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This is the sixty-fourth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the comic industry’s mostly-favorite rumor column, gossip sheet and celebrity dirt rag. Your regular host, Rich Johnston, is still out on holiday and asked me to fill-in. While I’m not the media darling that previous guest host Ian Ungstad is, I’ve tried my best to live up to the lofty standards you’re used to. Without further ado, let’s get on with the (peep) show.

FROM FRANK WITH LOVE

[Yellow Light]

Face it. “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” wasn’t what most comic readers were expecting. It wasn’t a by-the-numbers sequel to “Dark Knight Returns” with a re-tread of the original, but turned up a notch. And I’m glad. Some people might have been quick to condemn Miller to be the downhill climb, but I think we can still look forward to his upcoming work.

More details have come to light about the Batman project that Ian Ungstad reported last week. Robert Morales (“Captain America: R, W & B” and “Captain America”) mentioned over on the Millarworld forums that he’d heard some rumblings about Mr. Miller’s next work. “Frank Miller’s doing a graphic novel in his black-and-white Sin City mode, wherein Batman takes on terrorists. He has a script, no fixed deadline, and total freedom to approach the storytelling in as many pages as he sees fit. Last time we talked about it, he’d hit page 30 and hadn’t yet started the main plotline; I hear he’s currently nearing page 100, and the story’s in full sqing. How long it’ll be when it’s done is anybody’s guess-but it’ll be worth any wait.”

And don’t forget the other comics Frank’s mentioned in the past… a western comic and one about Jesus Christ, aptly titled “Jesus!”

CHANGE IS CONSTANT(INE)…

[Green Light]

The film version of DC/Vertigo’s “Hellblazer” seems to be falling into place with recent press releases and un-official rumours. Here’s a quick & concicse run-down of what to expect.

While no official movie script has been found online, the short plot circulating shows John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) joining forces with “skeptical policewoman Katelin Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister. Their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exist just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles.” Co-starring with Mr. Reeves and Ms. Weisz are Tilda Swinton (“Adaptation,” “Vanilla Sky”) as Gabriel, Djimon Hounsou (“Lara Croft II,” “Gladiator,” “Amistad”) as Papa Midnight, Shia LaBeouf (“Holes,” “Battle of Shaker Heights”) as Constantine’s sidekick, Chaz, and Gavin Rossdale (lead singer for Bush) as Balthazar. This is the film directorial debut of Francis Lawrence, who’s best known for directing music videos for Will Smith, Britney Spears and Aerosmith. Filming is set to begin on September 22nd in Los Angeles, and they’re aiming for a September 17, 2004 release.

With the spotty success of even getting a comic book film made, I’m not betting too much on seeing this until I’m sitting in the theatre. On the other hand, to quote Keanu Reeves… “Whoah!”

THE ‘NIUGA!

[Green Light]

I haven’t seen much of Trent Kaniuga lately. He was last seen in comic stores doing the art for the Marvel mini-series “Ghost Rider: Hammer Lane” with writer, Christina Z. But fans of this and his earlier series, “Creed,” can rest easy because Mr. Kaniuga is hard at work on several promising projects.

One of these is a pitch for an animated series entitled “Nova Colony.” The concept is based on work by Jimm Showman, with whom Trent Kaniuga worked on “Scud: Tales From The Vending Machine” several years ago. “Jimm is a brilliant writer and when I read his first draft I almost pooped my pants laughing,” Trent said. Although the series hasn’t been picked up (yet), it is being represented in conjunction with “Brain Tangent” for animation.

   

He’s also in talks with an un-named Swedish company about “drawing a worldwide release comic book again”, according to his Web site.

   

   

   

   

When contacted, Trent said “the new comic book project is about a monk living in a future where characters from the ‘Creed’ universe have lived for hundreds of years and evolved on their own. Without going too much into the story, I’ll say that it’s very loosely based on Creed as if he were a legend, or a fairy tale from long ago; though creed may not even appear in the story.”

Trent continued, “The production is going slowly and somewhat steadily, though I have not locked down a final publishing agreement for the production, I’m planning on having it released as a very large painted book. I’m also pitching this one for game development, and animation as well, but I can say that it is not a ‘Creed’ title.”

Mr. Kaniuga asked that I make sure to mention that neither of these products are confirmed for release. “Many times a pitch is put together, and never bought, and many times an intellectual property is acquired by a network for the sole purpose of not producing it (as I have myself experienced in the past with ‘Creed’ the animated series and ‘The Fuzz’ through Top Cow).”

BRIT: COLD DEATH

[Green Light]

Hot on the heels of the recent release of “Brit” from Image comes the sequel, “Brit: Cold Death”, in December. Over on Robert Kirkman’s forum, Robert says the plan is to “put out two Brit books a year… or so… depending on how the second one sells.” That’s in addition to the monthly title “The Walking Dead” from Image, which is also by the “Brit” team of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.

IT’S MILLAR TIME!

[Green Light]

I have a feeling that 2004 is going to be a big year for comics. In additional to the slew of titles already announced by Grant Morrison & Warren Ellis, Mark Millar let loose with some vague hints in a Q&A as to what he’s got planned for the future.

“Punisher is a go. New Marvel project is something I’ve started, but they don’t want fill-in art and so we’ll stock up before announcing. Expect new [information] around November or so.” The Punisher he mentions is a mini-series with Frank Quitely due to come out to coincide with the release of the Punisher movie next year. The “New Marvel project?” Millar later mentioned that “it has nothing to do with X-men. And it’s not Ghostie either. That’s much later.”

As for what’s planned after the Ultimates… “Post Ultimates, Hitchy and I are doing 12 issues in 12 months of a very big Marvel book. After that, SUPERMAN!!!! Whether DC likes it or not.” With the phrasing of “a very big Marvel book,” it would lead me to assume that it’s a book already in publication; begin speculation. As for “Superman,” Bryan Hitch recently signed a exclusive deal with Marvel up until 2006, but hey.. isn’t 2006 when Millar & Morrison have projected the next golden age of comics?

And as if that wasn’t enough, he also hinted at a possible “Battle of the Planets” issue(s) with John Cassaday. He’s a tease, isn’t he?

He also mentioned that he has an abundance of video game work in the future. According to MM, “by next year I’ll be contracted to be spending half my time in video games and half in comics. All for Marvel. Weird, eh?”

THERE”S NO X IN GAIMAN

[Green Light]

As soon as Grant Morrison announced his exclusive agreement with DC, various names were bandied around as possible replacements. One of the most common was Neil Gaiman. Maybe it’s because of his newly-formed relationship with Marvel and the work on “1602.” Maybe it’s the speculation that the “next secret project” is the “New X-Men.” As much as I’d like it to be true, after researching this most of week I can pretty well assure everyone that it’s not in the cards. In a correspondence with Mr. Gaiman, he frankly stated that “I’m not sure how to say ‘It’s not true’ in any way than to point out that I’d look an utter dickhead if I’d spent the time from Grant’s announcing he was quitting until now denying it if it wasn’t true.” So to those who’ve been speculating on Gaiman run on “New X-men,” it’s time to pick a new candidate.

BWM ’04

[Green Light]

What comes once a year to comic shops nationwide and has readers come specifically to the store for that one reason and has a guarantee of quality? No, not Free Comic Book day. I’m talking about Brian Wood Month in January. Last year seemed quite a success with the release of such titles as “Couriers” and “Jennie 1.0,” and 2004 shouldn’t disappoint, with issue #3 of “Demo” and “Couriers 02: Dirtbike Manifesto.”

Wood also has several other projects lined up that he mentioned in his latest newsletter, such as “Life During Wartime” (previously mentioned on LITG), “Supermarket” (an ongoing monthly), “Shifting Weight” (OGN), and “Kate’s Mountain” (OGN).

ZEROING IN ON THE X-MEN

[Yellow Light]

Chris Claremont is considered one of the primary people responsible for the success of the X-Men. His run on the title with John Byrne, and continuing throughout the eighties & early nineties changed the book from a 2nd tier book to a franchise for Marvel. Later, Claremont & Marvel hit a rough patch of the road, but Claremont came back and is currently writing “X-Treme X-Men” for Marvel.

Over on the X-fan Forum, Chris Claremont often responds to questions by fan about details of his writing. One reader mentioned some loose plotlines in X-Men history, which prompted Mr. Claremont to reveal that…

“I did propose a series: ‘X-Men Year Zero,’ to deal with the time-frame between Xavier losing his legs to the opening scene of X-men #1 (1963). It would go into the origins of his relationship with Sage, and Sebastian Shaw, [Xavier’s] recruitment of Jean [Grey], their adventures together, back-story concerning Logan and his gradual decision to form the X-men.

“Marvel chose to pass on the proposal.”

There are probably tons of pitches by proven creators that for one reason or another have been rejected by comics publishers. I’m sure the publishers all have their reasons. But wouldn’t this have been an interesting mini-series?

DC IN THE MANGA BUSINESS?

[Green Light]

Seems like DC’s trying to get a piece of pie when it comes to manga. Over on Time Warner’s Web site, there’s a posting for the position of Manga Editor for Wildstorm. Job duties include indentifying “commercially successful titles for acquisition” and editing “up to 10 monthly import editions.” Requirements include being fluent in written and spoken Japanese. There’s also “approximately 25% international travel required,” so get your bags packed!

ONCE UPON A TIME

[Yellow Light]

According to Bill Willingham’s Web site, “Fables” has been optioned as a movie. Mr. Willingham mentions that he’s just received a copy of the movie bible from “the movie people.” “It’s a pretty big document and right there in the middle pages it reveals who the Adversary is. It just spills the beans – all the damned beans – beans all over the place.” Later, details about the plot emerge; “As it stands now, much of the first three (four?) arcs will go into the film: ‘Legends in Exile,’ ‘Animal Farm,’ the ‘Caper’ story and ‘Storybook Love’ – but minus the first arc’s murder mystery. But this is far from carved in stone. It may all change – including no movie at all.” While attempts by this intrepid gutterati to track down the aforementioned movie bible were unsuccessful, brownie points to whomever can snag it first.

And if that wasn’t enough “Fables” news, be on the look out for a “Fables” OGN in early 2004. When James Jean, “Fables” cover artist was contacted about the possibility of his work on the project, he said it was “interesting,” but “too premature to confirm anything at this point.”

BIG EXPLODY STUFF

[Green Light]

Following up on a previous LITG rumour, Warren Ellis has provided more details about his upcoming project with Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong) entitled “Ocean”. In Warren’s words, “I’ve written a six-issue creator-owned sf serial for Wildstorm called ‘Ocean,’ to be illustrated by Chris Sprouse. And by written, I mean written. Wildstorm have all six complete scripts. 150 pages of big explody stuff, diamond spaceships, ocean moons and an armada of floating corpses. I started work on it back in 2001, and I guess it’ll see print in 2004.” If everything goes right, Warren Ellis is in line to take over Brian Michael Bendis’ unofficial title for having the most projects out at one time in 2004.

UP & COMING

[Yellow Light]

Details are sparse at the moment, but former “Necrowar” artist Adi Granov is is working on a number of covers for “Iron Man.” There’s also rumours of another Marvel project with Granov that’s more than just covers, but no word on what that might me. “Necrowar” has recently been canceled, but I really think Adi Granov’s a talent to watch out for. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself at his Web site.

BETTING ON HORSES

[Yellow Light]

Ben Caldwell, artist for the upcoming “Star Wars: Clone Wars” comic adaptation, is scheduled to launch a creator-owned title with Dark Horse afterwards entitled “The Dare Detectives.” Caldwell promises lots of “crooked beauty queens and renegade robots and sinister fortune cookis and everything else that makes books worth reading.”

MIRACLE WORKERS

[Yellow Light]

The much rumoured “Mister Miracle” series by Jeph Loeb seems to be falling into place. Adam Hughes confirmed on a recent Gaijin Studios’ Q&A chat that he’s “waiting for the script from Mr. Loeb.”

BLIND ITEMS

[Red Light]

What recently canceled series was originally outlined as twelve issues, then backslid to eight, and then just as issue four was finished, cut to 6 issues? The creative team re-worked the story to fit in the remaining two issues, only to find out after issue 5 was in stores, that there would be no #6. The artist was then conveniently available to work on the company’s newest franchise book while the writer had to seek employment elsewhere.

Lastly, be sure to check out the newest edition of Rich’s Waiting For Tommy, which is an insightful interview with former Marvel editor, Jason Liebig.

Well, that’s it for me. Rich Johnston will be back in full force next week, so be looking for that. Thanks for reading!

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