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Welcome to the one hundred and eleventh 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.

GLOBAL VICTORY

[Yellow Light]

With “Global Frequency” well underway in its TV development, Warren Ellis recently posted the current TV logo on his blog DiePunyHumans. But what else is going through the TV process?

I understand both “Mek” and “Tokyo Storm Warning,” written by Warren Ellis and originally published by Wildstorm are also in TV development as we speak.

And soon Warren Ellis will control each and every eyeball. Hail Ming.

DEGREES OF SEPARATION

[Yellow Light]

British DJ John Peel says he once asked Alan Moore what it was like seeing two women at the same time. Alan replied “Hell.”

Neil Gaiman was once physically sick when Alan Moore described a scene he was writing for “From Hell.”

Neil Gaiman is promoting the availability of free, signed copies of the “Sandman” parody issues of Cerebus, signed by Dave Sim. They’re free to anyone who writes to Dave requesting them and telling him why they want one.

Write to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc

P.O. Box 1674 Station C

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

I did!

TOP TABLE

[Yellow Light]

It wasn’t that long ago that Top Cow were denying that they had any deal going on with DC Comics (despite well-placed sources stating that Top Cow had been sharing publishing breakdown information in preparation to an outsourcing deal). But then DC did a deal with Top Cow-Lite studio, Michael Turner’s Aspen. After all, with many ex-Top Cow artists, DC could get a certain fan-appeal without having to deal with another full Image founder studio.

However, recently Michael Turner declined to continue the Aspen arrangement.

There are also recurring rumours that DC are again turning to Top Cow to outsource books and projects for them at standard DC tariffs (less than Aspen were getting). I’ve also been told that in return for accepting such a deal, Top Cow may be allowed to publish a number of Top Cow/DC crossover titles. This also means guaranteed income – something very valuable in the current market.

DC employees have thrown dampeners on the outsourcing rumour however and Matt Hawkins from Top Cow also denies much of this. He tells me, “Top Cow and DC are doing a couple cross-overs which they want to announce at Chicago, but we haven’t had any packaging discussions with DC and they weren’t part of the X-over deal. With the success of the X-Men packaging we did with Silvestri and Marvel, we’ve been talking to Marvel about doing more packaging related projects, but there haven’t been any discussions with DC. This isn’t to say we woudn’t do DC packaging, we would, it’s just not something that’s been discussed.”

The thing is, I’ve seen hard evidence that indicates that it has indeed been discussed.

Intriguingly, Michael Turner has been wanting to do “Soulfire” for some time now, even before he signed on to do the DC work, but legal matters with Top Cow prevented that. So Turner took the DC gig as a result – which has only made Aspen stronger in the eye of the market, and now in a better position to compete with Top Cow.

TEAM POLITICS

[Green Light]

I understand that while the current Image Teambook project, featuring Spawn, Dragon, Witchblade and Shadowhawk has stalled, there’s another Image super-team book in the works featuring a different lineup of heroes and a variety of creators. Conceived by Jim Valentino, the book is called “The Pact.”

STRAW MAN ARGUMENT

[Yellow Light]

“The Last Straw Man” was an eagerly anticipated Image comic book by Jim Krueger and Brett Weldele solicited for publication last February. For various reasons, the book has experienced numerous delays.”

Brett’s was a little annoyed at having to do a bunch of work-for-hire for free, only to find the book disappear. Earlier today, you could have read the entire issue online from a link in this column but open permission has now been withdrawn by the site holder.

I am however assured that while the book was promised for October, and may not appear in solicitations, it is to see publication, probably in November.

With “Julius” from Oni” on the stands and “The Surrogates” due from Top Shelf next year, you can also see pages from that last project and the second issue of “The Last Straw Man” here.

HE MANACLES

[Yellow Light]

Val Staples of MVCreations contacted me to comment on last week’s
rumours about MVC dropping licensed titles, including He-Man in the
near future.

He writes “We’ve been saying for over a year that at some point, we would probably stop publishing licensed books and focus more on freelancing. When exactly? Who knows.

“We’ve had and continue to have a lot of fun, but still have burdens weighing heavy on our shoulder (the biggest being CrossGen’s bankruptcy filing). Still, if a property came along that we were passionate about and the licensor wanted to work with us, we’d want to publish the comic or publish through Image Comics if they were willing.

“In reference to Masters of the Universe, if there came a point where we ceased to publish the title I would have no clue why another publisher would want to jump on board the license.

“I’m a bigger MOTU fan than almost anyone alive. I know this brand inside and out, better than Mattel actually. I own and run the biggest fan site for the brand in the world ( www.he-man.org ) and have my finger on the pulse of what most fans enjoy. The main artist, Emiliano Santalucia, is a MOTU fanatic and a huge fan favorite on the series. He has every single detail of the new toys memorized and has worked hard to insure that every aspect of the comic is dead on. I’d publish this comic as long as I could, even as a B&W hand-stapled short-run if it came to that.

“Despite that passion, we’ve had to fight tooth and nail to produce a product fans might enjoy given the restrictions in place. We’re at the licensor’s mercy, and that’s just how it goes. All deals sound fantastic at first until things get underway. Why another publisher would want to fight to publish a book that – under performs in comparison to most Marvel, Dark Horse, and DC comics and trades – is limited to a finite list of characters (names, origins, designs, etc) from the new cartoon only – does not allow for the creation of any new characters, vehicles, locations, etc – and is plot-directed by a specific Mattel department, preventing freedom for a publisher to
tailor a story to our older comic audience is beyond me. That would be like watching a masochist cut himself repeatedly and think ‘Wow, that looks like fun! I want to try too!’ Would it be possible that an interested publisher is also masochistic? They’d have to be.

“There you have it! I love comics, and hope to freelance and publish as long as I live. I also love MOTU more than almost anyone and always want to be involved in a MOTU comic. But I’m also quick to admit, it’s tough out there but we have willingly stuck our neck out many times because we care about our products. If we ever stopped publishing a title, it would be purely because our creativity was stunted and/or the budget for the quality we wanted to present far outweighed the profit the title could produce.”

COMPLETE AND UTTER CLINT

[Red Light]

The preview of the cover to “Avengers” #502, shows Yellowjacket, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and the Wasp with the line “One of these characters will die!”

Simultaneously word reaches me through the pro grapevine that it is indeed Hawkeye who is for the chop. But they don’t call it a grapevine for nothing – it’s not exactly a solid link…

PROFIT CLAWS

[Green Light]

As the new “Albion” series from Wildstorm and IPC picks up steam, Titan Books are continuing to add IPC archive reprint collections to their 2005 schedule. I understand that both “The Spider” and “Steel Claw” will see print in 2005.

This is no coincidence. DC Comics informed Titan Books of their project’s existence, leading Titan to decide there could be some cash in this…

ITALY CONFIDENTIAL

[Green Light]

The Italian webmagazine Comics Code has let a few bits and pieces out of the bag. And thanks to my Italian readers for the translations.

There are some new pages from “Smoke,” by Igor Kordey and Alex de Campi (which you first read about here)

Then there are some preview images of “Grimjack” – probably from IDW.

And an interview with John Bolton lets slip that he’s workjng on a project with Mike Carey. And that he’s also “embalming some bats I’ve found in my attic. They’re excellent as models”

More at Comics Code if you fancy brushing up on your Italian…

A REAL TROOPER

[Green Light]

Paul Ridgon, artist for the first book in their Mongoose Publishing’s “Starship Troopers” graphic novel trilogy will be stepping down from art chores for the first book and Sam Hart, artist of the middle book of the trilogy will be stepping into his shoes.

Tony Lee, writer of the series explained.

“Originally we had Paul Ridgon on book one, with Jim Brady on inks. Second book was Sam Hart, and then Jim was on book three on his own. Jim found that he had taken on too much commissioned work and had to step back from book one so that he could clear it in time for book three, and this left Paul working two jobs. Then today Paul contacted me – he’s had some personal news that has him all over the place – and it was decided that it would be easier for Paul to swap with Sam and take over the second book.’ Tony went on to state that this doesn’t however affect the upcoming ‘Mythlands’ comic and animated show project that he is currently working on with Paul.

“Paul’s been with me on this since the Antarctic Press pitch. As long as he is able to work on it, he’s there for the duration – but private life comes first. If Paul’s delayed, then the project goes on hold until he’s ready.”

With Sam’s moving, the trilogy is now as follows –

STARSHIP TROOPERS – BLAZE OF GLORY

Book One – Alamo Bay – Tony Lee / Sam Hart

Book Two – Dead Man’s Hand – Tony Lee / Paul Ridgon

Book Three – Damaged Justice – Tony Lee / Jim Brady

BENDIS LIKE BECKHAM

[Green Light]

The title has nothing to do with this article. I just liked it.

Neil Patrick Harris dishes a little background about Bendis’ problems with the execs involved with the Spider-Man MTV Cartoon.

Neil says, “Bendis wrote the original pilot, then he backed off and became a supervising producer. I think there were too many people with comments on how it should turn out. It was MTV, Marvel, the producers and different writers, so I think he felt it was important to withdraw, which is too bad because I think he’s a really talented writer.”

FOR FORSAKEN’S SAKE…

[Green Light]

All it was, was an “accidental” “swipe.”

But by linking the first issue covers of Image’s “Powers” and “Forsaken” in the column a few weeks ago, seems to have brought added attention to the new book. Coupled with rave reviews and sellouts on pre-orders, the book will debut at Chicago Wizard World – and if you haven’t preordered, it may be the only way you’ll find a copy.

My advice? Rush the Image stand. It’ll be like the good old days again.

TALENT SEARCH

[Green Light]

As a result of San Diego, I have a few comic-related projects on the go. And after the success of “Holed Up,” I’ve been approached by other publishers asking if I have any ideas.

And I do. A fair few to be honest. And I’ve got publishers interested. And if anything falls through, it may well be published by my own owned publisher, Twist And Shout Comics, rising from the grave.

So I’m looking for artists. Anyone who fancies having a look at a script or two, send me a few pages of sequential art (no pinups) that show you can tell a story, to richjohnston@gmail.com. Any genre or style, but it’s got to be comics.

You’ll get a response in 24 hours. If I think you’re suitable, you’ll get a script in response – and then you can tell me if you’d like to draw it.

As always though, first come, first served…

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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