Lying In The Gutters

Mon, July 3rd, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 59

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 individuals and checked with respective publisher representatives before publication. Mostly. 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.

RETURN OF THE JODI

[Green Light]Who is writing the ongoing monthly comic "Wonder Woman" after current writer Allan Heinberg leaves the book in a few issues?

Why, if it isn't my old friend and bestselling author Jodi Picoult.

Jodi has written many novels that outsell everything our little comic industry can do. And her last novel, "The Tenth Circle" was set fair and square in the New York comic publishing industry, with a fictional version of this very column.

Looks like enough people in the industry read it, rubbing their chin, going "mmmmm…."

If a fraction of her legion of fans buy this comic, then it could be the best selling comic in the industry. Been a while since "Wonder Woman" topped the charts like that…

THE HIBBS DIET

[Green Light]When Ultimate Spider-Man was initially published, Brian Hibbs, owner of Comix Experience, expressed scorn and doubt over the hype, implying it was a temporary series,

"LONG TERM...I really really really don't think it will succeed. By the time it hits issue #50, how is it really going to be any different than the 'real' Marvel universe, RE: the accretion of history? If it makes #100, I'll eat a bug."

I understand the event will be filmed.

TELLING STORIES

[Yellow Light]A while back Tom Beland announced he was moving "True Story Swear To God" lock stock to Image, away from his self published individual titles and away the AiT/Planet Lar collections. But why?

For a start, anyone who gets a chance at Image generally should. Their backend deal is the best one, they're at the front of Previews so they get much more attention and they've been at it quite a while now. You only leave Image to go to Icon at Marvel or, I dunno, a major publisher.

But Tom's reason for going to Image given in a recent interview because they did monthly floppies and AiT/Planet Lar didn't, seemed to be rejected by AiT/Planet Lar Creative Executive Josh Richardson who brought up all the monthly floppies they were publishing.

So what was the reason?

Tom replied to a quote that seems to have been quickly deleted by Josh, saying, "In regards to Larry's quote where he said 'Tell Tom that this is what happens when you don't call Mimi back.' I'd also advise Larry that this is the feeling an artist/writer gets when you cannot contact the man who runs the publishing company because he screens his calls.

"Now, with regards to my books being in finer bookstores everywhere..? Well, I can't find them at Barnes & Noble, can't find them at Boarders, can't go down the street to my local bookstores who've tried to order them from Ingrahm and they keep saying they're out of stock and have been so for ages. Other stores who can find them keep saying it's slow to get.

"I've contact both of you about this problem and I'm constantly told 'what store did you talk to?' Then, when I say who they are, there's no response.

"If I can find my books everywhere... what's the deal with my checks averaging $70 per fiscal quarter? I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that one.

"Hey, I'll always be grateful for AiT making my first trades, as I've stated several times before. But when I have a full page ad on the back of my books, telling them how to get the trades, pricing and ordering codes... and stores still have a problem getting the books, I should have better answers. That's been the spot of my angst and my constant head banging against the wall. I never get that answer.

"Just adding my two-cents. I was asked a question in an interview and I answered it. If Larry's going to give a quote, don't yank it out of the thread two nano-seconds later.

"To everyone else, thanks for the support, I appreciate it. I'm going to talk with Image about the numbering system, I think you've made some great points on that.

"New issue comes out in late July, then we go monthly in September!! See y'all then!"

It then went all quiet. The V took up the cudgel, going over old ground about who and why people have been leaving a high profile smaller publisher as well as rehashing previous Forum Wars TM.

Brian Wood, a high profile AiT creator on works such as "Courier" and "Demo," has not written for AiT in quite a while. He added, "Tom makes a few good points, and a message he posted to that Newsarama piece is pretty telling... and mirrors some of my past experiences as well as those of (many) others.

"That's pretty much all I should say. I'm sure my lawyer would agree."

But to the response from Jacob Corbin "but (here's an embarrassing revelation) back then I took Larry seriously as a publisher", Wood added, "That's nothing to be too embarrassed about. A whole lot of people took him seriously. There was a time when AiT was on the rise and doing well, but they seemed, at least to me, to plateau around early '04 and have been plummeting towards the earth ever since. I base this opinion off my own financials and sales numbers, the aforementioned mass exodus of creators (and their myriad reasons for leaving), and the lack of hardly any new product in well over a year.

"But I was on the 'AiT team' from '01-'04 because they did extremely well by me and my books, and that was, at the time, worth shutting up and going with the flow in regards to the 'side effects' of being associated with you-know-who."

Other titles to leave AiT/Planet Lar of late include "The Tourist," "Five Fists of Science," "SOCOM: Seal Team Seven" and "Doll & Creature."

So what's to replace them? Well, there's still plenty of work from current AiT creators on board. And Larry is also offering an opportunity to recruit the stars of the future.

But I asked Larry if he'd consider a public response to two of his previous creators' public statements. He told me, "As businesses grow, like all relationships, things evolve and change. Oftentimes, in small companies, the people who were there at the beginning find their goals aren't aligned with the business' goals as both mature.

"As far as Mimi and I are concerned, we're still proud of publishing and selling Tom's books, Brian's books, and a host of others, as well as producing new works, like the upcoming 'Rock Bottom' from Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard.

"Our business model, like any that's been around for a long while, always undergoes evolution. We always expected that creators would evaluate their participation with us with every project that comes up. As publishers and business people, Mimi and I feel it's inappropriate to discuss the specific details of creators' deals or projects in public.

"In terms of a perception of a 'mass exodus' of creators, we don't share that view. There were a number of projects last year that were planned, but unfortunately not ultimately published by us. This happens with every publisher because of missed deadlines, or mutual business decisions that change the original intent. Most of the time, people don't even know this happens, but in our case we started marketing the projects before all the Is had been dotted and Ts had been crossed. Of course, everybody has their things to deal with, and it impacts their lives. The last year and a half was a rough one for us as my dad died, Mimi's mom died, and we had a particularly painful miscarriage, so certainly we knew that was going to impact the business. But we still put out some great books in that time frame including the 'Demo' collection and the second 'True Story Swear To God' trade.

"We recognize we're not selling widgets, and by the nature of the form, emotion will be tied up in the act of creating, selling, and enjoying comic books, as people are putting all of themselves out there in pursuit of the form. Of course we respect that and want the best for all. If any of our creators, retailers or fans have any specific concerns they'd like us to address, I urge them to contact me or Mimi and we'll be happy to have a business discussion."

Larry has a deserved reputation for an abrasive online personality in the past, though that hasn't been seen for some time - he seems to have left the V thread well alone. And certainly if I've ever had a problem reaching Larry, Mimi's mobile phone number has been very effective. And just because you don't get the answer you wanted, doesn't mean you don't get an answer at all...

But I wouldn't start adding AiT to the publisher deadpool quite yet.

SIDE **CK

[Green Light]"Sidekick #1" by Paul Jenkins shipped from Image last week. All sorts of naughty language inside, but no Mature Readers warning or indication of said content on the solicitations, cover or retailer invoice…

Apparently the solicitations only mention this aspect of the book from issue 3 on.

Paul Jenkins told me "I would like to say we are all really fucking sorry."

And here's what Erik Larsen had to say about the whole language problem in general.

ATOM BOMB


OR HOW I QUIT WORRYING AND LEARNED TO LOVE JOHN BYRNE.

[Green Light]John Byrne is taking it to the world. In a recent post on his Byrne Board he's admitted to lurking on other boards watching discussion about himself he believes has no merit. Specifically, to start off, that he's a racist and that people don't pick his work up because of his "racist diatribes." Saying, "At this point, I suppose, I could whip out my resum as a demonstration of how I am anything but a 'racist,' but that resum is already out there for anyone to see,' he goes on to list, "They did not notice when I was drawing Power Man. They did not notice when Danny and Misty were romantically connected. They did not notice when Storm became leader of the X-Men. They did not notice when I drew Rhodey as a black guy."

Byrne recalls one repeated incident on the Byrne board where, offended by the use of the word "speech bubble" over "speech balloon," compared that offence to someone using the word "nigger" - which caused a number of people to label him "racist". This is, of course, nonsense and it's up there with the charge of "misogyny" when a fan posted that he knew pirating was wrong, but he did it anyway because he enjoyed it, Byrne compared this moral choice to that of choosing to "rape" - though he later admitted he bought a pirate copy of "Superman" himself.

But both charges don't stick, because Byrne wasn't guilty of racism or misogyny in these cases, rather using inappropriate exaggeration, by taking the moral point in question and applying it to a different scenario where there could be no doubt as it it's immorality. I'd disagree that the moral points in question were transferable, but its an common arguing tactic - "you say you're against the Iraqi War but what would you do if someone threatened to attack your child?" "Hitler was a vegetarian," etc. I've used it myself.

And the other public posting when he said that Hispanic and Latino women who dyed their hair blonde looked like hookers - well, it's not too dissimilar to statements made by prominent black leaders who condemned people for copying the fashion looks of whites in an attempt to fit in. He just happened to use the word "hookers" to do it, with all the baggage that brings along. And, you know, not be a prominent black leader. As ever, context is key.

It's careless use of language. It's not thoughtless - the speaker knows what effect it might have, but believes it just shouldn't have that effect, and if it does, they don't care. It's a process that says "I know what I'm saying, I reserve the right to say it in the manner I choose, and if you wish to read anything into it that isn't there, that's your lookout." Which is an attitude I've also been known to employ on occasion - sometimes with equally disasterous results.

Difference is, I'm not a famous comics creator, whose next piece of paying work depends on the whims and vagaries of the reading public, editors or publishers, and whose audience appears to have been dropping away of late.

Talking of which, the preview of DC's "The Atom" look damn fine. The combination of John Byrne and Trevor Scott is an inspired one. Scott brought Frank Quitely a certain roughness, which played off Frank Quitely's organic lines on "The Authority" and the same trick works just as well with Byrne. And with Gail Simone writing off of Grant Morrison's original ideas, I think this is going to be an essential comic book.

Some people have a problem with John Byrne. But then some people have a problem with me. Don't miss out on this one over some petty difference of opinion.

And for convention season… nail your colours to the mast

WELCOMING PLANET

[Green Light]Forbidden Planet International (Northern UK, and New York Forbidden Planet stores) are trying to get into the good books with British self publishers.

Since the fall of Slab O Concrete and Red Route, British small press comics have had a hard time of it, falling back on Caption, Bristol the occasional mart and shops like Gosh, Orbital and Page 45 to stock the work across the country.

Well, now the Forbidden Planet International website wants to make a stand. They're starting a British Comics Month as part of which they'll be selling British small press comics, taking only enough to cover certain costs in an attempt to generate interest in British talent and benefit the creative and reading community. Probably throwing free postage as well.

If you're interested, email Kenny Penman on MANPEN@aol.com or call on 01708 346305.

SPIDER ICK

[Green Light]There's one blog site that seems to be getting it's fair share of "Spider-Man 3" spoiler information of late, Film Ick written by writer of the comic book "Freudwitch." Here's a good one if you dare

SPEEDY IRONING

[Green Light]Just how fast can an Iron Man move?

From here, on the cover of "Amazing Spider-Man" #533....

To here on the cover of "Civil War: Frontline" #2

Faster than a man can take off a mask!

SMALL PRINT

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum.

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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