Lying In The Gutters

Mon, October 28th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the eighteenth weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry by having its wicked way with its nephew while he's on holiday. Now. Remember the rumour rules. Red light means it's bullshit, Yellow light means I think there's an element of truth and Green means you get bet your life on it. Or someone's life. Not mine, I've been wrong before. Take everything you read with a sense of scathing abuse - 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.

SIMON FURMAN IN DISGUISE

[Yellow Light]When the UK comic version of Marvel's Transformer comic, back in the eighties, ran out of material to reprint, they generated their own material, much of it written by Simon Furman. And because it was so much better than the US material, eventually US Transformer fans got to hear of it, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth as Americans tried to get their hands on this comic and will to this day pay tens of dollars for a comic that cost about forty-five pence and was at the time in plentiful supply over here.

It may well happen again.

Lying In the Gutters reported last week about the Hasbro decision that Dreamwave and Image must not distribute the US editions of "Transformers" and "GI Joe" abroad. And we reported on the Australian version launching at the end of the year. But the UK version?

I hear that Panini has the rights to reprint the US Dreamwave work in Italy - but not in the rest of Europe. So what about the frankly massive UK "Transformers" fanbase? I hear that Panini are to publish, instead of the Dreamwave "Armada material," brand new "Transformers" comics based on the new line, written by, you've guessed it, Simon Furman, already doing a few stories for Dreamwave. Which means, just as many fans will be shipping the US comic to UK fans, so UK fans may be able to reciprocate.

And for those who really want the US version, Titan Books will be packaging the Dreamwave material into trade paperbacks - under the eye of Titan Books employee Simon Furman.

Neither Titan, Diamond, Simon Furman or Panini UK chose to comment. But with the fanbase leaping on every single word spinning from anyone even vaguely connected to this franchise and linking to it from a thousand message boards, can you blame them? I like links though, so feel free to link to this article…

BLIND ITEMS

[Red Light]It's been a while, could this be the legendary return of the Blind Items regulars? Stories that naming the names involved could be a little… tricky. So for now, it's guess work…

Which A-list creator has been seen buying cross-dressing and transsexual magazines? Apparently it's all for research.

Which A-list creator has been accused of turning up for a number meetings with publishers, well, as one exec put it to another after the meeting, "You realize he was totally sloshed, don't you?"

Which A-list creator has abandoned future signings after it got back to him that fans started gossiping that he exchanged frosty words at one signing with an ex-DC employee during a signing, calling her a "bitch?"

IN BETWEEN DEAD

[Green Light]"Outpost 5" its a zombie comic book by horror legend, George Romero that ties in with his famous film. Set between "Night Of The Living Dead" and "Dawn Of The Dead," "Outpost 5" will be lumbering and lurching its way towards you next year.

WHO SHOT NEWSARAMA?

[Yellow Light]Was it Heidi MacDonald? How about Jason Brice? Or could it even have been our own Jonah Weiland? Either way, a very nasty hacker got in to Newsarama over the weekend and replaced it with a… well… interesting message (see below) that, amongst other things, seems to attack Gail Simone's relaunch of Deadpool as Agent X.

Damn. Who am I going to falsely accuse of stealing my stories now?

Either way, Newsarama's Mike Doran informs me that a number of Kevin Smith hosted Web sites went down after this hack attack including Newsarama. View Askew is already back up, and Doran tells me that the sites are being worked on as we speak and they will all be back up and running as soon as possible.

That hacker tag in full:

[Hack Weiser]

Dont you hate what they have done with the deadpool comic?


Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote. Says someone else has already said it best so if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.

owned by shazam

ANTONY'S BAG PACKED

[Green Light]Antony Johnston, currently awaiting the publication of his first Oni book, "Three Days In Europe," the Cyberosia book "Rosemary's Backpack," and the scheduling of the co-Alan Moore written comic, "The Courtyard," has decided to take up full-time freelance writing a little sooner than he'd planned. As the magazine he was art editor for, "What DVD," recently folded, he's been made redundant with a nice fat payoff, and he's going to use it for evil.

All the best, bro. And if there are any editors there who've heard all the nice things Warren Ellis has been saying about him, now's the time to make your move.

SAVAGE LARSEN

[Green Light]Erik Larsen has been sounding off on his Savage Dragon message board about his ex-Image founders. When asked about Jim Lee's work, in the light of the posted praise for the

publication of the Jim Lee Visionaries "X-Men TPB," Larsen writes, "I don't share your enthusiasm for Lee's work--I just see all the swipes and stiff poses and over-rendering and it does nothing for me. I didn't buy this book--the original comics were fine for me."

When asked "But Jim Lee used swipe? I had no idea. From whom?", Larsen wrote "Sheesh--most everybody--Art Adams, Frank Miller, Mike Golden, Howard Chaykin, Marc Silvestri, John Byrne, Barry Smith-- most everybody actually. Y'know--Rob Liefeld delighted in pointing out each and every swipe--and then bitching that Jim never got caught but HE always got pitched shit about stealing stuff. Whatever-- guys swipe stuff all the time. I hardly think it's the end of the world. "

And talking of Rob, when fans were asking if the new "Youngblood" book would

come out in October and some reporting seeing advance art a while back,

Larsen replied "Just so you know-- Rob ALWAYS says his books are done in advance. retailers are wary of Rob's reputation so Rob likes to reassure them that he's finished. How many retailers would order large quantities if he said that he'd drawn a couple pages that seemed fun to do and that he'd decide if he'll draw the rest after he sees how many copies were ordered? Even fewer than actually did, I'd imagine. Much of the art you've seen was drawn for some other project that was shelved. I'd be very surprised if Rob was anywhere near done with his first issue--much less his second. Don't believe everything you hear."

Update 10/29/02 - Jim Lee asked to comment on the above article. He writes:

"Normally I don't respond to my critics online for a variety of reasons; the most important being that everyone's entitled to their opinion and really, for God's sake, life's too short. But in this instance, because there is a propensity for people to believe whatever they read (a sentiment ironically echoed by Erik himself) and because I feel my character and reputation have been besmirched and called into question, I have to respond to Erik's accusations.

"First off, a couple of disclaimers. I have no interest in getting into a 'flame war' with an old business partner, and his version of Image history is very different from my own and most likely, every other partner's recollections. And the truth is that Erik and I never saw eye to eye on many things, and it's no secret he very much dislikes my work. To each their own. He certainly wouldn't be the first (get in line!). And in all seriousness, his criticisms are certainly valid (it's a topic we have discussed civilly and with some amusement in off hours at various public functions), but I don't think I have ever gone out there claiming I am the world's greatest artist either. Far from it.

"But to call me out as a 'swiper' is ridiculous.

"Yes, am I influenced by the long list of creators he cites? Absolutely. Very much so.

"Will there be images that look similar? I'm sure of it. There are only so many angles and/or ways one can draw the human figure. In the roughly 40 years of superhero art, I figure there have got to be, what, at least 300,000+ images created? To not have similarities would be mathematically improbable. Will I pull a Gary Hart and say--show me proof? No, that would be silly because I'm sure there have been suspect images just from this mathematical probability.

"But do I trace other artists' work passing their work off as my own?

"Absolutely not.

"How can I convince my critics of this fact? Truth is, I can't. You look at the work and say--he does or he doesn't, and it really comes down to what you want to believe in the end. As an aside, I find it doubly ironic in that Erik had fought these same accusations of his own work not too long ago from some neophyte artist who claimed Erik had swiped one of his cover images--an account, which was in my assessment, seemed unlikely. The principle, 'If you're going to swipe, swipe from the best,' certainly showing the improbabilty of Erik's doing so.

"But I will add in my defense several facts. One, I have worked almost my entire 15 year professional career in an open studio environment. Meaning I draw my pages in plain view so that other artists and office workers can see how I approach drawing a page from layouts to complete pencils. A lightbox does not factor into this process.

"Two, there may be people out there who may believe that all the Image founders worked side by side and that Rob and Erik had seen swiping--nothing could be further from the truth. Erik and Rob both lived hundreds of miles away.

"Third, I give credit where credit is due. In the rare instance where I was looking at a previous artist's work and intentionally copying it for that purpose alone, I credit it. There is a underwater shot from issue two of my run on the 'Heroes Reborn Fantastic Four' with a very awkward looking, large credit 'after JK' in the panel borders. In my very early 'Alpha Flight' covers, I would even credit the assistant editor who would give me a very rough cover thumbnail for design purposes. And in interviews, I have always listed my inspirations.

"Bottomline -- I do not condone plagarism. Plagarism was an issue much discussed back when I was in college, and infractions of the institution's policy were taken very severely. In fact, on every exam and paper, we had to write a declaration stating we had not plagarized the work we were creating. And if I learned anything in college, it would be on how to do research and to properly credit sources. My graduation thesis attests to this. And while I am now in a different field altogether, I still carry these principles very close to my heart."

Update 10/30/02 - Erik Larsen also posted to his message board in response to debate about this very article.

"The Image guys all pitched each other a lot of shit at our meetings and if we weren't all so gosh-darned nice about it and thick-skinned, it could be pretty hurtful. As it is-- those meetings are always a lot of fun. Even when we're ripping each other new assholes there's a sense that we all really enjoy each others company...there's a respect there that isolated quotes

pulled out of context don't get across."

STAN THE MAN II

[Yellow Light]Some of you may already know his name, but expect to hear a lot more about Stan Winston in the comics industry in the near future. Famed as a special effects and makeup man, his comic "Mutant Earth" for Image and the Simon Bisley designed toys may be the start of something big. After making his fortune, Stan is considering going the Mark Alessi route, opening his wallet and making a name for himself in comics.

Simon Bisley is one of Stan's regular crew, but I hear Stan will be going after a number of top name writers to join him in a new line of superhero comics.

THE TOP COW SHUFFLE

[Green Light]Top Cow is moving their offices across the road. Seriously, it's like fifty feet or something. Basically everyone will just pick up their stuff, shuffle to the right and sit down again.

NO SECONDS FOR BATMAN

[Yellow Light]So why did DC decline to go back to press on "Batman" 608, the first Jim Lee/Jeph Loeb issue, for a second printing - at the request of the creative team. These guys want a "hot" issue. And buy reports on the Retailer Delphi Forum, with retailers requesting overstock from anyone who's got them, they may just have got their wish.

WAITING FOR A PLUG

My Dynamic Forces column Waiting For Tommy is currently reporting a rather spectacular comic book styled fashion parade (even if the page breaks are a little askew) and on Wednesday, expect an exclusive war report!

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:

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

  • mailto: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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