READER REQUEST FRIDAY (PART ONE)
On Tuesday, I asked for your questions to be answered in this column. I'm grateful and amazed at the number and diversity of questions you all had. The odds are pretty good I'll make two weeks out of this. For this week, I've managed to separate the questions into the topics of the personal stuff and the comic-related stuff.
I'll save the personal stuff for the end. After all, you didn't come here to read about me and some of you would be more than happy to write in and tell me that. But since I like talking about myself, I thought I'd throw that stuff in, too. ;-)
Feel free to send more questions in. It's not too late to get into next week's column. Even if that doesn't work out, I'll save them and pull them out as needed.
COMICS-RELATED STUFF: GENERAL
Justice Guy asked a series of short questions on the official Pipeline message board:
Favorite comic character?
You know, I can't really think of one, and that probably has more to do with the fact I follow creators more than characters. Spider Jerusalem is a fairly well developed character at this point. He's a much stronger character than most that have been around for ten times as long as he has. Really, how many different and divergent Batman versions have we had? Or even Spider-Man? At least SJ stays focused.
For much the same reason, The Savage Dragon goes on the list.
Uncle $crooge probably makes it, too. He's stayed pretty well defined over the course of the past 50 years. He hasn't turned grim and gritty, or resorted to campy stories all that often.
Most and least favorite comic creator?
Favorite is probably Erik Larsen. He's just a big fanboy done good and it shows.
Least favorite? For what it's worth, I don't have any on-going personal feuds with any creators, so I can't belittle anyone here.
Your first comic?
The comic I started collecting with was THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #318, by Michelinie and McFarlane. I had a few others before then, but quite sporadically. They never led to anything. The Archie version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #1 was one such book.
Zalman from the message board asks about the possibilities of some trade paperback rants, the older the better.
That's actually in the future for Pipeline2. A couple of months ago, I was working on a side project that never quite panned out to do trade paperback reviews. So I've looked at some of those collected editions recently. Since the reviews of books like WHITEOUT and CLAN APIS have been so well received, I think you're likely to see more such columns in the future. FROM HELL might very well be next. I'm about ¾ of the way through it right now. I'll try to pull some of the older TPBs out for a look, too.
Also on the Pipeline board, Gate asks what comic book series I miss the most.
Hands down: UNCLE $CROOGE. The fact that Don Rosa is out there producing new comic stories that I can't read because some Disney lawyer is busy making himself look important by stalling and delaying the production of new comics just burns my arse. (Yes, the flame reaches about that high.)
Aside from that, FREAK FORCE. Then probably NEWMEN. Those were both two books with a lot of potential and a freewheeling feeling to them that never had the chance to shine that they should have.
COMICS-RELATED STUFF: SPECIFIC
Pipeline message board denizen WhirlWind asks, "What do you think of Ultimate Marvel (Ground Zero) that Marvel comics announced? And a related question, is having a character built on years of continuity really as much of a problem as they say it is to get new readers involved or are they just lazy? "
If your stated goal is to bring new readers in from the outside, I think obliterating 30+ years worth of baggage might be a help. It couldn't hurt.
I think Marvel is taking a lot of flak on this one for nothing. I think the whole plan is a great idea and something this industry sorely needs. It might not be successful, but it's about damned time someone put their money where their mouth is. Marvel is doing just that, aggressively pursuing the market of potential comic book readers who don't necessarily know about the local bowling alley-shaped comics shop just yet. To that end, I also hope they print the comic book retailer locater toll free number in these books.
They can't go too wrong with Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley on Spidey and Bendis and whoever-else-it-is on X-Men. They're pushing outside the established, entrenched comics market and doing so with terrific talent in a new and exciting way. We've always wondered what we could do to bring those movie-going and cartoon-enjoying people to read comics. Marvel is bringing the comics to them.
More power to them.
To the larger point of continuity: You can work around that. I don't like the concept of a CRISIS or of starting a series over at #1 that's been around for thirty years. The latter is a cheesy marketing gimmick that won't work and is done at the expense of just telling stronger stories. The former is disrespectful of all the work done by previous creators. Just ignore what doesn't work for you, and emphasize the stuff that does. It's what creators do all the time when they come on a book. Peter David took a minor character point from a single issue of Bill Mantlo's HULK run and ran with it for ten years. (Yes, I'm simplifying on that point just a bit, but go with it.)
While I'm on the case of defending Marvel, let's just clear this one up, too: Marvel is not going to stop printing comics anytime soon. They're not dropping comic publishing for the lure of big Hollywood bucks. Not happening. (At least, not yet.) For those of you who chose to misread the WALL STREET JOURNAL article or only caught its paraphrasing on other web sites, don't worry about it. Marvel is just spending more money on the Hollywood stuff. As they do that, it will become a larger portion of their entertainment empire. Simple math.
THE PERSONAL STUFF
Ryan Stephens writes from the UK somewhere to ask this question:
"Seeing as you have written a lot of comic criticism, have you ever attempted to put yourself 'in front of the camera'? Have you, will you ever, or have you even considered submitting to a comic company?"
Yes. Sorta. I've written fan-fic in my day. Some of it is posted over on my web site, concerning mostly the characters of FREAK FORCE. In retrospect, some of it is awful. But it has its fans, and someday I hope to do more of it.
I'm a self-taught student of creative writing. Writer's Digest is a constant source of textbooks. I'd probably make a better editor than writer at this point. I know the technical aspects of writing - a lot about pacing, plotting, conflict, scene progression, etc. I just need to get the energy to put that into my writings.
But I'm working on it and someday you might just see me in print somewhere as an actual storyteller. Then I can be my own worst critic. I'm also working on a couple of small fiction pieces that might just find their way into Pipeline at some point. One is even completed - a ten page humorous science fiction buddy adventure story. We shall see what happens with it.
And, of course, being the self-promoting writing shill that I am, if any publishers want to inquire, click on the feedback link below. =)
In a perfect world, I'd win the lottery and just sit home and write all day. This way, I wouldn't have to worry about the pay cut and I could do what I like to do. Whether such writing would end up as comic scripts or further editions of Pipeline and the like, I don't know. (I can say this: Every idea I've had for a story in the past two years has inevitably ended up taking shape in my mind in a sequential art form. I don't think in prose anymore. How scary is that?)
This doesn't all mean that I'm not keeping busy. Besides working 40 hours a week, I also write Pipeline twice a week, a weekly DVD commentary column, "On A Silver Platter", for Reactor, and a monthly column for the forthcoming THE COMIC READER. It's not a matter of not finding the time to write. It's just an issue of finding the time to write more. =)
Homer Simpson chimes in at the message board with a few short questions:
How the hell do you afford to read so many comics?
I'm a computer programmer. And Pipeline acts as a nice comics subsidy. Any money you make from comics is money you can put back in without regret or guilt.
How long have you been collecting comics?
Since the spring of 1989.
How many do you own?
I'm not sure, exactly. I haven't counted them in a long time. But judging from the number of boxes sitting next to me here and what my database has tracked over the past 8 years or so, it's got to be past 5,000.
How many times have you met Erik Larsen?
Just once: San Diego 1999. Just as affable and fan-friendly as I had hoped. One of those most open creators I've ever had the pleasure to talk to or meet. (Another is Larry Young, but I wonder if I'm not just mentioning his name here because he hasn't written in a while and I wonder how he's doing these days? ;-)
Will you be going to Chicago in the Summer?
Yes, I will be in Chicago and San Diego this summer, as well as the Madison Square Garden Con in New York City fairly soon. Once the panel schedule is announced for Chicago and San Diego, I'll be sure to discuss those here.
IN THE PIPELINE FOR NEXT WEEK
I've got lots of stuff planned for the two editions of Pipeline next week. There's a longish rant on letters columns already set to go. I have more of your questions left to answer, including some on super-hero homages, Paul Levitz's shredding habit, and more on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. There's also a stack of books needing to be reviewed from this week, including TRANSMETROPOLITAN, THE PUNISHER, and some others not written by gentlemen from the UK.
So join me again next Tuesday and Friday for more of this fun stuff.