Lying In The Gutters

Mon, November 7th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 25

Welcome to the most popular and longest running comics column on the internet. In its various forms, Lying In the Gutters has covered rumours and gossip in the comics industry for twelve long glorious and quite scary years. All stories are sourced from well connected sources and checked with respective publisher representatives before publication. The veracity of each story is judged by me and given a spotlight - Green is the most reliable, Amber means there's likely an interest involved or the likelihood isn't set and Red means even I can't quite bring myself to believe it.

Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced.

QU'EST-CE QUE LE MOT POUR "SNIKT" EN FRANCAIS?

[Green Light]Jean-David Morvan, writer of insanely popular bandes dessinées "Spirou," "Sillage" and "Navis" seems to be Marvel's latest signing - he will be writing a Wolverine story with collaborator Philippe Bouchet on art. In an online interview, he states

"Basically, Marvel France and Joe Quesada who is the editor-in-chief of Marvel in New York thought that there were interesting artists in France, and why not use French artists to do graphic novels with Marvel superheroes - in fact since their creation Marvel superheroes have gone from one artistic team to another one. And they gave us the job, which was fine because we wanted it. Philippe Buchet is drawing page 11, and when I am in the train, I'll have to write pages 12, 13, 14, 15, and our Wolverine story is set in Brazil, in the 80's, so we're taking the character, modifying it a little bit, and well, we're doing our own thing, pretty much like we do with Spirou."

When asked about recreating a Wolverine/Batman crossover he created for himself when younger, he replied, "It's gonna be hard because characters are owned by the two biggest companies in the US, and they would have to be OK to work together, but such crossovers already happened in the past. In fact, it was beyond that, we did a 120-page sequel to Dark Knight Returns, which is the last story of Batman written by Frank Miller, an incredible story and we imagined an even older Batman, with an older Wolverine as well, this was the first time they met, it featured Joker and Arkham, it was crazy stuff, just for fun because we knew the story would never be published, but of course if we can do something with the Americans, I would be very interested to continue that experience, even take a regular series, or something like that..."

Ironically, a Wolverine series by Morvan may be one of his lowest selling projects - based on US sales that is...

Translation by Julien Dao Duc.

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

[Yellow Light]Both "Batman Confidential" and "Superman Confidential" will replace an existing title in their respective families. The raison d'être of each title is to mix an A-list artist with an unknown writer, or an A-list writer with an unknown artist. Consequently, a number of comics wannabees have been invited to pitch.

And, consequently, details have been leaking like urine from a colostomy bag with a fork in it. Very confidential...

Tim Sale will be one such A-list artist on the first arc of "Superman Confidential."

WHITE FLAG

[Green Light]Talking of Tim Sale, the italian site Comicus reports Jeph Loeb saying "Tim and I were going to do CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE, a World War II story when we both went to DC. Now that I'm back at Marvel, Tim is still exclusive with DC. But, who knows. That's a story still to come."

ARD MAN

[Green Light]The purchaser of Speakeasy Comics is entertainment company Ardustry Entertainment.

Barry Levine, formerly of Dark Horse Entertainment, and current Ardustry figure will be running Speakeasy Comics as President Of Entertainment.

But it's not like CEO Adam Fortier will be going anywhere for a very long time.

POPPING ON THE MICROPHONE

[Green Light]I've been looking into the TokyoPop situation of late. Much was made a few weeks ago of an outcry over TokyoPop contracts that made quite an explosion on the Warren Ellis Engine.

On one hand, the company offered contracts that generally took the majority share of a property that you brought to TokyoPop. You could be replaced on your own book if the publisher so decided. You would be contracted to provide extras above the standard amount of work delivered. A percentage of extra-media rights were reserved, and a cap on earnings was levelled. While all these are negotiatable to some extent, its arguable how much TokyoPop would want to negotiate rather than cutting you loose. Some have negotiated much more favourable rights, some haven't, and some have been let loose because negotiations weren't an option.

In return, you have the chance, often as an unknown creator, to get a book onto the shelves of bookshops around the world and make a name for yourself at a major company. It could well be your big break.

As with every contract, you make a call. But there have been some discussion how much people are aware of what they're signing up to.

Take the "Manga Online" magazine that TokyoPop runs. As of this week, they are running "MangaPods" - basically radio drama style readings of manga chapters with voice actors, effects and music.

As someone who works in radio advertising, and writes for radio, they're not as bad as the audio tracks to comics that CrossGen put out, but dear me, they're far from being anywhere of say BBC radio drama quality. And there's no reason why they couldn't be.

What has transpired since is that TokyoPop did not ask for permission or solicit opinions from creators before. It's free content, but as TP creator Amy Kim Ganter states on fellow TokyoPop creators Mike Schwark and Ron Kaulfersch's message board, amidst complaints about how her characters sound, "Why didn't anyone ask the creators for feedback? I mean, why did TokyoPop hire us? Really, I'm so confused.

"The mangapods have now implanted a voice onto the character before the reader is even allowed to creatively have one of their own, before the books even hit the shelves, and the voices were done in a way that doesn't reflect my intended characterization. Whether it matters to anyone or not, this makes me disappointed as an artist."

More on TokyoPop in week's to come, I'm sure.

MARVEL COLLECTIVE FOREHEAD SLAPPING

[Green Light]Another week, another Marvel PR gaffe. As part of Marvel's insistence that some of their best characters are black, they put out a press release.

"New Series Reveals the Epic Romance of X-Men Favorite Storm and Black Panther Series to Launch in February 2006, Coinciding With Black History Month."

That's the one.

To promote Eric Jerome Dickey, critically acclaimed author of New York Times bestsellers "Thieves' Paradise," "The Other Woman," and "Genevieve," as writer of the new series, it's described as "revealing the untold love story of the world's two most popular African American Super Heroes, Ororo (also known as Storm of the X-Men) and T'Challa (a.k.a. The Black Panther), the world's first African American Super Hero."

Oopsie. That's Prince T'Challa, of the African Wakandan tribe. Not American.

Could Marvel not bring themselves to use the word "black" outside of "Black History Month?"

Someone tell Paty Cockrum.

FM INTERFERENCE

[Green Light]Despite reports to the contrary, FM International has not gone under.

It's been almost a decade since Diamond Comics Distribution put a competitor out of business. After all, getting exclusive contracts with Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and Wizard prevented anyone else getting any significant piece of the pie. Nevertheless, companies like Cold Cut, FM International, Red Route and the like still hang around on the margins, milking the occasional surprise indy hit and manga titles (until they went exclusive, too).

But very recently, IDW went exclusive with Diamond, without telling anyone. Exclusive accounts tend to get a better deal, and with Diamond's effective monopoly in the industry, it's an easy decision to make.

However, IDW was one of those companies that produced these surprise indy hits, and with non-Diamond distributors relying on their ability to provide such books without the reorder penalty that Diamond imposes, books like "30 Days Of Night" or "Shaun Of The Dead" provided a real business opportunity.

As a result, there were fears that FM International would be forced to close. The exclusive deal was retroactive, so FMI were unable to distribute books they'd placed orders for months ago, leaving retailers forced to reorder through Diamond and face the usual reorder fee.

They have not materialised, although the company had to downsize significantly as a result. But FMI have been going for ten years, and there's no reason to think they won't continue.

ROCK STEADY

[Green Light]Michael Tierney is a comic book retailer in Little Rock, Arkansas. His marketplace is considered to be a little on the conservative side, especially when it comes to the media and the exposure of same to children, and Tierney has encouraged greater labelling on comic books for retailers, so he can judge his sales and suitability accordingly. This includes calling on DC to label specific issues of the Batman ongoing titles as "For Mature Readers" to avoid "surprises."

Last week, Tierney had a surprise. He had a call from a customer who also works in local law enforcement to warn him about the potential dangers of selling "homosexual content" in "Outsiders" #30. As a result, he has bagged the comic on display in his stores, has himself labelled it "Mature Readers" and passed on to other retailers in similar markets his concerns.

Here are the pages in question

The merits of this particular case aside, it does demonstrate the differences in attitudes across a marketplace, the dangers which some places face, or feel they face, and the constant reminder that one man's ceiling is another man's cruising area. It's debatable as to whether or not there would have been similar concern over keeping the content purely "straight" - but this hasn't been the only "orgy" scene in "Outsiders" that has caused concern.

"Flying Friar" has no sex scenes, implied sex scenes and one use of the word "bastard." Though I'd get that in now.

Thanks to Neil Soult for the scans.

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]Rich Friend's Halloween pic from the Gelatometti Blog. He has lots of positive feedback about the composition, pose, clothes, hair, chair, etc...

Hmmm.

CRISIS SPOILING

[Green Light]Only a few days, but the current DC Crisis Couselling website, intended to fill you in on what you might have missed Infinite Crisis-wise the previous week, gives plot spoilers for "Gotham Central" #37... shipping this week. Oops.

UPDATE: Looks like DC enjoy this column - "Gotham Knights" plot description removed - till next week...

HALF AND HALF

[Green Light]From "Ultimate Hulk Vs Wolverine/"

Earthworm Wolverine. Got to be.

Hey, does that mean Marvel can have two concurrent Ultimate Wolverine series running?

24

[Green Light]As well as leading the "Live-Ing In The Gutters" panel at Comic Expo in Brighton, my old mucker Adrian Brown is running a 24 Minute Minicomic session.

24 pages, 24 minutes each, each by a different creator working from a series of rhyming couplets by Mike Carey. I've baggsied one, there are still pages left to be filled, and the event will kick off midday on Saturday. The comic will then be photocopied and distributed before end of play. And no doubt scanned for the following day's Lying In The Gutters.

E-mail Adrian here for more details.

SMALL PRINT

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Contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com or on AOL Instant Messenger as TwistRich

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me/text me on 0780 1350982 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

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