THE PREVIEWS RANT
This industry is crazy. Topsy-turvy. Insanely organized and just barely surviving.
It's so bad that we've come to the point where PREVIEWS is the be-all and end-all of a book's existence, quite often. It's not like movies or books or any other publishing or media venture. There, success is measure at the point-of-sale. Every Monday you'll get the box office tallies for the weekend to tell you which movie is a hit. Every Monday or Tuesday you'll see which television shows drew the biggest numbers the previous week.
In the world of comics, if pre-orders aren't sufficiently high, the book is a failure before it's published. At the very least, it will be seen as a failure. Even worse, books that most readers think will be good and will be looked forward to might not be a success because retailers are somehow completely out of touch with their customers.
Takes POWERS #1, for example. Image overshipped it. Reorders after the initial week were still massive. How is it that a book can have all these extra copies sent out to retailers free of charge and, still, the retailers don't have enough copies to satisfy demand? This isn't exactly a difficult decision. Brian Bendis' name has been on the rise for months now. He's got name recognition. FORTUNE AND GLORY sold well. SAM & TWITCH has sold well, despite some Bendis fans that for some odd reason won't buy it because it's a "Spawn Book."
My retailer sold out of POWERS #1 and #2 inside of five hours the days they came out. Reorders came and went. I really hope this means that orders for #3-#5 were boosted accordingly, but in this market I wouldn't doubt it if they weren't. After all, they sold what they got. Why risk buying more?
In the case of POWERS, it's doubly damning. POWERS is published through Image Comics. Image has an exclusive distribution agreement through Diamond. If a retailer needed a quick reshipment of copies of the issue and couldn't get them through Diamond, the reader is out of luck. There's no back-up plan. There's also no incentive for Diamond to spend the money to keep reorders quick and clean, since there's nowhere else to go. By contract.
My god, what a screwed-up industry this is.
But it's the same old tired argument.
The point of this is that pre-ordering books is so important these days. And so the occasional column I used to do to highlight some interesting books in the current month's issue of PREVIEWS has become all the more important. I get letters each time from someone who didn't see something when they flipped through the book that they wanted to get. So for the good of the industry, I present another look through PREVIEWS, for books scheduled to ship in August 2000. You can all thank me later. ;-)
If you see something here you'd like to get, don't hesitate to tell your retailer. Maybe someday this could become the oddity column again.
My usual warning: This is by no means an exhaustive list of the good stuff in PREVIEWS. Pick up a copy and flip through it for yourself. Read one of the other on-line commentators' take on the book. But order now. It may be the only chance you get to see some of these books.
This week we'll look at the back, where a lot of good stuff typically gets lost. These are all the publishers who didn't sign exclusivity agreements with Diamond in that maddening and frustrating period a few years back when all the majors did.
First and foremost is PEDRO AND ME. This is the long-awaited autobiographical tale from Judd Winick about his time with Pedro Zamora, mostly during THE REAL WORLD SAN FRANCISCO. Winick has a pretty high profile in the comics industry these days, with the success of his BARRY WEEN mini-series and forthcoming GREEN LANTERN writing duties. That's why it surprised me when I saw this book on page 311, without much more fanfare than a "Spotlight On" designation and a small easily-lost article in the front of the book. No ads. No hype. No other press coverage, either in print or on the internet. I suppose the book publisher doesn't consider comics shops to be the main outlet for this, and that explains the lack of ads.
The story is told with sequential art - yup, it's a comic book - and is published by Henry Holt, one of those real world book publishers. It's a 192 page softcover for $15 even. I'm looking forward to this. I enjoyed that season of REAL WORLD a lot, and it still contains some of the most memorable REAL WORLD moments in the series' history. Besides, after that one, everything else has been predictable. As the New Orleans series starts next month, we're being promised a more friendly group, but c'mon! We're all placing bets now on who gets kicked out of the house by the tenth episode, which two cast members in the house will end up sleeping together, which one will be the gay one, and who will be the first to display themselves naked in public. As entertaining as it can be, it's somewhat predictable these days.
Anyway, back to comics… The very next page has the listing for THE ART OF THE MATRIX hardcover book. This one did receive a lot of fanfare in PREVIEWS this month, including an article in the front of the book. THE MATRIX, at the heart of it all, is just one of the best comics put on the screen. Check out a lot of the framing of scenes. Pull out a mise en scene or two. (Film majors: Pardon me if I just misspelled that.) It's a comic book put on the movie screen. Something like this hasn't been done to such a degree in a long time, if ever. I think that has something to do with the movie's success. Comics steal from movies all the time. Isn't it time the reverse happened?
This book contains a lot of images done by Steve Skroce and Dave Gibbons and all the other designers who worked on the movie. It looks like a pretty package, and will set you back $60 if you choose to go for it.
ACME NOVELTY BOOK
At the risk of being called a hypocrite - and I've been called that before and worse for doing this column - I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to JIMMY CORRIGAN: THE SMARTEST KID ON EARTH. Yes, I just blasted ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY in this column not all that long ago. I called it, basically, a bloated waste of boring space. But check out the solicitation copy on the book:
"A lengthy, meandering experiment in reader tolerance, this first book from Chicago author Chris Ware is a nonetheless, pleasantly-decorated look at a lonely and emotionally impaired "everyman" (Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth) who is given the opportunity, in his mid-30s, to meet his father for the first time. An improvisatory romance which gingerly ignores all sense of plot and drama, the reader is unaccountably transported between 1890s Chicago and 1980s small town Michigan, helped along by thousands of colored illustrations and diagrams, which, when read rapidly, in sequence, provide a startling illusion of life and movement. The bulk of the work is supported by foldout instructions, an index, paper cutouts, and brief notes, all of which promise to concrete one of the most unusual and easily dismissed books of the new millennium."
I laughed at that really hard, since it pegs just about every problem I had with the one issue of the series I've read before. Anyone who can celebrate his or her awkwardness like that deserves a second chance. Besides, it's also a story set partially in my favorite decade, the 1980s. =)
The book is a mammoth 380-page full color hard cover for $27.50. It's got to be worth a shot. It's just one of those oddball things so unique to comics today that I want to give it a chance.
LOVE IN TIGHTS #6 is solicited on page 199. This issue contains a new story from J. Torres concerning Zara Rush, the protagonist from the Image mini-series, SIREN. Andi Watson provides the cover, and other stories in the issue come from DORK TOWER's John Kovalic, Stephen Geigen-Miller, and Mike White. It's hit and miss, as with any anthology, but LiT is always worth a look for some super-hero romantic hijinks.
Another Pipeline regular favorite, Larry Young's ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE: SPACE 1959 gets the trade paperback collection treatment in August. $8 buys you all three issues under one cover, with art from Charlie Adlard.
Avatar, the maker of first-rate first amendment-busting comics - and you can read all the sarcasm into that you want -- is riding high on all the publicity it's gotten publishing Warren Ellis stories lately. First, they started publishing AVENGELYNE comics. Now, in an attempt to corner the three-quarter nekkid chick market, they've picked up Al Rio's EXPOSURE. The sad thing here is that it's a gratuitous T&A book, but now they're admitting it. When it was at Image, they swore there was a plot. Look at the ads on pages 208-9. Is there any doubt this is just a skin comic? Can anyone really run around in heels that high, aside maybe from Dana Scully?
The really sad thing about this is that Al Rio is not a bad artist. Yes, he's obviously influenced by J. Scott Campbell, but he's gotten much better at it, and has developed his own style from it. His art isn't bad, but the only way to make money in comics, it seems, is to produce trash. Heck, maybe if he just ghosted a couple of DANGER GIRL issues it would solve a couple of problems with one shot.
Eh! Productions is publishing no less than four separate books based on its resident bad girl, Razor, on page 249. Is there really that big a demand for them?
Hey! Dale Keown is publishing a new three-issue mini-series, titled PITT: BIOGENESIS. PITT, you may remember, first saw print as a pinup in the back of SPAWN #1. SPAWN hits its 100th issue fairly soon. Keown has yet to publish his 25th issue of PITT, in all its various forms. Keown may be the single biggest waste of talent I've seen in this industry in the past ten years. Damned shame.
Awesome Comics, meanwhile, is publishing - ah, screw it. I just don't care. Let's get back to some good stuff.
Fanboy Comics publishes the third issue of SIDEKICKS #3. I recommend it based on the early preview comic Fanboy was sending around a month ago. Besides, it's written by J. Torres, who hasn't gotten the real breakthrough hit he deserves just yet. Give it a shot. And if you plan on reading it, don't forget to pre-order this issue, too.
Finally, Oni Press is printing two interesting collections in August. The first is the second WHITEOUT mini-series, entitled WHITEOUT: MELT. That one comes highly recommended for both Greg Rucka's script, as well as Steve Lieber's gorgeous artwork. The second book is ROAD TRIP, collecting Judd Winick's ONI DOUBLE FEATURE serial under one cover for the first time. The latter is a three-dollar comic, but the former is a $12 squarebound TPB.
ALL ABOUT CBR
SIMPSONS COMICS #50 includes a story by CBR's very own YABS author Gail!
False Idol Studios is printing THE 7 GUYS OF JUSTICE, a comic that originated with characters that had their start at the CBR message boards. The ad for the book, on page 253, contains a quote from the aforementioned Gail, typo and all.
And THE COMIC READER #3 (page 297) will contain my usual monthly dose of Image history and review. I just handed in the article for issue #2, which is a look back at a title that never came out, but was announced alongside all the rest of the Image founders' books.
So ends the self-referential segment of this column.
Next Friday's column will be part two of PREVIEWS in review, as I flip back to the first half of the book and take a look at the books coming from Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, and Image. Here's a hint: There's a lot of great collections, both hardcover and soft, coming up. There's also some space left at the tail end of that column. If there's a book you want to plug that I missed, drop me a line and let me know. I may run some of your letters on this.
But, first, come back here on Tuesday for more commentary and review. It was something of a slow week as far as new comics are concerned, so there might be a look or two at some recently concluded story arcs.