Welcome to the most popular and longest running comics column on the internet. In its various forms, Lying In The Gutters has covered rumours and gossip in the comics industry for fourteen long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals. But I urge you to use your judgment and remember, context is everything.

The traffic lights are an indication (and only that) of how reliable I believe the story to be, based on source, context and gut feel. Red lets you know I think this rumour is bunkum, but it is still one being spread about. Amber indicates I think there is a heavy bias involved here, or it just seems a little dodgy. And Green as far as I can tell (as far as I can ever tell) is the real deal, junior.

Nevetherless, do remember, Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced. Please don't shoot the messenger.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "He's lovely, a good laugh... likes a drink" - James McAvoy on Mark Millar.


[Green Light]It would take the lives of 29 people for actor James McAvoy to sacrifice his own. More on that later.

You see, I saw "Wanted" last Thursday, and had a little sit down with star James McAvoy and director Timur Bekmambetov afterwards. And you didn't. Sorry, sorry, I rarely get the chance to gloat these days.

It's a story of one man suffering ennuii and stress attacks over his average life, and his inability to care about anything. Some people take a holiday, have an affair, buy a new car. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy - "Shameless," "State of Play," "Last King of Scotland") is instead recruited by Fox (Angelina Jolie - every tabloid ever) to join The Fraternity, an ancient order of super-assassins led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman - every broadsheet ever). As mid-life crises go, it's a biggie.

For those familiar with Mark Millar and JG Jones' comic, you're going to see it very accurately reflected for about twenty minutes, before the film then goes on its own wild ride, though with a few snags and bulletholes from the original. It ditched the supervillains, it ditches the "bad guys won," it ditches the celebration of amorality of the lead.

But for all the themes and dubious morality it ditches, it grows its own. The familiar "if you could kill Hitler as a child, would you" thought appears, recast the assassins as agents of fate, killing one person to save a thousand, via the "Da Vinci Code." There are twists of motivation and identity. The morality is as dubious (and as sixth form) as Tarantino. And everything comes down to trains.

But what's most gorgeous about "Wanted" is the tone. The language, the visuals, the effects, have their tongue so far in cheek it triggers the gag reflex (in a good way). The film spends huge amounts of money, time and effort telling basic jokes. But they're far funnier as a result and fuel this rollercoaster of a ride with an energy lacking in the dour Wachowski movies. This is an adult superhero comedy masquerading as an action flick. It's fresh, it's fast, it's funny and it's one hell of a surprise. It really sells the whole "mundanity vs madness" theme running through the film, from the cascading cereal packets to the bizarre camera-mounted handguns. You're going to have your own favourites, from office meerkats to the crotch-watching car chase to the doughnut shot to swordfighting with bullets to Pottymouth Morgan. And watch out for "JG Millar"...

So, yes, I asked James and Timur what they thought of the "kill one, save a thousand" message, especially in relation to recent US justification for waterboarding terrorist suspects. Did they share these sympathies. James didn't. "I don't know that I necessary agree with kill one, kill a thousand. I don't know if I'd ever be able to bring myself to kill to save a million."

When I asked him how many peoples lives it would take to sacrifice himself, he laughed.

"It's weird, man, sometimes you get to make a really serious film and you get daft questions. Then you make a brilliantly daft action film and asked a really deep probing question about the inner workings of my very soul" before pausing and answering "twenty-nine." Timur said that he'd discussed the issue in depth with "Wanted" actor, Konstantin Khabensky, who offered his take that he'd kill a thousand to save one person, if you loved that one.

Fact Fans: James also revealed, as his usual voice coach was away, he trained his US accent by watching "Battlestar Galactica." Not a "frak" to be heard however. When asked if the film had had to be cut for American sensibilities, Timur recounted that the studio had asked for cut or deleted scenes for the eventual DVD release - only to tell them that there weren't any. They put on the screen what they filmed. And despite some reports, James is not starring in "The Hobbit" - though he's aware that's the image many people have of him.

James tells of an addition to the screenplay, and one that's very telling throughout, of Angelina Jolie's insistence that every bullet have a story. By concentrating on the bullets in flight, naming them, following them, watching their moves, not only does it give the movie a whole series of signature scenes, it makes each shot seem so very important. And justifies the film's insistence, at least until the end, to use gunfire sparingly.

Expectations are low but buzz is high. I really believe this has the potential to do a "300," to sneak in and around the "Hulk," "Indiana Jones" and the other blockbusters, surprise the shit out of everyone and find itself parodied on "Saturday Night Live" and on countless YouTube mashups. Especially the bullet bits.

Or it'll die a quick death and gain a large and devoted audience on DVD who will dress up as the characters and haunt comic book conventions forever. Either way, "Wanted" is about to impinge upon your life whether you see it or not.

If you left "Iron Man" with a big grin on your face, you'll do the same with "Wanted." You may even feel a little more challenged -- but don't let it worry you too much. You'll be grinning too much from the doughnut.

"Wanted" is released in the UK on the 25th of June, Russia on the 26th and in the US on the 27th. Have fun!


[Green Light]A few pictures from upcoming "Doctor Who's" doing the rounds.

There are indepth spoilers circulating for the last few episodes, which shouldn't be too hard to find. The V is a good place. But as of yet, nothing about the bees.


[Green Light]A while ago, a number of Brits started a government online petition for Alan Moore to be officially honoured.

Her Majesty's Government have officially responded.

"The Prime Minister recognises the achievements of Alan Moore and the widespread regard in which he is held. "This is highlighted by the hundreds of people who have signed the e-petition on the No 10 website calling for him to be honoured.

"You may wish to know that the Cabinet Office is actively seeking nominations for honours from the public. Please go to http://www.honours.gov.uk/"

Possibly the poshest "Not here, try somewhere else" form letter I've ever read.


[Green Light]I understand that Tone Rodriguez, unnannounced artist on theKirkman/McFarlane collaboration "Haunt", has been dropped from the first issue, paid for his work and a replacement found. The series is planned to be released at the end of the year.


[Green Light]Now. Comics. In French! I don't know, they come over here and steal our Clone Saga TPBs...

Marvel US? Time for another black plate change?


[Yellow Light]The internet has been full this week of reaction to writer Chuck Dixon's post that he was no longer employed by DC Comics "in any capacity."

While Dixon hasn't responded to LITG e-mails, he has provided some clarification on this situation at his Dixonverse messageboard and Gail Simone's forum here at Comic Book Resources and in the commet thread in Greg Hatcher's "CBR's Friday Conference" on CBR's blog, Comics Should Be Good.

Dixon first answered general online speculation, saying:

Just to counter some nonsense I've seen "reported" on other sites.

I did not quit.

I do not believe it had anything to do with politics.

My involvement with Robin ends with issue 174.

I think my BATO run is over with #10.

My Booster two-parter will still be appearing.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Storming Paradise continues on schedule.

For those keep score, yes, I was way ahead on both of my monthlies. Down the road perhaps I'll offer those scripts and you folks can help out Books for Soldiers as you so generously have before.

Dixon is still listed as writer for Robin #175, #176 and #177 on the DC website, though we can expect that to change. It does however demonstrate that Dixon's announcement was well outside DC's management of information. Given that issue #175 is due to ship in a month, it would take a serious parting of ways for Dixon to be dropped from such an issue so soon. We can also expect delays to this series as DC scrambles for a replacement issue.

Answering assumptions about his dismissal and prospects elsewhere, Dixon clarified:

There was nothing mutual about my leaving DC Comics. I would have preferred an impassioned Mr Dithers-style You're Fired!" to the way it was handled.

To clear up a few other notions, I have always had a great relationship with IDW (Ted Adams is one of the most trustworthy men in comics) and there were already plans for projects in 2009 before all this crap came down. Some cool, high-end stuff. Dark Horse has always been strange with me. They've had editors who were very high on me but none of them lasted very long.

That's gotta be significant, right?

And career-wise, I was much closer to the wilderness when CrossGen failed. But even then I had projects outside of the Big Two.

And thank God for the awesome folks at Bongo. They don't care of you're a card-carrying anarchist as long as you bring the funny and understand their characters. They have saved my ass and my car and my house a number of times.

As to what happened, this really seems to have taken people by surprise. And indeed most comment that has reached me has been speculative in nature. Does this involve Tim Drake's replacing Bruce Wayne as The Batman? Are there editorial issues concerning Grant Morrison's involvement with the Batbooks - a creator Chuck Dixon has criticised in the past?

A lot more than that it seemed. In comments posted on Comics Should Be Good , Dixon made things a lot clearer, when the subject of the role of the Bateditors in his firing was broached. He wrote, "Don't blame my editors. DC, currently, is run from the top down in a way that makes Jim Shooter's aegis at Marvel look like a hippie commune," later clarifying, "Shooter was very dictatorial with strict rules for writing and drawing superheroes. The difference between his reign at Marvel and the current one at DC is that Shooter was successful at raising circulation and longterm planning."

When asked whether Dixon was taking a shot at Warners, Paul Levitz or Dan DiDio, Chuck made it crystal clear, saying, "Not at Paul.

"Warners? The geniuses who merged with a company that was billions in the red? Trust me, most days they don't even KNOW they own a comic company much less take an interest in running it.

"On the Shooter front -

"Though I saw Shooter in full fledge psychotic editorial rage a couple of times, he did provide leadership at Marvel and didn't change the company's direction five times in one day. And the company climbed out of the red and became vital again under his stewardship. I disagreed with many of his ideas when it came to continuity but he was at least consistent and you knew where you stood. And merit was rewarded back then. If you sold well and handed the stuff in on time you'd never go without work"

This is probably one of the most public condemnations of Dan DiDio by a working creator yet... if our assumptions are as clear as they seem. Dixon added, "I've worked under tyrants and I can say that I'd prefer to work under a talented, knowledgeable tyrant with a successful plan than a directionless gladhander with a ouija board any day of the week.

This does seem quite ironic to happen the week DC published this comic?

While Dixon was defending editors, Grant Morrison was throwing the editors of "Countdown To Infinite Crisis" and "Death of The New Gods" under a bus for, it seems, not reading the script of the series they were counting down to. No word from said editors Mike Carlin, Mike Marts or Dan DiDio of course.

Back in March, LITG pointed out however that the script as delivered to DC wasn't what Dan DiDio was expecting, hence an international flight last Thanksgiving to sort out what to do, including the creation of "DC Universe" #0. Whatever was decided, it didn't seem to do the trick.

Will DiDio issue a public response? It can be dangerous for publishers when creators start to speak out unchallenged. Suddenly they all want to have a go.

Is it just me, or is everyone at Marvel laughing their arses off right now? Remember folks, things can flip very quickly in comics.


[Yellow Light]Last week's coverage of Platinum's letter to freelancers praising their patience for waiting for money while reminding them that their NDAs prevented them from talking about said payment issues gathered much comment.

There was much comment that the letter mirrored the structure of those sent by number of companies just before they went under.

One Platinum creator wishing to remain anonymous noted, "I would have been OK with the letter except for the thinly disguised threat about honoring contracts.

"When they honor their contract to pay once a month we can honor our contracts to keep our mouths shut."

While one acquaintance of many at Platinum had his own analysis;

1. When a company becomes public it sells shares in the company, raising (in most cases huge amounts of) cash that it can then use to grow the company.

2. They are already public and have been for a while. What happened to all the money they raised? Where did it go? What did they spend it on instead of the creators? Is all that money gone already?

3. How does the current economic problems actually impact Platinum? It can't reduce the amount of money raised when the company went public. Even a falling stock price can't reduce the money raised. Even a rising stock price wouldn't put actual dollars into company.

4. The only impact the current economy could have on Platinum, would be on its ability to borrow money. He even says it specifically when he says "access to capital" and "be creative in the way we do business."

5. According to Altounian, the purpose of going public was to give Platinum the ability to borrow money? Was that really the plan? Really? More debt was the answer?

6. I guess if they need to and can borrow the necessary funds to pay the money they have promised to creators, good for them. But given how quickly they've burned through the money raised from the public offering, why should this bolster creator or industry confidence in the company moving forward?

Food for thought.


[Green Light]And now the sound of thousands of raised eyebrows as a publisher does the right thing, given the circumstances.

TokyoPop, criticised for intangible contracts, and currently undergoing a financial crisis, is going through the process of giving full copyright back to creators wishing to pull their projects, with hardly any fuss. I can't think of a big company doing this in recent years - especially not so many at once.

I understand that Image Comics has become suddenly favoured with a number of high quality, fully developed OEL content. All their Christmases have come at once.


[Green Light]Last week we reported on how Marvel and DC artist Wayne Nichols wasn't paid by Mat Nastos of Nifty Comics for a "Cadre" story many years ago. The writer, Andrew Pellerito, e-mails to say that he too wasn't paid. Nor for the four issue "Origin Of The Cadre" series, all of which is currently available on Wowio.

Forgive me if I don't provide the link...


[Green Light]This is what you call a skeleton swipe. Just the bare bones...


[Green Light]John Byrne likes the new "Iron Man" movie while referring to the reason why women don't read comics - (the usual chick excuse -- "They're hard to read."). Aiming Valerie D'Orazio... and fire!


Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

My social networking is pretty much all Facebook these days, but I'm around at Bebo, MySpace, ComicSpace and Twitter, too.

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And my Wii number is 0512 2690 8446 2879. Anyone for a game of Mario Kart?

Contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com or on AOL Instant Messenger as TwistRich.

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me/text me on 0780 1350982 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

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