Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 30th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

THE RUMOUR AWARDS 2003

Welcome, once more, to the annual total-parody-none-of-this-is-real-big-flashing-red-traffic-light Rumour Awards, held each year in a secluded location, comic book dignitaries and Bill Jemas shipped out in ComfyCrates TM to a gourmet dinner where they discuss the best and worst rumours of the year.

This year, Warren Ellis' favourite location, Rekjyavik (and not just because of the geyser colonic irrigation services that island offers very special visitors) was chosen, but once again Warren Ellis himself got lost in the post. He was found days later in Diamond Comics' Memphis warehouse between crates of Mek and Global Frequency. Still, he had a bottle of scotch in there to keep him amused.

The guests were set down by forklift trucks in a small restaurant called Siggy Hall, home to the eponymous chef famed across Iceland for his years on television showing ordinary Icelanders how to fricassee puffin. Heidi MacDonald took up the job of starting several small bouts of infighting that eventually led to the evacuation of the whole country, but that was to come later, as Bill Jemas, John Nee, Nick Barrucci, Marc Alessi, Mike Doran, Andy Helfer, Gail Simone and Graig Weich all stepped out of their crates.

Immediately Bill Jemas began running around the restaurant chasing John Nee, the invisible man of comics. Bill and John go way back, but where Bill hogs the limelight like Miss Piggy, John, DC Vice President and Wildstorm guru prefers to skulk in the shadows, laughing maniacally to himself, while the comic industry burns. But Bill was having none of it.

"Stop that laughing, you shadowy DC executive you, come have some trifle!" But John Nee was not to be moved. He wouldn't even sit down at the table, preferring to hide behind some bread rolls.

It had been a heady year for comics. Though direct sales had shrunk, bookstore sales had grown and Marvel was creaming off a larger section of the pie for itself. DC's battles with Frank Miller had given birth to one best-selling Batman series that most readers seemed to have hated, while their love fest with one of their Vice Presidents led to a Batman revamp… that most readers seem to be indifferent about, even if they like the art. And Tokyo Pop managed to kick both their collective arses on the bookstore front, with massive dominance of the graphic novel and trade paperback charts. Marvel fired a few people, got sued by their honorary president, and got in the news for all the right reasons, while DC performed their usual cloaking device tactics. CrossGen made lots of sound and fury about jam tomorrow, Image and Dark Horse tried to get in under DC's cloaking device, but found Com X had already taken their spots.

But this was all irrelevant as Heidi MacDonald was on the tequila. "You're all my best friends" she cackled as the collective comics industry recoiled in horror. As Dynamic Forces' Nick Barrucci stepped out of his crate, tried to sell the crate on QVC, then tried to sell Heidi MacDonald as a unique premium edition statue, Andy Helfer stepped gingerly from behind a stray reindeer asking if Grant Morrison was around anywhere?

The judges all ate their starters and got on with the matter in hand.

TWATTISH DECISION OF THE YEAR AWARD

Could it have been Marvel's decision to cancel the Essential Tomb Of Dracula, despite being one of their best selling graphic novels that month? Later justification was that it would be too expensive to clean up all those pages for a new TPB, but a Spanish publisher Editorial Planeta de Agostini did it anyway. Could the real reason have been, as Marv Wolfman reported, that after the Blade trial, Marvel executives refused to allow Marvel to hire Marv for any work - and that included reprinting stacks of old stuff? Bill was fighting with a canap and couldn't be called on to comment. Gail spontaneously improvised a comedy song in iambic pentameter about Marv Wolfman and John Byrne sitting in a tree, but it was all to naught. The panel moved on.

There was the decision by Diamond to transfer even more stores to the hopelessly confused Memphis distribution outlet, leading to numerous retailers complaining loudly about missed books, damaged books, wrong books and, thanks to Marvel's no overprint policy, significant gaps in the service they were able to give to their customers at a time when Marvel specifically was in such demand. The panel asked John Nee if he had any comment about the possibility DC would buy Diamond as part of a contractual obligation, but Nee continued to hide singing "I'm not here! I'm not here!" Andy Helfer shrugged, saying, "they don't tell me anything". Everyone just coughed politely, looked around and moved on.

The X-Men/GI Joe crossover that Marvel Comics decided to produce in conjunction with Hasbro, by Keron Grant, Rob Stull and Chris Walker was pulled to a halt half way through the creation process when GI Joe licensors Devil's Due, working through Image, pointed out to Hasbro that, actually, they had the GI Joe license and what the hell was going on? Apparently Marvel thought that Devil's Due might not notice, or be forced into going along with the project. Asked to comment, Bill Jemas joined John Nee under the table, hiding. Heidi got on top of the table and began to sing a raucous ditty about Mike Carlin and a pound of buttered parsnips but Gail talked her down.

Then of course there was the collective "oops" from Devil's Due, MV Creations and Dreamwave, Viz when they suddenly realised that Diamond had been distributing their comics abroad, against the contracts they'd signed for Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, Dragonball and more. Apparently not one of their employees had realised this was happening - despite the hordes of fan mail from foreign readers. They must thought these fans bought them all on holiday in the US or something. For fuck's sake. John Nee passed a message to Mike Doran saying "DC would like to point out that, by having lawyers who can get Bloodlines from a Milestone, Thundercats is legally distributable, not only across the world but throughout infinite space and dimensions." However it reached Heidi MacDonald who used it as a padding for a spitball to rouse the unconscious Mark Millar.

"Awrigh' awrigh', ahm awake…" mumbled the incoherent oversleeping Scotsman, looking not unlike someone from The Sopranos. Spying Andy Helfer, he leapt, knocking over Mark Alessi. In the scuffle, Alessi branded Millar on the forehead with the sign of the sigil. For the rest of that evening, Millar was Alessi's pet dog.

Finally, after tables and chairs were righted and after Andy Helfer had shown off the still-remaining scald marks on his groin to the assembled throng, the twattish decision of the year award was given to someone not in comics - but George Clooney.

It transpired that ER and Batman star, George Clooney, was being groomed to play Nick Fury, for either TV or film. As straight women and gay men began to slobber the world over, and the Germans announced that actually they thought David Hasselhoff's performance had a much ignored timbre and depth, George Clooney's people saw a copy of the MAX Fury trade paperback, in which Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson depict Fury as a cold war dinosaur trapped in a world he didn't make, full of PR, collateral damage and an enemy solider called Fuckedface.

It didn't go down to well and Clooney withdrew much to Marvel's Hollywood man Avi Arad's displeasure, giving him more ammunition to fire at Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas on the opposite coast.

Bill Jemas seemed quite serene at this though, but all he'd be pressed to say was "Tahiti." And when it was pointed out that The Punisher movie going through the production process is based on Ennis and Dillon's first 12 part Punisher arc, all blame left Marvel and solidly went on George Clooney's broad shoulders.

TURNING-DOWN-THE-BEATLES AWARD

Always a fun one, the exciting projects lined up for certain publishers, sometimes announced and then slipped away…

Chomping down on the fish course, Bill Jemas pre-empted the announcements by saying that while Marvel cast a wide net, clearly there are holes, and their rigid editorial process may have hampered some projects. But on the other hand, they hadn't published any of the Future Comics line-up they were originally offered, as the Old Dad's Comics line had been killed off. While Mike Doran ran around trying to clear up the PR fallout, Bill Jemas flicked Mark Alessi's ear.

But Marvel have certainly seen a few interesting proposals slip through… there was the high profile Night Nurse series that would have been written by Gail Simone, Chaykin, Tischmann and McGuire's Sex And The Marvel Universe series, also known as Female Problems or Ms Marvels which again bit the dust, and the continuing lack of home for the originally-Wood-and-Choe NYX series. More on that next week.

Marvel's decision not to work with Oni was also mentioned, although Marvel are still looking for external publisher parties - as long as they fit Marvels' very strict editorial guidelines and dominance. Kind of defeats the purpose of looking elsewhere, but Bill Jemas's very scary grin made everyone look at their shoes and scuffle a bit. Mike Doran started making notes.

DC Vertigo had a couple of slips along the way - including Heidi MacDonald, which she spent no time waiting to tell everyone at a high decibel count. Fired from DC/Vertigo, supposedly not giving the imprint anything new worthwhile in her stint there, a month or so before the book she's commissioned and edited for DC, namely Y: The Last Man hit the market and became Vertigo's last best chance of regaining the Sandman/Preacher audiences…

Another series Heidi edited was Midnight, Mass. While not exactly setting the sales charts on fire, before issue 1 was even solicited, it had been reduced from an ongoing series to an eight-issue mini-series, effectively cutting it down before the first issue had been ordered. Nevertheless, it's now to be a TV series, leading Vertigo to hurriedly find some other way of continuing the book next year, while writer John Rozum continues to make surly remarks in DC's general direction.

It wasn't just companies that turned people or projects down or away, Brian Wood was offered the writing chores on Thundercats but turned it down. Thundercats is one of DC's best sellers with plenty of sales outside of normal venues…

But Wildstorm also saw John Layman leave because he felt it wasn't a rewarding workplace. And having Paul Levitz single you out for micro management couldn't have helped. At this, John Nee added "Hey, well you know, that's why I moved to New York! They have much better bagels, and I'm much closer to my old friend Bill" before realising that everyone could hear him, and diving back under that table. Layman later said that the creative team he was pursuing for a revival of The Authority included media baiter Henry Rollins and THB artist Paul Pope.

As the judges minds tried to wrap themselves round this inconceivable but quite brilliant concept, they all decided that this had to be the award winner - even if they couldn't exactly work out what they were awarding the prize to.

FEUD OF THE YEAR AWARD

Feeling the need for inspiration, between courses, the judges took a quick trip in one big ComfyCrate TM to the nearby geysers. Watching complete holes spout hot air, spluttering everywhere, gave them the right frame of mind to discuss the best feuds of the year.

The fresh feud between Joe Quesada and Chuck Dixon, spurred by his departure form Marvel knights and signing on with CrossGen was lit by his remarks about upcoming series Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather (which, you know, I'd been talking about as a gay comic since the spring, but does anyone listen to me? No, this clearly is The Column You Can Safely Ignore…) which Quesada dismissed as not only inaccurate but insulting. But Heidi MacDonald judged with Bill Jemas that this was too fresh to be a real feud and she should know.

Nick Barrucci pointed out that there was a feud between his Blade II statue and his Daredevil/Elektra statue and if this was pointed out in the column, could there be pictures and a link? He was thrown into a geyser and emerged at the top of a jet of scalding water shouting "now I know how Andy felt!"

Nick's best mate Dez Skinn and publisher of Comics International was also mentioned, in a feud with ex-employee (or was he) Phil Hall, now publisher of Borderline. After the court cases had died away, Phil tried to get the rights to Marvelman from a new source, causing continued infighting and bitter recriminations from both sides. However, because it was purely a British feud, most of the judges didn't care.

Heidi remembered a minor feud which never given the opportunity to fly between Warren Ellis and Paul Storrie, which exhibited itself in his now ex-forum,

Warren: "I think I'm starting to understand why you're so boring, Paul. Onward."

Paul: "Fuck you too, Warren. If I'd realized that you had actually had some kind of personal problem with me, I wouldn't be stopping by the forum. Thanks for clearing that up."

Warren :"ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha"

The Peter David/John Byrne eternal disagreement again reared its head as Byrne gave reason after reason for hating David, which was batted away by cold harsh facts.

Mark Millar was very proud, for pure stamina, of the Erik Larsen/Rob Liefeld online fight. Millar barked it up some extra points as it ran for days and ended up dragging other creators into the fight, such as Dan Fraga and Brian Denham.

Some choice clips:

Liefeld: "It's nice lip service, but very inconsistent with the crap that has been spilling out of his hole for the last several years."

Larsen: "WHERE are my lies, Rob? WHERE? Tell me what I said which is a lie and I will back them up with fact. Unpaid bill? FACT! Stiffed freelancers? FACT! Don't get mad at me because I won't corroborate your delusional propaganda"

Liefeld: "Erik, you and your pals will go to whatever EXTREME's that you feel necessary in order to perpetrate your crap."

Larsen: "If by 'staying the course' you mean lying your ass off--I have no doubt this will be the case."

Brian Denham: "how dare you get on this board and attack young comic creators early work?"

Dan Fraga: "Why is it that the only supporters Rob has, never actually know the guy?"

Mike Doran tried to hide the evidence of Dave Cockrum's little spat. Jim Krueger, writer of the Earth X continuing line of series commissioned by Bob Harras and tolerated by the current regime, got in quite a pickle with Dave Cockrum over his treatment of Nightcrawler, concluding with a scream to the continuity gods,

"Nightcrawler will never, never, NEVER be a demon. The thing I hate the most is that you're saying Kurt has been lying to the X-Men and to us, the readers, about who he is all these years. I refuse to accept your concept, and as far as I'm concerned your stories belong in 'What If'".

Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Cockrum is a geeky Internet comic fan.

And just what did sci-fi reviewer Greg Feeley write about Grant Morrison to be given an identity of a sad lonely man masturbating over transexual porn in The Filth? Whatever it was Mark Millar wasn't saying - and not just because he had a reindeer bone in his mouth.

Indeed, during reports that Grant Morrison had been boasting to West Coast creators that he had written much of Mark Millar's work (vehemently denied by Millar), it emerged that Morrison had actually written most of Authority 28, while Millar was ill. Nevertheless, this spurred a feud between the two, who had been co-writers and friends for quite a considerable time. Millar barked his exasperation but was reprimanded by Alessi.

"Bad dog, Millar."

But in the end, as the water cascaded around their dripping hot faces, the judges decided that the award had to go to the Mark Waid/Rich Johnston feud earlier in the year, unreported until now. Mark Waid railed against Wizard on the DC Message Boards for printing what he called lies about the earlier proposal by Waid, Peyer, Morrison and Millar to revamp Superman in what's now commonly called the 'Superman Coup'. He said the allegations made by Wizard about the project were not only untrue but damaging to the writers' reputations. Rich Johnston then emailed Mark Waid with details from a draft of the proposal that confirmed the content, if not the tone of Wizard's allegations.

Waid then sent Johnston an e-mail death threat, if he dared to print any of the proposal, saying "IF YOU FUCKING PRINT FROM THAT PURPORTED PROPOSAL, I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU. And Grant and Mark and Tom will GLADLY hold you down while I DO it. I'm NOT joking. Is that clear?"

Taking the concept of a comic book feud to a new level, Johnston replied saying that he hadn't planned on printing the proposal, rather clarifying the inconsistencies in Waid's statements. Johnston told Waid he did not plan to forward the email to the federal authorities but asked for clarification over which methods of murder Waid intended to use. Waid later said that he wasn't serious about the death threat and in recent months the two have been quite civil to each other.

But it kind of made the Kevin Eastman/Steve Bissette separate-parties-in-separate-rooms feud fade in comparison.

The judges tramped back to the restaurant, hot, wet, sweaty, and that was just Graig Weich.

FIRING LINE AWARD

Celebrating those who left certain comic book companies, whether freelance or pro, whether by the boot or of their own volition, Marvel seemed clear for first place, and Bill Jemas announced to all the other judges that the company had to be ship shape and fighting fit to best promote its line of characters, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Ant Man, Walk Man…

Oooh, what a giveaway.

While some high profile golf came and went at DC, CrossGen and others, Marvel's turnover was more dramatic

Gail Simone, mindful of future work, was keen to make no mention over her decision to leave Agent X. Not even to say if this was over conflict with new editor Andrew Lis involving the humour in the title. Marvel supported Lis over Simone. Though in Simone's favour was the fact that the book, as Agent X and its previous incarnation Deadpool, had received critical acclaim and increased sales, and that she hadn't encountered similar problems with other editors. The subsequent firing of Lis' assistant Lynne Yoshii probably didn't help either.

Jemas also remembered Bob Greenberger, ex of DC, was hired by Marvel to turn around their trade paperback division, which he seems to have done, but then was fired after believing to be building a power base outside his remit in the company, before being rehired by DC. Much of the Marvel TPB staff went as well, such as Mike Farah, Camille Murphy and Jessica Schwartz.

Fletcher Chu-Fong from Marvel's sales department also defected from Marvel, to DC when Bill Jemas hired a new guy for the Sales Group without telling Ralph Lancellotti, the VP for sales or consulting with Matt Ragone or Chu-Fong, the two-man sales team. Seeing his position as being a little precarious, when DC happened to call and make an headhunter-style enquiry about his status, Chu-Fong took the opportunity to jump. Or rather, escorted out of the building.

With the departure of Peter Cuneo, the promotion without replacement to his position of another board member, the absence of two marketing guys replaced by Mike Doran on a much smaller salary and more, Marvels' cost-cutting through employee culling continued the company's fine tradition of hard nosed decisions in the face of adversity - as opposed to DC's current criticised but stable over manning.

STICKING IN OARS AWARD

Despite a valiant attempt from Marvel and Vertigo, this award was all Wildstorm's this year. Especially when the judges noticed that, secretly, John Nee had been rigging an elaborate puppetry system above their heads in order to manipulate how they voted.

The Authority was still a prime candidate for this award, but no one could get Mark Millar to stop yapping long enough to get a full sentence out. Nevertheless, changes in the last Art Adams issues were significant enough to show why John Layman felt he had no choice. And with the current Christmas Special being little more than a very good JLA story rather that the widescreen apocalypse of bad taste and violence that the title was famed for, the ides are not good for the title's relaunch in the summer. Wildstorm also insisted Stormwatch could not take place in Tibet, for fear of offending China (offending Russia however is fine, no sales there).

WHY ARE WE WAITING

Many are the intriguing projects that are still ongoing but lining up in the schedules yet to be announced. From Darwyn Cook's 400 page long DC Universe spectacular, to Mark Millar's Red Son-about-to-be-eclipsed-by-Cleese's True Brit, there's no end to waiting anxious fans.

Youngblood Bloodsport was a favourite, especially given Millar's description of the issue's opening double splash page, featuring Shaft on the receiving end of a blow job from another team member saying, "Sometimes I feel supervillains were the only thing that kept us decent."

"Bad dog, in your bed" said Mark Alessi, who went on to announce that all his titles were shipping on time, but refused to talk about the whereabouts of Lady Death.

Alan Moore's tiny thing for Vertigo has still also to be confirmed or denied, for their tenth anniversary celebrations and the whereabouts of the Zenith trade paperback still cause much furore, still stuck between the publisher Titan Books, the original publisher and licensor, Rebellion, and the writer Grant Morrison who claims never to have signed ownership away. And there are thousands of the published volumes, still stored in a warehouse, rotting.

But for sheer quantity, Wildstorm won again for their DC/Wildstorm line, much rumoured but yet to be officially mentioned.

"Vigilante" by Rick Veitch and Carlos D'anda, "OMAC" by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, "Adam Strange" by Zander Cannon and Andrew Robinson and eventually "Mister Miracle" by Jeph Loeb and Adam Hughes.

What happened to Kamandi, that Erik Larsen said he was offered by Scot Dunbier then told he was part of a round robin pitch, is yet to be known.

OUTSTANDING COUP AWARD

So just who made the greatest coup this year? Greg started to talk about Civilian Justice, but his complicated version of Tourette's Sydrome that caused him to mutter bizarre jingoistic phrases every second or so made this clearly impossible.

Andy Helfer recalled Peter David's amazing anti-Marvel announcement and challenge about Captain Marvel's price increase led to the U-Decide contest that not only extended the natural life of the book but brought it increased sales and an unequivocal victory against Marville and Ultimate Adventures in the sales war, despite some serious undermining from Marvel. But that wasn't even it's purpose - the reason David did it was to get an extension on the life of Supergirl at DC Comics by proving he could still kickstart media coverage when it was necessary. David got that extension in a meeting on the same day the comics media exploded about Captain Marvel until the recent cancellation notice the other week.

Mike Doran being snapped up by Marvel surprised nearly everyone, especially Gail Simone who couldn't stop choking for a week. Bill Jemas announced proudly "His press releases have been near indistinguishable from Bill Rosemann's and at half the price!" The bad blood it caused at Wizard and with other online reporters paled in comparison….

DC's announcement that they've signed John Cleese to write a Superman book was a close-run thing to win this award, but sadly all the judges remembered that Cleese hasn't written anything decent since his old writing partner Graham Chapman died. Gail Simone began to weep for such a loss.

But in the end, the judges decided that above all others, Dark Horse deserved the award for their publication of a comic strip by Pablo Picasso. I mean, for fuck's sake, Picasso. Bill Jemas announced that they would do a comic by Shakespeare, but only if it had Wolverine in it. Gail Simone volunteered to do the research.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS AWARD

A new category here, with only one entry that caused everyone but Mark Alessi to giggle. On the possible fall of Chaos Comics in June, after Brian Denham left the company alleging non-payment, John Ostrander said "EVERY company in the biz goes through cash flow problems. Mighty Marvel went through some severe ones not so long ago. Other companies that I've worked with in the past and that I work with now have those problems. I continue to work with them if I believe they'll work those problems out and that they're dealing honestly with me."

Mark retorted "Brian Pulido is a man of extreme integrity and I… will you stop laughing? By the power of the Sigil, I command thee, or I'll get Millar to give you a good chewing over."

Everyone moved on.

MADDEST MOMENT AWARD

The earnest and playful rigging of the Harvey Awards by CrossGen probably would have made this award - if the company hadn't then lost all the categories they were nominated in.

Marvel's bizarre trade paperback program continued with pages in the wrong order, pages missed out and in one case, the The Al Milgrom anti-Bob Harras remark in Universe X: Spidey that caused the book to be pulped and Al Milgrom to be fired was reprinted in the trade paperback instead of the corrected page.

But leagues ahead for this particular ward was the moment when Jim Steranko decided to read the solicitation copy of Ennis, Conner and Palmiotti Image one shot, The Pro, and described its creators as pro-terrorist. To the extent that the creators dedicated the comic to him.

The only person who did not agree was Graig Weich who began to weep for America as the award was announced.

THE WORKERS ARE REVOLTING AWARD

CrossGen's puppy dogs used to be Hero Realm. After turning on Bill Jemas, the Hero Realm guys found a friend in CrossGen, and even ran an illegal CrossGen contest in order to get more people to sign up to their online CrossGen comics subscriptions. But they soon became a CrossGen hater as CrossGen began to favour other news sites such as Comicon Pulse. The vitriol let fly was quite ear piercing.

Prominent retailer Brian Hibbs sued his biggest vendor Marvel Comics and managed to succeed in getting Marvel to allow some comics to be returnable, in accordance with their own policy. But the suit goes on. Bill Jemas began to grind his teeth whenever Brian Hibbs was mentioned. Mark Alessi noticed…

As Mark Alessi was distracted by this whole state of affairs, Mark Millar slipped off his leash to give everyone a doggy-rendition of the post he made that probably sealed his fate at DC."

"I just logged on and spotted that they're doing a new Authority trade. Why is this the first I've bloody heard of this? No offence to the other guys in the book (because I love them), but this is precisely the opposite of what Wildstorm and DC promised me six months ago. The first trade was Warren's first two arcs, the next trade was Warren's last and my first and the third was supposed to be the two main arcs of my run. What the Hell is this?

"Then again, they promised me nobody was going to fuck with the rest of my run after they let Frank Quitely go to Marvel so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

"Does this mean my two four issue arcs are going to be spread over two bloody expensive trade paperbacks as Quitely suggested on the other thread? Could this run be screwed up any MORE for the fans? Thank God I work for Marvel now!"

Alessi got Millar to heel and said "there'll be none of that when you join my compound. Only positive pro-CrossGen barking allowed in the kennels! Like Brian Hibbs."

Grind grind grind.

Which reminded everyone at the incredibly restrained Mark Waid/Mark Alessi feud that got a start after things soured for Waid at CrossGen, he demanded work he was nominated for in awards be withdrawn. Only his incredibly restrictive CrossGen contract has prevented him from saying what he *really* thought as he left the company. Mark Alessi claimed to have forgotten who Mark Waid was already and asked if he was a friend of Brian Hibbs.

Grind grind grind.

Everyone started smiling and instantly agreed that Brian Hibbs was the award winner for biting the hand that feeds you. As they repeated his name in a chant, Bill Jemas lost a cap.

VISUAL OF THE YEAR

Well it could have been some of the original Authority art…

[Authority Artwork]

Or it could have been a freaky cover from Marvel's archives…

[Monolith]

But if that won, then Graig Weich said he'd shoot most everyone there, and everyone in Iceland just to be on the safe side.

But in the end there can be only one.

[Stan Lee?]

Stan Lee really hates you, you know.

RUMOUR OF THE YEAR AWARD

And so finally, everyone sat down for the Rumour Of The Year Award. Which story would sum up the industry, which was the best story, and which would piss Paul Levitz off the most?

Everyone looked at Bill Jemas.

"What, it's the reason behind most of my decisions. Come on, would I have considered Rich Johnston for Marville if it wouldn't have given Paul Levitz a coronary?"

Craig McGill getting physical threats over his upcoming graphic novel Know The Provo, from loyalist paramilitary groups, was a favourite and Bill Jemas considered signing him up immediately for the publicity.

Then there were the orders from Marvel on high that Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada stop their online bickering just a tad. Which they did

The ongoing story that Frank Miller had had his Dark Knight Strikes Back script butchered by Paul Levitz, but his ties at Warner Brothers over a Batman film saw Levitz told from his bosses, "Let Frank Be Frank." And he was.

Miller's cameo in the new Daredevil movie also made news, there was Steve Geppi's announcement in the CrossGen kitchen to staff that CrossGen were about to be a Premier exclusive publisher.

Then there's Grant Morrison's supposed upcoming run on Superman, a new ongoing X-Men series to coincide with X-Men 2, Ghost Rider by Millar and Andy Kubert, Marc Silvestri on the X-Men.

Who can forget the strenuously denied allegations that Mark Alessi helped out a pal, Brian Pulido, buy buying Lady Death before the bankruptcy, so it wouldn't get caught in a legal mess, give Pulido some pocket change that the creditors couldn't touch, and enable him to continue writing the character for CrossGen after it all went down.

There was the conflict of interest at the comic news sites? If it wasn't Mike Doran leaving for Marvel, Matt Brady being owed money by Chaos but not letting people know or Jen Contino working for CrossGen and writing them Pulse puff pieces, it was some bugger called Rich Johnston being considered to write Marville, as the whole place turned into an incestuous free for all.

There was the sudden fall of CoolBeansWorld, the march of creators to get their original work back and the subsequent signing up of most of the work by Rebellion.

There was Harris Miller's successful renegotiation of the standard Marvel contract for his clients, with changes intended to be more equitable to creators, including payment beyond a creator's lifetime, creator owned consideration, and only applying to work covered specifically by the contract. As one creator put it "now just a case of simple rape rather than the case of aggravated rape as it was initially drafted."

Then there was the repeated practice of Newsarama, to subscribe to Wizard magazine, get the early subscription copies, and use the contents to persuade publishers to give official statements on stories the magazine was carrying, then beat Wizard comic shop copies to the story.

Mike Miller's announced 'pinklisting' that he was banned from working for DC for being a bigoted homophobe - when he could quite easily have been shifted into a department where that kind of thinking is turned into useful creative decisions rather than being simply dismissed.

There was the rumour that ex-publisher of Marvel Comics and current litigant, Stan Lee, and ex-DC president Jenette Kahn were to be setting up a nice little west coast media company later next year.

But, again, in the end there could only be one. As the collected throng ran Graig Weich up a flag and sang "The Stars, Stripes, Machine Guns, Smart Bombs And Assorted Nuclear Devices", they decided that Rumour Of The Year had to go to Marvel for the rumour that they are preparing themselves for a buyout from Sony. Increased media coverage, reducing salaries at all levels, maximising short term profits and cutting back on all the fat, in order to be the most tasty research and development facility Sony could wish for, and indeed with reports from Sony that they already consider this a done deal.

With AOL Comics vs Sony Comics, will the rest of the market be equally divided up? Dark Horse Fox Comics? Lucas Image? Who knows…

Let's all find out together.

As they stepped back into their crates, Mark Millar relieving himself against one, the judges congratulated themselves that they'd managed to go the whole distance without once mentioning Transformers.

And off the fork lift trucks went, across the snow and ice, passed puffin and pumice, passed geyser and geezer, passed rock and a hard place, until they were bombed by an Al Qu'eda death squad who were really upset about the cancellation of Soldier X.

"I told you all so…" were Graig Weich's dying words.

Next week's Lying In The Gutters will return to normal. Until then, there's a fantastic interview between me and Peter David over at Waiting For Tommy at Dynamic Forces - enjoy, see you in the New Year with plenty of fresh rumour, gossip… and the gag that's been doing the rounds at DC. Until then, be seeing you.

Rumour Awards 2003 is a satire published by ComicBookResources, and is not intended maliciously. ComicBookResources has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). ComicBookResources makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceeding information.

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