Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 31st, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 137

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.

Except this week. In which stories from the past year are regurgitated (with a few new ones to see if you're paying attention) in a TOTALLY FICTITIOUS JUDGING SESSION FEATURING PEOPLE WHO NEVER SAID WHAT I SAY THEY SAY. Check the legal disclaimer at the bottom, it's a good one.

Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced.

THE EIGHTH ANNUAL RUMOUR AWARDS

As the sun rose, its cold winter beams shimmered over Central Park. The frost, reflecting, refracting, a symphony of colours dancing in the dawn. It would have been a beautiful sight for any early rising jogger, save that they had been escorted out by men with low foreheads and snarls from long lost civilisations. And as the black helicopters filled the sky and began to drop their ComfyCratesTM across the wintry green, those dog walkers being bundled into security vans knew that the Rumour Awards had begun again.

An annual tradition reaching to the very beginnings of the new century, where the great and good of the comics industry (or those available at short notice) assemble to cogitate the tittle tattle that has reached the ears of the comic reading public - and maybe one or two nuggets to boot. And in no way just a filler for a traditionally short-on-material week.

Emerging like fluffy chicks from their ComfyCratesTM, stood the members of this year's Rumour Awards panel. John Byrne, Dave Sim, Brian Bendis, Chuck Dixon, Ed Brubaker, Dan Slott, Mark Millar, Mike Miller and Steve Niles. They glowered at each other, those that they recognized but decided, due to their mutual respect towards Rich Johnston, that they would bury any all all hatchets for the duration of Awards session.

Again, Warren Ellis's ComfyCrateTM went missing and turned up, weeks later in the Diamond Memphis warehouse. Where it was dropped.

VISUAL OF THE YEAR

Chuck Dixon recalled back in January the considerable amount of retailer fuss over was-it-or-was-it-not a front cover nipple on "God Save The Queen" from Vertigo.

"Also, she looks a bit like a man. This could cause serious confusion that could harm a small child." Dave Sim said it was harming him right now. "I don't know whether it's a source of light or a sucking void. All women are sucking voids, you know that?" "Only if they're doing it right", nudged Mark Millar, as he pulled out his own favourite image of the year from "New Avengers."

"Now that's what I call a sucking void" beamed Sim. "At least she doesn't dye her hair blonde" opined John Byrne as he banned several more of his fans from his messageboard for saying they'd seen "Superman Returns." John Byrne much favoured the released image from years ago of Brian Bendis as a Camp Counsellor.

"You know, I showed Spider-Man in costume in issue 1 of Spider-Man: Chapter One." reminded John. "Brian took six issues of Ultimate. Which is why Chapter One was so much more successful. If only he'd remained a counselor, comics would have been saved." Brian held his head in his hands as the morning light reflected off the top of it.

Nipples also caused problems for "Iron Man" #16, when this little circle caused the entire shipment to be pulped and reprinted.

"It's just a round circle" screamed Dave Sim. "The stupidity, the waste, the unaccountability and the excess of the modern multi-media multi-glomerate Marxist-feminist-capitalist society!" Dan Slott added "Cool. Nipplage."

The back cover of death-tastic "Captain America" 25 may have been seen by a few hundred more thousand people than the media buyers initially expected, but was it so suitable for a comic about the USA's greatest soldier getting killed?

And then there were all the US Army product placements in Marvel comics that followed. "Personally I don't think it's enough" screamed Chuck Dixon. "Everyone who buys a Marvel comic should be forced to sign up for the front!" "Hear hear," applauded Dave Sim. "Apart from comic book creators, obviously." "Buy comics" asked Mark Millar? Doesn't everyone just download them? I do now that Millarworld showed me how. You know, there's pornography on the internet as well!" Dave Sim glowered muttering "wasted on me..." while everyone else assured themselves it was only straight pornography they were talking about. Ed Brubaker just cried into his royalty cheques.

The Mike Golden very-late commissioned image was one favourite.

"I offered to do a piece for free to make up for my colleague's lack of professionalism," mentioned John Byrne. "However, no one wanted my recreation of the cover to 'New Avengers/Transformers' #2..."

Yes, the Macy's Wolverine Blimp Balloon cover received a slight reprieve for warning everyone off over what a horrible comic book it was. Now, there had been quite a lot of recent fan twittering about last week's image, purporting to show a new "Mummy" comics series from IDW.

But the assembled throng dismissed that with a glance. "What we need," screamed Dan Slott "is amusing cover typographical errors like last year's Power Pack Assembled looking like Power Pack Ass..."

"Exactly!" "It's always toilet humour with you isn't it" growled Ed Brubaker. "Here I am trying to write successful mature fiction for a discerning reader and you think it's funny if the Mad Thinker's robot goes for a dump." "It is funny when the Mad Thinker's Robot goes for a dump!" screamed Mark Millar. "I can prove it with graphs!" "Tentacles," said Steve Niles. Everyone looked at him. "I just like tentacles" he said. "There's nothing funny about that is there?"

Dan Didio was mocked for his overly-dark use of Charlie Brown in a Blue Devil Hallowe'en strip.

"Destroying childhood icons," screamed John Byrne. "The disgrace, the filth, the desecration... only I'm allowed to do things like that. Oh why oh why won't DC republish my OMAC series?"

Steve Rotterdam's arrival at DC, announced by the Web site ICV2 as their "S&M Senior VP" caused Rich Johnston to mock up the following with about two minutes on Microsoft Paint

While Steve was amused, DC Marketing was not, leading to all sorts of screaming battles over phone and email. "The only way to deal with publishers is to shout at them" commented John Byrne. "I just do that to artists," said Steve Niles. Mark Millar concluded, "I'm Scottish, I shout at everyone."

And then there was the moment at the Steve Geppi Woodrow Wilson Award Dinner, where everyone stepped away from Paul Levitz.

"Clearly, he's had one too many Brussel sprouts" said Millar before he rapidly phoned Paul Levitz to apologise. "I'll get that Superman gig one day, just you watch."

But the winner, had to be Spider-Man making an appearance at the Big Apple Convention this autumn. And clearly enjoying himself... showing off his organic webspinner... his spider-sense is tingling... suffering from a build up of web fluid... pick your own.

"I'm getting a funny feeling" said Mike Miller. Dave Sim got his sketchpad out.

CENSORSHIP (OR LACK OF) OF THE YEAR

For most of the year, there was a lot of sexing down going on. Such as Citizen Steel from having a huge, um, ability in solicitations...

...to a mere humongous cock when actually published on the cover.

"You see, that's just not necessary" said Chuck Dixon. "It's being exposed to that kind of thing as a child that can have all sorts of unforeseen effects." "Or as an adult!" said Sim. "Those Marxist/feminist/homesexualist axis of perversion is out to destroy our society." "It's an indication of the levels this industry has sunk... thinking it's mature to draw willies on the front of comic books." "I won't work on such comics" said Mike Miller. "Have you ever noticed how you never see any black people with Down Syndrome" said Mark Millar. "I saw my first one just the other day." Everyone looked at him. "Okay, you're weird, even for us," said Steve Niles.

And everyone was much happier to note that the solicitations for "Batman/Superman" #40 saw Bruce Wayne...

...keep his hands to himself in the published version.

Frank Cho's "Ultlimate Spider-Man 100" cover sketch was fine and dandy...

Until it was collected in a book...

And the sexing-down of Power Girl from enormous on the cover of Previews..

to only slightly bigger than her head on the comic itself.

"That's more like it," smiled John Byrne. "Women." Everyone agreed, especially Mike Miller who made a point of it. "I love breasts. They feel like sandbags in the hand." "And this shows the actions of responsible publishers," added Chuck Dixon. "Keeping such images away from the eyes of the comic buying public, and viewable only to those who use the internet. That's not that many is it?" "Not on my board" said John Byrne. "I like to cull the numbers every now and then to show them who's boss." "I tried that once" added Mark Millar. "But I only managed to ban myself. no one noticed for a week."

Yet just as the year was over, DC performed a stunning volte face, with a quite modest Catwoman in solicitations...

...to an image you don't usually associate with stealth on publication.

Indeed, "Majestic's" third trade paperback managed to avoid the censors wrath, despite adding into the mix of family-friendly fare, the Majestic/Zealot short story from the "Wildstorm Winter Special" with plenty of see-through-dress nipple shots, one completely topless shot of Zealot, a rear view fully nude shot of Zealot, and a Majestic and Zealot full figure nude embrace. And no content warning. Of course that volume is now out of print.

"I don't know how but I bet Alan Moore is involved somewhere," growled John Byrne, spittle forming across his moustache. "I hated 'Lost Girls' initially," said Mark Millar, "but then I read it and I quite liked it. It's amazing the difference that reading a book can have on your opinion of it." "Blasphemer" screamed John Byrne and it took Dan Slott and a mint edition "She-Hulk" #1 to separate them.

But it would be DC's withdrawal of "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier" from non-US territories that stood out. Levitz decided to act against the advice of DC's legal department (who had cleared the book with minor modifications) and withdraw the book from any territory that hadn't passed a law making any works published before 1923 public domain. Basically, just the USA. And despite Amazon's best efforts, reducing worldwide sales on that book considerably, and gutting UK sub-licensor Titan Books staff Christmas bonuses.

"Alan Moore is a thief," growled John Byrne. "But then again, aren't we all" opined Steve Niles.

This time it took a piece of Jack Kirby original art to stop them.

EXCUSE OF THE YEAR

"I'm fed up with Marvel's excuses for late books!" shouted John Byrne (though he pronounced it ^^*****, everyone knew what he meant.) And with "Civil War," "Ultimates," "Captain America" and "One More Day" being main contenders, the excuse usually came down to sickness, increased creator schedule or the occasional act of God. However all these were rejected by the judges as none of them could decide exactly which of them were God.

But it was an email from Diamond, famed for their "Diamond regrets the error" missives to retailers that took this award hands down, as they went into extraordinary detail as to why "Civil War #6" was late for the West Coast. It began with a truck in Texas stuck in snow and ice. As fanboys marched with their mothers' hairdryers in hand, they discovered that the books were then stuck in Los Angeles with no way to transport them. At which point Diamond began to flog themselves with rope, lamenting over the things they could have done, before collapsing in a weeping, bloody heap of apology.

"Never apologize, never explain," murmured the now-subdied John Byrne. "Unless you're a publisher, then you can apologise to ME!" "I apologised to Paul Levitz," said Mark Millar. "I apologized to you" said Ed Brubaker. "Matt Busch apologized to me" crowed Steve Niles.

Just as well no one complained as to why the West Coast has still to receive their copies of "The Flying Friar."

COUPLE OF THE YEAR

Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, who didn't hold the record for the longest joint run on a comic at Marvel, split up this year. The actual record holder, Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier are still going strong with new "Groo" work, but they have been seeing other people.

"It'll never last," said Brian Bendis. "In the end I found out Mark Bagley was cheating with Kurt Busiek. I just couldn't deal with it." "Steve McNiven offered to leave me half way through 'Civil War,' but we stuck it out for the sake of the fans," said Mark Millar. "I divorced myself from reality," admitted Dave Sim. "The alimony payments are a bitch."

As the judges formed their own support group, some recalled the MidTown Comics clerk who found an appeal to his amorous nature posted on CraigsList by a female customer who decided that she wanted to rape him. And told the whole internet. Who then told Rich Johnston. On who's column he read about it. She then dumped her then-boyfriend for comics boy and the two are now a couple.

But the true couple of the year had to be Valerie D'Orazio, ex-DC editor and author of Occasional Superheroine and Zuda winner David Gallaher.

You know, Valarie's been a lot nicer about Dan DiDio of late. It must be love. And neither of them have a fork in their hair.

"It'll end in tears," said Dave Sim. "She'll suck and suck and suck until there's nothing left." "We've already done that joke," said Dan Slott.

FEUD OF THE YEAR

Everyone present decided to excuse themselves from this award. John Byrne declared that he hadn't actually started any new feuds this year, they were all just old ones that continued to roll around and anyway hadn't he won this award for five years in a row or something?

The Gary Groth/Fantagraphics vs. Harlan Ellison feud that has been running over the past few decades reached new heights as, after settling a legal suit, neither side proceeded to follow exactly what they'd agreed upon. However they both subsequently shut up about it, so that was a plus.

Rob Liefeld and Platinum shook hands after plans for Platinum to publish Awesome titles without Rob's knowledge or agreement exposed a deep feud vein between rob and the company which owned a large chunk of his Youngblood-and-related comics. Rob coughed up a few large ones and bought the whole lot back again, so Image could run a new "Youngblood" series. So that was another feud settled as well. Leaving everyone with smiles on their faces. Apart from Rick Veitch who still hasn't had his original artwork back.

The assembled judges were getting annoyed by these seeming outbreaks of peace. Even Steve Niles and IDW seemed to be all sweetness and light. "I thought we were immune," said Steve. "Sorry," said the omniscient narrator of this report. "Hell, even I like IDW," added John Byrne, talking about the upcoming "Next Men" phonebooks, the "Babe/Danger Unlimited" trades, the "FX" comic book and his "Star Trek" work. What feuds there were seemed subdued, with creators who'd left AiT/PlanetLar in fits of rage becoming very quiet when approached by this column. Similarly, the disappearance of three of the four "52" writers from DC mainstays was awfully intriguing, if only they'd just tell a close friend about it.

In the end, the judges declared this year's award null and void, on the basis that they really didn't want to give it to Judd Winick vs Matt Morrison.

TURNING DOWN THE BEATLES AWARD

The decision to drop "The Boys" midway through a run which saw it bucking the usual comics trend and actual raise in sales, issue upon issue, over content issues, should have been in the CENSORSHIP nominations, but Rich Johnston forgot. This project, originally proposed as a JLA series, then kicked over to Wildstorm by Dan DiDio, caused much concern for Paul Levitz who saw his beloved superhero archetype characters having sex, taking drugs and acting like bastards. Again. This time, because the book was creator owned (having been stripped of its JLA serial numbers), the creators were able to take the book to another publisher (that wasn't Marvel), where it has continued to perform as Dynamite's highest selling title.

"Nothing good can come from superheroes having sex in comics," stated John Byrne. "Apart from when you do it," pointed out Mark Miller. "There was that porno film that Big Barda was in... and Superman was nearly in," added Steve Niles. "Superman was nearly in?" sniggered Dan Slott, adding "Don't forget the embarassed faces over Ben Grimm's crack over what Sue and Reed were up to in the Negative Zone." "Does Ben Grimm have a crack," asked Dave Sim. "Ooh, ooh, and all that 'Next Men' sex. There was loads of it," piped up Ed Brubaker. "Next Men is not a superhero comic," thundered John Byrne. "If ever I said it was, I was using shorthand!" "If you use a short hand, it sometimes feels like someone else is doing it," murmured Mike Miller.

FIRING/HIRING OF THE YEAR

The multiple firings from Wizard, coupled with those jumping the sinking ship saw a boom in hiring at other companies, especially Marvel. And a recruitment drive amongst the message board posters. "I love Wizard!" said Mark Millar. "Especially in months where they interview me. Every other month I hate it."

Not yet announced, but a number of writers working on, what might be referred to as some of DC's more marginal titles, have been told to start wrapping up the book's plotlines in readiness for cancellation. Not exactly "firing" per se, though I don't think the creators of said books would see it like that. Chuck Dixon started to look nervous.

Also, yet to be announced is Filip Sablik, VP Marketing and Sales of Top Cow, flipping coasts to California to become Top Cow's Publisher. Matt Hawkins' future, who currently holds the Publisher position, is yet unknown.

But there could only be one winner, leagues ahead. Editor-In-Chief of Wildstorm, fired by Paul Levitz after a series of events, including the problems with "Black Dossier," the problems with "The Boys," the problems with Grant Morrison and Jim Lee being yanked off "WildCATS" and "The Authority" to work on other DC projects and the problems with Paul Levitz. And so the man who brought the Absolute format to DC, turned "Stormwatch" into "The Authority" and kept Alan Moore on board for five long hard years was paid off until next year.

"I hate Scott Dunbier," raged John Byrne. "He let Alan Moore get away with being a thief and introduced all sorts of nasty things to superhero comics." "He buys and sells lots of original art you know," said Mike Miller. "Commissions, too." "I love Scott Dunbier," concluded John.

UNDECLARED INTEREST OF THE YEAR

The revelation that Platinum Studios were paying Top Cow a sizeable amount of money to solicit their books through Image, more than they could make back on the sales, sadly came out after Platinum and Top Cow had separated their... unique arrangement.

"I can't conceive of anyone actually paying huge sums of money to get a comic published," claimed John Byrne. "Just to get one drawn" needled Mark Millar. "I just have a few tame hacks to get people excited and that does the job," said Millar. "No one knows that the Scottish Times has an audience of seven when it's on the internet..."

Then of course there was DC's contribution towards the sports stadium commendation of Steve Geppi, and funding an award presentation to Steve Geppi. Which would have passed without comment save for this column.

But the winner was the only person to know about the death of Captain America in issue #25 (outside of the readers of this column) - Wizard The Magazine. Who helpfully told Wizard the Online Store. Who ordered one hundred gazillion copies of the comic and sold them all at $50 each - until it was pointed out what shits they were being, that they were akin to insider dealers and anyway, everyone hates Wizard. The listings were removed and the market returned to normal.

"I wasn't complaining," said Ed Brubaker, now doing something far more intimate with his royalty cheques.

"I'd like to point out, I've hardly been mentioned in this column so far," said Brian Bendis. "Just a cheap crack about being bald." That would be the last thing he'd say all night.

NON PAYMENT OF THE YEAR

Pat Lee, winning last year's award for the bankruptcy of Dreamwave and then the closing of Dream Engine owing thousands to creators, made a new grab for this year's award by recruiting Dreamwave artist Alex Milne to draw backgrounds for his Cyberforce and Superman/Batman projects. In many cases this involved drawing 95% of the finished artwork, only for Lee to take Alex's name off the credits, promise to pay him a small fraction of the fee he received, and then not pay him at all.

"We should never have had credits in the first place," screamed John Byrne. "That's when the whole industry started to go down hill." "In fact paying artists was a bad idea wasn't it," asked Dave Sim. "They should have done it for the LOOOOOVE!" roared Byrne. "I did it for the love" murmured Mike Miller. "Just a few minutes ago. No one saw me."

There were repeated reports that Comixpress, the on-demand publisher had failed to pay creators of its books. But then it does have the excuse that it has hardly delivered any of the orders it has received.

But it would be Rick Olney, nominated in 2007, still has managed not to pay anyone despite constant legal threats - none of which were ever carried through. One threat to serve Tony Isabella with a legal suit at a convention passed without occurring at which point everyone just tore up their NDA agreements and sued Rick for money owed. No one has yet been paid, however.

"Remember, in a few years, all comics creators will be millionaires!" added Mark Millar. "Or is that just me?"

WHY ARE WE WAITING AWARD

It was a year of late books, whether "Civil War" related, "Captain America," "All Star," "Black Dossier" or "Onslaught" - which remarkably was more late due to Jeph Loeb, not Rob Liefeld...

But it was also a year that saw the likes of "The Unfunnies" finally completed. "And wasn't it worth the wait," grinned Mark Millar. "I loved every panel of it," lapped up Dan Slott. John Byrne murmured, "I never saw it do you think I should..." before everyone, especially Millar, shouted

"NOOOO!"

The constant delays to the "Batwoman" book by Rucka and JH Williams, promised for so long, alongside the Adam Hughes "All Star Wonder Woman" that may even skip an imprint before its published were all contenders. As was every series Warren Ellis seems to have written this year.

But it would be Joe Quesada's "One More Day," at one point a weekly, that stretched almost into 2008, and stretched hardcore fanboys pain with it. "One day, Joe Quesada will burn for what he has done to Spider-Man. And to do it late is even worse!" declared John Byrne. "You just wait to see what I've got planned," said Dan Slott. "Spider-Man will look great in fishnets."

MADDEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR

No, not "One More Day." Actual real events. Not Peter Parker's deal with the devil, not the Beyonder being an Inhuman,

Could it have been when DC representatives contacted Jim Hanley to ask him to ask Rich Johnston not to run any campaign in LITG for the reissue and completion of "Hitman" in TPB format, or else they would cancel any such plans? Or when Marvel asked Chris Weston to ask Rich Johnston to not mention the swipes of the "The Twelve" covers from famous pulp fiction novels? Almost as if there was no such thing as email. Or phone.

A favourite was JMS's statement about wanting his name to be taking off the last two issues of "One More Day," but that he chose not to so as not to embarrass Joe Quesada or Marvel - and doing exactly that in the process. But most of the crew couldn't actually see if JMS had done anything wrong. "Business as usual," said Byrne. "It's good for publicity," said Millar. "I've just realized I'm only here to make cheap cracks about stuff I said on a message board years ago," said Mike Miller. "Cheap cracks... heh heh," said Dan Slott.

Alex De Campi taking apart Shelley Bond's dress sense, after a Minx pitch meeting was well reviewed. "Did she dye her hair blonde?" asked Byrne. As was the marketing department that ordered 200 metre tall cardboard standee Transformers samples from China when they meant 200 centimetres.

WRONG RUMOUR OF THE YEAR

So many of Rich's best rumours were ruined by the details. "Details?" laughed Ed Brubaker. "Please." So what if he had the existence of the "Countdown" weekly, showrun by Paul Dini, counting down backwards to a "Final Crisis" months before either were announced? He went and said that Kurt Busiek would be writing "Final Crisis," when instead he's be writing the Mark Bagley weekly book that followed it (with Fabian Niceiza backup stories.) And then there was the Mark Waid-only-writing-four-issues-of-Flash which was laughed at by everyone when the fifth issue was solicited with Mark's name on it... though Mark actually left after the sixth issue and the previious three were partially co-written with John Rogers.

But it would be the Death of Batman in "Final Crisis," causing all sorts of people to get very excited that would cause his undoing (though Alex Ross is still doing Bat-redesigns). Readers are warned to pay heed to the introduction to every column...

"He's a poop," said Steve Niles. Everyone agreed.

RUMOUR OF THE YEAR

The revival of Dan Dare by Garth Ennis was a very early rumor that proved correct in all sorts of spades... as was his leaving of "Punisher." Paul Cornell heading up "Excalibur," although a new version yet to be announced, was popular, as were the previously mentioned "Countdown" bits that Rich Johnston actually got right. Matt Fraction working on the X-books, "Daredevil The End" details, even a hidden "Elektra Is A Skrull" message, there was lots to love amongst the dross.

But it was the LITG prediction of the death of Captain America, not through leaks, not through well placed sources, but through Marvel's own actions in trying to use Amazon's listings to throw people off the scent by suggestion that Tony Stark died, that only confirmed the upcoming death of Cap and would win the coveted prize. All Ed Brubaker would say was that, "Rich never got it from me. In fact, I feel quite like doing a Greg Rucka job on him right now. Anyone got a spare microphone?"

And, as the black helicopters arrived to pick the judges up one more time, Chuck Dixon seized the controls one one, and used to to junt down Rich Johnston for the pathetic dog that he is.... and no money earnt off his eBay sales would save him now...

NEXT WEEK: THE NEW YEAR

THE EIGHTH RUMOUR AWARDS 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 preceding information.

SMALL PRINT

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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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