Lying In The Gutters

Mon, August 25th, 2008 at 1:52pm PDT | Updated: October 3rd, 2008 at 2:18pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 172

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: (On the sales prospects if God wrote a novel) “Sadly, we know it would sell better if He wrote a story about Batman, rather than about His own original creation." - Nat Gertler.

SEEN AND UNSEEN

[Green Light]I hear news of a new Batman series, probably fitting in and around the Battle For The Cowl break for the two main monthly comics. It's called "Unseen Batman."

I also hear Matt Sturges. is writing a new DCU book called "Run."

Say, wasn't that the name of the Mark Millar/Ashley Wood Image title that never happened?

"A FEELING OF SUBSTANCE ABOUT IT"

[Green Light]It's amazing what a politician calling for your comic book to be banned can do. Lying In The Gutters reported on the controversy over "Him & Hers' Smuggling Vacation". Rupert Murdoch's The Sun jumps on, and the MP and author go head to head on BBC Radio. And look, I'm covering it again.

HARRODS STOCK QUESTION

[Green Light]Slight Harrods-related panic, the fellow who was loaning a Frank Quitely "X-Men" and a Paul Grist "Jack Staff" has had to pull out. Also, there are problems with the "Ultimates" page. Any UK-based collector care to assist? E-mail me here.

Otherwise, everything seems to be going as planned. The exhibition is called Comic Timing and starts in Harrods on September 9th until the end of October.

ROBERT KIRKMAN'S CRUISE TO SAVE COMICS

[Green Light]From Descendo O Morro...

I'd go!

KILLER APP

[Green Light]“2000AD” artist PJ Holden demonstrates how his and writer Al Ewing's "Murderdrome" comic works on an iPhone or iTouch.

Designed by PJ and coded by Phil Orr, the comic was written and drawn to fit iPod dimensions and definitions. No more zooming in to read text! It also has a feature allowing the reader to turn off the text, remove colours, even see the original pencils.

The comic was intended to be distributed through the Apple App Store, providing the creators with 70% of the revenue. Holden and Orr have even set up a company to facilitate other creators' works, for a 10% fee, Infurious Comics.

A remarkable plan.

Slightly scuppered by Apple telling the creators that "Murderdrome cannot be posted to the App Store because it contains content that does not comply with Community Standards" and "Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users."

What do you reckon? Especially since you need to have a credit card to download content. And, say, viewers are able to download the "300" movie.

Maybe it would be better to get the comics application available to download separately - then provide product in the same vein as, say, movies are provided, with age restrictions? Looks like Iverse Comics are stepping up.

Looks like Brian Kirsten is getting similar problems with Wowio.

THE CURSE OF GILLIAM TAKES TWO MORE

[Yellow Light]It's been said that cartoonist/writer/director/performer Terry Gilliam is cursed. It started with "Brazil" as the fight for final cut took to the chatshows and the critic circle, the film "Baron Munchausen" going over budget and into flop, descended into the fight for writer credits in "Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas," "Lost In La Mancha" saw funding fall apart and the lead actor break his hip, "Brothers Grimm" saw fights with cinematographers and producers delay editing of the film for two years and Heath Ledger died halfway through making "The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnissus."

Anyway. Two more to add.

Terry Gilliam has a number of projects placed with Virgin Comics. I've heard talk of "Time Bandits 2" and "The Defective Detective" as examples.

Well, despite a huge presence at San Diego, I've heard rumours that Virgin corporate recently pulled their funding for the comics side of the operation.

I'm getting reports of mass sackings, with the India headquarters closing and Virgin Comics New York letting most of their staffers go. Allmost all company e-mails I've sent to American and Indian staff are bouncing, and they aren't replying to personal e-mail. However I'm told some staff are still working for the company while things are sorted out. Ex-Virgin freelancer Stuart Moore tells me, "I know the New York office has closed."

Creators haven't been directly informed and a number have been emailing me for information.

And the current legal wranglings over “Watchmen?” All down to Terry Gilliam setting up the original options on the movie with Fox.

Say, did you know Fox made plans for “Watchmen 2?”

Even an animated TV spinoff (for a ludicrously small fee)

And even Fox execs didn't actually want to go into comic shops to buy copies.

TOUR HEROES

[Green Light]Mark Millar has been travelling America with Tony Harris plugging their neocon comic book "War Heroes"

Bendis Board moderator Simpson was given a message to give to Brian Bendis at the Golden Apple signing;

"Suck my hairy belly"

But was Millar spotted wearing the same shirt at the Isotope signing in San Franscisco the previous night at Golden Apple in Los Angeles?

What a fashion faux pas. Hope the humidity wasn't high.

One attendee was a little more brazen, telling Millar how much he hated the movie of "Wanted" and how he wanted his $7 back.

Millar gave him $20.

FAMI-LEE

[Green Light]This week, Tony Lee is going to Dundalk next month to visit the Irish side of his family that he's not seen in a decade, He blogs about it, only for a journalist from the Dundalk Argus who turns it into an article.

One of the family sends the article to another relation, who turns out to be Barry Keating, working on the "Hack/Slash/Reanimator" comic for Devils Due. Who gets in touch with his now-revealed cousin Tony.

Watch out when you blog -- you're playing with live bullets!

DC AND THE BEAR

[Green Light]So, who is the rugged slightly unkempt fellow seen modeling all sorts of DC apparel for their catalogues, now known at the DC Bear?

John Layman starts the bear hunt.

CAUSING A RUCK

[Green Light]Remember "Elektra/Wolverine: The Redeemer" by Greg Rucka and Yoshitaka Amano? A perfect blending of writer and artist?

Apparently not.

When asked about the collaboration recently, Rucka stated "honestly? I didn't much care for the art. I know. Heresy." before concluding "he pretty much drew whatever he wanted once I'd turned the manuscript in."

BRAND NEW NUMBER CRUNCH

[Yellow Light]We're well into the "Brand New Day" relaunch of Marvel's Spider-Man property. So... how are sales doing? Have Marvel fans abandoned the series as many threatened, was it all hot air, has the series found new readers?

We have only certain sales figures to go on, they are orders by retailers, not sales to customers, they don't include sales outside of North America and they are often innaccurate. However, they have the benefit of being consistently innaccurate, enabling us to draw conclusion about certain trends And with the current FOC system of ordering, the order dates are much closer to sales dates, which over time makes it a greater barometer of cuistomer demand. So. Let's crunch numbers.

The first issue of Brand New Day, "Amazing Spider-Man" #546 had reported North American orders of 127,958. Very impressive, and the media coverage probably helped sales. As a three-times-a-month book, it was worth knowing the retailers ordered 101,213 of the second issue and 97,959 of the third. They expected a drop off. Issue 4 gets a bump of 101,112 with the new rotating creative team but two issues later, it's back down to 88,084. Which was where the book was pre-relaunch.

And so the sales slide. Month after month, sales drop. occasionally leaping for a new creative team before plunging back down. July's figures see the series in the high 60K figures, half of where the relaunch started from, a significant drop from the majority of JMS' run, and back down around the levels acheived towards the end of the John Byrne/Howard Mackie run which received such derision when the Quesada/Jemas tag team rose to prominence at Marvel.

However, because the other less-well-performing titles of "Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" were cancelled, to be replaced by the increased three-a-month schedule for the better selling "Amazing Spider-Man", overall sales of the three Spidey books a month are up. Just.

What has happened is that "Amazing Spider-Man" has lost 30-50,000 readers since the relaunch. However those readers now buy all three Spider-Man titles a month instead of the one or two they used to pick up.

Selling more copies to less people is basically how the Direct Market became such a strong proposition to Marvel and DC and explains quite a number of publishing decisions along the line.

Marvel can consider this a success, but it does put the book in a more vulnerable position. If one reader leaves, they drop three books, not one. To gain a new reader, that reader must buy three books, not one.

And you might also conclude that a three-a-month book where Spider-Man was still married to Mary Jane, or where Peter Parker hadn't sold his marriage to the devil, would have sold more copies to more people.

Mind you, "Spider-Girl" sales aren't that great either. Just over 15,000, down around 2000 sales since Brand New Day and still dropping readers, despite being the place to go to find Mary Jane and Peter still married.

Comic fans. Can't live with them, can't publish a line of superhero comic books without them.

FOUND GIRLS

[Green Light]How do comic shops in Paris display volumes of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's highly entertaining graphic novel "Lost Girls?"

Why, in the window, next to Pokemon, Star Wars toys and Marvel superhero figures.

Don't you love the French?

TWITS

[Green Light]Months ago, I read an advance script for the "Astonishing X-Men" comic, in which the X-Men character Armor was seen posting on Twitter as XGirlA. I wanted to see if the writer Warren Ellis or Marvel Comics had registered a Twitter identity. They hadn't. So I did.

I mirrored her posts in the comics, then wrote a kind of meta-commentary on the San Diego Comic Con, and was considering writing an ongoing narrative bouncing off on events in "Astonishing X-Men."

However last week, Marvel Entertainment sent a legal claim to Twitter and the small start up kowtowed, dumping the Twitter ID. After asking what was happening, a Twitter representative told me, "I'd rather resolve this issue without getting Marvel's legal department involved because we are a very small start-up and lack a legal department."

Shame, if they had I wonder if Twitter could make a case that Marvel had infringed their copyright in the comics.

Don't Fuck With The House it seems. Still, Twitter sent me a T-shirt. And I'm a sucker for free T-shirts.

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]"Wolverine: First Class" cover

"Wolverine And The X-Men Magazine" cover

Gains a mask, loses a little... definition.

BITS AND BOBS

[Green Light]Ronin Studios are appealing to comic professionals for 8 page story submissions to the latest volume of “Hope,” an anthology series to benefit The HERO Initiative, with the theme "inspiring hope with a focus on helping those who have fallen by the wayside and need help."

Current contributors include Jake Black, Russell Lissau, Howard Wong, Tom Nguyen and Gerry Alanguilan.

E-mail herefor more details.

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:  virgin comics, iphone omics, watchmen, mark millar

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