Lying In The Gutters

Mon, June 2nd, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is the forty-ninth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. 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 Scott Dunbier's greasy hand - 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. I blame Philip Larkin.

TALES FROM THE SUNDERLAND

Click to enlarge.
[Green Light]Bryan Talbot's "Alice In Sunderland" is a project without a publisher. From the author of the acclaimed "Luther Arkwright," one of the most borrowed graphic novels in libraries, "A Tale Of One Bad Rat," and the inspiration for the likes of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, Bryan Talbot goes deeper into his muse with this most remarkable book.

If you're an American publisher with an interest in putting out a colour graphic novel for the masses, e-mail Bryan via james@bryan-talbot.com

"Alice In Sunderland" is a 250 page black and white with spot colour graphic novel, Bryan describes as a "Portmanteau Comic" and hopes it's "like nothing you've seen before."

Bryan continues, "The theme is Lewis Carroll and his muse, Alice Liddell, told in a dream-logic documentary style, but the book really is about history and storytelling and contains many other stories running a gamut of styles, all intricately interwoven and using the framing device of an Edwardian Music Hall. Beneath its seeming stream-of-consciousness surface is a rock-solid structure.

"Although I have been working in comics and graphic novels for many years, this will be only the second non-genre, ie mainstream fiction, book I've done. The first one was 'The Tale Of One Bad Rat," a graphic novel using a Beatrix Potter theme to explore the psychological after-effects of child sexual abuse.

"'Alice' is very different in style and content."

[Frontis Piece] [Page 6] [Page 39]

GROTH CULTURE

[Green Light]

The Fantagraphics Appeal continues apace. I've just bought a wodge of specially priced hardback Love And Rockets - and it seems I'm not alone.

Gary Groth tells me "We didn't have the manpower over the weekend to add up all the numbers and we haven't been able to process all the orders, but it appears as though we are about two thirds of the way to our goal of $80,000.

"We're now pretty optimistic that we can make it with a little more flogging.The response has been pretty overwhelming and heartening. If we can make a little more during this period of unprecedented support, we wouldn't discourage it. We still have a back debt -- royalties and profit sharing, for example, that we've slipped behind on -- that we are planning to pay off over the next 24 months and any dent we can make in that would help us over the long haul. But, if we hit the $80,000 mark, we'll be able to catch up with our printers and suppliers, and that was our immediate and essential goal."

Fantagraphics needs your help right now, or it may go away. Fantagraphics has it's critics, mainly attacking it for the snobbishness and exclusivity of its members. Well fuck that, we're all snobs about something, if Fantagraphics can help keep standards and quality high enough, this can only be good for the medium. And if Fantagraphics goes, a lot of work will go out of print, a number of other publishers will fall and the cultural impact on the medium will be heavy. It's also refreshing to hear such a company being so open about it's situation. Now, all of you, go to http://www.fantagraphics.com/cart/ and buy something. This is an order.

ULTIMATE WIZARD

[Green Light]The new Wizard doing the subscription rounds mentions an upcoming new Ultimate Marvel mini-series entitled "The Six". It's an Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimates versus the Ultimate Sinister Six concept, written by Brian Michael Bendis and pencilled by Trevor Hairsane. The roster will include Norman Osborn, Electro and Doctor Octopus.

TOP SUIT

[Yellow Light]Top Cow used to publish the works of Michael Turner. He recently left to form his own company, Aspen, creating the titles "Fathom," "Ekos" and "Soulfire."

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Their anthology title, "Aspen" #1 was meant to ship a few weeks ago. The fact that it didn't was interpreted by many as the signs of another creator making brave promises and failing to live up to them... *cough* "Bloodsport" *cough*.

Aspen, however, is the victim of something else. Posted to the Top Cow message boards, Frank Mastrumauro from Aspen wrote:

"Bottom line, 'Aspen' #1 was completed weeks ago. The entire print run of the issue was done and sent out to all the Diamond distributing centers last week. It was ready to come out this past Thursday, one week early as we had announced. We also had our convention exclusives shipped directly to the show to have for sale this weekend at the Philly con.

"Needless to say, and as most people have found out, Diamond held the book from being shipped. We just found this out along with everyone else two days ago. Reason being, we are involved in a law suit with Top Cow right now (unfortunately) which is causing Diamond to hold our books until there is some type of resolution.

"How long this will last, we don't really know. I did hear a few lucky retailers who picked their weekly books up early actually did receive their copies, but I'm not sure who or how many. I'm sure Diamond also told them to hold their books, but I'm not sure of this since I have not received any type of confirmation about it yet. All I can say is we are trying our best to ensure the comics we've worked hard to produce will come out as soon as possible.

"Also, I saw the EBAY listing for the 'Soulfire: Beginnings' book that we had made for this Philly con as well. This book was created solely for this show and is limited to only 1500 copies. It's a prelude story that leads up to 'Soulfire' #1 coming out in August.

"We're using it as a free promotional item for retailers and for fans attending our panel discussion over the weekend. Many retailers have received a copy of the book already so I'm not that surprised to see one up on EBAY so quickly. With us giving so many of these away, I'm sure there will probably be some others up there soon.

"Lastly, we will be having an official press release sent out and going up on our web site for all to see and understand what has been going on. As I'm sure you've surmised, the launch of our site has also been unfortunately delayed due to the law suit. However, we have continued to work as hard as possible to complete every book we've solicited in case things do get resolved soon and our books can begin to ship.

"We apologize for these delays because we really want everyone to have the chance to pick up our new books."

"All we want to do is make the best comics possible for you all, but we need to ensure we protect ourselves in order to do so. Hope this info helps out!"

The lawsuit is believed to concern the use of Michael Turner's character "Fathom," who Top Cow published as well as other works Top Cow claim partial ownership of license rights to.

FIRE SALE

[Yellow Light]At last week's Charity Auction at the Bristol comics convention, Dez Skinn, while getting his chops shaved for charity, told the assembled crowd that he is considering auctioning off the copy of the Eclipse contract for Marvelman/Miracleman on eBay. He again confirmed that the contract, which as of now he is reserving access to, has a reversion clause for the property after a period of non-publication.

Dez has made this allegation a number of times in the past, before then dismissing it. If true, this would mean that ownership of the character will revert to the creators (of whoever they passed their share on to). Which means Gary Leach would be majority shareholder with 60%. Dez would be on 10% and Neil Gaiman on 30%. And Todd would have nothing.

SPAWN SHOP

[Red Light]Licensed comics. Yes, that's right, everyone wants a good license. From 88MPH's "Ghostbusters" and "Tron," to Dreamwave's "Transformers," to Avatar's "Robocop", to DC's "Thundercats," everyone's looking for the next big thing.

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But no one expected to look here.

There has been a rumour circulating a number of studios, that Todd MacFarlane is to cease publishing comic books, in favour of concentrating on his far more profitable toy and statue line. The comics themselves would then be licensed out under certain restrictions to whichever studio ponied up the cash. Top Cow, Dreamwave, Avatar, Image Central whoever. Jim Valentino at Image denied any knowledge of such a deal and believed it to be very unlikely. As head honcho at Image, outside of Todd MacFarlane's gang, if anyone should know, he should. Matt Hawkins at Top Cow had a slightly different take saying "There has been a lot of talk about various scenarios, but nothing concrete yet to report".

Until then, here's a preview of some of Todd's art for the Image Tenth, sorry, Twelfth Anniversary hardcover.

Click to enlarge.

THE BOOK WAGON

[Green Light]I understand that Dean Ormston is working on a revival of "Books Of Magic" for DC/Vertigo - just in time for the next load of Pottermania to kick in.

THREE CLAWS CUT DEEPEST

[Green Light]Gutteratti Sway pointed me in the direction of Darick Robertson's message board, where Darick was responding to accolade from the art to the new first issue of "Wolverine." Darick wrote "Thank you both. Marvel has enacted some mandates that might affect the look in future issues, but the story's solid, so I hope you enjoy. Thanks for the praise."

That caused slight worry, with fans concerned Darick would have to make Wolverine conform to the prettier version portrayed in "X-Men 2."

Darick responded to one such reaction from Andrew Crossett, "I can't talk about it, because I'm under contract as an employee, but I will say that if we were playing a game show, Andrew just won the grand prize."

Darick did then however elucidate a little. "Yes, Marvel is making sick bank on their movies and there will be no explanations. I am not happy about this."

As to how this will manifest itself in the middle of a six issue story, Darick added "Remember that show 'Bewitched' and how Darren suddenly changed mid season into another Darren? Expect that."

The thread then later seemed to confirm that this was a very recent mandate, not imposed before, and that it will be applying across the Xbook range.

Expect to see Hugh Jackman's face everywhere….

Darick has written to LITG to update his previous message board comments. He writes:

"The good news is that over the weekend, I was able to sit down with the people in charge and we talked it out for the first time face to face. I was able to say everything I believe in and defend my position and they said their side and I listened. Everyone was far more amiable and open to discussion than I expected, and I appreciated that.

"In the end, it was chalked up to a communication error, and my Logan has an approved look we can all agree on. He's still going to be short and how I've drawn him in my changes is close enough. It's not going to be as jarring as I first believed it would have to be. He doesn't have to be a spot on Jackman and he remain short, just not so short and not so ugly. 'Just don't make him a troll,' I was told.

"We have a happy medium; one I can live with and I believe the fans can still respect."

X MARKS THE SPOT

[Yellow Light]John Romita Jr has denied he's leaving "Amazing Spider-Man" which left "Uncanny X-Men" as the rumoured spot that Salvador LaRocca may take up residence. Which comicscontinuum.com confirmed over the weekend - a move that some have interpreted as a slap in Claremont's face on "X-Treme X-Men," taking the artist to another book against his will, then putting him on Claremont's competition.

This currently has Salvador Larocca on issues 435-455, with Larocca drawing 16 issues and Philip Tan on 4 issues. Tan will be drawing all six issues of the "Draco" (Nightcrawler's father) arc 429-434, guest starring Mystique. Larocca will draw Trial of Juggernaught, drawn by Larocca, guest starring Alpha Flight. Look for another possible wedding in 450.

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Over on "New X-Men" 146-150, the "Planet X" arc will focus on Jean Grey. Marc Silvestri will draw the subsequent arc, part of which takes place in the future and 151 will feature Sentinels.

Look for Rogue and Gambit to return to "X-treme X-men" in number 31.

EPIC BITES

[Green Light]Movement on last week's Epic rumours… two rumours, that of Andy Khan doing "Young Ancient One" and a three-issue mini from Rob Worley collapsed into the same projects, reported by CBR here.

Merk Peyton denied he's doing "White Light" with Tony Harris for Epic, but here's a cover that's been doing the rounds.

Click to enlarge.

And after a drunken Bristol conversation, Paul O'Brien of The X-Axis and myself are going to pitch something soon…

LEX LUST

[Green Light]Something from "JLA: Age Of Wonder" issue 2 that seems to have passed by the diehards… is that really Lex Luthor shagging Wonder Woman?

PORTRAIT SIZE

[Green Light]The English version of "Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentleman" shipped from Abiogenesis Press - as a 50th Birthday present to Alan Moore, it excels, but we all get a share in the gift as well. Not only is there an all-star line-up from Jeff Smith to Jim Lee in the massive tome, but there's a uniquely European perspective, from many creators from many countries. For collectors, there's a reprint of Moore's "Meatcake" story, the Dave Sim/Alan Moore letter exchange, Steve Bissette on his life with Alan and what changed it, and even a presumptuous one-page cartoon by some fellow known as Rich Johnston. Dear me, will they let anyone in?

Buy it. If it's sold out, get your dealer to reorder it. If they never even ordered it in the first place, hit them over the head with the latest Previews.

SUPERHUMAN RESOURCES

[Green Light]Remember last week's rumour about the Lai Brothers leaving "Thor," with Scot Eaton replacing them? Turns it out was true. Too true. Sadly, Marvel hadn't got round to telling them yet. Which made for some slightly heated e-mail runarounds…

TRUTH HURTS

[Green Light]On the Millarworld forums, Bob Morales was talking about the current lateness of the "Truth" miniseries. He writes "…the splitting of the final issue into two was problematic, adding pages and altering the book's overall structure (I mean, how do you do a two-part climax?)...but I think it worked out. (I hope so.) Other reasons for the delay involved my still making up the three weeks of writing time I lost last November doing press when 'Truth' launched; plus I needed a break after the greatly depressing #5; plus Kyle finished his 'Looney Toons' gig for Warner Bros., so he moved his family back from wanly Satanic L.A. to lovely, upstate N.Y.--and Axel Alonso's wife had their sharp-looking baby. All of this was happening around the same time, so Marvel pushed the schedule back, just to be sure we didn't get retailers upset. I, for one, like retailers. Anyway, #6 is out 18 June and #7, 16 July."

As to why a double issue becoming two single issues meant for an expanding story, Bob explained "A double-issue was 38 story pages; two single issues are 44 story pages. So I had an extra six pages--a bitch to figure out; Neil Gaiman complained along with me in a recent call, because the policy change affected how he was plotting '1602' --but it gave me the impetus for the historical cameo in 'Truth' #6, which I then rewrote from top to bottom."

As to whether last week's rumour about Bob Morales taking over the regular Captain America series from issue 21 is true or not, Bob e-mailed me to say " ."

QUESTION MARKED

[Yellow Light]I'm told that the DC series rumoured the other week that Rick Veitch is working on after his Vertigo book is "The Question." Should be a no-brainer based on his recent "Greyshirt" work.

Joe Madueira may be returning to comics for one last project, "Street Fighter" from Udon.

Simon Furman has resigned his role at Titan Books and gone freelance. Well, with sales of his "Transformers" titles regularly topping 100,000 in preorders, wouldn't you?

THE REASON WHY SO MANY MARVEL TITLES ARE NOW AT $2.99

[Yellow Light]Marvel executives have been cashing in what with Marvel stock booming. A recent run down of insider dealings show director James Halpin helping himself to twelve hundred thousand dollars after selling up share options, Chief Executive Officer Allen Lipson trousering two and a quarter million, President Alan Fine getting around seven and a half million, Officer Richard Ungar on three and a half million, director Mortan Handel on just over two million, director Sidney Gannis getting a gut-wrenchingly low three quarters of a million, director Lawrence Mittman pulling in just under two million and Publisher Bill Jemas netting himself a very cool four and a half million and more. Click on the link to check my figures.

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This pales, of course, to the reputed 42 million dollars worth of shares reported to be owned in AOL Time Warner by Paul Levitz.

TOMMY TREATS

[Green Light]Did you catch John Layman's Waiting For Tommy interview where he talked quite candidly about "The Authority?" No? Well, you should. Then check out this week's article into the Great Comics Conspiracy and how we are all doomed to be postmen. Then this Wednesday, tune in to Tommy for a round table discussion, political shouting match and general oddness between Joe Quesada, Nick Barrucci, Mark Millar, Brian Bendis and… well… me.

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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