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Welcome to the one hundred and eighth 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, back to normal now after last’s week’s aberration, 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.

THREE LITTLE PIGGIES

[Yellow Light]

I know, I know, it’s a while since I broke some really big comic events news. Okay, Jack Black on “Green Lantern” counts, oh and Ennis on “Ghost Rider” I guess, and possibly Warren Ellis on “Iron Man” and…

Okay enough. Let’s have some more.

There may be a delay on Adam Hughes’ “Batman” arc but look out for him drawing a new Wonder Woman comic book sometime soon.

Jim Lee’s next project will be the first six issues of the much rumored “Batman & Robin” book. Art Adams will draw the next six issue arc.

And Alex Ross is painting covers for “Superman.”

That do you?

MCCUBBIN DRUBBING

[Yellow Light]

Laurenn McCubbin gave a blow-by-blow account of her street poet knockdown earlier this week. But it wasn’t the only time things got out of hand at San Diego.

Also at one party, Josh Dysart got involved in fisticuffs, after challenging a bouncer who tried to prevent him from drinking water on the sidewalk outside the bar, citing local regulations. I’m told Josh was “introduced” to a nearby parked car. Thereby showing himself to be a true Vertigo writer.

Frank Miller tried his best to help by shouting “fight!” and to getting people to come and watch. Expect a video clip of Josh’s bravery to circulate online in the near future…

Would you want to mess with this man?

And a few comic book pros discovered they had groupies for the first time. Quite a revelation!

Lulu award winner Lea Hernandez was all glittered up at the Eisners. So much so, she was dripping glitter all over the place. A hell of a job for the grumbling cleaners to vacuum up later…

PATY CAKED

[Green Light]

Paty Cockrum has talked about the insult she believed John Byrne gave Dave Cockrum that caused her to request his exclusion from the Cockrum benefit book.

“Byrne’s comment: ‘Those are VERY tight pencils for Dave. One of the things that struck me, the first time I saw his pencils, was how many lines he put down. I called it the 1000 Lines Approach – ‘If I put 1000 lines here, one of them will be in the right place.’ It makes for some really beautiful, illustrative pages, let me tell you, but they must have been a bear to ink!

“That’s a direct word for word quote. Two insults to a compliment…typical Byrne behavior. which told me one thing. Byrne was getting in at the last minute to mollify his fans and to be included in a great book with the greats of the industry!

“And guess what…he hit my PISS-LEVEL!…”

Read all about it here. 21st post down…

STUDIO LINE

[Yellow Light]

So who are Marvel headhunting right now? Could it be diddy Adam Fortier? He’s made numerous splashes in the manga-eek world of licenses, robots and successful independent studios… Dreamwave, Devil’s Due, Udon, Roaring Studios, Udon, Grafiksismik, IDW…

In fact, I feel a special Studio Special coming on. And there are so many rumours about these people – a number in direct contradiction.

Dreamwave no longer have the TMNT licence – the reason there were no TMNT books up at their booth for sale during San Diego, due to contractual reasons.

However, rumours about their possible demise following a recent lack of paying creators and printers (hence the recent change of presses) may be quickly reversed. They signed major deals for producing new content for Marvel and Hasbro over the next few months, which should keep the dogs from the door. I understand Pat Lee has signed onto an “X-Men/Fantastic Four” series as well as X-23.

Hasbro have announced that the “G.I. Joe” license is being extended for a number of years for Devils Due, but no mention of what’s going on with the “Transformers” license.

MVCreations are ceasing publication of all of their licensed series, including “Masters of The Universe.”

TMNT and He-Man up for the highest bidder? I’m told behind the scenes at SDCC, it resembled a bit of a license fire sale and the chequebooks were being flapped around like nobody’s business.

Udon are doing visual work on an actual upcoming CAPCOM video game, rather than just the comic book adaptations of them. Joe Madueira will be drawing “Power Foils” for Darkstalkers from Udon. Of all the studios, the underdog Udon seems to be doing all right for itself. Their SDCC booth even got them in trouble with security. They sold out of their Capcom Summer Special, will be doing a special printing for Chicago Wizard World and then this version…

…was ordered especially by Capcom as a promotional incentive for game retailers, with a print run of a few hundred copies…

Despite denials from Udon, there were a number of Capcom artists at San Diego incognito. Shoei Okano and Kinu Nishimura were present, in background negotiation with Udon over the game mentioned above, to make the studio official Capcom artists.

“Thundercats” 5 is meant to be a heavy political allegory.

And if Adam Fortier doesn’t take the Marvel dollar, I understand he has a comic book line of his own in the works…

NEW STARS RISING

[Green Light]

Remember the “Shatterstar” series LITG mentioned last week? Turns out Brandon Thomas is writing it…

You can find a few other strange things on Marvel’s servers… what is, for example, Marvel Riot? Wolverine/Cyber? Mannites by Adam Warren and Ricardo Mays? And it’s Wolverine’s 30th birthday!

ART’S SAKE

[Yellow Light]

One story doing the rounds was that Art Thibert has been sent to Coventry over at Marvel. Replacing him on books with other creators, this is allegedly down to leaking some information about “Avengers” 500. However, Art denies having leaked anything.

Damn him, if someone was getting someone in trouble by spilling some information, they could have at least leaked it to me.

Look for creator-owned work by Art from Image Comics in the near future.

HE’S CREATED A MONSTER

[Green Light]

Frazer Irving, the 12 year old telling people he’s 32, is working on a Frankenstein graphic novel with Gary Reed (cover logo designs by Jim Steranko). 144 page book, manga digest sized, black and white. Aimed at a “younger” market, it’s bookstore distributed by Penguin, and published by iBooks.

MARY LOST

[Yellow Light]

The “Mary Jane” series from Marvel is currently on hiatus. Sean McKeever wrote four issues but was then asked to stop…

HELLISH LEE

[Green Light]

Lee Bermejo is the new artist for “Hellboy” and will take over the art on the title as Mike Mignola takes some time off from drawing the book.

WORLD’S FINEST

[Green Light]

Because not enough people have seen the San Diego-banned sequel to “Batman: Dead End” from last year… here is World’s Finest.

SAN DIEGO REVIEWING

I picked up lots of books at San Diego. Many for free. Many I paid full whack for. Let’s have a run through… interspersed with great San Diego photos…

TOMMYSAURUS REX by Doug TeNapel

“Tommysaurus Rex” has already been sold to Universal. And it’s an easy sell.

It’s a very different book to TeNapel’s last book, “Creature Tech.” It’s a story about a boy who finds a dinosaur and keeps it as a pet. Not a novel idea, and thematically both Sentinel and Iron Giant did it very well recently with giant robots. It’s simple, engaging, a story told with TeNapel’s natural skills. It’s a kids book, in the way that “Creature Tech” wasn’t, though. “Creature Tech” played with a number of themes, religious ideas and threw in enough mad ideas to keep the book crackling with energy. “Tommysaurus Rex” doesn’t, the answers seem trite and easy, explanations of character clichéd and boring, but maybe that’s only because I’ve seen them so many times. To fresh eyes, it should be as fresh as they are.

CARNET DE VOYAGE by Craig Thompson

Craig Thompson is a mental walking fallout zone, until he gets laid. That’s the message I took out of “Carnet De Voyage,” the diary written and drawn while travelling across Europe and Asia while promoting “Blankets.” And he really does suck you into his self-defeating mindset. More an exploration of himself than the countries he visits, you end up wanting to give him a big hug. Then walking away quickly before he asks you if you’d like a coffee. Available from Top Shelf Comix for $14.95. You get $5 off if your name is Rich Johnston.

CARSON CITY by Ryan Richards and Natalie Sandalls

“Carson City” is a world where everybody has a story. And everyone they meet has a story. And in this seedy, dangerous, frivolous place, it’s hard to know which stories are irrelevant. And which are responsible for the bag of money on the lawn with a severed head in it.

Given out at San Diego by writer Ryan Richards, and drawn by one of my drinking companions Natalie Sandalls, “Carson City” is a comic looking for a publisher who wants to make money selling it people looking for the next “Pulp Fiction.” Contact Ryan at www.messiahcomples.com.

FLIPPERSMACK PACK by various

I knew “Pinguino” seven years ago. She introduced me to the absolute necessity of the mobile phone, as she organised her life around it in front of me. Saw her briefly at San Diego in full promo-mad-on… she handed me her latest giveaway from Flippersmack.com, a batch of comics and mini-comics she’s promoting. These included her own “Handbook Of Penguin Martial Arts” (with the incredible insight that penguins can’t use chopsticks), the very impressive “Panda Days” by Jason Dube and the hilarious “Poorly Drawn Animals” by Joshua Hale Fialkov (and hail to his zombie rabbit strip “Must eat brains. Also lettuce.”)

These are young comics by people in their late teens and early twenties who want to change the world. If Marvel and DC had the guts, they’d give a bunch of comics to these people and let them do anything they wanted with them. Image’s “Flight” is an example of what might happen…

I miss Pinguino’s funness. Better text her I suppose. Find more from her at www.penguinpalace.com. This is her in full Star Wars Frenzy. Don’t hold it against her.

SUPERNATURAL LAW 101 by Batton Lash

Fresh from his Inkpot award, Batton Lash has released the “origin” issue of his long standing successful comic series, “Supernatural Law.” The fresh faced Wolff and Byrd at Law School and how they both become attracted to their particular field of expertise. I believe this is what they call a “jumping on point.” So come on people, jump!

“I’ve read about incorporeal property, but I haven’t found anything pertaining to the property of the incorporeal”…

HERO HAPPY HOUR SUPER SPECIAL by Various

I have just this very second killed a wasp with this comic – thankfully square bound. I think the wasp is dead. I might have heard a faint buzzing from the corner behind my wedding photo where it landed. It’s certainly incapacitated. Thanks for the freebie, guys!

Okay, it came back. It’s definitely dead now. Right, on with the comic. Which now has a slight wasp stain on the cover.

This is a book with a lot of creators adding their stories to the “Happy Hour” mythos. A bar where superheroes and villains hang out between stories. And there’s a hell of a variety here. Each mostly goes with one gag but the stories are short enough they get away with it. In, out, you’re never more than 3 pages away from something you might prefer.

BUNNYWITH by Alex Pardee

Never come across this before. Now I am the proud owner of a toy Bunnywith Siamese Twin and am looking forward to Bunnywith Squeaky Goiter.

The comic starts off with an iconic rabbit, Bunny. Spindly legs, no arms, male human genitalia. Then Pardee starts to get creative, adding accessory upon accessory to Bunny. From Bunnywith repetitive fucking 9 to 5 credit card processing job to Bunnywith Camel Humps, the variety and constant invention is infectious, with a very disturbing yet flexible art style.

There are two issues out now. I missed out on the second. Maybe the kind creator will read this and send me it. A true find of a comic.

A1 ISSUE 0, A1 BRICKTOP SPECIAL, A1 SKETCHBOOK by various

Atomeka’s back. And so is “A1.” Initially reprinting a batch of earlier classic A1 work, such as Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse’s “BoJeffries Saga,” Atomeka looks set to be a force in comics again, with plans to relaunch a number of their titles an new ongoing series. And in the “Bricktop Special,” they kick that off with Glenn Fabry and Chris Smith’s viceral sliced-up-life series.

Glenn Fabry draws vomit so very, very well. He’s a dab hand with shopping trolleys as well.

In the 0 issue of special note is Dave Gibbons and Ted McKeever’s “Survivor,” a chilling new look at Superman. It still packs a Krypton punch

The Sketchbook is diverse, full of cheesecake and beefcake in the most bizarre circumstances and, naturally, brings back Zirk, the universe’s most perverse flying elephant egg. Dave Johnson, Jamie Hewlett, Steve Pugh, Glenn Fabry, Bob Burden, Gary Leach (oh yes!), Brian Bolland… suddenly this is lowbrow for highbrows.

Comics are better for these guys being a part of them again.

YOUNGBLOOD IMPERIAL by Robert Kirkman and Marat Michaels

Produced especially in time for SDCC, this is an intelligent but back-to-basics relaunch of the team, including set pieces that will make a lot of people smile. From the totally over the top bloody violence of a head exploding, to the Captain Britain corp of some recognisable faces (and some that you have to squint to make out), this is a solid start to yet another relaunch of the comic that for one month was the best selling independent comic in decades.

Marat’s work doesn’t suit being scanned from pencils however, and many of the pages suffer from that. Kirkman’s wordwide agenda for the book is impressive and is encouraging for more issues to come. Worth watching (even if you have to squint occasionally).

HIRE THIS MAN by Joshua Boulet

Okay, this is nice. A portfolio printed as a comic, Joshua shows an engaging style in these short stories, some of which have seen print elsewhere. His work suits non-fantasy aspects though, and the Robocop piece sticks out badly. But a lot suggests a long career doing some very cool books. Contact him at joshboulet@hotmail.com

BONE – THE COMPLETE HARDCOVER by Jeff Smith

Printed by a Bible publisher, the transparent pages are the only flaw I can see in this superb volume. Glad I didn’t wait longer than Friday to buy it, I got the 138th copy of the 150 they brought with them. Huge. Wonderful. Epic. Gorgeous. Looking forward to the second volume.

BLOODHOUND by Dan Jolley, Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs.

It’s one of these DC books. Not allied to any other title, telling a gripping clever story all of its own, what are the chance it’ll make it past issue 12?

Who cares, like “Monolith,” like “Hard Time,” like whatever, you get what you’re given and enjoy it for what it is. Just don’t rely on any kind of TPB coming out.

This is “Marshall Law” without the realisation of satire into solid concepts. This is “Chase” with machismo. This is “Hitman” without the silliness. This is a man who takes down superheroes by being nothing more than human. And he’s not a great example of humanity at that. Nevertheless, inside prison, he shines like fucking Superman. Non-standard solutions, subversion of cliches, this is a fun book. More, please.

THE LAST SANE COWBOY by Daniel Merlin Goobrey

One woman against a town of talking horses and skulls, in the search for her brother. And then it gets weirder. A western with all the right cliches, yet turned on its head “Colonia”-style. If you like “Colonia” or Morrison’s “Doom Patrol,” you’ll want this. Check out e-merl.com.

SAMMY – TOURIST TRAP 1-4 by Azad.

Hey, I bought the “A Very Sammy Day” on the back of that promo that Azad put out, getting the Image four part series was a nice bonus and gave me some backstory to the volume.

And… it’s really entertaining. A young man beset by his world. Chraming, sweet, with just enough edge to stop it becoming saccharine.

PHANTOM JACK 5 by Mike San Giacomo, Mitchell Breitweiser and Jaime Jones

Yes, that cover.

Jack versus Sadaam and the international peace. Some great set pieces, good landscapes and beautiful colours hide serious art problems in this book. Many of the pages look like portfolio pieces of artists who aren’t ready yet or never will be. Any scenes with offices, or long distance groups of people show a serious lack of ability – which contrasts greatly with the close up shots which show a far better understanding of how to portray three dimensional people on the page.

Thematically, the relationships in the book play better than the journalism. There’s an idealism that matches the “superheroics” of the book that seems totally out of place in the newsroom. You bought it with “Transmetropolitan” because the rest of the book was totally exaggerated – with “Phantom Jack,” despite the abilities, there’s a grounding in reality making such idealism jar, no matter how much the pill is sweetened.

SHARPENINGS – THE ART OF LIAM SHARP

Liam’s work has such diversity that it’s a shame he’s never been able to put it all to use in one place before. “Sharpenings” does that, a series of illustrations that show off why he’d be a great Conan artist, why he could take Frazetta’s spot on the fantasy hierarchy, but also why he’s got the likes of Dave McKean in his sites. His palette is vast, and his aim is ambitious. At SDCC, I saw him with his list of commission requests and the prices next to them made be believe this is a man who can now do pretty much what he wants – and next year his Man Tor imprint may just do that.

NORMALMAN – TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL by Jim Valentino

As usual, Captain Everything barges in on normalman’s life, grabs him and takes him on an adventure, this time to San Diego. Pretty much everything and everyone gets done over. Friends, enemies, the lot. And it’s all true, every word.

This is Valentino Venting! You may also find a few oblique references to his dismissal as Image Publisher, too…

BROAD APPEAL by various women

An anthology of comics by women for everyone. And not all of them are really horrible strips inserted purely on the basis of the author’s gender, there are some really good pieces in there that would stand up to scrutiny in an anthology with some actual men in it as well.

Okay, mean, true, and it does make the work of Elena Steir, Mary Minch, Jen Benka & Kris Dressen, Jennifer Moore, Janet Hetherington and Donna Barr stand out… hang on that’s quite a lot, they can’t all stand out… oh damn it, okay, there’s some damn fine stuff from a lot of people here. Short, sweet, and in some cases, devastating. A worthy addition to the shelf.

FLIGHT by Various

Would it make you buy this book if I just said a colour anthology of comic stories from a variety of new creators themes around “Flight” from Image? Would it? If so, read that latest sentence again. Could well become an essential part of comics history.

KILLING DEMONS by Peter Siegel and Brent White

Okay now this is just scary. There have been a few horror books of late that have lived up to the name, here’s another. Nasty. Someone give these guys “Hellblazer” when Mike Carey gets bored.

LICENSABLE BEAR TM by Nat Gertler and various

One of my favourite comics of the con and it came out last year. The everyday adventures of a cartoon bear designed to find a license, a market to exploit, a reason to exist. Very funny, taking satirical shots at every target around it and occasionally verging on touching. Oh yes.

LESS THAN HEROES by David Yurkovich

This is what they should mean when they say grown-up, slice-of-life superheroes. Unneccessaary, self-rationalising, but part of your world. If you see one, you hide, because there’s trouble somewhere. Power attracts powers and these guys are the superheroes we deserve. And sometimes they even live up to the name.

HERE COMES… DR TRAN!

A trailer for a fictional (sadly) film, a voiceover has picked on a small East Asian child and is making increasing demands on his lifestyle. Some great gags throughout. DVD.

JUST ONE PAGE

Is auctioning off originals and statues. Help them out.

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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