Pipeline, Issue #515


I normally leave all the personal stuff out of this column, but sometimes it can't be helped. Please indulge me for a moment:

Pipeline is going to be a little erratic for the next couple of weeks. Life is getting in the way in a most serious fashion. Since this column has been so regular for so darn long, I thought I'd explain why it's going to be a bit different for the next couple of weeks:

I lost my job. And I'm getting married.

Sounds like a fun combination, doesn't it?

It's been a very hectic last month working on all the little details for the wedding while looking for a new job while trying to learn new stuff to pad out the resume. (The learning process as a computer programmer never truly dies. But if anyone wants an old Perl hack with aspirations towards Ruby greatness, drop me a line. I'm likely still for hire.) You may have noticed a couple of thinner columns recently because of that, and I'm afraid I need to beg your indulgence just a little while longer on that count. I honestly haven't read too many comics lately. Unfortunately, that also goes for all the message board posts and personal e-mails that I haven't responded to. I still read them all, but finding the time to respond has been a little tricky.

Today's column will be mostly written by you, dear reader. I asked a question last week and got lots of great answers. I can't wait to show you some of them. They'll make you laugh.

Next week's column is being written in advance of the wedding. I'll be on my honeymoon, but the column will still be up. It might just be a little shorter, though. CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland is threatening to run a picture of the wedding or from the honeymoon in that column, too. He'll be at the wedding, so you never know. . .

There will be no Pipeline Podcast next week.

The column will return to a more "timely" nature the following week, but will be delayed. It won't appear that Tuesday, or probably even Wednesday. At some point later in the week, it'll pop up, I promise. Ditto for the Podcast. Then, things will resume on their normal schedule the following week as we ramp up to the glorious tenth anniversary of this column.

If you're playing the Pipeline Drinking Game, you need to take a shot after that last sentence for me mentioning the anniversary again.

On with the comics!


In case you missed it, I uploaded about an hour and a half worth of podcasts over the weekend. It's the monthly look at PREVIEWS as only Jamie Tarquini and I can deliver them -- really late. We covered the books being published in June 2007 the weekend before the next catalog comes out. Better nearly-late than never, right?

Download the two parts today:

Check out CBR's RSS feeds directory for all the downloads, or hop over to ThePipelinePodcast.com for all the feed-catcher client subscription options you could ask for.


One quick thought before I move on to your e-mails:

Most computer monitors these days are in the landscape format. That is, they're widescreen. Laptops are all that way, anymore, and the standard LCD displays on the higher end are, as well. Unless you have your OS set at a high resolution, the portrait layout of comic book pages means you'll have to scroll down pages to see them all. Or, you could shrink the pages down to near illegibility to fit them on the screen, but that's counter-productive.

I would think that a more natural layout for comics would be in the landscape format. Will the age of digital comics bring back Marvelscope? Will more comics look like ROCKETO and LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS? Will we, at last, begin to see real progress in the storytelling techniques of wider pages that I've been asking for for years now?

I'm hoping so.

Last week, I asked what comic companies might come up with to enhance the digital comic downloading experience. What will be the chromium cover of the digital age for comics?

You responded in healthy numbers with some great ideas. Matthew got in first:

i know what they'll be -- flash-animated covers. if there's an explosion behind the focal character, it'll go from small to big and throw the character toward the viewer, that kinda thing. or you'll cursor over the character and it'll speak it's lines. then they'll start animating the whole book, til they have full fledged cartoons online, then we can go back to having good old fashioned print books.

I think he very neatly just defined the next cycle of comics publishing. He sees the pendulum swinging so far in one direction that it's bound to swing back. You can see that in the blogosphere right now as artists are discussing the merits of the monthly comic over the original graphic novel format. It's better, they say, to get your work out there on a regular basis and keep your name in front of the readers so that they don't forget you. Plus, it can be an awful slog to work through a 130 page graphic novel in your own little corner of the world for so long without any feedback. So the move to the trade crowd is starting to move back to the monthly. The pendulum swings back. . .

It might go that way with digital comics, too. They could take "advantage" of all the cheesy animation that Flash provides, ticking enough people off that they'll be begging for print again in a year or two.

James Seals thought along similar lines, although he's much more cynical about the whole thing:

We'll start to see "animated" comics. Comics that now don't even require the reader to. . . well, read. Characters will move poorly in and out of panels, accompanied with a stockpile of poor devised sound effects. It'll be like those old Marvel cartoons from the sixties/seventies where the mouse is the deciding factor. Story will then be molded to the "new medium" and we'll have the comic book equivalent to 3D Storytelling, where things "pop" or go "zap" for no other reason than because there's nothing else happening on this "page" to wow readers.

He also came up with something that will make the marketing mavens sit up:

Heck, I wouldn't even be surprised if they started adding "Where's Waldo?" games to content. Where if you're the first reader to spot the continuity error you'll earn ComicBucks to add to your next purchase! They'll try to make the comic experience interactive by adding fluff, like "Name that Back Issue Reference," etc.

Take it one step further: Warren Ellis is backing up his next project, DOKTOR SLEEPLESS, with a wiki. I imagine some sort of collaborative process to back up a comic with additional facts among readers wouldn't be that far out there, even if it's just in annotating specific comics. Imagine the field day the 'net could have with the likes of a digital KINGDOM COME annotation site, as it's being published.

James F. thinks the digital age will mirror the paper age:

. . .there's always the fall back of the variant. After all, they may not be churning out die cut, holofoil, chromium, hologram, or whatever, but both DC and Marvel still spew forth a torrent (pun intended) of variants every month. I'd imagine that the digital versions will have a bunch of stuff akin to the director's cut issues Marvel does. And what are those except an attempt at squeezing a few bucks more out of the fans by forcing them to purchase the same issue again?

I really like Bryan R.'s idea:

Not a joke, but how cool would it be for each issue to have just the pencils? And from there they layer in the inks, then the colors, then the letters? Like a director's cut hybrid with a dvd? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Given the way comics are produced these days, this would not be a technically difficult thing to do. It would be a bigger download, so they may have to charge more, but it's a fabulous idea. Package in the script, and you've got an instant comic lesson for all wannabe creators out there.

One more thought from Bryan:

A no-prize with every download!

And a digital no-prize, at that! Well played, good sir. Well played.

Chris R. brings back the audio content, but in a new and fun way:

On the ludicrous side I don't doubt seeing something like "buy a digital copy of amazing fantasy #15 and we'll include an mp3 of Stan Lee reading the comic out loud"

Brian G. had a better suggestion along the same lines:

I personally think that the "killer app" for e-comics will be "creator commentaries", sort of like what Wizard occasionally does for the big event books. Between that and other easy to add extras like full scripts and maybe even pencilling breakdowns, ecomics could offer some really meaningful extras that would make the digital download something that would appeal to fans.

I like that idea, especially as more and more creators do these "DVD commentaries" for the various comic websites these days. I can hear it now, with a little ping sound every time you're supposed to turn the page. It'll be just like all those filmstrips we watched in school 25 years ago.

Oh, god, I am old, aren't I?

From the man known only as "DiRT" came the suggestion that made me laugh out loud:

Since you need a credit card to buy on-line and only those over 18 can legally have them, the new digital "bonus" will be the nude variant issue. From latest licensed WWE books (eww) to Wonder Woman (yowza!), the "Cover to Cover, All Nude" variant will become the new standard.

Except for Shazam. That would be creepy.

I don't know -- have you seen what they're doing to Mary Marvel these days?

It'll be a shorter column next week, but there will be one. There won't be a Pipeline Podcast, though. That would just be impossible.

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. It will be updated throughout my time away, by the glory and the magic of WordPress.

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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