QUEEN & COUNTRY
Scriptbooks aren't quite a dime a dozen, but they are more plentiful today than ever before, and we're seeing different forms for them, too. You might remember Larry Young's THE MAKING OF ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, which reprinted the scripts to the original mini-series, along with some annotated art samples and two-page stories from the original mini-comics. AiT/PlanetLar also milked an entire trade out of a three issue REX MANTOOTH series, by printing the script pages to the series opposite the sequential pages. You might remember Titan Book's WRITERS ON COMICS SCRIPTWRITING, which had interviews with a diverse group of comic book writers, illustrated with short script samples. About Comics has tried a couple of compilation books, with comments from the writers and the stories' artists on the scripts. Image published the POWERS scriptbook, which was straight script, and now Marvel is doing a collection of Bendis' ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN one-offs as a script collection. Alan Moore's complete LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN scripts are in the deluxe slipcase ABSOLUTE edition of the collection. There's even an entire website devoted to the form now.
If you're looking for a scriptbook, there's no shortage to be found.
Oni Press, however, has just created the new gold standard of comic book script collections in the QUEEN AND COUNTRY SCRIPTBOOK. Picture the best bits of all the scriptbooks I just mentioned above. Put them together with a smart and entertaining script. What you'll get is this book. This is more than just a script book. It's the accompanying text.
It's not just a photocopy of the pages Greg Rucka sent in while creating the series. No. This well-researched and plentifully illustrated book adds to the series as much as it illustrates it. Rucka has written footnotes for the scripts here, explaining British references, his influences, his writing style, and why he writes foul-mouthed Russians. It's entertaining and informative. Rucka has thought about every panel in this series. He's used to researching all sorts of potentially esoteric stuff for his novels, and that's a key skill that comes in handy in his comics, too. This book is well researched, and now you can get an insight into some of the things that make the book click.
Steve Rolston has also dipped back into his archives, pulling out sketches and page layouts from his stint on the series.
The book will be available in stores June 30th and will only set you back $15.95.
WEIRD DIETARY COMBINATIONS
Marvel's new SHE-HULK series is a terrific throwback for Marvel. I can picture it living comfortably next to a DAMAGE CONTROL or even SLAPSTICK mini-series of the early 1990s. It has a very comfortable Marvel Geek feeling to it. It plays with the concepts of the shared superhero universe in a loving and respectful way, with a strong sense of humor. All credit for that goes to Dan Slott.
His artist on the book, Juan Bobillo, is relatively new to comics in this country but has had other comics work published overseas. SAF Comics recently reprinted one of his European stories in the glorious hardcover album format. It's called CHOCOLATE AND FRENCH FRIES, and was written by American reprint favorite Carlos Trillo. It shows us a completely different side of Bobillo's artistic skill, but it also gives us an amazing story. It's the kind you won't see normally in this country. It's not that it's surreal and convoluted. It's just a wonderfully entertaining and light book with one dark twist. You'll be surprised at the emotions it brings out in you, I think.
CAFF is the story of a large family. It's the parents and eight small children living in a small apartment. The kids wake up one night to see a flashing light coming out of their parents' bedroom. Immediately, they assume that aliens have kidnapped their parents and it's up to them to make it through this crisis until the aliens bring them back. Along the way, the kids indulge in their favorite snack food that forms the basis of the title. The book is viewed completely through the kids' eyes and at their level. The kids are precocious and adventurous, without being too cute in that typical American sit-com way.
Bobillo's art shines. Over the course of the 46-page story, he doesn't draw a single black line. I don't know if the whole book was illustrated with a computer or what, but every line is color held. Only the word balloons and the lettering use black lines. The panels are borderless. Occasionally, there's a painted splash page without a hint of black. It's an amazing style. You see bits and pieces of it all the time in comics now. Blonde characters, for example, end up with the outline of their hair changed in the coloring process from a black pen line to a yellow line. J. Scott Campbell uses the technique exhaustively. I'm not a big fan of it, for the most part. I think it obscures some of the fine pen line. But Bobillo, in taking this to a logical extreme, creates a new art style that's uniquely his in comics today.
It also fits in thematically with the book. It's a study in minimalism. The images are drawn simply, and it almost resembles a child's drawings. You can picture this book as drawn in crayons, leaving little chance for black areas. The box of 64 colors came out, and black got left behind. The book is drawn almost entirely from the kids' point of view. It's a beautifully done book, with a fine attention to detail.
I don't want to give Trillo's story away, but I will say that most of it's a very fun book. You root for the little scamps, even though your brain is telling you that what's happening to them is wrong. They should go to somebody for help, but you're having too much fun watching them plot their revenge on the aliens and cower from the creepy neighbor guy who suspects something is up.
At $12.95, the book is a steal. It's published by SAF Comics and is available now.
THE MILKMAN MURDERS
Joe Casey goes out of his way in the first issue of his new mini-series to "indict" the middle class suburban dream. It's not anything that hasn't been done a million times before. Everything looks good on the outside, but the family is ripping apart from within in a mess of conflicts that nobody else ever seems to notice. Promiscuous daughter, violent son, abusive father, and the poor overwrought mother. Denial, anger, etc. There's a few bits involving milk that I'm sure will symbolize something larger in the end.
The milkman shows up on the last page. I'm hoping the real meat of the story begins next issue. I don't need any more stories of the masks we in suburbia wear to hide our inner shames. I grew up on the LEAVE IT TO BEAVER set, obviously.
Steve Parkhouse is the artist. He has a confident and slightly cartoony art style, populated with plenty of big noses. It reminds me of Guy Davis' stuff. I have a black and white photocopy of the final color issue, so I can't comment on the colors too much. I can say, though, that there appears to be a bit more of a colored marker look to the colors than a Photoshop filter-happy approach. I'm looking forward to seeing the book in full color to see how this turns out.
Overall, it's possible that this series could be very entertaining. The first issue is all set-up, though. I'm hoping the second issue brings me something new, beyond the well-trodden ground of "the suburban masquerade." If I wanted that, I'd go pop AMERICAN BEAUTY into the DVD player.
THE MILKMAN MURDERS is a four-issue mini-series published through Dark Horse. The first issue is set to arrive on July 7th.
DC AND ITS COLLECTIONS
With today's increasingly collection-oriented industry, I'm learning to slow down on buying trade paperbacks. There was once a time when you could buy most of them. That day is gone, and it's not a bad thing. More choices make for more interesting decisions. As I learn patience and the collection habits of various companies, it becomes easier to leave the redundant trade paperbacks aside. Taking a look at the list of trades that DC intends to release this fall, my new purchasing theories emerge. Let's take a look now at some of those books and what I've learned from them. You can see the whole list at CBR's The Comic Brief.
SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOL. 3 TP taught me something. When I first started collecting comics, I used to keep an eye open for John Byrne's Superman revamp. I collected most of those issues over the years, but not all of them. Nowadays, I don't hang around back issue bins at cons anymore and I like the cheap shortcut to the trade. This trade would be a great way to help fill in the collection and read the stories I've wanted to read. On the other hand, I've lost interest in the stories. I'm not into the Superman stories so much anymore, and even those classic John Byrne stories aren't enough to excite me. This is a good case of growing out of something and not looking back. I'll skip it.
WONDER WOMAN: CHALLENGE OF THE GODS TP is very similar, except I never bought the original issues. I have the first trade paperback of Perez's WW run and still haven't read it. I think I'll be skipping this and cutting my losses.
BATMAN IN THE EIGHTIES TP is tough to skip for this child of the 80s. I'll do my best, but I want to see the contents for it first.
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN MUST DIE TP I have all the original issues for. I think I picked them up on eBay a couple of years ago. Never read them, but now word filters down that a Loeb/Sale collaboration for a Giffen-era JUSTICE LEAGUE book will be printed for the first time in this book. With that, it becomes a must own. Without that new story, I'd settle with the original issues.
STARMAN: GRAND GUIGNOL TP is an easy one to skip. I own all the issues. I never started buying the trade paperbacks. I'm fine with the issues as they are. However, this announcement has made me want to go back and read the series again. I never did read the final year. DC has been sadly dragging its feet with this series, which was a real highlight of its publishing schedule in the 90s. Getting the whole thing in print would be a feather in DC's cap, should it ever happen.
SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT HC is definitely on my list. I love these hardcovers, and this one should look nice on the shelf. I'm also happy to see DC packaging these maxi-series into one collection. I'm somewhat surprised they didn't try to milk two collections out of this, the way they do for Jim Lee's recent work. See SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW VOL. 1 HC, for example.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN: SUPERGIRL HC is a book I have relatively little interest in. As a a hardcover, though, I'm willing to give it a shot. I dropped the series after the first hardcover, when it became apparent that DC was going to continue this series in that style.
TEEN TITANS: FAMILY LOST TP, OUTSIDERS: SUM OF ALL EVIL TP, CATWOMAN: RELENTLESS TP , HUMAN TARGET: LIVING IN AMERIKA TP all get lumped together as books I own the original issues on and don't need to buy a second time. The first two are popular enough that they don't need my financial support. CATWOMAN and HUMAN TARGET are much iffier that way, but I'm cutting my losses there, too. I recently caught up on HUMAN TARGET. It's a nice book, but I don't know if I'll be sticking with it too much longer. It doesn't excite me. With all the comics out there competing for my attention today, being merely good isn't always enough.
Wasn't the hardcover version of GREEN LANTERN: LEGACY - LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF HAL JORDAN SC out years ago? They're just getting around to the softcover version now? Must be time to reignite interest in GREEN LANTERN in the wake of IDENTITY CRISIS, right?
THE LOSERS: DOUBLE DOWN TP and PLASTIC MAN: ON THE LAM TP are books that I waited on the collection for. I'm considering dropping FABLES and Y THE LAST MAN for the same reason next. They seem to be on a good schedule with those now.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: ANOTHER NAIL TP and DC: THE NEW FRONTIER VOL. 1 TP are two books where the original formatting is good enough for me. The prestige format titles, for one, are nice enough on their own that a trade paperback presentation of the material feels redundant. If either of these books came out in a hardcover, though, I'd jump on it. Particularly with NEW FRONTIER.
LOVECRAFT SC is an odd book for me. I never saw the hardcover. Never. Not on a store shelf. Not on a table at a comic book convention. I can't remember seeing any review for the thing. It's like it came and went in the blink of an eye. As much as I love Keith Giffen's work, this is his adaptation of another's screenplay. Coupled with my lack of enthusiasm for Lovecraft, it means I can skip another one.
SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: THE FACE AND THE BRUTE TP would interest me more if I saw Guy Davis' name in the credits. I've heard great things about this series, but am only interested in Davis' work at this point. I have enough stuff to keep me busy until then. It would also be a smart thing for DC to consider bringing the first SMT collection back into print at the same time as this one.
A SMAX HC is exciting news. I reviewed the book a couple of weeks ago, and asked for a hardcover in the column. My wish is coming true. I hope they listen to my plea for a NEW FRONTIER hardcover, next. How about an ABSOLUTE NEW FRONTIER? Surely, DC could steal the idea from WildStorm just this once.
CHALAND ANTHOLOGY VOL. 1: FREDDY LOMBARD TP is the first half of the series. I picked up both books on sale a month or two ago and will be keeping those. They're hardcover, oversized, and beautifully printed in Belgium. The second volume only contains two stories, but also includes 30 pages of annotated material, sketchbooks, etc.
BOUNCER: RAISING CAIN TP is a book that absolutely demands to be read at its full size. It's a soaring western story, with amazing art that captures the landscapes of the American west. The color detail is remarkable, second only to the detail drawn in by the artist. It's great that they can put both volumes together in one book, but this will be like watching the DVD on your 23 inch television screen for a movie filmed in Cinemascope.
To sum it all up: I love hardcover books too much. I'm learning to buy books that I haven't read already, and skip monthlies in favor of trades. And you just never can tell what the publishers might put out next.
Please allow me to be the only one in the comics world so far to say, "I liked Ronald Reagan as a person, and I agreed with his politics. The body may have departed, but the ideals will live forever."
If you missed it, Pipeline Previews returned last Friday with a look at trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and original graphic novels due to hit shelves in August.
Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday. Don't forget to vote for your Comic Book Idol, either! De Blieck Out!
Over at Various and Sundry this week, you'll get top internet fads, the Hybrid Car link of the wing, the "Wingwoman," an actual book review ("Bringing Down The House"), the DREW CAREY SHOW disappointment, and lots of summer television thoughts scattered about.
More than 500 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 also still available at the Original Pipeline page.