Lying In The Gutters

Mon, August 5th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the comics industry's tip top rumour/gossip column. It's a slow week this week as San Diego has sucked the soul from the industry. Still, there's always something going on, and I reckon the San Diego Comic Convention will provide a nice full column next week. Now, onto the traffic light rumour flashes. Green lets you know I believe it, Amber let's you know I reckon there's something in it somewhere, Red lets you know I think it's quite possibly bullshit. The lights are just an indication - doesn't mean a red can't be true and a green can't be false. Take everything you read with a bucketful of salt - and if you do repost information here elsewhere, please include a warning to that effect. And a link. I get paid by the hit, you know,

And before we start, if any of you have either twisting@hotmail.com or rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk in your email contact lists, please remove them. You can always get my email address at the bottom of this column, but I've receiving stacks of over 100K virus emails a day and it's killing my hotmail on a regular basis. Please. I beg you.

KARRE ANDREWS MOVES TO WILDSTORM?

[Yellow Light]

Kaare Andrews is taking his new project to Wildstorm's Cliffhanger imprint. I understand that Marvel were interested for a time, but Cliffhanger offered a higher page rate. So...

Expect a book about giant robots fighting. Not like any other book out there on the stands then.

COMIC BOOK WEBSITES, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

[Yellow Light]

So what was behind Newsarama's recent move from COMICON.com to View Askew? And who else was involved? Seems like just about everyone.

I understand that that last year, when Fandom began to fall, Mike Doran and Matt Brady, writers and owners of the comic industry's premier news site Newsarama were looking for a more financially secure host. COMICON.com was seen as a place where they could regroup and expand. But it appears that the directions that Newsarama and COMICON.com were going in began to differ and a few months earlier COMICON.com were told that Newsarama were considering moving on.

One plan was for Newsarama to move to the website of one of their then sponsors, Dynamic Forces. However, there were other offers in play - and Kevin Smith and ViewAskew was one.

At one point, when it became clear that ViewAskew, was a firmer option, Dynamic Forces believed they would still be a main sponsor for Newsarama. I've been told that the existing partnership between Kevin Smith and Graphitti Designs made that impossible - due to historical dealings between Dynamic Forces and Graphitti. However Mike Doran told me "There were no 'impossible' scenarios, who are and aren't sponsoring Newsarama were our choices and WE'RE 100% responsible for those decisions".

As a result of all this, there are a number of people not exactly happy with the way the situation has resolved itself. Dynamic Forces are now sponsoring COMICON.com's replacement for Newsarama, The Pulse - which occupies the web address that Newsarama previously established. And now that Dynamic Forces are the sponsors, the previously agreed prominent link from that page to Newsarama's new address may not be quite as prominent as Newsarama envisaged. There are issues about broken promises, deception and a lot of bad feeling.

Doran told me "Yes, there was a misunderstanding between COMICON.com and Newsarama about the size and placement of a banner ad linking to Newsarama.com from the Pulse, but we're working on resolving that issue one way or another."

"As to your overall rumor, as you know Rich we don't discuss private business matters publicly, but we will say the last few months have been a learning process for us as we've handing our own business affairs really for the first time ever. We didn't handle everything as well as we would have liked in retrospect and accept responsibility for that, but that all said, we also stand behind the decisions made, why they were made and how they were made 100% and look forward to continued growth with View Askew and our sponsors Mile High, Graphitti Designs, Top Shelf and whomever the future may hold."

With CBR signing Mark Millar and myself, Newsarama steadying itself for a bunch of high profile names, COMICON.com's Pulse hiring Heidi and Jen, and Dynamic Forces setting up a new site with the Newsarama infrastructure they built, it looks like the audience are going to be spoilt for choice. COMICON.com vs Newsarama vs Dynamic Forces vs Graphitti Designs aside…

Declaration: Many of the sites mentioned above have made inquiries to me lately about supplying content of one sort of another for their website. It is very possible that this article will reduce that number.

MILLAR TO WRITE VAMPIRELLA MOVIE?

[Yellow Light]

Ah, you know what Hollywood gossip is like. Worse than me for a start.

I understand that Mark Millar gas been approached to write the film version of the comic Vampirella. Comparative to recent comic-based blockbusters, it has a low budget - £25 million in fact. Which might be why they're going to a comic book writer dazzled by the zeroes as opposed to a journeyman hack who doesn't get out of bed for anything less that a quarter of a million. The movie is being produced by Mindfire Entertainment, who have also recently finished filming a House Of The Dead movie.

Mark Millar was to write vampire series Sikeside for British TV station, Channel 4 - until it appeared to have been forgotten about by the company in question (after they'd paid Mark, however). Millar has had a fair history in the last few years of writing Vampirella series, after then Harris editor Dave Bogart hired the likes of Millar, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano to work on the book.

Mark Millar did not respond to emails inquiries. Which is not like him.

RAIJIN MAKE OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE

[Green Light]

I don't often like just reprinted or rephrasing press releases, without at least some comedy deconstruction. But I've just received one from Raijin Comics - and bloody hell.

Raijin, like Shonen Jump, are introducing English language manga anthologies to the Western market. And I believe they've just come up with a winner of a promotional offer.

Each issue is 200 pages long, and weekly. In order to kick start a subscriber fanbase, or at least persuade people to give it try before picking it up from their local shop, Raijin are selling the first four issues, to arrive weekly, for ten dollars. That's 800 pages, or 1.2 cents a page.

I get the feeling this Global Infiltrational Manga they're talking about might just work.

Sign up here.

KERON GRANT, X-MEN/GI JOE IN DISGUISE

[Yellow Light]

While Keron Grant and company are still being tagged as the artists on a new X-Men/GI Joe series, it appears that GI Joe publishers Devil's Due don't know about the project and Grant has been diverting enquiries to Marvel. Could Marvel have bypassed Devil's Due here and gone straight to Hasbro?

GAIL SIMONE TO WRITE AGENT X, HONEST!

[Green Light]

We hear that Bill Rosemann, Marvel's marketing head honcho is seeking to emulate Bill Jemas' tendency to cause a stir online, especially with that ladies. How else could you explain his recent press release which stated that Devin Grayson was the writer on the new relaunched-Deadpool series, Agent X, when it is of course Gail Simone.

GRANT SAYS ONE WORD, INTERPRETED WILDY

[Red Light]

In a fairly seminal interview with Grant Morrison at Sequential Tart, Morrison gave the Ultimatisation Of Marvel conspiracy theorists one to watch out for, describing a plot from his second year on New X-Men as "the X-Men vs. the Ultimate Enemy of all intelligent life." Just one word and a capital first letter and watch the fanboys scurry!

DANIELS MOVES TO CROSSGEN?

[Yellow Light]

Dark Horse's Michael Martens indicated that Tony Daniels is moving to CrossGen. Concerning the lateness of their Tenth Nightwalker series, Michael wrote "The Tenth is more complicated. It's possible that Tony Daniel will not be coming back to Dark Horse. Are you listening, Alesi? I suspect the DH orders for that book will be cancelled shortly."

THE COLOUR OF MONEY

[Yellow Light]

Remember Rob Liefeld's stint on Wolverine a year or two ago? Yes, okay, you might want to blank it from your mind but a *lot* of you bought it. Liefeld does have the ability to bring a lot of sales to established properties.

Anyway, Rob was delivering the inked and colored, ready to print pages to Marvel and getting paid for the "whole" package - basically he was a "studio" providing the work to Marvel. For Wolverine 155, he hires a colourist for the cover the cover and a few fill-in pages inside - and then didn't pay him. The colourist emails Joe Quesada and Mark Powers and gets them to send him a cheque - despite Marvel paying Liefeld for the book months earlier.

I hear that Mark Powers said they'd get the money back on a future Cable: First Contact check to Rob. Guess what never happened?

Rob Liefeld did not respond to email inquiries.

LARRY YOUNG, CAUSES FUSS

[Green Light]

Well, Larry Young, publisher of AiT/PlanetLar and creator of Astronauts In Trouble has been causing quite a stir of late on the boards. A certain Steve McQueen Slapping thread was one of the more obvious but a thread about, of all things, the cover to the upcoming Cybrosia Cathedral Child also got a little ugly.

In another thread, creator Lea Hernandez posted "Larry appears to be incapable of promoting his own flourishing line of books, his own healthy company, without bashing someone else's company or work" giving not only one, nor two but three recent examples.

Lea concluded "There are many, many more examples. It wouldn't bug me so much, except that many of the people Larry bashes are among the most talented and responsible creators and publishers in the industry. Oni, Cyberosia, Scott Brown, Mike Norton, Gail Simone, myself, being the obvious examples. Very unfortunate."

Young did not respond to email enquiries.

RUMOUR MONGER WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING

[Green Light]

I understand that, contrary to yesterday's All The Rage, that a) Dark Horse have not contacted Frank Miller about renegotiating any terms, and b) the ending of Dark Knight Strikes Back 3 was originally planned from the beginning - it was not changed.

I'd also heard rumours that last-minute changes were made to that last issue, whether by Miller himself or by DC, but Miller's attorney confirmed to me that not only were there no last-minute changes, there was no editorial interference or other problem with *that* issue (emphasis mine) and by the time the experience was over, Miller was expressing his desire to do more with DC.

HITMAN AVAILABLITY REDUCED, PRICES TO ROCKET?

[Green Light]

Hey, speculators? You still out there? Patty Jeres of DC Comics confirmed at San Diego that the Hitman trades will no longer be published, believing that the readers already have the back issues.

This has spurred demand for the back issues - previously only the very early issues had high prices attached to them, now expect the last thirty or so to go up in value very fast!

BUSIEK REVEALS CRIMSON COWL'S ORIGINAL IDENTITY

[Green Light]

Gutterati, Johnny Gun writes to pass on a message from the West Coast Avengers Mailing List.

In the recent issue of Thunderbolts, the long-running mystery of "Who is the Crimson Cowl?" was resolved as the villain was revealed to be Justine Hammer, longtime Iron Man foe Justin Hammer's never-mentioned-before daughter. When former Thunderbolts writer and West Coast Avengers Mailing List subscriber Kurt Busiek was asked if this was who he had planned out for the character's secret identity, Kurt graciously responded and also revealed who he had originally intended the Crimson Cowl to be to the mailing list:

"Well, it wasn't so much of a mystery as it was a secret (er, Secrets are Cain, Mysteries are Abel, right? Or is it the other way 'round?), and I doubt you'll find my answer any more satisfying, since we never did the stories that'd have set it up. We were planning on pulling a 'Norman Osborn' with the Cowl, by introducing her real self into the book _after_ she'd been established as a villain, then building the character up into someone important before the reveal. So since we didn't get to do much of that, our Cowl was pretty much a nobody underneath -- we'd have built her up into a somebody, but I left too soon. But she was an existing character. She was Alice Nugent, Hank Pym's old lab partner/assistant. The idea was that she'd hired Hank after his disgrace, in hopes of finding a way to give herself superpowers, but when he abruptly left to hook up with the West Coast Avengers, she sought out other avenues, ultimately getting equipment and backing from Ultron (which is why Ultron was spying on Hank Pym through her company in AVENGERS -- he didn't break in, he was partnered with her). But we'd have built her up into an ongoing role before springing that revelation on anyone -- we wouldn't expect people to remember her from her very few appearances."

AUTHORITY, MATURE READERS SWITCH

[Yellow Light]

Here's a point to ponder. Why is the solicitation for the fourth Authority trade paperback 'Transfer Of Power' labelled Mature Readers and under the Eye Of The Storm line? It's meant to be the same content that was available in the non-mature readers comics. Indeed, many changes were made because the company would not grant the creative/editorial team a "Mature Readers" label without restarting the comic. And look where that got us?

You don't suppose they'll be putting any of the material that was very publicly cut from the singles back, do you? Or will the wait for the second hardback collection...

NEW THUNDER AGENTS TO BE PUBLISHED

[Yellow Light]

While DC has been promoting the upcoming Thunder Agents Archives they now have the rights to print, I understand that, yes Thunder Agents, a new ongoing series is in production, and will see the team tackling menaces with the attitude more commonly associated with The Authority. However I understand the book will not attempt to reach the political and satirical levels that The Authority tried to occupy.

BUSIEK LEAVES AVENGERS OVER ULTIMATES

[Green Light]

On the Avengers Comic Board, Kurt Busiek revealed one of the main reasons why he left Avengers:

"I don't have any real complaints about the book itself, but I knew that if they did an "Ultimate Avengers," it'd trigger exactly the kind of "Which one is better?" "Which one sucks?" argument that it has, and that an Ultimate Avengers book would have that whole "We're not boring and stodgy like the old versions of the characters" aspect as part of its promotional thrust. And I didn't want to have anything to do with that.

"And sadly, calling it ULTIMATES instead of ULTIMATE AVENGERS didn't change that a bit.

"It's entirely possible for someone to come along and be cool on AVENGERS after ULTIMATES is launched. It happened on both X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN, after all. So I think Geoff Johns has a fine shot. But whoever was on the books when the Ultimate version happens would be recast as 'the old guard,' as the avatar of what has to be discarded to make the new stuff new and fresh. And that's not a bullseye I particularly want to stand on, thanks.

"If I'd had a ton of stuff I still wanted to do with AVENGERS, I might've thought more seriously about makin a fight out of it, but as I said at the time, I'd accomplished what I'd set out to accomplish on the book. And I don't much like the idea of being on a book that's being treated as a loser by its own publisher, implicitly or explicity, as part of selling something new.

"Don't take this as sour grapes -- I have no problem, in theory, with the Ultimate program. I like Mark Millar. I like Joe Quesada. We get along just fine. [I don't know that I've ever met Bill Jemas, but I'm sure he's a swell guy too.] And I'd have no problem writing a MAX book, or some of the new, glossy, big-budget movie approach to the Marvel characters (I've been talking with Tom Brevoort about one or two ideas on that score, even). But being "the old guy" on a book that's getting the Ultimate treatment is like dressing up in a geek costume and hanging a "Kick Me" sign on your back. There's no way to do it well.

"Better to let someone who can be 'the new guy' come in, and then go do something that can be "new" yourself..."

[Green Light]MYSTIC GETS BOOB JOB

There's often a slip, twixt C-cup and lip. From Mystic 18, courtesy of CrossGen's Comics On the Web, certain readers couldn't fail but notice a change between inked art and coloured art.

[Mystic]

What? If Ian Ungstad can get away with this kind of thing, why can't I?

ZIMMERMAN HITS OUT, QUESADA BACKS HIM UP

[Green Light]

Controversial new Marvel writer Ron Zimmerman turned up on the Spider-Man Comic Board after reading heavy criticism there and it all got rather interesting:

"well, well, well, i see that i am the new reference for all that is bad in the spider-world. i can't imagine anything easier than taking potshots at someone who doesn't know they are under attack and not even offered a chance to defend themself. and so i must ask, what have you written lately? i mean, other than how terrible my work is. i guess when my new spidey book, 'cloned again' comes out you will really have something to be upset about. but here's a preview:

"see, clone ben riley returns with mary jane AND the gwen stacy clone and they alllllll move in with jay leno. well, it isn't long before jay and ben start torrid affairs with aunt may and for the first time ever, that's right, aunt may is NUDE! then i bring back uncle ben only he's gay and sleeping with scott baio or namor, i can't decide which. this will all set up my fantastic new graphic novel, "the road to peter's rectum" which i've already sold as a movie to star jason priestly and jean stapelton as aunt may and ben riley. i sure hope these new projects will put me in the good graces of you guys. if not please check out my website, www//Isinglehandedlyruinedspiderman.com. it's filled with my own artwork too. that's right, if ya love my writing, wait'll you see my drawing. i gave spidey a little tiny penis and he's not circumsized!

"but the important thing is to bash the work before the entire story has been published. i know that i usually start writing a movie review during the first five minutes. i mean, why sit threw the whole thing? stories don't unfold, everyone knows that.

"i hope to see the writer of this site in san diego and have a chance to discuss these things in person with him. maybe we'll have a beer and i'll tell him about my plan to have peter's dad show up and take over the 'mantle of the spider.'"

"and remember, if this guy doesn't like it, it can't be any good."

Ron Zimmerman was then banned from the boards for a week.

Joe Quesada stepped up to defend him saying:

"I used to love when Howard Stern would go on his rants about the Oscars and other award shows and then sometime after Ron Zimmerman started working for us at Marvel I found out a little secret. The night of the Oscars, Ron sent me this blistering e-mail right after the show slamming everybody and everything about the show. I hadn't laughed that hard in years.

"Anyway, flash forward to the next morning and my clock radio woke me up to this rant by Howard about the Oscars that was word for word Lil' Ronnie's e-mail to me.

"So, when I caught wind that Ron was on a message board doing his act with posters I just had to stop by and take a peek.

"I have two things to say: this is some very funny stuff and can somebody please get rid of that damn spider web background graphic and the red lettering. I'm having a freakin' aneurysm trying to read this stuff!

"Thank you."

The boards design was quickly changed and Ron stepped back in to apologise, saying:

"it was irresponsible of me to not take into account that there are kids reading this board and to all of them, i sincerly apologize for my .....oh, lets call it overpassionate posts. i'll say this, you are some articulate young'ins.

"please be aware, i was just having some fun and defending my work and name which i felt were being knocked rather mercilessly."

"i'm writing books for people to enjoy and my style is not ever gonna please everyone. i wish i had my buddy, mark waid's, brilliant gift like that but i'm the first to say i don't. my stuff is always gonna be love it or hate it material. i hope somebody out there loves it. i really do. and as you may have figured out by now, i do not suck up so this is from my heart. (yeah, i got one)

"but you know what, this was kind of exciting for a day, wasn't it? keep readin comics, they are still better than tv."

And Joe stepped back in again to give Ron his due:

"What I find incredibly sad is that Ron is one of you guys. His love for comics is greater than anything he has ever done for TV or the movies, he has never been happier than when he's writing comicbooks. But then, to all of a sudden be told that there are these dreadful things called comicbook message boards and then to find that you are being called "The Devil" by a people which you have such a bond with, is just horrible. Ron is an old school fanboy of the highest caliber, no joke, if he had his way Marie Severin would be drawing every book he writes. That's what's really painful to watch here is how much like all of you Ron actually is and how cruel he was being treated before ever even posting. You can all sit here and talk about his rudeness, and I know Ron, he doesn't feel great about it, but it all started with you guys. Somewhere down the line you guys have to take responsibility for calling him horrible things and saying some dreadful stuff about him. Did he handle it in the best manner, probably not, he is a novice to all of this Internet stuff. Heck, I remember when I started on the net I took all of this stuff personally and I was defensive as hell. Put yourself in his position, all he's ever wanted to do was write comics and he worships the Marvel characters, then he hears that fans are calling him all of these dreadful things, and why really?

"Okay here's a little insight from my point of view. When Kevin Smith started, he got the same kind of treatment from fans on the net. It was just hard cold jealousy and it was mostly from writer wannabes who had been trying to break in for years who all of a sudden found themselves with this new guy who in their minds never paid his dues. The big difference between Kevin and Ron is that Kevin came armed with an army of View Askewers that he cultivated over the years. Kevin is very net savvy and knows how to market himself. Ron doesn't have that cult of personality, he doesn't star in the things that he writes and he has basically been anonymous in his work. It's out there and it's good work, but unlike Kevin he is not synonymous with it. So when Kevin started to get torn apart by those jealous few, he had others who came to his defense. Still it was amazing to see all of you Monday morning quarterbacks come out of the wood work to tell me how terrible Kevin Smith's writing is.

"A few months ago Ron was at one of those "life crossroads" that many of us come to, he called me up with a dilemma. He was being offered all this incredible paying TV work, I'm talking headwriter gigs and such. The dilemma was that if he took the TV work he wouldn't be able to do the comic work and the problem with that is that he has never been happier in his life than when he's been writing his comicbooks. The problem of course was the money aspect, comics just didn't compare. So Ron decided to take the road that made him happiest, he said no to the money in order to do what he truly loved and that was to join us in our world and to try to entertain readers by pouring his heart and soul into his comic work. So yes maybe he's over reacting to the way you guys are treating him, but again look at it from his point of view. How many people do you know would turn down the big Hollywood money to do comics. Even Frank Miller who preached about the evils of Hollywood money at the Harvey Awards in 2001 is off writing the Batman movie, but poor Ron is "The Devil." Think about all of the comic talent that disappeared for years (some still gone) to do the Hollywood thing just abandoning this medium that they claimed to love so much for the almighty dollar and promise of Hollywood fame. Here you have someone who has done the exact opposite! Now like his work or not, I can guarantee you this, if Ron would have been advertised as just a new guy we discovered as opposed to a Hollywood guy, he would have been treated so much nicer by the wannabes. I'm not saying that everyone would have enjoyed ever single thing he did, but I can assure you that people would not be calling him 'The Devil.'"

"This board has a bit of a double standard. It's obviously okay for you guys to attack and call pros names, but when it's returned, somehow that's not fair? I was always taught that in order to receive respect you have to give respect.

"Ron is one of you guys. Go meet him at a signing and tell me that he doesn't care or that he is somehow Satan. Is he emotional? Yes! Is he sensitive? Yup, he sure is and that makes him an easy target for you guys. Does he care about comics? More than just about anyone I know and for that alone he deserves better than he's getting. Believe me I know, I deal with folks in this business all the time and when you find someone with that kind of natural, unbridled and unselfish love for this medium you really need to stand up and take a little notice.

"I'm done, have your way with me now, it's what these boards are all about isn't it?"

And so it continued...

RECRUITING IN THE GUTTERS

If you've got a story, talk to me. Your identity will remain anonymous unless you wish otherwise. You can choose a pseudonym and join the ranks of the Gutterati. Or be a demon reposter, join the Gutter Snipes and spread the word about stories in this column across the internet, where relevant. Then tell me where you've put them up - the more mainstream the better!

You can contact me at:

  • twisting@hotmail.com (which often gets full, but it'll reach me during the day)

  • rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk (which I read every morning - best for graphic files!)

  • AOL Instant Message me at TwistRich

  • 0780 1350982 (01144780 1350982 from N America)

  • Anthrax packages can be sent to 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU, ENGLAND

Be seeing you.

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