Lying In The Gutters

Wed, August 13th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Just woken up. This column would have been sooner but the whole sleep-jetlag thing decided it wanted to get cocky.

This is the fifty-ninth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's mostly-favourite 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. Just ask Paul Jenkins. Take everything you read with a rock of sea salt 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 Nick Barrucci for encouraging me.

THANKING NICK

[Green Light]Firstly - a big thank you to Nick Barrucci of Dynamic Forces for flying me out from London to WizardWorld Chicago. And many thanks to the Dynamic Forces staff for making me feel so welcome while I was there, at their booth, and when people kept coming by to meet me…

Sadly this Wednesday's planned Chicago Con Camerama Waiting for Tommy special has had to be cancelled, due to a lost/stolen digital camera. Curses. 60 beautiful shots of the most bizarre costumes, the hotel district, Kevin Smith in full fellatio mime, Jim Lee posing with his poker trophy in front of a very relaxed Alex Ross and Mark Millar, Patty Jeres Goddess Power Shot, Jim Lee (again) pointing his cake slicer at the camera, Heidi MacDonald in the pink, The Incredible Doran, mini-Tony Panaccio beneath his CrossGen Tower Of Power, all lost to the fates of Chicago…

So… let's revive the Camerama from your perspective - why not send in your Chicago photos? Click on Feedback, attach them, send them on before Wednesday… captions welcome. Initial audience estimates are just under 50,000… so there's a good chance you might be there!

And do make sure you read last Wednesday's Stan Lee book Waiting for Tommy. The Stan Lee movie pitches from the seventies are a hoot!

THANKING PAUL

[Red Light]Another big thanks to Paul Jenkins for making me quite the topic of conversation at WizardWorld from Friday on. A chance meeting with my fellow countryman, while I was catching up with Bendis and Millar (pronounced like Frank Miller, everyone…) at the Marvel booth led to a torrent of abuse and threats of violence spewed in my direction, in front of the Marvel crowds. Jenkins believed that, online, I had personally abused the parents of one of his fellow creators, made even more tasteless by the individual's personal circumstances.

The fact that I had no knowledge of this incident didn't seem to matter, nor that he wasn't sure where, online, it had taken place or indeed what exactly I'd said. The only explanation I could proffer was that maybe I'd talked about the creators use of "parenthesis" but that was soon dismissed. I'll be contacting the named creator shortly to see if I can shed some light on the affair and clear this matter up. Because I'm still flummoxed.

I thought I'd managed to smooth things over with Jenkins later that night - although the snooker cue in his hand at the time may have helped, but I heard that this didn't seem to be the case.

If nothing else, it nicely divided the convention into two camps. And gave everyone something to talk about.

THANKING THEIR LUCKY STARS

[Yellow Light]Bendis and Millar (remember, pronounced like Frank…) were happy just to berate me for not knowing the story about their "Ultimate Fantastic Four" series before it was announced. What could I do but plead inadequacy and tell them that at least I knew about Bendis' upcoming Secret Wars series and Millar's soon-to-be-announced Marvel title with Terry Dodson. It's not the same, I know, but it did cause them both to stutter briefly, before Paul Jenkins saved them both…

THANKING MARVEL

[Yellow Light]Gutterati JoJo tells me that one prominent DC editor brazenly approached Josh Middleton at Chicago, with an outright offer. Come to DC and do Batman. Oh, and that Vertigo would be happy to publish and support "Sky Between Branches" if he did so.

Josh declined, citing happiness at Marvel.

JoJo also tells me that Darwyn Cooke is also Marvel-bound after his "New Frontier" project is concluded.

See, it's not just DC-everything…

CREATOR DISOWNED

[Green Light]Marvel's decision to abandon any pretence that Epic will have creator owned titles is behind the number of creator-owned titles that Mark Millar now has with so many other publishers. And also the reason John Romita Jr. has taken his book to Image.

I talked to John earlier in the week and he told me "Yeah, sure. It looks like I'll be taking the project elsewhere! Marvel has graciously allowed me to shop it around. No hard feelings, honestly! It might be Image that I work with. Ironic, isn't it?"

It was rather. After all, when Image started John was vehement in his position about staying at Marvel, a company that had shown loyalty to him.

Romita told me, "If Marvel had come up with a creator owned contract...I wouldn't be speaking about this." Mind you he also said, "but I deny any reference to hot fudge Sundays!"

Image look like they'll be taking quite a few more books from marvel's A-list with this clarification of Marvel's stance.

Marvel's position on creator-owned titles seems to have come from the top - namely Avi Arad. Publishing books that Marvel isn't in a position to sell as movies didn't go over too well. And one line I was given from a Marvel big wig was "we don't want another Moonshadow" - the book that Marvel published, then DC later republished and collected. Although, you know, that was only because Marvel didn't want to republish it…

CROSSGEN DEADPOOL

[Yellow Light]One topic I repeatedly heard discussed was how long CrossGen will survive. Okay, they've been saying it for 3 years now, and CrossGen has kept on surviving, but hey. Both rival publishers, freelancers and staff members have expressed uncertainty, and recent problems of non-payment and late payment to freelancers, printers and other suppliers of late, have been seen as symptoms of a financial malaise.

Robin Riggs has just broken ranks and gone public with non-payment on the inkers board about seriously late unpaid work that's been published by CrossGen. And this story has echoed from other creators over the last few months.

However, the films seem to be going ahead, with major creative talents behind them. One movie contact told me they were discussing CrossGen with a Warner Brothers executive who had signed a number of titles up, telling him "well, they're cheap." CrossGen's insistence on delivering low option figures, combined with the guaranteed employment of directors and showrunners gives each project an initial low bottom line, but a contract that means the studio has to start spending money on a project within months. Clever. DC should steal it, it's clearly worked with Warner Brothers.

And their trick of telling directors that they're only guidance on a project is not to let it suck, sees them then choosing to turn to the books for inspiration, rather than as often happens, take the books and see what they can change.

The diversity of the CrossGen books helps as well. With "Pirates Of The Caribbean" doing so well, remind me, which comic book company has a pirate comic book in pre-production? And expect "Way Of The Rat" to be first out of the gate.

The question is whether CrossGen can hang on long enough for the movies to make a difference, and provide an audience for all the new methods of distribution and exposure CrossGen has invested in…

MORE MANGA MOVES

[Green Light]With the word "manga-glut" being bandied about, the Japanese publisher Digital Manga's US division is about to announce a new distribution deal whereby the books they publish on manga, animation, game graphics, etc. will be distributed by a small US publisher called Watson and Guptill.

Best known for their "how-to" books, with rumours about a new line of manga novels, their decision to use a "real" publisher to work with, rather than the usual comic-related distributors is interesting at least.

NOT A FLASH IN THE PAN

[Green Light]Gutteratti JoJo learned at Chicago that after Eduardo Russo's turn on "Flash," Howard Porter will jump on board as the regular artist. But for now, Risso is needed for what Johns describes as a "dark story"…

UPDATE: See how these stories get twisted? One reader writes "You have Eduardo Russo (Rizzo?) listed as the upcoming flash artist, when it's actually Alberto Dose before Howard Porter comes on. His style is INCREDIBLY similar to Rizzo's."

Time to kill a Gutterati...

BALL AND ADAMANTIUM CHAIN

[Yellow Light]One fun titbit from a Marvel panel was the moment when Mark Millar was talking about his abandoned plans for continuing "Ultimate X-Men" - where Ultimate Wolverine's swiss-cheese memory made him forget that he was married with kids. Bendis' and Quesada's reactions were ones of initial panic, then laughter - as it seems that's Bendis' plans for the titles as well!

PUTTING ON THE TITZ

[Green Light]I hear the new "Promethea" hardcover has some revised artwork - but in a diversion from the norm, work that has been previously censored due to, um, all sorts of naughtiness, has been restored to its firm and fruity original goodness.

Feel free to send in scans…

TENNIS ELBOW

[Green Light]The cover to "15-Love" was also a popular conversation starter. Previews of the book at the marvel booth by Andi Watson and Tommy Ohtsuka showed what seemed to be quite a refreshing manga-esque story set in the cut and thrust world of junior tennis. The photo-style cover, featuring a young girl bending over in a tennis costume seemed to remind too many onlookers of those photos their Uncle Freddy used to collect before he was taken away by the police. However, maybe it's just that filth is in the eye of the beholder…

(Thanks to Comics Continuum for this photo)

INTERESTING TIMES

[Green Light]One proposed book doing the rounds of Dan DiDio's favourite creators is "Freedom Fighters", a revival of the series that starred the likes of Uncle Sam, Human Bomb and Dollman. Could be quite... timely.

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN…

[Yellow Light]Kevin Smith gave one of his fine question-and-answer sessions filled with gorgeous, whimsy, abuse and outrageous opinion. He did share his 9-11 story, on the phone to a New York friend on the day, checking friends and family were okay. They both had CNN on their respective TVs, and Tom Clancy was commentating. Smith questioned the validity of getting a fiction writer on to give his opinions on the situation, Smith's friend noted that Clancy was there to talk terrorism, CIA, etc. Kevin opined that they might as well have (insert prominent DC editor here) on to give his interpretation of the terrorist act.

"My best guess? Braniac."

Smith also criticised editors who believe him when he says he'll stick to a schedule - and cited Bob Schreck as one who didn't.

PENULTIMATE WOLVERINE

[Green Light]Excited about "Wolverine/Logan: The End?" Gives you a funny feeling of dj vu? Remember another possible last Wolverine story that was announced coming from Joe Harris and Enrique Breccia but never happened? Here's a page to jog your memory, more soon…

THE MADNESS OF UDON

[Green Light]WizardWorld misspelling the company "Undon" on all the publicity, maps, badges, labels etc. must have really gone to their head. Why else would they have been selling the San Diego "Street Fighter" Zero for $5 when it goes for over $50 on eBay? They didn't last long. And neither did the $3 WizardWorld editions, which Erik Ko assured me had a smaller print run. And also ran out in record time.

This will, of course, be naught compared to the frenzy for issue 1… with that pesky story by Joe Madueira. And while Udon are going to be overprinting, something tells me it's not going to be enough.

RICKETT PITCH

Mark Ricketts of "Lurid" fame had an impressive lineup of work to show off at Chicago. With "Whiskey Dickel, Int'l Cowgirl" graphic novel coming out any day now from Image, he was proud to show off "Dioramas, A Love Story" drawn by Dario Brizuela which is especially nasty and does some very nice things with the medium for March next year. And then there's "Lazarus Jack" for April…

Some very attractive original graphic novels. Well worth looking out for.

PUFFED OUT

[Green Light]Like the look of the sold-out "Puffed?" Look for a sequel one-shot, "Stay Puffed." And here's the cover!

BIGGER BANG

[Green Light]Word is Gary Carlson is gonna be starting up his "Big Bang" line with a "Round Table of America" book. Full colour. Here's the cover.

SNIPS AND CUTS

[Yellow Light]Justice Society fans, rejoice. I hear that from "JSA" 52, the current Johnny Thunderbolt look will be gone, reverting to the original, but keeping that bow tie…

On the DC Universe, "the toybox is open for Morrison" - Dan DiDio. Apparently the Hank Kingsley look-alike believes this is just one way to secure the top five selling books are DC books.

"Teen Titans" 1 has sold 90,000 copies before the third print.

David Mack will be writing "Ultimate X-Men," co-writing with Bendis for 6 issues then taking the book solo from issue 50.

Every story you hear about Nelson is true - including the one about the Godzilla costume he wears that was made by his mum.

George R Martin was absent from a number of places that were promoting his upcoming comic book work. Word was that his bought plane ticket hadn't quite materialised… clearly he should have done something for Dynamic Forces instead.

Waid's got a Superman project planned after "Birthright."

Look for a Superman Team-Up series.

Dustin Nguyen has left "Wildcats 3.0" for one of the new Didio-inspired books.

And just what evilness was discussed by myself, Mark Millar, Alex Ross, Heidi MacDonald and Jim Lee in the lobby of the Sofitel hotel until 5am Monday morning? Plenty evil!!!

MENTALLISSIMO!!!

[Yellow Light]We all know the rules. "Flex Mentallo" can't be reprinted in trade paperback form, due to the agreement DC and Charles Atlas reached in court.

Unless of course you live in Italy that is. There, you can buy a trade paperback of the comic series, in Italian. Apparently the company published the series, then collected it.

Bastard Italians.

THE INCREDIBLE BULK

[Green Light]Oh and one thing. Why the hell did no one tell me that Mike Doran was seven foot and built like a brick shithouse? If I'd have known I may not have been, well, so "cocky" with him in the past.

STREET DEALERS

[Green Light]Which New York retailer has expressed a reason to reduce his orders on a certain company's product… as employees and freelancers from that certain company keep bringing in their comp boxes for trade?

ENDLESS ART

[Green Light]Glenn Fabry recently posted art from the upcoming "Endless" book, from the Gaiman/Fabry Destruction story… have a peek…

And why not check out Glenn's new message board while you're at it???

PHANTOMARY

[Green Light]From the new "Phantom" monthly comic from Moonstone, a very Cassady cover…

NOBODY SAY KIMOTA…

[Green Light]One Web site I've been careful *not* to mention is the one that had all the "Miracleman" issues scanned in, and available for easy download.

Sadly, the cease and desist just came in…

PIMPING THE PIMP

[Green Light]My favourite comic book from the con was "Tales From The Pimp" 1. A fun anthology series, it pushed itself to the top of the list with a word play gag I have never seen anywhere before, seems so obvious and deserves to be a classically remembered scene from a sixties black and white film. It's very, very good. The comic as a whole is pretty nifty as well.

Watch out for the "With whom" bit…

This column will no doubt continue in this Wednesday's Waiting for Tommy at Dynamic Forces. Send in your photos now!

Also just watched the last episode of "Firefly." Don't know if any Americans have seen it yet, but hey, that's what the DVD will be for. "David Lynch directing Alien" was my comment. I loved this show, and the last episode was the best of the lot. Someone should really pick up the licence.

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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