Lying In The Gutters

Mon, March 23rd, 2009 at 3:29pm PDT | Updated: March 24th, 2009 at 1:25pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 203

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.

DIAMOND USA

[Green Light]Word reaches me that Diamond employees are suffering from the recession. As Diamond scales back some of its less profitable distribution operation, which has to deal with problems resulting from recent warehouse moves (including selective backlist products not being available), and a small percentage of defaulting comic book stores, certain staff at Diamond have been informed that they will be receiving a pay cut.

This is not an uncommon story in many industries right now. And most people would prefer that to redundancy.

However it was slightly unfortunate timing that this information was imparted just after most senior staff flew out to the ComicsPro industry meet and greet.

DIAMOND UK

[Green Light]Last December, LITG reported that Diamond UK was upping prices across the board for retailers, as a result of the crash of the pound against the dollar and increased fuel prices. While many retailers were visibly upset, it was a fairly unarguable case.

However, last week, UK retailers were informed that it was happening again. With another raise in prices of around 12%.

At the end of 2008, a $2.99 comic used to cost customers in central London £2. Currently the price is £2.20. With another rise in the net prices around 12%, you might expect to pay £2.50 in the near future. For a $3.99 book expect an increase from £3 to £3.15 to around £3.50.

This rise is above and beyond the rise of the dollar against the pound. There has certainly not been any significant changes in that since the last price rise in December. And in an economy with wage freezes, pay cuts, redundancies and deflation, it represents an even greater rise. And for a book such as "New Avengers" which made the $2.99/$3.99 price jump, it means the price of that comic, for a UK buyer will have more than doubled in fifteen months.

Graphic novel/TPB prices are also rising. A $7.99 book that was priced at a retail value of £5.99 will now be £6.99. A $19.99 price point currently at £14.99 in the shops will now be £16.99. This is almost parity between the pound and the dollar.

Diamond UK charge for the increased shipping, storage and distribution costs on top of the exchange rate, but this charge represents a greater mark up on that than traditionally charged.

It will be cheaper for some customers to order their comics from American stores and have them shipped air mail directly, rather than buy them through their local comic shop. And for some stores to engage in contract-breaking deals with American stores, to sub-distribute copies, rather than go through Diamond UK. And for Amazon.com listings of certain titles to be cheaper than the Diamond UK cost price.

There is the potential for a tipping point to be reached. If some stores increasingly leave the Diamond UK distribution model that is meant to deliver economies of scale for the international distribution of certain American product, this will prevent those economies of scale from being reached, which will lead to higher prices, and could feed the vicious circle until the current system collapses.

That so many publishers are tied in, willingly in most cases, to Diamond exclusivity, means that there are no other contractual alternative ways to source the majority of a comic store's stock.

I have spoken to some retailers who are in despair, some grateful at least that everyone will be affected in the same way, and some who are talking about selling or closing their stores.

Look for more on this story in weeks to come…

TA, AVATAR!

[Green Light]William Christensen, publisher of Avatar Comics, has been in London meeting a number of his writers, friends, fans and industry people.

Thursday saw him in Waxy O'Connors on Rupert Street, with the likes of Brendan McCarthy, Dan Boultwood, David Hine, Si Spurrier, Nick Abadzis, Mark Stafford, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Natalie Sandalls, Steve White and many more. Oh and a lot of boxes of comics for Warren Ellis to sign.

He did seem to spend a lot of time with Si Spurrier. Is a new comic project in the works?

[Green Light]

PAPER MONEY

After the success of "Air" #7, Vertigo’s "The Unwritten" by Mike Carey and Peter Gross will launch with a $1 issue.

FIST FISTED

[Green Light]"Immortal Iron Fist" cancelled with issue 27? Awww...

But what’s this I hear about Iron Fist plans through the year’s end?

EMMA FROST TWEEN?

[Green Light]Emma Frost Tween? Seriiously… Emma Frost Tween? Apparently she’s "sassy."

GENE GENIE

[Green Light]Gene Colan’s cover to issue 9 of one of my favourite currently comic books, Dave Sim’s "Glamourpuss".

TEEN SEAN

[Yellow Light]We all know that Sean McKeever is leaving "Teen Titans," though continuing to write a back up feature for the series. But what was the timeline here?

McKeever made the announcement on ComicBloc and clairified his comment to Newsarama saying, "I did have future plans for Teen Titans but I just found myself needing to step away. I guess I'd have to chalk this one up to the vague and oft-used ‘creative differences.’ It happens.

"I do still have a working relationship with Dan and DC, as evidenced by my coming onboard as writer of the Ravager serial. I'm also currently talking to Dan about a couple cool and exciting possibilities for the future."

This seems to have been quite sudden. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, McKeever was still talking like he was writing Teen Titans and still had lots of plans for the future:

MARKMEN

[Green Light]Mark Stafford (still looking for a flatmate in London) has his own "Watchmen" comic book revisitation. And rather excellent it is too…

UPDATE: This appears in the new issue of Electric Sheep, available online and at various retail establishments.

NO, SHE WENT OF HER OWN ACCORD

[Green Light]A very good point was made about last week’s LITG letter from Gregory Pan, of Marvel’s Legal Affairs.

It cited US law "The 1976 Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §101, et seq" as well as "The remedies for copyright infringement include the copyright owner’s option to elect statutory damages which range from $750 - $30,000 for each instance of non-willful infringement, but which can escalate to $150,000 for each instance of willful copyright infringement. Attorneys’ fees are also recoverable by a successful copyright infringement plaintiff."

But this letter was sent to an Indonesian website.

Where that US law doesn’t apply.

That’s the problem with boiler plate legal copy. Come on Mr Pan, do you research into Indonesian law, that’s what Marvel is paying you for!

COME ON ROY!

[Green Light]Egmont are publishing a new line of classic children’s comics, reprinting titles from decades ago. First up is "Roy Of The Rovers" the classic footballing comic, on sale from Wednesday on newsstands from next week, in 64 page volumes. This will be followed by titles such as the boys’ war comic Battle, the humour comic Buster and the girls’ horror comic Misty.

THANK YOU FOR WATCHING THE WATCHMENSCH

[Green Light]Response to "Watchmensch" has been pretty positive. I've had repeated reports of sellouts from shops, often on the first day the book went on sale. Brain Scan made a large overprint and Diamond ordered an extra 20% on top of initial orders to cover reorders, so if your shop sold out they should be able to get more copies.

Before the second printing with the obligatory Obama variant comes out.

As I said, most feedback was very positive indeed. With one exception, that arrived in my inbox entitled "you have aids please read" from a Damion Prentice. It read

dear rich johnston,
having been given a copy of your new piece of shit comic (GIVEN - that piece of shit is soooooooooooooooooo shit in a craptacular way!!!!!!!) had to email and tell you just how much you suck balls.

lots of love
fuckface
xxxx

Well, I'm happy to give you a refund... hang on... you say you were given a copy. Ah well. No need for a refund then.

Why not put it on eBay?

Also, Simon Rohrmuller is selling original art from the comic if anyone is interested.

BLUE COMICS

[Green Light]Looks like Bluewater are continuing in their ripping-off-the-IDW-livery-line of titles spotlighting female politicians. There’s a strange divergence in July when they stoop to cover Princess Diana, but then counter in August with Condoleeza Rice.

Maybe they can do one on Jade Goody?

DERBY RACE

[Green Light]Last week LITG reported that Forbidden Planet in Derby was closing. That decision has been reversed for at least three months.

The staff are comprised of manager Simon Heldrick, long in the retail comics and previously of Another World. A true comics, games and book expert. San Pall is their senior sales assistant, a long time gamer and a proponent of crossover material, the kind of toys that appeal to gamers as well as comics readers. And Jerome Uzzell is the film expert, keeping up to date on DVDs, merchandise and related clothing. And they are there for you.

Basically, if you live in or near Derby and you want a comic shop there, now is the time to start acting like it.

SUPERREVIEWERS

[Green Light]The Watchmen listing on Amazon is, naturally, filled with rave reviews. But, while there are 588 five star reviews, there are 14 one star reviews. Including one from a Robert Meyer.

Tons of readers are giving credit to Moore for inventing the neurotic superhero. But Kurt Busiek doesn't. Nor does Grant Morrison. Nor do most superhero writers. They give the credit to Superfolks, a comic novel (not graphic) that came out in 1977. With a quote from Nietzsche. With the smiley yellow face. With a superhero up to his neck in personal problems. And with a lot more humor.

Superfolks clearly "inspired" Moore to write Watchmen.

So check it out on Amazon. Don't just take my word for it, because I'm biased. I wrote it.

You can read "Superfolks" here.

CAN’T WAIT FOR WEDNESDAYS

[Green Light]Everyone has been talking about "Wednesday Comics," the new weekly title from DC Comics.

The four-times-oversized nature first mentioned here has been confirmed, with the news that we’re looking at a twelve-issue, 16-page series, with each story taking up one page an issue.

This is just the brave, creative experiment that companies like DC should be taking and they are to be applauded for it. And with the likes of Kyle Baker on Hawkman, and Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred on Metamorpho. Adam and Joe Kubert on Sergeant Rock, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso on Batman, Sean Galloway on Teen Titans, Joe Quinones on Green Lantern, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner on Supergirl and Ben Caldwell on Wonder Woman, and John Arcudi, Lee Bermejo, Dave Bullock, Kurt Busiek, Dave Gibbons, Paul Pope, Ryan Sook, Walt Simonson… well, it’s one hell of a sell.

I’d expect the thinness of the issue to mean that it can be folded up easily and stacked on shelves like a normal comic. But I hope that comic shops worth their salt will find a way to display the comic in their store full-sized, and let the customers do the folding.

Bravo! No waiting for the trade with this one!

And good luck finding a mint copy.

BITS AND PIECES

Gail Simone is flying cross the pond for a signing in Dublin this Friday at Forbidden Planet Dublin.

Lots of people read Lying In The Gutters. Which is why Ian Sharman was pleased to see his "Young Gods" series featured last week. But not quite as pleased when Barry Windsor Smith’s Studios sent Ian a cease-and-desist notice. I understand the comic is to be retitled.

"Super Kaiju Hero Force" is an original comic book series developed for iPhone and iPod Touch. About three Japanese monsters on a reality TV show, there will be new chapters every fortnight.

Marvel appear to be planning to release an "Astonishing X-Men" Omnibus volume.

SMALL PRINT

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:  watchmensch, diamond comics, diamond distribution, wednesday comics

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