Lying In The Gutters

Tue, May 26th, 2009 at 2:28pm PDT | Updated: May 26th, 2009 at 2:34pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 211

And now a very special message. Yesterday I sat down to have a chat with Jonah Weiland, Publisher of Comic Book Resources.

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

[Green Light]Jonah: Well, Rich, this is a day I knew would come eventually -- after almost seven years of LYING IN THE GUTTERS on CBR, the column is coming to a close. It's been fun, it's been weird, and it's certainly been a wild ride at times.

Rich: Very wild!

Jonah: And I should add I am sorry to see you go.

Rich: Oh, me too. But needs must as the devil drives.

Jonah: But the comics industry isn't getting rid of you, nope.

Rich: I'm sure it regrets that. You know, if all the publishers had had a whip round, I bet they could have bought me off.

Jonah: That would have got you through these tough economic times, that's for sure! You mentioned a while back that your day job had to let you go as a result of the economy going in the shitter. When that happened, I knew this day would be a possibility as you began to explore other employment. Sadly I was right, but another opportunity has presented itself to you and as you said, the needs must as the devil drives. As you look back on your tenure writing LYING IN THE GUTTERS, do you have a favorite story?

Rich: Hmm... oh so many. I think though it had to be the Fake Art Adams. And all the spinoff scams that guy created

Jonah: Really? That surprises me. Why?

Rich: Well, probably because there's no way that story would have been exposed otherwise. A number of publishers would have actually gone to print soliciting Art Adams artwork. I felt that by researching and publishing that one story, it saves creators and publishers thousands. And probably stopped certain people from getting fired. It's probably because I can pin such specific consequences on it that it's my favourite.

Jonah: Do you think there are publishers out there who wouldn't have realized, after receiving the art, it was a fake? Do you really think someone might have actually published it?

Rich: At least one was in the process of going to print. I probably shouldn't name them. Not now. They confessed the art wasn't up to what they expected, but they had paid for it..

Jonah: Wow, that makes me quite sad.

Rich: Welcome to the comics industry, Jonah! It's all about the name sometimes. But that's entertainment.

Jonah: The comics industry seems to have a long history of scammers and crooks -- is it really more so than any other industry? There certainly does seem to be a lot of hubris behind it.

Rich: Oh, totally not. No one has yet tried to sell the Baxter Building to an unsuspecting Arab. Not yet, anyway. Not even me.

Jonah: I know it shouldn't surprise me, but it does, the lengths at which people have gone to take advantage of creative members in the comics industry and even fans.

Rich: Oh completely. With great power comes very little responsibility it seems.

Jonah: Any other favorites?

Rich: That Alan Moore interview, in which he told everyone he was taking his name off the “V For Vendetta" movie, pulling LoEG from DC, getting married to Melinda Gebbie and writing his new novel Jerusalem. That wasn't bad.

Jonah: Yes, I remember when you called me after setting up that interview. You were quite excited.

Rich: Yes, excited, that was one word for it. There have been a few of those along the way. Telling Simon Pegg that he was in this comic called "The Boys" and arranging with DC to sent him a few comp copies, that was a good one.

Jonah: I then got another call from you after you finished the interview. That was certainly one of your most exciting and most sourced stories, but that was something that truly annoyed me -- the number of magazines and Web sites that spoke about your exclusive, without mentioning your name, the columns name or CBR. I remember reading “Entertainment Weekly" a week later and they mentioned Alan divorcing himself from DC and the V movie as it was "reported online," with NO mention at all of the source of the story.

Rich: Well, yes, that's actual journalism for you. Generally has less ethics than the rumour mongers.

Jonah: I can hear the gnashing of teeth by some readers out there at your mention of the word "ethics."

Rich: I think Warren Ellis lives in Ethics. Or is that Essex? I talked to people at EW about that. They said they had gathered the information completely independently. That's what their lawyer was saying anyway. And I'm sure she believed it.

Jonah: I don't, but that's old news now. I don't think I knew the Simon Pegg story ... that's funny. I'd have to say one of my favorites was the Joseph Patterson/Doctor Who story -- I say favorite because it just got so wild and then so wildly off the rails, but thus is what occasionally happens when you're a rumor monger. You owned that one, though, which I respected.

Rich: Yeah, I was wrong for six months and then right for the penultimate hour before announcement. I lost my own money on that you know. So I really felt the pain. That's a horrible lesson to learn.

Jonah: Yeah, I bet. But still, I'd say your hit rate was much better than your miss. It's too bad we didn't keep stats on the rumors. Damn me for thinking of that 7 years after we started publishing LYING IN THE GUTTERS. Remind me where the name came from?

Rich: The Oscar Wilde quote; "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Lying equals rumours and gossip, Gutter equals the space between the comics panels. Rumours about the comics industry we don't get to see.

Jonah: Oh, I want to share a bizarre story from my recent European vacation that you'll enjoy. So, a couple of weeks back I spent a week in France and the Netherlands and while I was in Amsterdam I stopped by the American centric comic shop Henk.

Jonah: And within moments of walking around the shop, I saw a copy on a spinner rack of "CSI: Dying In The Gutters," which featured your death and myself in a small cameo.

Rich: Ah yes. The peak of my fame. I wonder how many comic creators bought that for my death scene.

Jonah: Of all things to find in that shop, that wasn't what I expected to find. Do you have the original art of your death scene?

Rich: On my study wall. My daughters love it.

Jonah: Excellent.

Rich: "Daddy!"

Jonah: "Dead Daddy!"

Rich: Yeah, well, it'll prepare them. They can cremate me with it,

Jonah: Ohhhh -- that's dark! Let's hope that doesn't happen any time soon.

Rich: Indeed. I don't need the insurance right away.

Jonah: I think what I've enjoyed most out of the column is getting to know you over the years. My favorite moments actually had nothing to do with the column at all.

Rich: Awww.... was it having a fairly poor Indian takeaway at my place in leafy South West london?

Jonah: Both took place in London. The first time in 2003 when Arune Singh and I travelled there and we had lunch with you.

Rich: Ah yes, And then you went off to see Sir Ian McKellan. I felt jilted.

Jonah: True! We met you for lunch and over lunch we told you how just two hours previously he and I quite randomly ran into the Queen and you said something to the effect of, "I've lived in London my entire life and I've never seen the queen. You're here five minutes and you bump into her! WTF?" Although I don't think you'd say What The Fuck -- you'd find a much more British colloquialism.

Rich: What the dickens?

Jonah: But yes, my second favorite moment was the Indian take away enjoyed at your house with Janice and little Eve. As I recall, it was actually quite good.

Rich: It was fairly poor. Next time, sir, I will make you a decent rogan josh.

Jonah: Sounds like a plan to me. Of course my love of Indian food didn't blossom until after that trip.

Rich: Janice is the one who can drive, so she was sent out to pick this strange man up at the tube.

Jonah: That's right! I thought that was weird, too, thus I had to buy her some flowers at the tube station.

Rich: See? What a gentleman.

Jonah: What does Janice think of all the crazy comic stories you tell her? And of course, she gets to hear the even more bizarre tales that can't see print. I can imagine as she's not exactly a comics fan -- not like you and I -- there's a wee bit of eye rolling that goes on.

Rich: She's a mainstream comics reader. Likes “Preacher," can't get into “Watchmen," likes “Strangers In Paradise," “From Hell" is just too much. I think my upcoming “Doctor Who" story will be in that "too much like hard work" category.

Jonah: Hehe. Interesting. You're a major Alan Moore fan. Janice? Not so much.

Rich: She liked the LOEG movie.

Jonah: She's one of the few.

Rich: So, as host of LITG, what kind of reactions/conversations/accusations do YOU get?

Jonah: Well, heh, I naturally have to be a bit more careful here than you, but certainly the wide range from "We love that column" to "Rich doesn't belong on this Earth, how could you publish him?" My favorites were the absolutely baseless threats of law suits. And your exposure of some very crazy people. There was one very recently, whom will remain nameless, that called up incomprehensibly yelling. I immediately started to record the call, told the caller that as long as he was going to yell I'd be recording the call and made clear on the recording that he could hang up if he didn't want the conversation recorded. Of course, all you did was report on what this person posted online in various places.

Rich: And? Instant hang up? Or sudden low calm tone.

Jonah: Nope, continued yelling and screaming -- told me to stop recording, I said I could not for my own “protection" and let him keep yelling for the next two minutes. After a while I got bored and hung up. I really should have just put the phone down and let it keep recording. It’s really quite a classic.

Rich: Any chance you'd release it on iTunes?

Jonah: It would be a hit. But honestly this person isn't anyone that the comics industry really knows, so I don't know of how much interest it really would be.

Rich: Well, I'm about to get all that myself. No more cover. Could I hire you as my online bodyguard?

Jonah: Sorry, pal, no can do! When I mentioned to my lawyer you were leaving he got a bit sad. He always loved the calls I made to him.

Rich: I always loved imagining the lawyer reacting to my nonsense "Well, yes, calling Bill Jemas a poo poo head, falls under fair comment"... so, would it be safe to say that your relationship with... certain people, is about to improve overnight?

Jonah: Oh, I don't know about that. I have good relationships with most of the comics industry and will continue to foster them, While your column has always been one of the more popular features on the site, in more recent years the site has grown so much that much of the industry understands you're just one piece of the CBR pie and don’t freak out much like they used to.

Rich: Indeed. I'm no longer special, Jonah!

Jonah: Well, I don’t mean that for sure, but seven years ago you were a bigger piece of that CBR pie and I thank you for being a part of it. Truly, you're always welcome at CBR. You've been an important part of our success and growth and you can always think of us as home.

Rich: Good, cos you know, when this new thing crashes and burns... I'll be a prodigal son.

Jonah: Oh, I doubt that. Sincerely, I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavour. It's certainly going to be a big adjustment for you.

Rich: It could be a big adjustment for the entire comics industry. I mean, think about it. I've been safely cooped up on Mondays, except when it's on a Tuesday, in one big hit Then they have seven days grace. Now... anything can happen! They won't know how good they had it before,

Jonah: Well, not sure what else to say, but good luck my friend and do stay in touch. It truly has been an interesting ride these last seven years together.

Rich: One of the things that has slightly ameliorated my guilt about leaving is that you have someone else coming on board. Who is possibly, slightly, just about, a little bit a bigger name than me. If anyone could conceive of such a thing.

Jonah: Hehehe, well, yeah, much like it's a bit too early to talk about your next thing, it's a bit too early to talk about CBR's next big thing, but I am really excited. Check back in June. It's an odd place to be in to experience a certain loss -- your leaving the site after seven years -- and a big new addition.

Rich: The circle of columnist life. Hakuna Muchata.

Jonah: It would have been fun to have both of you on the site at the same time. That would have been interesting.

Rich: Possibly sparks would have flown.

Jonah: Yeah. Although it should be noted your departure and the addition of this new feature are entirely unrelated. Not that anyone will believe that, but that's the truth.

Rich: It is indeed. You told me way way way back. I was impressed then.

Jonah: You know, something just occurred to me -- so, some of comics greatest creators have been British, we all know that.

Rich: Some of them. Vertigo seem to have slightly forgotten that part of the pact right now though. Americans are taking their own jobs back. Stinking nationals, staying over there.

Jonah: Well, three of CBR's biggest contributors over the years have also been British -- yourself, Warren Ellis and Mark Millar. Considering the number of columnists and staff writers who have worked for CBR, I wonder if the percentage that were British that worked for CBR is in line with percentages for the comics industry. I think the Brits secretly control the comics industry.

Rich: The British Jews especially.

Jonah: (Rushes to call lawyer)

Rich: See, he's going to miss me.

Jonah: I still have plenty of opportunities to call him, though. This is comics. Remind me to tell you about the day he wrote a prominent comics creator personally to tell him why his threatened lawsuit was crazy. BTW, lawyer man owns about 10 pieces of original art by that creator and was one of his biggest fans.

Rich: Oooh! Will do!

Jonah: Allright my friend, I think this is where we say our goodbyes and do our man hug thing. Anything else you'd like to add?

Rich: Will I get my last cheque on time? Malaysian porn doesn't download itself.

Jonah: It does if you have a good Bit Torrent client.

Rich: Thank you sir. It's been a very pleasurable seven years. And a lot more fun that it had any right to be. And that's all down to you.

Jonah: Thanks and it certainly has.

Rich: Arune Singh though? He was a right bastard. Marvel are welcome to him.

Jonah: Oh, looks like I just might get one more call about this column after all...

Welcome to the last edition of 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 fifteen long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories were sourced from well-connected individuals. But I urged you to use your judgment and to remember, context was everything.

The traffic lights were an indication (and only that) of how reliable I believed the story to be, based on source, context and gut feel. Red let you know I thought this rumour was bunkum, but it was still one being spread about and could have done with stamping on. Amber indicated I thought there was a bias involved in the telling there, or it just seemed a little dodgy. And Green as far as I could tell (as far as I could ever tell) was the real deal, junior. But it was still quite possibly wrong.

Nevertheless, do remember, Lying In The Gutters was for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced. Thank you for not shooting the messenger.

EVERYBODY IN THE MOUSE GO BOOM

[Green Light]I understand that Boom Studios has won the comic book license for "Walt Disney Comics And Stories," "Mickey Mouse And Friends," "Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck," "Donald Duck" and more.

Boom has recently shown much promise with its well received Disney Pixar and "Muppet Show" comic books, and this seems reward for its efforts,

Both titles were previously published by Steve Geppi's Gemstone, a publisher that has been seen to be suffering of late.

Expect to see this reflected in solicitations shortly.

ALTER THE SITUATION

[Green Light]An upcoming issue of "Alter Ego" #87 from Twomorrow Stories contains a number of indepth pieces on the history of Marvelman the character, the comic, and the creators.

It includes an indepth interview with Marvelman creator, Mick Anglo, by Roger Dicken, looking at Mick's long history in illustration, comics, running a studio and book writing and how his Marvelman work has come back into prominence.

For anyone interested in Marvelman, the British comics industry, and lifting a veil on a previously untold era of British comics, it's a must.

Oh and it also includes this snippet...

I think that's a game changer...

MARVELMAN COMICS

[Yellow Light]One of the most returned-to stories over the history of this column, and the ones that preceded it, concern Marvelman/Miracleman. I spent ages tracking down contracts, working out who had percentage of what, who handed what percentage of their own percentage to whom, what contracts were valid, who screwed over who, before it turned out that everybody owned the rights to their own work they created for the comic series, but the only one who actually owned the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman was original creator Mick Anglo.

What was once thought a bankruptcy of the original publisher Miller, turns out to have been the winding up and closing down of the company,

John Campbell and his brother of Emotiv Records in Glasgow formed a relationship with Mick Anglo, and currently represent his rights in the matter.

And Moore recently stated that he was happy for his work to be used to help Mick Anglo out in that respect, whether that be in reprints, a cartoon series or whatever.

It's this "whatever" that is causing some concern, however.

One proposal, to circumvent a number of rights issues, would be to take Moore's original scripts for the series and offer them to other artists to draw, And as the current state of play have none of the Marvelman/Miracleman artists owning any rights to the series as a whole, this proposed "remake" would see them without a penny in royalties.

And this wouldn't cover the Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham issues either.

Expect to see a number of possibilities, and versions of the series in the near future. though not necessarily the version you actually want. As Steve Bissette said, if you want this series, find the cheapest way to buy the issues of the original series - and do it now.

EXPO POSITION

[Green Light]Maybe I'm getting more placid as I approach forty (still four years off, fact fans), but I rather enjoyed the critical mass of cosplayers at London's MCM Expo this past weekend. I even saw a cheery Warren Ellis, enthusing about the prevalent gift of hugs being offered by young women, men, and indeterminate creatures, gender identities hidden by large amounts of plush.

These events do make you realise how old, male, white and plain dull traditional comic book conventions can be. So how did Warren cope? Let's check his Twitter feed.

Hi drunk oh look joe morton oh look swedish girl with whisky

Same as ever then.

WHAT I'M UP TO

[Green Light]Page from my story "Trip Into Space" with Sleaze Castle's Terry Wiley from "This Is A Souvenir" shipping this week from Image.

Page from my story "Rustlin' Up Business" with lettered by Thomas Mauer, from "Outlaw Territory" from Image, unscheduled.

Page from my story "Doctor Who: A Room With A Deja View" with EricJ, coloured by Kris Carter, from IDW, out in July.

Any more for any more?

UNDEAD PRESIDENTS

[Green Light]Is Dynamite really putting out a comic that sees Ash from the Evil Dead movies teaming up with President Obama? Really? Well, this does seem to be a company that knows what it’s doing…

JL ACHE

[Yellow Light]A few weeks ago, I ran the rumour that Geoff John and Jim Lee were teaming up for “JLA". I’m now told that it’s now that either Jim Lee is off the book, or he’s on it with Grant Morrison instead…

Contradictory rumours, both well sourced. Mind you, so was the original. My brain hurts.

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Frank Quitely will be one of the “gallery artists" for the upcoming “Burke And Hare" graphic novel by Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering for Insomnia Publications.

The Dave McKean Royal Mail postage stamps are available. Click here for fantasy stamp goodness.

“Unwritten" #1 from Vertigo shipped for a dollar and sold very well indeed. Possibly too well. If you can find any copies, and you still only have to pay $1 for them, fill your boots.

Brian Bendis’ Xbox 360 died on him last week… expect a new Marvel event or two from the spare time he now has on his hands.

eBay benefit auction for Josh Medors goes live.

And for the last seven years I’d like to thank Jonah Weiland especially, as well as Arune Singh and Stephen Gerding from Comic Book Resources.

I'd also like to thank, among many others, Joe Quesada, Paul Levitz, Dan Buckley, Dan DiDio, David Bogart, Jim Valentino, Bob Wayne, Jim McCann, Patty Jeres, Erik Larsen, Mick Richardson, Stephanie Fierman, David Hyde, Eric Stephenson, Jann Jones, Steve Rotterdam, Randy Stradley, Dian Schutz, Bob Schreck, Axel Alonso, Phil Hall, Tom Breevort, Lea Hernandez, Mike Carlin, Bill Jemas, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Scott Dunbier, Nick Barrucci, John Reppion, William Christensen, Alan Moore, Kevin Smith, Neil Gaiman, Brian Bendis, John Layman, Geoff Johns, Jen Contino, Mike Conroy, Brian K Vaughan, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Paul Jenkins, Josh Adams, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Matt Brady, Peter David. Ethan Van Sciver, Mark Gilmore, Scott Dunbier, Craig McGill, Walt Simonson, Warren Ellis, Mike Meyer, Todd Allen, Donna Barr, Garth Ennis, Glenn Fabry, Steve Pugh, Phil Winslade, Gary Erskine, Al Davison, Heidi MacDonald, Leah Moore, Marc Foley-Comer, Johanna Carlson, Paul O'Brien, Tony Lee, Glenn Fanry, Karen Berger, Tim Downling, Hector Lima, Jen Grunwald, Jon Nee, Valerie D'Orazio, Ryan Richards, John Cunningham, Andrew Wheeler, Matthew Vaughn, Dez Skinn, Mike Doran, Alex De Campi, Lee Barnett, Cassandra Conroy, Simon Pegg, Brendon Connelly, Antony Johnston, Chris Ryall, Ted Adams Camilla Wright, Nat Sandalls, Adam Fortier, Nick Locking, Paul Staines, Jamie Boardman, Michael Wright, John Fellows, Edgar Wright Jr, Dave Bushe, Mark and Sabrina Peyton, Hugo Rifkind, Carlos Fraile, Art Adams, Keith Giffen, Don Murphy, Simon Rohrmuller, Steve White, Pinguino, Thomas Nachlik, Thom Mauer, Adam Fortier, Erik Ko, Peter Milligan, Liam Sharp, Simon Bisley, Tom Daylight, James Robinson, Kaare Andrews, Ben Templesmith, Ashley Wood, Darick Robertson, Terry Wiley and many many many more.

You’ve been mad at me at some point, most of you have forgiven me,

Rick Olney, Pat Lee, Josh Hoopes... well at least you gave me something to write about.

SMALL PRINT

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

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:  marvelman, miracleman, mcm comics expo

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