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 thirteen long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals and checked with respective publisher representatives before publication. Mostly. The veracity of each story is judged by me and given a spotlight - Green is the most reliable, Amber means there's likely an interest involved or the likelihood isn't set and Red means even I can't quite bring myself to believe it.

Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced.

Apologies for the short column this week, but it's been a bank holiday weekend and I've been spending time with Eve in Richmond Park chasing deer. Eventually I hope to train her so we have plenty of barbecue products this summer.


[Green Light]Next weekend, it's the Bristol Comics Expo in the UK. The biggest traditional comics convention of the year in the UK, and it should be well attended by British publishers, creators and fans, alongside a few Americans, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Norweigans and the odd Icelander.

I'll be running the Lying In the Gutters Live panel at 1pm in the Ramada Park Suite on Saturday, in a panel discussing the ins and outs (quite literally) of the comics industry with me, David Hine, Andrew Wheeler and Patty Jeres. At exactly the same time as Bob Wayne is running his DC Panel over the corridor with Kurt Busiek and the like.

So for the first time, Bob Wayne won't be heckling from the audience at my panel. It seems a shame. Still, the stories Patty can tell should more than make up for it. She, Andrew Wheeler and Allan Heinberg will also be on the Prism panel at 3.30pm in the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum.

Then at 3pm in the Ramada room, I'll be interviewing Bryan Talbot on stage about his "Alice In Sunderland" graphic novel, while simultaneously Markosia make an announcement about one of my comics. Dammit.

Sunday sees the Brian K. Vaughan panel at 1pm, Hypotheticals at 3pm and Kev Sutherland's kids cartoon panel at 4pm. And Norman Lovett will host the Eagle Awards.

I'm there for the Saturday and Sunday, feel free to find me and say hi.


[Yellow Light]Free Comic Book Day! Free comics, in countless stores across the land, promoting the glorious medium to the great unwashed - and people who'd never been in a comic shop before as well! Only the most obstreperous individual could find something to whine about on such an occasion.

That's my cue, then.

The UK, and presumably other non-North America locations, always lose out with the heavier shipping costs making the scheme unjustifiable for some (but not for Richmond's They Walk Among Us (as seen in "Spaced") who seemed to be having an excellent day when I popped by with Eve - she really enjoyed "Mickey Mouse" and "Hack/Slash.")

But the whole of the UK has problems dealing with the limited distribution rights of certain FCBD titles to the UK. So it seems that gold sponsor books such as Dark Horse's "The Umbrella Academy" and TokyoPop's "Choose Your Weapon," both books that caused considerable interest and responsible for many enquiries, were unavailable through Diamond UK. An insane amount of interest was generated by Fantagraphics' "Unseen Peanuts," again not available in the UK. Of course, neither is "Complete Peanuts" that it was promoting, but most UK retailers have been able to secure copies of that series. Indeed, I know of one who just used Amazon.com's discounts to order a gross.

There were some retailer concerns regarding two books. "Astounding Wolf-Man," a Gold Sponsored book (thereby intended for all ages), had an end gag in the "Brit strip" involving vibrators. And "Family Guy," with considerable young teen appeal, was published as a flip book with "Hack/Slash," a rather violent and gory book.

Lisa Lopacinski from Neptune Comics posted on the CBIA, "While we have the option of buying or not buying them - at least anything except the Gold sponsors - that doesn't mean there can't be oversite. Something so simple as someone saying, 'Don't put Hack/Slash with Family Guy' seems pretty simple to me.

"And more 'all age' comics would be great. At least every gold sponsor should be all-age. NOT kids necessarily - although that's fine - but all age. Like the Spider-Man book for this year, and Unseen Peanuts, too. Personally I'd even put Owly in the batch because I know lots of grown ups who LOVE Owly.

"Then the more mature books could be the silver and bronze books and retailers can order at their discretion. And I do think that books like Hack/Slash need to be clearly marked that they are for Mature audiences. We do the comic book handing out - there's no random grabbing at our store - so we can make sure that the mature books stay out of kid's hands. But I don't have the time to read all the comics, so knowing if a book is of a mature nature before hand would be helpful - even more helpful if I could know when I'm placing my initial orders."

And to prove you can read anything into anything, some people saw a rather pornographic image on the back cover of the Image Comics offering when turned upside down. Anyone?

Online retailers were not invited to be part of FCBD unless they have a brick and mortar front as well. In previous years, this ruling was not enforced by Diamond, but this year it was, leading to online stores with a shopfront beating their rivals to attracting customers who live too far to get to a comic shop. The online-only direct market stores can't even join ComicsPro to complain either. This complaint has the answer that Free Comic Book Day was only set up to benefit brick and mortar direct market stores, not online stores and not bookstores. And that if the online only stores want to participate in such a venture, they should set up their own equivalent. Of course, there are some sites that offer comics free online every day!

One thing I had a personal problem with was the creative and production qualities of the advertising made available for the event. Well, it's time for me to stop moaning. I've volunteered my professional services for next year and am putting out a clarion call for anyone who works in advertising of whatever discipline to get in touch, to form a virtual voluntary creative agency overseen by the FCBD committee to create an advertising campaign for FCBD 2008.

And which prominent comic store owner told customers that he wasn't participating in Free Comic Book Day because the books weren't free to the retailers. Then, later in the day, was spotted at rival store picking up free books for himself?


[Green Light]I understand that Francis Manapul, better known for his Top Cow and "Witchblade" work, has signed an exclusive with DC Comics.


[Green Light]Sierra Hahn, Publicity Manager at DC Comics left last week. Gave her two months notice, told DC she was moving to Dark Horse and, as is common corporate policy these days when a rival company is involved, cleared her desk and left...


[Green Light]Despite being part of a legal suit with all sorts of ramifications, and despite Fantagraphics people being less verbose than usual (and you know actually taking legal advice to shut up outside of the court), when Heidi MacDonald reported Shannon Wheeler's blog where he rails against Gary Groth, the comments section brought both Groth and Harlan Ellison into the fray.

You'll have your own favourites but here are mine.

Groth: "I'm flattered that Heidi thought this was so newsworthy that she felt compelled to cross-post it, but on second thoguht I shouldn't be; likelier that she merely saw it as yet another opportunity to post a vaguely pro-Ellison entry without actually commiting herself."

Ellison: "Don't think I've actually met Mr. Wheeler, but I commend his ingenuous response to Groth's approaching him. Even to SUGGEST that Groth might not walk on water, is to incur precisely the bullying, bloviating rodomontade posted above."

Ellison: "Narcissism is not spellt 'narcisicsm.'"

Groth: "This is not the first time Ellison has tried to intimidate people into suppressing their right to free speech. When Ellison (according to his own retelling) beat up Charles Platt because Platt wrote or published something that offended Ellison, it sent a clear signal: publish something I don't like and you will be beaten."

Ellison: "I'm nigh-73, about 60 lbs. overweight, the lats ain't as good as they were when I was in the Army or when I hung with Bruce Lee, but if Gary Groth wants to duke it out ANYWHERE, at any time, just remove the blow-dart-guns from Kim Thompson's and Kevin Greenlee's mouths so they don't poison me from the nearby bushes, and I will happily take the field with him. He may well put me away, but he'll do it with my teeth in his throat."

Groth: "A too little known fact: When Ellison's lawyer was talking to my lawyer after Ellison's lawyer made known Ellison's grievance over our 30th anniversary book, our lawyer offered space in the book for Ellison to refute my comments or provide a counter-narrative. We never heard from him again - until he sued us. For all his tough talk to the effect that a man's-gotta-do-what-a-man's-gotta-do, we have always felt any questions of veracity should be debated in the public realm, both sides giving it their best shot, letting the chips fall where they may, and letting those members of the public interested enoguh to make up their own minds. That would enhance the proposition of free speech rather than suppress it."

Ellison: "I didn't take this public. Groth did. I filed a personal lawsuit, for which I'm paying out of my Writers Guild retirement, and monthly Social Security, payments."


[Green Light]The Gene Simmons line of comics has been quite the itinerant traveler of late. Originally set up at Markosia, when that publisher fell out with fellow rocker/comics creator Jazan Wild and his "Carnival of Souls," Jazan left for Arcana to set up a line, bringing Gene Simmons' books with him. Aracana then solicited the titles, only for Jazan and Gene to fall out themselves, bringing the whole line down. Now Gene Simmons' titles are at IDW with Jazan Wild nowhere to be seen, but no one else has fallen out.



[Green Light]Graig F Weich, the bizarrely named creator of such comics as "Civilian Justice," was an extra in "Spider-Man 3." And he made his most of it! Look for him, "Cheering for Spider-Man outside the Spidey-Day Parade before he Kissed Gwen Stacy," "I'm walking/standing behind M.J. & Harry in the Park outside Spiderman Day," "Spidey saves a baby from his stroller and a sand storm comes and debris is blowing at him as Sandman forms" and "near the Hotdog Stand as seen in the new trailer behind M.J. & Harry."

Keep an eye open and throw popcorn if you see his scary visage.


[Yellow Light]From Chaos to Speakeasy, Rick Olney to CrossGen, Dreamwave to, well, Dreamwave, LITG has a long history of highlighting non-paying publishers. Who's next in the non paying stakes? Well, surprisingly, Wizard it seems, if their own boards are anything to go by.

On this thread about new weekly comics started by user "shiky800" on their own message boards, user "Nick" askedm "Hey what is up with Wizard not having this information up and the site having NO new content in a few days????" Shiky800 replied "i don't know why so i did it." Nick added, "And this is why Wizard should hire you for... um something. Anything."

Surprisingly Shiky800 stated "thanks but i already do something for them i put up all the threads on the comics that come out every week. but they haven't paid me in 3 months", adding "and they haven't been responding to my emails".

I'm sure this is just a minor, easily fixable slip of an accountants' keyboard. Calling Rick Marshall…


[Green Light]Apparently employees at one comic store in Aberdeen have been spied causing nuisance to a fellow comic shop down the road. Nothing major - a knocked over dustbin, rubbish pushed through the letterbox and the like. But enough that one day it could lead to sectarian street warfare!



[Green Light]The Quiz by Hello Saferide has got stuck in my head this week. Your turn.

Budgie plugs Hypotheticals at Bristol next weekend.

The website for Simon Spurrier's new novel launches.


As always, I've got all sorts of fun stuff selling on eBay right now, you discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

Visit my MySpace or my ComicSpace as I discuss next week's column. Maybe.

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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