Lying In The Gutters

Mon, July 12th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the one hundred and seventh 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.

As for the traffic lights, RED means that the story is unlikely to be true, and you should read that with that context. AMBER signifies an identifiable agenda/slant or bias in the source that may affect the work, or that the source isn't clear, or another factor that might bring the piece into doubt. GREEN means that the story feels right to me, my gut instinct says go for it. However, as is often the case, while the gist may be correct, the detail may be wrong - and in fact I may be having an off day and the whole thing may be buggered. It wouldn't be the first time.

So there you go.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

[Green Light]This is the last column I'm writing in the UK for a couple of weeks. Expect next week's column to be late as I'll be all intercontinental.

I'll be travelling first to Los Angeles and then on to San Diego's Comicon International and already by dance card's getting filled. You want to meet up, talk to me, have me do something for you, my mobile phone number is 011447801350982 from the US and 0780 1350982 from the UK. E-mail me or text me, but do something now!

Also, if you work in a news gathering position at a broadcaster or publisher, contact me too. I may have something for you.

And anyone creator or publisher who fancies doing a San Diego Preview, feel free to send me visuals, concepts, plans, whatever - a taster of what's to come... I'll run it next week, late Monday or on Tuesday.

Right, now onto the rumours.

THE CHANGING MAN

[Yellow Light]So who's the new Not-"New X-Men" writer after Chuck Austen leaves?

Step forward two possibilities.

First, I hear Greg Pak may be writing five issues of "X-Men." Pak has written a lot for Marvel... but not much has been published, due to problems generally down the properties he's been writing. His upcoming "Warlock" series is highly touted, but as with similar titles, will probably disappear into the ether. "X-Men" may be the break he needs.

But I'm also hearing that "X-Force" alumni Pete Milliagn may be stepping up to the plate. And asking for seconds.

STORMWATCHMEN

[Green Light]Thanks to Gutteratti David Snell for forwarding the following:

The unused cover to what would have been "Stormwatch" #24.

FLOOR POLITICS

[Green Light]I've been leaked the floorplan to San Diego Comicon so I can exclusively reveal that Image Comics... is opposite NBM. DC... are opposite Slave Labor.

I mean, what am I meant to do with this?

Maybe someone can find something. Here...

HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA

[Green Light]So what's the story with the new "Ninja High School" Pocket Digests? It appears that if you're not Ben Dunn, you're not getting credited for any work.

John Hanrahan discovered that the new digests have stripped and photoshopped out both his credits and those of letterer Craig Miller, after a fan pointed them out to him.

Here's the original cover

Now the new cover, with creator credit

And here are the credit pages, original on the left, new version on the right.


As you can see, the only credit now remaining is that of Ben Dunn's, on the cover.

Contacting Antarctic, they plead forgiveness for making an error over this - a production staff member carried over practice from the "Gold Digger" manga digest series, where Fred Perry was the sole creator and only needed credit at the beginning - so the stories look a lot smoother.

But in the NHS pocket digests, no notes were made of the credits being removed, and so no credits contents page was thought necessary as a result. Antarctic have recognised this flaw in their procedure and will be rectifying it.

Expect an amend for future volumes and reprints.

STATE OF MARVEL

[Red Light]A number of people believe that Marvel is in the process of returning to the way the company operated under Bob Harras. Consolidating lines, looking for short term sales at all costs, reducing risk and slimming down employees.

No no no.

You have to go back further than that.

I been told, rather vaguely and with little to back it up, that Marvel have hired Jim Shooter in an editorial consultancy capacity. Talking to the top execs, giving suggestions for many books, and they're being passed down to the shop floor without many people even knowing Shooter's involvement. And his ethereal position means his doesn't have to be declared, even for financial and legal reasons.

Well, I got ridicule and laughs from Marvel for even suggesting such a thing. But no denials. Grrrr. Could his appearance on the payroll be a giveaway?

If nothing else, make Joe Quesada laugh by asking him at San Diego...

BRUCE ALMIGHTY

[Green Light]So how did Bruce Jones leave Marvel for an exclusive contract at DC? I hear he went the way of the Bendis. He first resigned mid-arc from "Tomb Of Dracula," in order to take on DC work. In return, Marvel fired him mid-arc on "Hulk," and have erased him Bronwyn-Taggart-"Witches" style on Dracula. And as a result, DC gave him an exclusive contract.

OUT OF THE KITCHEN

[Yellow Light]No sooner have HEAT got Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern than... well... this happens.

Oh you have to feel sorry for the poor guys.

Not only is the planned "Green Lantern" movie featuring the Kyle Raynor Green Lantern character, but the executive in charge of making the Green Lantern movie wants to make it a comedy. The choice for the ring bearer?

Jack Black.

And, naturally, people at DC may wish the comic to resemble the film when it's released...

SUPER SMELL

[Green Light]Thierry Mugler Parfum is launching a new product in September 2004, "B Men," a new fragrance for men to accompany his current "A Men" perfume.

Apparently Thierry Mugler is a big comic book superhero fan, especially enamoured of the Silver Surfer.

And he's decided the way to sell these to the great unwashed and smelly, is through superhero imagery, comics, web sites, shops, conventions, whatever.

Given the way some conventions and shops smell, the more the merrier.

Find out more here - warning, this way lies pretension. Mind you, if any comic sites out there are looking for a new sponsor...

DOUBLECHRISCROSS

[Yellow Light]So why did ChrisCross leave "Firestorm" anyway?

Sometimes one is encouraged to join the dots.

There were no ChrisCross interviews helping to launch the book, save for DC's website - everywhere else it was All Dan Jolley All The Time, despite promises made to the contrary.

Combine that with being promised glossy paper for the title and not getting it, and the colour palatte intended for the better paper being thrown so the character is no longer light-skinned black as intended, and then gets darker by the issue...

Then there was the promise of a great inker, then losing John Dell to Marvel after one issue because DC wouldn't grant him an exculsive contract...

Is it any wonder ChrisCross is believed to already be working on a Marvel project?

He's not of course. Look for an announcement at San Diego.

LIQUID NEWS

[Yellow Light]Image sources have asked to clarify last week's story about a liquidation of a number of titles, despite concerns from some retailers, as part of everyday business.

I understand that Erik Larsen has been getting some involved creators at Image to face up to proper financial management - in one case an Image creator had been paying large warehouse fees for storage

overprints that he hadn't previously been aware of.

Since Image is a non-profit organisation, all revenue raised from selling off stock cheaply goes to the creators involved. It's just now those creators have become more aware of the financial realities of their decisions.

STUDIO LINE

[Yellow Light]The Devil's Due/Dabel Bros story has been twisting and turning in press release all this week. Firstly, it's slightly entertaining to see the Dabel brothers leave another publisher (as they did Image (and as Devil's Due did Image before them)) using all the same lines as before.

This time however, Devil's Due fought back in press releases, squabbling across news sites.

Some have had a hard time believing anyone who's done as much licensed work for as long as Devil's Due has (longer than they've done comics) would have a vendor contract with a termination clause... but the Dabel guys seem to be on the verge of demonstrable damages with these press releases. There are also allegations that the brothers have yet to pay certain freelancers for projects, and at least one is now boycotting them - though Mike Bullock is doing his best to smooth things over there...

You know, maybe it was much simpler when everyone worked for Image... or indeed, Marvel... Just not as fun!

AS LONG AS YOU'VE GOT YOUR HEALTH

[Yellow Light]I understand that anyone who may have less-than-illustrial ties with CrossGen, has had their previously agreed Aetna Group Health insurance plan cancelled - as well as those who switched to COBRA Health Insurance.

Basically, if you sued CrossGen for monies owed (and it seems a fair few creators have done), you'd better not get the sniffles.

Everyone who is on COBRA needs to contact AETNA asap to get a "Continuation" plan. Call the Aetna 800 number on the back of your card for Member Services.

If you cannot get coverage, call Joe Part at AllTrust Insurance 727-943-9101 or Pike Barber at 727-726-1112. Both of them can help you get individual insurance coverage.

Do it soon, or get a "lapse in coverage"...

As to the companies suing CrossGen, what's the story there?

Coca-Cola seems to have nothing to do with the "illegal" Coke ads CrossGen ran, but the soda machines in the office kitchens.

As to all those companies CrossGen sent off financial statements and kits to, it appears in the last few days Mark Alessi was looking anywhere and everywhere for investment. Some Mark tried to get onboard as investors, others were interested in buying the company, and the rest just wanted to know how bad the company was off and were never really interesting in investing or buying.

I understand both Marvel and DC expressed interest in purchasing the company months before bankruptcy was declared - but quickly disappeared once they saw the company's financial position.

And as to those people CrossGen is alleging theft and ex? It apparently refers to lunches paid for when staff worked through, and staff using personal American Express Reward points gained when spending CrossGen money on the company cards.

As in, the way you're supposed to. And how Mark Alessi did himself at Christmas...

WAIDING DEEP

[Yellow Light]Mark Waid had a few tales to tell about John Byrne and the moderating abilities for the forum, this week. During a discussion about Byrne's beliefs about retconning and rebooting comic characters, Mark Waid replied to Byrne's statement "As when Mark Waid stuck up his hand at a convention Q&A to ask me if 'we can have the real Superman back'...", Waid replied "This, by the way, never happened, even though it's become one of Byrne's new favorite anecdotes. I'd gladly refute it more directly at the message board on which it was posted, but--at least in my experience--those who attempt to correct John's delusional statements and borderline libels are quickly booted."

Byrne Board regular Rod Odom replied, "If you refute it on the Byrne forum, I can't imagine them deleting it. Also, no other creator has ever been banned on the JBF.

"I think you can tell your side of the story without censorship."

Waid disagreed, saying, "I have already been banned for calling into question John's recent armchair-quarterback comments about 'How Gorilla Comics went wrong' and the way he insulted George Perez, Barry Kitson, Mike Wieringo and all the other Gorilla partners by lumping them together as second-rate talents who were just 'the guys Kurt and Mark could get.'

"I registered, posted a response, and within ten minutes it was deleted and my membership was cancelled.

"Apologies to the members of the JQ forum for bringing that up here--I'm just venting because I'm tired of hearing John repeat that story. I've said my piece; we can let it go. As you were. Move along. Nothin' to see here."

The thread continued for six pages...

Maybe another contender for the message board mentioned last week?

COVER PICK

[Green Light]You really can find the oddest of things hanging around on people's servers, just waiting for someone to type in the right number...

This is the cover to a new comic called "52 Pick Up," by Tony Lee, Gary Lister and Don MacKinnon. Looks like an Image book doesn't it...?

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]Now the movie moguls are at it.

Take one J Scott Campbell cover from "Amazing Spider-Man" 50.

Then get someone to pose...

Swipe-tastic!

MORRISTUN!

Grant Morrison's recent PopImage interview had a few choice lines. And he showed he's a master at throwing a sly handbag ...

"I didn't read John Byrne's comments and never want to but I'm absolutely sure that, no matter how it sounded, what my teenage art hero actually MEANT to say was that he just about LOVED my run on 'New X-Men!'

"In a far more magnanimous gesture of artistic solidarity, I heard from DC recently that Arnold Drake, the gentleman creator and brilliant writer of the original 'Doom Patrol' stories (among many other things), cited my version of the book as the one most faithful to his own creative vision.

"Thank YOU, Mister Drake. I tried very hard to update and preserve the soul of the book and it's nice to be appreciated by the originator of these fascinating and enduring characters. Check out the trade paperback collections later this year.

"Yo momma."

He also confirmed the "Seven Soldiers" project, first mentioned in this column.

While he didn't go into detail as to the involved characters as much as I did, he did flesh out some details and state that he dropped the Demon character as it strayed too far from Jack Kirby's character.

However, I'm told that the Demon was dropped, after Morrison's treatment went deep into Catholic dogma, theology and theory.

Apparently DC doesn't like to fuck with the Pope.

Oh, and "Arkham Asylum" 15th Anniversary Hardcover out in October with

about 90 pages of extras. Hurrah!

THE MAN WHO DRIVES YOUR COMICS

[Green Light]A comic book fan and UPS driver writes regarding last week's tips for comic retailers to get their UPS comics delivery on time, with an alternative suggestion.

"On Wednesdays meet your driver in the morning and take the packages from him. We are generally in the same place every morning. My customers who need early deliveries of ground packages come and meet me on my route to get their stuff. If you tell your driver he will probably set aside your delivery ahead of time, the whole thing will take a minute. Easier and cheaper than sending yourself a letter."

BIG FISH, SMALL POND

[Green Light]I understand that Vicious Circle, small press publisher looking for a fight, has signed nineties ska band Reel Big Fish for an upcoming comic - look for a launch next year.

Now, I want to do a comic about Bros.

VIOLENCE ON FILM

[Green Light]I understand David Cronenberg is to adapt into film, the John Wagner and Vince Locke comic book "History Of Violence," starring Viggo Mortensen, before tackling Martin Amis' "London Fields."

"History Of Violence" was, like "Road To Perdition", a Paradox graphic novel from DC's truly mainstream, creator-owned line. Naturally it sold terribly, but had some absolutely wonderful titles during its run - indeed, creatively, it remains DC's high point.

Forget "Catwoman," "Elektra," "X3," "Fantastic Four" or "Constantine." This is the real deal.

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:richjohnston@gmail.com

  • 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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