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Welcome to the one hundred and thirtieth chapter in the latest volume of the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Over ten years damnit! Written by British comics commentator, me, Rich Johnston, it’s read by comic book professionals and readers alike. Loved and hated equally, every Monday (ish) it brings the stories not-quite-ready-for-primetime, a look behind the curtain, a sniff of the toilet seat, the worst and the best that the comics industry can inspire. Go in with your eyes open, your blinkers off and a peg on your nose.

As for the traffic lights, RED means that the story is unlikely to be true, and you should read that with that context. AMBER signifies an identifiable agenda/slant or bias in the source that may affect the work, or that the source isn’t clear, or another factor that might bring the piece into doubt. GREEN means that the story feels right to me, my gut instinct says go for it. However, as is often the case, while the gist may be correct, the detail may be wrong – and in fact I may be having an off day and the whole thing may be buggered. It wouldn’t be the first time.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

[Yellow Light]

‘Twas the week before Christmas

And all through the House

Of Ideas, something’s stirring

As an editor doth grouse.

I understand that newly appointed Marvel editor Mark Paniccia has got himself in a wee bit of a bother.

After allegations he had to fix the recent Marvel Villain poll so Mark Millar would be willing to write the resultant winner into “Spider-Man,” now his second poll may have also been cursed.

Fans were asked to vote on an extreme revamp of a Marvel character from scratch to star in the “Amazing Fantasy series.” And they voted for Scorpion, announced for issue 7, launching in March.

March’s Previews text has been released with nary a mention of the project. I understand it had to be pulled last minute after a cockup with creators and contracts.

Turns out the character was to have been revamped by one of my favourite drinking partners, Alex De Campi. Her first Marvel project, greenlit to run in “Amazing Fantasy,” would have been quite a kick for her fledgling comic book writer career. The new Scorpion character would have been some female teen-goth superperson, with a bunch of spy stuff thrown in for good measure and the return of Modok (which was all I was able to get out of the normally chatty Alex).

Trouble is, my Marvel source tells me as a return for a favour to Marvel Talent Manager CB Cebulski, Philip Tan of “Uncanny X-Men” was appointed artist, a decision that Alex decided was so unsuitable for the character, she’d rather pull the project than continue with Tan as artist.

Marvel disagreed and wished to continue the project without her, though using the material she’d already prepared, and artwork based on it. Trouble, is, according to my source, Marvel never asked her to sign a contract until the trouble kicked off, and as a result all of her conceptual and script work, save for the name of the character, is still her property. And an attempt to silence her with a non-disclosure notice hasn’t worked because she never signed that either.

Thing is, doesn’t seem like they’ll need it, Alex isn’t mouthing off – not to me anyway. But there are a few people at Marvel happy to see the new boy Paniccia tied up in contractual problems so close to the Previews deadline for the title. And they’re happy to spill the beans to me instead.

In a Newsarama piece promoting the poll, when Matt Brady stated “While some may see editing Amazing Fantasy as hazing for the new guy, Paniccia politely disagrees.” And quoted Paniccia saying “Hah! The hazing is yet to come! This is a very cool assignment to be given so soon after walking through the door. I get to be part of re-imaging a Marvel character–and with an editorial team made of the likes of MacKenzie Cadenhead and C.B. Cebulski to help, how can I go wrong?”

Famous last words?

LOEB LOWUpdated 3:45 PM 12/20/04

[Red Light]

I’ve been hearing the persistent rumour that Jeph Loeb is about to go
exclusive with Marvel Comics, leaving his successful “Superman/Batman” title behind. However, senior sources have stamped all over that one. Though not for want of trying.

DC can rest easy in their beds over that one.

CURRENT PROJECTSUpdated 3:45 PM 12/20/04

[Green Light]

I understand in April, Atomeka are republishing Ted McKeever’s “Eddie
Current” as a 120 page TPB with an intro by Dave Gibbons and colour art by Chris Chuckry, digest size for $9.99, and will continue through three volumes, each telling four hours of Eddy’s most important night of his life.

The book also includes a short collaboration by Dave Gibbons and Ted McKeever called “Libretto.”

Atomeka are also publishing the licensed “Mortal Kombat: Deception” by Brian Hill, John Vogel and Walter McDabiel, with covers and pinups by Mark Texiera, Alex Horley, Garry Leach, Steve Pugh, Tomm Coker, Keron Grant, Marat Mychaels and Ale Garza.

REDS UNDER THE BEDS

[Green Light]

Dynamite Entertainment is launching a new “Red Sonja” book, starting with a zero issue, at 25 cents.

Covers for the series will be by Art Adams, Greg Land, Alex Ross, Michael Turner, JG Jones, Adam Hughes, Michael Kaluta, Joseph Michael Linsner. Dynamic Forces will produce an Adam Hughes variant for the issue zero.

You know how well the Conan book did? Well then.

ROUGH TRADE

[Green Light]

Marvel’s TPB production department must be under strain of late. We’ve been showing you a numebr of examples where lettering from one page is duplicated on another, replacing it or appearing on top of it. Well here’s another. This time from “X-Men: Dream End” out this week. Collect them all.

That’s shocking, isn’t it? But the same books has another couple of lettering jumps, pages apart!

Including my favourite juxtaposition…

Ha Ha!

PRIME BEEF

[Red Light]

So, I get this e-mail. It could be one of the nonsense faked leaks DC are trying to put out there (to counter the true ones I usually get) but even if fiction, it’s entertaining enough.

“Anyway, apparently Countdown leads into DC’s major summer event, Crisis on Earth. The basic plot is that someone wants their Earth (Earth X) restored the way they remember it. The twist is that the protagonist is based on our Earth, and in our time.

“It’s a place and time called Prime Time.

“20 years ago, post Crisis, the protagonist was integrated into our time and space, and has been reading comics but slowly becoming aware they were out of place and time. After reading Identity Crisis, something contained within leads to this person realising that, and they want to correct matters.

“Supposedly DC Countdown leads to the moment of awareness, and the reboot of the DCU is their point of view focused upon the heroes and how this person wants to see the DCU. For a few months, significant changes will be made to the DCU, destroying the concepts that most people believed in, but they won’t be long lasting.

“Seven Soldiers is supposedly the ‘real’ DCU universe as we see it, and events contained within that will lead to the formation of a group that knows what is wrong with the DCU, and ultimately how to fix it.

“This forms the basis of the hypertime idea, allowing multiverses and multitimelines to coexist after the event, and Seven Soldiers will suggest the awareness of the DCU that Grant Morrison wanted before as events in SS will drop hints to the characters within about their role and how to fix the brokenness.”

Now I’ve been told that there’s a lot wrong here, the timeline doesn’t work out so well and things are horribly mixed up. And “Prime Time” is not the title. But that might mean there’s a gem of correctness in here… somewhere…

FINN TALESUpdated 12/21/04 – 12:15 PM

[Yellow Light]

“Who is JD Finn?” The new announced writer for “Action Comics” taking over from Chuck Austen. The name appears to be a pseudonym… and can be read as “jaded fan.” Some have speculated this could be Chuck finishing his stories under another name, Writer X style, to stymie fan expectations.

However, I’m also hearing another version. That JD Finn is actually
John Byrne, telling monthly Superman stories again. But I’ve had that
definitely stamped on from afar. Not true.

May well have come about because it’s mixed up with the rumour John
Byrne will be artist on Action Comics with Gail Simone writing in the
near future.

You may even see John Byrne on “Spectre” as well. Either way, it looks like Dan Didio is making sure we see a lot more John Byrne all over the shop.

Update: Yup, it’s Chuck Austen. “Finn” also referes to Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, while over on Chuck Austen’s “Worldwatch” he’s been replaced by “Sam Clemens,” Mark Twain’s real name.

Feeling jaded yet?

BRITISH COVER

[Green Light]

Marvel’s covers for March shipping issues can be seen here. The Ultimate cover showing Ultimate Captain Britain is especially nice.

Let’s hope he’s not gay, Ultimate Iron Man might have something to say about that.

And “Astonishing X-Men” is just scary!

And, oh look, no sign of “Amazing Fantasy.”

IRON MAN MAY ONLY MARRY AN IRON WOMAN

[Green Light]

Hugo Award winner sci-fi fiction and right-wing political opinion writer, Orson Scott Card has been hired to write “Ultimate Iron Man.” And everyone’s been e-mailing me to point out that it’s another Karl Zinsmeister story.

Except it’s not. This is fiction. Orson Scott Card is an intelligent writer with very peculiar views and a tendency to use them in his work. He’s what’s colloquially known as a “friend of Mike Miller.” However he’s not, as Karl Zinsmeister is, presenting horribly biased viewpoints as non-fiction.

And as long as Orson doesn’t actually have Iron Man pulse blast a gay pride event, I don’t think too many people will even notice.

Just don’t expect Ultimate Colossus guesting too soon, that’s all.

YOU JUST CAN’T GET THE STAFF

[Green Light]

Over at the Jack Staff message boards on the Image website, Kelvin Green asks, “In the letters page of the latest Invincible, Man Of The Moment (allegedly) Kirkman says that of all the current Image titles, the one he’d like to do a crossover with would be Jack Staff. So any chance of that happening?”

Paul Grist replies, “That Kirkman, he’s just a blabbermouth. I’m still waiting for a plot.

“I’ve probably said too much.”

Not at all, Paul, just enough in fact.

ZAPHOD’S HEADUpdated 3:45 PM 12/20/04

[Green Light]

With the publication of a number of stills from “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy,” a number of people have wondered what’s up with Zaphod’s non-existent double head. Both in the radio, the books and the TV series, Zaphod Beeblebrox had two heads, with disastrous results on TV, but hilarious results on radio (Zaphod talking while brushing his teeth being a standout). But how were they going to do it on the movie? And why were the stills, well, unihead?

I understand that in the movie, Zaphod’s second head is inside his nostril. And this all ties in with the increased prominence of the Church Of Arkleseizure in the movie (a race with fifty arms, and the first to develop the aerosol deodorant before the wheel) and their leader John Malkovich, who also has a second head, and Zaphod’s unwillingness to sneeze.

Christ and Anti-Christ of Humma?

DEVILS AND WIZARDS

[Yellow Light]

I understand Devil’s Due are about to start work on comic books based on Wizards of the Coast properties, currently owned by Hasbro. This coincides with Roaring Studios no longer having anything to do with Hasbro’s “Dragonlance.”

DABB HAND

[Green Light]

According to his website, “Happydale” writer Andrew Dabb is working on a project with artist Jon Sommariva (Who did “Go Boy 7” for Dark Horse Comics previously). Andrew Dabb is also currently writing “MU,” “Megacity 909,” “Atom.” Busy boy.

SEARCHING FOR Z

[Green Light]

HJ Cho contacts me on a mission. He pencilled a three-issue run on “Zorro” from Topps back in the day and is trying to trace all his artwork. He’s especially keen to contact inker Armando Gil who may have pages.

If anyone can help, email HJ on hjcho *at* mac.com

DEFENCE POLICY

[Green Light]

Looks like Keith Giffen is writing “The Defenders” for Marvel again.

Should be a fun book.

I’M A WHORE FOR YOU

[Green Light]

On Wednesday, I’m on QVC UK, selling Dynamic Forces stuff with Nick Barrucci for one hour, 8pm-9pm GMT. Hoo boy.

So why not while away the hours with the Nick Barrucci Drinking game.

You need – British digital TV or a decent connection to stream the programme, at www.qvcuk.com.

Bottles of spirits. Shot glasses.

Bottles of wine. Wine glasses.

Case of beer.

Shotgun.

Ice.

When Nick Barrucci points at the camera, sip the wine,

When Nick Barrucci spreads his arms wide, take a shot.

When Nick Barrucci stares madly with his mouth open, take two sips of wine.

When Nick Barrucci tells you how unbelievably low an item is in price, sip a can of beer.

When Nick Barrucci is selling signed Marvel 2099, Valiant or Robin comics, down the wine glass.

When Nick Barrucci is selling a trading card box, the likes you haven’t seen for ten years, take a shot, followed by a sip of wine.

When Nick Barrucci starts drooling over a lithograph, potentially damaging its value with saliva, finish a can.

When Nick Barrucci lets me get a fucking word in edgeways, sip wine and beer back and forth for two minutes.

When Nick Barrucci tells you that half the items on air that night are under £10, take a shot, finish the wine glass, chug a beer and eventually slide under the table.

When Nick Barrucci’s accent makes you think you’re watching “The Sopranos,” take a shot at the TV with a 12 bore .

REACTION TIME

[Green Light]

The Stewart Lee/Alan Moore episode of “Chain Reaction” will air on BBC Radio 4 on the 27th of January at 6.30pm GMT. The Alan Moore/Brian Eno episode will air on the 3rd of February at the same time. For those unable to receive BBC Radio 4, go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio4. It is likely that the shows can be streamed for the week after each broadcast.

RUMOUR WARNING

[Green Light]

Next week it’s the Rumour Awards. A bunch of you don’t like them. So be warned. And I’m also contributing to… All The Rage next fortnight. It’s a funny old game…

And in the New Year, as part of my child-related revenue-raising efforts, I’m selling original art. Including the full colour “Superbaby” piece Kyle Baker did in exchange for an “80 Page Elseworlds” issue. A reprise of “Action Comics” 1 with Paul Levitz freaking out in the foreground. If anyone would like an early opportunity to bid before it goes on eBay, you know my address…

Oh yes. This week I’m looking for a superhero artist who can draw London scenes well who might fancy pitching something. And who isn’t a homophobe. Again, you know my address.

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:richjohnston@gmail.com
  • 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.

Discuss this column on the Lying In The Gutters Forum.
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