Lying In The Gutters

Mon, April 27th, 2009 at 1:58pm PDT | Updated: April 27th, 2009 at 10:32pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 207

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.

SLASH FICTION

[Green Light]Just got out of seeing Wolverine with my friend of the column and Slashfilm writer Brendon Connelly.

Ooh it’s a weird film. I didn’t expect to be comparing it to the “Watchmen” movie but with a montage-through-history, a conspiracy where a retired superteam are being bumped off one by one (that isn’t what it seems) and Sabretooth carving a smiley face did push me in that direction.

It does seem to bounce haphazardly around in direction and style, more than I was comfortable with. Different scenes seem roughly chopped and hacked together. A bit like the linear history of the comic. And the tone is all over the place. From immersive soul searching tragedy to a parody of itself in places. And I couldn’t help singing “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay” to myself (and Brendon) during the log cutting scenes. The Blob becomes Austin Power’s Fat Bastard. Deadpool gets into a “my adamantium implant is bigger than your adamantium implant.” And it’s good to see super powers continue after the head is cut off. The constant homo-eroticism makes the "Brokeback Mutant" scenes on "X-Men 3" fade away. And yet the film is desperately trying to take itself seriously and convince of that reality. But I didn’t really mind too much and here’s why.

There’s been a lot of commentary on the film as a result of the leaked workprint of the movie a month ago and despite comments that ten minutes of film have been added – well, from the print I saw, they haven’t. But what transforms the movie far more than a little extra dodgy CGI is the experience of watching the movie with a large audience. The bits that seem over silly are far more bearable when a thousand people are laughing and groaning. You’re in this together. And it’s fun. That’s the element that the negative reviews of the workprint were missing. Next time a blockbuster movie is pirated in advance as widely as this, studios should insist that people watch it in groups of hundreds before they are allowed to post on the internet.

It’s been natural to regard this movie as a prequel to the X-Men trilogy, but it’s also a prequel to the X-Men First Class series and we’re introduced to a bunch of minor characters who will no doubt be fully fleshed out and franchised in years to come. With Patrick Stewart in full CGI botox, of course. So who was paid more per second – Patrick Stewart in “Wolverine” or Marlon Brando in “Superman?” Answers on a telepathic postcard.

DEVIL WOMAN

[Green Light]Devil’s Due has really hit the headlines with their “Barack The Barbarian" series. Here is a work in progress from an upcoming issue…

SPAWN OR PAWN

[Yellow Light]McFarlane Toys, the company owned by comic creator Todd McFarlane, has had a long history and reputation for increasing the quality of design of action figure dolls, transforming them from the simplistic posed plastic characters of my youth to the intricately designed and articulated figures commonplace today.

However, of late, the company have had a few problems. And has internally announced a third round of redundancies far more severe than the previous two.

The company is split into two, design studios in New Jersey and administration in Arizona offices. I understand that Ed Frank, President of the NJ group and founder of the original company before it was bought and renamed by Todd fifteen years ago read a letter out to the New Jersey staff, visibly uncomfortable.

The studios will see forty staff drop to thirteen. Major operations will be shut down, including the mold, paint, sculpting, and model departments.

The only department to survive will be the digital department, and only two of its members will be held on, and a couple of traditional sculptors are being trained up to handle digital sculpting.

The plan as it currently stands is that most new sculpts will be scans of actual people (posed standing up, making a T shape,) cleaned up digitally, armour and accessories assembled and added digitally (think Mr Potato Head,) mixing and matching from other sculpts, and then the files sent to China for 3D printing, cleaning, touching up, sculpting, articulation and the rest. New Jersey will only generate digital output from now on. This is still a very experimental process, however.

The New Jersey complex will be reduced from four buildings to one, with the equipment either being sold of shipped to China. As for Arizona, they will shrink from seventy people to around thirty-five.

The phasing out off staff will occur sometime between now and June, though no specific dates of personnel of departments have been given. When asked about severance, a human resources representative stated that "allowing you to work until June should be looked at as your severance package."

This is what you call a developing story…

BUG BE GONE

[Green Light]Todd Klein has been giving issues 4 and 5 of "Ambush Bug: Year None" a very positive review. However comments from letterer Pat Brousseau put the final issue in doubt...

"I also thought there was some pretty funny stuff in these issues too. I lettered #6 a long time ago, but I have a strange feeling it may never see the light of day. Who knows?"

Maybe Keith Giffen does? Let's ask...

PAY UP PAY UP PAY UP THE GAME

[Green Light]So, you're a comic creator owed money by a comic book publisher and you decide to contact Lying In The Gutters. Naturally, I'll keep your name anonymous, you don't want to jeopardise your chance off ever get paid, or be seen as a troublemaker in the industry.

Basically you're owed money by Zenescope, Devil's Due or Platinum. It really does come down to those three companies right now.

Platinum’s debt to creators is old, mostly made up of Wowio's second quarter 2008 payments, which they are waiting on investment to pay off.

For the other two, it’s a mixed story. Some creators tell me they are owed thousands by Devil's Due but have been paid by Zenescope. Others tell me how Devil's Due has paid them but they are owed thousands by Zenescope.

The official Zenescope line is that there were cashflow issues, but they have caught up with payments to creators at the end of the first quarter of this year, And indeed, I have reports of payments being made. But I have many more examples of people owed thousands.

It's a similar story with Devil's Due. Payments to some creators have been made, but many are owed thousands and thousands still.

There's a common thread of initial late payments turning into broken dates for repayments turning into no payments and a lack of communication. While all the time the companies press forward with new projects without paying for published ones.

Creators tell me they turned down work for these companies, only to find late, reduced or no payments as they face a shrinking market with payment terms stretching from 30 to 60 days. And some people are losing their houses as a result.

I can sympathise with these and similar companies. Sales for projects are not what were projected, leading to cashflow issues and the attempt to make up owed money with new projects, which again don't perform as expected as the market continues to shrink. And expanding trade paperback markets contain new and growing costs of their own. It's a Red Queen's Race, everyone trying to run as fast as possible to stay in the same place. And some companies are slipping back, if only temporarily.

And, of course, if any publisher goes into bankruptcy, all these potential payments will be lost forever. Which gives some the impetus not to push the matter. And truth is, there’s every likelihood that people will be paid. That certainly seems to be the plan. No Dreamwave-style bankruptcies being planned here.

There's no simple answer right now. Except, I guess, work for companies you believe are guaranteed to pay. If you have that luxury.

HE'S THE BEST HE IS AT WHAT HE DOES. BUT IT'S NOT MATHEMATICS.

[Green Light]So... what's up with issue numbers and solicitations at Marvel?

"Wolverine" #72 featuring the penultimate episode in "Old Man Logan" by "Civil War" team Mark Millar and Steve McNiven will ship the week after "Wolverine" #73 by Jason Aaron, Daniel Way, Adam Kubert and Tommy Lee Edwards. That issue has been bumped ahead of #72 as it's a better jumping on point for any people turned onto the character by the upcoming movie.

The slipping in schedule of Old Man Logan already necessitated the final issue being a Giant Size Wolverine Special so as to get a new-reader friendly Wolverine standard issue on the stands at the right time... but things slipped a bit further still, necessitating this out-of-order numbering.

Of course, it's not alone. “Hulk" #13 is renumbering to #600 for July... despite the numbers of Hulk issues not actually adding up to #600. That should have been Hulk #16.

Hulk went to 474 issues before it was revamped. Another 112 issues before another revamp(and those numbers inherited by Incredible Hercules). And 13 issues of the most recent revamp. That's #599.

Maybe #600 is actually #14 and we'll get #13 solicited for August? Unless Incredible Hercules goes back to Incredible Hulk and we get #131 next... of #113... or #599 or maybe #600 again.

This from the same company that celebrated Marvel Knight's fifth anniversary six or seven years after it started...

FANTASTIC END

[Green Light]Meanwhile Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's "Fantastic Four" run for Marvel has had an altered schedule due to personal issues for both creators.

The last double-sized edition, #569, has been co-written by Jo Ahearne and pencilled by Stuart Immonen, while Bryan Hitch works on his new project with Ed Brubaker, "Reborn."

These things do happen.

PIRATES AT BAY

[Green Light]In the week that Pirate Bay got hit by the courts and “Watchmensch" hit the illegal bittorrent sites, I understand Japanese manga publisher Shogakukan is about to officially upload titles to the Viz Media website in English in an attempt to beat the pirate scanslation sites to the job.

What that will mean for print sales is unknown. The site will only be accessible to USA customers however.

SHAKE IT UP

[Green Light]Let's all get down a track released last week (though yet to storm up the charts)... "DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake" by Art Brut.

UK here and US here for a clip.

Hopefully they'll have a follow up called Marvel Comics And Grapefruit-Flavoured Vodka

WAID IN DEEP

[Yellow Light]My favourite quotes from the Ain’t It Cool Mark Waid interview:

I was writing thousands and thousands of words a month for magazines like AMAZING HEROES, and in 1986 moved to L.A. to work at FANTAGRAPHICS as the A.H. editor. The first day was straight out of a sitcom; I was told I had to fire the guy I was replacing, who had no idea he was out.

---

everyone knew Impact had been mismarketed from jump, branded as a "kids' line" right about the time when DC's core audience began to level out at its current median age of "dead."

---

[On “Captain America"] Despite rumors, though, I was never mad at Rob Liefeld about taking it over; I knew it wasn't personal. To his credit, he asked me to dialogue over his run, but once he faxed me some pages and plot stuff and I saw where he was going, I declined. Politely, I promise.

---

[On CrossGen] Alessi was a spoiled eight-year-old with a checkbook, and he was the biggest bully I've ever met in my life--and, coming from a lifelong comic book geek, that's one hell of an indictment. I could make a fortune charging his employees for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome therapy. He would, and I'm not joking, make [admittedly spineless] grown men stand in the corner when they displeased him.

---

[On Bill Jemas] one Friday, poor Brevoort called me to tell me that I didn't have to bother with the next script because Bill had already written it himself and had dropped it on his desk. I was fired. I had never been fired off an assignment before. I was stunned. Artist Mike Wieringo was asked if he'd stick around, but in a gesture I thanked him for till the day he died, he told Jemas to take a hike.

---

[On “52"] EIC Dan Didio, who first championed the concept, hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D ‘52.’ Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it. And Steve [Wacker, editor], God bless him, kept us out of the loop on that particular drama. Siglain, having less seniority, was less able to do so, and there's one issue of ‘52’ near the end that was written almost totally by Dan and Keith Giffen because none of the writers could plot it to Dan's satisfaction. Which was and is his prerogative as EIC, but man, there's little more demoralizing than taking the ball down to the one-yard line and then being benched by the guy who kept referring to ‘Countdown’ as ‘52 done right.’

You’ll have your own favourites. Click through to the full interview, including Mark’s current work at Boom! Studios here.

KICK AUCTION

[Yellow Light]As Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s “Kick Ass" is creator owned the guys can be a little more… canny in how it’s sold. As in auctioning off different rights in different territories for maximum effect.

This is why the solicited by Marvel “Kick Ass" hardcover is listed as only being available in North America. Millar states that the UK version will be published by Titan Books, mostly known for their editions of DC titles. Hopefully, what with the pound and the dollar exchange rate right now, the UK may get the book for a little less.

Also coming from Titan is the legally complex “The Best Of Simon & Kirby" oversized hardcover collection, featuring stories from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for DC, Marvel and others. The compliance officer must have been working overtime on this one. I had a chance to flick through a copy and it is rich, dense, beautifully and brings out the history and the process perfectly. Early Christmas presents all round I think.

TEAR IT UP

[Green Light]This is the Dynamic Forces cover for an upcoming issue of "Jungle Girl."

And this is the original Frank Cho cover.

Somewhere handy to park your bicycle in the jungle, I guess.

SIGNING OF THE CENTURY

[Green Light]Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill are signing copies of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910" this Saturday, May 2nd from 2pm until 5pm at Gosh! Comics in London.

500 copies are being flown in almost a month ahead of the official UK release date and attendees will be able to buy one or two copies to be signed - and no copies, signed or otherwise, may be reserved.

Gosh! is currently displaying an exhibition of Kevin O'Neill's original artwork from the new book, up until the end of May.

BITS AND PIECES

The second volume of Warren Ellis's "Freakangels" came out last week. If you've read both Volume 1 and Volume 2 but haven't caught up with the webcomic version, Volume 3 starts online here.

You know if they'd actually bother to promote that aspect properly I wouldn't have to.

"Three Fingers" by Rich Koslowski is being published by Gal Editora in Brazil, and have created this trailer to promote it...

The kind of web comic strip that Scott McCloud creams himself over - starring Spider-Man.

A game of Chinese Whispers/Telephone turns “Doctor Who: A Room With A Deja View" by Rich Johnston into “Doctor Who: Room With A Deja View" by Rick Johnston into “Doctor Who: Room with a DJ View" by Rick Johnston…

SMALL PRINT

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

I write and draw a cartoon every week for the UK's biggest political blog, Guido Fawkes. Here's the latest one.

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:  barack the barbarian, barack obama, mcfarlane toys, marvel comics

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