Lying In The Gutters: Issue #35

Sun, February 23rd, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is the thirty-fifth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. So, reckless ruffians, 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.

EPIC TALES

[Red Light]Let's talk EPIC.

In the old days, Epic was the name of Marvel's adult-themed comics anthology, sold to the magazine market. It soon spawned a diverse line of creator-owned or creator-participant comics, unmatched in the industry, from "Groo" to "Alien Legion" to "A1" to "Nightbreed" to "Yuppies In Love" to "The Bozz Chronicles."

Since Bill Jemas came to the fore at Marvel, he's been threatening a revival. And for the last few years, Marvel have been promising creator-owned titles from a number of their A-List.

Expect some announcements very soon, and they're going to be odd ones.

The Epic line is being put together by Stephanie Moore - and there will be familiar and unfamiliar names there. And expect Ralph Macchio and Bill Jemas to have editorial input, as well as Mark Millar.

Mark Millar is believed to be writing the very first, the launch book, but expect to see a lot of very different books from some very different people, creator-owned, creator-participant and work-for-hire.

Also look for work coming from the individuals he chose as "stars of the future", people he promised to help give a leg up. Namely Mark Peyton, Brandon Thomas and Barb Lien

They all refused to comment.

"Aliens/Dredd" writer Andy Diggle was also mentioned to me as a contributor, by he has refused to comment. As did Steven Grant, who declined to say whether he was involved or not. And Matt Fraction who didn't say a fucking thing.

Other names mentioned include John Romita Jr, the only person who has previously confirmed he has a title in the Epic line. The Kubert brothers are also believed to be involved.

Again, no response.

In fact, despite rumours that have escaped about this project, for the amount of people involved, security is incredibly high. And indeed, people have said they've been threatened if they leak.

One unique aspect of Epic is, as well as featuring familiar A-list names, that a number of fans have been targeted and asked to pitch to the line. From Comic Book Resources alone, a handful of columnists and regular message board figures have been asked to pitch.

Names such as Chris Ryall, and Rob Worley were amongst those mentioned as well as X-Fan's Eric Moreel's, said to be pitching an Aboriginal superheroes idea. Pop Image folks as well. Basically, pick a prominent comics Web site and there will be individuals who've been approached.

But that's right, none of them agreed to comment.

This will no doubt be criticised by some for a kind of creative inbreeding, fans being encouraged to turn their fan-fiction into canon, but it's not as if it's Marvel's only form of outreach. Marvel seem to be looking far and wide for talent for a series of one-off projects.

One thing that has been commented upon, is the pitch requests. Apparently pitchers have been told that Marvel get all rights to pitches using Marvel characters, whether they are used or not. Which means the individual can't take the ideas elsewhere with an eye to rewriting them for non-Marvel characters.

Also, a number of individuals are said to have turned it down due to a lower rate than they were used to. Indeed pay seems to be on a sliding scale of sales, above a very low minimum payment for writers, on a full script submission.

And there are allegations that higher-priced writers with better deals have been teamed with low price artists to keep costs down.

But for entry-level, new talent to mainstream comics, Marvel have in one step leaped well over DC when it comes to recruitment. And they may well have bought up much of the vocal fan base who may have been bitching… but are now pitching!

And of course this can only help the precious marketshare that Tsunami is already flooding into.

As to the red traffic light above, while I'm definitely sure that Epic is happening, much as it's been stated, when it comes to the individuals, well, your guess is as good as mine.

And no I wasn't asked to pitch. Clearly where the bitterness and jealousy comes from according to some…

THE RETURN OF OLD CONTRACTS

[Yellow Light]One other Epic-related situation may be with the contracts between Marvel and certain individuals predating the bankruptcy and the rise of New Marvel. A number stated that when Marvel had an outlet for publishing creator-owned work, then Marvel would let those individuals publish a project of their choice through Marvel.

Will those contracts be honoured?

MILLAR'S TIME

[Yellow Light]Bets are being taken on what Mark Millar's Epic project will be. If it's creator-owned, his comments from a year and a bit ago may be quite telling.

Will it be

  1. "My creator-owned thing is where all the genuine bad taste and madness has gone. The lead character kills gays for a laugh, rapes his old high school teacher and joins a super-team all in the first four issue arc. DC's gonna love this one!!!"

  2. "A four part thing which is being co-produced as an animated feature (and which my agent called the most perverse series in the history of comics)"

  3. "something bright and breezy for girls-- as patronizing as that sounds. You won't believe what we've got lined up for this, but the girl's book won't be out until I've finished X-Men in Jan 2003."

  4. something else?

NOSTALGIA COMIC GETS ALL NOSTALGIC

[Yellow Light]Look forward to an announcement that Mike Zeck will be doing a silent Snake Eyes story for "G.I. Joe" issue 21.

EARTH X BACK ON TRACK

Joe Krueger reports that, after discussion with Marvel, cancelled titles that would have fleshed out the final Paradise X arc are back on again.

At X-Fan's message boards, Jim wrote, "This is a follow-up to the Avenging Host being cancelled. As of this moment, Both 'A' and 'X' are cancelled and we've been told to finish the story with #12.

"But, things are going on inside editorial, the TPBS continue to make great money, and where there was a point where any further discussion seemed to be getting nowhere, things have changed. I know Bill Jemas is reading and taking your letters seriously. It is working. He's mentioned them to us. And ed. Mike Marts has talked about how many notes he's getting.

"If #12 is indeed the last issue, though, it's still going to be quite an issue. I'll explain quite a bit more later depending on where this all goes."

Krueger also commented about the absence of the planned epilogue "History X."

"As far as 'History X' goes, probably not for a while. 'History X' was to be a 4 issue Limited Series that takes place during the day after tomorrow in the current Marvel Universe and sets up a direct link to the 'future' events of Earth X.

"It's important to remember that these guys want to please the fans. I don't believe this was out of spite, and may even have been done more as a result of some number cruncher at Marvel that isn't even aware of what this series is or what it was. He just looked at 'A' and 'X' and said, let's lose the specials, not even being aware that 'X' was the conclusion of the series.

"'A' and 'X' were both cancelled at the same time. I just waited to reveal 'X' out of a sense that we still didn't have anything in paper and we should wait to see what happens.

"The good news is, though, that Alex had a conversation with Bill Jemas last night in which efforts were beginning to be made to try to conclude this series correctly. Bill is being moved by your letters and how important these stories are to you."

He then continued, "By the way, things are changing on this as we speak...

"'History X,' which I don't think Alex and I will do for a while, will be interesting compared to the others, and perhaps most like 'Kingdom Come.' What 'History X' will be (indeed if the title remains) is a bridge from current continuity to the X trilogy."

Then it went official. Jim wrote, "I can't say how this is going to work out, they be just be two regular-sized issues instead of double-sized. But your words have been heard and recognized. For all those that sent in letters, thank you. Letters of thanks should also now be sent to Jemas and Quesada.

"But, it's a lot better than it was.

"And thanks especially to Bill Jemas.

"We'll see how this all breaks down. Mr. Jemas just wants to make certain that we get a chance to conclude the project properly. I'm not saying 'A' will be called 'A' although it might. It just means, we're getting the room we need."

STREET FIGHTER AT UDON, PICTURES

[Green Light]Remember that piece last week purporting to be a Dreamwave Capcom comic illustration? Close, but no cigar.

Artist Matt Broome wrote on the Dreamwave message boards, "'Lying in the Gutters' reported incorrectly. I did that piece simply for fun last week and it's not tied to Dreamwave or Capcom in any way. I posted it on the Optical Res boards last week and, apparently, some one sent it to the columnist saying it was an official piece. If it were an official piece, I would have taken more time on it to make sure the characters were more accurate. I can only assume, since I freelance with Dreamwave, people assumed I must have done it for them."

The picture featured a number of Street Fighter characters, which I heard Udon won the rights to. Erik Ko confirmed that story and offered up ample art from this upcoming project.

[Street Fighter]

AT LEAST SOME PAGES OF BLOODSPORT HAVE BEEN DRAWN, PICTURES

[Green Light]Rob Liefeld sent some art examples from the continually-delayed "Youngblood BloodSport" to a fan website, Extreme Genesis

Also, this week, Rob stated "We are no longer distributing 'Bloodsport' first printings through Diamond, this has been made clear for several weeks."

How you'll get your copy, however, has not been made clear - nor how much extra it might cost.

At this point, a quote from Arcade Comics boss Jimmy Jay from a while ago now, on the old Spinner Rack forums. Call it nostalgia.

"Instead of jumping the gun, we want to have the work completed before we make any promises to the fans and retailers. Look in the upcoming previews, and please ask your retailers to order it."

Ah, happy days.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

[Yellow Light]Meanwhile, I hear Mark Alessi was party to an investor's seminar recently. Seems he's looking for folks to buy in, so is the money running dry… or is CrossGen becoming a good bet?

VERTIGO GETS THE AXE

[Green Light]Matt Lehman from Boston comic shop Comicopia pointed out a slight coincidence from Vertigo's output this week.

Surely Dan Didio can't be looking at Vertigo already?

WHOLLY TERROR

[Green Light]The Image Comic "Holy Terror" has been cancelled from issue 3 onwards. However, the issue will be put online at the Image Web site so that readers can finish the story.

CROSS OUT

[Green Light]Marvel Comics' "Captain Marvel" #6, which was solicited as being pencilled by ChrisCross, will now be pencilled by Paco Medina.

THE DC AXE CUTS DEEP

[Green Light]Gutterati Sway gets in touch to point out that Micah Wright, on his Delphi Forum wrote, "Yes, I've met them both and they were both nice people. Additionally, Helfer is one of the best comics writers of the 1980s -- his run on 'The Shadow,' for instance, was high hilarity.

"All that aside, I've heard from several people --writers, editors, artists, executives-- that these were two of the biggest 'rewriting' editors at DC, and I was told several times that I wanted to keep my sanity, I NEVER wanted to work with them.

"I mean, Dan Raspler rewrote Grant Morrison on 'JLA,' for Christ's sake."

"As for Andy, he's a great guy... I met him and hung out extensively with him at the San Diego Comicon last year. I never worked for him, so he never rewrote anything of mine, but I did have the strange experience of having him ask me to pitch him... and when I sent him three different proposals, one month apart on each, I never even heard so much as 'eh... I don't like it.' Just dead air, which is kinda hurtful, IMO."

JLA writer Adi Tantimedh added to that "When he was on form, Andy could be one of the best editors out there. He definitely improved and sharpened several parts of 'JLA: Age of Wonder.' He changed bits and pieces of dialogue, but I didn't object to any of it, since he and I were already of one mind on the book. He did, however, cut out the word 'socialist' in a political argument between Luthor and a young Superman, but I'd wondered whether the word would ever be included.

"Grant Morrison once told me that on his run on JLA, it got to the point where he would fax his script to Raspler as late as possible, so that Raspler couldn't rewrite him, as he had to rush it to the artists in order to make the print deadline."

STORMING ART

[Green Light]Micah Wright also backed up the solicitation that showed Whilce Portacio is no longer the regular "Stormwatch: Team Achilles" artist, with C.P. Smith taking the role.

He gave us some pencil examples.

He added "What the solicitations don't say is that the inker is BILL FREAKING SIENKIEWICZ"

Everyone is reading "Stormwatch," right? Right?

DIXON'S VERSE

[Green Light]In response to the recent Comicon Pulse interview with Jon Lewis about his upcoming storyline for Robin, Chuck Dixon wrote, "It makes me ashamed to be male.

"Yet another female comic book character who has rape in her past."

And continued in conversation, "--but is a comic book like 'Robin' the place to discuss this subject? And if the author so chooses then why use a previous established character with a ten year history and, possibly, a long future?

"Back when I was writing 'Robin' we handled the subject of date rape without there actually being a rape. Ariana simple got scared by a boy's aggressive advances and escaped what would probably have become an assault. I was under some pressure from DC to actually have Ariana raped. But I said that I didn't want that character to always have a rape incident as a part of her continuity."

He added, "The plot device is tired.

"Black Canary, the female Captain Marvel and Big Barda were all rape victims. There are many others.

"Barbara Gordon was victimised. I'm no persistantly outraged feminist, but I am sick of seeing stories where rape or beatings are used to 'explore' a character.

And when Chuck discovered about the fate of Dudley in Nightwing.

"You.


Have.


GOT.


To.


Be.


Joking.

"This post nearly drove me to break the obscenity section of the Rules of the Road. I certainly did in my office.

"I created Dudley. He's at the core of Nightwing continuity. He also has a visual unique to comics that made him a shoe-in for an unusual villain to be used in movies or TV should the opportunity arise. Kevin Spacey with his head on backwards? You got MY eight bucks.

"To kill of a character that had this much potential and history AND the participation of two creators is like hacking into my bank account and draining my kids' scholarship fund.

"I'm PRAYING this turns out to be a trick.

"But I do have participation in the character along with Scott McDaniel.

"It's an unwritten law among freelancers that you don't kill characters that one another created."

NIGHT SALES

[Green Light]So what's has the best selling comic at Borders And Noble been this week? One of those ever successful manga titles that dominate the comics charts? Could it be "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen?" How about a Daredevil volume? The recently released "X-Force?"

No.

It's IDW's "30 Days Of Night."

Well done lads.

A MAN CALLED STEVE

[Green Light]Steve Lieber recently posted about an upcoming comic project with SF/fantasy writer Sean Stewart, writer of World Fantasy Award winner 2001, Galveston, and the "A.I." webgame,

THE LAY DOWN

[Green Light]The Summer Of Layman begins. Jon Layman, Wildstorm editor famed for standing up against DC for their "Authority" changes before being swatted down by the big hand of Paul Levitz, has a couple of pieces just solicited. And Layman fans that this column is, we couldn't help but point them out. An "X-Men Unlimited" story and the "Noble Causes Extended Family" one shot.

Now, am I going to have to show you a picture of me in a "Got Layman?" shirt to make you check them out? Well do I?

SINCLAIR SPECTRUM

[Green Light]Colourist Alex Sinclair, as head of design at Wildstorm, has just become an editor. So he's a guy who knows his way around the place.

STEEL GOING ON

[Green Light]It's been a while since this column pointed out that the literal meaning of "Stalin" is "Man Of Steel" in relation to the upcoming Red Son mini-series from DC.

So, since it's on the schedules now, let's repeat it!

SURROUNDED BY COMICS!

[Green Light]Another package of trade paperbacks comes through from Mile High Comics. Only a few days from the states, good discounts, free international shipping, it's plugging up holes on my bookshelf at a fraction of the cost I'd spend ordering them through a UK store using Diamond.

Although, clearly comix-shop.co.uk is the place I go for all my new trades and stuff. Clearly.

Just want to make that clear.

NAMOR 2 DELAYED, SHOCK HORROR

[Green Light]Marvel's Namor title, part of the new Tsunami line and recipient of a 25c price tag for the first issue, have both issues 1 and 2 solicited to come out in April, two weeks apart.

At the time, it was stated this would allow for readers to buy a cheap Namor, then pick up the second issue sooner rather than later.

That was then.

"Namor" 1 has now been delayed from the 16th of April to the 23rd of April and "Namor" 2 has been delayed from the 30th of April to the 22nd of May. "Namor" 3 will now not be solicited until June shipping.

On a related note, Diamond UK tells me that it has ensured that UK retailers will indeed receive ordered copies of "Namor" 1, despite previous Diamond order forms starting that they would not.

LIFE SENTENCE

[Sentence][Green Light]Sentence is an anthology of British cartoonist work, themed around a single sentence. Each strip may only use one sentence as dialogue. Some use it very creatively, some as a title, some not at all. From Nick Abadzis, Matt Abbiss, Patrice Aggs, Malcy Duff, Tom Gauld, Gary Northfield, Dave Shelton and Mark Stafford.

You can buy it online from www.bugpowder.com/sentence as well in person at Gosh! Comics in London. It's great.

WAITING FOR PART TWO

[Green Light]Last Wednesday, the Joe Quesada Waiting For Tommy, Part One went online and caused much controversy and heated debate on the message boards of this grand internet of ours.

And not all of them were started by me.

Read Part One now and look forward to Part Two this Wednesday.

It's the most bizarre interview I've ever done.

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:rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk (which often gets full, but it'll reach me during the day)

  • 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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