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I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the corners of my trousers rolled. Welcome to Lying In The Gutters number 74.

This is the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Over ten years dammnit! Written by British comics commentator, me, Rich Johnston, it’s read by comic book professional and reader 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.

The traffic lights are there for your own protection. The Red light indicates that the content of the piece is most likely a mixture of agenda and confusion. Amber means at least the agenda is tempered by facts. Possibly. And Green means it’s true.

Probably. Ah, you never know. Could always be a first.

If reprinting from this column, please only reprint a relevant portion of an article and include a link so people can get the rest. That way, glory lies.

On with the show.

AND THE CURSE IS PASSED ON…

[Green Light]

Over at Jim Starlin’s Web site, Jim has been posting pages from his “Thanos” series. Here’s today’s:

Those teeth are bared at you, Keith… looks like we have a new “Thanos” writer.

TALE OF TWO SPINS

[Yellow Light]

What’s with Marvel right now? Cancellation/suspension of Epic, Namor, Tsunami trades, Deathlok and who knows what else? A seeming disregard for certain creators, a lack of PR presence and a feeling that the bad old days of Marvel are back?

I’ve been briefed by a number of people this week, both inside and outside the company, all of whom should know what they’re talking about, and a number in direct contradiction with each other. Okay, let’s get into it and see if I can find a tortuous metaphor to string along in the process.

When Marvel was embroiled in bankruptcy and it was doubtful whether Marvel would survive in its present form, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada were given pretty much carte blanche to throw anything at the walls to see if it stuck. Mad press releases, press conferences, interviews and messageboard postings became the order of the day. Marvel diversified into new business practices. News stand magazine anthologies, instant trade paperbacks, flash animation, media manipulation, niche comics, dotcomics, stunt assignments, media appearances, stunt casting, arc storytelling, no overprinting… some of it worked and increased interest and orders, some of it didn’t, and was junked.

Now Marvel is profitable, and its publishing side is very profitable. But suddenly some industry people are saying that all those risky ventures, rather than being seen as something the company can easily afford, are seen as a waste of good profit making opportunities. Rather than throwing anything at the wall, Marvel has retreated into flinging good old-fashioned mud, as well as a couple of things like chunks of superglue that were discovered along the way. And no one should be sticking their head above the parapet of network television.

It seems bizarre that only when a company is about to go bust, does it try and do something interesting that expands the idea of what the company and its products can achieve, but it’s not uncommon.

But is it back to safer and steadier. With Bill Jemas not on hand to rock the boat anymore have Dan Buckley and Gui Kayro pressed cruise control?

While that’s the impression some have given, other Marvel sources have suggested otherwise. That they’re just a lot better at controlling leaks right now… certainly creators seem a lot less willing to speak out of turn than they used to, and to reign it in when they’re caught out. I’m told that there’s plenty of wild bizarre stuck in the hold, it just isn’t time to dock yet. With DC being open about some of their big plans, like Jim Lee on Superman, Marvel have taken to holding back their spoiler projects until the time is right. Could this be a summer of filling the shelves with Marvel – including a flood wave of Tsunami?

Hey didn’t this kind of tactic of Marvel’s use to be DC’s? And vice versa?

Some industry sources have seen Marvel’s recent moves to throw overboard a number of Bill Jemas initiatives as conservative business decisions rather than personal politics. This could see Jemas’ move at Marvel explained as one of mutual consent, since he wasn’t being allowed to pursue the directions he wanted at Marvel, due to the change in status of the company, and the rise of Avi Arad. It was Arad, after all, who is credited with putting the damper on the creator-owned aspects of Epic which saw the likes of Millar and Jr Jr go elsewhere – after all, if creators owned their work, what would he have to exploit as license potential? While it seems clear there is personal animosity between the two, Jemas’ shift may simply have been a valid business decision for the company. Or could this just be a perception based on erroneous information? That in fact projects we may believe to have been cancelled, have just been… shifted?

So what is Marvel? A newly-conservative company, clamping down on risky media and product exposure now that the company is in profit? Or a clever company full of creative energy playing the waiting game, with a few embarrassing rearrangements? Or both? For a very Marvel-centric version, see the New York Times.

Either way, it should give me something to write about. I hope…

SUMER’S END

[Green Light]

Mark Sumerak, assistant editor to Tom Brevoort, resigned from Marvel on Friday. I understand he’s off to Ohio with his new wife!

A VERY AMERICAN FINGER

[Green Light]

A version of the original cover DC rejected for the Uncle Sam Vertigo series U.S. has found its way onto the cover of the Village Voice.

For more about comics, politics, Alex Ross and Neal Adams, go here.

“Everyone’s asking why are we in Iraq? We were sold a bill of goods. This is a show of strength to scare the rest of the world-go after the obvious bad guy. It’s like Batman going after the Penguin because he can’t find the real villain, the Joker. Batman would never do that just for show-that kind of thing only works for lone justice anyway, not with countries” – Alex Ross.

Maybe John Byrne is right, superheroes and politics shouldn’t mix…

VIEW FROM THE HILL

[Green Light]

Something pretty from the upcoming “Silent Hill” comic from IDW.

 

TOP COWED

[Yellow Light]

I’m told that Top Cow has resolved outstanding issues between the company and J Michael Straczynski. Look forward to more “Rising Stars” next summer.

I also recall that JMS requested, amongst other things, a personal apology for the way he’d been treated. If anyone’s got that on tape, feel free to send it in.

GOLD OWED

[Green Light]

In last Wednesday’s Waiting For Tommy column , as well as reprinting his Epic pitch for Guardians Of The Galaxy, Christopher Golden talked about his life and work. During which, he confirmed a report from last week’s LITG that William Tucci has still to pay him for work done on the last Shi series – just as Tucci is signing up a deal to publish Shi though Dark Horse.

I talked to Tucci during the week. I asked if the new deal with Dark Horse would enable him to secure payments to outstanding creditors and he assured me it would. He also reminded me that he financed and published Christopher Golden and Tom Snegiowski’s creator owned properties, “Thunder God” and “Dogs of War,” so it’s clear their relationship goes way back.

As to Craig Gardner, Tucci told me, “To my knowledge we are all caught up with Mr. Gardner, but it will literally flip my lid if he is owed and promise, payments, a nice steak and my deepest, most groveling of apologies.”

An email was sent to me through a mutual acquaintance from Mr Gardner, stating, “Never paid me the last 2 grand. I gave up after sending them two invoices and making three or four additional phone calls. Feel free to talk about it all you want.”

How does one literally flip one’s lid? Answers on a postcard to Billy Tucci…

SHI HITS THE FAN

[Green Light]

Newsarama interviewed Billy Tucci about his move to Dark Horse. In doing so, Newsarama reprinted the following cover from “Shi – Illustrated Warrior” 5.

One bright lad named “cadge” with just two posts to his name, followed that up with a reference from a Victoria’s Secrets catalogue.

It’s like looking in a mirror…

BARTWORLD

[Green Light]

While Tony Blair may be appearing in the “Simpsons” TV show, a couple of Scots have been appearing in the new Simposons comic, issue 88.

It’s Mark and Grant everyone.

GOLDEN PLUG

[Green Light]

And a quick thanks to Christopher Golden for sending me this plug for his upcoming novel. Oh go on then. If you must.

“THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN is about Will James, who returns to his home town for a long weekend to celebrate his tenth high school reunion, only to discover that reality is somehow changing before his eyes. He remembers the way things are supposed to be, but his memories are beginning to change as well. Someone is altering the past in ways that devastate his life in the present, and Will has to figure out how to stop it.”

Out in February apparently…

CUT OFF A BREAST TO SPITE YOUR FACE

[Green Light]

Well, the Manga Marvel trade paperbacks we referred to as being on Amazon recently, have been pulled from the listings. Boo.

The relationship between Marvel and the likes of Amazon could do with a little improving. With inaccuracies as to up-and-coming product commonplace, it appears that existing, published and printed trade paperbacks may not even be seen. Because the original “Essential Tomb Of Dracula” was initially cancelled by Marvel, the resolicited and republished volume isn’t even listed on Amazon or BN.com. Someone really should be monitoring this most important retailer relationship…

JACKSON HIGH FIVE

[Green Light]

According to South African media mag Tiscali, Samuel Jackson is very aware of his appearances in “The Ultimates” as Nick Fury and has been talking with Avi Arad about pursuing that possibility in another format. I bet that makes Avi Arad very happy – and when Avi’s happy, everybody’s happy!

HOT ARTISTS

[Green Light]

Here’s a Frank Quitely pinup for an upcoming Brazilian comic, “Farenheit 100,” a spy adventure comics from Big Jack Studios.

DAYS OF SHOOTER PAST

[Green Light]

After recent LITG plugs, Fred Hembeck and I have been talking about old stories. I remembered reading the Marvel UK reprints of his Assistant Editor’s Month issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” years ago as a young child…. When Fred spilled the beans that the issue in question was edited by the regular editor! My childish illusions of that Marvel stunt month were shattered.

Hembeck promises more stories behind that very special comic to come, but also shares another full-Hembeck Marvel comic, “Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe” which came years before Sergio Aragones’ version. Originally, the title was “Jim Shooter Destroys The Marvel Universe,” and while announced in 1983, didn’t see publication until 1989, due to creative, editorial and political difficulties.

It’s a fantastic story and you can read the whole, disastrous tale, right here as well as the missing and pre-redrawn pages. These are just the self-destructive tales that make you realise that, yes, the comic book business is just like every other entertainment business – petty, self-centred, self-important and deluded. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

HE MAY GET VERTIGO, BUT HE CAN SEE THE PUB FROM UP HERE…

[Green Light]

People who enjoyed Glenn Fabry’s work in the “Endless Nights” volume (like me!) may be happy to know he’s working on a new six issue Vertigo series, as soon as he’s finished the “Kev” comic he’s drawing for Wildstorm.

NEW WARRIOR

[Green Light]

Well, Darick Robertson has been a controversial figure of late. With the “Deathlok” series going on hold for Marvel’s internal reasons, he posts on his messageboard about the situation, then deletes it, and another conversation about the “postponement”.

But that’s not the real controversy. The ex-“Transmetropolitan” artist has been caught out in a true travesty, a real trangression against the laws of decent society.

Ladies and gentlemen, avert your eyes. Avert, avert. Darick Roberston has been…

…dressing as a Jedi.

Any Photoshop folks who’d like to play with this image, aka Star Wars Kid, feel free. The best ones here, next week.

NO GAMES

[Red Light]

There’s been a rumour going around that Games Workshop, the role-playing game retailer, distributor and publisher was about to buy 2000AD and its relations from Rebellion, to publish themselves.

Turns out, this was an elaborate game of Chinese Whispers that seems to have originated from Games Workshop and Rebellion talking about licensing deals. So look forward to more 2000AD-related RPGs and iddy-widdy-diddy metal figures. But not Tharg working behind three tables that look a little like Middle Earth.

MERRILL PERIL

[Green Light]

Andy Merrill of Cartoon Network’s “The Brak Show” and “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” let slip that DC is already collecting stories for a second hardback volume of “Bizarro Comics,” for which he’s already written a Superman story.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

[Yellow Light]

To celebrate 40 years of conspiracy theory, here’s a new one. Who Killed Oliver Coipel?

DC are in the process of reprinting as trade paperbacks a host of Legion Of Superheroes material. It’s about time, and Paul Levitz is a big fan of the series.

However the upcoming trades are expected to miss out the first four years of the “Legion series, after which Coipel left. Trades will start with the first non-Coipel arc, and future trades will run from that point.

Surely it couldn’t be just because he left to go to “Avengers?” Something deeper? Pure coincidence? Magic bullets?

RECRUITING IN THE GUTTERS

If any creator or studio would like to share their recent experiences with Image Central, please do. If anyone has stories to share about Hank Kalanz, now’s the time. And if any C-list creator or above (you know who you are) has any Epic pitches to share, write in.

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@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk (which often gets full, but it’ll reach me during the day)
  • 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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