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Welcome to the one hundred and sixteenth 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.

So there you go.

BROWNIAN MOTIONUpdated 9/16/04 12:50 AM PDT

[Green Light]

LATEST 360EPM UPDATE: I understand Russ Brown, previous Executive Vice
President of Marvel for Consumer Products, Promotions and Retails Sales has joined 360EPM.

To counter some people’s expectations, 360EPM is not a comics start-up. It’s a multi-media exploitation company looking at creative concepts and making money off them any way it sees fit, with emphasis on marketing ideas. Sure there may be comic books as a result of its actions, but it’s not the focus.

More as it comes… as LITG slwoly seems to be turning into a blog…

360 UPDATES. AGAIN.Update added 9/15/04 12:20 AM

[Yellow Light]

Okay, only two updates so far, but the day is young.

A few more slots have been fitting together, regarding 360EPM (details below).

I hear Mike Doran, ex of Newsarama and ex-Marketing guy from Marvel
who was hired by Jemas and then let go after Jemas was demoted, will
be working with 360EPM in a marketing role.

I was led to believe that Mark Millar’s pocket of proteges, Mark
Peyton, Brandon Thomas and Barb Lien Cooper are being lined up for
projects at the company, though that seems less and less likely.
However, Mark Millar might have a surprise or two up his sleeve for
the company as well.

This is likely a tiny aspect of the company, expect an array of big
names to be announced – possibly in the Newsarama interview announced
as imminent on billjemas.com. Expect the kind of projects, in comics
and other media, that Jemas pushed for at Marvel. A varierty of
genres. Media-friendly concepts. Diversity of style. And the creators
that were invited to pitch, and write for Epic and more, but maybe
didn’t go as far as they’d have liked.

Oh, and Bill Jemas is richer than Mark Alessi.

I really enjoyed the books influenced by Jemas at Marvel. And from the
vibe I’m getting off this thing, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to be
a 360EPM zombie from the get go.

IT’S CALLED 360EPMUpdated 9/14/04

[Green Light]

With the new update to billjemas.com, Bill Jemas has set out his stall. In his biography, he states that he has left Marvel and is the Chief Executive Officer of 360epm.

360epm.com was created at the end of August and is held by Darius Hanby, webmaster for Hero Realm. Hero Realm host and provide the message board for billjemas.com

“rpm” stands for revelutions per minute. Could “epm” stand for “evolutions per minute?”

SQUARE DANCING

[Green Light]

After doing a little checking around it looks like, yup, 360 Squared is indeed the name of Bill Jemas’ new outfit as reported here last week. And he seems to be running around talking to the people he’s worked with at Marvel. Depending on their availability, look forward to seeing work published and represented across media by the likes of Mark Millar, Brian Bendis, Joe Quesada and more. Bill’s been talking to a lot of A-List talent, and anyone who feels they’ve been “Jemas-tainted” could see a reversal in their fortune. There is always the chance that 360 Squared might launch through Marvel in order to circumvent exclusive contracts, as well as allowing superhero concepts – something Jemas’ contract forbids him from doing for a significant period after leaving Marvel.

The website names 360squared and threesixtysquared have been registered, and the guy who owns them, Glenn Kohlberger, has received a lot of interest of late.

BOB A JOB

[Yellow Light]

Last week, we printed a job availability for a Senior Vice President of Sales And Marketing. As was pointed out, Bob Wayne is currently only a VP… making the new guy Bob Wayne’s boss. So what are the implications for DC’s marketing, public image and resources for the new hire?

The new hire will be both Bob Wayne and Rich Johnson’s (no relation) new boss, and they will both report into him or her.

Johnson heads up marketing to the book market for DC, and is held responsible for getting a New York Times bestseller out of “Sandman: Endless Nights” and credited with increasing DC’s book market exponentially. He currently reports to John Nee, and previously he reported to Dorothy Crouch – he’s used to reporting to others on paper but always reporting to Paul Levitz at the end of the day. Now John Nee no longer oversees the book market. And all those in charge of mainstream publicity, direct market communications and events will also report in to the new hire directly, or through Wayne and Johnson.

Bob Wayne, recently prominent over the Bendis/Batman/Daredevil bustup, markets to comic shops, the direct market, but has been used to going straight to the organ grinder – reporting directly to Paul Levitz. The change may be a blow to Wayne as for years the Direct Market has been run separately. Some describe it as “The Bob Wayne’s show” and that dealing with Direct Sales is “a complex, life threatening mathematical algorithm that only ex-comic book shop employees could understand.” If so, that may be changing.

Having both the book market and the comic book market under one department does make sense, but there will be consequences. Direct Sales have a much bigger marketing staff, while book sales and mainstream publicity departments exist with relatively few. Direct Sales have sales reps that call up Diamond comic book accounts on a weekly basis, but book sales only has three people to call on book and library accounts all over the US. Direct market communications have at least three people for a handful of websites and magazines while mainstream publicity has two people for the whole world. With CMX, Humanoides and 2000AD projects seemingly more suited to the bookstore market than comic shops, it is likely that there may be some major internal changes as part of the new arrangement.

AS-GOOD-AS-FREE COMIC BOOK DAY

[Yellow Light]

So what’s with John Taddeo bidding on CrossGen?

Taddeo was involved with Big Entertainment and Tekno, otherwise known as the CrossGen-Before-They-Were-CrossGen. Highlights included Neil Gaiman’s “Lady Justice” (which set a precedent for the huge amounts of money Gaiman’s name was worth in the Spawn case) and “Teknophage” (with art by Talbot, Veitch and Davison) as well as George Perez on Isaac Asimov’s “I-Bots” (apparently for an insane sum).

I hear as well as CrossGen, he’s interested in the Valiant comic catalogues. With CrossGen and Acclaim both out of business, time is right for cheap acquisitions, and an easy-ish return to comics publishing. While some may be broken up, this is not an asset stripping exercise on Taddeo’s part.

He’s not the only one looking. Apparently, Top Cow is interested in acquiring parts or all of the Valiant Comics properties, as a slightly-easier way to get a few high profile books to take the prime position after “Wanted” finishes.

DIGITAL VISIONS

[Yellow Light]

Look for Marvel to move over to digital inks, after one South American studio demonstrated a new technique, cleaning pencils, for a fraction of the inking rate. After repeatedly lowering their inking rates, this will simultaneously drop the bottom line for each comic, put a lot of inkers out of work and increase the burden on the penciller considerably.

JUDGE FLOOD

[Green Light]

Last night, on BBC4’s version of “Crisis Command,” where prominent individuals are given the chance to be government ministers presiding over a national emergency, Jason Kingsley of Rebellion/2000AD took centre court.

Alongside Penny Streeter and William Atkinson, they had to decide possible decisions during a flooding crisis of Great Britain. Starting off slightly wishy washy and very have-your-cake-and-eat-it, Jason suddenly went into decisive dictator mode.

“Leave the prisoners locked up!”

Their crimes don’t get the penalty in this prison, Jason

“They should get the death penalty”.

Yes quite. And what about the village in danger of being flooded?

“Flood the village!”

As for restoring order in London?

“Send in the Judges! Put them in the cubes! Drokk”

Okay, not quite. I wonder if Jason knows that Dredd’s meant to be the bad guy…

But I’ve suddenly got a lot more respect for the democratic process. Because no one’s going to elect a computer gaming comic publishing geek to a position of political responsibility.

Hear that Geppi?

BRITS IN BRICKS

[Green Light]

After last week’s Neil Gaiman As A Rat visual extravaganza, thanks to David Oakes, I’m pleased to present, Neil, Grant and Alan as Lego.

UNDER CUT AND OVER HERE

[Green Light]

Panini have released the English-speaking “1602” paperback by Neil Gaiman, a month ahead of its hardback release in the US, who don’t get a paperback till next year. £12.99, which is about $25 US dollars.

They’re also selling colour digest Marvel pocket books, reprinting classic stories in colour, eight issues for £4 or just $7 US dollars. Which is cheaper than Essentials costs per page – and in colour!

From Spider-Man/Vulture, Spider-Man/Goblin, Hulk and X-Men.

Looks like Amazon’s UK branch might be seeing a little more international traffic…

STAN EL HOMBRE

[Yellow Light]

Spain is a hotbed for Marvel comics – where more Marvel comics are sold anywhere save for the USA. And Marvel’s local licensee, Planeta-DeAgostini, is the most prolific foreign reprinter of Marvel Comics since 1982.

Well, from January next year on, the rumour goes that P-DeA will lose its license because European publisher Panini has decided to revoke it and keep it for itself.

Panini was once owned by Marvel, and during the bankruptcy, split itself off, taking the rights to use the Marvel name in a number of territories (including Marvel UK) under very agreeable financial terms.

Panini already publishes significant Marvel product in the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Brazil. But Spain would overshadow all of them, as far as market possibilities goes.

Spanish readers, go here.

ROMAN WALL

[Green Light]

I understand that Roman Dirge has put a block on Slave Labor Graphics selling copies of his comics abroad. Recently Diamond UK was told they’d receive no more copies.

It’s expected this may be the precursor to worldwide licensing deals for books such as “Lenore” and his other gothy disturbing kids books.

SUPER RUMOUR SQUASHED

[Red Light]

Last week, a rumour started circulating some of the higher industry figures that Brian Azzarello was going to leave or be pushed off “Superman” before the end of his run with Jim Lee. Got quite prominent, too, and though I seemed to have been the first to actually ask DC and Jim Lee about it, a flood of enquiries followed.

It’s not true folks. Denied at the highest levels. But how it started, and from such respected individuals, is quite a puzzle. An attempt by DC to squirrel out leaks perhaps?

DC SPLENDOUR

[Green Light]

Harvey Pekar is currently writing an original graphic novel for DC/Vertigo, to be illustrated by Dean Haspiel. Haspiel previously drew a strip for Pekar for “American Splendor” and as part of “Bizarro Comics” Volume 2.

Other fun things to come, thanks to a little embargo breaking on PopCultureShock’s part…

“Batman/Danger Girl” by Andy Hartnell, Leinil Yu & Gerry Alanguilan

A complete trade of both “Adventures in the Rifle Brigade,” “Blood: A Tale” gets traded, so does “New Frontier,” “Astro City: The Dark Age” starts, set in the troubling seventies, 2000 AD’s “Shimura” gets a trade and John Arcudi takes over writing “Aquaman.”

And, according to “Global Frequency” trade paperback solicits, it’s officially a TV series. Does that mean it’s green lit?

IT’S A SIN

[Green Light]

Go on, take down their server.

The Sin City Comic-Con footage.

PAGE BOUQUET

[Green Light]

Steve Pugh is one of my all time fave comic artists. He’s currently working with Brian Kirsten on “Rose From The Ashes“, a six issue Victorian mystery comic series, out early next year,

It looks gorgeous.

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]

Okay okay, not really a swipe file – more recycling in action. After all, an artist can’t actually swipe from themselves. Nevertheless, it’s good to see the attitude of Waste Not, Want Not in action in last week’s X-Force. Rob Liefeld once wrote and drew work for a series called Cable: First Contact for Marvel that was never used.

From “Cable: First Contact’s” gatefold cover

From “X-Force” issue 2

You can see other original pages reused for this issue of “X-Force” here.

Handy for deadlines!

But hmmm…. doesn’t Cable’s bionic eye switch sockets a little?

Look for pages from the original “Wolverine” 158…

..set aside as an inventory issue, to appear in issue 4, maybe? There seems to be a similarity of content with the released preview page….

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:rich.johnston@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.

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