Lying In The Gutters

Mon, November 18th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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Welcome to the twenty-first weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry like you would a mewling baby. 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 teachers always said anyway. Let's start with a certain trademark story...

THE NEW RETURN OF 'MARVELMAN'

[Green Light]So from whom? Todd McFarlane? Neil Gaiman and Marvel? Or could they be just be squabbling over a husk of a property? So Dez Skinn then? Garry Leach? Alan Moore? But did they own it in the first place? Did Dez Skinn's Warrior just pick it up from the supposedly public domain gutter, before it was renamed "Miracleman" for the US market?

But "Marvelman" was originally created, or rather recreated by Mick Anglo for the UK market from the ashes of "Captain Marvel," no longer allowed to be published after the DC/Fawcett legal case over similarities to Superman.

First a little background:

Dez Skinn currently publishes Comics International - which prints excerpts from this column and pays me for the privilege (in a timely and regular fashion). He's best known in the US comics industry for discovering Alan Moore and publishing "Marvelman" and "V For Vendetta" in Warrior, though his history in the UK comics industry is legendary.

Phil Hall used to write for Comics International, but Skinn and Hall came to an abrupt parting of ways, that ended up involving tribunals.

Hall started Borderline, an online PDF comics magazine, that I used to write columns for, unpaid. Borderline allied itself with CoolBeansWorld, the pay-comics site, which then fell spectacularly, owing lots of money to lots of people, including Borderline. It was CoolBeansWorld, I now understand, who instructed that my column be dropped from Borderline, so fuck 'em. Borderline rejigged itself and now operates as an international pay-comics magazine.

In August, Borderline became a limited company and started looking into Web Comics. Already publishing the strip cartoons in Borderline of one of my favourites, Terry Wiley, their ambitions are clearly greater.

Borderline Comics will launch in early 2003 with a number of creator-owned projects from recognisable names available in PDF format for a small fee.

They'll also be translating a number of creators work into English, providing first English printing of a number of European, South American and Asian titles, as well as getting first refusal for book publication a year later.

Last week, this column reported on overheard conversation that Borderline was bringing back an old British character with newly acquired rights. I made the gag that it could be Marvelman.

Apparently that's exactly what they're doing. And they're currently talking to a certain woman who may well have the rights. Maybe.

Is this the previously-mentioned 'Mick Anglo's niece'? Well, no, Len Miller's niece is more like it (what with Mick Anglo still being alive, and Len Miller And Sons being the original "Marvelman" publisher). But just how much claim does the niece of a dead bankrupt publisher have to the work, a rewriting of "Captain Marvel" stories, with artists such as Don Lawrence and Roy Parker maybe having more of a claim?

However, it appears Len Miller's niece (still unnamed) now has representation. Borderline are looking to republish the original 1950s "Marvelman" strips, with profits going to charity. And possibly look into publishing new material.

Dez Skinn, publisher of Warrior, where the Alan Moore "Marvelman/Miracleman" run was first published (and to be fair, the version people really want to see reprinted) was on hand to comment. He told me:

"Personally, I find it flattering that 20 years after we did it, somebody actually wants to follow our lead by reprinting this old stuff. But it's pretty creaky outside of the Warrior context. Original editor/packager Mick Anglo was happy with the £50 per page we paid him as a gratuity back then, which is hardly surprising... Don't know how I'd feel if as an octogenarian I heard the profits were said to be going to 'charity' though.

"But professionally, I can't see the point. For the last ten years, we've joked around in the office about while everybody was fighting over 'Miracleman,' we'd bring back 'Marvelman,' but the joke always paled by the next morning. And that was with new stuff. It's been a doom-ladened character throughout its history, and picking up something different would have been a more original move, especially when there are so many fantastic old strips yet to resurface… anybody wanting to drag out those old strips now better have good legal representation and deep pockets, they'll need them!"

Phil Hall countered, saying "We didn't go looking for it, it dumped itself in our laps" and, without naming specifics, cast doubt upon Skinn's version of past events. He also made it clear that nothing would be pursued if this costs too much money.

Welcome to the latest wrinkle...

YOU THINK THAT'S ALL?

[Green Light]Brad Gould, of Todd McFarlne Productions has been posting to the Spawn message board, emphasising that the Gaiman/McFarlane court case emphasised McFarlane's claim to "Miracleman" as Gaiman chose part-ownership of contested characters rather than enforcing the agreement to exchange ownerships.

He followed that up with a note that "There is no reason that we couldn't produce figures based on non-Spawn characters that Todd owns."

Joining the dots is dangerous… but ever so fun!

DEAD AGAIN

[Green Light]Fresh from their Winter Brothers lawsuit, Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman are back together again at Avatar. They're working on a new 3 issue series called "Dead Folks." Black humour, lots of interesting ways to kill people and a lot of violence and zombies.

Zombies…

TRUTH HURTS

[Green Light]I heard Bob Morales, writer of the upcoming seemingly controversial Captain America series, "The Truth," will not be doing personal appearances for the book because Marvel have said they can't guarantee his security.

Morales and Marvel have been receiving incredibly racist threats over the announcement of the series, which tells the story of a young American black soldier being an early "super-soldier" prototype for the Captain America experiment.

The artist, Kyle Baker, also black, seems to show no such fears.

However Bob Morales emailed to add:

"As it happens, I wasn't _ever_ doing signings or appearances--difficult as this may be for some to believe--because I simply don't want to, and I'm not required to. I know enough people, and certainly Kyle is the star of the book."

"I have never discussed my security with anyone at Marvel, period. Why should I--because I'm concerned about the white women in my life? It's nobody's business."

"You might want to know that I'm pledging my profits for Truth to Literacy Partners, a charity here in New York City that helps what they used to call inner-city youth back when I was one. I'm not doing signings for them either."

As to where the story came from, well, ""I see this was a mutual misunderstanding brought about through a third party who took my sarcasm out of context. No harm, no foul."

Thanks Bob. Now about those allegations that you're the inspiration for Ricky in Why I Hate Saturn...

THE FLAPPING DINOSAUR

[Green Light]Peter David, author of "Captain Marvel" and ex-marketing man for Marvel, has responded delightfully to certain jibes at his expense in the most recent issue of "Marville," written by Marvel's Publisher, Bill Jemas.

Peter David has gone and bought www.billjemas.com - He says "People keep asking me if I'm mad over the slam at me in 'Marville #2.' I tell them all the same thing: I don't get mad."

There's a button to click with which we're promised will drive Bill Jemas "nuts." Look for it to start operating in the next couple of days.

IN THE WAKE OF X-MEN

[Green Light]So what price did Phil Jiminez pay to take on "X-Men?" Gutterati Zathras tells me he had to abandon (for now) his approved 12 issue miniseries for Vertigo. Set in an LA-like city, about the location itself, it's now on hold. But "X-Men" should give his profile a rise, which should hopefully spill over into Vertigo sales in the future.

POACHER BECOMES GAMEKEEPER

[Green Light]Mike Doran has confirmed he is to take over Bill Rosemann's position at Marvel as Marketing Communications Manager.

Stepping down from his role at Newsarama, the comics industry reporting service he founded, Mike will take over from Bill Rosemann imminently.

I'm fucked aren't I?

And yes, everyone who sent me the quote from his statement, "The best part of joining Marvel is that I get to keep doing the same thing: spreading the word about Marvel Comics while working even more closely with the press community I've enjoyed being a part of so much." and gave me a headline along the lines of "UNSPOKEN AGREEMENT FORMALISED," you should be ashamed of yourselves. Especially you.

PLACE MEANT

[Green Light]Gutterati LHOswald had an interesting take on non-compliance on paid-for point-of-sale prominence of comics product in the mainstream market (I have been working in advertising FAR too long it seems…)

He writes "This situation is nothing new, alas. For years in the UK WH Smith has been demanding a four figure sum to get gondola end placements and full facings, along with point of sale material. The sum also includes a fee for Smith's own compliance officers to go round stores and check the paid for displays are actually being done in-store. Astoundingly, compliance across the UK was about 40% at best, 25% at worst. In other words often only one in four stores would bothering unpacking and setting up the displays paid for by publishers. Even more astounding was the fact that Smith's own compliance officers would actually give this statistic to disgruntled publishers! And people wonder why they don't see big displays for 2000 AD in their local WH Smith."

DUFF QUOTE

[Green Light]Just how prestigious is the quote on volume 26 of Lone Wolf And Cub from Lindsey Duff "from the BBC?"

Well, friends of ol' Lyndsey, comic fan and non-worker for the BBC, were quite puzzled, but a quick google later and it turns out they were from some free reviews Lyndsey wrote for BBC-purchased website www.h2g2.com.

Obviously, Dark Horse's marketing people missed the disclaimer at the bottom saying that no views expressed were those of the BBC's. Bless.

ROBOTECHNICALITY

[Green Light]Gutterati ValkyrieConvoy writes to tell me about the upcoming Wildstorm TPB reprint of "Robotech: The Macross Saga," originally published by Comico.

Apparently, Wildstorm have neglected to inform certain creators on the book - or indeed pay them. Neil D Vokes was one who pencilled several issues, the "Robotech Masters" adaptations and the large format "Robotech" Graphic Novel - and a few of the issues Wildstorm is reprinting.

As a result, the fanzine Emissaries has been told he can't face doing any Robotech artwork, even for a small fanzine, while this situation is ongoing. His message is posted here.

Well, if nothing else, Wildstorm and DC know about the situation now. Here's hoping they have a word with Harmony Gold, the people they're paying all those rights payments to...

FASTEST KNIGHT

[Green Light]An email from Marvel to Marvel Knights creators recently found itself winging its way in my direction. From Nanci Quesada, it reads;

"Effective immediately... due to a change in the Marvel Knights contract with Marvel Comics, we ask that writers, pencilers, inkers, colorists and letterers NOT wait until your issue is finished before submitting pages. We also ask that colorists, letterers and writers doing rewrites not wait for the entire issue before beginning work."

"We must see pages as you go (fax, email, Marvel FTP). This goes for both the proofing stage and final files. If you are Fed-Exing work in, please send pages in 4 (or more) page increments. As of this time, this will not affect Marvel Knights billing policy.

"Marvel Knights is being put under extremely tight deadlines and your full co-operation is much appreciated."

Looks like those critiques (and, indeed, lawsuits) about late shipping books are starting to take affect.

CASH BACK!

[Green Light]As well as the recently announced "money back policy" on "Crux #22," CrossGen are also to extend the offer, where they will refund the cost of a comic if it is not to your tastes, to "Brath #1" and "Crossovers #1."

I understand CrossGen have been holding meetings with Chuck Russell ("The Mask," "Scorpion King," "Dreamscape," "The Blob") to talk about the CrossGen movies he's working on. And fresh from the previous CrossGen story about their Hispanic Yahoo sponsorship, they're now allying with hundreds of ClearChannel radio station sites - here's just one.

NEW YORK CITY COMIC BOOK MUSEUM SHAMES ITSELF - AND THE INDUSTRY

[Green Light]At the recent Golden Panel Awards, held at the above-named convention, a number of awards went out to the usual suspects - best storyteller, Brian Michael Bendis, best artist, Jim Lee, best publisher, Marvel Comics, the usual Wizardy-style nominees. Hell, Wizard won an award.

But what stuck out like a sore, festering, cancerous-thumb-like buboe was an Honorary Award given to Graig Welch and his comic Civilian Justice.

I already wrote what I thought about this vile excuse for a comic book here . But to reiterate. Not only is it a scary, ill-thought out excuse for xenophobia, but it's also a really bad comic, employing all the excesses we thought the nineties had forgot.

And they have photos of him and some poor deluded fool dressed up as his character. He's so proud! Everyone looks proud! It's sickening.

Although, the actual definition of the award reads "Given to a person, organization, or retailer within the comic book industry doing something "outside the scope of publishing comic books".

If only. See the travesty here.

X SIGNS THE SPOTS

[Green Light]To "celebrate" its tenth anniversary, Tripwire Magazine is doing some signings or other on the 7th December. I promised editor/publisher Joel Meadows a plug, so here goes.

Jim Hanley's Universe,


New York, 33rd Street,


with Mike Mignola, Darwyn Cooke and Mark Chiarello signing from 1pm to 4pm.

Golden Apple,


7711 Melrose Avenue (Near Fairfax),


Los Angeles, CA,


with Ashley Wood, Tim Sale, Tim Bradstreet and Trevor Goring signing.

Each signing will feature (or rather, "sell") advance copies of the X anniversary issue, which has got loads of new artwork from... well.. pretty much everyone in "left of centre" comics and an intro by Grant Morrison.

BLACK MARKET

[Green Light]The current Waiting For Tommy features some disturbing spam I've received from a small African country wanting me to help some bank employee fraudulently embezzle millions of dollars. Read about it here and see a new fraudulent scam on.Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: It's my thirtieth birthday on Thursday, my Amazon.co.uk wishlist is ready and waiting for bribes, and the wife is whisking me away somewhere exotic. So while I'm away, an article that's been in preparation for a little while… The Great Marvel Comics Conspiracy. By the way, my hotmail address usually fills up in seconds of leaving it alone, use the freeserve address if there's something you want me to read on my return.

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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