Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 23rd, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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Welcome to the twenty-sixth weekly instalment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry like you would a plump turkey, and it's a Christmas instalment. Which means what exactly? Just that you have to read it with sleighbells jingling in your head. 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. Oh and a Merry Christmas, one and all. War on Earth and goodwill to all men.*

* Unless said men are of a darker hue, live in a country to the left and down a bit, possibly do a roaring line in head scarves, unless they've got any oil in which case, they're fine with me.**

** See 'Civilian Justice' to decide whether they're a good Arab or a bad Arab. See their armband, it's a dead giveaway.

LAMBS CRAVE XYLOPHONES???

[Green Light]If you're anything like me (and if you are, you really should seek medical help - no, I mean it) then one of your favourite superhero comic books this year will have been "The Pro" by Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Well, I'm told that the gang are reuniting for another Image one shot to come out in around a year's time, called "LCX."

You can start your acronym theories…. now!

JOE BLOW

[Green Light]Joe Quesada has responded to Chuck Dixon's comments about John Severin working on Rawhide Kid, reported in last week's Gutter. He writes

"Every once in a while something so ridiculous comes out of a mouth of one of my fellow comicbook constituents that I just have to chime in and clear up some things. Now I realize that by me bringing this up more people will now have heard this comment than the few that actually did, but heck that's okay.

"This quote from Chuck Dixon on his website:

But am I to understand that John Powers Severin is drawing this wrectched piece of exploitational trash? John objected to (but finally drew) a western story I wrote in which an unmarried couple were shown together in bed. (this was for the more adult-oriented 'Savage Tales' magazine.) Could he have willingly participated in this? I doubt it very strongly. I'll bet he was handed a plot with no idea that the subject of the Rawhide Kid's 'secret' would be revealed in the dialogue.

Now let's read this carefully because it's troubling on many levels. First, let me say that I like Chuck, heck I hired him to work at Marvel Knights. I guess that's why I'm so troubled by what he's implying here. Must be that mix of sun and sigils.

1- That Senior Editor Axel Alonso is so unscrupulous, so underhanded that he would actually try to fool the great John Severin into doing this book. That he would lie to his talent about something so important to core of the story.

2- That as Editor in Chief, I would condone such behaviour of any of my editors. That I would let my editor lie to a talent about what he or she was working on and not fire that editor on the spot.

3- That John Severin isn't smart enough to know what he's drawing or that he's incredibly gullible.

"Which is it? Quite frankly all of the insinuations here are pretty crappy and owing of an apology. Not to me, because at this point after hearing a rant like the one above, I could give a horse's butt what Chuck thinks of me, but to Axel and John.

"Just for the record, John was approached and told the idea for Rawhide before there was even a writer fully attached to the project. He has known from the very beginning and loved the idea from day one. According to Axel, he's also loving all of the media attention the book is getting as well.

"He also worked from full script.

"And then there's the finer point:"

this wrectched piece of exploitational trash?

"Wow, as a writer you would think that Chuck is sensitive to and familiar with many of the lower denizens of fandom judging books way before they ever see print. Heck, in this same post were he vents about 'Rawhide' he talks about CNN's ignorant rant on Robin possibly being gay. Gee, just today on a Web site I saw a promotion for one of Chuck's new books, I wonder how Chuck would feel if I decided to make some judgment calls on his title and the possibility of it's originality based on the few pieces of art I saw? He would probably tell me that I should wait until it came out to judge. Guess what, I'll give him the courtesy he's not offering us with 'Rawhide.'

"Oh, and Chuck is concerned about his kids getting their hands on 'Rawhide,' he shouldn't worry, it's a MAX book-for adults only, perhaps he wasn't aware of that. I keep hearing this argument about 'kids' getting their hands on the 'Rawhide Kid' comic, it's something even that idiot woman on Crossfire focused on. Look, if we label something appropriately as we are with 'Rawhide' and if a retailer does their job and makes sure that they don't give the title to anyone under 17 or 18 years of age then all should be right with the world. However, if all of these things are done properly and if one's child is still getting their hands on mature product, then I as a parent know that I have a problem with my child, no matter how much I would like to blame a publisher or retailer, that is much more troubling than whether or not Marvel is releasing a gay western."

That whole Chuck Dixon post can be read here.

Joe Quesada can be found rattling his fist at the Crossfire offices saying "Why I oughtta…" well, pretty much anywhere.

CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN

[Red Light]So is there any other way Marvel can ensure that Peter David's "Captain Marvel" doesn't win the U-Decide competition? There are rumours that Marvel will let the book win, but replace David as writer… could issue 7 starting the first of a 4 part story be part of a block to that possibility by David? Will David survive beyond issue 12 even if the book doesn't?

WHO DECIDE?

[Yellow Light]"Captain Marvel" is clearly ahead in the direct sales market. But what about when all sales, reorders, newsstand and bookstore orders are added up? Who will win then? Will "Ultimate Adventures" be able to take advantage of the Wal-Mart deal?

Well, I hear reports from the news stand trade that they've been able to order "Ultimate Adventures" and "Marville" with ease. But corporate buyers have informed them that Marvel have said that these accounts will not be receiving any "Captain Marvel." The reason given is that Marvel wish to make the title more desirable by restricting it to the direct market. Presumably where no casual buyers will see it.

And of course, "Captain Marvel" was the only relaunched book not to be even mentioned by Quesada in his Newsarama year round up, and Peter David was pretty much the only current Marvel creator not to get a mention in the "Christmas Song" by Quesada up at Newsarama.

Hell, even Gail Simone got a mention…

Jingle jingle jingle.

HOW'S THAT PRONOUNCED?

[Yellow Light]You know, I just can't get enough of more pro-on-pro action. Robert Weinberg, ex-"Cable" writer is still talking about how "Cable," or rather "Soldier X," has gone down the pan since he left.

He writes on X-Fan"

"A New Low!

"For those few people still reading 'Soldier X' (and the sales figures from Diamond Distributors make it quite clear the audience is shrinking month after month), some words on the conclusion of the comic's first story arc.

"(for the record, I buy these as I own a complete set of the X-titles and I'm trying to keep it that way. Though spending money on these issues has been painful!).

"In my previous post on the first five issues of this series, I said that they were 'without a doubt, the five most boring issues of 'Cable' ever published.' Or more to the point, they were among 'the five most boring comic books ever published.' Issue six did nothing to change my thinking. It concluded a miserable story with an equally bad conclusion.

"I don't particularly blame the writer and the artist for the series. I'm astonished that no one (especially some of the better known internet comic book critics) ever seems to realize that Macan and Korday don't like Cable. That the whole point of the storyline is that superheroes are neither super nor heroes, nor even very intelligent. And that everyone they come into contact with is equally stupid or venal or both.

"The angst in the story was neither dramatic nor believable. It was teenage melodrama done worse than anything on TV. Cruel, heartless characters were finally revealed as good people just gone wrong, while villains suddenly got religion. All that was brought about by Cable's realization that he didn't understand anything. Ho hum. I waded through six issues of meaningless torture and violence for Cable to discover that he doesn't know the meaning of life???

"Should I mention the lack of logic or storytelling in the series or the numerous loose ends left dangling? Maybe I'll just ask what happened to those soldiers from the past in the first issue? What's going on with Blaquesmith? Since when did they start holding Sumo tournaments in MSG? And why did this story take two years in the future?

"(or maybe I should ask how believable it was some issues back for SHIELD to send a totally inexperienced female operative, entirely on her own, into Russia to try to buy an atomic bomb from terrorists? That makes a lot more sense than this story, right?)

"Somehow, I suspect Macan and Korday and the Marvel editorial staff thought this series is a funny spoof of superhero adventures and they're all laughing at us for not getting the joke. I obviously have a different sense of humor. I thought this story arc was an incredible bad, extremely pretentious short story, stretched out over six comic book issues until it reached an absolutely meaningless and out-of-character conclusion.

"Of course, I'm also sure the entire six issues will be soon published as a trade paperbound book with quotes from some of the most 'perceptive' comic book critics on the Internet praising it as a masterpiece. And the big comic book magazine will proclaim it as a 'bold new direction' for 'Cable.' Which Marvel has been trying to do for the past fourteen months, except that 'this bold new direction' seems to translate only one way - straight down in sales.

"You can call a skunk a rose as many times as you want, but it still smells like skunk. You can call 'Soldier X' 1-6 a masterpiece, but the fact remains that it's a poorly written, badly illustrated short story masquerading as graphic novel. It's work like this that's digging the grave for comics.

"Just my opinion of course. I could be wrong."

He went on to add:

"A few other comments on 'Cable' that you won't hear from Marvel.

"My first issue on the series (# 79) sold 68,000 copies (#12 on the Diamond List) which was the best selling 'Cable' issue in years. Sales on the various relaunches since have been dismal, and even 'Cable' #100 didn't break 35,000 copies. I believe 'Soldier X' is in the mid-20's sales wise. My first storyline, 'The Undying,' issues 79-84 sold a combined total of well over 300,000 copies. The story was also a finalist for the Horror Writers Association graphic novel of the year (losing to 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen') the first and only time a Marvel comic's ever been a finalist for a writer's award from outside the comic book field. Needless to say, since it appeared before the JoeQ era, it's never been done as a trade paper. Even though as the author of 26 books, I have fairly high name recognition outside of comics. Of course, since the new Marvel seems to want to forget the 'X-Men Revolution' and has never reprinted any of the Claremont or Ellis stuff from that period, I guess I'm in good company.

"My creator-owned series, 'Nightside,' which did not break any sales records, still sold over 100,000 copies during its four issue run. No trade paper on that, either. Though somehow, 'Deadline,' which made my sales look terrific, made it into trade quick enough."

Nothing quite like a creator spurned, is there?

Jingle jingle.

DARK SIDE

[Yellow Light]For someone who's not willing to comment on any story I tell him, Peter David is sure in this column a lot.

Back in the smog of time, I ran a rumour that Dark Horse were about to launch a new action-adventure (possibly superhero) line, and that Peter David was mentioned as one of the writers. Well, with Wizard confirming the line and giving plenty of details… David's book isn't mentioned, though I understand it's still happening. Not that David will tell me anything about it, but still…

CAUSING A RUCK

[Green Light]Talking of Wizard, the new Previews listing apparently confirms a rumour I ran ages ago about Greg Rucka and Darick Robertson joining Wolverine - and what looks like a relaunching of the series. It reads 'Marvel Comics will present a special 9-page preview of the newest 'Wolverine' #1 by writer Greg Rucka ('Ultimate Daredevil', 'Elektra') and artist Darick Robertson ('Fury') in this issue."

MOVING DREAMS

[Green Light]Dreamwave are moving offices this week, moving up in the world. Plenty of parking for Pat Lee's new BMW jeep. No news on what it transforms into yet.

WHEN CREATORS GET FAT

[Green Light]Now that I've reached thirty, it's clear that I'm become a little more of a lard ass. My wiry body of my early twenties soon gave way to a little plump action. Now I'm in my thirties, the foolish leather trousers I bought four years ago actually fit me. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Harry Knowles (no not even with the beard), but I definitely fit the description of portly. And that's good news!

Because I join the full weight of comic book creators who have been putting on weight.

Here's the Blue Scottish Mark Millar we've previously known and loved.

Here's Mark Millar at the Mid Ohio convention, courtesy of Comics Continuum.

Clearly Mark Millar is about to eat that microphone. And if no one wants the one on his left, he'll scoff that as well. But it gets worse…

Woke up this morning, got myself a gun…

Mark Millar is now officially Sopranos fat.

Jingle.

IT'S THE END OF THE YEAR AS WE KNOW IT

[Green Light]Next week, the return for their third successive year, The Rumour Awards. Click here and here for years past…

And on Wednesday, a special Christmas treat for you all, an interview with Peter David for Waiting For Tommy, the first in a long line of interviews tackling the most controversial topics in comic books - and then completely ignoring them in favour of discussing the marching sentience of both ant and cloud.

I'm serious.

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