Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 17th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 135

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.

CHRISTMAS SOCKS

[Green Light]Kev F Sutherland, "Beano" writer, saviour of the British comics convention, hated by Phil Hall, creator of "The Sitcom Trials," is also a stand up comedian. And of late, he has been running his act "The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre" up and down the land, to much YouTube acclaim.

And the other night, they/he were on BBC3's "Comedy Shuffle" in possibly the bizarrest tribute to Abbot And Costello you will ever see – especially considering the audience are very unlikely to have heard of either Abbot or Costello.

See the BBC clip here and see other sock-related performances here.

HOW TO RUN A WEBSITE

[Green Light]In an interview with Tom Spurgeon, Wizard's ex-online editor Rick Marshall recalls his replacement's plans for the site: "I remember him telling me early on that the one element we should be providing more of on the site is excerpts from the 'How To' books -- because he believed that people were hungry for that type of thing and it would sell more books."

See what the current lead story on WizardUniverse.com is...:

Later, Rick states, "These talented, young people are willing to accept horribly low wages and long hours just to have a job with the products (be it toys, games, comics or anime/manga) that they love. But once the notion of 'working in the comics scene' loses its appeal and they start to realize that they're worth more for their hard work, they get kicked to the curb and the next starry-eyed applicant walks through the door."

Or indeed through their forums, judging by this thread about Wizard reps approaching their message board users to start replacing their paid staffers, asking them to become "volunteer writers" for all of the sections that don't have writers any longer due to layoffs or people quitting. I'd better not say too much. CBR publisher Jonah Weiland might recruit the CBR Forums posters to replace me.

So why all the firings, resignations and controversy over WizardUniverse.com right now? I'm told from current Wizard sources that the entire Wizard operation was $200,000 in the red for August, and they've taken moves to cut easy short-term financial liabilities as quickly as possible.

Which now also includes staff writer Brian Warmoth giving his two weeks notice. Rick has followed up the interview with a few Wizard staff responses.

Of course, this action has been welcome for sites such as Marvel.com. They've made a habit of recruiting ex-Wizard staffers and now have all sorts of people to choose from.

GONDRY GRAPHIC

[Green Light]"Interior Design" is Michel Gondry's 30-minute film in his upcoming "Tokyo" triptych. We all know that.

What we might not know is that it's based on the comic book "Cecil And Jordan In New York" from "Kramer's Ergot "#5, by Gabrielle Bell, about a woman who can turn into a chair at will.

Bell co-wrote the movie script with Gondry and was on-set during production. Well, it was essential to get exactly the right chair.

DRAGGING THE SLEEVE

[Green Light]I hear there are changes aplenty for WizardWorld conventions in 2008. They're looking for a more creative route to booking guests rather than the familiar faces. Expect to see MTv guests amongst the usual sci-fi TV actors. And that, and exclusive items, is going to be pretty much where their entire focus will be. The feeling is that other shows get better guests and exhibitors than they do, and they want to reverse this.

There's a push to move as much as they can online, selling the shows, reporting the shows and pushing the guests, exclusives and exhibitors.

The big problem they feel is that the people who run the conventions get older year by year, and each year resemble the demographic of convention attendees less. And now this is a real problem. Either employees must find ways to get into the mindset of their potential customers or... well. Watch for a Facebookisation of WizardWorlds.

Their stats do need a bit of a fillip. Four figure advance sales for Chicago and Philly 2007 were slightly down on 2006, though Texas had a slight rise.

BIN DIVING

[Green Light]Want a Marvel TPB or Hardcover this Christmas? Why not check the remainder bins at your local chain bookstore? Reports are coming in of a large consignment that's made their way to the pre-pulping position, including early volumes of "Ultimate Fantastic Four," possibly over ordered due to the movie, but also books like "Essential Luke Cage," "District X," "Marvel Monsters" HC and many copies of "Marvel Select" hardcovers like "Young Avengers," "New Avengers" and "X-Men: Deadly Genesis."

In fact, if there are any sly retailers, you could restock a significant section of your Marvel bookshelves for around a third wholesale or a sixth retail.

PET GUARDIAN

[Green Light]British comics creator and stalwart of the small press scene David Shelton is creating the new three-page weekly strip for the Guardian's Saturday newspaper with Faz Choudhury, starting on December the 29th, called "Good Dog, Bad Dog: The Golden Bone of Alexandria" in eight parts.

Following "Robot Girl" and next week's Christmas Special, the new kids-aimed Guardian comics material is originated by The DFC, a project of David Fickling Books, part of Random House and first mentioned by LITG quite a while ago. It's all from a new upcoming British kids weekly comic book with work by a number of sterling creators, including "The Golden Compass" writer Philip Pullman.

2008 is looking good.

ORIGINAL ARTIST

[Green Light]Scott Dunbier writes a rather touching story. You may need tissues.

CREEPY OWNERS

[Yellow Light]The New Comic Company has issued an official statement regarding last week's story about "Creepy" and "Eerie" creators worrying about their ownership status of the to-be-reprinted work by Dark Horse Comics. It reads:

"The publication rights to 'Creepy' and 'Eerie' were lawfully and properly acquired in 2007 by New Comic Company from the original copyright holder and publisher Jim Warren and Warren Publishing. Those publishing rights have been reasserted by the renewal of the original copyrights by New Comic Company.

"Further, the chain of title was cleared after a bankruptcy of the original Warren entities and subsequent to a lengthy litigation between Warren and Harris publishing.

"New Comic concluded a deal with Dark Horse Comics in the spring of 2007 to republish the original editions of 'Creepy' and 'Eerie.' New Comic Company and Dark Horse have always intended to compensate original creators and welcome their participation in the creation of the archives and in new editions of Creepy and Eerie and look forward to a good working relationship with any reasonable human beings who present themselves. The principals of New Comic Company are devoted fans of the magazines since boyhood, are firmly supportive of artists rights and look forward to re-connecting with former Creepy and Eerie artists and writers. "

Now, certain "Creepy" and "Eerie" creators debate whether of not Jim Warren owned the rights in the first place. Mike Richardson has assured me that they will be paid for the reprinted work. But it may not end there.

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Looks like everyone's getting ready to sign their comics right now.

Gosh Comics in London are hosting the first Alan Moore/Melinda Gebbie signing of "Lost Girls" in its UK edition on the 2nd February, from 2-5pm.

Brian Wood will be signing all his work at Orbital Manga in London on the 5th of January. That's the store nearest to Leicester Square station on Upper Saint Martins Lane.

And for those "Alice in Sunderland" fans hanging round the North East, the weekend before Christmas, Bryan Talbot with cover artist Jordan Smith, will be signing copies of at Travelling Man Newcastle on 22nd December. I also hear there will be free mince pies and mulled wine on offer.

Next week's column will be published on Christmas Eve. Last year's was published on Christmas Day. We're no slackers here! The week after is the dreaded, feared, sometimes even hated annual Rumour Awards column which looks back on the year in gossip with fictitious celebrity judges, and one massive rumour. Probably.

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