Lying In The Gutters

Mon, February 10th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

This is the thirty-third weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. So, bedlam belittlers, remember the rumour rules. Red light means it's probably bullshit, Yellow light means I think there's an element of truth and Green means you get bet your life on it. Or someone's life. Not mine, I've been wrong before. Take everything you read with a sense of scathing abuse - and if you do repost information here elsewhere, please include a warning to that effect. And a link. Man does not live by hits alone - but I could do with the attention. Blame my dentist.

The Squiddy Awards are continuing, I'm up for Best Journalist for this very farrago of innuendo and supposition and Waiting For Tommy, as well as Best Webcomic for "Soul Less."

My official e-mail address is also changing. Check the bottom of this column to update your records.

GRAFFITI DESIGNS

[Green Light]Seen in Bristol (home of the upcoming comic convention), posters for the film "Daredevil" that have been culture jammed. The letters U.S.A. have been spray painted above the title of the film and then both 'D's have been spray painted out. Basically...

U.S.A.
ARE EVIL

Shame about the poor grammar as well as the harshness of sentiment. Sadly, when they created the character, Stan Lee decided against calling him Daredpossiblymisguidedinthisinstance.

Such poor foresight.

DEVIL IN DISGUISE

[Yellow Light]One of the new projects at DC that Dan Didio is pushing for publication is a new Demon series.

Created by Jack Kirby, the character was annexed by the Vertigo crowd for a while before Alan Grant and Garth Ennis wrote an ongoing series, spinning off into "Hitman" at one point. Cancelled for a while, the appearance of this immortal human bound to a demon by magic is to return imminently.

The creators are yet to be decided, I hear, but Josh Dysart's name has been underlined.

ALL FALL DOWN

[Green Light]So just what is Trevor Hairsine doing next?

Well, we've all been told it's a new Marvel project, but the funny thing is, Trevor's been getting a few other items in the post. Specifically a whole host of "Darkness" reference material and art guides.

Sadly speculation about a Marvel/Top Cow crossover may have to be put to one side for now. The project in question is…

Ultimate X-Men Versus Ultimate Hulk.

Oooh. Pretty.

You'd expect Mark Millar would be writing this. You'd expect.

Updated: 5:15 PM PST 2/10/03 - Millar told me, "Yeah, doing a book where the number one summer franchise meets the number two summer franchise (who tops who is still to be determined) seemed like quite possibly the biggest cash cow of 2003, especially when the story is collected into trade form. However, Ultimates X-Men versus The Hulk is set to debut around the time I wrap a two year run on X-Men so writing ANOTHER X-Men book immediately afterwards just felt bogus. Lucrative, yeah, but it seemed like the sort of thing whoever's writing the book after Bendis should be doing because I feel something like this would be a nice showcase for them."

"Besides, around the same time, Marvel offered me another project you'll hear about inside the next couple of months and I just opted for the latter because it's such a change of pace from what I've been doing. This special project plus the Ultimates and the creator-owned line are really going to completely consume the rest of 2003 from me and it's going to be early 2004 before I start my next regular Marvel series kicks off."

JUST WHAT IS ROB LIEFELD ON? - ANSWERED

[Yellow Light]From the new Millarworld message boards … Rob Liefeld.

"I was pretty much coked out for the better part of two years before I got clean, everybody at Extreme was dopin' it up. The place was a wall-to-wall drugstore. How do you think we all stayed up for forty-eight hour binges getting all those books out?"

The ones that came out, of course… and suddenly the work produced makes a lot more sense. If Rob's being totally serious that is - there's some doubt been thrown on that by fellow employees already.

If nothing else, it explains all the speed lines.

The thread also features Jim Valentino's crying children and responses by Erik Larsen. Go read. Rob Liefeld also went on to talk about his current ongoing movie deals.

"'The Mark,' a movie and cartoon script are being written simultaneously. Both based on my original screenplay from the mid-90's. The cartoon features a younger recipient of the Mark.

"'SHRINK!' is being written by Requa and Ficarra, writers of 'Cats and Dogs,' 'Bad Santa,' 'Looney Tunes' the movie and many more. Script is due in Spring. Sony and J-Lo want to shoot movie ASAP. It all depends on the script.

"'Galaxy Girl' is being written as we speak by a new screenwriter, due in Spring as well. Again, dependent, as everything is, on the script.

"'Badrock,' pilot being prepped for Disney as we speak. Possible pick up based on pilot.

"Two more projects that I can't talk about at the moment are in the works as we speak."

STARK REALITY

[Yellow Light]I understand Richard Starkings and his company Comicraft have been dropped by Marvel for lettering duties.

When asked to comment, Starkings only response was "Night Follows Day, Rich".

SILVER SLAVE

[Yellow Light]I heard there is a Silver Surfer project in the works at Marvel by Bob Morales, the writer behind the recently hyped "Captain America: The Truth" series.

Bob didn't exactly confirm the story, there seem to be a number of other Surfer projects at Marvel (including the oft-promised Morrison and Quitely version) but he did elaborate a little.

"It's all very preliminary, coming about from a comment I made to Cinescape. When asked who my favorite African-American Marvel hero was, I said something like, 'the Silver Surfer--he became Galactus' slave to save his people then forever longed for his freedom!'

"Axel Alonso asked if I would be interested in a Surfer mini, and I laughed and said yeah, if Marvel got Richard Corben to draw it, and then we both went hmmmmm..."

Lying In the Gutters would like to put down a deposit for the first issue right now, if that's okay.

MORE POTENTIAL PROJECTS

[Yellow Light]Lying In the Gutters understands that "X-Statix" author Pete Milligan has an outstanding offer from Axel Alonso to write a "Shanna the She Devil" as well as a "Startling Stories: Stark" mini-series with art by Ted McKeever.

Find the time, Pete, find the time…

THE HOUSE OF ID

[Yellow Light]Not every Marvel freelancer is part of the "team" that Joe Quesada was pledging allegiance to a couple of week's back. One commentary comes to me that reads, "Right now, every freelancer that I've talked to that works at Marvel is hating it, mostly because of Bill Jemas. That guy thinks he can 'improve' people's work with his shitty writing, and he's just fucking up everything."

Now, now, there's no need for language like that, you disgruntled creator you. But there's more.

When a freelancer confronted Quesada about some of the interference they received from Jemas, they were told, "What do you want me to do, he's the President?" or words to that effect.

For more on Bill Jemas' slipperyness, see the end of the column. However, I'd like to mention here that "Marville" 5 was quite good. As good as "Marville" 4. Look, I know no one's reading or reviewing this book any more, so I thought I'd just point it out.

CROSS PALM

[Green Light]CrossGen are exploring a number of possibilities for future promotions with comics retailers and have been calling a bunch to throw ideas at the wall. One popular suggestion is running cheaper promotional issues, maybe a dollar for one issue, but following that up with overships on the subsequent issues.

AUSTEN'S POWERS

[Green Light]Gutterati Johnny Got His Gun writes to point out a recent post by Chuck Austen on X-Fan. Marvel's in-house janitor writes to confirm that he's writing an arc of "Exiles" from issues 26-30. He says, "The book will stick to the pages of 'Exiles,' but it will feature continuity that will affect the Uncanny title. Big continuity…"

As to whether his run would occur after writer Judd Winick's arc, or in between, he replied "In between. Judd had no idea I would be stepping in for a couple, but he was fine with it as long as he doesn't have to read them. He considers the characters his, and so do I."

Which caused some to ask whether Chuck would have Mimic dealing with the loss of Blink, and then see that repeated with Judd's next arc? Chuck said "Mine came between stories that had a large gap in between them. So I was able to change and deal with things, somewhat, but I have to leave it as Judd's next story comes in, with all the changes in character that incurs."

Chuck said that he wouldn't really explain what happened to Blink, that there won't be cross-title crossovers with "Uncanny X-Men," that it's all contained in "Exiles." That three of the five issues will take place in standard Marvel continuity, that he had nothing to do with the new costumes, and that "Uncanny X-Men" readers will, to a degree, need to buy these issues of "Exiles" to get a full grasp on what happens in "Uncanny X-Men."

CREATIONISN'T

[Yellow Light]Reviews on the Creation Con in LA, designed as a pre-emptive strike to spoil the expansion of WizardWorld, and subsequently covered by this column have been very similar. An incredible lack of attendance, in a small area, yet with large seating panel rooms with audiences barely in double figures, despite a number of prominent pro names.

WizardWorld are going to clean up.

SLAB HAPPY

[Yellow Light]There's been quite the scandal in the worlds of Heritage Comics and that old favourite CGC earlier this week. CGC is a service to comics collectors, wherein a comic is graded in terms of physical quality, assigned a value between 0 and 10, and then encased in plastic, or slabbed, preserving it's condition until opened. High grade CGC comics have on occasion reached thousands of times their standard value, and in general there's a significant value increase, depending on the condition. Heritage are a company with a great success in selling such items, and share premises and financial ties with CGC.

Well, of late, there have been a few titles spotted being sold online though with a CGC value, only for the exact same comic to appear later being sold by Heritage with a higher grade for a much higher price. This has come to light with certain issues from the Nicolas Cage collection that recently hit the headlines. Hertitage ran the auction, but employees bid on a number of titles themselves.

For example "Marvel Mystery" #2 and #33. They recently appeared for auction from Heritage, but with a heavily increased grade. Both have been regraded higher by CGC (#2 went from 7.5 to 9.0 and #33 from 8.0 to 9.2) and both have lost their Cage label. Also, CGC has "deleted" the prior grading notes from their database so a comparison of the two grades cannot be accomplished.

Initially a Heritage spokesperson seemed to state that "Marvel Mystery" 33 was not the same as the one auctioned by Cage, but Stephen Fishler of Metropolis Comics was able to state "As the person who sold Nicolas Cage his copy of 'Marvel Mystery' #33, I can state for the record that the copy sold in the Cage auction and the one offered in last week's Heritage auction are one in the same. There is no doubt about it."

You can read the discussions about said items here and here.

Basically the allegations being made in these threads are that Heritage bought items from their own auction of the Nic Cage collection, and have enough weight with CGC so they were able to up the grade on items, and sell them at higher values.

Towards the end of the week, CGC did comment. They stated "CGC does not grade based on who the submitter is, and never has. We have stated this time and time again. We set very high standards for ourselves, this is the only way we can stay a trusted part of the collecting community. Our internal policies are designed to make each submission anonymous (in terms of who the submitter is) to the graders.

"We occasionally become aware of books receiving both higher and lower grades after being resubmitted to CGC. This is to be expected. Though we try our best, CGC graders are human and therefore not 100% consistent, even when regrading a comic book whose condition has not physically changed.

"CGC has stated publicly that it is possible for some defects to be removed or diminished without actually causing any harm to the book and without adding anything that would lead us to classify it as restored. If a comic book receives a certain grade one day and then a much higher grade months later, it means that in most cases, the book is in better condition the second time we graded it. How can this be? There is an easy answer, which most people who have been in our hobby for many years already know: comic books get pressed.

"Before CGC, collectors who purchased a comic book with a slight or moderate spine roll would put the comic book between two dictionaries with a cinder block on top for a few months to remove part or all of the spine roll. If a collector got in a comic book with a light crease that did not break color, he would try and take it out by using light pressure to 'press' it out. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. I personally know many dealers and collectors who for many years have been pressing comic books on a regular basis. Unlike restoration, when a comic book cover is pressed CORRECTLY and SAFELY, it will enhance the look of the comic book and, in many cases, most experts can't even tell it has been pressed. Pressing has been acceptable historically in our hobby and CGC has not adopted any policies contrary to this.

"Certification resubmissions occur regularly, though this can be risky as grades not only can go up, but as well, can go down. This practice also occurs in other areas of collectibles where certification is offered such as Sportscards and Coins. When CGC receives a resubmitted comic book we very rarely know if it had been graded by us previously. If we do recognize it as having been previously certified (normally because it is either a high profile or pedigree comic book) we still are not aware of what we graded it the first time around. It is VERY unlikely that any of our graders would remember the previous grade because we grade so many comic books on a daily basis. It is rare that we remember grades assigned from last week, let alone several months ago."

John Petty, Director Of Auctions at Heritage also replied.

"Heritage did not purchase or submit the 'Marvel Mystery' #33. It was purchased from our October auction, graded by CGC, and reconsigned to Heritage, by another client (not Jay Parrino). We frequently re-offer items for buyers, especially dealers, and occasionally the CGC grades change (higher or lower) if the book was resubmitted. Grading arbitrage is common practice in coins, and we expect it will become more common in comics as well.

"Like most public auctioneers, Heritage does not divulge the buyer or consignor of any lot, but otherwise we strive to be the most transparent auction company on earth."

"We permanently post photographs of every lot we offer, along with all of our other sales data, in our permanent auction archives. I believe that this policy/feature is a unique benefit that we offer our clients, and we have no intention of ever discontinuing it."

Looks like Heritage have been busy with the breeze blocks and irons. But CGC customers have not been totally convinced and the debate rages…

BILL JEMAS - NOT EXACTLY UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT, MORE UNDER THE SUNSCREEN

[Green Light]Last Wednesday, my new Waiting For Tommy interview with Marvel President went live. It seems to have kicked up quite a stir on the message boards.

Some believe that Bill Jemas managed, successfully, to avoid answering any questions, making the interview a failure.

Some however believe it's the most revealing interview Bill Jemas has ever done. Not about Marvel's policies - but rather about himself.

This Wednesday coming up, it's Jim Lee's turn.

Oh and just a wee note. Saw the first half of "The Second Coming" on ITV last night, second half is on tonight for any Brits, bloody brilliant, Russell Davies' best work, up there with the grand days of Dennis Potter.

Oh sorry, wrong column. In that case…

RECRUITING IN THE GUTTERS

If you've got a story, talk to me. Your identity will remain anonymous unless you wish otherwise. You can choose a pseudonym and join the ranks of the Gutterati. Or be a demon reposter, join the Gutter Snipes and spread the word about stories in this column across the Internet, where relevant. Then tell me where you've put them up - the more mainstream the better!

You can contact me at:

  • mailto:twisting@hotmail.com (which often gets full, but it'll reach me during the day)

  • AOL Instant Message me at TwistRich

  • 0780 1350982 (01144780 1350982 from N America)

  • Anthrax packages can be sent to 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU, ENGLAND

Be seeing you.

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