Lying In The Gutters

Mon, August 20th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 118

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 thirteen 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.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I am Robin to your Batman, Speedy to your Green Arrow, Etta Candy to Your Wonder Woman" - Neil Gaiman, BBC4.

Before we begin, I understand there are some of you yet to order "The Flying Friar In Colour," in the current Previews from Markosia. Listen. The only way you will be able to see a copy is if you order a copy. They will be as rare as my journalistic ethics. If you enjoy this column, and you enjoy my writing, then order "The Flying Friar." It is the work I am most proud of. Thank you.

You know how Warren Ellis does that ordering code form thing? I fancy that too. Maybe I could use of of his as a template? Just fire up the MS Paint...

STALKING MR DITKO

[Green Light]This weekend, I have mostly been watching "In Search Of Steve Ditko," the upcoming BBC4 programme where Jonathan Ross goes in search of his comics artistic hero.

Jonathan Ross is a national institution in the UK. In the mold of David Letterman, he has created a number of chat show formats, as well as introducing Britain to Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, whose influence in British comedy would dominate the nineties. He's a regular participant of "Comic Relief," a weekly BBC Radio 2 show, the host of the BBC's weekly film review show and the recipient of an £18 million deal over five years at the BBC. Which he has spent mostly on comics. He used to own a comic shop in Soho, London called Top Ten, is the biggest single customer of comics in the UK and owns a number of copies of "Amazing Fantasy" #15.

American comic geeks probably know him best for kissing Neil Gaiman at the Eisners this year.

So what better man to introduce Britain, especially the snobby arty types like me who watch BBC4, to Steve Ditko?

And he does an admirable job. With comics fan BBC Radio DJ Paul Gambaccinni and Mark Millar both enthusing over Jonathan's collection (Mark discovering the only way to get a word past Paul is to be filmed on a separate camera), Ross plots Ditko's career and influence, talking to Cat Yronwode, Flo Steinberg, Joe Quesada, John Romita Sr., Joseph Rubenstein and many more. Ross even shows a clip from the bloodthirsty Turkish Spider-Man TV show. And Alan Moore recited his Steve Ditko song lyrics.

And Ross paints a man of mystery of strange genius, of peculiar politics who came to Marvel, left his mark and then left, never being truly acknowledged for his influence. Annoyingly it cuts out Ditko's return to Marvel with projects such as "Machine Man" and "Speedball," seemingly because it spoils the narrative being painted.

But amazingly, Ross does something with Stan Lee that I've never seen on camera. He presses the point over Stan's acknowledgement of Steve Ditko as co-creator of Spider-Man and for about twenty seconds, Stan drops the mask. The huckster, the showman, the face-front of Marvel is gone and you see the true man behind... before the mask comes back up again. For someone who's been brought up on Stan Lee, hell I even interviewed him myself twelve years ago, it's incredibly unsettling and worth the whole programme.

And then Ross, hand in hand with Neil Gaiman, goes stalking Steve Ditko across New York City, giving anyone else who wishes to do the same all the information they need. Do they succeed? Well, that's presumably one of the reasons you'll want to watch the show.

It's a bizarre show, both Ditko/Comics 101 for a general audience, but also exploring some of the myths and legends that genuinely have grown up around Ditko, with an incredibly enjoyable presenter who means every word he says.

The show airs on BBC4 on September 18th at 9:30pm for 60 minutes. Odds are it'll be on YouTube the day after. Set your Sky Plus boxes... now!

THE VICE SQUAD

[Yellow Light]So what has happened to the Senior Vice President - Sales And Marketing position at DC Comics? After its last inhabitant was shown the door, the job has been repeatedly advertised without being filled.

I understand that Joel Ehrlich's name has recently been mentioned regarding the role. Previously Senior Vice President of Marketing And Promotions, Ehrlich had a consulting position at DC, which enabled him to operate other ventures, such as his off-broadway shows (as evidenced by the musical auditions he held in the DC offices on the third floor last year) and was as an executive with the International Fight League, co-owned by Gareb Shamus, until May this year.

DC's plans to make substantial changes to the way the business ran appear to have been placed on the back burner - the last thing they need now is a "change agent." Joel is an old comics professional who knows the business and the people and could probably give the sliding ad sales an uptick as well. With VP-Advertising David McKillips also gone, maybe DC is looking to rebuild their old team. Joel would also provide a sense of continuity if Bob Wayne were to leave DC in the far-off-future.

BUT IF I STAY, IT WILL BE DABEL

[Yellow Light]So, why did Dabel Bros. Studios and Marvel part ways?

I understand it was basically over repeated non-payment to creators. Marvel had to cover a variety of payments and, as stated in the contract, in such circumstances, the contract was cancelled and Marvel ended up with the rights to a number of series which they'll continue to publish.

This is good news for Marvel. Not only do they get to be the good guys, but they also gain the "Anita Blake" series which just netted them the #1 best selling graphic novel this month - and that's only in the direct market.

I understand that there were other issues concerning operating budgets and schedule dates. But it was the non-payment that threatened to really blow up in their faces and there was real fear at Marvel that the non-payment story might all come out in this very column before they had a chance to fix it.

So they fixed it.

Les Dabel tells me "I'm not sure where you got this information from. The conclusions they've drawn are inaccurate.

"This was a business decision, not some case of 'good guys' and 'bad guys' as you suggest. We parted ways with Marvel on good terms and we are looking to continue what we do best -- to bring as many new faces as we can into the industry."

I would like to clarify I spoke to creators who feel stiffed by the Dabel's and individuals at Marvel Comics who are very clear about having to pick up Dabel's tab on a number of projects.

If anyone out there has anything to add, now is the time to do it.

WE ARE THAT NOURISHMENT

[Green Light]Sounds like a cue to check in on Pat Lee. His Pat Lee Productions website is up and running and as usual hilarious. He really is like Rick Olney with a larger budget. Except he pays his web designer up front.

The introduction reads:

"The constancy of mind, the persistence of progress, and the finality of decision is that which rules and guides the conduct of Pat Lee Productions."

Finality, like telling everybody that everything's okay, while you're diverting money to another company before putting the current one into bankruptcy?

"A company that has proven over and over again the requirements to unify all creative minds, which we have had the pleasure to work with. We work with a conscious purpose within the realms of creative production development for a grand outcome for all involved. Our moral shield is to please our clients."

Is this the same shield that Jonathan Aitken wielded?

"Pat Lee Productions admires and harnesses the power of the innovative mind among its forces with their aspirations being the approval of the client's heart. When working together, we inspire all or clients to become merged artistically with us to reach a common goal of creative synergy."

Is "merged artistically with us" a euphemism for getting screwed?

"What we offer is a new world. A way out of the box that fogs the monotony or ordinary ideas. Artistry and ideas echo in eternity, living forever in people's consciousness when done correctly. Innovations are living entities needing nourishment. We are that nourishment. Indulge with us in a new way of thinking. Walk with us through these doors and let us be your guide to worlds where you had no idea that existed."

With nourishment like that, who needs starvation? There's more, much more within, but you deserve a taster. Find your own favourites.

HITCHUATION

[Green Light]Bryan Hitch's artwork, featured on the foldout cover to the British version of "Soon I Will Be Invincible" is also seen in a rather imaginative advertising campaign for the book and bookseller Waterstones - as seen on all phoneboxes in Kingston Upon Thames this weekend. Here's just one.

SHOT TO SALES

[Yellow Light]So, who is the next writer of "Legion" after Tony Bedard? One blogger has been told one name. "Jim."

Lee or Shooter? Both have a strong interest in the title.

Well, as reported, the new "Legion" artist is Francis Manapul, whose inker is John Livesay, who is working on a project... with Jim Shooter.

PULP HARRIS

[Green Light]Tony Harris' next project, is a comic book series set in the 1940s and written with B Clay Moore.

GOOD BUDDIES

[Green Light]C.B. Celbuski and David Finch are working on a double-sized X-Men annual together.

IT WASN'T 'COS ANDY SMITH'S NOT A RANGER IS IT? -- Updated 9:15 PM PDT

[Yellow Light]I understand "Stormwatch" has been cancelled with issue 12.

UPDATE: Stormwatch PHD writer Christos Gage writes:

"#12 is the last issue of StormWatch PHD…but not the last issue of StormWatch.

"November's StormWatch PHD: Armageddon functions as kind of an unofficial 13th issue. After that, StormWatch will go on a brief hiatus, before returning (as I understand it, continuing the numbering) minus the PHD subtitle and with a new creative team. No, I can't say who or what they have planned – that's not my place. Yes, that means I'm moving on to another WildStorm Universe book, and no, I can't say which one or who's drawing it…but I'm very, very excited about it and I hope you will be too.

"I really wish I could say more right now, in the same way you want to tell someone who's starting a really good book how it ends, but that wouldn't be cool. But I do want to say thanks for your support thus far…stick around, it just gets better from here!

"And don't miss the Armageddon miniseries…you have been warned!"

PRIME SUSPECTED

[Green Light]Neil Edwards, "Starship Troopers" artist, has really let something slip. He says "Hi just finished this new cover for the primeval comic. also working on a new top secret book and some marvel samples. i'll post them over the next few days for everybody to see. hope yu like them, best, neil"

Primeval comic?

"Primeval" was ITV's recent answer to BBC's "Doctor Who." A time travel story about prehistoric and posthistoric monsters let loose in modern day Britain through a series of wormholes that was fairly pants for the most part, but the time travel causality loop between the first and last episode was spectacular and the kind of thing "Doctor Who" should do more often.

Anyway, it looks like there's a comic version coming out. Somewhere.

THE SHIPPING FORECAST

[Green Light]Alex De Campi's third volume (of four) of "Kat And Mouse" ships from TokyoPop this week. Here are some pretty pictures.

Also, the magazine that could be the answer to "what's between Wizard and The Comics Journal" ships this week, Comics Foundry, a magazine created from the blogosphere up. In which Matt Fraction writes step-by-step guide on 'How To Make Love To Kieron Gillen'.

"It's like the old joke about the traveling salesman, the farmer, the farmer's hot daughter, the barn with the three holes, the dick, the dick in the holes, and the turbo milking machine awaiting on the other side that de-dicks the traveling salesman. Do you know that joke? When presented with the holes of Kieron Gillen, DO NOT put your dick in them."

And the "Surreal Adventures Of Edgar Allan Poo," which I previewed a few months ago. Weird, very weird.

NOT SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man's legacy:

"It invented a more reader-friendly comic book. Even though it's 120 issues, you read that recap page, which by the way didn't exist in ancient comics prior to Ultimate Spider-Man. That was a Bill Jemas invention. The new writers don't want to bog down the writing with exposition, which is just lazy writing. So to do a recap like they do in front of 'Law & Order,' or 'Previously on ER,' to do that and get back right into the story. So that has now been applied to every comic book."

A Bill Jemas invention indeed, and one that appeared in "Nexus," "Bone," "Flaming Carrot," "Astro City," all the Milestone books, Penthouse Comix, "Deadpool"... and then pretty much every Marvel comic in the mid nineties, sporting a fold out cover recap page with an ad on the back, all before Jemas had editorial power.

SWIPE FILE - Updated 9:15 PM PDT

[Green Light]"Buffy" #8

CJ Cregg

UPDATE: Or indeed it could be that very knife, used in the "Buffy" TV series by Faith that's being referenced.

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]My latest cartoon for Guido Fawkes seems to have gone done well again.

Martin Hand has started an "Unoffical Handbook To The Marvel Universe." It's rather fun.

When Rob Liefeld and Rags Morales fight!

I'm in The Times. They even had a photo of me. I meant "higher definition" than "larger" but that's what happened when I get called for a quote when changing a nappy!

And in memory of Mike Wieringo - damn fine comic book snark!.

SMALL PRINT

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

My social networking is pretty much all Facebook these days, but I'm around at MySpace, ComicSpace and Twitter too.

The remnants of my life are on eBay.

And my Wii number is 0512 2690 8446 2879

Sorry.

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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