Lying In The Gutters

Mon, February 16th, 2009 at 1:58pm PST | Updated: February 16th, 2009 at 4:08pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 197

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 and could do with stamping on. Amber indicates I think there is a bias involved in the telling 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. But it's still quite possibly wrong.

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

QUOTE OF MY WEEK: "I laughed out loud at Watchmensch. Several times, in fact -- and the climactic scene is more awesome than any squid!" - Dave Gibbons

YOU, YOU CAN WATCH THE WATCHMEN

[Green Light]Just round the corner from my radio advertising job, is a comic shop called Orbital. I talked about their London’s move into a photographic gallery off Leicester Square the other week.

Well, if you’re around London and have been putting off a visit, here’s a reason. From this Thursday, in the art gallery section of the shop, Orbital Comics will have the original artwork to Page One of "Watchmen" on display, as well as the colour guide.

I got a sneak peek.

And if you want to go to the World Premiere of "Watchmen" in London, February 23rd, then you can! Two tickets were on eBay right now. Going for over five hundred pounds for two, but still. This pair are still up for a bit less.

Despite not having any major stars, this has become the hottest ticket in town with certain magazine editors screaming that they haven't been given tickets. "Valkyrie," Baftas, Brits, all were much easier to get into than this monster.

Lying In The Gutters will be reporting from the red carpet on the night, with Slashfilm's Brendon Connelly on camera duties. So, apologies for a late column in advance.

If anyone else is planning on travelling to France to see "Watchmen" with French subtitles on release two days before UK release, do let me know and I'll hook you up with each other.

Also, looks like the "Tales Of The Black Freighter" DVD got scheduled for the beginning of April in the UK shortly after the release in the US, and, surprisingly, for a little less money too. So there'll be no excuse for, you know, pirating it.

GRAND ENTRANCE

[Yellow Light]I've been given to understand that, due to the owner's financial support in favor of California's Proposition 8 bill, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, there will be pickets and protests against the popular Hyatt Hotel at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year. The picket line will be made up of comics industry figures. There will, sadly, probably be a number of cosplayers and costumed individuals as well, which should draw the press.

With San Diego so short on hotel space for the convention, you're going to see a crash between ideology and convenience, generating lots of KA POW sound effects.

Shall we start writing protest banners now? Civil War For Civil Partnerships? We Are Legion, Super Queeroes? Northstar Wouldn't Stay Here? The Dyke Knight Returns Home?

And for the opposing side of course. Batmen Against Battymen? It's Lois And Clark Not Lois And Clara?

Hopefully I'll be there to take photos. Before walking two miles down the tracks to squeeze into a motel room as usual.

NAME OF THE BAT

[Green Light]Last week, we pointed out Matt Clark’s annoyance about being missed off the announcement of his and Keith Giffen’s "Doom Patrol" series. But to be fair, DC didn’t name a lot of people that day.

LITG mentioned Grant Morrison working with Frank Quitely on a Batbook a while ago, that title appears to be "Batman And Robin," with rotating artists. Quitely to start for three issues, with more to come. One poster on Funnybook Babylon names Philip Tan for the next three, Doug Mahnke for three more and a final three from Quitely.

Another poster tagged Tony Daniel as the continuing artist for the Batman book. If his “Battle For The Cowl" series is well received, could he be writing it as well? DC have in the past been allergic to writer/artists, but maybe its time is coming again.

This schedule also indicates that these new books may be around for a year. Odds are you’ll see another change then, with some of the old books returning, and some of the new books sticking around.

And Chris Cross and Joe Casey are confirmed for “Final Crisis: Dance."

Oh and let's have a look at how Matt will be drawing Cliff, aka Robotman...

THE BOY WORRY

[Yellow Light]The above story does throw a vague spotlight onto various chasms within DC Comics. And the antagonism amongst some DC staffers over the very existence of the "All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder" title. They pushed the editor, first to Vertigo then out the door. They diluted Jim Lee's available time. And took full advantage of the Pottymouth Batman issue in terms of internal squabbling. And now? "Batman And Robin" by the "All Star Superman" team.

It's almost as if they're trying to say something.

VANESSA@17

[Green Light]According to a recent Comics On Comics interview with Josh Howard, Vanessa Hudgen, star of Disney's "High School Musical" franchise is in talks to star in the "Dead@17" movie.

SI SEEN

[Green Light]Seen at NYCC… Si Spurrier hanging around William Christensen and the Avatar booth. Is a new book in the works?

RELEASING PANTHER

[Green Light]Marvel don't have a great history when it comes to accuracy in promotion regarding "Black Panther." Famously one lauded the character as the first African-American superhero while a back cover blurb rewrote an Ain't It Cool quote.

Well they're up to it again. A recent press release for "Black Panther" #1 includes the following quotes:

"Ken Lashley brings a very sleek, sexy look to the series" – Jesse Schedeen, IGN.com

Despite the actual review listing it "Poor." Still, the quote was accurate.

As was the next quote:

"…it has become a mainstay in my household — one of the few monthlies to which we all look forward." - Jared Gardner guttergeek.com

But sadly, it’s from two years ago.

Another quote:

"Hudlin is responsible for some of the greatest success of the Black Panther" -atomiccomics.com

Isn't even from a review but an introductory compliment in a months old interview. And:

"…down to earth and enjoyable" – Kurt Taylor Lane/Kevin Powers Comicsbulletin.com

This is from a longer paragraph:

"The standard formula for talking with Namor usually consists of someone needing his help, he remarks how he's better than the surface dwellers, and it all ends up resolving itself. Here, the friendship between Namor and T'Challa resonates with diplomacy and truth. Namor's reasoning for him and Doom allying with Osborn is realistic, and I was glad to learn that it's not some far-fetched scheme to control the world. It's a practical power move on the part of these two monarchs, making it more down to earth and enjoyable for me."

Which isn't actually describing the comic.

They should work in Hollywood, they really should. And did they get a quote like Dave Gibbons gave me? No, no they bloody well didn't.

ZENEPHOBIA

[Yellow Light]I've received a number of reports of creators owed many thousands of dollars by publisher Zenescope, alleging they have been told that the delay is because Diamond owe Zenescope considerable amounts. And have done for months.

This account didn't tally with the accounts of other publishers. Or scenes of the publisher living it up at NYCC.

Ralph Tedesco of Zenescope replied on behalf of himself and Joe Bruscha saying that it was a misunderstanding, due to the change over in becoming an exclusive-to-Diamond publisher. This means Diamond instigating a consignment sales deal, meaning that Zenescope have to buy back any existing stock that Diamond previously held, at the same time another distributor has spread debts owed over a year, leaving Zenescope caught in a temporary crush.

However, this does mean in the future, Zenescope will have much better cashflow. Ralph writes, "I'd like to point out that in the four years we have been publishing we have paid every single artist we have contracted who has finished their work in full. We have fallen behind before in paying artists, but we have always paid what was due as soon as possible. Unfortunatley, the nature of the industry for small publishers is that cash is always tight.

"As we have told all the artists whose invoices are past due, we expect our cash flow problems to be resolved near the end of the first quarter."

We hope so and look forward to evidence of that soon.

THE DIAMOND WE HAVE

[Yellow Light]Tom Spurgeon has launched an impassioned plea against Diamond Comics Distribution’s recent policies and its effect on the comics market. And he makes a number of valid and worthy comments, many of which I agree with wholeheartedly.

But he's wrong. "A four percent loss following years with significant gains doesn't particularly sound to me like it's totally freaking time to cut staff and change policy. I assume there are other factors involved."

That's right, there are. Retailers are faulting on payments like never before, leaving Diamond holding the can on hundred of thousands of orders and there are debts hitting other of Steve Geppi’s companies, including a confessed judgment of $16,466,205.32 against Steve Geppi in favour of the PNC Bank National Association, while other magazine distributors are placing far more onerous terms on publishers.

In such circumstances, even Tom may admit that a more profitable Diamond with more restrictive distribution practices is better for the comics industry right now than no Diamond at all? Especially one that goes down owing up to three months of payments to all publishers?

Especially when other distributors are stepping up to the bat?

The reality is that only a fraction of Diamond stores even order the books he mentions that are under threat. This is true now more than ever. A distributor who can target just those stores would probably be a better option.

Diamond has allowed relatively smaller comics to reach international distribution with minimum costs. It's basically a free ride on the back of Marvel and DC. And while the handholds have been higher and higher of late, it's still been possible. Hell, it still is possible. Just harder. This is a shame - but better that than no train at all. Diamond needs to shore itself up, and shore itself up now.

After last week's spotlight on "The Tempest" from Classical Comics, the Dick Turpin And The Restless Dead oneshot by Steve Tanner and Andrew Dodd from Timebomb has been dropped by Diamond

The book has already been signed up to Haven Distribution, rapidly rising as a new alternative distributor of some standing.

Donna Barr's "Desert Peach"/"Stinz" series "Afterdead" has also been dropped. She's making the series, and all her books, available for purchase via download through Lulu.com. I count both "Desert Peach" and "Stinz" as two of my favorite ongoing comics series of all time. And by the looks of this page, I clearly have some catching up to do.

TABLOIDS AIM AND FIRE...

[Green Light]Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughan talk up a "Kiss-Ass" tabloid storm in the new "Tripwire Superhero Special 2009" out this week. "The nice thing about Western audiences is that they’re so fucked up and actually really get off on violence and freak out at sexuality so I think in that regard we won’t have any problems. Heads getting cut off, I don’t think anybody will care. If anything it’ll just be perceived as cool. ‘300’ was superviolent as well and everybody loved it. What’s going to be slightly different with this is Hit Girl, which is a 10 year old girl dressed as Robin killing guys. That’s a visual that I think is going to be amazing for us, but is going to create its own problems too. But I think it’ll be amazing in the sense that I know the cover of ‘Empire’ magazine is going to have that kid standing there with a machine gun.... The downside of course is that you’re going to have a reaction in this country in the tabloid press. But it’s all good publicity. - Mark Millar

"The tone is fun. It’s like what we did with ‘Lock, Stock’ and ‘Snatch.’ There’s a lot of violence in those movies, but you laughed through them. Those are films that I’ve made so I understand the juxtaposition of seeing a girl going ‘OK, you cunt, who’s next?’ and cutting a few legs off and, at the same time, you’re laughing watching it."- Matthew Vaughn

Can we start writing the “Daily Mail" headlines now? Ban This Sick Child Violence Filth? And “They Call This Entertainment?" “Hollywood Child Killer Nasty?"

Or the “Sun?" “SICK-ASS!"

LITV

[Yellow Light]Johanna Draper Carlson turned rumour monger this week on The V.

Steve Howells posted, "YHIL [Young Heroes In Love] was a great little series which was probably killed by its title and marketing... Super-hero comics have always been just one step removed from soaps, but marketing a comic as ‘Melrose Place with super-heroes’ was never going to be a success."

Johanna replied :

Rumor has it it lasted even longer than sales would suggest, only the decision-makers didn't have all the right info given to them. It was written by editor Dan Raspler while he was on staff. I didn't realize how much of a fanboy Raspler was when I worked with him. (I only knew he was a dick.) But if he was, it makes sense that he'd do this kind of book, since a certain part of the audience always wanted something like it. But they don't really like new characters after all.

RETURN TO THE BAT

[Green Light]“Batman" #686, the first issue of Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert’s “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?" has been made returnable by DC Comics, after it features the word “goddamn" in a Comics Code Approved book.

Whether this slipped past the CCA or whether the code was added to the book by mistake is not known.

COMICS TO AFRICA

[Green Light]Do you have any spare comics of graphic novels? Need an easy tax-declarable donation? Then why not send your stock to:

Rudi Wicomb
Librarian
Southfield Library
Department: LIS
Directorate: Community Services
City of Cape Town
South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)21 706 3342/706 4465
Fax: +27 (0)21 706 5761
rudi.wicomb@capetown.gov.za

TODAY IT'S WARREN ELLIS DAY

[Green Light]Today is Warren Ellis' birthday. I asked Twitter how they'd be spending it.

Floorlibrarian - Drinking tons of red bull and habitually insulting people while commenting on Godzilla Bukkake, freedom of the press and pubs

purplesnap - I'll be celebrating by collecting the souls of small animals in a jar, so I can make @warrenellis a lovely milkshake.

edkaye - I am going to act like an extremely sarcastic and cynical British bastard all day. Just like every Monday really!

notthatmrt - By drinking whisky and hitting children with my cane! #warrenellisday

adityab - WED warrants much drinking, swearing, hitting people with a stick & then showing them photos of mutated genitalia. Repeatedly.

sunandheir - Imbibing copious amounts of whisky and kicking welshmen wherever I may find them.

ODDS AND SODS

[Green Light]Watch comic book all stars like Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Tony Bedard, Cully Hamner, Kurt Busiek and more sound off on their own favourite comics works as well as what Kurt Busiek really intended with the "JLA/Avengers" crossover.

Cartoonist Martin Hand and editor Jenni Cole, and erstwhile neighbours of mine, added something new to their collection last week. Katie.

Image by Andrew Moreton

by Alan Grant, Wayne Nichols and Simon Bisley, online, for free.

Will Kindle 2 with its grey shading be a better answer for digital comics? Shame it won't work in the UK.

And "Peep Show's" Big Suze marries up.

Today's internal jukebox - "Anna" by Hello Saferide.

SMALL PRINT

[Green Light]Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

I'm still eBaying odds and sods here. My social networking is pretty much all Facebook and Twitter these days, but I'm around at Bebo, MySpace, ComicSpace too.

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

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:  watchmen, watchmen movie, diamond comics

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