Lying In The Gutters

Mon, November 8th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-fourth 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.

FROM OUR EMBITTERRED CORRESPONDENT

[Green Light]At Bill Jemas' zenith as President of Marvel Comics he commissioned "4/11," also known as The White Album, an anthology series telling stories about world war, politics and terrorism with a slant towards fixing problems, finding new solutions and making the world a better place. Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's short story about Irish sectarianism was a highlight, but the project faltered after one invited writer had her work rejected and went AWOL, and the third issue and subsequent collection were both cancelled - seen as an initial sign that Jemas was on the skids. And he skidded out of the door to be replaced by a safer pair of hands.

We wonder what he's make of Marvel's upcoming "Combat Zone: True Tales from GI's in Iraq." Not only has this book been waiting for publication at Marvel for a while, but a number of artists have been approached, started on the book and then left when it's true nature was revealed.

While a number of Marvel's previous titles involving war and terrorism have tried to explore issues from different perspectives, reports I've had are that this is not the case here. America is the One True Hope, all who oppose her or disagree with her current thinking are evil scum, and the world would be better off without them. And thank the Lord we have these plucky brave soldiers to do her bidding.

And certainly the resume of "Combat Zone's" writer Karl Zinsmeister, credited as the "embedded correspondent," makes for interesting reading.

He's editor-in-chief of the American Enterprise Magazine, the in-house magazine of "The American Enterprise Institute" (AEI). The AEI is a neo-conservative think tank, with strong ties to the oil industry and the White House, and one of the most important architects of President Bush's current foreign policy. Famous members include Richard Perle, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ExxonMobile's CEO Lee Raymond and the Vice-President's wife Lynne Cheney.

Also, the AEI gave office space to the "Project for a New American Century," an even more conservative think tank with Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on it's roster. Furthermore, the PNAC and the AEI work closely together.

Who better to write a touching, poignant and truthful version of the current state of affairs in Iraq?

Articles from Mr. Zinsmeister can be seen here, here and here.

I think I may have something new to take the piss out of next year. Hooray!

UPDATE: The Guardian newspaper just linked to this column. Watch out everyone!

I'LL TRY AND SPELL IT RIGHT THIS TIME

[Green Light]Regarding last week's story about the prospects of Disney publishing "Abadazad"... not only are they intending to publish this imminently, Disney was ready to walk away from the CrossGen deal if they couldn't get "Abadazad." They paid them a decent sum to get full ownership of the property, and then in turn have hired Ploog and DeMatteis to create children's books for Hyperion Books.

Joe Pruett was going to try to be the publisher of "Abadazad" if Disney dealt "Abadazad" back to DeMatteis and Ploog. But DeMatteis and Ploog's representative is Content House. Ex-CG;er Ian Feller now works with Content House.and worked behind the scenes to get them attorneys to pave the way for the Disney deal...

So what of John Taddeo, stalking horse for the CrossGen buyout? Well I heard he managed to get one property out of it... "American Power!"

Looks like Lying In The Gutters' favourite title (after "Civilian Justice" of course) will be making a come back next year. Oh it just gets better and better. Hey, I wonder if John can get Marvel to publish it as a companion piece to Zinsmeister's project?

JANET JACKSON VS DRACULA

[Green Light]LITG has reported how Marvel has been giving the impression of becoming a more conservative outfit than under Bill jemas' excesses. The bowlderisation of Marvel continues. The recent "Essential Tomb Of Dracula" trade paperbacks, welcome reprints of Marve Wolfman's stunning horror epic, well ahead of its time, has a few things missing.

And I don't just mean the text features or some of the back up stories. No, just as Shanna is already getting nipples covered over, so past nipples also must feel the heat. Gene Colan's art on the "Tomb of Dracula" magazine reprints has had the pen to it, covering up anything that may offend.

On the Joe Quesada forum, Mark Beaz, Assistant Manager at Marvel Comics blames Janet Jackson and the FCC.

Assistant Editor Jennifer Grunwald had her own take on this. "Buncha perverts!"

Guilty as charged, Jen.

Jen then gave a more in-depth explanation. "Personally, I don't like 'covering up' either... for the most part. In this case however, the first two volumes contained material that was available to a large age-range, and I think it would be unfair to then publish the rest of the material - with the nipples - preventing certain people (essentially our younger horror fan) who liked the first two - from being able to enjoy the rest. Especially when the only thing done was covering some nipples. No story edits or anything really drastic. In this case, ignoring the obvious sales pluses (even if we lose a few people who are upset about the changes, we gain a whole mess of people who can now purchase this book either b/c it's okay for kids or b/c they can now find it in their local Barnes & Noble), I think it's nice that people can now enjoy these stories! Not everyone thinks of or has the ability to find original issues. Those who aren't comic book crazy but like horror stories, for example, might not even know about these books, might now find them in their bookstore and really enjoy them. I understand the concerns, and I wish it didn't have to be this way, but it is the only way to reach a much broader audience, and if the stories were important to you, this wouldn't matter so much. It might be a little aggravating, but tolerable in order to enjoy the story. I'm sorry we may have lost some of you as customers of our Essential line, but I really feel that if there was a story you really wanted and this is the only way to get it, you'll get over losing some nipples."

I like the two I've got actually. But if that's the price to pay to get a good story, hack away!

DOOM PATROL

[Green Light]Stuart Immomen posted a visual of Doctor Doom from the "Fantastic Four" movie, to show how close it was to his version of the character in "Ultimate Fantastic Four." He then quickly removed it.

Thankfully, a few people still had it in their cache...

SEARS CATALOGUED

[Green Light]Last week's story about Michelle Pugliese, ex-CrossGen Freelance Co-ordinator selling Bart Sears' work on eBay may make more sense now that I know they got together as a couple at CrossGen (whose shag tree, BTW, seems just as complex as DC's in retrospect). No explanation why she stiffed the buyer on the most recent piece though.

SUPER TROOPERS

[Green Light]It's been a good week for Up-And-Coming-Creators-That-Lying-In-The-Gutters-Keeps-An-Eye-Out-For. And both women, too. Alex De Campi has signed a deal with IDW for her "Smoke" project, illustrated by Igor Kordey. I hear she has some things in the works with Tokyopo and Marvel... and has been paid to write a UK independent feature film.

And Natalie Sandalls has signed up to draw the second book of the upcoming "Starship Troopers" comic project, "Dead Man's Hand!"

And Tony Lee's long-in-the-waiting series "Mythlands" will be published by AP Comics in May as a six part mini, with the "Grunts" style high concept "SWAT meets Lord Of The Rings". Jim Sutherns ("Monster Club," "B1N4RY") on art. Lee is also co-creating "The Gloom" with Daniel Boutlwood for AP Comics (gee, it's handy to be their marketing guy). "The Gloom" is 1940's film noir heaven, hell, gangsters and mad science series, for summer next year. Here's a look at the titular character.

Now all we need is to get Graig Weich an ongoing series.

DREAMS TO DIRT

[Yellow Light]I'm hearing more stories from despairing Dreamwave creators, awaiting on payments, getting partial payments, or getting late payments. They're afraid of saying anything public, however, in case they'll not get paid at all. But if a favourite Dreamwave book is late, you might not want to only blame the creators.

PLANET LAR

[Green Light]Let's have a look at Kickstart Productions and Kickstart Entertainment, formed by Jason Netter, Loris Kramer Lunsford and Susan Norkin. Not only have they got the likes of "Wanted," "Battle Chasers," "Painkiller Jane," "Robotech" and "Amazing Screw-On-Head" on the go as films or TV shows, they also seem to be in bed with Larry Young, if the likes of multi-media exploitation of "Last of The Independents," "Nobody" and "Channel Zero" are anything to go by.

PICKED UP YET?

[Green Light]Lineart from Gary Lister and Tony Lee's "52 Card Pick Up," LITG featured earlier in the year.

I understand it's very close to getting picked up by a major publisher.

LIBERAL ELITE

[Green Light]Still obsessing with Mark Alessi. He's just formed a new company. Elite Associates.

What it's there for, what it will do and at which point it will start putting up large displays at comic book conventions is as yet unknown.

SPARTAN CITY

[Green Light]Zack Snyder has turned in some pre-test test footage for "300" to the LA arm of a London Post Production Facility. Warners have signed for it, so it's gonna be a Warners film, it seems. Next step is for him to shoot a bigger test of the "big scenes."

Apparently he is going for something of a comic book aesthetic.

Talking to UGO, Zack said, "I was just on the phone with Frank [Miller] yesterday talking about the script that my partner, Kurt Johnstad, and I wrote. We got his take on it because we are doing a rewrite. The script is based almost exactly on the comic book, and all we did was add a second story with King Leonidas' wife trying to rally the troops to support her husband. We wanted a little more girl-power in the movie.

"The thing about the '300' comic book is that it is rendered a bit more like reality than 'Sin City.' Yes, it's stylized, but not to the extent that 'Sin City' is."

And, "We've done some conceptual art for the movie so far. We did a maquette of Ephialtes and he looks exactly as he does in the comic book. We've also been working on the immortals."

Working on the immortals? Is that some form of euphemism that escapes me?

IF THE MOUNTAIN WON'T COME TO MOHAMMED

[Yellow Light]And since I've come over all movie-rumour-reporty-bloke, here's another.

Remember the story that Billy Wilder had a sign on set that said, "How would Lubitsch do it?", inspiring Cameron Crowe to get a "How would Wilder do it?" one? Well...

Mike Newell has been trying to hire "as many Gilliam collaborators as he can" to work on the new Harry Potter film. Many are already at work on Gilliam's "Tideland," but he did manage to get Mick Audsley and Roger Pratt - editor and cinematographer of (amongst others) "12 Monkeys." Maybe Mike could change his name to Verry Gilliam just for the purposes of this film? No? Please yourself.

IDENTITY CRISIS BEATS ELECTION AS NUMBER ONE TOPIC OF CONVERSATION AT WIZARDWORLD

[Green Light]A few Texan snippets that seem to have missed the news sites.

Doors opened at 10 am rather than 9.30 after a Wizardworld Chief overslept (and no one dared open it without him). Thankfully, a comedian with a bullhorn was on hand to taunt the line up with gags about being overweight. Oh that went down well.

With the Special Events tickets selling out by 10.15 and the line still snaking around the centre, some people started calling their lawyers. Ah, the power of mobile phones.

Superman comics will have a "Memorial Page" for Christopher Reeve in upcoming issues.

Sub-Diego is the "new status quo" for Aquaman. Bob Wayne denied Wizardworld had paid DC to sink San Diego (although Mark Waid thought that was pretty hilarious.)

One rumble was that Kyle Rayner was the original "Identity Crisis" killer but was changed after speculation to that effect, Captain Atom/Hawk style. But then, as has already been ruminated upon, the conspiracy theories surrounding this title seem even more convoluted than the plot.

"Captain America" #1 guest-stars . . . Bucky! The FF movie will have lots of product tie-ins, and be very, very visible in the Marvel Universe. Frank Cho's "Shanna" is 2 years in the making, 6 issues are in the can, and they're currently spending all their time removing nipples. Seriously, someone at Marvel could have a full time job doing that now. Greg Land will be doing "Phoenix: End Song." And watch the AP news wire this week for February being "Marvel Knights" month.

Will WizardWorld be in Boston in 2005? Some publishers were told 2006...

And it wouldn't be a WizardWorld if the grumblings about Artists Alley didn't reach the rest of the con.

And were you at the Wizard Party? E-mail me if you were...

CLOTHE MY CHILD

[Green Light]That's right, it's time for me to sell more graphic novels and things in order to buy little cotton socks for my soon-to-be child. Only got till March. A whole load of stuff went up on eBay on Saturday and Sunday... most items starting at 1 penny. Anything you win, mention Lying In the Gutters and I'll put in a free comic or two.

THERMOMETER OF THE COMICS INDUSTRY

[Green Light]Last week's Thermometer seemed to go down well. The current question sitting in favoured creators inboxes is, "Which fellow comic book professional would you like to have run for the American Presidency? What policies, what issues, what debate questions, what slogan, what scandal could you have foreseen?"

The collated answers should go up later this week. If you didn't get an e-mail, reply to richjohnston@gmail.com. And you have so got to read Colleen Doran's answer...

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 richjohnston@gmail.com.

Be seeing you.

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