Lying In The Gutters

Mon, February 17th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is the thirty-fourth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. So, noisy neighbours, 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. Blame Joe Quesada.

My official e-mail address has also changed. Check the bottom of this column to update your records.

WHO DARES WINS

[Green Light]Well, the figures are in. "Daredevil" the movie is a hit. Amongst non-comics journalists and movie goers alike, it's done the business pretty much. Reuters reports that as of Sunday, studio estimates have given it a gross of $43.5 million its first three days of release in the USA, setting a new record for Presidents Day and is the second highest February gross opening of all time, after "Hannibal."

It's still a third of "Spider-Man's" gross opening weekend. But this is out-of-blockbuster season and doesn't feature widespread recognizable trademarks, as well as being of a decidedly adult nature.

Given such a performance, we are sure Joe Quesada won't mind that his name has been given to a rapist in the film.

However, with Marvel getting mentioned in most mainstream reviews and in the film itself, maybe Marvel.com, under heavy traffic this weekend, should have headlined with a Daredevil product?

A number of other comics properties have been watching "Daredevil" nervously, with a number of people telling me that their greenlight is dependent on "Daredevil" making money. Look forward to a lot of comic book movies coming out in the next two years from the most prominent to the most obscure.

FALL OUT

[Yellow Light]So guess what else I'm talking about this week.

Hmmm.

Why were the likes of Helfer and Raspler dropped from DC earlier in the week? I'd been told that this was happening months back, but asked by DC representatives not to mention their names to avoid any self-fulfilling prophecies.

A fat lot of good that did them.

So why? Especially with their long track records in the company? Everyone's got their theories.

However, after it was also realized that Paul Levitz was very concerned about security on this matter a lot of sources withdrew their stories, like so many whelks when the tide goes out.

One DC staffer who didn't retreat into his shell informed me that Helfer and Raspler were dropped because they've put off a number of creative talents, who have told DC they won't work with them. While creative conflicts in business always occur, the source pointed to Helfer and Raspler as being of the axis of dischord. And with Dan Didio's attempts to recruit back a lot of staff to the DC Universe, this was a problem - when before, no one really minded.

The rumours surrounding Mike Carlin were even weirder. One story had Mike being offered the chance to go to Mad Magazine in two years as part of his new deal when Nick Meglin retired, only for John Ficarro to object and see Carlin offered editorship of "JLA" instead.

Then one poster on Comicon Pulse, named 'ettacandy' wrote:

"It was clear that for years that Helfer was one of Jenette's favorites. As soon as she was gone, he would be too. This is a guy who wouldn't even SHOW UP TO WORK UNTIL 3pm most days. Don't feel too bad for Andy. He's from a wealthy family and will fare just fine. As for Raspler, I've always found him difficult and very willing to take credit for other people's work. Art Young really spawned the LOBO boom. Augustyn and Diaz fought to bring Grant Morrison to Justice League when they had both been refused using any of the 'big gun' characters by Carlin. Dan just got the windfall from the other editor's departure. I hate to say it, but the morale will improve with the two bad boys gone."

He continued.

"As per the norm with BOTH Helfer and Raspler at least 75% of the Paradox stuff was sourced by Andy's predecessor. So he just finished most of them up. Let's not forget, to this 'what have you sold for me lately?' environment. Modest successes five years ago might as well have never happened. With the exception of Pete Tomasi, you can just push the flush button at DC these days.

"This whole thing is such classic Levitz.

"Create an in-house mess that goes on for years.

"Then hire an over-paid hit-man to clean up your own doo-doo rather than have the balls to do it yourself. A REAL leader here!

"The entertaining part is that knowing his fixation on the bottom line (an AOL/TIME Whiner specialty), Paul's probably more interested in the 200-400K he's saved in this mini-bloodbath."

"Let's also not forget VERTIGO goes untouched for several important reasons."

"1) His fixation on Karen Berger and need to keep her and her husband Richard Bruning (no conflict of interest there!) happy. What does Bruning DO anyway (besides 'work from home')?

"2) Despite the fact that VERTIGO hasn't had a monster hit since the 'oh so tragically hip' SANDMAN."

"Nope, no double standard going on there.

"That place is such a mess. It's a wonder they can publish anything!"

TAYLOR MADE

[Yellow Light]Tony Bedard then outed 'ettacandy' as ex-DC employee, Rick Taylor. Taylor was fired in the wake of the "Crisis" hardcover recall, which saw DC's most prominent Christmas item a few years ago recalled and reprinted after one panel in the book was repeated. After repeated criticism for that on the board, Rick went Krakatoa.

"You see, this is the same cluelessness I got from the DC management and why I so appreciate the comments of Mr. Bedard (who by the way, hasn't had the balls to answer my personal emails. He's probably 'outing' some gay celebs or something. I can count on him answering me back publicly, I'm sure)

"Technically speaking, Crisis on Infinite Earth was literally in THOUSANDS of pieces of film. Because the artists drew THOUSANDS of surprints (all those wacky effects) and hundreds of drop out (all that snow), it took a production artist (thanks Nick Napolotano, you BUSTED YOUR ASS for scale) literally a year to reconstruct all the art.

"I was saddled with the worst sep house DC used at the time (because they were the cheapest, something I fought tooth and nail and got shot down on). I think we proof issues 1 at least 4 times and they STILL couldn't get it right."

"Then DC 'rolled the deadlines FORWARD' 16 weeks (by the way, the line editors were able to just keep being late) on me and my then-assistant (2 people produced 96 collected editions that year) and told us the book HAD TO SHIP ON TIME.

"We got to the issue where they reproduced from George's pencil and because it was letterpress on newsprint those pencilled panels looked like hell. George had Xeroxes which he gladly loaned us, but Gerry Ordway was not available to ink so we hired AL Vey (his assistant when Crisis was originally inked and a great guy. Hey AL!).

"We were pretty far into production by the so the sep house had to strip in those panels. They screwed up and stripped on panel in twice. We missed it when we proofed the book (getting past three sets of eyes) and it made it into print.

"If you wanted to call Crisis a reprint, go ahead. It was a giant assembly process that took over a year, was in THOUSANDS of pieces, had four months cut out of the schedule, got the worst sep house they had who was doing about 15 monthlies at the same time.

"So if you want to be pissed at me, oh clueless fanboy, knock yourself out.

"I got the shit end of the stick for busting you ass for you for over a year after hauling the monthlies out of the toilet for 9 years, too. Hardly fair. Sorry you didn't get your collected book on time. I'm sure you could've just gotten you Crisis book out of their plastic and reread them if you were that anxious.

"Any one who really knows what happen, feel free to chime in.

"You won't have to worry about hearing from me again.

"Go to hell."

Catching up with Rick Taylor, now slightly more sober, he asked to add a couple of bits.

"I think my former mentor at DC (yes, there was one) Bob Rozakis probably would've caught the Crisis error, but they had already 'failed to renew his contract' the month before. Effectively shooting themselves in the foot. My direct supervisor Marty Pasko, was on vacation. So I was pulled into a star chambermeeting with Pat Caldon and Richard Bruning. I was told I had to go on press for over a week AND maintain the 16 week roll-forwarding my schedule. My partner had a horrible case of the flu and I had to keep the other books rolling. When I protested and said I couldn't possibly do all this, they went over my head and sent my assistant on press, who worked for over a week. But we all still missed the repeated panel.

"I was fired by Marty a week later when he returned.

"Paul never spoke to me that day. I was truly hurt after busting my ass for DC for almost ten years. I made dozens of press ok's ensuring the shipment of thousands of books, working weekends and holidays. I almost didn't make it home for Thanksgiving one year. Had I not done those press oks, stunts like both the TANGENT series, DC vs. Marvel, UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED, KINGDOM COME (series and TPB) and tons more would've never shipped on time.

"I was doing a press ok for DC the day my Mom died and I still did the job before I went home.

"As collected editions editor I suggested dozen of projects that were deemed 'uncommercial' that later showed up in print. Stuff like the SUPER FRIENDS and the KIRBY GREEN ARROW TPB's. BLACK CANARY, SUPERGIRL, SGT. ROCK and BLACKHAWK ARCHIVES.

"I tried to get Pat Caldon to let me to stay at Ronalds to do the AMALGAM books between DC vs MARVEL #3 and 4. The wrong ads were stripped into the books and DC threw away $325K. I would've caught that

"Sorry if you're mad, Paul. You should've been nicer to me.

"I would be a complete asshole not to acknowledge Jim Spivey's IMMENSE contribution to the success, yes the success of this project. There were probably more mistakes in the whole original first issue than there were in the entire reprint series. And he checked everything with such excitement and genuine thrill.

"My assistant at the time, Jim Spivey was the emotional heart of this project. Jim worked on several concepts for value-added items that never saw the light of day. He color corrected each Outsider, Legionnaire, Titan and League member (at least 4 times on one issue) with a passion. Checked each surprint, knockout and art correction like he had drawn it himself. Most of all, loved the concept of the hard cover. Thanks pal."

ON THE EDGE

[Red Light]Despite Rick Taylor's comforting words about Vertigo, a repeated rumour is that Dan Didio will be looking at that very same imprint next, with a blunt axe.

One scallywag speculated that if Karen Berger did indeed move on to other fields, would Didio tempt Axel Alonso back to the fold with the offer of Vertigo editor-in-chief?

This one has a red light for a reason, folks.

SIGILS AT PLAY

[Yellow Light]CrossGen are reportedly lining up a toy line. A crew known for doing subcontracting work for Toy Biz are moving down to Tampa this month, and announcements are expected at MegaCon.

STRAIGHT-EDGE ROB

[Yellow Light]Opposed to last week's comments about the highs of life working on studio comics, a number of ex-Extreme/Awesome/etc. employees wrote to point out that Rob Liefeld and pals weren't cokeheads, certainly not in the office or while working on comics. Indeed, Rob is described as not even drinking alcohol or caffeine. As for the rest of the studio, there was nothing beyond a very small and occasional use of marijuana. That's it.

COMIC BOOK MOVIES

[Green Light]Everyone loves IMDB.com, we all do. Even if their cast listing for "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" gave away a massive spoiler as to the identity of the end of level baddie.

I've now been made aware of the site, ymdb.com, which lists people's favourite movies. These include those of Glenn Fabry, John McCrea, Jimmy Palmiotti & Christopher Golden - and it's looking for more.

It's a frightening, scary look into the minds of killers, ladies and gentlemen.

GREEN GREEN GRASS

[Green Light]Rick Taylor's not the only one whose been talking widely about DC. But Bob Greenberger actually works for DC, as a Senior Editor in the book program. But he's been quite willing to talk about upcoming trades online on the DC Message Boards. Almost too willing.

Some favourite snips:

"When I rejoined staff in May, my buddy John Ordover gave me a gift of 4 Tijuana Bibles featuring DC's heroes. It was his suggestion I propose just such a collection. Considering I like my job, I have kept that to myself--until now.

"Long ago, DC did enter into a deal with Longmeadow Press, the publishing arm of B. Dalton. They did a collection of Joker stories and a complete Frank Miller Batman collection. Since then, we've preferred handling such projects ourselves, not only to retain all the revenue, but to give us total control over the content, look and price."

"Marvel's exclusive deal for the Masterwork reprints with B&N must make sense to them financially, although I'm scratching my head at how they can do a 256 page TPB for $12.95 and make a profit. Wish the Web site indicated contents or showed the trade dress, but I think we're all assuming these are the first volumes of the various characters. If B&N is publishing these, it's in their best interest to display these for the casual consumer which can only help Marvel and comics in general.

"At the recent meeting we had, it was decided to add a 'Robin' collection to the schedule. It will not pick up where the last trade left off, but instead be something more contemporary. Anton Kawasaki is figuring out the contents right now.

"We've looked into 'Superman/Muhammed Ali' a few times and as you might imagine, with real people, things can get complicated.

"'Atom 2' or 'Hawkman 2?' Well, I suppose one of them could be out by years end. heh heh heh

"'Emperor Joker' was an interesting storyline, but not well-received enough, it seems, to collect.

"…with four Superman titles a month plus crossover issues to 'Supergirl,' 'Superboy,' etc. it's virtually impossible to collect all the issues in sequence. First of all, sales demand isn't there. Second of all, not every story works as well as hoped and isn't worthy of collection. When we inaugurated the numerical Superman collections, we wanted to put our best material out there to show casual readers a reinvigorated Man of Steel. That forces us to be selective. We think vol. 4 ('Critical Condition') and vol. 5 ('Pres. Lex') merit that."

"As for how these threads are selected, we work with the editorial teams to make sure we're all comfortable with the approach. 'Pres. Lex,' for example, had bits and pieces spread for months and we picked up 2-pages here, 4-pages there in order to weave together a good story. One of my biggest choices involved pages that actually set up OWAW, but chose to keep them since they were important to one of the complete stories.

"For the Batman volumes, we do the same thing and of course not everyone will be happy. Heck, I was a little miffed to assemble 'Fugitive' 1-2 and suddenly discover the story was over and Sasha was still in jail. Then I read 'Detective' 773-775, and saw more with David Cain in 'Batman' so I approached Matt Idelson and we realized we needed one more collection to close out the story. Look for a third and final volume in September.

"Since we've been debating this, you can be the first to know that upon re-reading BGK #32, I'd be crazy not to include it. I've already adjusted my dummy book, bookmap, worksheet and digital file request. Unfortunately, I don't see a way to fit in 'Batman' #604, which should have been collected as the opening to Vol. 2.

"Yes, there will be second volumes for both 'Fables' and 'Y' this year.

"Any more movement on the John Byrne Superman run? Well, I got an e-mail from John this morning...

"Teisot, you've read our mind. We intend to re-release both JL trades during the run of the new JL mini-series.

"Yes, there will be another 'Batgirl' trade this year. Kelley's departure will not change that.

"'Just Imagein' vol. 2 is on schedule and I have a gorgeous Stuart Immonen cover for it already on my bulletin board.

"'Super Powers?' Not likely. There's so much better Kirby material to work with. As for a Kirby Library, we're doing some talking, some planning, we'll see.

"Until we're done, expect 3 'Spirit' collections a year. 'Tor' wraps up with Volume 3, ending the Kubert Library for the moment. No 'Mad' this year. 2 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' this year. And maybe one more featuring something else.

"As stated elsewhere, there is a second 'Catwoman' collection coming in 2003. And another 'Starman.' And more 'Transmetropolitan.' No 'Doom Patrol' planned. Or 'Power Company.' Wildstorm sets their own TPB schedule so stay tuned (but can anyone really make heads or tails out of 'Kafka?')."

CAPCOMICS

[Yellow Light]I've been handed some sample art purporting to be from Dreamwave. This site has reported how Dreamwave seem to be moving into video game licences for their comics line, including comics based on popular Capcom games.

Enjoy some more art from Mr M Brooks...

SECOND COMING AT LAST

[Green Light]Mark Millar's been letting slip that his first break into the industry may finally be revived.

During a conversation about ITV's "The Second Coming" on Millarworld's message boards, Millar said, "I loved it. Slightly pissed off that it was all about Jesus coming back as a gawky guy in contemporary England because this is precisely the plot of my first ever comic, but SC is a much, much tighter and more professionally done execution of the idea. I can only hope it encourages the middle class wanks who run UK TV to realize that science fiction is much more likely to reach the international audience they so desperately want than the succession of shitty cop shows we have to put up with over here.

"Like I said, a little annoying that my rethinking of The Savior now needs to be changed, but I'd come up with a completely different way of telling this story anyway as part of my creator-owned line-up. We've also got a date for the launch of these books. Details shortly."

Saviour's back, folks. Vertigo turned down an Alex Ross revamp, looks like some other lucky fellow's got it.

TWO GUN TEX

[Green Light]Been handed this lovely little piece, apparently for an upcoming Dynamic Forces "Tomb Raider" book by Geoff Johns and Mark Texeira.

And not from the expected source, either.

WALK THE WALK

[Green Light]Had quite the eventful Saturday, as part of London's Peace March. The biggest demonstration I've ever been to, it was good to see cartoonist Steve Bell's many editorial cartoons displayed on banners, posters and placards all over. He truly is the official Anti-War Artist this year.

Okay, that's a very tenuous way to enclose some shots...


Autobots Against War


Weapon Of Mass Destruction Hidden In Swan


Mad With Peace The Crowds Headed For The Tunnel Of Love


Mickey Mouse Tries New Fad Diet


A Very British Peace


Protestor Engages In Subtle Political Satire


Okay Then, How About Some Constructive Criticism...


An Excuse to Photograph Some Women


It's The Subtlety That Does It Ever Time


That's More Like It!

TOMMY GUNNED

[Green Light]The Jim Lee interview went live at Waiting For Tommy on Wednesday. Jim Lee made an elegant interviewee, talking candidly and at length about what drives him. Go read.

And be back next Wednesday for what's turning into a unique interview with Marvel's Editor-In-Chief where he's turned the tables and started interviewing me, Waiting For Tommy style, exposing quite a few of my deep and dark secrets in the process.

Should be unmissable, folks.

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