Lying In The Gutters

Mon, November 4th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the nineteenth weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry by having its cake and eating it. 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. That's what my mum always said anyway.

LICENSE TO MAKE A KILLING

[Green Light]With Dreamwave and Image named as publishers suddenly unable to distribute Hasbro-licenced comics abroad through Diamond Distribution, another company also looks to be affected by this new license sensitivity.

Viz Communications, one of the larger licensers and publishers of Japanese manga in the USA, also traditionally exports the material to Europe and Australasia.

Brazil has already suffered the loss of "DragonBall," "Akira," and "Lone Wolf And Cub" when comics distribution company Devir Livraria had licensing restrictions placed upon it, and now has "Transformers" and Viz Communication titles withdrawn.

While the absence of Dreamwave (and other associated Hasbro titles from Image) from non-Us Diamond accounts has now been confirmed, Viz has only just started to be mentioned - and non-US Diamond customers can also expect to lose a number of Viz titles as well.

Viz manga titles sell very well across Europe, some estimates being from 10 to 20% of total sales. South America makes up another sizeable chunk.

The implications of these restrictions is expected to have a number of knock on effects. First, the increase in online ordering, for both shops and customers - while Diamond and Devra may be unable to go against the licensing agreements, individual businesses and people are more likely to create a "grey" market, the same that fuels region specific DVDs being sold outside their respective regions. If businesses don't, then individuals will just bypass them.

Also, expect price increases across the board.

And with a precedent set, here comes the even scarier part. Will the likes of Panini, who own Marvel licenses in certain countries, decide that the import of US comics is hurting their own sales and demand a blockade of them as well?

FURMAN FIRMS UP PLANS

[Green Light]Simon Furman has confirmed (although not to me, the bugger) that he's writing stories for a Panini UK "Transformers" series. Scheduled for January, it will be available in UK newsagents... and US readers will just have to find UK readers to do swopsies for the Dreamwave material that's not being reprinted here...

Unless of course this is the same material he's doing for Dreamwave's Armada series? Can one man do two separate continuities in two countries simultaneously?

I also hear that artist Lee Sullivan maybe working on the UK "Transformers" title.

WHAT'S SPANISH FOR SIGIL? ANYONE?

[Green Light]If anyone fancies a browse through Yahoo, try the Spanish language US site. Have a wander - and suddenly you'll be faced with CrossGen content. Now there's an interesting market to aim at.

BLIND ITEM

[Green Light]Which comics writer has recently praised his title's artist in an prominent website interview, despite constantly criticizing the artist's work to friends and colleagues?

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF INFAMY

[Green Light]Industry response to the recent Sixty Minutes II show about comics, focusing much on Marvel has been mixed. One industry insider was shocked that Marvel seem to have initiated this piece, exclaiming "You never initiate with sixty minutes! They'll screw you over!" And indeed, sandwiching Stan Lee's response "I try to never think about it" to the question "Do you feel screwed?" between Avi Arad's exclamations about the hundreds of millions, nay billions of dollars worth of revenue Stan Lee's characters have brought in looks like a set-up to me.

LAST MORRISON OF KRYPTON

[Red Light]One of those regular rumours has been popping up again of late that DC has successfully persuaded Grant Morrison is sign on to Superman. As part of the failed Superman coup of Morrison, Millar, Waid and Peyer, as well as long time writer for Superman-starring title JLA, Morrison has shown disdain for the DC way of working, specifically in the DC Universe.

This is alleged to be a Dan DiDio, recently parachuted in DC Vice President, sponsored mission, to get the best selling writer of "New X-Men" onto what could be DC's premier title. Morrison has often said that he could see Superman selling a million again, and certainly has plenty of ideas for the book.

Or is this wishful thinking on a number of sources' parts? Grant Morrison didn't reply to emails and DC weren't exactly denying it. But would they want to, even if it wasn't true?

THE DIDIO FACTOR

[Green Light]Dan DiDio has certainly been headhunting a number of Marvel creative staff, especially artists and throwing around cash. However, people working on Marvel books that get traded have seen their royalty cheques increase dramatically of late and they may not be as easily tempted as before.

THE LADY'S NOT FOR TURNING

[Red Light]There's was a little paragraph in a recent interview by CBG with Alessi that caught me eye - and a few others, judging by my mailbag. Over the publication of Lady Death, bought from Chaos Comics, Alessi says "I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful, once it became clear that he was going to go bankrupt, to salvage one part of a company that had existed for 10 years?"

Previous interviews and articles indicate that Brian Pulido says he didn't believe the company would go bankrupt until pretty much the time it did, and that CrossGen bought certain rights to Lady Death as a temporary measure, at a price worked out by an outside agency, intending to sell them back to Brian when the company was out of danger. With Dave Campiti pointing out that, given the opportunity, he'd have paid substantially more for the same rights, this has raised doubts about certain versions of the story, the timeframe and the legalities in this operation.

A CrossGen source assures me, however, that this is a misreading - that Alessi is referring to a period after the Lady Death rights purchase, and the decision to publish the character in a CrossGen title.

It does appear, however, that a number of individuals made the same misreading.

You can read the CBG article in question here.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

[Green Light]Hey guys, guess what last year's best selling graphic novel was, in the Western World. A perennial seller like Watchmen or Dark Knight? Maybe a book like Essential X-Men? Dragonball Z or some Pokemon relataed monstrosity?

Nope. Apparently, it was Chuck Dixon's decades-old adaptation of The Hobbit. Makes you think.

SF CONVENTION

[Green Light]It appears that the Oakland Wondercon is to move to San Francisco. Traditionally held at oakland for many years, now that Comicon International, who also hold the big San Diego convention have purchased the event, they want to move it to a bigger venue.

With WizardWorld making similar moves recently, expect this to be the first of a number of shoes about to drop.

AMAZING ROMITA

[Yellow Light]John Romita Jr has been sounding off about the future of "Amazing Spider-Man" on the ComicBoards message boards. And while he's a cryptic fellow, once you piece his messages together, patterns emerge.

He's currently finishing issue 48 of "Amazing Spider-Man" and says he has turned the last two issues round in two weeks. That on-time schedule may just be achievable.

JrJr does also say "All seriousness aside, I can turn a plot around in two weeks. If all distractions are held at bay, that is. If I were doing two titles a month, LIKE I'D LIKE TO BE DOING, it would just about fit me right. Starting January I'll be working on a creator owned project as well as AMS...so maybe that'll fill my need."

So why was he pulled off "Hulk?" John tells me via email "If there was not an effort to produce 18 or more ASM per year, I would still be on 'Hulk.' However I would be getting off 'Hulk,' anyway, to work on my creator owned projects. I say projects as in 'plural.'" He a right tease, isn't he?

To his future on Amazing Spider-Man (with Kevin Smith coming on to the title... some time).

"I DO know that nothing is set! So, don't write anyone's name in cement as the creative team on any title. As far as 'Amazing Spider-Man' is concerned, that is!"

And:

"There are no done deals. Neither JMS nor I have pined away for the chance at a number 1. Both of us have said that we'd go with the choice of the 'bosses' regardless of what that is. We both know we're going to be continuing with our collaboration and I, for one, will be happy either way. If it's under a new title, so be it. There has never been any ill feelings on anyone's part, including Kevin Smith and Terry Dodson. If I had to make a choice.....I'll only say, I'm a creature of habit......CRYPTIC ENOUGH??"

Pretty much, John, pretty much.

DARE TO WAIT

[Yellow Light]Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada's "Daredevil" run is to become a hardcover... but not until stock of the paperback is sold through. So, expect to wait a while for "Daredevil" Volume One.

CALL SWOPSIES

[Green Light]Two "The Call" Trade Paperbacks are on their way but which story is in which?

Volume 1 was going to reprint "The Brotherhood 1-6," will now also reprint "The Wagon" 1-4. Volume 2, which was to have reprinted "The Precinct 1-5" and "The Wagon," will now lose the latter. Volume 1's price is still $14.99, while Volume 2 has dropped from $14.99 to $9.99. A saving of five bucks for all the "crying fireman" comics you'll need!

STAN "THE MAN" WINSTON

[Green Light]Did last week's mention of a Stan Winston superhero comic line tease and tantalise? Well, I hear that Oni Press and Big Blast Entertainment are working with Stan Winston Productions developing a Courtney Crumrin film.

When asked, Oni publisher Joe Nozemack told me "It's all in the development stage and we're currently looking at writers to attach to the project. After that we'll take it out to studios. We're very excited to be working with them."

Thanks Joe but I long for the day when someone will give me a quote along the lines of "actually, I'm quite bored to be working with them. Take them or leave them to be honest, I don't care."

SHEPHERD'S DELIGHT

[Green Light]The latest scheduling for the excruciatingly delayed "Red Son," the Superman mini-series written by Mark Millar? The current delays are now down to the inking, Andrew Robinson's labour taking longer than even the most optimistic schedulers thought. However, we do now have a scheduled ship date of the first week of April 2003.

I know, that's what I thought. But apparently it's good for that date. That's unless the lettering gets out of hand, of course.

WAYNE MANNER

[Green Light]As DC decided to do a reprint of issue "Batman" 608 (thoroughly contradicting last week's rumour), Bob Wayne was out soliciting input from retailers on the situation. He asked them "In addition to a possible reprint of #608, does anyone want to be an advocate for any of the other options? Wait and do a two-in-one reprint of #608 and #609? No reprint? Put #608 up on the DC Web site? Reprint #608 with any two random comics that you don't want or need?"

That's our Bob, always good for an anti-competitors quote, politely and civilly slid into standard prose.

FUTURE TENSE?

[Yellow Light]A few people have noticed that Dick Girodano's art jobs on the non-Diamond distribution superhero line Future Comics have been disappearing? Is he getting slower? Is he out of favour? Or is he, as Gutterati Varangian suggests, busy at work on a series of 32 page stories for Egmost Scandinavia who seem to be hoovering up quick of a lot of 'traditional' comics artists and paying a handy sum for the privilege? Already Ben Raab, Paul Ryan and David Bishop have found plenty of opportunity there.

COMICS AT WAR

This week, Waiting For Tommy has the first part into an in-depth journalistic look at the serious side of comic books' involvement in international conflict.

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)

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Be seeing you.

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