Lying In The Gutters

Tue, July 29th, 2008 at 2:55pm PDT | Updated: July 29th, 2008 at 3:38pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 168

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.

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

ORIGINAL ART APPEAL

[Green Light]Harrods, the world famous department store, is running a comics exhibition in September, showcasing the best in British created comics artwork.

They've asked me to curate the exhibition, so I thought I'd use my contacts. If you own original artwork for books such as "Ultimates," "The Authority," "Judge Dredd," "The Filth," anything with strong and prominent British teams, let me know. Harrods have massive insurance policies that cover things like the world's biggest diamonds, so they'll be in good hands. And you'll receive thanks and a mention in printed materials and on those little cards that appear next to the displays. Not to mention bragging rights.

I'll be donating some of my own, pages from Frank Quitely/Alan Grant "Batman," my Millar/Morrison/Yeowell "Skrull Kill Krew," Eddie Campbell "From Hell," Steve Pugh "Hellblazer," Al Davison "Minotaur's Tale" and Dave McKinnon/Terry Wiley "Sleaze Castle." What have you got to show off?

Artists, art collectors, art dealers, get in touch!

CALIFORNIA MOANING

[Yellow Light]

On Wednesday night my front tooth broke. I was at the dentist on Thursday morning. In San Diego I'd have been clueless, forced to survive the weekend on a mixture of bottles of spirits and drugs. Okay, maybe that wouldn't have been too different from previous San Diegos, but still.

I am going next year. I've booked it in my calendar. And am writing down dental contacts just in case.

Which means I also want to have some comics out there to plug by then. Time to hit that keyboard.

On the surface San Diego was fairly gossip free. But it always takes a week for the good goss to make it to this column, so don't expect too many tales of homoerotic clinches in the Hyatt, well not until next week at least. Maybe a few people's hangovers will have cleared by then. There is one big story, but I’ll let you read the rest of this piece before we get to it. I don’t so much bury the lead as encase it in glass and entomb it with the rest of the used uranium.

There are people who decry the Hollywoodization of San Diego. Bollocks to them. It only makes the whole experience greater. Yes, I enjoy going for the comics - highlights have included reintroducing Spawn creator Todd McFarlane to forgotten Sam & Twitch co-creator and "Spawn" #1 co-scripter Lance Gueck . But others have included Joss Whedon bringing the whole "Firefly" cast out on stage. You just don't get that at Bristol.

If you want it to be all comics, then go to the all comics panels and only go to the comics booths. No one is making you see anything else. No one is making you party with Paris Hilton. If launching the new series of "24" offends you, then stick to Artists Alley. It's not hard. Do you really think that Owl Ship would have been there if it was a smaller affair?

But for those who enjoy pop culture films as well, it's a perfect opportunity to mix and match.

San Diego Dreaming was a busted flush this year due to Twitter Uber Alles taking over since last July. More on that later.

I heard reports that someone had my first "All The Rage" video blog airing at the show. Sadly it only counted as one hit.

So yes, CB Cebulski's Inferno 2 and Valerie D'Orazio's "Cloak And Dagger" were the two Marvel stories last week that the powers-that-be there asked that I, um, remove certain details from before publishing. Did anyone not get it?

The Robert Kirkman - Image Partner story went very public just before the con, but not so the news of big name new Image creators. Obviously negotiations may still be ongoing, but I received one e-mail that said named a few names… more on that when I have it.

As to the Garth Ennis animated series, not only was it not announced but I'm told it won't be until next year now... sorry.

And look, someone even put the Neil Gaiman and Tom Baker LITG stories to Steven Moffat. For predictable "no comment" responses of course! And even Neil Gaiman's VISA card customer support seem to read the column...

Marvel confirmed LITG reports of huge ructions in the Ultimateverse, cancelled titles, new titles, the lot.

Ryan Richards made it to the con, met his father and grandparents for the first time, and thanks LITG readers for their very generous donations in helping his journey, not the least fixing his bike!

Kieron Gillen was seen hanging around the Avatar booth quite a bit. I know William Christensen is fascinating company, but I smell a book in the offing. Will Kieron have time for that and working on "newuniversal" for Marvel?

Expect a new "Animal Man" series from DC, with art by Chris Batista.

On a negative note, this year’s convention may be tinged with memories of violence. I first heard of two creators who ended up in a fist fight on the convention floor, caught on CCTV with police called to attend. There are reports of another two creators involved in a serious bar fight, again with police presence. Not a great way to end the weekend...

BATBEGONE 1

[Yellow Light]Right then.

San Diego announced the Neil Gaiman/Andy Kubert two-part Batman story "Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader." Now, we know that the original "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger capped the end of the pre-"Crisis" Superman, telling his final tale, before John Byrne revamped the character with the "Man Of Steel" mini-series. So what can we expect from the Batman after such a career capping tale?

Well this one rumour rocketed from the San Diego convention floor before anyone’s hangover could stop it. Apparently it was all the talk of certain Batman cognesti after a particularly heavy night in the bars on Sunday night with certain DC creators.

I understand that following the events of "Batman RIP," both main Batbooks will be put on hiatus for a short period, replaced by a new title, "Battle Of The Cowl" by Grant Morrison.

We’ll see a struggle for the legacy of the Batman after the events of the "Batman R.I.P" storyline, between the likes of Robin, Jason Todd, Nightwing, Damien and who knows, maybe Azreal and Bat-Mite while they're at it.

So "Nightwing" will be renamed "Red Robin" while "Robin" becomes… "Batman And Robin."

It looks like Nightwing will be the new Batman with Jason Todd becoming Red Robin.

Remember last time I had a Batscoop this strong, about half was bang on the money (Morrison to write a Batman death story, a replacement to takes his role, Alex Ross to design the new character and covers) with about half being off (Bruce Wayne becoming a New God and fighting Darkseid in hand to hand combat).

Let’s see if I have a better strike rate this time.

BATBEGONE 2

[Green Light]The much anticipated, Frank Miller graphic novel "Holy Terror Batman" or "Holy War Batman," depending on which interview you've read, is losing a word from its title.

It will no longer feature Batman. In the title, or in the book.

HYATT OF HEARING

[Green Light]While we wait for other SDCC 2008 stories, here’s one from a few years ago. Len Strazewski. Joe Michael Straczynski. Two very different writers. So why did the Hyatt Hotel insist on putting Harlan Ellison through to Len instead of Joe all through the Con, all times of the day or night?

Len told me, "Ah, nothing finer than waking up to Harlan on the phone, cursing out Joe for not being on time to a 7 am breakfast--two days in a row! I always considered it a professional pleasure to be cursed out by Harlan. He is so articulate and creative."

Talking of which, can the Strazewski/Parobek "JSA" run can be far from an All-Star Squadron Showcase?

DUCK AND COVER

[Yellow Light]There has been some consternation on the Gene Colan Yahoo Group over the recent "Howard The Duck" Omnibus covers. Readers complained that they ordered the book but received a different cover to the one they were expecting by Howard artist Frank Brenner. It emerged there were two covers for the book, both credited to Brenner on Marvel's website, but only the first drawn by him. The second is by Marko Djurdjevic.

Frank Brunner wrote, "Dear people, If I didn't care I wouldn't mention this, but it seems MARVEL is screwing the artists AGAIN, Besides not telling me there would be two covers done for the HtD Omnibus and printing my cover like an amateur fanzine would, (way dark) They had to go and take my drawing of Howard from the cover and get some hack to redraw it, sign it! and print it in a card set called ‘Marvel (excuse the word) Masterpieces’ (anything but) boy! This is new low for Marvel!!!!!!!!!! Disgusted, Frank Brunner."

After some discussion he followed up with, "Before the ink was dry on my first new depiction of Howard in 30 years, they had another ‘artist’ copy it and sign his name to it! And then exploit it as a trading card! What's next? Putting it on a postage stamp, and leaving me out of the loop?

"Even their own 30 page contract has a section entitled: ‘The ‘vender’ (artist) warrants that his work is wholly original and his own creation’ I guess that's in the contract as window dressing! It's very telling that Marvel has so little creativity or originality that they would do this!

'If you think all this is ‘morally ambiguous’ I guess there's just no hope for any of us here in the 21st century.....I'm glad I won't be around to see whats coming...... all too soon!"

Interesting to note, Brunner’s cover features the first time he drew Howard The Duck with trousers on, as dictated by Marvel’s settlement with Disney.

SAN DIEGO IN TWITTER

[Green Light]Ryan Richards: larry young lusts my shield patches

Trish Mulvihill: Having a Guinness with Ben & David Lloyd at The Field. Didn't take long to end up in the pub, did it?

Graeme McMillan: Frank Miller was AWESOME. Drunk old men should always begin award ceremonies

CB Cebulski: I hate the smell of the Hyatt shampoo!

Heidi MacDonald: Eliza Dushku Joss Whedon, Tite Kubo, and someone from LOST all within a few square yards. A bit frantic.

Andy Diggle: Got props from Grant Morrison at the DC party. Nathan Fillion didn't want to let me in. Feeling very geeky right now.

Trish Mulvihill: Breaking free of wookies and steampunkers... Heading for steak & wine

Bryan O'Malley: Dearest fans: I love you, but I need some time.

Kelly Sue: Panel went well. Later, had my predictable mid-Sat need to see nerdblood on the walls, recognized it for what it was and moved on

Pinguino: Fucking insane good timing for a shot of damon lindelof handing quesada the script to ultimate wolverine vs hulk #6

CB Cebulski: Was pretty surprised when Tori talked about my story, Teenage Hustling, at her panel!!

Matt Fraction: there should be more black toilets

Andy Diggle: Wow, Eliza Dushku is hot.

Jim McCann: Love Fred Savage. Got pix with him!

Ryan Richards: Had a good chat with diggle and fullfilled my role as a support structure for Irving now food

Dan Johnson: Holy crap Jonathan Frakes knows a lot of show tunes.

Heidi MacDonald: There are a lot of actors at this party. You can usually tell because they're standing in a bunch of people acting weird."

Andy Diggle: Wow, Katee Sackhoff is hot

XGirlA: Great. Just saw someone dressed up as me. And worst of all, she did a better job of it. Must. Not. Kill...

Ben Templesmith: Apologies to the approximately 500 people who said hello & talked to me though I had no idea who you were or what your names were if I did

Ryan Richards: just near bisley and company for the thumb wrestling championship and have the award to prove it

Scott Kurtz: If you whant to twitter me while drunk. Now is the time people. Don't wait. It aint gettin drunker thatn this shit right HEAH!

Antony Johnston: voice is shot, but survived late night @ hyatt. hotel gym closed for unknown reasons this morning. gah. today: two lunches. *bloat*

Trish Mulvihill: Took lots of pictures with assorted booth babes. Once again, nephew ecstatic. Now resting after 3 hours of body-slamming on con floor

Scott Kurtz: The booth is dead. The con is dead. Where is everyone?

Graeme McMillan: JEFF! Bob Wayne says they'll be doing Jack Kirby's Losers after Demon

B Clay Moore: At the airport with Ande Parks and Seth Peck. Waiting for a flight. Con B Done

Rick Marshall: American Airlines: "There are no flights whatsoever on any airlines until Tuesday 3pm." US Air: "We have lots of flights available." Grrrrrr

Heidi MacDonald: Comic-Con over...Dogs barking. Who's here for tomorrow's DEAD dead dog party after canceled flights?

Trish Mulvihill: Pilot just said there are 70 planes ahead of ours. We'll taxi for 3 hours. Some folks just got off.

Jim McCann: Trying so hard not to fall asleep in the airport. In for a loooooong night.

CB Cebulski: J.J. Abrams liked my T-shirt

AntonyJohnston: I don't care what the fucking sign says, if you can only get in to meet friends for a drink by taking a table for dinner, it is not a "pub."

Pinguino: Just got home from comicon and completely drained. Can I sleep for a month now plz?

Trish Mulvihill: I think mixing mucho Advil with exhaustion made me loopy this con, sometimes not in a good way. Hope sleep reattaches my head.

Pinguino: Oh crap, locked out of my house. I hope my sister gets back soon

SPECULATION CORNER

[Green Light]Time to dig out your "Watchmen." Only recently, issues of the series could be found in the 50c bins. Now they’re $10 each and more. Look for early prints of the trades to go for silly prices, especially that Graffitti hardcover from a few years ago. In fact, with "Watchmen" TPBs in such short supply before the new 200,000 printing arrives (and gets swallowed up), you could even make a quick buck selling any print of the book.

WOWIO, THEY ARE A'CHANGIN'

[Green Light]So what's the deal with New Wowio?

Before their buyout by Platinum (the details of which are sketchy), this site provided free downloads of all manner of comic books by US readers once they'd entered their credit card details for authentication purposes. And the publisher received from 25c to $1 for each download. It was a very popular model, but many suspected that financially it couldn’t be maintained.

So how has Wowio changed?

Wowio have installed an online reader, which readers can use worldwide for free. Designated a "Preview" section, there is no automatic set payment per view, publishers share a percentage of revenue raised from advertising. This will have a larger audience but the fee per view will likely be much smaller.

Readers worldwide can download books for a fee, or download a free book if that book has been sponsored (after giving identification details). Details on the availability of sponsors are not yet clear, and there may be some readers who don’t see a benefit in downloading for a fee when they can read in the Preview section for free. But, again, the potential audience is much larger.

New Wowio is likely to result in a reduced revenue stream for publishers. But it might prove a platform for increasing print sales and awareness internationally. And it should prove far more… maintainable.

There seems to be no evil rights grab, no restrictive practices, nothing to stop people having a go with Wowio. But it may no longer be the goldmine for some it once was. We'll have to see.

I expect to be uploading issues of "Dirtbag" and "X-Flies" there shortly and will report back.

BITS AND BOBS

[Green Light]Brits! Annoyed at just how early the Americans get "Hellboy II" before it gets eventually released in the UK at the tail end of August?

There will be special showings nationally on August the 5th. For one day. Start badgering your automatic cinema phoneline now!

Bush Vs Batman in the WSJ.

Bryan Talbot ("Luther Arkwright") and Raymond Briggs ("The Snowman") will be in conversation at The ICA, 12 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y on Saturday 9th August at 3.30pm, marking the republication in hardback of Talbot’s "The Tale Of One Bad Rat" and Briggs’ "Gentlemen Jim" from Jonathan Cape. Chaired by The Observer’s Rachel Cooke.

Jamie Hewlett short animation for the BBC Beijing Olympics.

One of my favourite British TV comedies ever, "Noble and Silver: Get Off Me," the first episode "The Making Of..." now online in three parts.

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. A really good one this week.

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:  batman, comic-con international, holy terror batman, howard the duck, wowio

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