Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 29th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is seventy-ninth chapter in the latest volume of the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Over ten years damnit! Written by British comics commentator, me, Rich Johnston, it's read by comic book professionals and readers alike. Loved and hated equally, every Monday (ish) it brings the stories not-quite-ready-for-primetime, a look behind the curtain, a sniff of the toilet seat, the worst and the best that the comics industry can inspire. Go in with your eyes open, your blinkers off and a peg on your nose.

And this is a very special column, a look back at rumours over the past year (with a few new ones interspersed), this in the fourth annual Rumour Awards!

RUMOUR AWARDS

It was the dead of night as the US Army black helicopters descended on the small town of Tikrit in southern Iraq. Panels swung open and crates dropped in one of the most secret military operations of the occupation. Arranged in return for Micah Wright abandoning his "George Bush And Saddam Hussein Conjoined Twins" photo book, the ComfyCrates TM fell like stones (or, indeed, like crates) before breaking open on the sandy ground beneath. For an age, nothing happened.

Then, as the sun hit the bleak desolate red landscape, the ComfyCrates TM began to open. The judges emerged from their combined-toilet-washroom-masturbation chambers and began one of the comic industry's most feared procedures, the annual Rumour Awards.

Previous awards had been held in less tempestuous areas, such as Reykjavik, Cape Town's Robben Island or the Seychelles, but the Rumour Awards committee decided that they should show solidarity with the occupying US forces. And, also, flights were really, really cheap to this area of the world right now.

And so the judges emerged and began to take their place at the table. Head Of Wildstorm And All That He Surveys - Scott Dunbier, PJ (like CJ off of "The West Wing," but for DC Comics) - Patty Jeres. Desktop Dick - Dirk Deppey. Andy "Losers" Diggle. Marvel President Of Something Or Other - Gui Kayro. Bill Rosemann's Old Job - Mike Doran. "Ministry of Space," "Filth" and General Convention Panel Embarrasser - Chris Weston.

Yet again Warren Ellis' crate had gone astray. Weeks later it would be found in Mile High Comics' warehouses. He would be immediately marked up for being a first print.

The judges got straight down o it with the opening crowd pleaser…

VISUAL OF THE YEAR

Start with something bright and breezy, that's what they say. And as Marvel's cover programme really got into producing iconic, story-less images that would look good on T-shirts and merchandise (but less so on comics), there were some odd choices throughout the year. And none odder than Phoenix, the manga-esque limited series from Marvel that required special shaving.

Dirk Deppey liked the whole manga feel. Mike Doran said "What? It's a perfectly valid expression of Marvel tone of selling artistic visuals of… um… nubile young girls who need special shaving. Anyway, we upped the book from a PG to a PG+, what more do you guys want?" Gui asked Mike "Is it one of Bill's?" Mike nodded. Gui made a note.

"What's wrong with that?" asked Chris Weston. "She looks a fine bird to me. Little bit on the young side, but give her a few years."

There was that wonderful photo of Mike Grell jousting. Heidi MacDonald dismissed it saying "Once you've seen Alex Ross in a gimp suit, this just doesn't compare." And sadly, neither did the Sweaty Phantom suit.

"Where's the rubber, the zips, the hooks, no, no, no, Alex has really let himself down here."

Everyone else decided to move on really quickly to an Irishman in a big green hat.

"There's a man who knows how to play to stereotype" said Andy Diggle. Andy then began to pass round very special photos of Garth he took while editing "2000AD." Scott asked if they could be collected as the Absolute Ennis and Diggle whipped up a quick contract.

Heidi was pleased to see Alex Ross' name return, if not in PVC, then at least with the DC-rejected "Uncle Sam" cover for the "Village Voice."

"That's sticking it to the man!" she cried.

Taken at a comic book convention in Bristol, rumour monger Rich Johnston was mobbed by his adoring fans (in his dreams). Luckily someone was able to peer into Rich Johnston's mind with a camera and take a photo of how he sees his life. Funnily enough, this was exactly how Scott Dunbier saw his life as well.

The entire panel recoiled at this point. PJ and Heidi decided that he must have drugged them all… in fact some of the women's expressions did give that impression.

Darick Robertson's habit of dressing up as a Jedi caused Mike Doran to comment "You know, there's many reasons we took Deathlok off the schedules. Content issues with Hollywood. Overloading the cyborg glut. But mostly this photo."

Then there was Warren Ellis at the ICA… wearing what clearly looked like slippers, despite the great man's protestations. Gui asked "Who's Warren Ellis?" Weston replied, "I can hardly remember myself."

Mark Millar's Orson Welles' inspired Orson Welles Batman film report featured the following mocked up production graphic that fooled quite a few…

The Dynamic Forces Emma Frost Camel Toe Design image caused a fair few raised eyebrows. Patty mollified the crowd saying that the statue wasn't that graphic when you looked at it close up. With a magnifying glass.

But there could only be one winner this year. A photo that defined an appointment, that of Dan Buckley to President Of Publishing, sharing Bill Jemas' previous role with Gui Kayro. Taken at a Dude Ranch party years before, when anyone in comics thinks of Dan Buckley, there's only one photo that comes to mind…

As Gui said "There but for the grace of God…"

TURNING DOWN THE BEATLES AWARD

Joe Quesada's decision to turn down the "GI Joe" license despite the success of "Transformers" because nostalgia was just a fad, was a clear financial mistake, at least initially. But Marvel redeemed themselves with the "GI Joe" TPBs which they kept in print for a short while. Both Gui and Mike said "Different regime, different period, we can't be held responsible." They did this simultaneously, doing the actions. They'd been practicing it for weeks. Everyone was slightly scared.

Heidi MacDonald shouted "DC firing me! Days, days before 'Y The Last Man' went global and proved what a visionary editor I was between bouts of Internet forum postings". PJ rugby tackled her and they both went down in a scramble.

There was always Rich Johnston's proposal for "Marville"… which at one point depicted Alan Moore being shaved as one would a sheep before being offered to Joe Quesada in return for a comic book assignment. Gui agreed with Mike, finally, this was a decision by Bill Jemas that they could both agree with.

With initial sales of Mark Millar's Millarworld titles looking rather good, it would seem an opportune time to remind Larry Marder that he felt unable to publish Mark Millar's "The Unfunnies," letting William Christensen snap it up instead. Despite selling less than the other Millarworld titles, it is apparently the most profitable of them all based on initial sales. But any laughing on the part of Gui and Mike was soon curtailed by the existence of the Millarworld line in and of itself.

The Millarworld titles could have been Marvel's, if not for their decision to withdraw the creator-owned option from Epic (before withdrawing Epic itself). Not only did they lose the Millarworld books, but also John Romita Jr.'s series "The Gray Area," coming out now from Image. It is also one of the reasons that saw Grant Morrison move to DC, where they were more than willing to publish creator owned titles.

But in the end, it had to be a far stupider Marvel decision. Joe Quesada announced the previously-LITG-rumoured story that Princess Diana was to star in "X-Statix," a media satire X-Men title, as a mutant zombie superhero. I took Joe's confirmation and let the world know. Then Avi Arad in Marvel's West Coast offices started getting heat from his Hollywood contacts, incensed about reports concerning Diana. Forced on the editorial team to drop the concept, despite post-justification that Marvel had reached the decision by consensus, the job was left to the creatives to find a way to tell the story with a substitute Diana figure. With a story that only made sense if you mentally replaced the character with Diana, and with sales that could have taken the book to the top of the charts, but left it languishing, the creators complained, but what could they do?

Gui made another note.

MOST AGGRESSIVELY HEADHUNTED

It wasn't that hot a year for company moves. Despite a rash of exclusive deals, only Grant Morrison to DC surprised anyone. Everyone else was in the process of moving to their exclusive-deal company as it was. Andy Diggle was suddenly worried, in case his exclusivity also included his new born child. PJ asked if it was his first born. Andy nodded. PJ shrugged, there was nothing she could do, but arrange some kind of participatory deal for him.

There was quite a feeding frenzy when CrossGen realised it wasn't able to pay its employees, and Marvel and DC both put their heads into the trough to pick up a variety of star acts. Mike Doran rubbed his hands "Bill Rosemann… Bill Rosemann… that'll teach you for giving all those exclusive stories to Comicon…"

Indeed it was studios and books that were headhunted more than individual creators, as Marvel, Devil's Due and CrossGen hoovered up Image studios and titles, before swapping them around again and giving a few back. As "Desperate Times" went back to Image, Doran and Kayro did their rehearsed dance again. Andy Diggle began sharpening his pointy sticks.

Dirk Deppey moaned that this whole awards ceremony totally ignored the manga revival in the bookshelves, like it was some separate unconnected industry, but no one heard a thing.

It was the people who didn't move that made the panel natter most. William Christensen was approached repeatedly through the year for both Marvel and DC. Mike and Gui wanted him for his close relations with Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Warren Ellis ("That name again! Who is he?" said Gui again). But PJ wanted him for his close relations with pornography.

But the winner went to an individual who didn't move jobs, but saw his personal circumstances improve dramatically. Wildstorm's Scott Dunbier was very aggressively headhunted by current Marvel management, earlier in the year. They offered him more money than even DC was prepared to stump up in return, but the DC salary increase, combined with not having to move coasts, combined with continuing to work with Alan Moore on "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen," combined with his new title that DC suddenly found for him, Head Of Wildstorm, saw him decide to stay.

Scott was pleased to award himself his own award. "After all, that's basically what I did at Wildstorm!"

FEUD OF THE YEAR AWARD

Never has this category been so full.

The year began with an amazing fight as Steve Uy, whose creator-participant series "Eden's Trail" (originally, creator-owned) was gutted by editorial, rewritten by Chuck Austen and curtailed before its end, causing Steve Uy to kick off against Marvel in a most extreme and David Cho-like fashion, before hastily realising his mistake and withdrawing all his comments. And Mike Doran standing over him with a large hammer didn't even enter into it.

Then there was Micah Wright vs Joe Quesada. His criticisms of the Epic line, unable to cope with submissions, unprofessional, heading for a fall seemed to come all too true. But that didn't stop a barrage of mockery and reprinting of private e-mail from Joe Quesada. At which point Heidi stared at Mike Doran, before PJ rugby tackled her again.

There was the fantastic Web site editorial that Greg Capello wrote over Ben Templesmith's decision to leave the "Hellspawn" title. "Scumbag. You call yourself(s) Pro?! Don't think so…. Personally, I couldn't give two shits where, who, or what B.L.T. (the L stands for loser) works on." Chris Weston couldn't see that this was particularly inflammatory…

Heidi MacDonald found her way out of the hole in the ground, only to cower under PJ's beady eye… "How can someone so small, do so much… damage" Heidi asked. "You should see what I did to Mark Millar… I'm exactly the right height to inflict major bodily injury." But that was a feud of year's past.

Chuck Dixon had a right go at Marvel over "Rawhide Kid." He went so far as to suggest the writer and editor had deceived old-time artist John Severin over the true nature of the title's subtext when he was drawing it. This was later revealed false… John Severin was very much up for it and proved himself a much more tolerant fellow in his old age, than Chuck in his old… dungarees.

Gui asked Mike, "'Rawhide Kid' that was one of…" Mike nodded, Gui took a note. Mike asked if they should do their little dance again, Gui declined. "Let's save it for a big finish."

When Devil's Due left Image, to set up on their own, they didn't go quietly. As more studios and creators were tempted to move from Image, certain members of Devil's Due and one of their new signed studios, Roaring, set about stirring unrest, pointing out problems that Image had suffered over printing, payments and policies. This led to tit-for-tats between the two companies and at least one huge flamewar on the Newsarama message boards between company representatives that everyone then started apologizing for but never actually meaning

Salvador LaRocca discovered that posting his discontent with Bill Jemas and Marvel in Spanish on one of Spain's more popular comic message board is no defence when confronted with a population fluent in Spanish and English and eager to translate his messages for an American audience, such as "It's something that really doesn't interestsme, but it's a 'friendly' invitation from Bill Jemas, and to him I can't say no if I want to renew my contract, it's a 'yes or yes' offer. Like it was with 'Elektra.'"

Gui made another note.

Top Cow had its fair share of battles this year. A tussle with Matt Clark and Greg Rucka over the rights to "Felon" that seemed simple until USA TV networks got interested.

A quite public battle with Joe Michael Straczynski over the continued publishing of "Rising Stars," when JMS discovered his "Rising Stars" screenplay was in pre-production and being totally rewritten without his knowledge, but with Top Cow's full cooperation. Joe, believing he was being lied to, went on strike, only settled after reparations and an apology on Top Cow's part.

And a legal battle with Michael Turner and Aspen when he left the company with properties he believed he owned… and Top Cow didn't. With a warehouse full of books unable to be distributed by Diamond until the matter was settled, DC came to Turner's rescue offering him funding at a time when the warehouse and legal bills were sucking like leeches on a fat boy. For this, and others, Top Cow took the award, wresting it from the usual winner, Marvel. As Doran said, "any lawsuits against Top Cow just means less concentration on the lawsuits against Marvel!" Gui cheered.

The panel decided to give a Lifetime Achievement Award, not so much for the length of feuds but for the amount and variety created by just one man, narrowly beating Jim Shooter, Dave Sim and Gary Groth, was John Byrne. "Who?" asked Gui Kayro. For the first time the others were envious of the man… but it was the Erik Larsen/John Byrne fight that most remembered this year.

Larsen negatively critiqued George Perez's work, on Comicon's message boards. 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. Here, here and here are good places to start. As was John Byrne's non-apology apology.

It reminded one writer, Robert Baeza where Byrne made a reckless statement not backed up by reality that summoned another non-apology apology to Roy Thomas.

Coupled with Peter David's recollection of the event that started their own feuding, over David's leak of Guardian's death in "Alpha Flight" to retailers (the pages retailers saw were approved by Byrne's editor and David now states that Byrne's reaction to seeing the pages when he was in the same room as the retailers, spoiled the event, rather than being interpreted as a dream sequence), this was a fine cap for a lifetime's proud work in the field.

John Byrne can currently be seen here deleting any messages about his planned-Dreamwave comic "You Go Ghoul" that no longer seems to be being published, or his reported "Legion" series with Gail Simone (as seen in Wizard and mentioned by Dan Didio at WizardWorld Texas). The reason? It appears Byrne may no longer be attached to the project. Gail Simone, however, has verified to this column that she is.

FIRING LINE

There were two companies that kicked out a lot of people this year. One publicly, the other ever so secretly. CrossGen went to the wall and downsized, seeing a mass of firings, non-payments and "letting go"s. Everyone engaged in a series of "I told you so" while PJ and Doran high-fived each other. "Game set and match" they exclaimed. Gui asked "Who are CrossGen and why wasn't I invited to learn this particular dance/cheer? I'm the dancing cheering fellow where Marvel's concerned, it's in my job description. Gui whipped his contract out to show everyone the dancing/cheering clause but the assembled throng's attention was diverted by the number of zeroes at the top of the contract.

Gui was sent to the bar to buy drinks for everyone. In the entire world. However, on the way back, he was attacked by a religious mob incensed at his alcoholic ways and has not been seen since. If anyone has any information as to the whereabout of Gui Kayro, could they please send them to George W Bush, c/o Peanuts.

With Gui gone, Mike was unable to stop a list of Marvel departures being chanted out. "Lynne Yoshii, Sarah Filderman, John Roberts, Joey Zerbo, Sr. Susan Crespi, Bill Rosemann, Brian Smith, Nova Suma, Paul Tutrone, Tim Smith, Susan Crespi, Juan Collado, Karen Staff, Jennifer Beemish, Chet Krayewski, Gamal Hennessy…" at which point Mike started blowing a trumpet as a diversion.

But the award went to Marvel not for any of these but for two hilariously comic boomerang "firings." Gail Simone resigned from "Agent X" citing extreme editorial differences only to come back again when Andrew Lis moved away from Editorial. And Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo were fired off "Fantastic Four," only to return to the title, pushing the new team off into a mini-series. Mike made a note about that last one in Gui's notebook, which had been left behind and is currently being pored through by military agents looking for a clue. They have not yet found one.

STICKING IN OARS AWARD

With "The Authority" moving to a Mature Readers label (and falling down the charts), there wasn't much hope for this award. Well there was that little fuss with Dan Buckley and "The Ultimates" which clearly got blown out of all proportion. Or that's the current version anyway, as Mike and Gui were clear to point out.

Marvel's lunchtime practices came under fire, specifically banning the playing of Dungeons And Dragons. That quote in full; "If you guys don't stop playing D&D during lunch, we'll fire Dan Carr." Gui asked the judges to recall Mike and Gui's previous performance.

Dan Didio's involvement in "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents," as well as a particularly stubborn licensor saw this project flounder as both sides dug their heels in and this time it was PJ's turn to suggest that no one was interested in this story.

But the grand prize had to go to none other than Bill Jemas. As his own "Marville" series lost the "contest" and as Epic soon became a pipe dream, he turned his hand to other titles. While both Joe and Bill had a very hands-on approach to their books from the beginning, 2003 was full of reports of contradictory and illogical notes being delivered to creators by their editors from Bill, often against the editorial advice they'd previously been receiving. As creators left or were fired, pressure from the bottom up added to pressure from above, squeezing Bill Jemas sideways and downwards.

"And thank goodness for it, or Gui would still be stacking shelves in Wal Mart" said Mike. "Come to think of it, he's a long time coming with those beers…"

WHY ARE WE WAITING

The much-promised Wildstorm DC line, when it's not being conflated into issues of Jim Lee's "Superman" arc, currently stands at "The Question," "Vigilante" and "Challengers Of The Unknown"… allegedly.

Warren Ellis, usually a mainstay of this award, was dismissed, with new "Planetary" and "Ministry Of Space" actually coming out. Chris Weston said "I'm as surprised as you are!"

But the award went to a little known project, but one representative of a much greater trend. That of DC not publishing finished work, like "Sandman Presents: Marquee Moon." The much-promised sequel to "Sandman Presents: Love Street." Written by ABC-writer Pete Hogan and fully pencilled inked and lettered, seems to have fallen down a plughole. The departure of editor Alisa Kwitney may have contributed to the delay, but this story punk rock young-werewolves-in-love, set in London in 1977, would have featured not only John Constantine, but The Clash, whose members gave DC/Vertigo full permission for their appearance. This joins the likes of the much more, overcommissioned on purpose to provide a guaranteed full schedule, then to remain unpublished in the DC drawers…

PJ wiped a tear from her eye.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS AWARD

Mike Doran was working overtime this year in this field. "It's not fair" he cried, "it's clearly a fixed award to embarrass me!" Marvel had to keep going back on their word, as promised trade paperbacks were dropped, series that were promised a good run to break them in were cancelled, creator-owned deals abandoned and the entire Epic line conflated into an anthology issue that'll be lucky to see a second.

But Marvel was definitely not the only one to speak loud and not have the trousers to back it up. Rob Liefeld's continued belief that he can put out more than one issue of "Youngblood" in a year was routinely mocked to an exaggerated degree… with good reason.

But in the end, it had to be CrossGen. Bolshy, boisterous, self-confident, critical of any criticism, spending hundreds of thousands on convention displays, promotions, new ventures, yet managing not to pay its own employees and falling down on credit with no external financing. Promises of jam tomorrow were wiped off the spoon as Marc Alessi became his own creditor, with the possibility that if the company did go bust, he'd have first dibs on copyrightable and trademarked characters, without any of the pesky royalties of profit share due to the characters' creators. Yet Crossgen's confidence, especially from Bill Rosemann in the face of ever increasing despair, their ability to hire people to replace people who weren't being paid, and replace those people again when they also weren't paid, was phenomenal. Large sums of money are still due to many creators and studios, despite repeated promises and deadlines of payment make CrossGen the outstanding winner in this category.

"Saved by the Bill" cried Mike.

MADDEST MOMENT AWARD

PJ offered up the moment when Joe Quesada had to fire his wife, Nanci Darkesian, as part of a downsizing operation. Mike Doran hit back with the moment a few days later when DC Comics interviewed Nanci Darkesian.

Dirk Deppey preferred reading about Frank Frazetta's gun fetish, Mrs. Frazetta's intolerant atitude to her husband putting a gun in every nook and cranny of their home, and her response when Frank got the guns out to show visitors; "put it away Frank, you took out the window just last week." He should have a duel with my boss for the future of the comics industry… hopefully it will die and manga will have 100% of the marketshare rather than the 99% it enjoys now." Everyone sat on Dirk.

All enjoyed Marc Alessi's assertion that he's the number one publisher by now. And everyone at Crossgen's assertion that things were going just swimmingly and everyone would be paid shortly.

Andy Diggle was all over Steve Lieber and Jeff Parkes' adverts for "Rush," a superhero-themed piece of marketing for poppers. Andy? Is there something you need to tell us? "I just like to feel relaaaxed…"

Chris Weston couldn't believe the moment when James O'Barr's ex-wife sold her marriage proposal on eBay. "Damn, if only I'd thought of that! My wife is always encouraging me to sell more art..."

Dirk Deppey, from under the scrum, mumbled that he preferred the moment when DC withdrew advertising from Krause/CBG when John Jackson Miller started working for Marvel, scuppering any sense of perceived journalistic independence. Especially when Miller had recently spiked a Brian Hibbs anti-Marvel comment piece.

Then there was the time when DC publisher Paul Levitz slagged off the current "Legion" run in an interview. "Who does he think he is, Bill Jemas?" asked Gui Kayro.

Then there was the reported story that the Lai Brothers were leaving "Thor," to be replaced by Scot Eaton. Which they read about in LITG before Marvel had gotten around to telling them. Mike Doran started gnawing rocks.

There was the recent DC Christmas celebration, when at Dan Didio's request, editors had to drink a shot for every late book they'd published that year. The Superman editors were seen to negotiate the office with much care, afterwards.

Again from DC offices, there was the story reported by LITG and Heidi MacDonald wherein an extra income gained by DC employees by selling or trading their comp boxes to Jim Hanley's Universe (to the extent that the shop hardly had to order any DC titles) were scuppered when one departing employee was found to have used eBay extensively for such money-making activity.

Then there was MVC's decision to move from Image to CrossGen. And then stay there, even when Team Red Star were getting out.

But the favourite of the year was down to our old friend Bill Jemas. Mike Doran, thoroughly sick of the amount of times his name was mentioned, put his fingers in his ears as the judges decided that yes, Bill constantly used "Star Wars" as an example of how he liked his stories, for the reason that it started very small then went big a few minutes down the line. One employee pointed out that actually, "Star Wars" started with a big action scene, and then went small, before going big again. They didn't last long, and Jemas changed his example. But then Jemas didn't last long, either.

Chris Weston reminded everyone that he had something that started small and then went big, but everyone asked him to put it away.

ODDEST CONTRACT

Well, JMS's contract with Marvel still continues, forbidding any editorial interference. Oh how many other creators would have liked that contract this year.

Then there was Bill Jemas' contract, which specified he wasn't allowed to write any superhero comics on his departure from Marvel for a year. The judges were divided as to whether this was Marvel being protective of proprietary concepts in development, or their gift to the world.

Mike Doran wondered if anyone would like to consider Gui Kayro's singing/dancing clause but no one was listening, there were other Marvel contracts to consider.

And so the prize has to go to the continued contract of Marvel's ex-editor-in-chief, Tom DeFalco's, that he'll always have work at Marvel, guaranteeing the survivability of "Spider-Girl" despite various cancellations that Marvel management have imposed over the last few years.

RUMOUR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Just as the judges were about to ready their thoughts for the Rumour Of The Year, the US army arrived. They shot Scott Dunbier (some say by mistake, others not) and the rest were gathered up for interrogation. But the Rumour Awards had so addled the judges brains that it was all they could talk about.

"What are you doing here" shouted General Smartz to Dirk Deppey. Dirk responded "Could it have been Future Comics' employees in allegations of harassment, financial irregularities and rap sheets?"

Impressed that he could imbed a link into a statement to a military court, Deppey was isntantly tagged an Internet terrorist. Surprisingly, he didn't actually mind.

Heidi MacDonald could do nothing but talk about the Mike Carlin and Dan Didio rivalry within DC, approved of and instigated by Paul Levitz, to determine the creative future of the company.

Mike Doran could do little else but confess his knowledge of the situation where Wayne Wong did not receive all his blue-pencilled inked pages back from Marvel as part of a new policy, and freelance Marvel inkers across the world panicked a little before Marvel realized their mistake.

Scott Dunbier had to choose Grant Morrison's decision to bring sentience to the DC universe through the complexity of its continuity, and give birth to a living comic book. He wondered if that sentience would stretch all the way to the West Coast, and if he'd have to negotiate with his own universe as well as the usual writers and artists. "Maybe I could make it my friend," he suggested.

But in the end, as the judges were packed off to Guatanamo Bay, they all agreed that Rumour Of The Year could only go to Felicia, who brought down message board after message board as her insider insights into Marvel activity, politics and policy preempted Bill Jemas' departure and Avi Arad's rise in the company by months.

Felicia, and her rumours, initially that Mark Waid would be fired, but later that Bill Jemas was kicking up such a stink within Marvel that his fellow friends were turning against him, spinners were briefing against him, and that he'd be eventually forced out. With follow-ups looking at Jemas' withdrawal of staff and even an office, Lying In The Gutters followed the pattern in the months that led up to Bill Jemas' change of position within the company.

Attempts to track her down were legion, as false trail upon trail were put out in an attempt to trip her up. One Comic Book Idol entrant hacked her identity on one message board in order to try and find out who she really was, to get a comics gig at Marvel, only to then post as her on a message board, signing his own name, and became Prime Suspect for a while in Marvel's eyes.

Felicia has now retired, and her presence will not be felt in 2004. But as the judges sat in their cells, dressed in the brightest orange, they ruminated about the past year, looked forward to more rumours every Monday through next year and realised with a shock, that it wasn't just an absence of Felicia they'd have to deal with, but an absence of her nemesis. They just weren't going to have Bill Jemas to kick around anymore…

Lying In The Gutters returns to abnormality next week. Until then, read Christmas wishes and what they'd like to buy Bill Jemas, from top creators in the industry at last week's Waiting For Tommy.

P.S. Oh yes, I've had John Cassaday confirmed as the new artist for "New X-Men." Apparently he'll be drawing "Planetary" and "New X-Men" concurrently. With Warren Ellis three scripts ahead of John, looks like "Planetary" fans are in for an even longer wait...

Rumour Awards 2004 is a satire published by ComicBookResources, and is not intended maliciously. ComicBookResources has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). ComicBookResources makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceeding information.

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