Pipeline2, Issue #18: Flashback Friday

Every now and then it's fun to dig into one's sordid past. This week we're looking back to the very first Pipeline Commentary and Review column. It's funny to see how much things have changed and, at the same time, how little things have changed.

My comments are interspersed through the column.


08 June 1997

by Augie De Blieck Jr.

I think I've finally found a form in which I can return to reviewing comic books. Maybe it's a sign of the limited attention spans of our time, but I like this way better than long-form reviews. What am I talking about?

Don'tcha hate columnists whose first column just describes what the column is? Jeez, just write something!

One of my favorite editorials to read is in the Friday newspaper. Thomas Sowell does a piece called "Musings on the Passing Scene" in which he notes random things, brings up assorted points, makes good points. That inspired me. That, and a desire not to have to go on at length with my opinions. Sometimes, I just have something short to say and feel guilty about having to construct a whole long boring review in order to say it.

This still holds true. As you're about to see, though, things were a lot more random back in the beginning. There was more jumping around. I tend to cover a bunch of different things in each column to this day, but somehow it feels much more smooth.

So here goes nothing. The web page hosting all this fun and merriment, by the way, is located at http://www.nic.com/~augie/pipeline/pipeline.htm as always. This column will be available on it eventually.

I got smart months later and simplified this web site dramatically, stripping a "pipeline" from it. The Pipeline archives can still be found at http://www.nic.com/~augie/pipeline for those first 100 issues, plus assorted specials.

One site I make sure to visit a couple of times a week for news and reviews is Charles Le Page's New Comics Release List site. http://www.ccse.net/~ncrl/

I don't really visit it for the news anymore, but it's an invaluable resource on Wednesday morning in preparation for that night's visit to the comics shop. I don't miss any books anymore.

It's tough constructing an interesting web site about comic books without handy access to a scanner. All you're left doing is stealing images off of other sites. And that's not quite fair.

I never stole any images off of anyone else's site. Heck, I never included images in the nic.com Pipeline days. These columns were posted to the Pipeline mailing list, USENET and my web page and were plain text. It wasn't until I came to CBR that Jonah suggested images. By that time, I had a scanner. Coincidentally, that scanner just died on me this past week.

UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL '97 gets my pick of the week if only for the fact that it includes a pin-up by Don Rosa, Uncle $crooge artist extraordinaire, of J. Jonah Jameson as Uncle $crooge. (Rosa, it should be noted, got to keep the original piece of artwork, unlike what would happen with a Disney comic. He auctioned it off for a literacy charity.)

Uncle $crooge is this cute old duck character who wears a top hat, lives in a money bin filled with three cubic acres of cash, walks with a cane infrequently, and has beagles for arch-enemies. His adventurous and hard-working spirit in his younger days earned him his fortune. In his old age, he's become slightly more bitter, but never lost that sense of adventure, which has become more important than the riches.

I say all that because there's a chance you might have all forgotten. There hasn't been a new issue of UNCLE $CROOGE now since December 1998.

Rob Liefeld is back with JUDGMENT DAY ALPHA, in which Vogue's shoulder pads mysteriously appear on page 16, while she is not wearing them anywhere else in the issue. Even Rob Liefeld, though, can't completely ruin an Alan Moore script. But he comes close. I'm pretty sure that last page wasn't quite what Alan Moore had in mind when he wrote the script. However, Moore is asking some interesting questions about Youngblood and the media and the O.J. syndrome. Let's see how he answers them.

The mini-series ended very well. Moore seems to love melding mythology and texts, as seen to various degress in SHADOWHAWK, PROMOTHEA, and JUDGMENT DAY. Liefeld's art was, well, not all that good. Awesome Entertainment has gone through two or three reorganizations since this column was originally written.

And in researching that last paragraph, I'm struck by the lack of page numbers on comics these days. Why is that? My first thought is that it looked better when later collected in TPB form. But since the comics are increasingly lettered by computer, wouldn't it be easy enough to add in page numbers, via the computer, which could then be taken out easily later on when collected?

This still annoys me. It's especially painful when you're reviewing a comic.

Page numbering does in no way hurt my enjoyment of the classic Spider-Man tales brought us by ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1, which I've finally started to read this summer. Vol. 2 is due to ship soon.

I didn't get very far in that first volume. I did buy the second, however, if only to support the terrific format. As much as some people will hate to hear me say it, those stories are too damned tedious for me to read. Some make the point that it helps kids to learn how to read comics if they both see and read the same things in each panel. For example, if Spidey is swinging across the city, Spidey should be thinking "It's great to swing through the city." That's not my kind of storytelling, though. It drives me nuts. Maybe it's a generational thing.

I have great love for Spider-Man's legacy and mythology, but those stories are best left read between the pages of Kurt Busiek's previously-mentioned UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN.

I wonder how many of those stories count for squat in light of Byrne's re-write.

And I've finally finished reading ESSENTIAL X-MEN Vol 1. (I note there are no page numbers here. Huh. Nor in ESSENTIAL WOLVERINE 1 or 2.) However, Marvel is quite up front with us when it shows us where one issue ends and the next begins. ESSENTIAL X-MEN VOL. 2 comes out in August and I couldn't be happier.

Both volumes are terrific. I breezed through them relatively quickly. It's amazing stuff to read. The third volume is out now, too. I've hesitated in picking it up since I have many of the stories in CLASSIC X-MEN reprints, and so many other things to read at the same time.

Is Terry Austin as close to perfection as inking gets?

Sometimes I wonder about this. Like John Byrne's art, his has become almost self-parody. You can tell it's him a mile away, and that's not always a good thing. He's moved away from the smooth line to a more straight line.

Ditto Joe Rosas for coloring? Todd Klein for lettering?

Oh, great, I may have embarrassed poor Todd Klein again. =) Joe Rosas had a great coloring style shortly before computer coloring became standard convention. Take a look at his UNCANNY X-MEN issues over Jim Lee. It's bright, expressive, and shaded in a way only non-computerized coloring can be done. It's unique, as was Brian Murray's coloring in X-FORCE #4. I'm still disappointed Rosa was taken off of the original WILDC.A.T.S. series after the first issue. The coloring - by Joe Chiodo -- afterwards became too dark.

Am I the last one left annoyed when a #1 issue is published with an ad in place of a letters column or text page? I like reading those blurbs writers or editors come up with in the first issue of a new series. Kudos to HEROES FOR HIRE for not forgetting this. They had a text page in the first issue. And a fine first issue it was, too, by the way. This one comes recommended to Marvel fans. It's steeped in continuity, but explains enough as it goes.

I remember reading NAMOR when John Byrne resurrected Iron Fist. That was always a fun series. Then Jae Lee took over the art, the story dragged, and the art got more and more confusing as time went by.

The story wasn't helped by Bob Harras' terrible scripting, either. And this is the man who runs the show with the mutant books. Coincidence? You make the call!

However, Jae Lee's HELLSHOCK is an excellent book, and a must-read. And if ever issue 3 comes out, I'll be here to tell you about it.

It did. That was also the end of the series. We did, however, get the most excellent INHUMANS, instead. Good trade-off.

Speaking of lateness, what happened to Joe Quesada? Will Jerome K. Moore, currently scheduled as inker of Warren Ellis' TRANSMETROPOLITAN, last long on that title? His inking didn't last long on Sovereign 7. (Nor Tom Orzechowski's lettering, for that matter. What happened there?) His STAR TREK covers were masterpieces. But he's always been rather painstaking about his work.

Wow, lots of things there to deal with. Quesada has moved on to bigger and better things. The Marvel Knights line of comics has been Marvel's shining light for the past year. Quesada's DAREDEVIL, written by Kevin Smith, inspired a column all its own not too long ago.

Jerome Moore didn't last on TRANSMETROPOLITAN. He bowed out, citing religious issues. He's since disappeared from comics altogether, sadly. WildStorm would do well to track him down for STAR TREK covers. Word has it he's a finicky artist, taking forever to draw a page and never being satisfied with it. But WildStorm has dealt with Adam Hughes for a while now, so they should be able to handle it. =)

Tom Orz seems to be happy lettering SPAWN and the occasional mutant mini-series. I'm really hoping he comes back to X-MEN with Claremont, but I'm not holding my breath.

Kevin Maguire's TRINITY ANGELS doesn't quite know what it wants to be yet - bad girl comic, funny comic, or slapstick comic. But in any way, I still like it.

After Maguire left, I did, too. I don't think I was alone.

And QUANTUM & WOODY is a must-read.

Ah, things haven't changed. Of course, now you have the first 16 issues collected in a wonderful series of TPBs with extra pages added in. Go get those if you haven't jumped on this bandwagon yet.

I wonder when the next one of these columns will get written?

As it turned out, it was the next week. And every week thereafter to this day. We're fast approaching PCR #125. Including Pipeline2 and some special mid-week editions of the column, that number is probably closer to 150.

Be back here next week for my treatise on the comic book fight. When is it a good idea? When is it a bad thing? Why is it so intrinsically a part of the superhero comic book experience?

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