Pipeline2, Issue #23

Today we return to more of your thoughts on topics recently discussed in this column. We're all over the map here, from Superman to "plotmasters" to Dan Brereton and how great a time it is to be reading comics. So sit back, grab yourself a Diet Pepsi, and let's roll out and transform! (Er, never mind that last part.)


Ryan Sieroty writes in with some thoughts on the current state of the Superman family of titles. My thoughts are interspersed.

    "Thank you very much for your insight on the Man of Steel. For reading him for close to 15 years, many creators put their touch on the book. No better than Stuart Immonen. His "human perspective" he put on the book gave Superman. As for the talent pool on the Superman books, its rather dim. Let's review:

    "Man of Steel: Schultz and Mahnke. Both are talented and give the feel of the science fiction aspect to our Kryptonian. A nice surprise."

Agreed. I wasn't expecting that much here. But I liked the first issue.

    "Adventures: Immonen and Marzan. Granted Immonen is gone at 2000, there needs to be an artist to match his heart for Superman. I agree with you and put McKone and McKenna on that book. By far they are the best things on Loeb's book."Well, I don't dislike Loeb's scripts. I think they're pretty good, as a matter of fact, but it is a disappointment that McKone's not going to be around for long. There is word, though, that McKone has posted on the DC Message Boards that once his other commitments are worked out, he might be back on the Superman books. Let's hope!

    "Action: Kelly and Garcia. Now I love Kelly's approach to Superman. It's fresh, but German Garcia? An X-Artist on this book? Superman should be classically drawn because he is a classical character. Not jagged lines for arms and body shapes that aren't body shapes. Put Epting or even somewhat with more Superman training, like Tom Grummett back on the book."Grummett would be great, but I wouldn't want to pull him off of Superboy. Garcia is better than I expected, but not as great as I hoped this line could be. Some of his angle are a bit funny, with some more close-ups than I think there needs to be. It's still leaps ahead of his X-MEN work, though.

    "Superman: Loeb and McGuinness. Loeb's Man for All Seasons was heartwarming and gave Superman justice as a character; he's still suited for Batman and the Hard Boiled. As for Ed's pencils, he will make him larger than life, but not giving him emotion and depth Superman has.

    "I agree with you that the Superman titles are impressive, but the flagship book for DC is somewhat turning to Valiant's second attempt. I'm just waiting for the rats to slowly leave. We will wait and see. Talents come and go, but Superman will remain."

The old saw from DC editorial is that it's Superman; the books will sell no matter who you put on there. So those are the last books to get the big name artists and writers. Those hot creators should be working on books that wouldn't otherwise normally sell. It seems DC is finally coming around on that mode of thinking and putting some big name creators (with real talent) on their books.


Will Allred asks:

    "Isn't "Plotmaster" the function that the really strong editors of the past performed? Editors like Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisenger were strongly involved in the writing of their books if I remember my comic history correctly. Are we simply finding out something that we knew all along...that weak, untrained editors bear some the blame for getting the comic industry into the shape it's in? Or, maybe it's just a coincidence, but those guys sure sold a lot more funny books back then."

Good point. (Although I think the sales figures argument is probably just coincidence.)

Maybe it's time to look at those editors. The trick with "Plotmaster", though, is that it's a person with a proven creative track record. Most editors today aren't very creative -- witness their poor attempts at fill-in writing. (Bob Harras' NAMOR issues were especially putrid.) Yes, there are exceptions -- Fabian Nicieza is the biggest one I can think of. But all too many editors are just comics fans who want to work in publishing at any level, or those who are frustrated writers or artists looking for an 'in.' They're not necessarily creative types, nor should they always be. There's nothing wrong with people who function well at moving books along, keeping the creators focused and in-line, and maybe even setting a certain agenda once in a while. The biggest problem comes from editors who try to be the writers of their books, and not just let their creative teams do what they're being paid to do.

James L. Jones has another take on the "Plotmaster" concept:

    "As to Marvel's new X-Book Plotmaster position, I see it kind of like a movie or TV producer. While Chris Carter does not write or direct every episode of the X-Files, he does still oversee the general direction of each season and handpicks writers and directors to work on the individual episodes. A good "producer" might be just what Marvel needs to return the X-books to the potential quality they once realized."

This also gets us back to the concept of cribbing ideas from other media to be used in comics. We're starting to steal people from the world of movie making and television to do comics. Kevin Smith is the most prominent, but some other names keep sneaking in, mostly in short-term capacities. Cast members of Buffy, Sliders, and Star Trek have all helped write comics based on their shows at one point or another. None of them stuck with it very long.


FJ "Skip" Suttom is organizing a letter-writing campaign of sorts. He's trying to get word out that Dan Brereton should be the one to illustrate Todd McFarlane's proposed BLACK TERROR series, which Brereton originally painted for Eclipse back in the 1980s. Beau Smith is to be the writer. Here's part of what Skip wrote:

    "I greatly enjoyed the first Black Terror series and thoroughly enjoyed the artwork. Dan had gotten his start on the Black Terror and helped produce a beautifully painted series. Since Todd McFarlane is a vocal proponent for creator rights, one would think the rights of the creator do not merely limit themselves to the originator of the character. One would think those rights would be extend to allow creative teams, who worked quite well together in the past, to continue working and enhance a mythology of that character. This can only strengthen to story and improve the end product. I would like to see Dan be named as the artist on the series so he and Beau can continue on the original vision he had begun with the first series.

    "If there are any other fans of Dan's work and would also like to see Dan and Beau work together again, I urge them to make their wishes known. Please write or e-mail Todd and McFarlane productions with this pledge: As a fan of the first series or Dan's work in general, we will buy the new series. We are guaranteed consumers. The costs involved with this venture are secured, as we will buy it. If Dan is not the artist, we cannot guarantee we will buy the book. We may look at it. We may thumb through it in the store, but our sale is not certain. Dan and Beau together are a known quality. We have seen them work well together, on a story we enjoyed. On his website, Dan makes mention of his desire to work with Beau again and being an influence on his writing. One would think Beau would like to work with Dan again, as well. With a new artist, the end product is not known. With many other comic books being released and as competitive as the market is, when a reader has a weekly budget they try to adhere to a known quantity is generally a 'safe purchase'. Many readers are hesitant to take a chance with a $5 or $6 book, only to be disappointed.

    "Todd is a bright man and a successful businessman. He usually doesn't do something, unless he knows the investment is sound. Vote with your dollar and let Todd know naming Dan as the artist is a sound investment for McFarlane Productions and the new Black Terror series.

    "The addresses are as follows:

    Todd McFarlane Productions

    P.O. Box 27228

    Tempe, AZ 85285-7228

    "Or you can e-mail:

    Terry Fitzgerald, President of Entertainment: tdfitz@aol.com

    http://www.mcfarlane.com/email.html "

Sounds like a good idea to me, and we wish Skip and all his supporters the best of luck in this attempt. Hopefully, I'll be able to relay some good news to you about this in some future column.


Every now and then, we try to smile and convince ourselves that all is not wrong with the comics industry. There are plenty of things to be grateful for. Send me your list, and I'll compile a column out of your lists for a future Pipeline2.

To start things off, here is regular Pipeline e-mail correspondent, Murray Roach:

    "Has there ever been a better time to be a comic book fan? From where I sit - no. Why? I'm not a comic book collector - I loathe that term - I am a comic book reader. With the general slow down it's become a complete buyers market for nearly every title you can name - sure, the price drop hasn't hit Action Comics #1 yet, but you can get the entire run of Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans for $40 or Gaiman's Sandman for $120. This is due to eBay, which has caused your average comic book store to reevaluate their often ridiculous pricing and has allowed readers to avoid crazy market regionalization. In a time where stores are closing on a near daily basis how can this be a good thing? I don't care if Marvel or Joe's Comic Store stays afloat or not - it's not going to affect the story in my Roger Stern Avengers. Plus, nothing will ever replace the 'flipping through the rack' feeling that we comic book guys experience on a weekly basis, so the local comic book store will always exist in some form.

    "The market slow down has also provided one excellent, and only recently realized benefit - the quality of books from month-to-month may be at an all-time high. Hell, it could be argued it's at an all-time high based on the work of Alan Moore and Warren Ellis alone. I'm confident the cyclical nature of all commerce will eventually turn the comic book market around, but I'm not missing the days of 400 new titles a week with only 5 good ones. (Ah, the boom years)."

I've talked about eBay's effects on the prices of back issues briefly before, but you bring up a great point, Murray. There are plenty of terrific titles out there to be had for amazingly inexpensive prices. Most recently, for example, I picked up THE UNCANNY X-MEN #200-#250 for about a dollar a book. Now I'm just working on filling in the gaps between ESSENTIAL X-MEN #3 and there, and should be able to do that at a much cheaper rate than I would have had to do if I went back issue bin-diving. I've picked up complete runs of Giffen-era JUSTICE LEAGUE and John Ostrander and Kim Yale's SUICIDE SQUAD through 50-cent bins. I've recently finished a complete run of EXCALIBUR, from the earliest Chris Claremont/Alan Davis days through to Warren Ellis' stint on the title. (Just for completeness' sakes, I'm now working on finishing out the run.) Those books all came from the 50 cent and dollar bins. I picked up a near-complete run of those great BORIS THE BEAR comics off eBay for a steal.

You don't need to go to San Diego or some local con anymore to finish off collections or find inexpensive back issues. There's a wealth of stuff available on-line at various retailers and auction houses.

If that's not enough, there's a ton of trade paperback collections out there these days, and Marvel's ESSENTIAL line is both economical and entertaining.

If you were a columnist at a pretty frickin' large comic book-related web site, for example, you might put out a call for that fifth issue of SOMERSET HOLMES you need to complete the series and see if any kind reader might want to part with theirs for a decent price.

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