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Welcome to the one hundred and sixth 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.

BRUCE BRUISE

[Yellow Light]

I understand Bruce Jones is the writer of the SuperStorm title, “Vigilante.” “Vigilante” was previously announced as being written by Micah Wright until he was dropped from the title. I understand Carlos D’Anda remains the artist on the project.

SMOKED OUT

[Green Light]

I while ago, LITG mentioned that Igor Kordey was working on a comic called “Smoke” with LITG fave new creator Alex De Campi. So, after dragging her to see the rather magnificenr Russian movie “The Return” one night, I forced her to tell all…

Alex tells me “‘Smoke’ is the story of assassin trying to go straight, set in an alternative London. It’s also about the decline and fall of Western civilisation – so in addition to the action element, there’s a lot of black comedy and satire. Both Igor and I have been very heavily influenced by manga, and one of the things we’ve carried with us into ‘Smoke’ (as well as an appreciation of the absurd) is the idea of giving the story a finite span. It’s structured as a maxiseries, and not a terribly long one at that.

“‘Smoke’ has been a huge amount of fun to put together. Igor has been a dream to work with. I was a bit worried when we started working together, because we’re both really strong-willed, and it could have ended up a lot of shouting down the phone at each other… but it hasn’t. He gets intuitively what I’m trying to do in the book – if you could see my scripts, the panel descriptions keep getting shorter and shorter as I just don’t need to tell him what to do. Also, his art has kicked into another gear entirely from his Marvel work. It makes a massive difference that he is inking his own stuff, because his inks are far more detailed and subtle than people are used to seeing with his work. He’s also inking his own pencils for ‘Castle of Djinns,’ the latest in the ‘Arcanes’ fantasy series by Jean Pierre Pecau for Delcourt in France.

“Oh yeah, and Rich, it’s totally your fault I’m working with Igor, because you were the one who gave me his email address at a Thursday night V drinkup just after he split ways with Marvel. I was possibly a few too many beers into the evening and was all like, ‘yeah, Kordey would do, gimme his address.” I was then too shy to actually email Igor, so I made Claire, one of the studio heads at House of Ra, do it for me. How junior-high is that? Anyway, I’ve since gone Straight Edge, and I’m slightly worried as it means I won’t be able to drunkenly accost well-known columnists for artists’ email addresses anymore. It was such a good method of finding artists.

“I’ve been really slack about looking for a publisher for ‘Smoke’ and must actually get my act in gear. There is a very short list of people I plan to corner at San Diego about it, but if anyone wants to speak to me beforehand, my email address is on my website.”

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

[Green Light]

Last week’s column gave my new email address as rich.johnston@gmail.com. Forget the full stop, it’s actually richjohnston@gmail.com. Anything you sent to the first address… send again! That includes any dealers inquiring about a Live Lying in the Gutters session for San Diego…

Now then…

STORM CASTUpdated

[Yellow Light]

I understand that Elisha Cuthbert, Kim in “24,” is to play Sue Storm in the “Fantastic Four” movie from Fox, though recent stories suggested Rachel McAdams had landed the part.

I wonder if her force fields will be able to hold back a cougar?

NEW CONVENTIONSUpdated

[Yellow Light]

Comic Con International: San Diego has been criticized in the past for moving the focus well away from comics into pop culture media in general, with a sci-fi/fantasy bent. And that comics have becoming sidelines, everything being about the movies or the TV shows.

So what way to theme the first three stories in this column, and what better place than San Diego for a wealth of comic titles from Marvel and DC to be announced being written by a stack of TV and movie talent?

So take a writer from “24,” Chris Gage from “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” a couple of “OC” people, including show creator Josh Schwartz, and Brian Posehn from “Mr. Show.”

Then mix and match with the DC and Marvel universes, and announce during con season…

NOT BASED ON A COMIC

[Yellow Light]

Talking of mixing media, I hear agent Ford Gilmore was overheard at a con bragging about selling a feature film project for a comic book artist – but its got nothing to do with comics. An original concept, sold to a name studio, to be written and directed by this unnamed artist.

I hear Marvel and DC won’t even let him do his own covers or write his own material, but he’s now got millions to write and direct…

NEW NOVA

[Yellow Light]

There’s a new “Nova” comic book series from Marvel in the works. A kind of “Starship Troopers” style comic, using the Nova Corp as an international marines-style team. The writers are believed to be Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

STATE OF PLAY: DC

[Yellow Light]

Has the lustre dropped from Dan Didio? Mark Millar’s Great Moustachioed Hope of DC Comics? Set against Mike Carlin by Paul Levitz in a Winner Takes All Battle for the soul of DC?

Right now, Marvel are back up in unit and dollar share of the market, both well over 40%. And while DC have put more books in the top 25, with the likes of Jim Lee, Mike Turner and “Identity Crisis” marketing, the bottom line has been slipping further and further.

The market seems to be exponentially rewarding successful books right now, while less successful seem to fall away more rapidly. And DC seems to encapsulate that trend right now.

What price the no. 1 spot if everything else is falling out of the Top 100?

FORCE FEED

[Yellow Light]

Hey, are you a US retailer? Fed up of your UPS delivery being late on Wednesdays, when competitors seem to have it that little bit early?

Well, on the CBIA Forum, Gary from Phoenix Comics had a tip.

“If you send yourself a next day envelope every week, the driver HAS to deliver it by 10am AND you can get your other boxes off the truck as well.”

The caveat being that if you have a separate UPS air driver, you may be wasting your money…

Still, worth a try!

RIDLEY’S GOT

[Green Light]

John Ridley is writing a “Warblade” mini-series from Wildstorm.

That is all. Move on people.

SPEAKERS CORNERED

[Green Light]

Recently on his Bad Signal mailing list, Warren Ellis asked “When did website columns go away?” As a pre-empt to writing a new weekly column again, for Comicon Pulse, he noted the virtual disappearance of what was once a very common form – comic creators writing regular columns online. And there’s not that many aroiund these days – Steven Grant, Beau Smith, the occasional John Byrne

But what seems to have taken that place is the creator-participating messageboard. While at one time the most prominent may have been the Warren Ellis Forum, there were many precedents to that, with Compuserve and AOL seemingly specializing in them. Peter David and JMS found Usenet gave them specific fora. While Joe Quesada, Image and ComiX-Fan set up creator-specific forums within their own sections, others campes out in book-specific areas. Tom DeFalco in ComicBoards’s Spider-Girl and John Romita Jr in their Spider-Man section are good examples.

Millarworld, while celebrating and promoting the work of Mark Millar has proved a successor to the WEF in that it’s embraced a number of creators such as Ethan Van Sciver, Ale Garza, Rob Liefeld and more (even Warren Ellis) who seem to have made it their own stomping ground as well.

The John Byrne Forum has a harsh moderation style, similar to Warren Ellis’ own “Stalin” persona. Indeed, a spin-off forum designed to allow off-topic discussion not approved of by Byrne or his moderators, has become a refuge for those disillusioned with Byrne, including a few of his more prominent supporters who seem to have now fallen from grace.

This encapsulates the main difference between the column and the message board – interactivity that can go in many different directions, and indeed in some cases turns familiarity into contempt. A constant flurry of negative posters in a creator-specific message board has led to individuals “quitting the Fantastic Four” and leaving the public Internet altogether – Chuck Austen’s reaction to his time on the ComiX-Fan forum being a prominent case.

So, is it time for a return to the creator-column as a form of creator-fan contact? One thing of note in Warren Ellis’ Pulse column, is that the response feature, where readers can leave comments, has been turned *off*. This is a one-way stream, rather than the back and forth of a message board. Easier to control, but less easy for a reader to relate to a creator by becoming part of the feature. There’s less investment, less motivation, less ownership.

But then, what creator wants to be owned by their fans, anyway?

And when is someone going to give Nelson a column? I’ve got a great title for it…

ETCH OF REASON

[Green Light]

At the recent Dave Cockrum fundraiser at MoCCA, Neal Adams was asked to draw… Etch-A-Sketch!

Apparently, it’s a bra hanging in a window

THE BEAT IS ON

[Green Light]

Every now and then another Website starts a rumour and gossip column and everyone tells me to watch my back.

But there’s only one column I’m really scared to read for the stories it will beat me to.

Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat is back. And it’s daily.

It’s the gossip columnists’ gossip column.

REPRINT FOR A REPRINT

[Green Light]

So, how many people’s copies of the Marvel Masterworks soft cover “Amazing Spider-Man” Vol 4 have the first eight pages, reproduced again instead of the second eight pages?

Surely not an evil plot by disaffected comic retailers, enraged by the lack of copies of said item made available to the direct market?

No, apparently not.

WHAT’S THE FORM?

[Yellow Light]

LITG goes all public service again… all CG creditors will need to file this form.

I hear that, CrossGen-wise, a lot of people are talking about Chapter 7 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 11. Which, yes, would mean the end of operations for the company.

In a related story, although CrossGen were no longer participating in Free Comics Day, it seems quite a few of their comics were being given away – Midtown Comics giving among other things, the first TPBs of both CrossGen Anthology TPBs…

TOY STORY 2

[Green Light]

Following on from last week’s “Spider-Man 2” toy discount sale at Target already, a reader writes: “ON the subject of the spiderman figures in walmart. I have been to my local WalMart (East Meadow NY) to pick up cheap Marvel Legends Figures and have noticed they have something close to a full aisle of just Spiderman 2 figures. I think they may have overodered believing that the movie would get all the figures sold, but they appear to have an entire truck full of Spider-man 2 figures all of just Spider-man on their shelves. No Doc-Ocks, no supporting characters, just Spidey. My guess is the collectors all grabbed the Doc Ocks and shortpacked figures and left the rest, and Wal-Mart is stuck with more spidey movie merchandise than I have ever seen in one place at one time. I wonder if this problem is just related to single stores, or is it a company wide problem?”

THE LOOK OF LOVE

[Green Light]

This is the logo to October’s London comic convention, by Roger Langridge. Or rather Roger Langridge doing Mike Mignola, Mike McMahon, Dudly D Watkins, Paul Grist, Jack Kirby and more…

Gorgeous.

LOCK BACKSTOCK

[Yellow Light]

I understand that Image Comics is currently liquidating a lot of backstock, in order to raise funds. Directly sold to Southern Californian dealers, they’re getting a bulk price of cents on the dollar to take the stock off Image’s hands.

Expect a lot of “Boof And The Bruise Crew” at a store near you…

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]

Everyone’s been entertained by “Youngblood” this week… and not the reoccurring spat between Rob Liefeld and Kurt Busiek.

No, as part of LITG’s new committment to stealing other people’s column ideas, the Swipe File is swiped again, this time showing off the artwork for Youngblood from Marat Michaels.

Don’t you love that shot of Northstar. Marat Michaels certainly does. Here it is when John Byrne did it originally in issue 8 of “Alpha Flight,” although Byrne rather shockingly decided to make it refer to human anatomy, considered each individual character’s position in space compared to each other, presented a well designed page and included a detailed background.

Still, can’t have everything.

FREE B)

[Green Light]

Free Comics Day has been a success for many. As usual, the UK version was severely hampered by the insistence (or apathy) that the same day be chosen for the UK. Not only do we have no “Spider-Man 2” at the box office, but the costs of delivering the “free” comics are multiplying due to air freight, and so many retailers participated half heartedly, if at all, and there was little or no publicity in the national or local media.

Please guys, next time, delay it a month or two and send the comics on the boat. That way, it may be more affordable and worthwhile in promoting.

Oh, and go on… click on this link for an increase in risibility.

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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