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Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-seventh 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.

Warning. This column reveals the “Identity Crisis Killer.” Possibly. But just in case we got it this time, the piece has been whited out. That’s if Jonah works out how to do it before we go to press.

HEY, WHAT HAPPENED TO CHRISTMAS? DID I GET THAT SEINFELD DVD SET I WANTED?

[Yellow Light]

Remember a few months ago, Lying In The Gutters mentioned a new Crisis series for 2005 by Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez?

Well, I’ve just received a few more details. Trouble is they’re being disputed. Let’s see.

I’ve been told the whole of the DC Universe will jump forward by a year. All the titles will have completely new setups as a result, and the new Crisis series will gradually explain what happened to leave all the characters in the state they are after the year gap.

And that the first books to launch out of that will be the previously mentioned Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely in August, Batman by Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb, and Wonder Woman by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver.

But despite the story being well sourced, someone else equally well sourced is throwing water over it. And not just over the possibility that the new books don’t spin out of Crisis 2, but that the book is about something else entirely. Or am I just hedging my bets?

Either way, definitely expect shock and awe for whatever emerges from whatever Crisis turns out to be. And expect to see DC titles dominate the charts for a fair few months.

ITALIAN JOBS

[Green Light]

How’s your Italian? Over at ComicsCode, Peter Snejberg has stated he’s working on a series called “The Chosen” by John Arcudi, which will keep him busy through 2005.
And it’s not exactly a superhero series.

While Jessica Abel is writing
an actual proper book called “Carmina” for HarperCollins, and writing a comic with Gabe Soria on art entitled “Life Sucks” for Roaring Brook.

And (in English) Jim Lee is running a warts-and-all interview with me on his blog this morning. It begins “When it comes to Rich Johnston, columnist of arguably the most popular rumor mongering site of them all, Lying in the Gutters (LITG), I am of two minds. On one hand, he is a big f—ing pain in the ass…”

DREAM WEAVER

[Yellow Light]

The latest salvo in the DreamWaveWars kicked off over at Seibertron where they reported that James and Adam’s claims of non-payment were generated by being asked to write a mini-series to accompany their ongoing series for free as “promotional items,” under their contract – and that they declined to accept that the mini-series they were writing were part of that agreement. However, I understand this to be false – and that there were separate contracts agreed for every project.

While not commenting on that per se, James and Adam did email me to say, “We are owed approximately $38,000 USD for our work. This amount is for work which has already been completed and submitted, and the majority of which has already been published and sold. Additionally, there are several other points of contention.

“We have consulted with lawyers and are contemplating legal proceedings.

“We hope that readers and industry professionals understand that we are only addressing this situation in response, and are considering legal proceedings only after attempting to resolve the matter directly.”

And more Dreamwave artists came out of the woodwork, claiming non-payment. Most didn’t want their name mentioned (but did ask for James’ email address).

One emailed me to say, “Some of us here do not like the way the situation with James and Adam is being handled (or mishandled).

“But those of us who feel this way have jobs and some of us have families. But everyone is looking for a new job because we don’ t think this bodes well for this company that only a short time ago seemed to have so much promise.”

I now understand Pat Lee was served with a notice of an impending lawsuit against him and Dreamwave should Adam and James not be paid the money they are owed by close of business a week last Friday.

Nothing was forthcoming, though I understand there was a lot of hot potato passing at Dreamwave. James and Adam intend to sue for past monies due, breach of contract, and defamation of character.

Currently, Dreamwave are limiting their public statements to spinning the situation, such as last week’s press release announcing new creators on the main titles. Apart from that, there’s legal silence.

From one company that keeps its problems hidden, to one that lets everybody, creators and fans alike, in the loop. MV Creations. Unlike other studios and publishers, everyone knows the score, understands the situation and the whole affair is a lot more tolerable. If you can help them out, click here.

UNSTABLE SPEECH BALLOONS

[Green Light]

Did you all buy the first “Fantastic Four” hardcover? I did. Did your copy have a printing error? Mine did. Did everyone’s? Seems so, All the speech balloons from two pages turned up on one page by mistake. Here’s a hurried scan.

You know, there were similar lettering problems with that “Daredevil” hardcover. For such high-production-value-items, twice is a little problematic. Hope they’ll all be fixed for the Barnes And Noble three-in-one edition.

ROBOCON

[Yellow Light]

Before 3H Productions, in charge of Hasbro’s official Transformers Convention, lost the license to do the show, they were meant to have produced “Transformers Universe” #1.

The book has now emerged under Destination Entertainment LLC’s Preview’s listing, as well as a Fan Club magazine previously only available through the 3H convention.

Destination were previously meant to be responsible for the Transformers Profiles books until continuity changed mid-creation.

Any wonder people are now expecting Destination to be the, well, destination for the Transformers Convention?

I wonder if they’ll show that Citroen ad?

THERE ARE TIGERS

[Yellow Light]

AP Comics seems to be under PR strain, just as Tony Lee jumps on board. Creator Jack Lawrence, now the artist of Mike Bullock’s “Lions, Tigers And Bears,” has been alleging that his creator-owned deal was taken from under him, or he was mislead when signing it – which is why the comic “Darkham Vale” can continue without his involvement of payment.

A while ago he stated, “Now for the bit that really breaks my heart. Unfortunately, I don’t own the rights to ‘Darkham Vale.’ I was stupid and naive at contract stage, and didn’t realise the enormity of what I was signing away. You live and learn, I guess.”

As he states, “I have absolutely no doubt that ‘Darkham Vale’ will re-emerge. I doubt that I’ll get anything for it, and I expect my name to appear only in the fine print on the inside front cover under copyright.

“Just to clarify: I’ll never, EVER work with APC again. I’m moving in different circles now, and I’m happy (and very impressed) with them. When the new ‘Darkham Vale’ comes out, I will have had NOTHING to do with it, and it won’t have anything at all to do with the REAL story of ‘Darkham Vale.'”

Of late, the adrenaline has been pumped up, as Tony Lee started posting more, especially after the announcement of a Darkham Vale TV series including the following, “Yes. AP have had problems with creators. But this is changing.”

Mike Bullock decided to take the cudgel on Jack’s behalf, but Tony made AP’s position clear. “If you REALLY think that you were screwed by a publisher, TAKE THAT PUBLISHER TO COURT. The citizens advice bureau will help you with free legal. There are tons of ‘no win no fee’ companies who wil ALSO take your case. Take AP to court and get DV back.

“However –

“If, by some chance it turns out that you weren’t screwed, that you just didn’t read the contact even after being told to take it to a lawyer TWICE, that you decided yourself that they meant one thing when if fact they meant another – then that’s not them screwing you, that’s you screwing YOURSELF….

“You can hate AP all you like. Yes, they were probably grade-a cocks about things. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But I do know you weren’t screwed. I do know you didn’t read the contract.

“Why? Because if you had, you would have REALISED that you were signing ‘Darkham Vale.’ I’ve read the AP contracts. They are a bastard – but they do cover EVERYTHING.”

Jack Lawrence countered with, “Anyone, ANYONE who screws someone else over, whether intentionally or not, has to accept that that person won’t be happy about it. End of story. By your own admission, they’ve made a mistake. I was always brought up to know that making a mistake isn’t wrong, refusing to correct it is.

“I can’t afford to take them to court, I’m actively poor. I’ve got a lawyer, who has told me they categorically CANNOT do a new series, they’ve responded they can, what am I supposed to do? I just want to make a living, tell some stories and chat with friends. There’s not enough room in my life for all this negativity, not when so much is happening that’s very, very good.

“As far as keeping me in the loop, APC always maintained that I’d have to sign a completely seperate contract for it to move into other media, so I’ll know when that happens anyway.”

Tony’s attempts to move this to private e-mail saying, “I will do what I can to at least ensure you get what you deserve” concluding “And believe me, I don’t get off on all this – I HATE confrontation!” saw the conversation (especially with Bullock) get even more heated.

As the debate kicked off across the media once or twice, it started to resemble a plate of spaghetti.

I’M A HACK

[Green Light]

It’s a cover! It’s for “Hack/Slash: Comic Book Carnage!” And for some reason it’s in Lying In The Gutters!

ART STALKER

[Green Light]

I understand that Dreamwave no longer have the license for the Drew Struzen artbook.

Speaking of licenses Dreamwave no longer have (and how smooth was that segue?), “Darkstalkers” is currently doing well for Udon. Here are covers and artwork you shouldn’t have seen anywhere else before.

The first issue has been selling well due to a well timed cross promotional campaign with Capcom’s “Fighting Evolution” game, which the UDON guys also did the ending art, promo posters, and game packaging.

I understand a second print is already on the way, with Joe Madureira doing a Special Limited Editon “Power Foils.” This one?

SPAININI

[Yellow Light]

With the Spanish Marvel license moving from Planeta-DeAgostini to European Marvel License Dominator Panini, it seems possible that Planeta will be moving over to publish DC. They already have the Wildstorm license from May. Planeta are the biggest comics publisher in Spain, a huge comics market, and while DC has been marginalised at smaller publisher Norma, this could be a reversal of fortunes.

It appears that Norma representatives blanked Dan Didio at the recent Spanish Comicon, but Planeta invited him to their booth. And current Spanish DC editor at Norma admits that he’s not sure who will be publishing DC there from April…

APOCALYPSE NOW?

[Green Light]

Kevin Smith has started submitting new scripts for “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do.” Honest.

BOLT FROM THE BLUE – Added 12/01/04

[Green Light]

You know how Tim Bradstreet likes drawing people standing in front of brick walls?

Tom Raney prefers lightning bolts.

District X Outsiders

LEE ON MOORE, MOORE ON WHOEVER

[Green Light]

There’s a new BBC Radio interview show being recorded at the moment, where one individual interviews someone else of their choice for a half hour. Next week, the interviewee become the interviewer with someone of their choice. And so on. Called “Chain Reaction.” The first, recorded on November the 29th, has comedian Jimmy Carr “Cats have nine lives. Which makes them ideal for experimentation.” interviewing comedian Jenny Eclair “Good to be here. I came on the train – I think I managed to pass it off as an asthma attack.” Should be perfect.

But an upcoming show has one of my favourite modern comedians and director/writer of “Jerry Springer The Opera,” Stewart Lee “Talk to the stigmata!” will interview Alan Moore. And the next week, Alan Moore will interview someone of his choice.

I can hear Suprnova.org’s engines running even as we speak.

They’ll be giving away live studio tickets here.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE LINKS

[Green Light]

Jonesing for new Black Widow action?

Will this do?

Adam Hughes! Live action pen-on-paper action.

The Mark Millar conspiracy kicks off!

Warren Ellis’ first novel hits Amazon.

Last week, on eBay, I sold a copy of Grant Morrison’s “Lovely Biscuits” (winging its way across the pond as we speak) for £50. With which I bought these:

Now I’m after a pushchair, carry strap and car seat. Give my child mobility by checking out my new eBay listings.

TIME FOR ANOTHER LUDICROUS IDENTITY CRISIS RUMOUR

[Yellow Light]

Okay, has everyone gone now? Time for my first whited out “Identity Crisis” rumour.

Not so ludicrous it seems.

The killer is Jean Loring, using The Atom, her ex hubby’s belt.

Killing Sue Dibny was an accident. A crime of passion. Everything else has been a cover up.

Including the self-inflicted hanging scene. Remember the knot they found? Round the doorknob, so when someone opened it, she’d be hung and then could be rescued.

And we’re back. Batman, eh? Who’d have thought it.

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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