PIPELINE PREVIEWS FOR JUNE 2003
This month's edition of the PREVIEWS catalog is the largest such behemoth ever. I haven't seen a book this size since the boom years of the early 1990s. Thankfully, this boom seems to be built on a slightly more solid foundation. Most of it is Hollywood money.
OK, so maybe it isn't all that solid…
Due to the large number of solicitations, this month's edition of Pipeline Previews will be really selective. As always, I suggest getting yourself a copy of this $3.95 (!) catalog and searching through it for things that might interest you. This column can't possibly cover it all. Head over to the Pipeline message board to discuss the items that you're looking forward, or to yell at me for missing an obvious choice for this column.
One additional note: I will occasionally inflate the prices of items listed by a penny or a nickel. When someone advertises a book on sale for "Less Than $15," we all know that means $14.99, right? Why bother with the deceptive numbers. I'll just tell you what it rounds up to. You're just going to throw that penny into a mug on your desk back at home that you'll never roll up or cash in, anyway.
DC has the mother lode of trade paperbacks and hardcovers coming out in June. I cold devote the entire column to just discussing those books, but I'll have to settle for a brief run through of some of the books I'll be sure to order.
BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS Volume 1 is the first in a projected three volume hardcover set to reprint all of Adams' classic work on the character. This is the Batman work that I've heard about since I started collecting comics, but have never had the chance to read. It's not reprinted all that much, oddly enough. You'd think material like this -- some of which formed the basis for the animated adventures of Batman -- would be more readily available. It hasn't been. Even at $50 a shot, this set looks to be one of DC's more interesting and historical editions of the year.
BATMAN: NINE LIVES hits softcover in June. It's printed (and bound) sideways for the full-on "Marvelscope" look. The art is by Michael Lark, who is currently doing such an amazing job on GOTHAM CENTRAL. I reviewed the hardcover edition of the book glowingly back in September 2002.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: THE DC UNIVERSE STORIES OF ALAN MOORE is a new trade paperback for $20 that collects all sorts of single issue stories Moore did for DC in the 1980s. This includes the fan-favorite SUPERMAN ANNUAL #11, as well as a pair of VIGILANTE issues that I could never find a matching set for in a bargain bin. I've had one for years that I picked up for a quarter, but never found the second part to the story.
GREEN ARROW: THE SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE is the new hardcover reprinting of the last storyline on Kevin Smith's run on the title. This $20 hardcover reprints issues #11-15 of the series, with art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks.
Over on page 91, Keith Giffen's return to LOBO -- with art by Alex Horley -- is scheduled for a June 4 release. It's not a trade paperback but the first of a 6 part mini-series. I'm excited enough about it that I wanted to be sure to mention it in this column. Of all of Giffen's projects this year, this is the least likely to die early. Cross your fingers.
ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY Volume 2 continues a format I love from DC. It's a nicely oversized hardcover in a slipcase. I'm not sure, however, that the story material matters that much for me. Mark Millar did some better-than-decent work in here, and it's almost worth the price of admission for oversized Art Adams work alone. I'm just not sure it holds together well enough to lay out the $50 for it. The four issues drawn by Dustin Nguyen aren't included in the book at all, so it also ends up disjointed.
The first trade paperback collecting Micah Ian Wright's STORMWATCH hits on June 25th. It brings together the first six issues of the series, which nearly made my Top Ten of 2002 list. There's plenty of great material in the book, for a $15 price tag. Wright's dialogue is sharp, and his pacing is lively.
THE COWBOY WALLY SHOW was my introduction to the works of Kyle Baker. While the third chapter in the book fell a little flat for me, the book as a whole is one of the funniest comics I've ever read. Cowboy Wally is the world's worst television show host, and Baker puts him through his paces. This one is definitely worth the $15 price tag, for 128 pages of black and white storytelling. I'll be buying it all over again.
A BREAK FOR A SPECIAL PREVIEWS REVIEW
Finally for DC, PROPOSITION PLAYER is being collected. This six issue Vertigo mini-series is no doubt seeing reprint thanks to author Bill Willingham's recent success on FABLES. In some ways, this book is a stylistic precursor to that book for Willingham. The story structure is very similar to FABLES' first two story arcs. The recap text at the beginning of each issue is just as colorful as with FABLES, if not moreso. (I hope they don't drop that for the collection.) And the treatment of mythological characters is similar to the way Willingham handles the fairy tale characters he portrays in his current Vertigo hit.
PROPOSITION PLAYER is the full color story of Joey Martin, a man who is paid by a casino in Las Vegas to fill out empty poker tables. When a silly bet puts the souls of dozens of people in his lap, Joey becomes the object of a tug of war between heaven, hell, and other afterlife possibilities. Willingham blends together a myriad of mythologies and religious beliefs to create a believable and at times outrageously funny look at the world of death and post-life existence. Martin must use all his poker playing skills to get himself and his friends out of a dire afterlife situation suddenly come real. Martin isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he's a worthy protagonist whose distrust and disbelief perfectly mirrors the readers.
The first issue is a nice introduction to the character. The second issue feels a bit like filler at first as Joey is introduced to the afterlife. You'll realize how important it is later. The third through fifth issues ramp things up. The world goes topsy turvy for poor Joey, until a light bulb goes off in his head and, like the professional poker player that he is, he finds a way to turn the tables. The last issue is set a bit in the future, and shows us Joey's eventual fate, as well as that of all his friends. Joey's answers to the madness he inadvertently surrounds himself with will bring a smile to even the most jaded reader's lips.
Paul Guinan's art is consistent throughout the book, with easily memorable characters and solid storytelling. He's not afraid to use a bunch of panels per page, but he always leaves enough room in them for all the word balloons. His style won't be for everyone, but it errs on the side of traditional comic art and doesn't try to be experimental or daring. This is a clean read.
PROPOSITION PLAYER is a hidden treasure from the Vertigo line. With Willingham's star back on the rise, the book can closely follow. Fans of FABLES should easily enjoy this book.
BACK TO THE PREVIEWS...
Image Comics, meanwhile, wins the award for most annoying collected edition of the year. Frank Cho is soliciting for LIBERTY MEADOWS: EDEN in hardcover format. I just bought this thing last year in softcover format. I didn't think they'd ever bother making a HC. When it came to FRANK CHO ILLUSTRATOR, the hardcover came before the softcover. I'm more than slightly annoyed by this as I'd rather have the hardcover. Hopefully, any attempt at a Volume 2 will be released in hardcover first.
Marvel leads off with a pleasant surprise, the PUNISHER VOLUME 2 hardcover. This one collects issues #1-7 and #13-18 of the new series, all of which are written by Garth Ennis, with art by Steve Dillon and Darick Robertson. I don't know why, but I didn't think we'd see another PUNISHER hardcover. 13 issues of the series are being collected here for $30. That's about $2.30 an issue. It's easy to see why people are dropping monthly comics for collected editions. I had planned on switching over to the trade paperbacks for this title, but if the hardcovers are going to keep coming, I might wait to make it an annual purchase. I'm a patient man.
The second pleasant surprise from Marvel is the second volume of SPIDER-MAN LEGENDS: TODD McFARLANE. OK, so the first volume was "Visionaries" and not "Legends." No big deal. This one reprints AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #306-314, plus a short story in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #10 featuring The Prowler. Final cost is $20. After this release, I'll have copies of all the Spider-Man stories McFarlane did, which has been a goal of mine since I collected my first comic book, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #318. I've picked up a few odd issues over the years, but stayed away from most of them due to the relatively high price. These trades are the perfect solution to the gaps in my collection.
THE BACK OF THE CATALOG
AiT/PlanetLar brings LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS to a bookshelf near you in June. This is the project from CBR's own Matt Fraction, as drawn by Kieron Dwyer. It's 128 big black and white pages for $13.
Slave Labor Graphics presents the return of HALO AND SPROCKET, with the fourth issue of that hilarious series by Kerry Callen. It's a standalone 24 page issue, as always, with pin-ups contributed by the likes of Andi Watson, David Hahn, and Steve Lightle. It's one of my favorite comics from the past year, and the comics industry has been lesser for its absence. More info can be found about the series at the Halo and Sprocket Web Page.
Mark Smylie's ARTESIA is a book that's garnered much critical acclaim and a couple of major award nominations. In June, Archaia Studios Press is reissuing the original storyline in the form of a new trade paperback, ARTESIA Volume 1, along with the first issue of a new 6-part mini-series, ARTESIA AFIRE.
If you're not sick of Alan Moore yet, then you have plenty to look forward to this year. The highlight of it all, for me, is Avatar's release of ALAN MOORE'S WRITING FOR COMICS. It's a new graphic novel that reprints an essay Moore wrote in 1985 about his writing process, plus a new essay on what's changed since then. This 48 page black and white book will run $6, and is illustrated by Jacen Burrows, Avatar's Golden Boy of Art.
CrossGen is going nuts for their new Travellers line of graphic novels. If you haven't heard about them yet, they're the Compendia-sized trade paperbacks collecting runs of single series. RUSE, PATH, SCION, MYSTIC, SOJOURN, and MERIDIAN all get new volumes in this style. For a mere $10, you're getting six collected issues (192 pages) of each series. The reprint quality at even this small size is very good, and the cost value is great. This is a nice way to introduce kids to comics. (I don't think you'd want to start your uncle or mother, for example, on reading comics in this format. Their eyes might not be able to handle the smaller lettering.)
CrossGen is doing a remarkable job in getting the most bang for their buck. They pay the creators once and then make that work available in as many different formats for as many different people as possible. It's a great strategy, and the creators are paid so well (including benefits) that they aren't about to rebel for reprint royalty rates.
Tom Beland returns with the fifth issue of TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD. This one is subtitled "Rainy Days and Mondays," and tells the story of his worries for the love of his life as a hurricane threatens her home island. The series is a beautiful blend of romance and humor comics, and is easily accessible to one and all. The first four issues are available, in the meantime, in trade paperback form from AiT/PlanetLar.
THE MOST IMPORTANT COMIC BOOK RELEASE OF THE YEAR
This one gets its one section. Gemstone Publishing (Steve Geppi's company) is set to release the first new issues of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES and UNCLE SCROOGE for the first time in years on June 17. They will be done in the collector-friendly $7 format that Gladstone last ended them in. Later in the year, the more consumer-friendly $3 model will come out. But first things first...
UNCLE SCROOGE #319 features a new Don Rosa tale, "The Dutchman's Secret," under a new Rosa cover. Rosa's strengths are in his adventure-length tales. His Uncle Scrooge knowledge and characterization is flawless, producing stories of great awe and respect for both the characters and their creator, Carl Barks. If you're new to Duck, this would be the preferable choice for the superhero fan set. Rosa has a certain adventurous sensibility that I think would work best with that group of readers. He doesn't sacrifice anything to achieve it, though. His stories are still packed with background gags and high humor. His characters are painstakingly rendered, complete with detailed backgrounds and props. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Barks stories featuring the character, and he's not afraid to use it. This is anathema to those who don't believe in Duck continuity, but would seem to be the kind of thing a superhero convert might enjoy. Rosa is also disciplined enough to make every story enjoyable to even a first-time Duck reader.
All the stories in these issues are self-contained and complete in one issue. It's a real strength of the Duck books, as anyone can pick up an issue at random and get their full money's worth.
WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #634 features a new cover and lead story by William Van Horn. Van Horn's strengths lie in his humor and cartooniness. He's got a wickedly devilish ear for dialogue, creating names and tongue-twisting alliterations that delight the ear of anyone who reads comics out loud. Van Horn's stories are shorter than Rosa's, being of the 10 page gag variety that Barks used for the WDC&S series. His style is more cartoony and less restricted by a grid layout that the likes of Rosa and other more traditional artists use. The work is more colorful and the artwork is far looser and contains more energy.
If you're looking for a more humorous comic, or one that stretches the imaginations of Scrabble enthusiasts, this would be the preferred book. It also would work for those who come to Duck comics from the world of ARCHIE or Harvey or the newspaper comic strips.
Van Horn also letters his comics in a lettering style that is one of the few examples in comics of lettering that perfectly complements the art. If you want to know why lettering is so important in a comic book, this is one great example of it. I can't imagine anyone else doing that job.
Now, these aren't hard and fast rules. Van Horn has done the longer adventure stories in the past and Rosa has done the ten page gag stories. They've both excelled in the formats, but they both inevitably return to their respective formats.
The Duck books are a much needed item in a fully-stocked comics retailer's arsenal. These books are set to make a big splash throughout the coming year, starting with Free Comic Book Day on May 3rd. There's a reason these stories have stood the test of time for over 60 years. There's more to it than just being a part of the Disney family of characters. These are solid comic book stories done with respect and professionalism for people of all ages.
Welcome back, Unca Scrooge.
NOW BACK TO THE PREVIEWS
Under Gutsoon! Entertainment on pages 334 and 335 is a series of new trade paperbacks, collecting serials from the pages of RAIJIN COMICS. I would highly recommend THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN, Volume 1. It's the tense political thriller that's done with a fully intact brain. There are no shortcuts here, or lapses in logic. It's written by a political scientist, who expertly guides the reader through the realities of Japanese and international politics. It's saber-rattling, brinksmanship, political maneuvering, and fighting from within. It's the best of dramatic politics wrapped up in one package. The serial is slated to last about six months in RAIJIN, and this first trade collects 190 black and white pages of the serial for only $10. (It's also shrunken down to a 5x8 inch format.)
The popular SLAM DUNK is also being collected this month, alongside CITY HUNTER and THE FIST OF THE BLUE SKY, which is the least of the trades, in my opinion.
Byron Preiss is now publishing trade paperbacks under the label of iBooks. Their first sets of releases are impressive. HONOUR AMONG PUNKS is "the complete Baker Street graphic novel" but wins points for me by being drawn by Guy "DEADLINE" Davis. 352 pages are collected here for only $18.
Harlan Ellison fans will be tickled pink to read VIC AND BLOOD, the continuing stories of "A Boy And His Dog," as written by Ellison and drawn by Richard Corben. $18 gets you 128 pages in full color.
Oni once again presents the infectiously fun adventures of JASON AND THE ARGOBOTS, putting the original four issue mini-series into one 120 page volume for only $12. J. Torres and Mike Norton are responsible for this story of a boy and his robot.
Andi Watson debuts a new series called LOVE FIGHTS, which is a superheroic take on your typical Watson love story. Looks like it could be fun. You can't go too far wrong with the personal stories that Watson excels at.
Finally, Mark Evanier is collecting a second set of his Comics Buyer's Guide column, "POV," in a book that could only be titled WERTHAM WAS RIGHT!" Including new illustrations by Sergio Aragones, this informative and entertaining (assuming he picks the right columns) collection will run 200 pages and $13 in paper, production, and distribution costs.
I couldn't conclude this column without mentioning two other items that appear in the far back of the book in the "Books" section. The first is on page 398. CARL BARKS CONVERSATIONS is 248 pages of discussions with the Good Duck Artist by various people, including editor Donald Ault. For only $18, you're getting the thoughts of a legend in the comics field.
The second item is Michele Gagne's next book, THE TOWERS OF NUMAR. This hardcover book is the story of a cute little alien and how she changes the world. Gagne produces some of the most refreshingly warped and entertaining stories in comics today. They're simple little tales that stay with you for a long time. He is, however, taken with the concept of producing these little stories in the form of an art book. As such, this 32 page full color hardcover runs $15. To me, it's worth it. For others on a more restrictive budget, I can easily understand the lack of enthusiasm.
That's it for June 2003. We'll be back in roughly four weeks for the comics of July 2003, as the summer convention season approaches.
Don't forget to stop back here on Tuesday for the 304th Pipeline Commentary and Review column. "Around the Web" returns with some links to help out those of you considering an Epic submission.
Various and Sundry has been updated all week with the usual American Idol commentary, DVD release news and notes, a phone number for the broken hearted, Looney Tunes on DVD, the death of sit-coms, and more.
Nearly 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 still available at the Original Pipeline page.