Lying In The Gutters

Mon, August 27th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 119

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.

A HANDFUL OF DUST

[Green Light]I understand that, to celebrate Sandman's 20th Anniversary, Neil Gaiman was to write a "Sandman" mini-series. However, recently the project was pulled.

When asked, Neil told me, "We couldn't come to an agreement that would allow me to do a new six issue Sandman story for DC, and many people at DC and my agent tried hard to make it happen. Pity."

I understand that certain people at DC are quite upset - though not with Neil or his agent. Given the performance of the "Endless" hardcover volume, this could have been expected to be a No.1 best seller in the direct market for all six months and the No.1 in the bookstore bestseller lists.

DIAMOND GEEZERS?

[Yellow Light]I understand that at the Baltimore Retailer Summit in September, Diamond are going to announce either a reduction or abolition of the Diamond reorder penalty on most or indeed all non-Premier publishers.

What am I talking about?

One of the bugbears of comic retailers and non-Premier publishers is the reorder penalty. Any book that's reordered after it was initially solicited, has a reduced discount to retailers. Only books from the designated "Premier" publishers - Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image and, bizarrely, Acclaim - can be reordered at full discount. It's basically a penalty for not ordering those books when they were initially solicited. It forces retailers to order heavy upfront if they want to minimize costs. But it also discourages retailers from reordering from non-Premier publishers at all. Indeed, why support a non-Premier book when, if you sell out of it, it will cost you more to get more copies? Some publishers have chosen to pay for the reorder penalty to retailers themselves to get retailers to keep their books in stock. It's a system that has entrenched the comics publisher ghetto.

However, of late, a number of retailers have discovered that if they order through bookstore distributors, they can get near enough the same discount as reordering a non-Premier publisher title. Which has led to a number of retailers deserting Diamond for all their non-Premier books. Diamond's decision to change things will no doubt help many publishers, increase the diversity of comics in many stores, encourage growth - and also stop the bookstore trade from stealing Diamond's direct market share.

SCOTT TO TROT

[Yellow Light]Two weeks ago, Lying In The Gutters reported that Scott Dunbier, Executive Editor of DC/Wildstorm, had been placed on indefinite leave since the beginning of June. I now understand that shortly after San Diego Comic Con, it was confirmed that he would not be returning to Wildstorm.

I understand that this is as a result of a personal politics between Wildstorm and DC over a number of projects over a number of months, including "The Boys" and "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier."

Joining up the dots, and looking at acceptable policy with previous "League" works, it appears that the recent restrictive distribution over "The Black Dossier," limiting it to the USA, is as a result of this clash between DC and Wildstorm, rather than real concern over copyright issues.

I doubt this is the last we've heard of Scott Dunbier. Judging by my inbox this week, there will be plenty of people very happy to work with Dunbier wherever he surfaces.

THE BOTTOM LINE

[Green Light]Frank Cho's "Ultimate Spider-Man" #100 cover sketch for Hero Initiative

And then after Marvel had their way with it, for the "Ultimate Spider-Man" #100 Project collection book.

Clearly, she should have been drawn wearing a thong.

DABEL TROUBLE

[Green Light]I've been hearing more and more from people, unpaid by the Dabel Brothers, but none wishing to speak out for fear of never being paid, for losing work, or be seen as a troublesome employee. You know, a comic book creator union can't come fast enough.

In a tricky position are the creators of "Half Dead," a graphic novel published by Dabel through Marvel, but since its creator owned, it's not one of the books that Marvel now own a license to.

As I write, the remaining stock of the book is being held at Diamond.

It's been printed under Marvel/Dabel livery, however Marvel has no

more rights to publish the title, and Dabel are financially unable to

commit continue distributing book right now. The only option is for

the creators to continue to distribute the already printed book

through Diamond themselves - but Diamond won't do so unless it has

legal signoff on the Marvel/Dabel livery on the printed copies.

It's in a stalemate right now, and if it isn't solved, the printed

copies will be pulped.

That was the situation as of late last week, but this weekend, I understand Marvel had agreed to allow this one issue of the book be distributed with Marvel colors, as long as it doesn't happen with subsequent work. The creators are currently waiting on word from the Dabels.

ALEXTUBE

[Green Light]Alex De Campi, off of "Smoke" and "Kat And Mouse" (and not off of "Scorpion") has a new video for group "The Schema" and their single "Those Rules." And wouldn't you know, it's rather fun and she makes a cameo in her flat cap.

$500 music video, made in a week, quarter of a million YouTube viewers. Not bad, lass.

RULE BRITANNIA

[Green Light]After last week's coverage of "Stalking Steve Ditko" as I now have to refer to it...

...BBC4 sent me DVDs of their entire Comics Britannia series. "The Fun Factory," "Girls And Boys" and "Anarchy In The UK."

The shows are a run through the history of mainstream British comics since the thirties and narrated by "The Thick Of It's" Armando Ianucci.

The first looks at the Dundee-based publisher DC Thompson and its three most prominent comics creators. Dudley D Watkins who created Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty for "The Dandy" and "The Beano" (and whose influence can be seen most significantly today in Frank Quitely) was considered too important to morale to be sent to war. Leo Baxendale, behind "Little Plum," "Minnie The Minx" and "The Bash Street Kids," and Ken Reid, responsible for "Jonah," echo current industry trends, as the show follows the publisher's loss of its main talents over creators rights in the 1960s. The show looks at how culture shaped these children's weekly anthologies and then how the comics affected modern day culture. Commentators include the writers, artists and editors of the day, as well as notable figures who read the comics as children. It cites "The Dandy" as the first comic to use the modern day speech balloon, explores why children reveled in anarchic mischief, looks at the boom and bust of the comics industry in the seventies and the influence on British Empire thinking on the assumptions behind many strips. It's a dry documentary, befitting the channel, and has a tendency to whizz over the decades, but for an hour long show, it's fairly comprehensive and attaches a seriousness to a subject often dismissed.

The second takes on the boys and girls's adventure comics in the UK. Inspired by the American post-war horror comics, we see the launch of the far-more-moralistic "Eagle" and its central character Dan Dare (originally a space chaplain), through the emergence of the Girl comic with "Tammy," "Bunty," "Jackie" and more, and its eventual discovery of the storytelling niche of putting its central female characters through hell with the aim of making the reader cry, and the boys action and adventure comics, which would take the lessons learned from girls' comics and apply them to their own war stories. Pat Mills, co-creator of "Judge Dredd" and "Marshall Law," talks about his experiences writing for "Tammy" and how he'd use them in "Charley's War" and the like. This show, given a smaller time frame to cover, benefits from being more detailed. The work in question is more properly dissected and discussed, and the more mature content allows for great examination, as well as having the likes of Frank Skinner recount his very emotional attachments to specific stories. There's even teen comic photo stories on show, starring young jobbing actors/models such as Hugh Laurie and George Michael.

The final show will probably get the most attention from the column's readers, covering as it does the rise of the modern British comic, looking at the influence of punk in the emergence of "Action," "2000AD" and "Viz Comic," as well as acid house music and "Deadline," and the move of British comics creators to work in America. How they missed the visual influence of "Watchmen" on acid house, I don't know, but it's made up for by Alan Moore reading from "V For Vendetta" and "Watchmen." Again, with a smaller time frame to cover, the programme can linger, at one point spending five minutes dissecting "Viz Comic" character Johnny Fartpants, more than anyone else has ever done. The story ends with "Alice In Sunderland" and "Lost Girls" as the modern face of the British comic scene, which may be a little misleading, but both projects worth significant BBC4 coverage.

It's a fun series of comic documentaries, clearly aimed at the non-comics reader, but with new and original takes on the work which current comics readers will lap up. And, naturally, its vindication and validation of the artform we all enjoy, so we can get off on that as well.

"Comics Britannia" runs through September on BBC4, starting Monday the 10th, including the Steve Ditko documentary reviewed last week, and other comics-related programming such as "Modesty Blaise." You can see unused footage featuring Leo Baxendale and Alan Moore right here.

IT'S DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS

[Green Light]In the seventies and eighties, there was a mass campaign in the US comics industry to return original comic artwork to its creators. Campaigns were started, petitions were signed and overall, it was fairly successful, where the original art still existed or had not entered the grey market. Creators received artwork and began receiving artwork as a matter of course. At the time, there were contracts issued that withdrew rights from creators if the work was handed over with no extra compensation, that caused quite a ruckus and, eventually, a new agreement. It was a battle won.

So let's fight it again!

Comics aimed at girls were huge in Britain during the sixties and seventies, and survived into the eighties. One of the most prominent was the long-

href="http://es.msnusers.com/Estherysumundo/portadasdeprincesstina.msnw">running "Patty's World." The chronicles of an ugly duckling teenager living in a small English town, written by English writer Philip Douglas and drawn by Spanish artist Pura

href=" http://lambiek.net/artists/c/campos_purita.htm">Campos. Just as the US comics industry looks to South America for skilled, cheaper creators, so the UK looked to Spain for many of their news stand comics.


The very first page.

"Patty's World" was published from 1971 to 1988, debuting in the weekly IPC Comic "Princess Tina" in 1971, edited by John Wagner towards its end. Spanning 3000 pages over its 17 years of publication, the comic strip was translated into German, Dutch, Greek, Spanish and more. But for artist Pura Campos, it would be her home country, Spain, where the strip would find most success. The main character renamed Esther, the strip was reprinted from 1974 to 1987, principally as the title strip of a comics magazine, with readership of around 300,000.


Patty meets Pura.

Twenty years later, the nostalgia factor pushed eBay auctions of the original "Esther/Patty" comics for outrageous prices, and an active online fan community circulated scanned electronic versions of those comics.

And the publishers have noticed. Last year, Glenat España, a Spanish subsidiary of the larger French publisher Glenat, launched "The New Adventures of Esther," a

href="http://www.edicionesglenat.es/asp/serie.asp?pSer=240">new series that resumed the story of the protagonist twenty years later, with Esther as a thirty-something adult woman. Again, drawn by Pura Campos, the book was a success, selling out fast, and competing with the new manga explosion, such as 'Naruto" and "Death Note." "Esther" had become a real home grown success story.

In August 2007, Glenat launched the highly anticipated reprint of the original Esther/Patty comics, but the publisher and creator have been unable to use the original art. Antonio Martín, editor of Glenat, talked about this during

a press conference;

"After 2 years of negotiations with the British publisher that owns the original art of 'Patty's World,' [we] couldn't reach any kind of agreement with them... because they wanted us to sign a contract that didn't recognize the copyright belonging to the author, Purita Campos. So this reprint edition is done with scanned pages from the original Spanish edition from the '70s. Although Glenat has always alluded to the international copyright laws, the owners of the originals use British law as their argument for not returning them." Martín reminded the audience that this case is one among many, and that somewhere in London there must be a warehouse storing countless pages drawn by Spanish artists like José Ortiz, Jesús Blasco or Luis Bermejo that were never returned to their authors."

Instead, the publisher resorted to scanning in pages from the first Spanish editions.

IPC is currently owned by Time Warner, who also publish DC Comics, and recently created works based on certain classic IPC titles, such as Thunderbolt Jaxxon, Albion and Battler Briton.

Last year, Britain saw the first nostalgic stirrings for its girls comics range, and I understand a number of hardback annuals will be published this Christmas collecting such titles.

Maybe it's time to fight the battle on UK shores.

PLATINUM CARD

[Yellow Light]D.J. Coffman's "Hero By Night" is going to become an ongoing series from Platinum Studios.

There are still eighty or more projects sold to Platinum that are still waiting for the treatment that the publisher's literature promised.

"Getting your story produced, even if it never advances beyond comics form, is a commitment we're willing to make... we are also willing to finance the publication of a comic (up to eighty-eight pages of material in a single comic or as a limited series), to acquire the property."

Sadly such assurances weren't in the actual contracts. Still, it's only a few more years until the rights purchased for $1000 revert - at which point the market gets flooded! So come on, Mike Strang, chin up!

ARCHIVE ON HOLD

[Yellow Light]There is retailer rumbling that a lack of DC Archive solicitations for January 2008 are a sign that there are no DC Archive editions to be solicited for 2008.

Ever since the kerfuffle over the Golden Age Hawkman misprint, there has been little official word from the DC Archive team. Can anyone clarify things?

SWIPE FILE

Third cover, by Pat Lee.

Figure by Side Show Collectibles

MONSTER COMICS

[Green Light]Some of you want to work in comics. I don't know why, the pay's lousy, the job is hard and you can only pull other geeks.

Still, for those of you not put off, the New York Comic Con is looking to hire a Marketing Director with strong comic experience and an understanding of the comics industry.

And, on a smaller scale, I understand Forbidden Planet London is looking for a Head of Department (Comics). Send your CV to Jessica.Barclay@titanemail.com.

And remember, if you get the gig off of this column, order lots of "The Flying Friar."

DEAD, WRAPPED IN FLOWERS

[Green Light]A "Dark Knight Returns" spoiler from a Gutterati working across the road from filming. He described, "a funeral scene being filmed. Tons of white flowers, and all sorts of people dressed to the nines. And, low and behold, on top of the coffin is a large framed picture of Morgan Freeman."

So there you go. Highlight the space for serious batspoilers.

ESQUIRE ENQUIRE

[Green Light]Eric Gillin, the editor of Esquire.com, is wanting to spinoff the Napkin Project into comic book equivalents.

He approached DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Drawn and Quarterly, but only the last publisher came through. So now he wants comic creators to contact him directly.

Or maybe said publishers might kick someone in their media relations department.

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Brendon Connelly has serious Superman 2 spoilers... and then

href="http://www.filmick.co.uk/2007/08/buffy-spin-off-ripper-finally-happening.html">confirms

the Buffy spinoff series from the BBC, "Ripper". Filming next

summer.

This is pretty much your last chance to preorder "The Flying Friar." Please feel free to join your fellow orderees in this Facebook group.

The "3 Minute Sketchbook" and Charity Auction will be auctioning all sorts of HERO benefit sketches from the Sketchbook, in the current Previews (page 112) as well as unprinted work by Jim Cheung, Frank Cho, and Garry Leach and a gallery showing of the work will be at the Secret Headquarters store in Los Angeles.

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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