Pipeline, Issue #514


. . .is coming. Thanks for all your responses to last week's column. As I suspected, it's a bit of a hot button topic for people on a variety of fronts. It's the same old Print vs. Digital, Pirate vs. Legal, Right vs. Wrong, Small Store Owner vs. Corporate Monolith set of debates, but they can be interesting topics to throw my two cents into once in a while.

Yes, there are legal sites you can download comics from today. Slave Labor Graphics runs EyeMelt.com. The folks behind Devil's Due run PullBoxOnline.com. Direct2Drive handles Top Cow's comics.

I think you can start to see the problem already, though: multiple distribution points with different formats, pricing schemes, and exclusive content. That's OK in the short term. The market needs to shake out. The people putting their money behind these efforts will learn what the market will bear and what it wants. And, eventually, one site will come to dominate over the other. It always happens.

You might suspect that whatever Marvel or DC does will become the de facto hot spot on the 'net, except that exclusivities will keep that from happening. That's the most frustrating thing. If Marvel or DC were to open an iTunes-for-comics store tomorrow, it would be exclusively for their content, and their immediate partners'. You won't see them carrying Slave Labor Graphics comics or Devil's Due titles. That might shake out in the long term, but this whole thing smacks of comic distributors in the early '90s, doesn't it?

I'm rambling again. I plan on trying out all these sites in the future and reporting back to you on them. For now, I can only point you over to Steve Gerding's research, which showed some severe and scary flaws with one point of distribution. Click through to find out more.

Here's this week's topic for discussion: When the web-based digital delivery of comics begins in earnest, competing outlets will look for ways to "add value" to their downloads. They'll want attention. They'll want something glitzy. They'll want to add meaningless things to straight-up comics for the sake of charging you an extra quarter or grabbing your attention. It happened 15 years ago with die-cut chromium gatefold fifth-color ink covers. What will be the chromium cover equivalent on a digital comic? Let me know what you think. I'll run the most ludicrous, likely, and interesting responses in the column next week.


I've focused most of my energy for PREVIEWS into the Pipeline Previews Podcast lately. A new one will be out later this week, as a matter of fact. For now, though, I'll give you a brief highlight reel of what I found in preparation for the podcast. This is a very small portion of everything Jamie and I talked about during our recording session this weekend.

Over at Marvel, two names from the past return. First, an Art Adams cover is being turned into a poster. Looks like his DC exclusivity deal is done. Second, Butch Guice is scheduled as the artist for IRON MAN in June. The last regular gig he had was on AQUAMAN at DC, and before that he spent time doing work for a Humanoids graphic novel, which DC published. If he's over at Marvel now, I hope we see him move to something of his own, soon. I don't care if it's a regular gig on a monthly title or a mini-series of his own. I love his art, and want to see more.

FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES: JOHN BYRNE Volume 7 is an interesting beast, as the non-F4 issues contained therein outnumber the F4 issues. Only F4 #285 and #286 are in the collection, along with Annual #19. Meanwhile, the book also contains AVENGERS #263 and AVENGERS ANNUAL #14, plus X-FACTOR #1. The funniest thing is that this book is more of an X-Men spin-off than a F4 story. This is how the F4 brought Jean Grey back to life the first time. This is her resurrection post-"Dark Phoenix Saga." And Butch (then "Jackson") Guice even draws part of it. Everything comes full circle.

Robert Kirkman's IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN must be having low sales issues. The forthcoming collection of the series is not an oversized hardcover book, not a Premiere Edition HC, and not even a standard trade paperback. Nope, it's in the digest format usually reserved for the kid-friendly titles like MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN. It's a curious decision, but I imagine Marvel figures it's the only way to get people to give the book a chance: make it as cheap as possible. For $10, I hope a lot of people fall in love with the book as much as I have.

HULK: PLANET HULK HC collects something like 15 or 16 issues to tell the whole story of Hulk's trip through space. I can save you $40 right now, and give you the whole story: The Illuminati launch Hulk into space so they can have their crossover without him. Hulk finds himself on another planet, becomes a warrior and a leader there. The planet blows up. Hulk returns to earth and is righteously ticked off. War is coming. There's a whole separate mini-series for that starting in June, though.

Dark Horse gives us DRAWING DOWN THE MOON: THE ART OF CHARLES VESS. I don't think I've ever read a sequential story he's drawn, but I love his art from what else I've seen of it. This book should be beautiful. It's in the same oversized hardcover format that Dark Horse has used for other "Art Of" books. It's not due out until August 29th, though, so you have plenty of time to collect your spare change for it.

Can you believe the NEXUS ARCHIVES have lasted to a sixth volume? It's not that the book isn't worth collecting, but I thought the $50 price point for six or seven comics a pop would be a bigger turn off.

Over at DC, Grant Morrison's run on BATMAN gets its first hardcover collection with BATMAN AND SON. Andy Kubert draws most of it, while John Van Fleet fills in for an issue that divided fans into completely separated love/hate camps. For $25, though, it's worth a read.

ACTION COMICS #851 is the 3D issue. Again. No, really, they mean it this time. It's going to be in 3D. It's not going to be cancelled, resolicited, or replaced by an inventory story. Do Marvel and DC still have inventory stories on hand? Or have continuity-changing massive crossovers and tight fiscal budgets killed that tradition, too?

Of course, the latest scheduling woes from DC affect the rest of the storyline.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #4 features Supergirl teaming up with Lobo. Say no more, Mr. Waid. You have my money.

THE SPIRIT #7 utilizes an all-star cast of creators jumping on-board for a bit of fun, including Kyle Baker, Walter Simonson, Chris Sprouse, and Jordi Bernet.

Most spectacularly of all, DC is bringing GON back. If you missed it during its original run in the States, don't make the same mistake twice. These are the sordid and silent tales of a small dinosaur wreaking havoc on territorial animals around him. This is a little big-footed dinosaur who can make life hell for lions, bears, or any other animal around him. But he's so cute, you have to root for him. Check out samples of the detailed line work on pages 97 and 98 to get a taste. Or, read my earlier review of the series, from 1999.

Image Comics didn't give me much to work with this month, though I did find the Spawn Bearbrick to be adorable. It's a bear dressed up as Spawn! It made me wish that James Dean Smith was still doing BORIS THE BEAR so he could draw that one. In the meantime, we'll have to stick with Boom! Studios' MR. STUFFINS.


Archaia Studios Press is collecting THE KILLER into a pair of hardcover books. The first is due out in June and will have the first four issues of the series in it for $20. The second won't be out until August 2008. The third issue just came out, and it's near the top of my reading stack.

Gemstone has a book to look out for: UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES: LAND OF PYGMY INDIANS AND THE WAR OF WENDIGO. This $8.50 volume ain't cheap, but it contains an interesting pairing of stories. The first is a Carl Barks full-length classic story. The second is Don Rosa's sequel to it. I applaud the concept, but I'm not sure than the high price point for 64 pages is a winner. WDC&S and UNCLE SCROOGE have the same page count, but are 50 cents cheaper.

If you liked LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE McDUCK, though, this might be a nice addition to your growing Duck collection.

Finally, there's a new publisher called "Paquet" on page 334-335 that appears to be bringing more Eurocomics to our shores. Does anyone know anything more about them? I haven't found much on the web yet.

That's it for this week. With any luck, next week's column will include your responses to my question at the top of the column about digital comics, and a review or two.

My blog, Various and Sundry is your best spot on the 'net to stop to chat about American Idol, 24, and The Shield the day after every episode. Plus, I throw in link dumps related to the tech industry, TV and movies, and lots more.

I still have a MySpace page and a ComicSpace page, though I don't hang out much on either of them at the moment. I do still check my messages at both places, so you won't be ignored.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 700 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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