Lying In The Gutters

Mon, June 9th, 2008 at 1:19pm PDT | Updated: June 9th, 2008 at 1:20pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 161

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. But I urge you to use your judgment and remember, context is everything.

The traffic lights are an indication (and only that) of how reliable I believe the story to be, based on source, context and gut feel. Red lets you know I think this rumour is bunkum, but it is still one being spread about. Amber indicates I think there is a heavy bias involved here, or it just seems a little dodgy. And Green as far as I can tell (as far as I can ever tell) is the real deal, junior.

Nevetherless, do remember, Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced. Please don't shoot the messenger.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "My opinions are my own and not Imaginova's" - sig of Nu Newsarama mod 'Deputy Van Halen'.

BRIAN DAMAGE

[Green Light]Many Bendis Boarders believe "Sex And The City" actor Evan Handler is the spitting image of a certain Marvel comics writer.

So they arranged this shot at a recent signing from said actor.

Excellent.

PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL COMEDIAN

[Red Light]One Gutterite approached British comedian/actor/friend of Neil Gaiman, Lenny Henry, in the street and asked if he would be playing the lead in a possible movie adaptation of Gaiman's "Anansi Boys." Lenny just laughed.

My Gutterite took that as a yes. I really should ask them to be more discerning in their opinion-jumping activities.

Almost as much as watching David Tennant interviewed by Andrew Marr, when asked if he was doing another series answered "Yeah..." before suddenly jumping in with, "Well they haven't asked me yet" as subtle confirmation (as well as Neil Gaiman's recent descent into Tennantese for his upcoming role in Hamlet.)

People read far more into these things as they should.

METALLIC ANSWERS

[Green Light]Last week, Platinum declined to comment on stories that they owed their creators large sums of money.

Thankfully they weren't so reticent with their creators.

A confidential e-mail from President and Chief Operating Officer, Brian Altounian went as follows;

Hey folks. I wanted to personally send out a note to all of you addressing some of the most recent communications flying around about Platinum Studios. First and foremost, I want to thank each and every one of you for continuing to honor your confidentiality commitments under your contracts with us throughout this process. It is no secret that Platinum, like many companies dealing with this tough economy, has had its share of financial challenges. I promise you that we are doing everything we can to get on top of the situation and we hope to have some good news for you in the next couple of weeks. Please know that we are NOT "going under" - ours is definitely a long-term perspective and you are all part of our long-term plans. We acknowledge that we owe you past due amounts and we intend to honor all of our obligations to you.

I sincerely apologize for the delay in making these payments and I assure you that we are doing everything we can to bring you up to date as quickly as possible, which we hope will be no more than a few weeks from now.

We are still very excited about the future of this company. The purpose of becoming a public company was to enable us to have access to capital and be creative in the way we do business. It has been a little tougher than we anticipated because of the "perfect storm" of events that started to take place in our economy beginning in Fall of 2007 and have continued through today: a lagging overall stock market, a bottoming housing market, rising oil prices, etc. We didn't and couldn't anticipate that this unexpected convergence of economic events would have such an impact on our specific plans but I can assure you that we are taking specific and decisive actions to turn it all around. It is also of paramount importance to us that we maintain good relationships with all of our creators and I know that the first step along that path is to make good on our obligations to all of you. Again, I just want to reiterate that we absolutely intend to do just that.

If you have any questions, you have direct access to Dan Forcey and Sean O'Reilly, who have been on the front lines with respect to this situation and continue to be your champions and advocates here within the company. Also, feel free to shoot me an email if I can answer anything directly.

On behalf of the entire team here at Platinum Studios, let me again sincerely thank you for your patience and understanding and your continuing to honor your confidentiality agreements with us.

Hence the copies of this email I received... some people are really not happy. The commitment to open communication is a fine one however, if acted upon, and is the best policy a publisher can take in such a position. However, the passive-aggressive tone about leaking has already proved counteractive.

WONDER UNAMERICAN

[Green Light]Finally. Apparently Gail Simone and Ethan Sciver are working on the "Wonder Woman Annual." I knew we'd get there eventually.

That's when they're not debating back and forth on the merits of Joe McCarthy.

THIS WEEK IN FACEBOOK

[Green Light]"C.B. Cebulski and Steve Niles are now friends with Rob Liefeld. Rob found them using the Email Friend Finder."

HELLBRENDON

[Green Light]Intrepid reporter and great friend to the column, Brendon Connelly went to see some "Hellboy 2" footage and meet del Toro. Watch out, thar be spoilers...

Guillermo del Toro may still be working morning, noon and night on the final, locked-and-loaded cut of "Hellboy 2," but he's already been hiked up to the promotional caravan. Last week, he was dragged through the Soho Hotel in London for a handful of one-on-one interviews and a roundtable chat. As is always the way, the interviews went to the relatively passionless exponents of mass media outlets (read: those with big, vague readerships), and the web-bound heart and soul (read: geeks) only got to claim a small share of the good man's time. I shrug. I mean - we all got to see the same preview footage from "Hellboy 2"; we all got slapped with the same embargo on transcribing our tapes; we all got to press a quick bit of flesh and bask in the same warm body-glow; but I suspect it was only some of us that were seated at the roundtable that were asking questions we really, really wanted to know the answers to. For us, this wasn't just another day out of the office. It was a rare chance to meet a genuine geek hero and hear what he had to say about the things we care about.

As I said, I can't yet tell you what was asked at the roundtable, and definitely not how it was answered, but I am allowed to discuss the preview footage screened. Running under ten minutes, and coming straight off of the AVID, the scenes built up to a shoot-out set in a trashed-out Auction Hal. I reckon they fell pretty much as I read them when I got a look at the script last year with only a couple of obvious omissions and one big bit of reordering. These scenes take the BPRD and pit them against a horde of flying, gnashing, bone-eating "Tooth Fairies" - a plague of imps unleashed by an Evil Fairytale Prince/former member of a British boyband/Del Toro rep player. This is an early excerpt (pages 6 to 16 in the script, if I remember correctly) and therefore, must have been pretty light on spoiler material, right? Well... not really.

For one thing, we get the revelation that Liz Sherman is pregnant. That's definitely a crucial plot point. Neither the footage nor Guillermo revealed who the father is - and, indeed, Daddy only finds out there's a rather interesting bun in the oven in the very last scene before the final credits roll. Perhaps you can call this a cliffhanger - there's a possible 3rd Hellboy in the offing (well, maybe just a second Hellboy, but third Hellboy film, if you catch my drift) and this plot thread will clearly be developed there.

The only other really major plot point in the preview sequence came in the closing seconds. To what sounded like a few inexplicable bars of the Scots rockers Travis, Hellboy came flying out of a window and crashing down onto a police car. We see he's absolutely surrounded by the cops, the public and reporters - and there's more than a handful of TV news cameras trained on him. Obviously, this is going to change just about everything for the BPRD and the way they do business.

While most of the footage looked great, and the MIDI-powered temporary version of the soundtrack barely warranted Guillermo's apology, a small number of FX shots needed a bit of spit and polish. What's more, some of the dialogue either still needed looping, or perhaps just complete mixing, but we did get to hear Doug Jones voicing Abe Sapien. This would be one of the two nits I'd pick, and the only one I think I could ever concede. I prefer David Hyde Pearce, no question, and I'd have had him back, still no question.

The other nit, I'm not budging on. Let me explain.

There's a moment in the sequence where literally dozens of Tooth Fairies are getting splatted left, right and centre. They make some rather pleasing, mulchy splatter when exploded and in one shot, some of this gunk gets on the lens. This is something we've seen a lot of lately - indeed, that godawful Indiana Jones film out now has water splashing on the lens at some point, and one of Guillermo's Cha Cha Cha compatriots, Alfonso Cuaron, included such effects to great acclaim in Children of Men - but it goes back some way, with Guillermo himself first employing it for Mimic. Unfortunately, this "technique" is completely bogus.

Just about everything in the sequence screened, and no doubt in the full film, is the result of good, hard work to create a real, believable diegesis. Every bit of costuming, prop design, lighting, make up, CG... whatever... and to blow it all by having something hit the lens - therefore rendering the illusion immediately bankrupt, drawing attention to the presence of a camera and therefore the overall artifice of the entire enterprise - is, at the very least, confused. And confusing. And disappointing.

Overall, I'd say the scene was a few watts more vivid on the page, but nonetheless still really quite brilliant on screen. This is undoubtedly Guillermo's Hellboy world as we last saw it, just dialled up a bit for the loud bits and nipped and tucked around the edges. The footage and the interview have left me absolutely convinced: this will the best comics-to-film adaptation of the year. And yes, that includes that try-hard Dark Knight thing.

Expect to see my transcript of the Guillermo del Toro roundtable in late July or early August, when the embargo lifts for the good burghers of Blighty and, as per form, the majority of this site's readership will have already seen and loved the film.

Brendon and I are off to see "Wanted" on Thursday. We’ll report back.

TOKYOPOPPED

[Yellow Light]Oh dear.

Refocusing as a "comics to movie" company when the existing division responsible for that activity is derided in Los Angeles... Digital-distribution-only set to kill off all number of original titles...

Was the warning nailed to the church door, when "Wired" ran a big article about TokyoPop and the "manga revolution" the same month that certain Borders stores pulled out all their titles due to poorer than expected sales?

And Viz shall inherit the Earth.

FINAL INVASION

[Yellow Light]Which comic professionals have been huddled in groups, daring to say the unsayable? That while "Secret Invasion" may be rather on the trite simplistic side without the edge that "Civil War" had (oh, and Captain Britain is doing the same story much more entertainingly) at least you can actually read it and understand what's going on.

Those who haven't got a degree in DC Continuity are scratching their heads. While lifelong DC readers are saying, "What the hell? Doesn't this contradict everything in ‘Countdown Arena?’"

Issue 2 of "Final Crisis" will have to start making some kind of sense, or at least be terribly entertaining… or else.

Taken at Wizard World Philly…

NASTY COMICS

[Yellow Light]More people desperately seeking money from Matt Nastos of Nifty Comics. Tim Rees says that a couple of years ago, he produced three issues worth of artwork for Nastos' "Cadre" series, famous more for the lack of people paid than for what the series is actually about, or anything. But surprise surprise, Tim was paid in full, after a few delays. However, he put off working on a fourth issue until the first appeared -- and it never did. Nor have e-mails been replied to.

He is a curious beast, Matt Nastos. He published work he doesn't pay for and then doesn't publish work that he's paid in full.

Wayne Nichols got neither. He writes to tell us about being hired by Matt Nastos ten years ago to draw "Cadre: Last Sunrise" written by Andrew Pellerito.

He pencilled and inked the first issue, as well as creating designs for Nastos' new series "EarthGuard," but was never paid. Matt stopped replying to correspondence, Wayne never got his artwork back and the series never saw print.

Wayne had similar problems with another publisher, Troy Zurel, and a comic called "Fragile" in 1999. No pay, no artwork returned and no publication.

It took Wayne almost a decade before he tried getting back into comics. Now you see him on "Hulk," "Exiles" and "Star Wars."

GOLDEN YEARS

[Green Light]I'm getting more reports of people who've commissioned pieces from Michael Golden complaining about the length of time the pieces take, the lack of communication, and the practice of taking on more commissions when there are years worth uncompleted.

I don't think anyone commissioning such a piece right now can be under any illusion of the amount of time Mike takes.

While most creators take less time to fulfil a commission, some take more - Brian Bolland and Simon Bisley are two examples.

As for communication, there's very little more to say than, "It'll be ready when it's ready."

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]Leather-skinned lawyer Ben Affleck

Tesco's Father's Day Gift Card:

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Nu Newsarama mods sounds off.

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.

You can see my Guido Fawkes cartoon most Mondays here. Here's the latest.

And my Wii number is 0512 2690 8446 2879. Anyone for a game of Mario Kart?

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.

TAGS:  hellboy 2 movie, brian michael bendis, platinum studios, wonder woman, tokyopop

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