Lying In The Gutters

Mon, August 4th, 2008 at 2:27pm PDT | Updated: August 4th, 2008 at 5:08pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 169

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.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK - "It is a brilliant tour-de-force of comics storytelling and features a great example of Moore's greatest talent; the ability to let his readers congratulate themselves for being smarter than they are." - Chuck Dixon on "Watchmen," the Dixonverse message board

SICKO SOCKO

[Green Light]More and more appeals are currently starting to raise money to help pay the hospital bills for people in comics who live in the USA. Valerie D’Orazio is one. David Pirkola is another. I am ware of another couple starting up very soon.

And I’m starting to get angry. The British healthcare system is far from perfect, but its free at the point of use, people are treated regardless of their circumstances and you don't have to get a taxi from a comic convention to a hospital holding your broken jaw in place because a San Diego ambulance would cost you $1200 and you just don't have the money.

Of course I'll donate. Of course I'll spread the word. But I also think about the many people without health insurance who aren't fortunate to have a fan base or a readership to whom they can appeal - and wonder what they do in such a situation.

America, elect someone who will bring in a universal healthcare system funded by dramatically increased taxation, then hold them to that promise.

Okay, off the soapbox.

FRACTION MADE WHOLE

[Green Light]

I understand that Matt Fraction will soon be the sole writer of "Uncanny X-Men," as Ed Brubaker leaves the title.

From PopLife to sole writer on X-Men. We're so proud.

Photo by Ginny Guzman.

SIMON SAYS

[Green Light]Captain America co-creator Joe Simon has written an Open Letter to Marvel Comics, regarding a recent Captain America volume where writer Gerard Jones wrote an introduction detailing what he saw as the differences between Joe Simon and Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman.

Jones mentions Simon’s account that he and Kirby agreed on a royalty scheme with Goodman over “Captain America," which Goodman reneged on, seeing the pair move to DC Comics. He also mentions Goodman’s account that it was Kirby and Simon who broke the contract by leaving the deal to go to DC Comics. And concluded that since there was no documentary evidence remaining, there was no way of knowing who was correct.

Simon took issue with that.

Dear Marvel Comics:

Yesterday I received the latest Marvel Masterworks book, Golden Age Captain America. Thank you, Marvel. The book is wonderful, beautifully crafted, something to be proud of if it winds up in one’s collection.

I read the first chapter of the introduction by Gerard Jones.

Gerard, you are full of shit. You have already compromised your integrity by making statements and asking questions that you have no answers to. Why bring them up at all? The fly-by-nights were taking every advantage of the creators and that has been well documented in the past. You might have examined your statements but nobody ever asked me or Mr. Kirby if we had any papers or documents to confirm.

Marvel is a big boy now. You should grow up. Learn to check your sources before you shoot off the hip.

At the Simon And Kirby blog, Gerard Jones has replied saying, “Joe has certainly earned the right to tell me (or anyone else) that I’m full of shit--and I’m sorry if I gave offense or got things wrong. I actually made repeated efforts to contact Joe about this issue when I was writing my book but I was told he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about it (I assumed for legal reasons). I’m doing my best here to piece the truth together from what’s available, and any more information would be very much appreciated. Whatever helps us get closer to the truth. Many of my most valuable learning experiences have followed someone telling me (if not in exactly those words) that I’m full of shit."

Consider this probably Exhibit V in the legal suit over the ownership and profit share from the character.

FAMILY PLANNING

[Green Light]I understand from San Diego gossip amongst nervous creators that the J Torres, Tim Levin and Dan Davis superhero six issue mini-series "The Family Dynamic" from DC has suddenly been cut in half to three issues.

Expect a hurried wrap up and strained plot contrivances.

Damn. Looked fun.

THE DARK KNIGHT REGURGITATES

[Green Light]Brendon Connelly, good friend of the column and founder of Film Ick disagrees with the entire world and didn’t like “The Dark Knight." He tells us why. Nervous souls should look away now;

I’m not really in the mood for writing film reviews at the moment, and this one didn’t even get started until today, the day of publication, yet, simply put, I felt that I really should write it. You see, not only did I find The Dark Knight to fall somewhat short of its hyped up reputation, I recognized it for what it truly was -- an honest to goodness piece of trash. Junk. Bilge. Garbage. Drivel. Hogwash. Indeed, it’s not entirely unlike Batman Begins, just even more over-extended.

This is probably going to be read as a kill piece, so l might as well just go for it and make with the knife wounds in quick succession. Here is a heap of bullet points, each of them a serious fault in this godforsaken mess of a film -- but even in total only serving as an introduction to my criticisms. As I said, I don’t want to spend all day on this, I just think there needs to be some sense spoken about this ridiculous film. I’ll keep each flavour criticism to a single example.

  • The dialogue is excruciating, pretty much top to bottom. For one thing, it is laden with countless slabs of pointless exposition -- for example: a shot of a mobile phone inside a man’s skin is effectively titled by the line “It’s a mobile phone". And it keeps happening. This film spells out so many of it’s images it often feels more like an episode of Dick Barton than, say, a good Batman film (you know -- like the one from the 60s, or the two Burton made).
  • Great wedges of this dialogue are heaped into tiresome “refresher scenes" -- for example, the press conference -- in which the would-be subtext is spelled out for us, effectively rendered text. Sub, sure -- but not subtext. Just sub-par.
  • And the clichés in the dialogue and delivery were sometimes beyond insulting -- listen to the entire bank robbery sequence for a microcosm of how tin eared the Nolan brothers have proven to be.
  • Nolan doesn’t have the first idea how to film cinematic space. The action scenes are jumbled in the extreme and there’s any number of problems in even the dialogue sequences. Watch the interrogation room sequence with Big Ears and the clown -- hideous. Even worse is the dangling Joker scene, in which he’s been flipped the right way up. Thinking for a moment about the processes by which we read and interpret images on the screen, this sequence is so disconcerting for the mind of the viewer, and to no useful end, that I have no idea how or why Nolan and his cronies came up with it.
  • The whole IMAX scenes farrago is fuel for a dozen bullet points in itself but, suffice to say, Nolan is not up to the task of composing images in multiple aspect ratios simultaneously. Why this has gone unreported, I have no idea but I’ll kick in. Nolan pretends to have composed images in IMAX that work perfectly for the purpose of the shot needed at that moment -- and then, that a scope-shaped slice can be taken out and that will work just as well. More stupidly still, the image is to be recomposed again for the eventual Blu-Ray release. Masterful image composition is not about point-and-shoot, nor is it about making pretty pictures -- it is about balancing the elements of the frame to create the desired relationships between them and the most effective emotional or psychological effect on the viewer. If you reckon Nolan can do this thrice in a single shot set-up then you’re either incredibly gullible or don’t understand the issue in the slightest.
  • And that’s saying nothing of the sideshow gimmick of the IMAX version cutting to a different aspect ratio anyway. Not the choice of a filmmaker looking to immerse his audience in a hermetic and fully dimensional diegesis.
  • The plot makes little sense for most of the time, and no sense at all at several junctures. The Joker seems capable of accomplishing incredible feats in incredibly short spaces of time, for one thing -- though I can swing with that, to a degree - but there are any number of holes, Batman leaving a penthouse full of innocents with the Joker and his cronies being one particularly disturbing example.
  • The technology is somewhat reminiscent of CSI, from the bullet reconstruction to the city-wide Sonar scanner. And that is, I think, about the harshest damnation I can pour on any scene revolving around scientific principles without evoking Heroes.
  • The anti-Chinese drive is head-shakingly pathetic if not outright offensive (the mention of buying American in the courtroom scene pushes it beyond an incidental factor of the Hong Kong gangster plotline).
  • This film does not take place in any kind of universe where dressing up as a Bat and putting on a hilariously silly voice makes even a drop of sense (unless as an adolescent power fantasy, which for many viewers I suppose it is). Indeed, much of the film does not belong in the world Nolan seems desperate to ground it in, particularly the biological details of Two Face’s disfigurement. All of this could have seemed at home in a universe that played by these rules -- another lesson to be learnt from the Burton films.
  • The “tension inducing" soundtrack is crassly simplistic.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that The Dark Knight is, almost without exception, a series of incredibly bad filmmaking choices strung together over an unbearable running time. About as far from a masterpiece as I’ve seen in the cinemas in a couple of years at least. On the other hand, I think Gary Oldman was incredible and Eckhart, Ledger and just Gyllenhaal fine. I look forward to their next projects -- Ledger’s in particular -- with keen anticipation.

And you’re back in the room.

SAN FRONTIERES

[Green Light]So just how will the San Diego Comic Con expand with no space in the Convention Center to expand into?

Well how about it just infects the rest of the city? I'm told it may "spread out in down town next year." Apparently the Fire Marshalls were very concerned about overcrowding this year, especially where the major movie companies were adjacent, and may request a reduction in attendees otherwise.

HASBRO'S RIGHT HAND DOESN'T KNOW WHAT ITS LEFT HAND IS DOING

[Green Light]Pat Lee may be in Hasbro US's bad books, after his company Dreamwave went down owing them tens of thousands.

But Hasbro Hong Kong doesn't seem to mind.

In fact they seem to get on famously.

CONTAINING MULTITUDES

[Green Light]More San Diego creator talk tells me that the Jim Shooter’s "Legion Of Super Heroes" title ends with issue #50.

It will be replaced with a new Tony Bedard LSH project, and the Levitz/Giffen Legion project will also see publication.

I'm also told that the junior book "The Legion Of Super Heroes In The 31st Century," is also coming to an end with issue 20.

The future seems an uncertain place.

FLASH TALKING

[Yellow Light]One San Diegoer tells me, "I was waiting at the Aspen booth at Comic-Con getting a sketch done by current Legion Artist Francis Manapul, when Geoff Johns came over and interrupted to talk to him for a second. Johns had a copy of the first trade from his first Teen Titans trade, and handed it to Manapul, which Manapul said, ‘I eventually did get my hands on a copy and read it last night.’ The two of them talked about Bart Allen for a couple of minutes, with Manapul being very complimentary of how he was written. Johns looked around, saw people were watching, and turned his back and the two of them continued to talk inaudibly for about 10 minutes about something before Johns left.

"Combine that with the vague question that Johns asked at one panel: ‘Does anyone miss Bart Allen?’ and there has to be something there."

I dunno. You can't spend ten minutes having a friendly chat without people reading something into it.

THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MARKET

[Green Light]It's been a while since books like "Civilian Justice," "Combat Zone" and the unseen "American Power" threatened the stands. But with books such as "War Heroes" shipping and "Not-Batman: Holy Terror" on the way, is this the time for "Pigman?"

Just in case anyone was wondering, no this is not a parody. These are images from Bosch Fawstin's upcoming graphic novel, "The Infidel." More information at the link.

SWIPE FILE

[Red Light]Obama by Alex Ross

And Goatse. Obviously. If you don't already know Goatse, search for an image at your own risk.

NO IMAGE SUPPLIED. Obviously.

BITS AND BOBS

[Green Light]Picked up a wonderful comic book/graphic novella at the weekend. “89 Degrees" by Private Eye cartoonist Phillip Warner. A wordless tale about two mountain climbers facing an impossible challenge in 1959, and the lives of the people they leave behind. Very Sergio Aragones-meets-Dave McKean, consider this recommended. The book has spotty distribution (there are copies at GOSH! Comics in London), otherwise you may want to ask the author direct.

Lauren Laverne of Kenicke gets told about "Phonogram."

IDW's Presidential comic books hit CNN with Scott Dunbier showing just how you can get publicity for comics when you leave DC. Also comments from Obama writer Jeff Marriotte.

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.

Also this weekend, in Oxford, is the annual UK small press comic conventon, Caption. It is my belief that, just as every comic book fan must go to San Diego once in their lives, that they must also go to Caption. It is the extreme opposite, yet behaves socially in a very similar manner. A bonding exercise for people who love comics, with every single commercial consideration ripped out screaming.

Guests include Nick Abadzis, D'Israeli, Terry Wiley, Rian Hughes, Woodrow Phoeniz, Paul Gravett, Al Davison and more, though to call them guests is an overstatement, they're more like attendees with privileges. Highlights of the weekend include Deadline and Escape reunions.

San Diego Vs Burning Man.

"Bostin Heroes" is a new Midlands-based superhero webcomic hitting the headlines. Catch it here.

Choose the least informed comment from the San Diego Comic Con edition of "Totally Rad Show" from the Revision 3 people.

Is it "there's the Will Eisner awards because Will Eisner created the Spirit, the first Superhero?" Is it "Eisner may have invented Superheroes, but Frank Miller invented the Graphic Novel which is what made the industry?" Or will you settle for Albrecht and Trachtenberg saying they weren't fans of the "Watchmen" graphic novel, but are very excited to see the movie? Your choice!

Men In Tights.

Return of the Don…

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.

TAGS:  uncanny x-men, legion of super-heroes, family dynamic, pigman

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