Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 10th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 133

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 fourteen long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals. 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.

ARE SUPERHEROES FAKE?

[Red Light]This video purports to show, on film, a New York superhero in action. And it's been picked up by TV stations around the world.

But I'm not buying it. The poster has no other videos on YouTube. It's slickly edited. It screams "viral marketing" of the worst kind.

But what's it for? "Heroes?" "Watchmen?" There's a lot of Marvel hero clip art at the end...

REED LIGHT RUMOUR

[Red Light]There's a virulent rumour doing the rounds right now (and as you know, all rumours lead to me) that Steve Geppi, owner of the comics distributor, a toy manufacturer, a comics publisher, a comics price guide, a museum and one level of a sports stadium, also owns the New York Comic Convention, run by Reed. Or at least owns a minority stake. Or a cut of the gate. That may be being phased out. There are lots of versions.

People who work and have worked for Diamond and Reed seem happy to confirm this, not on the record, but as something they've heard internally or are aware of. And that it's an industry secret that, should it get out, could see all sorts of accusations of monopolies and abuses of power.

All very well, except that it's not true. Not according to NYCC director Greg Topalian, who was there at the beginning. Steve Geppi was one of the principle encouragers of the convention, it's true, and Diamond have been a major sponsor of the event, but that's as far as it has gone, has ever gone, and is likely to go.

It's not every day that LITG can stamp on a rumour while it's in the process of spreading. But today we're using a very big blanket indeed.

Next year's show is April 18th-20th. If you go, do still keep your ears open for me though...

ONE MORE DAMIEN

[Green Light]So now that the big twist in "One More Day" is out and about, it might be fun to look at its precedents...

Back in the day when Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Mark Waid and Tom Peyer were asked to write the whole of the Superman line as a "Hive Mind" (which was revisited in some fashion for "52"), they chose to do away with Superman's marriage by having the chemical that stored Lois Lane's memory of their marriage made poisonous by one of Superman's enemies, so that after her conscious mind was wiped, if she remembered she was married to Superman/Clark Kent, then she would die. But there was then a change of editorial, so...

Joe Casey states that his solution with Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly and Mark Schultz was to have Superman's secret exposed, Lois die and for Superman make a deal with the fifth dimension demon Mr. Mxyzptlk to use his powers to "fix things." which wiped everyone's memory, including Lois. But them in charge disagreed.

John Byrne and Howard Mackie's Spider-Man marriage fix is described as having Peter Parker go through a harrowing series of events, only for the Shaper Of Worlds to remake Spider-Man's world to when he was back in High School, set in the present day. This was abandoned by the creators as being "too cosmic".

None of these solutions ever saw print - the Superman through editorial rejection, Spider-Man through self-rejection. Although, with writer J Michael Straczynski stating that he did not approve of One More Day and at one point wished his name off the book, it seems to have come close. But then the artist and co-plotter was the Editor In Chief...

You know, it gave me a nostalgic moment to revisit Usenet's rec.arts.comics* hierarchy for this piece. That's where this column started after all, many many years ago

And you have to feel sorry for Matt Brady. He found a thankless task this week, publically drumming up questions from his readers to ask Spider-Man editor Steve Wacker, regarding the "Brand New Day" arc. Which follows the controversial "One More Day" arc. Yet, as Brady put it, "Please note - Wacker's not going to give away any secrets of how 'One More Day' ends, and will be somewhat limited in what he can say about the specifics of Spidey's life post his run-in with Mephisto."

Considering all anyone was interest in, regarding "Brand New Day," was over the impact of "One More Day," it was going to be hard. The first question was "Question: When are Peter and MJ getting back together?"

Brady's responses came thick and fast...

"Folks - with questions like that, you're wasting your time. From above: 'Wacker's not going to give away any secrets of how 'One More Day' ends'

"If you want to vent and rant about OMD, there are multiple threads on Talk@ (both Marvel and main) as well as Blog@ to do it in. This thread is for questions about BND."

"And again - this is a thread for questions about 'Brand New Day' - OMD is edited by Axel Alonso."

"Did I write those instructions in not English?"

"And again - this is a thread for questions about 'Brand New Day.'"

Nevertheless, Steve still answered one or two...

DARK NO MORE

[Green Light]This is the Dale Keown "Darkness" #1 cover.

Yeah, I know you've seen it. But have you seen the greyline variant, which was accidentally attached to one outgoing e-mail?

Just dig that fern detail...

RETRO-SCANDAL!

[Green Light]It appears that earlier in the year, British publisher IPC sold a large amount of original comic book artwork from the 60s, 70s and 80s to one UK dealer, who has been selling them on and off again on eBay. Many of the artists were European and have only recently discovered this act. Since a number are in conflict with IPC over returning that very same artwork, stating that IPC has no claim to the work, this could get rather messy. Especially if the previously mentioned "Patty's World" is involved.

IPC are part of the Warner network of companies, as are DC Comics. DC have published a number of works based on old IPC properties.

THE RIGHT EER

[Green Light]Dark Horse has scheduled a number of books reprinting strips from famed Warren horror/sci-fi titles "Creepy" and "Eerie. However, I understand that certain artists believe they own the copyright on the work. It seems that Jim Warren sold the rights to Submarine Entertainment, who have passed them on to Dark Horse. But if Jim didn't own them in the first place, it would make for a few "husk" contracts.

I understand Dark Horse believe they do own the rights, but are in consultation with concerned parties.

STICKLEPLUG

[Green Light]D'Israeli art from "Stickleback," written by Ian Edginton, starting in this week's "2000AD."

Sticklesweet.

CHRISTMAS TIME

[Green Light]So what's in Santa's stocking this year?

Well, comics-wise "The Nightly News" should be snuggled next to the satsuma. A "V For Vendetta" for the 21st century, it tells the story of a bunch of media terrorists, from all sorts of vantage points. Taking a look at the entire spectrum of storytelling abilities, it then chooses a thin and unusual slice, doing away with many conventions and repeatedly using some very rare ones. A remarkable book.

Bryan Talbot's "Alice In Sunderland" is your big impressive coffee table volume that evrey home should have. Again, reinventing the graphic novel, as a graphic novel/documentary/burlesque comedy/history is one thing, but to present it in such a personal way is another.

"The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier" by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill has come in for some stick, since publication. Mostly, it seems, for not being overly concerned with telling a story, or fleshing out characters. But it works much more for the British audience who have been deprived it, not so much of the references, but its format, that of an actual Christmas Annual. Full of short stories, histories, fact files and bite sized chunks . Like you might find with "The Beano", "Oor Wullie" or "Doctor Who". The perfect Christmas/New Year read in front of the fire, nibbling on a Toblerone. A genuine diamond.

Modesty forbades me from recommending "The Flying Friar" (I'll let The Daily Telegraph do that), so how about another modern take on a historical tale, "Crecy" by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres is an excellent British historical primer fo a very famous battle indeed. "1066 And All That" by way of "The Boys".

And, if you have space, a real treat from earlier this year, "Lone Racer" by Nicolas Mahler. The story of a down-on-his-luck racing driver who, through the most fortuitous series of events, turns his life around. It goes to a deeper low than "It's A Wonderful Life"... and a more life-affirming high as well.

As for DVDs, I'll hand you to over to my filmick counterpart, Brendon Connelly.

Despite initiating this piece myself, I have found recommending DVDs as Christmas gifts for comic book fans a faintly troubling task. First of all, I have had to assume that stripheads would even want DVDs, and not comics, under their tree. Secondly, the whole exercise is in opposition to the basic condition that we each have different tastes. So, all I can do really is recommend gifts for myself because I know that, yes, while I love comics (and music, and books, and live theatre and ice cream and pancakes), I'd probably really rather have DVDs above all else for Christmas and that these recommendations will be the ones I'd get down on my knees make like Diablo Cody for.

Some of these titles may not be available in your region, now or ever, but you've got a multi-region player, haven't you? Even if it's only VLC for your PC or Mac you really do need to open your capabilities up to all of the DVDs of the world. If you're not yet set, sort that out first, as a special gift to yourself.

If I might indulge my inner Fluff (Freeman, Alan, RIP) I'm ranking these DVDs in ascending order of deliciousness. Is that alright by you, pop pickers?

5) "Walt Disney Treasures: Oswald The Lucky Rabbit" and "Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five" - If it came down to Bugs vs. Oswald, Bugs would win, white gloves down, but it doesn't have to be that way, we can all just get along, so invest in both. The Warners set is full of the more interesting supplements, fills more discs and, as it's always worth remembering, contains the funnier toons, but the Oswald set is limited edition, a genuine film-historical curio and also cheaper. Perhaps only both would fully satisfy. Yeah - that sounds like it. Both. Now I'm getting into the spirit of Christmas.

4) "The Nanny Diaries" - The black sheep of the selection? Don't think of this as a new Scarlett Johansson vehicle, but as the second film from the writer-directors of American Splendor, and another smart, unconventional, inventive literary adaptation. There's a gag with a looky likey about half way through that was the single funniest thing I had seen all year (until the pigeon ate the cockroach in Enchanted - but both are really quite profound, and profoundly amusing, jokes). Sadly, The Nanny Diaries film was a victim of its subtleties being too subtle and many folk only being smart enough to register the broad strokes. But you won't have that problem. You'll get it. And I like your shoes too.

3) "Ratatouille" - Another Pixar film. And that's not just a statement of fact, it's virtually a five star review. The staging of some of the less dialogue-driven sequences - 'making the soup' and the chases in particular - is some of the most vivid cinema of the year. For kids this is a moving picturebook but for students of cinema it's also a moving textbook. Patton Oswalt was perfectly cast as a foodie ratand Peter O'Toole's cameo as Will Sel... er... Anton Ego is tears-to-eye stuff, in an absolute minimum of two distinct ways.

2) "Killer of Sheep". This film has often been given the easy label of being the only late-70s film to be set in an African American community but not feature any guns, but I squirm at that because it seems like an implicit dismissal of all so-called blaxploitation films and, though I can't think of another example right now, is most likely not true anyway (answers on the back of a postcard, please). All the same, this definitely couldn't ever be framed as a piece of exploitation. Instead, this is a film that seeks to express a cycle of weariness, pain and relief with its every shot and does so with scant regard for any pat, standardised story forms but an eye and ear for the textures and movement of real real life. Charles Burnett here made a fictional film that was as direct a cultural document as any documentary or news reel but far more persuasive and engrossing.

1) "Blade Runner 5-Disc Geek Orgy Edition" - Best. DVD. Ever. The foundless wails of idiosyncratic persnicketers aside, the two 1982 Theatrical cuts of Blade Runner have been obsolete since the so-called Director's cut came along fifteen years or so ago. Now, the vaults must be opened again, and that misnamed Director's Cut tossed inside too because, at last, Ridley Scott's Final Cut has been completed and while it has taken him twenty six years to do so, Scott has ultimately fashioned the best film of 2007, and one of the best of all time. Incredibly, that's not the only reason to buy this set, however, as the supplementary features are practically essential viewing. They go some steps beyond mind blowing into sweeping up the resulting chunks of grey matter, putting them into a little pile and then blowing that up too. Seriously: this is hardcore geek stuff but streamlined, polished and made engaging, entertaining and compelling for even complete and utter Blade Runner virgins. I know - because I've been watching the material with the inexperienced all week long and they've been utterly wrapped up in it. If you don't get this for Christmas then either a) you couldn't wait that long, good for you or b) nobody you know loves you enough.

NOT A SWIPE FILE

[Red Light]"Howlers," written in 2006 for Penciljack.com

Zuda Winner "High Moon"... written in 2004.

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Your favourite comics artists creating pieces of art, love, for a charity auction at WizardWorld Texas. Exclusively on Lying In The Gutters.

Scott Dunbier on the ever-so-grumpy-and-self-doubting Mike Mignola.

Valerie D'Orazio tells her life story in comics.

The Biggest Swipe File In The World

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 Bebo, MySpace, ComicSpace and Twitter, too.

And my Wii number is 0512 2690 8446 2879

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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