Lying In The Gutters

Mon, April 20th, 2009 at 2:28pm PDT | Updated: April 21st, 2009 at 1:38pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 206

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.

FOX FIGHTERS

[Green Light]Years ago, 20th Century Fox was sued by movie producer Martin Poll and screenplay writer Larry Cohen over perceived similarities between the movie "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and the unproduced screenplay "Cast Of Characters."

It was this experience, including a ten hour deposition by lawyers, and the settlement of the suit by either Fox or Fox's insurance company that swore Alan Moore off allowing any of his comic book work to be translated into films, and his rejection of both credit and income from and movies that he didn't have copyright control over, such as the recent "Watchmen" adaptation by Zack Snyder.

The details of the suit have emerged in fits and bursts over the years, but last week I encountered a copy of the unexpurgated suit on producer Don Murphy’s website.

It reflects much of what has been reported, but has some rather hilarious details. Including the following;


As set forth below, based upon evidence available thus far, Fox, in breach of its implicit agreement with plaintiffs, disclosed the concept behind COC to Moore with the intent to then falsely claim that LXG was based on the graphic novel and thereby conceal its theft of COC.

...

Fox has had repeated prior dealings and direct contact with Moore at least since 1996.

...

Upon information and belief, Rothman, or others at Fox under his direction, provided Moore with ideas from COC that are protected under state and federal law. Thus, Moore could write a graphic novel to provide a smokescreen behind which Fox could hide when plaintiffs inevitably saw COC being misappropriated as LXG.

...

Indeed, while Fox hired screenwriters in 1998 (as reported in Variety) to base LXG on the graphic novel by Moore, the novel itself was not published or finished until the following year, in 1999.

Basically they accuse Alan Moore of willingly entering into a conspiracy with Fox studio heads, to deprive the plaintiffs of their ideas and create a comic book based on them.

I'd like you all, knowing what you do of Alan Moore, to consider if that is in any way possible. Taking existing ideas, sure. He's generally transparent about that. But conspiring with studio heads to steal them?

And while the plaintiffs list many similarities/coincidences between the two scripts, the big elephant in the room is not addressed. That if Fox really, really wanted to produce a "Cast of Characters"-type film without paying for it, why pay the just-under-two-million dollars to buy the LXG rights and hire three screenwriters to create the LXG screenplay?

Also, the plaintiffs seem to think that Dr Frankenstein and Jack the Ripper were in the LXG movie. Not the one I watched.

MORE HEROICS

[Green Light]It’s really been a week for scripts. I was handed a draft screenplay to the pilot of the American remake of Brit-sitcom "No Heroics" for NBC. The original is a foul-mouthed take on superheroics, set in the type of bar usually frequented by out-of-work actors, featuring a group of out-of-work superheroes with the kind of juxtaposed psychological flaws common among, well any workers who find themselves drinking together through no other reason that they work in the same business..

The relocation to the US has necessitated some major changes. The characters are a lot more likeable and sympathetic; the London media pub culture has been replaced by New York media bar culture, as well as all the expectations that come with having Hollywood a coast away. The characters are far more media-conscious, and there are even actual examples of superheroics. But it’s much closer to "Entourage" than, say, "Mystery Men." Oh and the swearing has gone.

But for you stats-jockeys, Alex (The Hotness – heat-based powers), Sarah (Electroclash – can talk and command machines), Don (Timebomb – can see sixty seconds into the future) and Jenny (She-Force – third strongest woman in the world) have become Pete (Chillout – freeze-based powers), Callie (Crossfade – short term invisibility), Nigel (Brainstorm – mind-reading within three metres) and Sally (Slamazon – super-strong). Personality-wise however, they’re pretty similar.

The regular bar hangout, The Fortress, has become The Watchtower. Bouncer Thunder Monkey is now Horseface (he summons stallions instead of monkeys) and boorish no.1 superhero Excelsor is now Ultimatum.

Oh it’s entertaining to see, regarding Timebomb/Brainstorm that the American equivalent of Spanish, psychopathic and gay is… British, dry and gay.

Written by original showrunner Drew Pierce, and Jeff Greenstein, what does strike me is just how similar the script feels in tone to the British version. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, we’ll have to see (I think it’s a good thing).

And look! There are still Diana/limousine/Paris jokes. So not too much has changed.

EMOTIV STORIES

[Green Light]Last week, I mentioned the book "Prince Of Stories" by Hank Wagner, Steve Bissette, Christopher Golden (foreword by Terry Pratchett) and details within of the current Miracleman/Marvelman situation - most likely owned by Mick Anglo, who has sold all his rights to the property to Emotiv & Company for the sum, as stated by Gaiman, of £4000 (approx. $6000 value based on current exchange rates).

Current advice is, if you've got copies, keep them. if you haven't, try to buy them. They're probably not going to get cheaper.

NO BEGINNING

[Green Light]Also in "Prince Of Stories" is mention of the 20th Anniversary Sandman project that never was. First brought to light by LITG, Gaiman gives a lot more details on what it was and why he never reached agreement with DC.

The six issue mini-series would have been a prequel to the Sandman series, centred around exactly what Morpheus was doing and how he came to be captured for half a century, as detailed in the first issue of the fantasy comic series.

It didn't happen because DC wouldn't agree to pay Neil Gaiman something comparable to what he might get for the same amount of time working on a novel. Gaiman stated, "I get a fifteen percent royalty and an incredibly healthy advance, I did ‘Sandman: Endless Nights’ as my charity project; ‘Sandman: Endless Nights’ was a favor to Karen [Berger], it was done at the four percent royalty I've had since the beginning, for a twenty-thousand-dollar advance, and I found the time, I fitted it in and I just did it. It got them onto the New York Times bestseller list for the first time ever."

With more time pressure this time, and the realization that Vertigo couldn't pay a million dollar advance, he suggested that DC instead up his royalty rate on the entire Sandman line by another two percent. Which, over sixteen years, would have made Neil the same amount as what a novel would have. DC offered that increased royalty rate over eighteen months. Neil refused to drop his request. DC declined the project on those terms.

Neil also points out that he makes more from a sale of a hardcover $20 copy of a novel such as "Anansi Boys" that on each sale of the $100 "Absolute Sandman" volumes. So instead of writing a Sandman six issue series, he wrote a new novel instead. Which he owns completely.

WITH THIRD PLACE COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES

[Yellow Light]This column previously reported how the likes of Len Strazewski and Jill Thompson were not paid anything for the IDW reprints of their "Speed Racer" work. IDW claim they bought all the reprint rights for the comics from Speed Racer Enterprises. Representative from Speed Racer Enterprises would only consider Len and Jill's claim with the relevant paperwork. Which, thirty years after it was arranged, wasn't that easy to find.

Could it be happening again? Tony Isabella reports that IDW are not paying royalty payments for their reprints of the Malibu "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" series. Writer Mike W Barr is calling for a boycott of these reprints as a result, and demands his name be taken off the work.

Of course this time it may be easier to find the relevant paperwork.

FLORIDA GUNS

[Green Light]From the FX International convention this weekend in Orlando, the special model guns commissioned by Avatar to promote Warren Ellis’ "Ignition City" series;

And publisher William Christensen and artist Gianluca Pagliarani playing with them like the little children they are.

I also understand that in the wake of the successful web-comic-then-graphic-novel-collection "Freakangels" that Avatar will be starting a second webcomic soon.

CONFESSIONSOFA GRAPHIC NOVELIST

[Green Light]78 year old Melvin Van Peebles, film director, actor, playwright and composer has a graphic novel on the way, "Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha" based on his 1982 musical "Waltz of the Stork." The film of the graphic novel has already been released in festivals, but the long awaited original graphic novel with illustrator Caktus Tre..?(3) will be released later this year from Akashic Books.

HUNDRED ACRE WANTED

[Green Light]There has been much delight that the writer of "Wanted 2" is one Evan Spiliotopoulos, the same fellow who recently co-wrote the screenplay for "Winnie The Pooh's Heffalump Movie."

Can we expect lots of "This is my face when I'm eating your honeypot" scenes? Sadly not.

As Mark Millar writes, "As a producer on the thing, I'm excited. I know who's in it and after doing 342 million at the box office we have series money to spend on everything from cast to crew to script. This guy is supposed to be really good. He did a GREAT action script recently (on an unproduced movie) and that's what got him this gig."

He also states that the whole production and casting process kicked off on the weekend after the first movie was released.

SWATCHMEN

[Green Light]There are plans afoot for a colour iPhone "Watchmensch" application in a couple of months. To that end, Twist And Shout collaborator of old Mike Meyer has been turning his hand to coloring the comic (Still available in its B&W first print form from the likes of Comickase, Earth 2 Comics, Brave New World Comics, Collector’s Paradise, Collector's Paradise Corner Store Comics and nJoy in California. Oh and Fullspeed Comics in Oregon, SpazDog Comics in Arizona and Amazon. In fact any of the retailers listed on this page can order you a copy)

To help, Watchmensch artist Simon Rohrmuller created sketches of the central characters to help demonstrate colour choice. And against his better judgement, here it is!

OH BROTHER

[Yellow Light]The story of the Dabel Brothers’ calendars is a long and tortuous one. But it comes down to this – lots of people ordered copies of the fantasy writer George R R Martin calendar back in August. Some received what they ordered. Some received it late. Some received the wrong calendar. Some received nothing. The Dabels only got copies for George R R Martin to sign in March. And four calendar months into the 2009, many are still waiting. And complaining.

As is George R R Martin who has completely dissociated himself working in the future for the publishing company, presumably including the comic book series that the Dabels have licensed such as "Wild Cards" and "Hedge Knight."

MISSING IN ACTION

[Green Light]This column talked about the missing TPB from Arcana, "Grunts."

Rob Worley would like to know as well. Along with the likes of Marc Bernardin, Dwight MacPherson, Christopher E. Long, Jimmie Robinson and Matt Jacobs, stories and artwork were finished but publication never actually happened.

HEROES FOR HEROES?

[Green Light]Chris Tarbassian spends time, money and fundraising energy sending comic books to serving US troops, under the heading "Operation Comix Relief"

Previously shipping comics with the reduced rate of "Media Mail", the organisation has been told that this category is not valid for comic books as they are serial publications that tend to carry advertising pages. As a result, shipping costs for the organisation will double.

Tarbassian has been appealing to comic fans to write to their elected representatives. He'd probably like you to do the same.

EARTH PIG PIN

[Green Light]A few pages from the second issue of Dave Sim's "Cerebus Archive" out in June.

SHOW SOME SKIN

[Green Light]Brendon McCarthy has a number of unpublished pages up for show in Orbital Comics' gallery area, until the 27th.

Including a lost image from graphic novel "Skin," some drawings from a new comic project, "Dreamtrees,"a number of published "Artoons" from "Crisis" and more, period of the early 90's and some early sketches for his upcoming Marvel "Doctor Strange/Spider-Man" series.

Brendan is also known for his work on covers for "Shade The Changing Man." Which, after the first trade paperback looks like, yes, Vertigo are going to collect the lot, as both the first and second trade paperback hit Amazon.

Oh look, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's reinvention of "Sandman" is also getting collected.

But I digress.

Apparently Google has delisted Peter David's website from its search results. Let's see if we can help get the listing back

PASTY FACED GLASWEIGANS IN LOS ANGELES

[Green Light]So who is Paul McGuigan, director of "Lucky Number Sleven" and "Gangster No. 1" drinking with right now?

According to his Twitter account, one Grant Morrison. "Talking shite about Byres Road and Greggs. Its the small wonders we miss about home."

Ah Greggs, cheap pasty maker to the stars...

LITTLE GREEN ALIENS

[Yellow Light]So is this the first crop circle of the year?

Or is this the first PR stunt in preparation for the Green Lantern movie?

Photo by Lucy Pringle.

THE OGLE HAS LANDED

[Green Light]So what has Greg Land been googling lately?

One page from "Uncanny X-Men" #509

has brought a few suggestions.

Thanks to RedRonin of the IAM Marvel Community thread in the CBR forums for the images.

SET UP THE RED BULL DRIP PLEASE NURSE.

[Green Light]Warren Ellis is going to a cosplay convention.

I should explain, the MCM London Expo, features movies, comics and memorabilia, but mostly comes down to lots of manga, lots of people in stunningly complex or outrageously skimpy costumes, and a few Hollywood TV and film actors, best know for a sci-fi or fantasy role in the last few decades.

At the back, hidden from everyone, are the more usual comics people. Markosia, Marvel UK people, smaller press and The Tony Lee Experience. I usually go along with Eve to handsell a few copies of "Flying Friar."

And for some reason, Warren Ellis is going for an afternoon.

He's going to hate it. It's going to be hilarious.

Someone take photos and bring him whisky.

BARR ONE AND TWO

[Green Light]Donna Barr is releasing one of the finest modern comic narratives, "Desert Peach," complete in two volumes. The story of Rommell, the Desert Fox's gay younger brother and his troop of Nazi soldiers stationed in the desert, it's a wonderful ensemble drama with comedy, pathos and tragedy beautifully balanced.

And it should sit on every comic reader's bookshelf. Or possibly on their hard drive. Volume One and Two are available for $40 in print each or $3 download each, A sample can be downloaded here.

DEATH RACE

[Green Light]Last week, we ran John Byrne's chosen solution to the death of Barry Allen. On the thread, a reader asks about the similarity between his solution and Marv Wolfman's who wrote the "Crisis Of Infinite Earths" series that killed off the scarlet speedster.

Byrne replied, "Marv's ‘solution’ to his own problem?"

Indeed. Marv's solution, as hosted on his website, reads as follows;


From: Nearly Everyone

I read in the Crisis On Infinite Earths collection that you didn't want to kill Barry (The Flash) Allen and put in a loophole on how to bring him back. Care to share that with us?

So many people actually saw that comment I made in my forward and have asked me how I'd bring back the Flash, that I've finally gotten tired of explaining it. So that I don't ever have to explain it again, here it is now, once and for all. Please remember, this is a very comic booky answer and you can probably blow holes in it somehow (but then nobody really complained how an anti-matter villain could co-exist with a positive matter good guy, so maybe physics isn't anyone's strong suit). This is what I proposed to DC back in 1985. Please note that I didn't think it was a good idea to kill The Flash but those were my marching orders, so I did the best I could to make his death as moving as I could. Here is the given I worked from: Much of the reason the people in charge didn't care for Barry Allen was that he was considered dull. I felt if I could come up with a way of making him vital again while keeping him alive, then perhaps Barry would be given a second lease on life. I came up with the idea of Flash moving back through time, flashing into our dimension even as he was dying. So, thought I, what if Barry was plucked out of the time stream at one of those moments he appeared? What if that meant from this point on Barry knew that he was literally living on borrowed time, that at any moment the time stream could close in on him and take him to his inevitable death. What would this mean to Barry? 1: from now on the fastest man alive would literally be running for his life. 2: He knew he didn't have much time left and believed (as Barry would) that he had to devote it to helping others. 3: This meant Barry would become driven and desperate to help others with each passing tick of the clock. I felt this new revitalized attitude might be enough to make the formerly dull police scientist into someone who now had to push himself as he never had to before. I was hoping that this would make the character interesting enough to live. Earlier, I said my explanation was comic booky. In many ways it is because none of us knows when we are going to die. But this knowledge would haunt a man like Barry Allen and change him from an unassuming character into a driven hero. At least that was the plan!

GRAVE ENDINGS

[Green Light]Two pages from "Justice League of America" #31

Is a graveyard really an ideal place for this kind of conversation? Red Arrow and Black Canary do seem a little down.

It seems this was the scene that Dwayne McDuffie had to rewrite, after it was decided that Hawkgirl and Hawkman were still alive, into, as Dwayne puts it, "something not very good."

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Colleen Doran is handing her blog to a guest contributor, comics editor Laurie Sutton, and she begins to tell her history in comics, from joining the Comics Code in 1977, moving to DC Comics in 1979 and Marvel in 1983 before she was forced out by office politics. Do we have another Occasional Superheroine in the making?

Just in case any retailers had a double take at their invoices this week. Certain stores served from the Plattsburgh Diamond warehouse were mistakenly invoiced for an issue of "Toyfare" magazine at around $130 instead of the actual $4.99 an issue. No reported heart attacks as of print.

SMALL PRINT

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

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

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.

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:  league of extraordinary gentlemen, alan moore, no heroics

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