Lying In The Gutters

Sun, April 27th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is the forty-fourth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. And I'm still flogging me eBay auctions. This billion dollars they've had in since the beginning of the year? I've been most of that, but the free shipping I keep giving has knocked my profits down to about a couple of quid. Where was I? Oh yes, rumour column. At all times, 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 increasing irony - 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 eBay.

RUSSIAN PROMOTION

[Yellow Light]There have been a number of allegations floating around that DC Comics have decided not only to not promote "Superman: Red Son," but that they will not set up interviews or send out any information about the project to journalists who make enquiries. Indeed, I'm told both the Sunday Times and Rolling Stone were rebuffed after approaching DC about the project.

Well there's an easy way to test such wild and scurrilous rumours.

A Mr Dave B Robinson, a freelance writer for popular men's magazine Maxim, wrote to Adam Philips at DC, who deals with the comics trade press. Excited at the prospect of getting Maxim coverage, it was outside his jurisdiction, so he passed the word onto Peggy Burns, who deals with the traditional press.

Mr Robinson heard nothing more from Burns, so he again prodded Philips telling him this. Philips said he's look into it, but nothing more was heard.

Meanwhile a Jeremy Michaels from the New York Times made inquiries directly to Peggy Burns, only to receive no response.

A similar fate fell on a Marcus Conroy, representing The Washington Post who, again, sent emails to Ms Burns, but received no reply.

A little strange, considering Millar is Marvel's top boy - DC aren't usually so reticent when it comes to publishing stuff from creators that are a hit elsewhere. Usually helps them grab a few sales off the competition.

However I understand that Mark Millar was told he wouldn't get any trade ads for the project, after his outspoken comments about the "Authority," Wildstorm and DC, and his decision to sign a deal with Marvel rather than take the in house position offered to him, but an information boycott seems a little cutting-nose. Certainly there was a Wizard full page ad recently, and a piece in AOL-TW owned Entertainment Weekly.

Millar told me "I don't know. It's just weird. I saw this last week and hoped it wasn't true, but it seems like they're telling journalists they're doing no promotion from the book at a time when comics need all the press we can get. If they've got this grudge against me that's one thing (although quite odd considering how much of a presence I have in the top ten), but if this really is true then it's grossly unfair towards artists Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett and Andrew Robinson. These guys spent literally years drawing this book and it's awful to think they're hurting their earning capacity just to make a point to me. To be honest, I don't even want to think about it. The news story's going to be everywhere this week anyway. It's a good project, I think people are going to get behind it and hopefully this thing with DC won't be a problem. I still have friends at the place. I think they've hired some great new people recently (I've got a lot of respect for Dan Didio and what he's trying to do over there) so I'm not not interested in any accusations. The book's going to do well. That's all that matters."

As for The Sunday Times, well, I'm told a journalist wouldn't take no for an answer and found Mark Millar through his website. The most recent edition published a feature story on the comic yesterday, announcing that Superman has been reinvented as a "weapon of mass destruction" along with choice segments such as, "Millar says his Superman vilifies America's 'unethical foreign policy' in the aftermath of the war on Iraq" and quotes Millar as saying "Drawing images of Superman tearing down the stars and stripes and kicking in the White House doors with a hammer and sickle on his chest is the equivalent of making a joke about Princess Diana at her funeral."

The Scottish Sunday Times has followed up with an additional opinion piece by Millar where he writes "By comparison, DC Comics (Marvel's main rivals and the publishers and owners of Superman) has all but collapsed in the market it used to dominate. Propped up by everything from Superman toothbrushes to Batman pyjamas, its publishing figures are at a historic all-time low and its Superman character sells less in an international market than some newspapers do in a small city such as Glasgow."

And I hear it's all about to hit the wires, so expect versions of this piece in newspapers across the globe.

You know, if DC had press managed this, they might have been able to sell a different spin…

However, as of Sunday night, they certainly were promoting the book online, right here. In case it gets changed, this was how it looked. Oh dear.

Mark Millar can also be seen gracing digital television screens this week, on May 2nd from 7pm to 9pm as part of Dynamic Forces telesales bonanza on QVC. Naturally Nick Barrucci will be hyping himself up there, even if you don't buy any of the prestige, limited, signed, etc X-Men stuff they'll be flogging like Del Boy and Rodney, it's worth tuning in to watch the poor man sweat.

Mark Millar will also probably be seen disgracing himself on the streets of Pimlico afterwards.

Of course this fuss has all been nicely timed to coincide with the ordering schedule for "Trouble" from Epic, but hey, if Peter David can do this sort of thing, so can Millar.

MOVIE HIJACKED

[Green Light]

Got a web browser window open? Good. Type www.xmen.com in the URL space. Where would you expect it to take you? Marvel? Fox? No.

Bizarrely, a week or so ago it seemed to redirect to the site for Things From Another World, the comics retailer owned by Dark Horse's Mike Richardson.

But now? Porn. Damn porn.

DIDDY IRVING

[Green Light]This column has made no bones about the fact that we like Frazer Irving, artist for a variety of "2000AD" ventures, "Authority" and more. Now many believe his first work in comics was "The Man Who Could Fly." A small press publication from the early nineties. Not so.

We've uncovered a letter written by that chap to the UK comic "Hulk Weekly" when, we reckon, he must have been about four years old.

"Superfabshalous" and "lucymunsious" indeed, Frazer.

JOHN'S LEAGUE OF AMERICA

[Green Light]On John Byrne's message board, Byrne gave a few more details on his upcoming "JLA" arc. Aside from confirmed, it's now definitely happening and it will be five, possibly six issues long. He described a new way of working on the project, looking at the breaks between issues and then creating scenes to go between. Byrne said that the JLA characters he could use were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Jon), Flash, Atom, J'Onn J'Onzz, Manitou Raven and Faith. He also said that both the main villain and most of the other guest stars would be new characters.

TOO MUCH! STORY!

[Green Light]There have been a number of criticisms of Marvel house style of late, over not enough story in each issue, work being "padded" so it takes up more issues, with an eye to getting a trade paperback out of it.

At Wondercon, Geoff Johns stated that after writing one of his first Avengers scripts, it was sent back for having "too much story." He then cut the script in half, padded it out a bit, and made two issues out of it.

He was then not surprised to see reviews saying that not enough happened in the comic. He agreed.

When a version of this was posted on an AOL board, Tom Brevoort confirmed Johns' account, saying "I would have chosen a different way to describe all this, but yes, that's essentially accurate."

DRAGON LANCED

[Red Light]Jim Valentino writes to tell Lying In the Gutters that, despite last week's

certainly well-sourced rumour, "while it HAS been brought up to me, there are

NO plans at present (or in the immediate/forseeable) future for a 'fantasy

line' headed up by Roaring Studios or anyone else. And 'Dragon Lance' has NOT

been approved for publication. I intend to have some words with Mr. Dable

about this as well. This is NOT the way things are done and I do not like

people making 'announcements' that are not true as if they're going to

'force' me into something."

Regular readers are reminded that this is a rumour column, and that sources

often have their own agendas. And that this column is as interested in

stomping on rumours as well as passing them around for comment.

Oh, and is everyone here buying Jack Staff from Image? You should be...

KNIGHT MARE

[Yellow Light]

With Epic Comics providing Marvel with a large variety of different takes on the Marvel Universe and also providing titles for a lot less money, just how will Marvel big wigs look upon the higher-target, higher-cost Marvel Knights imprint? Especially if one or two of those Epic titles start to outsell the Knights? Can the higher rates be justified?

WOLF BOY

[Green Light]Dan Brereton at his Web site has told his adoring fans, "I'm also doing covers for an upcoming 'Vampirella' miniseries, as well as painting a dozen covers for a group of mini-series based on an upcoming feature (from Sony pictures) called 'Underworld,' a sort of vampires vs. werewolves war with shakesperean overtones. I think Kate Beckinsale is the lead - she plays a vampire warrior who falls for a werewolf boy- something along those lines- its going to be fun."

Hoorah!

DISCOUNTED OPTIONS

[Yellow Light]The news that Games Workshop has successfully banned online retailers from selling their product, and distributors such as Diamond and Alliance have been told not distribute to such retailers may have some interesting repurcussions. I hear that fearing discounted stock and a troubled marketplace, a number of other companies, including comics companies, have taken note. Expect similar restrictive actions from a number of places in the coming year - WizKids' attempt last year to ban online retailers from conventions because they sold below the recommended retail price may be more successful from now on.

FINALLY FINAL SHIPPING DATE. PERHAPS.

[Yellow Light]Rob Liefeld has told his legions of fans that, regarding the late shipping of "Youngblood Bloodsport" and "Alias," "we'll be sending both 'B-Sport' and 'Alias' to the printers at mid-April for end of April-first week of May. They will arrive the same week regardless."

So what's been the delay? Well, licensing issues have been mentioned for "Alias," and creative burden coupled with Diamond's policies for "Bloodsport," but here's a curio…

Rob appears to be recreating/lightboxing old covers, to sell for a few hundred bucks. It's being sold by the same individual who was selling signed Bloodsport Bootlegs on Rob's behalf, in order to raise money for the comic's publication.

TALKING OF EBAY

Currently onto my third wave of eBay auctions. Lots of Concrete, JLA, Sandman, Green Arrow, Strangers In Paradise, Transmet, Strangehaven, Wildcats, Kane, Authority and Hellboy. One more wave to go, then it's off to sell them for a pound. Anyone want to buy runs of Cerebus or Bacchus at all? And if and Londoners fancy popping over one evening/weekend for a delve at very cheap take-em-away rates, give me a shout.

THE COLD WAR OF COMICS

This seems to have gone down awfully well. An analysis of current Marvel and DC activity, what it means for the industry, creators, retailers and fans. It's time to pick a side folks, at this week's Waiting For Tommy. And hopefully Chris Claremont or Axel Alonso on Wednesday...

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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