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Welcome to Lying In The Gutters number 73. The last column of my twenties. I count being 30 as still in my twenties because I’m obstinate. But as of Friday, I can ignore the passage of time no longer. Arse.

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 this time. 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.

STREET WALKER

[Yellow Light]

It appears that UDON Studios, creators of the Street Fighter comic line, will be leaving Image Comics imminently, to join ex-Image studio Roaring Studios at ex-Image studio, Devil’s Due.

Why not collect the set?

PLAY AT MARVEL

[Green Light]

Marvel’s latest jobs at Monster.com give away their upcoming intent. Click here if you want to be a Marvel Video Games Producer, or here for the lot!

Talking of new jobs, Bruno Maglione is starting a Marvel International office in London? Looks like someone I can start stalking then…

CELL BLOCK NIXED

[Yellow Light]

Anne Nocenti’s return to Marvel has been long rumoured. It appears she had a new planned Marvel project with artist Paul Azecata. Entitled “Cellblock Six,” it was a non-superhero title set in a female prison.

Originally approved by Marvel, it seems co-Bill Jemas successor, Gui Karyo, may have turned it down. But editor Nick Lowe still wants Nocenti to work with Azecata on another project…

SHI MAY BE THE REASON

[Yellow Light]

Billy Tucci’s deal to bring Shi to Dark Horse has brought a few skeletons out of the closet. Namely creators who claim Tucci still owes them money from past “Shi” work. They include Tom Sniegoski, Chris Golden and Craig Shaw Gardner.

Years after the payments were due, and despite repeated promises at conventions, there are still disputed payments. Whether the new Dark Horse project will resolve this, is yet unknown.

POUND FOR POUND

[Green Light]

Here’s a new one. Diamond UK revising their dollar/pound rates in favour of the UK – a 2 to 3 % drop. That doesn’t seem to have happened for a while.

As of last week, a one dollar comic book will cost UK retailers 48 pence instead of 49 pence. Now this might not affect the 60 pence to 75 pence UK retailers charge. Two dollars becomes 89 pence instead of 92 pence. And 3 dollars goes from £1.36 to £1.32. But it’s a nice Christmas treat for UK retailers this year.

NOW, NOW

[Green Light]

The reported revival of Now Comics is no more. Tony Caputo wrote to potential investors, “Just a quick note to let you know that I ve decided to stay focused on my creative endeavors, at this time, and negate building NOW Comics into anything beyond that.”

Tony then clarified, “NOW Comics will be alive and well for many years to come. There will be no investors in NOW Comics who own majority interest but me. I will not give up my plans to run a huge company without the appropriate staff requirements. It’s a complex business decision that is important for the longevity of NOW Comics and to avoid repeating the past.”

WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?

[Green Light]

Mark Millar, British comics writer de jour, has been doing a little 1984-style rewriting of history of late.

When Brandon Thomas asked him about his upcoming Top Cow series, “Wanted,” “‘Wanted’ has been billed in some circles as ‘Watchmen’ for the super villain set. Is this something that occurred to you when constructing this series, and is your mission statement to redefine what we think when the term ‘supervillain’ is thrown around??”

Mark Millar replied, “I didn’t really get the ‘Watchmen’ connection myself, but the press who mentioned this are from the mainstream and I think what they meant was that ‘Watchmen’ was a very realistic, real world book about superheroes and ‘Wanted’ is a similar kind of approach to costumed supervillains. As someone who stood outside the store for twenty minutes and read ‘Watchmen’ issue twelve because I couldn’t wait to get home, I suppose I should be happy with the comparison. It’s a nice compliment.”

However, a quick flip through old Usenet posts reveals that when this was conceived as a DC project, a “Society Of Super-Villians” series, Millar wrote back in 1998, “I’m going to get working on another big twelve issue thingy, this time a ‘Watchmen For Villains’ called ‘The Secret Society Of Super-Villains.’ The book starts in ’38 and brings the DCU bad guys right up to date in an uncompromising, weird, brutal series which charts a history we’re all very familiar with from the perspective of the bastards with the freeze guns and death rays……”

Busted, Mark.

As for other rewriting of histories, Millar has also claimed in an interview that, when pitching for ‘Red Son,’ “It’s not as if they didn’t know what to expect. I’d made my name a couple of years ago with a stint on a radical superhero comic called ‘The Authority,’ where I wrote about the world’s first gay comic book crime fighters…”

He wrote “Red Son” before he wrote “Authority,” and has been repeatedly pointed out, there were plenty of gay superheroes before Apollo and Midnighter… previously he attributed such claims to sloppy journalists, but these are his own words here…

Busted twice, Mark?

A SLIGHT HITCH

[Green Light]

Bryan Hitch has been talking about delays to “Ultimates” 12… and what could be interpreted as a little Paul-Levitz style action by co-Bill Jemas successor, Dan Buckely.

Hitch originally wrote, “unfortunately the book was pushed back repeatedly due to factors out of my hands. The latest was concerns from the publisher over some content that had to be adjusted and toned down a little. Ah well. This issue pushed all of our patience to the limit, but I just hope you all like it when it finally comes out.

“The up side to this is that issue 13, double sized as it is, should be out with much less waiting between issues. Sigh. Not my fault this time, honest.”

Bryan then clarified, saying “I moved house just as I was starting the issue which put me behind a couple of weeks; the issue needed some tweaking after it ballooned to 28 pages, however Mark was very ill for a little while and had trouble rousing himself sufficiently to do the dialogue. Editorial asked for more changes (most slight); our colourists was so backed up that he was constantly told to prioritise other books knocking ‘Ultimates’ further down the schedule and then when it was all in the office and due to go out the new publisher asked for a modification of some content (which, oddly had already been approved in the writing, pencils and inks stage which he felt was counter to the tone he was after. A slight change was made to a page very quickly, but due to the time difference between London and NY it knocked it back a day meaning (due to the vagaries of publishing) another week off the schedules.

“It has been a bit of a train wreck for all of us, actually and one we are glad to have finally seen off. Normally this should have been out weeks ago, but circumstances being as they are it has been pushed ever further back.

“I should add here that contrary to popular opinion, it has rarely taken longer than a day to draw a page of ‘Ultimates.’ The delays aren’t due to it having taken extra time to draw an issue, but extra time to deliver it. There has been such massive and constant upheaval over the last fifteen months that it has been impossible to settle into a comfortably stable and productive work pattern until the last few weeks. Of course, it’s going to take time for this to show, and I would love it if we could get the first few issues of volume two done before publication, that way we could go back to the same publication rate as the first four issues of vol 1 (monthly) and get the momentum going again.

“Keep your nuts crossed!”

Conversation then crossed message boards to Millarworld where a few people were naturally concerned at what appeared to be a publisher getting down and dirty and hands on with editorial. Hadn’t we seen the last of that with Bill Jemas? And the mention of “tone”… wasn’t that a bit like Paul Levitz? Notably on Authority? Bryan tried to head things off at the pass.

“Before this gets out of hand, let me say again that there were only slight changes made to the issue. Mark had done some re-dialoguing (which is not unusual) and there had been a change ordered to the art by our new funny hat-wearing publisher which was not done by me and I only saw after the fact. I had it changed back and made a different, lesser change that seemed to cover the bases and cover concerns about the graphic content of the issue.

“New to the line, Mr Buckley felt that with the wife beating in issue 7 and the supposed violence in 12 and 13 we might be too graphic for an all ages book. Once it was discussed and made clear that ‘Ultimates’ wasn’t exactly all ages and we were working within the parameters set by Bill before him and that he could be accommodated without any drastic reworking of the material things were fine. His concerns were of course valid, and taken in isolation the image in question was gruesome, however when taken in the context of the story it’s actually pretty funny overall.

“My only objection was that initially these changes were made without any consultation with me and were not originally made by me. Once we got on the same page we were able to fix the problem without any fuss. As far as I can tell at this time, the issue went out pretty much as I intended.

“This sort of thing happens all the time, and I wouldn’t get my underoos in a knot. This isn’t the ‘Authority’ (and the only editing I suffered from there was the removal of Angie’s nipples) and this isn’t a Millar/Levitz scenario. It was an editorial concern that was dealt with easily and isn’t really newsworthy at all. It was just mentioned because in a train wreck of a schedule on this one, it just caused a further delay.

“Glad it’s over, went to press last week, should be out soon.

“Roll on volume 2.”

Further still, “Actually If we were selling the same numbers at image as we are on ‘Ultimates,’ we would be making more money. We had that choice, but after meeting with Marvel (Bill and Joe) there was a party going on we were more interested in joining. New Landlord and new ideas. But to further clarify, the book did go out as I intended, all that was changed was a small headshot of Fury (sort of a follow through shot) which was substituted for another shot to help clarify a point of action. This way I was allowed by Mr B to show the gruesome shot as originally drawn. All fair and groovy.

“So, when your ridiculously delayed U12 comes out and you pour through it wondering about what was changed: in the end very little and nothing of consequence. I only mentioned it as a contributing factor (along with a horrendous house move, a very sick writer and an overworked colourist to name but three) to the overall lateness.”

A publisher editing for content over the morality of the work previously approved by editorial did seem a little Levitz-style. Hitch painted a rosier picture, and it certainly doesn’t seem anything like as extreme as what happened to Mark Millar’s Authority. But is this a new publisher learning the ropes, settling in, and finding what works and what doesn’t? Or is it a sign of more to come?

MERIDIAN LINE

[Yellow Light]

With CrossGen books getting cancelled, then re-cancelled even earlier than expected, what future for the devoted fans of the Sigil? Well, I understand that “Meridian” may be returning as a series of novels by Barbara Kesel. Start pestering your bookstores now…

DESPERATELY SEEKING YOUNGBLOOD

[Yellow Light]

With plans for Rob Liefeld to return to Marvel shortly, despite being belligerent about Joe Quesada and New Marvel of late, other commitments may be falling by the wayside. “Youngblood Genesis” 2 and “Youngblood Brigade” 2 have both seriously slipped. Meant to ship in August, according to Arcade Comics boss Jimmy Jay, then September according to Liefeld, then a month ago, Genesis and Brigade writer Brandon Thomas said he’d have a sneak peek of Arcade Comics projects in following week or fortnight, without joy. Now Marat Mychaels, the artist on “Brigade,” has announced a special offer, cut price rates on doing commissions. Slightly odd for a fellow meant in the middle of drawing a mini series…

What’s going on? Is Liefeld bailing on Arcade – the company he once said would kick off “the revolution that will turn the industry on its head?”

Rob Liefeld chose to comment on this rumour and speculation…

“The update on all my plans, Arcade, Marvel and beyond are as follows, both Genesis and Brigade have fallen victim to talent jockeying, specifically, coloring and inking setbacks. The colorists and inkers I have been working for have become much more popular with the two big pub’s following the release of ‘Youngblood: Bloodsport’ and ‘Youngblood: Genesis’ and as a result, I have patiently pushed back deadlines in order to accomodate the quality of the work on these titles. I have made no bones about the fact that I would rather have a job I liked than one that is slapped together by interns in order to meet a dealine. I also don’t mind pushing back some deadlines in order to accomodate the aspirations of the extremely talented folks around me. Marvel and DC seem to be the only career facelifts worth a lick to young talent and in the long run if it makes folks happier and the work is better than it’s a good thing.

“‘Youngblood: Bloodsport’ is my fault as always as I continue to re-draw pages until they are as good as my meager talents can produce. Unfortunately, my main career earnings for the last half decade have come outside the comic business and as I uphold those commitments it pushes everything back. I fully understand that whether it’s a big 100 million movie like Disney’s ‘The Alamo’ or my little ‘Bloodsport’ projects being shuffled around the schedule, the media has an interest and a right to know the facts behind the decisions that drive the public batty. That said, ‘Bloodsport,’ ‘Genesis’ and ‘Brigade’ are on target for release early in 2004, say around January-February.

“As for any Marvel plans, for now my sole contribution to Marvel is providing ‘Cable/Deadpool’ covers.

“I am not intimately aware of Marat’s commission prices, but if he has cut them in an attempt to generate more interest it is no doubt in direct correlation to his being stiffed by CrossGen after producing issues of ‘The First’ that are currently on sale. He was hired at San Diego to do a number of fill ins for CrossGen and after failing to receive a single penny for the issue that was released 2 weeks back despite their numerous promises to pay him, I have increased his workload in the hopes to take his mind off of the runaround he is experiencing. He is currently producing ‘Brigade’ #2 and another top secret project for next year.”

As for Arcade, Liefeld tells me, “No chance of bailing and that revolution is still on it’s way, look for an exciting partnership coming to a computer hard drive near you in the very near future…”

Marat Mychaels wrote to confirm that this was a “holiday commission sale” that he does every year. That he is working on “Brigade,” but without a solid deadline, so he has time for private commissions. And that, as Liefeld stated, he has had CrossGen payments issues, and has yet to be paid for pencilling “First” 36, that shipped a couple of weeks ago…

HALF SHELLED

[Yellow Light]

Referring to a previous LITG story, I’m told that Rob Ruffolo is still at Dreamwave – he’s just stepped down from colouring TMNT because his Art Director job (at Dreamwave) was eating all his time.

ERRATA

[Green Light]

Some CrossGen notes for another rumourmonger… Andrea Di Vito remains Brath’s ongoing penciler… Wizard did not buy MegaCon… the decision of what to do with Negation after The War has not been made yet….

JET PLANE

[Green Light]

Waiting For Tommy has been hitting the headlines of late. First, Jamie Rich leaving Oni, then Geoff Johns leaving ‘Hawkman,’ what will Chris Golden be leaving on Wednesday? Maybe nothing, we’ll have to wait till then to find 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@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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