Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 2nd, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the trousers of my corners rolled. Welcome to the twenty-third weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry like you would a buxom but feisty wench. Now. Remember the rumour rules. Red light means it's probably 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.

MILLER TIME

[Green Light]So who has been visiting the set of the Daredevil film? Could it possibly have been Frank Miller? Seen chatting with director Steven Johnson, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, they couldn't keep their tongues off him. Reportedly, they all expressed admiration for his work, which is the basis for a good portion of the film. The director tried to arrange a cameo for Miller, but sadly schedules clashed...

VIVE LA GUERRE!

[Yellow Light]This January, the best comic book convention in the whole world will, again, be held at Angouleme. Both Marvel France and Semic (who republish Image and DC titles) will be in competition to bring in the best 'American publisher' guests. Semic, in their usual over-the-top mentality have brought in two special guests to do signing at the same time, in the same booth.

Neil Gaiman

And Todd McFarlane.

Anyone got a camera?

RETURN OF THE STAN

[Red Light]Ex-publisher of Marvel Comics and current litigant, Stan Lee, and ex-DC president Jenette Kahn are rumoured to be setting up a nice little west coast media company later this year, once Jenette is officially gone from DC.

While this rumour seems to be doing a nice little earner amongst some west coast pros, those closer to both Stan and Jenette, who should probably have heard about this, remain in the dark.

FROM GOTHAM

[Green Light]In an interview with a Portuguese website , Eddie Campbell mentions he's working on a London Batman story, set in 1939 using elements from his "From Hell" work.

Let's hope it's about the masons. We could do with another scrap like that.

A TOWN WITHOUT JOHNSTON

[Green Light]Due to a combination of lack of orders and Diamond shorting, the UK was severely deprived of Antony Johnston's new graphic novel from Cybrosia.

Arriving on a Wednesday, Gosh Comics' five copies sold out in minutes, Forbidden Planet's only copy was snapped up by management and Comics Showcase forgot.

Cue a bunch of us, and Antony Johnston bemoaning the fact that there were no copies to buy. Oh and his Oni book "Three Days In Europe" sold out almost as fast too...

CABLE LENGTH

[Green Light]Robert Weinberg (remember him?), the chap who was so cruelly dumped off "Cable" (after Marvel's Bill Rosemann was caught being economical with the actualite about the timeline behind the expulsion) has a few things to say about the book, its transformation into "Soldier X" and its cancellation.

At X-Fan, he writes, "These have to be the five most boring issues of any comic book featuring Cable ever published. Actually, they might be among the five most boring issues of any comic book series =ever= published by Marvel."

He continues, "The people who seem to enjoy "Soldier X" will keep buying it till the bitter end. Those who find it pretty much a waste of paper will quit. Since each issue sinks further and further in sales (it's one of the lowest selling Marvel comics now at 25,000 and it continues to fall), I think a majority of readers have spoken and they agree with me. Even the number of people posting in Cable related topics on X-Fan seems to have shrunk to a loyal few trying to convince everyone else that it's not as boring as it appears.

"'Soldier X' is a tired, dull retread of Vertigo-style characters, storytelling and art. It's all been done before, better, by other writers and other artists for other characters and other companies. Once upon a time, Cable was a force among the X-Men, one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe, dedicated to stopping one of the most powerful villains. Now, though he's no longer burdened by the techno-organic virus, he's having trouble dealing with a bunch of sadistic criminals armed with ordinary guns. From battling Apocalypse to fighting it out with a gang of thugs. Guess that kills the theory that after losing the TO virus Cable was going to be more powerful.

"The plotting is second rate, stretching a short story out for six issues. Cut away the dialogue and there's about five pages of story in these five issues, total. There's lots and lots of talk -- mostly overdone angst -ridden high school philosophy, spouted by characters right out of a 2nd rate rip-off of 'Pulp Fiction.' Rent the movie. It's much better and at least the dialogue's entertaining.

"This comic isn't Cable and the lead character is no longer Cable. It's some impostor who's taken Cable's name and turned him into a directionless, gullible wimp. Sad stuff.

"Just my opinion. Disagree all you like."

Some people did. Click on the link to see the conversation continue...

CHAYKIN ALL OVER

[Green Light]I hear that Howard Chaykin was recently married in Ventura, California in early November. Walt Simonson was able to attend the ceremony, as he was already on the west coast for some Warner Bros. meetings...

MUPPET BABIES

[Yellow Light]Looks like Dynamic Forces' Nick Barrucci, flushed with success after his successful packaging of "Battle Of The Planets" to Top Cow, has interested Dreamwave in a Muppets title.

How long before the inevitable crossovers? Optimus Piggy?

THINGS FALL APART

[Yellow Light]I've been told that, apparently, the planned Top Cow collaboration between Marvel on a Secret Wars style project has fallen through. As has the planned Oni deal with Marvel, although they may well have found another publisher to work with.

BEAUTY IS TRUTH

[Yellow Light]Not only does he draw some of the best looking comics at the moment, he's clearly one of the best looking creators. That's certainly what "er's" Eric LaSalle seemed to think, judging by the time LaSalle spent chatting Kyle Baker up at "The Truth" signing event at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles.

Reggie Hudlin was also on hand, who bought 50 copies and got Kyle to sign them all, as party gifts for his upcoming wedding.

THE BEST LAID PLANS...

[Yellow Light]Bob Wayne, DC's Marketing Vice President, has been openly reported as praising Marvel's new line of comics, calling them the best work Marvel's ever created, although he reserves the right to mock their no-overprint policies.

So why are they so happy? Well, Gutterati Gonzo tells me that DC believe that creators more closely associated with DC projects moving onto Marvel's big mainstream books gives those DC projects a boost. Hence DC's plans to reprint in trade format Pete ("X-Statix") Milligan and Chris ("Ultimate War") Bachalo's "Shade The Changing Man," as well as other Milligan past projects like "The Extremist," "Egypt" and "Girl" which otherwise would have fallen over the Vertigo horizon. Morrison's presence on "New X-Men" ensured that "The Invisibles" would be reprinted. The only high profile Marvel creator more commonly associated with DC who won't benefit in this way is Mark Millar, who seems to have burnt a fair number of bridges over there and whose "Red Son" (Superman lands in Russia) may be overshadowed by John Cleese's "True Brit" (Superman lands in Britain). Either way, you can kiss goodbye to his critically-acclaimed and Moore-compared "Swamp Thing's" being reprinted.

With new Vertigo series from Ennis, Dillon, Milligan, Morrison, Casey, Austen, Winnick and other X-talents, looks like Vertigo may be taking a deserved ride on Marvel's coat tails.

FROM ICON TO ICON

[Red Light]Gutterati Gonzo also told me that Grant Morrison's rumoured exit from "New X-Men" is looking more and more likely right now after issue 150. Sales have fallen back to the pre-revamp days, although some of this can be attributed to customers buying the book in trade paperback or hardback. With his Weapon X retcon already being ignored by the "Weapon X" book, "Uncanny X-Men" bringing back Magneto who Morrison went to lengths to ensure was dead, lack of promotion compared to other titles, Quitely's Wolverine redesign being ditched for the Ultimate design enforced across all lines, more editorial suggestions being insisted upon, such as the Genosha/9-11 issue, the sledgehammer mention that Beast wasn't gay and that he was just joking (that seemed at odds with the artistic portrayals of the characters' body language) and more...

And Superman is calling. Could it be that Chuck Austen is being groomed to write both X-Men books?

Neither Morrison nor Marvel responded to inquiries.

SMELL SO SWEET

[Yellow Light]However, something should sweeten the pot soon. I hear more muttering that Marvel's much-promised creator owned line will be coming into effect in 2003. Its name?

Epic.

Well there's a first.

CASEY'S BONES

[Red Light]Joe Casey's recent semi-autobiographical story in Dark Horse's "Reveal" anthology is a must-have for mainstream comics historians - as it talks about Casey's dissatisfaction with working on both "X-Men" and "Superman," with a strange and unexpected revelation working on "Wildcats." All names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Gutterati PC3 also reports that at a convention Mike Wieringo was rather unpleasant towards working with Casey on Superman - in that it took him more work than any other book he'd ever worked on, and that he had a real problem with what he saw as Casey writing episodes of Lois And Clark rather than Superman.

Neither... oh you know what I'm going to say...

STORE WARS

[Yellow Light]One bookstore employee, who works in a large New York's Barnes and Noble store. He knew about other stores that didn't run the paid placement promotion for CrossGen (LITG passim) but his store did. This is purely anecdotal evidence, but this is how the promotion went for him...

He writes "When I started working there, the graphic novels display was a mess but the CrossGen endcap display was up and running, as was the CrossGen waterfall. I will give CrossGen the benefit of the doubt, and say that we didn't rotate the books in the endcap often enough, and that the waterfall was out of the customer's line of sight, but those books barely moved at all. I have a hand in running the section now, so I know that extremely successful for a graphic novel at B&N is something like three copies a week ("The Ultimates" and "DK2" sold that well for awhile, recently "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" has been a much more modest, but steady seller), but CrossGen's books really didn't even support those numbers. "Meridian," "Crux," "The First," "Mystic," "Sigil," and the "Compendia" didn't move any copies. "Scion" sold fairly well, but the numbers dropped drastically past Volume One. Other than that, CrossGen didn't live up to the display it was getting, a display we had up for about two months."

GALAXY WIDE

[Yellow Light]I hear that Alan David Doane's Comic Book Galaxy site is to buy the Grayhaven site. Ironic, considering how many ex-Comic Book Galaxy writers moved to Grayhaven not too long back...

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN

[Green Light]This week, I received a letter concerning my coverage of the worst comic book of the year, Civilian Justice. I'll leave you to judge its authenticity.

My friends & I lost interest in comics for some time now & have been waiting for there to be a new super hero to revive our interest in super hero type-comics once again. We're all so sick & tired of the rehashing of the old super heroes & always changing their origins. Then we came across 'Civilian Justice' (due to your write-up actually) & though you seem to hate it for some reason, we all really dug it here. It pumped us up. I mean sure, there are parts that are wonky, but it really got us back into comics. I really hope they continue the series.

The trailer was too large for me to download, but my friend has a high speed modem & watched. He said it was the coolest independent super hero short he had seen, I cant wait to check it out. C'mon man, get real, I went to the Web site, there is no giant movie studio behind this stuff, I saw the still pictures, these are just some freakin rockin artists!

I actually couldn't understand why you hated the book so much, I thought you were being sarcastic at first, but then I saw you are from the UK, so maybe you just don't 'get it.' Since the 9-11 thing has nothing to do with you, I guess I could understand how it would seem not to click with you & seems like a fake thing to you, but as a writer, I think it unprofessional to put it down so badly without giving your readers the chance to make their own decision on the matter. I mean why should we care what your opinion is more than anyone else, right? So just report the news & stop acting like an ego maniac, attempting to dictate what your readers should think about a new book.

I mean no one else is doing anything to launch new super hero comics anymore & for Christ sake man, what have YOU done to give money for the victims of 9-11, in fact, I just noticed you say: 'Send Anthrax packages to...' now I get it, this whole 9-11 thing must be a big joke to you. Well, I guess all you can do is criticize other's efforts to do something positive as you do nothing in your own like but put down the work you only wish you could create. I'm sure you will be too scared to print this letter on your Web site & in the talk back because you seem to only be able to criticizes others so easily, but not be able to take it for yourself.

No problem, hide this letter from your fans & keep on criticizing.

My best,

Tom Hackman

As I've said before folks, when I get this quality of material just emailed to me, why would I bother making any of it up?

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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