Lying In The Gutters

Mon, September 9th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the eleventh weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry by having its wicked way with the comic book industry's old aunt. The traffic lights on each story are my takes on their reliability. 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. But then you never know. 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 swig or rum - and if you do repost information here elsewhere, please include a warning to that effect. And a link. Man does not live by hits alone - but I could do with the attention.

A VALIANT CLARIFICATION

[Yellow Light]Chris Sotomayor emailed me to explain what's been happening with the 'Solar' and 'Magnus' comics that Lying In the Gutters has been talking about over the past few months.

"Just wanted to take a minute here to set the record straight about this stuff. I'd like to prevent this from getting too far out of hand, so here's the skinny on the whole 'Magnus' and 'Solar' 'relaunch' (which is pretty much dead in the water now).

"I was contacted by a gentleman named Mike Tomaras, who had lined up some investors and wanted to acquire the rights to both Magnus and Solar (amongst other properties). Now since Mike doesn't really know anything about the comic industry I was supposed to 'fill in the gaps.' I was asked to help him get everything off the ground by helping him to develop some ideas for the characters and find some talent to handle all the creative chores along with coloring the books. Well, to make a long story short, his meetings with the current copyright holders left him with little time to do anything else. So I wound up not only writing 'Magnus' (of which I turned in 7 issues of plotlines), but I also lined up the creative teams, designed the cover template, started coloring work, devised marketing strategies, and formulated a publishing plan.

"Although I'm currently only coloring comics now (mostly for Marvel) I've had some experience doing these sorts of things for other companies in the past, and was willing to do so again as long as I was fairly compensated. The only thing Mike was left to do was to finalize the deal for the properties. And he led me to believe that was the case at one point and that we had gotten the green light to move ahead. So I produced all this work and provided all these services only to find out months later that we did not have anything in hand that would afford us to move ahead.

"Mike and I had a few conversations where we were hoping to propose these books be published under the Image banner. That's it. Neither of us had any direct contact with anyone over at Image until after the deal was dead. Matter of fact I was putting out the 'feelers' (through a buddy of mine) in hopes that Image would be interested, and it wasn't until after the deal was dead that I contacted them to apologize about this whole mess.

"Now as much as I would like to try to salvage something from this whole debacle, I'd like to concentrate on being compensated for the work that I put in and trying to make sure that the other creators involved are paid what they are owed also. Other than that I'll probably just stick to coloring comics for now (go buy 'Captain Marvel!') and maybe some day I'll muster the strength to get some thing else together and have a real conversation with someone over at Image.

Lying In The Gutters will run a feature on both the Magnus and Solar pitches over the next two weeks.

RETURNING TO MARVEL

[Green Light]Last week, Diamond confirmed to retailers that Marvel would be issuing a list of returnable comics over the past five years. The current Brian Hibbs v. Marvel Comics court case revolves around Marvel's refusal to abide by their own Terms Of Sale, allowing comic books to be returnable if they differ from what was solicited or more importantly, if they ship over thirty days after the month they should have. The argument goes that retailers have to judge certain quantities for certain times and to supply demand for certain trends in the marketplace. If the comics are significantly late, they can miss their "sell" period.

Commentators have interpreted Marvel's actions two ways - that Marvel are attempting to stall the case by complying with their terms of sale, albeit rather late. Or that this can be interpreted as an admission of guilt on behalf of Marvel. Either way, the lawyers will have fun.

Especially if someone was to bring up the issue that many of these late comics may have been liquidated - shoved in the quarter bin in an attempt to get any money back from comics taking up too much room. And there's also the matter of interest.

Brian Hibbs was not responding to email but did say on a retailer message board, "I'm working on a general media statement now, but I can let you in on this much: between the list I initially generated, and the list of late-shipping material that Marvel provided us during the pre-Certification Discovery, there are at least 49 items that they're still not offering returns on -- or about half again of what they're allowing us to return. I say 'at least' because none of the list have even begun to look at things like mis-solicited items (Like 'Iceman #3'), so I suspect there are another 10-20 items, minimum, that would be affected."

HOGAN'S RUN

[Green Light]Pete Hogan has given more details about the six issue series he's writing with Alan Moore for America's Best Comics we've mentioned a couple of times now, in the new downloadable Borderline magazine. Entitled 'Terra Obscura,' it featured the Golden Age characters briefly shown in the series. Hogan describes it as a "rip-roaring superhero mystery yarn which will hopefully redefine the genre and make us a fortune!" Hogan doesn't confirm in the article the artists we mentioned last week, Yanique Paquette and Karl Story.

FUCKING ELVES AGAIN

[Yellow Light]I hear that DC Comics, accused of cutting back on certain lines of late, are expanding in all new directions. And the first big name they're sniffing around? "Elfquest." Proposed as part of their collected editions line, I hear Dennis Kitchen is representing the title and while not exactly expected to set the direct market on fire, the hope is that this could be repackaged and sell well to DC's foreign licensees.

Also in the exploratory stages I hear is an interest in the old Gold Key Comics properties ("Magnus Robot Fighter," "Turok," "Little Lulu"), which are owned (along with the Harvey Comics properties, which DC is also interested in) by Classic Media. It's an easy way to broaden DC's mass market book trade offerings with well-known characters for the kiddies, and reprint some lost classics, and the feeling is that this stuff could be licensed for a song. Although the experience of Chris Sotomayor above may tell a different story.

But since the orders for the "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" book were so low (and the irritation from John Carbonaro so high), DC may think twice about anything that isn't a sure bet, classic or no classic. Like a deluxe version of "Batman: Year On"e to accompany the Chip Kidd Dark Knight books that are coming.

A DC source does however tell me that some of this is wildly inaccurate. But what, they declined to elaborate.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA BABYLON FIVE GAGS

[Yellow Light]I understand that Peter David and LeSean Thomas are to be the creative team behind a new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comic book.

Oh Erik Larsen is just going to love that, given he was a recent Turtle publisher - and got loads of stick for taking over "Aquaman" and wanting "Hulk" after David left both books.

MOURNING DRAGONS

[Green Light]

In June Warren Ellis unveiled the revamped warrenellis.com and in his first post, mentioned that he would be done writing the long awaiting Samurai vs Vikings series Morning Dragons by the end of June. That post is no longer up, and the new post does not mention Morning Dragons.

Steve Lieber stated on the Millarworld Forum that "Warren Ellis has plotted Morning Dragons and is working on the script. I don't know when it'll be done, though. In the meantime, I'll be drawing more short stories by Sara Ryan and one or two other writers." Naturally, certain individuals starting acting up and holding big signs towards Warren.

But Ellis tells me that is was a money thing. That he needed a paying up-front project before completing the "Morning Dragons" script. As an Image Central book, he wouldn't get paid for writing it until some time after publication.

"PASS ME THE BAT-NIPPLEECTOMETER!"

[Green Light]Warren's latest Bad Signal mailing raised an intriguing possibility. "It occurs to me that an awful lot of trouble in Gotham City could have been averted a long time ago if Batman had just ripped the Joker's nipples off." He continues "I mean, crime in Gotham City doesn't exactly seem to be affected by a man dressed as a bat flapping around the place. But no-one disobeys a man wearing a necklace of human nipples." He's got a point you know. To subscribe to this most enjoyable of emailing lists (you get about 4 short messages a week) send an email to badsignal-subscribe@lists.flirble.org

Ellis ends with the message "I'm off to ring Bob Schreck at DC Comics." Say, anyone got a phone tap handy?

CIVILAN JUSTICE, SLAMMED

[Green Light]This week's Waiting For Tommy column, up at

If you're having difficulty getting to the column from the front page, try http://www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/tommy.html

BLOOD MONEY

[Green Light]Initial orders for "Youngblood: Bloodsport" are reported to be 22,000. Quite a comedown for Rob Liefeld and Mark Millar whose work regularly hits the six figures. And while reorder activity may add a few more, they'd better be advance reorders. Because I understand that Arcade Comics will be taking a leaf out of Marvel's book and installing a no overprint policy.

MORE MOORE GORE

[Green Light]I understand that Avatar is to publish a yet unannounced new horror project by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows.

CHASING BATTLE CHASERS

[Red Light]Gutterati Emperor reports in that despite Joe Madueria's claim that he's not going to get back to comics right away after Tri-Lune fell, there may be pressure from more than just the fans. I hear that Joe will have to produce at least one more issue of "Battle Chasers" pretty sharply to satisfy the people holding the (very!) expensive option on the property who aren't particularly happy about the disappearance of the comic.

However I also hear that Image had yet to be approached to publish any new issues.

ORDWAY FINDS WONDER WOMAN IN THE GUTTERS

[Green Light]Jerry Ordway writes to thank Lying In The Gutters for his current "Wonder Woman" gig! He writes "I can give you some credit in my getting the pencilling gig on those 6 issues of 'Wonder Woman' Walt Simonson is writing. I seem to remember reading the tidbit in your column, then followed up that Monday with a call to DC to ask if it had been assigned. Well, thanks for the tip!"

This is starting to become a bit of a habit...

AT LAST, AN UPDATE

[Yellow Light]The latest I hear on that old rumour I reported months ago that a merged Young Justice/Titans Title was to emerge from the cancellation of both has a new twist. Yes, both titles will be cancelled and restarted, but not combined. Instead they will be "linked." No idea what that means yet… Geoff Johns will be writing one, Tom Raney and Mike McKone have been mentioned as artists.

SUPER CANCELLATIONS AND CHANGES

[Red Light]Okay, this is what some people have been gossipping about - and I've heard nothing to suggest any of it is true. But nevertheless, here's what certain people have been saying about Superman stuff to come.

"Superman: Man of Steel" will be cancelled to make way for the Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuinness Batman/Superman title. However, McGuinness' slipping schedule on "Thundercats" may delay the title as Loeb doesn't want to do the book without him. Not to mention McGuinness's desire to work on the Wildstorm Christian line. Could a new creative team be in the offing?

I also hear that "Supergirl" is to be cancelled at replaced with a new Superteam style book featuring one of the Supergirls, without Peter Davis's involvement.

I also hear Joe Kelly is planning on leaving "Action" Comics early next year.

MILLAR REBUTS RUMOURS

[Red Light]That "Red Son" series I've been mentioning for about five years now is almost finished. But one rumour that's been making it's way around the block is that new delays have been down to Mark Millar not finishing the title - and handing it over to Grant Morrison to come up with an ending.

Mark Millar emphatically denies this story and uses the word bollocks when doing so.

Millar says "Sheer and utter bollocks. 'Red Son' ran into huge delays because Dave Johnston (the original artist) spent four years on the first seventy pages or so. Kilian spent the last year and a bit doing the rest and has done a beautiful job. The scripts were finished in 1999 or 2000, although both myself and the editor felt we should do some redialoguing to streamline the whole thing very recently-- the book having being started when I was a fresh-faced twenty five year old."

Nevertheless, despite his denials, I understand that certain individuals at DC have been using the rumour as a way to nix trade paperbacks reprinting Mark Millar's work, as from a legal standpoint they say they can't be sure who wrote it and contractually DC might not be covered for ownership.

Millar denies this and states that "Someone at DC clearly has it in for me because they're spreading this stuff like a chlamydia every few months. The notion that I'm just sitting staring out the window while other people are typing up my scripts is actually a disgraceful thing to say. They were clearly pissed off that I made such a noise about the Authority debacle and I suspect all these rumours they're spreading now is some kind of payback for the fact that I walked away and chose to sell lots of books for Marvel Comics. DC would be better suited to focusing on their dwindling sales than this kind of back-stabbing bollocks."

ASTRO PISSY

[Yellow Light]I hear that Alex Ross will not be contributing covers or designs to "Astro City" when it kicks off again in the near future. Despite the medical reasons given by Kurt Busiek, Ross is annoyed that Busiek found the ability to write "Power Company," "Thunderbolts" and "Avengers," but not "Astro City" over the past year. And now Ross is a little miffed with Busiek.

He's a hot-headed little painter, isn't he?

STORMY BEGINNINGS

[Yellow Light]Despite the Eye Of The Storm opening with disappointingly low figures, I hear DC have guaranteed Wildstorm funding for the first 12 issues of each.

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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