw The Thing. While I was slightly wary of opening an attachment with a subject header of "Darick's Thing," I'm glad I did. With Unca Lar's permission, here's a sketch Robertson once drew on a diner placemat of Marvel's lovable blue-eyed man-monster.
OK, his jaw is still a little more gravelly than I'd like, but it's better than what saw print in SWETET CHARITY last week, and I can leave that jaw line up to artistic license.
There once was a time when every new comic was heralded as a cross between THE X-FILES and something else. Nowadays, the hot new trend in press releases is to qualify everything as being unique. That's not enough, though. The word "unique" is usually qualified further so that the item being pimped is "most unique" or "more unique." Thank goodness for small favors; nobody's yet coined the word "uniquest."
Unfortunately, today's dictionary thinks of me as a quaint relic, and officially allows the usage of the incorrect-until-so-commonly-misused-that-it's-correct modified style of the word. UGH
If Friday's review of MAYBERRY MELONPOOL III piqued your interest in Steve Troop's title, I've got good news for you. The gang over at Melonpool has created a special sale on the books just for Pipeline readers. Click on this link to take advantage of the offer.
To those who won the Pipeline 5th Anniversary Comics Giveaways: Your packages hit the mail late last week. You should be getting them in the next week or so.
Special thanks to John at Dewey's Comic City in Madison, NJ for the assist this week.
This Friday: A look through the latest edition of PREVIEWS.
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.