Lying In The Gutters

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

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Send This to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.

This is the fifty-seventh 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 a slice of homemade apple crumble 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 the BBC.

The column has fallen back on bad habits this week and has stuffed itself rather. Lots of long, heavy, fatty high-calorie articles, with a few snacks in between. I've been bad, real bad...

UPDATE! UPDATE! An analysis of some of the stories within this column, new details, spin from both sides, details of dialogue from Ike Perlmutter and Bill Jemas and more can be found in a very special Waiting For Tommy, online right now.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BILL JEMAS

[Yellow Light]This has not been a good week for Bill Jemas on the rumourfront.

Right, before we start, my contacts with Bill Jemas have been very friendly, he's an exec who likes to mix it with the low-life, he's made some very smart and very publicity-minded decisions, kicked some controversy around the place, he's taken hard decisions, followed them through, and pulled them back when they appear not to be working. And overall, he's lifted sales from where they were.

He's also put himself out as an Aunt Sally for those who dislike Marvel's policies and attitude, to give a good kicking. He's promoted those policies in a dictatorial fashion, mocking those who might oppose him, and generally acting like he owns the show. He's often responded to e-mails from retailers and members of the public directly. An abrasive personality, he has more in common with the likes of Jim Shooter - except he hasn't been seen to have paid his "dues" as Shooter was. And of course, he's a suit.

Supposedly, the week before the Comic-Con, Ike Perlmutter (one of the owners of Marvel -- the guy who saw the Bullpen playing D&D during their lunch break and demanded that they stop -- marched into Bill Jemas's office and demanded that he get the fuck out of Editorial and leave them alone.

Slapdowns of this type come from the West Coast. That's where the Princess Diana -out-of-X-Statix change came from - it seems Avi Arad's relationship with actors, producers and directors suffered after they saw all the mainstream press, said "Hey, I knew Diana...what the hell are you doing to her in your comic books?"

I understand that one retailer, sick of responses he'd received from Bill Jemas, also wrote directly to Ike Perlmutter. Ike then spent some time on the phone with the retailer in question, listening to his complaints - the way he felt he was being treated, and had a few more words with Bill.

Perhaps the Waid fallout was reaching folks trying to get the FF movie made? Maybe all of the online Jemas bashing was reaching investors or Hollywood folks by way of Harry Knowles?

Related to this is the rumour, mentioned by a slew of people, over the shouting match that went down at San Diego Comic Con between Joe Quesada and Grant Morrison. Or rather from Joe to Grant, one phrase "You owe me!" being the most repeated on the convention floor the day after. Quesada had found out about the DC exclusive deal and he took it out on Grant with expletives that were definitely MAX labelled.

Reports indicate that Grant kind of shut down and went into a mini-coma, but did give out one response "Fuck You, Fuck your company, and Fuck your boss who's the biggest arsehole I've ever met."

Quesada is then meant to have responded "Don't worry about him, because he'll be gone soon."

It just doesn't seem to have been Bill's week. I'm told there are big changes at Marvel. Quite possibly a bit of a shake up. And less micro-management in weeks to come.

BOY WONDER

[Yellow Light]"Marvel Boy" 2 was also mentioned as a sticking point between Grant Morrison and Marvel. That's the project this column originally rumoured as being blocked because Grant wouldn't make changes requested by Bill Jemas. The rumour that Joe Quesada denied in private e-mails to fans, saying that Grant just hadn't written the series yet. Which Grant seemed to dispel at San Diego, saying that Marvel thought his proposal was too "cosmic."

WIZARD'S SLEEVE

[Yellow Light]I'm told that Joe Quesada is more determined than ever to top DC at WizardWorld Chicago (attended by yours truly - find me at Dynamic Forces' booth). Expect more exclusive announcements such as Humberto Ramos and new projects from the likes of Brian Bendis. Maybe even Neil Gaiman's new Marvel project. But don't expect to see Marvel at a convention organised by someone other than WizardWorld - it appears an informal exclusive arrangement between the two companies has been reached. But just what are DC planning?

WORLD'S FINEST

[Yellow Light]So who are going to be the new creative teams on Superman?

I hear that DC are hoping their Superman news will blow whatever Marvel's Chicago announcements out of the water - but they seemed to have been in flux lately.

I'm also aware of disinformation being planted, DC's ambitions being mistaken for DC's achievements by some, and a general level of confusion. Be warned. No really, be warned.

Earlier in the week, I was handed this list:

"Action Comics" - Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

"Superman" - Jeph Loeb and Art Adams

"Superman Adventures" - Chuck Austen and Pascual Ferry

And was told there might be an extra "Superman" project, the already-mentioned Busiek and Garney book.

There was also vague talk about Mark Waid's "Birthright" being continued, giving him a technically monthly title, without falling foul of Paul Levitz' edict that he never write the character on one of the monthly books.

I was told that much-Superman-rumoured Grant Morrison had turned "Adventures" down. He wanted to make significant changes, which Paul Levitz couldn't guarantee - apparently they're looking for people who'll give Superman what Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee gave the character - playing with its world, but not changing the status quo.

When Morrison bowed out, Chuck Austen was DC's chosen replacement, though Grant was still planning to write for the DC Universe a Captain Marvel Jr. mini-series using some of his Superman ideas. I was also told that Jeph Loeb was wavering over signing on with similar editorial concerns.

There was also worry that DC wanted an announcement soon, but didn't feel Jim Lee could deliver unless he gets a big head start. The initial launch would have been November, now January, but this might get put back into again.

Then, later in the week, I was told that things had changed big time, thanks to the intervention of Dan DiDio. That he's been promising talent creative freedom. That Paul Levitz won't touch the editorial, it will be DiDio's responsibility. That current Marvel salaries will be doubled, if the people move exclusively to DC. And that he was looking at Marvel's A-list.

Suddenly Morrison was back on. And the teams were:

"Adventures of Superman": Grant Morrison and Art Adams. Art can only do five issues a year, the intention is to get Adam Kubert to do the other seven.

"Superman": Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee.

A mystery team from "elsewhere" for Action Comics- maybe a Marvel team that DC have swiped under their noses. DC are trying to secure Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch as, exclusive or otherwise, Hitch to leave "Ultimates" after issue 13.

With Millar and Hitch's two year exclusive deal ending in September, and both committed to continue working together as a team, there could be quite a scrap over the two of them. If nothing else, it will help renegotiating contracts with Marvel.

And a fourth title - I am told by multiple sources that DC want to get JMS and John Romita Jr. as exclusive creators, and on this book. And they have offered similar deals.

But JMS had a little something to say about this little rumour. NOTE: These comments were made in light of raw, earlier rumours, stating that JMS was going to move to DC, rather than DC were trying to get him to move.

"Okay, I am now going to go mau-mau over this.

"I don't know who at DC is spreading this rumor, which has been coming my way now for the past few weeks, but if I find out who it is, that person needs to know that I will not only sue him into another incarnation, I will bankrupt him from end to end. I consider this deliberate interference in my work using false and malicious information and I will take this person apart inch by inch.

"Let me set the record absolutely straight on this one while doing the best I can to contain my temper.

"At WonderCon, Jeph Loeb said, on a panel, that if I ever left Marvel, there was a Superman title waiting in my future. I replied that they would have a long wait ahead of them because I was inestimably happy with my situation at Marvel.

"That...THAT...is the sum total of ANYthing that ANYone at DC has EVER said to me on the subject. There have been no negotiations, no tentative feelers, no phone calls, no emails, no discussions, no deals, no *nothing*.

"Not only have I not agreed to any such thing, I have never even been formally approached on the issue. This entire rumor has been created wholecloth from thin air. And the reason they HAVEN'T come after me is very simple: you don't ask someone on a date if you know they won't go.

"Yes, I have a two-year contract with Marvel, which I'm about halfway through. No, I have no intention of leaving, even assuming that there were loopholes that I could use to get out. It doesn't matter if we even HAVE a contract. I gave Joe Quesada my word, and I consider that as much my bond as anything I've ever had put in writing. They have given me complete artistic freedom, have supported me and the work without fail, have backed every one of my plays; they've never lied to me and they've never touched my words. That carries substantial weight with me.

"Understand: DC KNOWS this. They KNOW that I won't leave Marvel. I don't care if they offer me TEN times what Marvel pays me. I'm at Marvel for as long as we have a deal, and as long as Joe Quesada remains there. I came to work for Marvel specifically so I could work with Joe, because I respect what he's done, the damned hard work he's done repairing Marvel's relationship with the artistic community, how far he's pulled Marvel from what it was, to what it is. As long as we have a deal, and as long as Joe's there, I'm there. End of discussion.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is a disinformation campaign from someone at DC who is trying to knock the pins out from under Marvel, potentially causing their stock to slide or otherwise interfere with their business practices, and using my name as part of this process. Be advised that I do NOT take this lightly, and whoever's doing this, if you're reading this, understand: I'm gunning for you. Because if there WERE any hints of a negotiation, any emails, then one could say, "Well, I misunderstood, I thought maybe he was interested, it's an honest mistake."

"But since there have NOT been ANY such communications that one could misconstrue or hear, then one is left with only one possibility: this person is lying through his teeth and attempting to do harm.

"So no, this is not true. It is so patently UNtrue as to be laughable were it not so vile, malicious, invidious and mean-spirited. If your "source" thinks this "very reliable," then let him put his face out where I can see it, and be prepared to back this up in a court of law or the alley behind the DC offices...otherwise shut the fuck up.

"Right. Now.

"That answer your question?"

So that's a "no," then Joe?

Thankfully, DC have the likes of Bill Willingham or Mark Waid as reserve creators if these plans fall through. But even they aren't bad reserves to have!

So who else do DC want? Well, years after turning him down, DC want Brian Michael Bendis as an exclusive creator. I have it confirmed they went after Bendis for the Batbooks.

I heard they want him to write "Detective Comics" with Alex Maleev on art and Batman And Robin with Mark Bagley on art. But neither artist will move exclusively to DC without Bendis and currently, he's not budging.

Bendis would only comment that he had had overtures from DC for Batman but told me that contract or no, he's not leaving Marvel, the company who gave him a big break when others wouldn't - and he has his own exciting news lined up for Chicago.

And, again, useful for any renegotiation. Bruce Jones is also being courted as an exclusive creator for the "Batman" title.

I'm told that the DC Universe, if DC got their way, would also see new exclusive DC creators Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco on "JLA," and an exclusive JMS writing "Green Lantern." Except of course that's not very likely is it? But with Chris Bachalo also being courted, there's even talk of a Morrison/Bachalo "Batman" book), DC are definitely attempting to steal all of Marvel's big guns by paying them more and more money until they crack.

And again, issues creators may have had with DC are being placated not only with money, but with the promise of a lack of traditional DC intervention. Looks like we'll see how successful DC's negotiation has been at Chicago... or beyond... or if indeed there's any truth in the people they've been going after.

Remember, not JMS. Or Bendis.

THE COLD WAR

[Yellow Light]DC seem to be gloating in all of this. They see themselves as taking back the mantle of being the coolest company to work for. With the end to what has been seen by some as a price-freeze at the company for freelancers, the signing of a number of high profile exclusives and a recent domination of the newswires, while Marvel cancelled what could have been their own media-breakthrough story, the revival of Princess Diana.

This is clearly an attempt by DC to steal Marvel's glory and transplant it onto its own moribund universe. For DC to recognise its own weaknesses, then convert them in a stroke. To basically take everything Joe Quesada has built up at Marvel and buy it, "Citizen Kane" style. How much they succeed will come down to how much loyalty creators feel to Marvel, how much money and creative opportunity DC will offer, and how stable that offer will end up.

And because it's not DC's primary motivation to turn an instant profit, and they've got cash reserves they can dip into, the sky could well be the limit.

Previous to this, most of DC's more energetic, vibrant and "cool" books were from Wildstorm, on the other side of the country. Their lauded "Batman" revamp was safe - it gets the sales but reviews have not been glowing. But just how many times can you revamp a character by getting Jim Lee to draw it? Clearly things are changing, at both Houses.

Marvel, despite criticisms over how they handle talent, continue to push their books into new and interesting directions, accepting there will be failures along the way. But without many of the A-list at their disposal, how many risks will they be able to take?

Maybe it'll be a chance of Marvel to clear out what are known as the New Dinosaurs, creative talent who've been around for a short while but have taken all the top jobs, seemingly on a permanent basis. Could this be the chance for the likes of Josh Middleton, Andi Watson, Gail Simone, Sean McKeever and others to take the company's lead titles?

It'll be interesting to see how this develops.

NEW G-MEN

[Yellow Light]With some vague talk that Neil Gaiman is being courted by Marvel to take over Grant Morrison on "New X-Men," and even some talk that he might be snapped up by Dan DiDio first, Gaiman clarified his position to me. Well, kind of clarified.

"Well, the Marvels and Miracles deal calls for me to do two projects for Marvel. '1602' is the first; that's almost done, and last month Marvel top brass started to ask about the next one. What Marvel Project #2 will be hasn't been decided yet, although there are several frontrunners, each of which spins out of, or into, 1602 in a different sort of way, and each of which is set in the here and now.

"Because '1602' grew in the telling, Marvel Project #2 will be shorter than 1602. That, at this point, is the only thing that's certain.

"There won't be a DC exclusive contract (not that they've asked for one, or I've asked for one), mostly because there are several signed book contracts out there that publishers on both sides of the Atlantic have, very kindly, not yet got around to coughing and tapping their fingers impatiently about, but if I don't start writing the next two novels (one for adults, one for children) soon, they will. So once the current round of comics work is done ('1602,' 'Endless Nights,' Marvel Project #2) that will be that for original comics work for, in all probability, 4- 5 years to come, while I catch up on writing and delivering all the other things people are waiting for. (Although if we can clear the way to getting 'Miracleman' republished and continued, I'd obviously write that for whoever's publishing it.)"

Thanks, Neil.

THE GREEN HOUSE

[Green Light]Erik Larsen has announced on his Forum that Dragon, star of "Savage Dragon" will be standing for President. In his comic that is. Larsen writes "...Dragon won't be affiliated with ANY existing party and will get shut out of the debates just like anybody who isn't in the big two. It should be interesting--and several really cool cover images are already in my head that are priceless so--hey, why NOT?"

As to whether he wins or not - that may well be down to the readers…

I don't know. I don't think the country is ready for a green President yet.

STAN THE MAN

[Yellow Light]Oh this one's been doing the rounds. Stan Lee's company on the night of the Eisner's has caused some commotion. Namely a lady wearing a skirt split up the front and back - and not wearing any underwear. Apparently being worn sideways, the shouts of "face front true believer" and "excelsior" weren't as directed at Stan Lee as he might have liked. And the cluster of fanboys around the stairs was shameful.

THE GIGGLE LOOP

[Green Light]The DC Comics: Taking It To The Next level panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego caused quite a lot of comment, mainly from Americans.

A number seemed quite shocked that certain panellists appeared to be drunk or under the influence of something. Or, it could just be that it was a hot, dehydrated Saturday. And the resulting "distracting monkey business" turned Bob Wayne's presentation into a bit of a farce.

However, Dan DiDio was able to confirm the rumour we reported recently, that "Thunder Agents" is dead at DC, saying "It's not gonna happen." He then continued to be visibly irritated and distracted by the clowning around going on around him.

Mark Waid was on full promotional alert however, enthusiastically talking about his projects while everyone else was giggling or slumped, he was on full promo alert.

Colleen Doran falling asleep on the panel, then waking up to deliver what onlookers called an "incoherent babble" probably didn't help.

No, what the audience wanted were happy, smiling robots. They got comic book creators instead.

BLOODY NOSE

[Green Light]Oh gods, apparently I'm mentioned in "Youngblood" 2. If they draw me looking like Harry Knowles, I'll sue.

WORDS AND PICTURES

[Green Light]That wacky Brazilian Alan Moore Web site has done it again. Here's a page from the upcoming SMAX by Alan Moore and Zander Cannon, and you can read a page of Alan Moore script for "Smax" here and from the first issue of "Top Ten" here.

MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES

[Green Light]With DC having such fun at conventions of late, maybe you'd like to work for them? They're currently advertising a Senior Vice President of Media Development position and a run-of-the-mill Editor job. So all those Marvel staffers who've been complaining to me of late, here's your chance!

A GENERATION APART

Erik Larsen and John Byrne have been launching digs at each other from their respective fora, thanks to community-minded fans posting quotes from each other, on each others boards. Causing all sorts of trolls, bullet-takers and stirrers to jump up and offer their interpretations.

Larsen critiqued George Perez work on the Comicon panels. When a summary of this was repeated on Byrne's forum, Byrne then began to abuse Larsen. He also repeated a story he was told by a pro at a convention, claiming to be an uncredited background artist for Larsen, then continued to castigate Larsen's career and reputation. These posts were then passed between Byrne and Larsen's forum, leading Larsen to post his own attacks on John Byrne, then respond directly on Byrne's forum.

It's still going on, so why not join in the fun and watch two of the industry's more motormouth comic creators tear lumps out each other? Here, here and here are good places to start. As is John Byrne's non-apology apology.

After a while, they tend to blur - it's intriguing to see how alike they are.

IF SIDNEY MELLON WAS A WOMAN

On her Superlime forum, Heidi MacDonald outlined the recent employment of new and controversial reviewer, Jess Lemon.

"Why does everyone think that Jess is a she? I've stated several times that it's a guy. For the record, Jess' dad, Edwin Coaster, writes for VANITY FAIR, and before coming to the PULSE, Jess was an intern for Joe Bob Briggs. And I have to thank the Onion's Jean Teasdale for recommending Jess."

That would be VANITY FAIR's's fictitious codger columnist "Edwin Coaster," the actor John Bloom's TV commentator character "Joe Bob Briggs," and THE ONION's "Jean Teasdale"? Would it? All US pseudonymous satirists?

A fine heritage. Heidi went on to further confirm the reviewer's fictional status. And the fact that so many people clearly are lacking in the sense of humour or suspension of disbelief department.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY UK

[Green Light]The Free Comic Book Day in the UK has been a flop. Both times.

One of the principle reasons is that, outside the US, the books become very expensive. The same airfreight shipping has to be paid on a 10-cent comic as on a 3 dollar one. Which can make the whole exercise far more costly and unwieldy.

So, a suggestion to all involved parties. Delay the UK/Australia/South Africa/Anywhere serviced by Diamond UK Free Comic Book day by two or three months.

Instead of putting those books on the plane, put them on a boat. And dramatically reduce shipping costs.

Might even be able to line it up with "Spider-Man 2"… just like Joe Quesada always wanted.

PLUGGING IN THE GUTTERS

[Green Light]Last Wednesday's Waiting For Tommy featured a very open and candid interview with Dan Fraga. How he flew like Icarus, fell and is now rebuilding his wings. I've had e-mails from people who felt moved to tears. Take a hanky.

I am currently surrounded by large wodges of graphic novels from www.comix-shop.co.uk - I may not come out for a few weeks.

I am writing a WAP site thing for people with decent mobile/cell phones. Short bursts of fictional media pitches. The first one, a Friends spinoff, "Gunther Stalks Rachel" is at http://www.tagtag.com/pitches went up on Sunday. I hope to get up a new one every day.

Yes, I'll be at WizardWorld Chicago. Find me (quite a bit) at the Dynamic Forces table, who are flying me over. Buy their statues, collectables and knickknacks. And if you want to print out an LITG or a WFT, bring it along and I'll happily sign it.

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.

Discuss this column on the Lying In The Gutters Forum.

Lying In The Gutters Home | Lying In The Gutters Archives

 
Lying In The Gutters