Lying In The Gutters

Mon, January 1st, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 85

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.

THE SEVENTH ANNUAL RUMOUR AWARDS

Previous Awards: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.

Hyrule. A mythical land of plenty, always at threat from dark forces but, for now, at peace. Goats are herded, horses ridden, fish landed and goblins attacked with long pointy swords. Made famous by its appearance in the Zelda games, it's currently populated by those lucky people who managed to get Nintendo Wiis, swinging remote controls around, all through Christmas when they should be paying attention to their loved ones.

Amidst this tranquility, darkness fills the skies as strange portals open, a void in space and time, bringing creatures from another world, another time, and all tucked tightly inside ComfyCrates TM, which plummet, breaking open upon the soft lush green grass, only squashing a couple of goats in the process. And the wreckage falls apart to reveal this year's judges - Johanna Draper Carlson from Comics Worth Reading, Matt Brady from Newsarama, Jen Contino from The Pulse, Heidi MacDonald from The Beat, Paul O'Brien from The X Axis, Valarie D'Orazio from Occasional Superheroine, Chris Butcher from Comics212, Graeme MacMillan from Fanboy Rampage, Jonah Weiland from Comic Book Resources, Dirk Deppey from The Comics Journal, Ben Morse from Wizard and Tom Spurgeon from Comics Reporter.

Sadly, Warren Ellis's crate had been dropped in Mario World by mistake, where it was eaten by Yoshi. However, Yoshi has now absorbed the ability to drink whisky, be sarcastic and to talk about mobile phones a lot.

It was Tom who first pulled off his ball gag (or rather, ate through it), and ripped open his bonds, his sinews rippling in the digitally enhanced sunlight. "What the hell is this? I said I wouldn't participate in this farrago of disingenuous neo-journalistic piffle! Awards? For... for comic industry rumours? Can you think of anything less self serving? What about, I don't know, reporting on actual stories?"

Heidi replied, "Why bother with stories? Just write something that vaguely mentions Harry Potter and you'll get all the hits you need."

"It should be more than just getting hits," squeaked Dirk, his left eyebrow raised in a homage to the work of Roger Moore.

"Really?" sneered Paul. "Don't you realise this is a guaranteed way to get all these bloggers and writers to link to this very column? That Johnston, he's so transparent. Now... who wants to wrestle?"

"Men!" exclaimed Johanna, as Paul and Matt started to grapple. With Chris' help, she managed to gather up the nominees for that easy-to-split-up-on-the-page award...

VISUAL OF THE YEAR

Paul, holding Matt Brady in a half Nelson bellowed, "I was impressed by those chaps who decided that reading about superheroes wasn't enough, they had to actually become superheroes with all the trappings of the trope.

"Well, I loved the Miraclem... sorry, 'Man Of Miracles' figure from Todd McFarlane" sneered Dick. "I just wondered what would happen if he squatted any lower."

Valerie D'Orazio dismissed Todd's prick, pulling up the cover to Omac #4. "It's like everything I've written online, expressed as a single condemning thought. And no one at DC even noticed."

Johanna shuddered, composing herself to say "As continual Cassandra of the comics industry, the future echoes of Adam Fortier's photo session promoting Speakeasy touches me in a way little else can..."

Jonah Weiland went for a letter that he'd received. "You can't read it often enough, to remind yourself of the audience difficulties the comic industry must face..."

Heidi MacDonald went for Alan Moore's Christmas card on the basis that she'd got one and no one else had...

In mid tussle, Paul O'Brien settled on the following image:

"It says all there needs to be about how America's corporate nature transforms art into troglodyte consumerism- and if widely disseminated, could provide lawyers like me quite an income in legal suits."

Matt Brady plumped for the following cover.

"It says ass," he repeated about twenty times, while he sat on Paul's head.

Jen Contino picked this image of Joe Quesada's kitchen, splashed in the glossies, saying "Gosh, I don't know. I guess I just like the look of a homely kitchen.

Ben Morse, asked if the rest of the judges would consider this product placement in a Marvel comic...

But instead plumped for a Rob Liefeld page than managed to give both Captain America and Iron Man odd footwear.

"It's just the closest thing we'll ever get to a Marvel/DC Crossover and it should be encouraged. I just wish I could be there when DC & Marvel kiss and make up."

Dirk Deppey had quite a soft spot for Mike Wieringo's take on John Byrne...

...saying, "I mean I thought I knew how high egos could go working with Gary, but man. Even when John is being self deprecatory, he's puffing himself up."

Chris Butcher grabbed the Steve Niles sticker image, posted around conventions this year.

"At least he's a man who addresses his criticisms head on. Even if he uses it to make a joke. Like Bush did with that WMD sketch. More of that, please. We've all got blogs to write you know..."

Tom Spurgeon showed his softer side by cuddling up to these pretty fellows.

"It just confirms everything I've ever suspected about Marvel. There is no such thing as a bottom of a barrel for them, they can always go one level lower."

But in the end, the judges all agreed that there was one gallery of art that seemed to sum up the industry.

Alex Milne's $75 a page "breakdowns" for Pat Lee's $300 a page "Cyberforce" artwork, as an example of how the industry spits out people, and how creators can treat another creator in far worse ways than a company ever could. Damn it, Joe Quesada was right...

FEUD OF THE YEAR AWARD

Always a popular category, this years ranged from the forced, tense, but still vaguely civil back-and-forth between Bob Layton and Tom Brevoort blogs over just what went wrong with the "Iron Man: The End" project. And again, distance between two individuals let Paul Levitz and Dwayne MacDuffie emerge relatively over the future of Static and Milestone, with Paul insisting that lack of progress was down to Dwayne's illness and Dwayne pointing out that no one at DC had actually contacted him about it for years.

For Graeme, there was only one feud that stuck in his mind. "Steve Niles versus Matt Busch! It has everything you need! Adultery, infidelity, theft, deceit, threats, homophobic insults and phone messages that have already been remixed for the dance floor. You've never partied 'till you've got down to "You faggot!" Jen Contino, ever the placater, pointed out that Matt Busch had recently apologised to Steve for everything that happened.

Johanna Draper Carlson chose Tamora Pierce's diatribe against Mark Millar over the writing of Sue Richards on the Fantastic Four. "It has everything the fanboys need. A successful-prose-writer taking on a commercial comics writer, over the biggest selling yet most controversial title, with accusations of misogyny." Again, Jen had to point out that Tamora apologised for getting personal.

Heidi MacDonald asked about when Michael Oeming had a go at Tamora Pierce for writing a book he was meant to be writing, and with dodgy Hispanic accents to boot. But again, Jen pointed out that Michael apologised as well.

"What we need is some actual vindictive language that the person doesn't suddenly apologise for the moment they realise other people are watching" said Dirk. "You know, like in the good old days."

Matt Brady rummaged through his archives and pulled out the moment on the Newsarama boards that colourist Richard Isanove went postal on Pat Lee, saying, "I have dealt with the likes of Pat Lee in the past and I have reveled at their demise. But, like cockroaches, they somehow always seem to survive, mostly because of people who would write that it doesn't matter who is left beaten and bleeding in the gutter as long as their precious comic books are in the store on time." "That's more like it" screamed Dirk. "But shouldn't there be more swear words?"

This and more was provided by judge Valarie D'Orazio in her blog which detailed her time at DC Comics, seemingly condemning a number of senior employees for their actions. But despite the content, her very reasonable, understanding, even self-deprecatory attitude dulled the sting. "It's not a feud unless there's spit in the air" judged Heidi.

Thankfully saliva was provided by the category winner, agreed by everyone, John Byrne Vs The John Byrne Forum.

Now, Byrne has always had a certain edgy attitude to members of his forum

Dave Farabee, on "Lost Girls": Got my copy on order. Looking forward to it more than any other comic in quite some time.

John Byrne: Then you are a complete asshole.

Certainly Byrne has had his share of Feud nominations in the past. But, when one Byrne Forum regular passed away at home a few weeks ago, it went up a notch. Many members expressed their sadness and condolences. One, Frank Lauro, lived near the funeral home and, with the blessing of the family and members of the board, took those messages to be read at the funeral, representing the board. Returning, he reported as much, only to find himself subsequently banned from the board by John Byrne. There was speculation that this was over either Frank's breaches of the controversial copyright notice Byrne attaches to the board, or by representing the board as a whole, an action previously disapproved of by Byrne. I understand that the only reason given to moderators was because "he was askin' for it" and it may have been cumulative.

In response, a number of regular Byrne Board posters have expressed their outrage on the boards, a number of which have been deleted. Dave Pruitt, founder of the board, has quit as a moderator and stated on the spinoff board IMWAN, "Let me give you a hint. I'm no longer a mod due to a 'cumulative effect.' I wasn't fired, it was my decision. I'm not leaving the forum though. I will have to be banned for that to happen. Frank being banned by JB was not the reason, just the last straw." He is not the only moderator to leave over this incident, and there appears to be quite an exodus of Byrne Board regulars. And transcripts of the John Byrne Forum Chat have been made available online - Day One and Day Two. There is no Day Three as, on hearing that the chats were being copied and made available online, Byrne closed the Chat function on the site.

With Byrne holding feuds with the likes of Mark Waid, Erik Larsen, Peter David, Todd McFarlene, Mark Evanier, Marv Wolfman, Jim Shooter, Joe Quesada, Bill Jemas, Dan Didio, Gail Simone, Paty Cockrum, Rob Liefeld, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Chris Claremont, Brian Bendis and more, a number of which originated or propogated on the Byrne Forum, it was probably only a matter of time before this shining sun turned into a black hole and devoured itself.

LEAK OF THE YEAR

"What I love about the comics industry" said Jonah, "is how it's just like the movie industry. Same huge egos, same importance attached to every piece of information, same condemnation of any criticism or involuntary exposure. Just that the money is so, so, so much less. Damn it, I knew I should have started FilmResources.com instead." "Too right" said Matt. "Why couldn't Newsarama have been Musorama instead? Music is far more profitable, ringtone ads alone could have paid for a mansion..."

Ben Morse found his own website nominated for a couple of events. "It's not fairm" said Ben. "We've got a section called breaking news, and when we actually break news, the site gets blacklisted for weeks." But the WizardUniverse reveal that Steve Wacker had left DC for Marvel, before DC were ready to spin the story their way caused all sorts of trouble, even when the story was quickly removed. The same went for Wizard's mistake confirming the at-the-time-only-LITG-reported story that Richard Donner was joining Geoff Johns on "Action Comics."

Paul O'Brien pointed out that this were leaks by Wizard, rather than DC per se. And that Marvel had a series of leaks on "Civil War" that they caused themselves. Firstly, spoiling the fact that Spider-Man was to unmask as Peter Parker by released preview copies of Thunderbolts, then sending legal letters to websites to stop them reporting this fact - only to spoil the story in question a few days later in the New York Daily Post a day before the comic shipped. Then revealing the new identity of Daredevil by printing the "Civil War" #1 script with a section not very effectively blanked out, before running fictitious anti-spoilers, destroying the independence of several online reporters who participated, in the process. Then placing spoilers for the appearance of Thor and Punisher on variant covers. And finally, "They're doing it on purpose, they've abandoned any element of surprise, they're just just trying to crack the internet into sixteenths."

But all agreed that the biggest leak, one that hadn't been revealed until now was that for a few weeks, a link to DC's dropbox of internal files was not only visible on the main DC website, but accessible with passwords such as "Batman" and "Superman," leading to Lying in the Gutters being able to pull out upcoming logos and artwork directly from the folders, an action that has only been revealed in this awards column.

"Having employees leak stories, that's one thing" said Johanna. "But when your website does it for you, you have no one else to blame. Never have happened under my watch,"

IN YOUR POCKET AWARD

There had been a lot less accusations of corruption this year. But a few stuck out.

Ben Morse found himself nominated again. "You're just picking on me" he said. But the relaunch of WizardUniverse included a press release that made fact what everyone had surmised over the years, that Wizard's editorial content is paid for by advertisers, when Mel Caylo, Editorial Director discussed "the exclusive deals we broker for magazine usage."

Chris Butcher reminded everyone about the retailers who had been paid by Platinum Studios the full cost of ordering hundreds of copies of the rather disappointing "Cowboys & Aliens" graphic novel, in order to make a #1 splash in the charts at a time when the property needed publicity.

But Dirk, Tom, Matt and Jonah insisted that the award go to Broken Frontier, for being bought out by the previously-mentioned Platinum Studios. We all look forward to their review of "Cowboys & Aliens" ...

GAY AWARD OF THE YEAR

2006 was a disappointing gay-less year, rumour wise. Last year's column had already run the Kathy-Kane-lesbian-Batwoman story, although the internally-scheduled DC title has yet to appear, as Dan Didio continues to delay and rearrange the creative teams. And while Obsidian caused a small fuss, it was hardly seismic. And ironically, neither was the confimation of Rictor's bisexuality.

"Valerie D'Orazio's account of coming out at DC made uncomfortable reading, but nothing compared to the anonymous report a few years ago that Marvel's Isaac Perlmutter's said that if ex-EIC Bob Harras that if Bob had any children who turned out to be gay, he should kill them." Johanna reminded everyone "Hell, even Chuck Dixon is writing gay characters now."

Graeme McMillan reminded everyone of Robert Kirkman's gay character "Freedom Ring" in "Marvel Team Up," who was killed horrifically with a spike up his bottom. And the Rawhide Kid appearance in the Marvel Handbook which appeared to "in" the poor fellow.

Ben Morse piped up to say that he'd always thought those all-male Marvel retreats were very mysterious. "They all go into a room, they all come out with smiles on their faces. Except for JMS. Someone should sniff the seats."

Jen Contino, puzzled, exclaimed, "Donna Troy in the pre crisis universe was the best character ever! She was really gay!" Everyone else looked around even more uncomfortably than they did when Ben spoke.

But Dirk Deppey crossed his arms, and made everyone vote for the series of bizarre statements from Marvel, first from Joe Quesada that there was a policy not to have any lead gay characters in a title that wasn't an over-18 only MAX title - because they wanted to avoid a repetition of the publicity that the over-18 only MAX title "Rawhide Kid" caused them a couple of years earlier. Then that the policy had been reversed, and Freedom Ring was an example of that. Then Marvel PR guy Jeff Klein denying the policy had ever existed in the first place and anyone who said so was quoting Joe out of context.

"Man, it's like they were just scanning in pages from "1984" and cut and pasting" said Dirk. "I wish I had the balls to do that."

HUMAN RESOURCES ACTIVITY OF THE YEAR

Johanna Draper Carlson, Heidi MacDonald and Valarie D'Orazio are all ex-DC'ers. "Notice something else we have in common" asked Heidi? "That none of you wear fishnets" replied Ben. And indeed, DC saw many people depart this year, of their own volition or being shown the door - and of being large and the kind of company that when this happened, had staff went screaming to my inbox. They included Jenna Sices, Bill Rosemann, Steve Wacker, Bob Greenbegrer, Marty Pasko, Rich Johnson, Dave McKillips, Paul Kupperberg, Bill Godfrey, Vinnie Costa, Jaye Gardner. Still, at least they got Mike Marts from Marvel in return for Bill and Steve.

Tom Spurgeon reminded everyone of the moment TokyoPop outsourced their production department to India. "They great thing is, those guys can draw while simultaneously answering the phone for financial companies the world over."

The Wizard firings drew quite a lot of attention, with high profile names such as Stewart Morales, Gabriel Fieramosco and Pat McCallum getting kicked to the ground. "I'm still there!" screamed Ben Morse.

Creatively, Stuart Moore and Phil Jiminez made a swift departure from "Nightwing" befiore they'd even got thair feet warm, and Bilson and DeMeo said goodbye to "Flash" in similar circumstances, though they were given a creator owned book deal in recompense.

Of course there were all the people working on Mark Millar's "1985," artists, technicians, actors, stage builders, video diarists and the like who were ditched when Marvel saw the first issue and plumped for a standard looking comic instead.

But Paul O'Brien reminded everyone that the winner had to be Dez Skinn, editor of "Comics International" who fired himself, the magazine going to Cosmic Productions, to be edited by Mike Conroy. "That's the kind of firing that takes real skill."

SUPERBOY PUNCH AWARD

Continuity is a precious flower. Nutured, it can blossom. Left to grow, it can strangle the life out of all the plants. But too harsh a pruning and it will wither and die. On such a stretched metaphor did our team of judges tackle the next award.

First up was the "House Of M" energy, released when the Scarlet Witch made almost all the mutants in the Marvel Universe lose their powers. "Wait a minute... what did who with what?" asked Dirk. "Beats me" said Tom. "You're both complete snobs" raged Graeme. "This energy has been repeatedly used up in its entirety on at least five occasions since - a walking plot point without any editorial control over what it was used for, dumbasses."

"And it's not as if Marvel have a punching Superboy to explain all the continuity wrinkles" said Chris. "Wrinkles be fucked," shouted Paul O'Brien, who had been drinking the special Hyrule milk all afternoon. "What about bloody Black Panther. They start it off as a complete reboot of continuity, then say its a Silver Age story, then abandon any pretence that either is what they were doing, get mixed up with which Radioactive Man they're using, if they are at all, then decide to crossover with the rest of the Marvel Universe, with the result that none of the timeline makes sense anymore. Oh and then there's the Black Knight sword thing as well. Arseholes."

Yes, it was all getting a little bit sweary. Jen covered her ears as Johanna pointed at DC changing the title of "Infinite Christmas" to "Infinite Holidays," in an attempt at all encompassment that ruined a perfectly good pun.

Dirk Deppey held up the changing pages of "Tomb Of Dracula" with all sorts of nipples being covered up for the Essential volume. Jen Contino covered her eyes as well.

Matt Brady ruminated over the various versions of events in the "Civil War" crossover books, with serious contradictions all over the place - though the two scenes, one in which Iron Man tells Spider-Man that the big prison is permanent, then in a similar scene in another book, states it's temporary was a key point. As was Captain America and Iron Man having two contradictory "One Final Meeting" in two Civil War specials in the same week.

Valarie D'Orazio reminded the crowd of the attempted Wildstorm-censoring of "The Boys" #3, that only resulted in a week's delay when DC people intervened, quite the opposite of the way things used to go down.

Johanna was interested to see that in the "Best Of Spider-Man" Vol 5, reprinting "Amazing Spider-Man" #516, a dig at DC Comics and the performance of their graphic novels had been completely removed.

But in the end, there was only one winner. DC Comics for the "Infinite Crisis" hardcover which made so many changes to scenes throughout the series, to set up the return of Earth 2, something that the actual series had ensured was not returning. As well as a few embarrassing sound effects along the way. And then persuading certain commentators not to mention the major changes.

"One day DC will learn that saying 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' is possibly the worst thing you can do" said Valarie. "Apart from turning all your characters into rapists, murderers and corpses of course"

NOT PAYING AWARD

"Can't we have more positive awards?" asked Jen. "Feuds, not paying, sockpuppets, firings, it's all terribly negative. Why can't we form a circle and sing a song. I'll get the tambourines." Jen ran off to buy the instruments she needed from a nearby Hyrule market stall.

"Thank goodness she's gone" said Dirk. "My natural cynicism was starting to weaken. Right, non-payers... the bastards! Who have we got?" Jonah Weiland and Matt Brady excused themselves to consult with their lawyers. "Chickens" shouted Tom. "Right Dirk, you name them and I'll link to you." "No, Tom, you name them and I'll link to you" replied Dirk. "And I'll link to you both" said Graeme. "Honestly" sighed Johanna. If you want something doing, do it yourself. How about Studio Makma for the tones on Ben Roman's "I Luv Halloween" from TokyoPop. "They're going to get paid though aren't they" asked Chris? "And it's only for tones..."

"Well, how about Ken Lashley and Draxhall Studios?" asked Paul O'Brien. "Not enough names, it's all conjecture, no one's stepping forward..." clarified Heidi. "Well maybe if someone would do some actual journalism," said Dirk, "then I could link to it." "Oh for heaven's sake" screamed Paul. "What about Steve Geppi and Gemstone?" Everyone consulted their lawyers before Ben Morse reminded them that the freelancers are actually being paid and before the end of the year.

"Pat Lee's got a massive one," said Valarie. As everyone blinked slowly, she continued, "reputation that is. For not paying. And he's been through a couple of non-paying companies this year alone." "Yeah, but you expect that of him" said Ben Morse. "It's part of his charm. It doesn't really count if it's Pat Lee."

So the winner, through a process of elimination, was Rick Olney of TightLip Entertainment, for his double whammy of not paying creators when he promised, blowing further payment deadlines and then threatening anyone who publicly complained with a lawsuit for breach of contract. "It's like a masterclass in irony," murmured Paul O'Brien. "If nothing else" said Dirk, "she made the industry feel sorry for Ronee Borgeouis. Quite a feat."

The debate, including emails sent to Gail Simone from Rick Olney, continues at Gail's CBR board.

WHY ARE WE WAITING AWARD

Never has this award had so many high profile nominees. "All Star Batman" and "All Star Superman" were instant mentions, and threatened to split the vote. The former was so late that the DC subscription department told subscribers that it had been cancelled - it was just easier that way. And no one could figure out what possessed the not-the-timliest of creators, and Vice President of DC to add "Batman" and "Wildcats" to an already full schedule working on a DC computer game. Would Grant Morrison's next creative collaborator be Brian Bolland? Al Columbia? Todd McFarlane?

After some debates as to whether this belonged in the Famous Last Words category, Mark Millar earlier in the year stated how annoyed he was that people thought "Ultimates 2" would be late, that it was "impossible for these books to be delayed" and that anyone could punch him in the stomach if it hadn't all shipped by the end of this year. I understand a queue has already begun to build across Hadrian's Wall. And it's good to see the tradition being continued, with "Ultimates 3" not even being considered for solicitation until the summer, due to Joe Mad's schedule.

The on-again-off-again "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" HC certainly ruffled a few feathers. But it would be "Civil War" that would win the prize. Not only was it late, then it's late deadlines were put back with Steve Mc Niven's sickness that had not yet affected his page-a-day schedule being blamed for Marvel's delay to his already-completed-on-time issue #6. But this was more than one comic being late, it was thirty comics, all containing plot points that hinged on the central title. As structures collapsed, retailers foretold doom, January 2007 looked like it would have the dubious honour of having two issues of "Civil War" ship in one month. Although most West Coast retailers have discovered that they have only received 10-15% of their #6 orders this week, with the rest to follow when weather permits. And what are the odds of issue 7 slipping again..?

FAMOUS LAST WORDS AWARD

As Tom Spurgeon began to slay the approaching goblin horde, Matt Brady went to his archive again. "It's amazing the kind of story that comes up again and again and again. Take November 2005 when Joe Quesada said, regarding excessive advertising in Marvel titles; 'Come December all our books go back to their normal page counts. And in the future, if we ever find ourselves in this kind of a dilemma again, we will make sure that we place the bulk of the ads towards the back of the books so as to interrupt the stories as little as possible... Like everything new, there's a learning curve involved so I just ask fans to please be patient with us.'"

But in November 2006, he said "What gives is that the advertisers got wise to our game and placed commitments in regards to placement of their ads. Requests range from 1st half of a book, front third, etc... Additionally, we simply sold more ads, which made it more difficult to put in content that would break up the ads. The blunt answer is that we are doing our best to manage the line-ups, but we cannot pass up the opportunity to service advertisers in the months that they want to advertise. If we turn them down now, we will not get their business later. It's also safe to assume that we will be having this type of problem every November and December for the foreseeable future."

Matt scratched his head "It's almost as if he's explaining why he's not contradicting himself... by doing exactly that."

Rob Liefeld came nominated here for his explanations for the lateness of his "Teen Titans" book changed from last year's mea culpa - "I'll take 100% blame for the book being late. Reasons vary from con commitments, a move to a bigger house and the craziness that entails, 3 kids under 5 being more of a handful than expected, and generally being a bit overwhelmed" to this year's "With the 'Titans' it was four weeks late. Guilty as charged. But a whole lot of 'Infinite Crisis' stuff was going on that affected that."

But for a second win, it was Marvel PR Jeff Klein for his insistence that Joe Quesada didn't say what he said about gay policies at Marvel with such insistence that it was almost convincing, until you actually read what had been written. Johanna concluded saying, "I'm going to insist that Marvel are publishing a wide range of female friendly titles... maybe that will suddenly come true as well."

SOCKPUPPET OF THE YEAR

Inventing a new identity for yourself is a familiar internet trait. But when comics professionals do it, it can be quite hilarious. Paul O'Brien recalled the moment Reginald Hudlin took his "Black Panther" arguments to the message boards. "He created two other users to back his arguments up and defend his points of view. And if only they hadn't have had the same IP addresses as Reginald, he might have got away with it. It's like an episode of Scooby Doo, but just really, really nerdy."

Dirk Deppey regaled the crowd with his tales of many identities regarding the conflict between Nancy Suydam and Renee Witterstaetter on his boards, so that he had no idea who was who.

But Graeme persuaded everyone else that the real winner was Oscar Jimenez, who reinvented himself as the much more reliable artist Juan Barranco, denied that they were the same person, made Rich Johnston run a retraction which Graeme eagerly followed up on. Although, the retraction of the retraction, and Axel Alonso's later confirmation that they were the same person somehow missed his attention.

"I must have been looking at breasts," Graeme explained.

MADDEST MOMENT AWARD

Always a popular award, the year was full of inexplicable events. Ben Morse tried to divert attention from a WizardUniverse interview with Jason Aaron which talked about a group of Vietnam veterans meeting for the anniversary of "The Wall". To which Wizard added "(Pink Floyd's seminal concept album.)" "It's just not fair to keep picking on Wizard," Ben wailed. Everyone agreed with Ben that it wasn't fair, but that it was very funny indeed. Even Jen.

Chris recalled the introduction written by Todd McFarlane to the "Sam & Twitch: The Bendis Collection." where he eulogised over how wonderful it was that Bendis wrote the series and how he felt proud of having hired Bendis before his star rose on titles such as "Ultimate Spider-Man." Forgetting that he fired Bendis from "Sam & Twitch" when Bendis dropped "Hellspawn" to write said Spider-Man title.

Paul rather enjoyed "Alpha Flight" artist John Calimee's statement that Joss Whedon was a bad writer on "Serenity" because he didn't go to war.

Johanna was dumbfounded by Steve Englehart's racially stereotypical line from "JSA Classified" #16, "I need more energy to rouse Vixen. So I'll steal it. It's what gypsies do!"

Then there was the moment Rob Liefeld called Jim Lee, McNiven, Quitely out for lateness stating, "And why wouldn't Jim Lee do a 2 part interview to explain why one issue of 'All Star Batman' shipped in 2006 after 3 cancelled solicitations or why 'Wildcats' needs 7 months in-between issues, actually 9 since #1 was 6 weeks late? I like Jim, but of course an explanation and apology was necessary." Me, I'm still waiting for mine for the delay on "Youngblood Bloodsport" 2, again missing its most recent scheduled shipping date,

WizardWorld Chicago, aside from announcing record attendance, when everyone could see the empty aisles, was in the spotlight when it banned the infamous booth babes from exhibitors in Artists Alley, saying "Actresses and Models are NOT allowed to set up in Artist Alley. If you are a Model/Actress or an artist who intends to bring a Model/Actress as a guest at your table, please be aware that you will NOT be allowed to set up in Artist Alley." Which may have explained certain people not turning up to Wizard World as a result. Ben pounded the lush velvety grass, lamenting, "Leave us alone! Leave us alone, why can't you?" At which point his attention was distracted by a green rupee he'd disturbed. Ding!

Graeme MacMillan wanted to nominate everything Mark Millar said this year, from his open appeal to A-List artists, his insistence that everyone in comics was going to become a multi-millionaire and that "Lost Girls" did not feature children in sexual situations.

Heidi MacDonald was dumbfounded by the moment Gotham City Limits donated "Sin City Babes" figures to raise money for a fund to find sexual harrassment, and Friends Of Lulu not only accepted them but promoted the auction item.

Jonah Weiland wanted the award to go to Alan Davis, who talked about the reality of the business as he saw it, openly, honestly and with such cynicism that Dirk Deppey was transformed into a fluffy bunny in comparison. Davis told a convention panel crowd that writers, needing to increase their salary after royalty payments disappeared as the norm, stretched their story ideas into multiple issue arcs, a five issue arc taking less time to write that five separate stories, so that they could write more titles. And artists demand editorial ask writers to give them splash and double splash pages for extra resale value. And how most mainstream comics are editorially driven with set plot points, and the writer's job is nothing more than finding acceptable ways to join the dots. Something we'd all suspected, but to hear such a participant in modern comics state it was, rather surprising.

But it was Grant Morrison who took the prize. When he stated that the appearance of his character Bulletteer in "52" was as a result of the character being "a kind of cipher who crops up when writers need a 'lame' hero to stand around in crowd scenes. I have no control over how people handle the Seven Soldiers characters in my wake." Or indeed in the very series, "52," that he was meant to be co-writing.

PWNING OF THE YEAR

After Graeme explained to the others what the title meant, there could only be one winner. John Byrne. But for which event?

Would it be the moment Brian Hibbs took John Byrne to task for Byrne's insistence that retailers with a grudge were responsible for the failure of "Lab Rats," listing chapter and verse his own sales figures on the title, and explaining just how sales were spread across the direct market, which would isolate any such grudge retailers from having a significant effect, as one might to a five year old?

Or, from the very same thread, would it be Paul O'Brien's dismissal of Byrne's claim that "Spider-Man: Chapter One" was one of Marvel's best selling titles of the year, when it started well with the first two issues scraping into the top ten, but by the end of the series being at number 49.

The judges couldn't come to a decision, and in the end agreed that John Byrne should tie with himself. Which had the added bonus of sounding vaguely rude.

RUMOUR OF THE YEAR AWARD

So many to choose from. Would it be stories that LITG revealed that came spectacularly true, Stuart Immonen on "Ultimate Spider-Man," Oscar Jiminez being Juan Barranco, Kathy Kane being a lesbian Batwoman, Jodi Picoult writing "Wonder Woman" and the implications of Tenth Circle, Ian Rankin on "Hellblazer," Dabel Brothers at Marvel, Adam Hughes on "All Star Wonder Woman," Ennis on "Midnighter," Terry Gilliam working with Virgin Comics, "Seven Brothers" from Woo and Ennis from Virgin, Morrison and Kubert on "Batman," Donner and Johns on "Action Comics," Danijel Zezelj on "Desolation Jones," Peter David and Pop Mhan on "Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man," IDW getting "Star Trek," JMS writing "Thor," Mattel getting the 1966 TV Batmobile rights, the existence of "Green Arrow: Year One," "Metamorpho: Year One" and "Storming Paradise," Yanick Paquette on "Ultimate X-Men," "Spawn/Batman," Liefeld returning to "Onslaught," the return of "Alpha Flight" out of "Civil War," DC instituting FOC, Bart Allen as Flash, "Battler Britton," clearing Jim McLauchlin's name, Nike product placement at Marvel, the JLA lineup, the Teen Titans lineup, Marvel's anti-Swipe letter, John Byrne leaving "Superman Returns" books, the cancellation of "Doom Patrol," Superboy retroactively changing the DC Universe in subsequent printings or collections?

Or would it be spectacular stories, yet to be confirmed, Jim Shooter on "Legion Of Superheroes," Phillip Pullman writing for a weekly UK comic, a "Groo/Conan" special, a new weekly DC series "Countdown" "showrun" by Paul Dini or a Moore/Villarubia graphic novel about magic in French?

It would be none of these. In the end, it had to be the yet unannounced news that Green Arrow and Black Canary are to wed in the DC Universe sometime in 2007. A story so big and newsworthy that it had be hidden in the depths of this column as a reward for everyone who made it this far.

Jen returned with no tambourines, but a number of fairies in bottles, wooden shields and bombs. "A wedding?" she screamed. "I want to be the bridesmaid! I'll happily wear fishnets!"

"Me, too," said Tom.

At which point, everyone voluntarily re-entered their ComfyCrates TM, trying to scrub that image from their mind, as the crates were sucked through a portal into the Twilight World, back into their own reality of blogs, websites and columns - no more real than the world they'd just left....

Rumour Awards 2006 is a satire by LYING IN THE GUTTERS, published on Comic Book Resources, and is not intended maliciously. LYING IN THE GUTTERS 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.

Christmas conclusions: More people have had a miscarriage that I could ever have thought - it seems a secret reality for so many. Christmas is for adults looking at it through their children's eyes. And the Doctor washed the spider down the plughole.

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