LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 54
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 twelve 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.
Quote Of The Week "GOD DAMNIT!!!!!!!!! I'm more offened that Rich used my screenname in his column" - avengingtitan, Newsarama board.
GIRLS ON TOP
Yeah, yeah, I know, LITG runs a couple of articles on "Lost Girls" and suddenly Newsarama and CBR have to run three each. Show offs. So, in no way an attempt to make sure I don't get beaten, here's Seven! New! Lost Girls Features! All New, All Short, All One After Another.
Here are my Top Ten Talking points for message boards. Feel free to cut and past them onto any online Lost Girls conversation. You should need to make minimum amends, whatever the context:
- There's a difference between drawing child pornography and filming it. One is purely an action of the mind; the other involves the abuse of children. The former is free speech, however distasteful and is worthy of defence on such terms.
- Any paedophile who chooses to buy "Lost Girls" to get their kicks would probably find better value for money elsewhere. Also, it's really hard to read this book with just one hand. It's both very heavy and oversized.
- Using these specific children's characters is an artistic choice to add layers to the book. There are aspects of innocence that the book touches on, which gain gravitas using such characters. Your preconceptions are challenged and the book artfully reinterprets familiar stories in new and dashingly clever ways. Just wait till you get to the Crocodile.
- The creators are dead. Their work has passed on. This is not how the original creators intended to use them but then, hey, Superman killed criminals and Batman carried a gun. And Moore's criticism of "V For Vendetta" doesn't invalidate his own actions, he is open to criticism as anyone. That he chooses to criticise someone for doing something he also does, does not make him a hypocrite in that he doesn't reject such criticism aimed at him. Maybe.
- Child pornography makes up a fraction of the book, which is mostly concerned with adult pornography. From masturbation to oral sex to rimming to vaginal penetration to anal penetration, male and female, to use of sex toys, orgies, watersports, coprophilia, incest, bestiality and vagina dentata. And no, this was not just an attempt to increase this column's Google Page Ranking.
- The issues released by Kitchen Sink and the chapters printed by SpiderBaby/Tundra in "Taboo" are not indicative of the full work, indeed they are a starting point. The book increases in intensity as it continues.
- Neither is the artwork. Melinda utilises a wide variety of artistic styles throughout the book.
- Pretty much any criticism you begin to make, Moore has a character comment on it. He is very aware of the readers' possible reactions and incorporates that as plot points and dialogue throughout the book. He's not stupid, Mr Moore, he's considered quite a lot. "Lost Girls" is as self reflective as "Watchmen," more so.
- Many comic books feature scenes of extreme violence without reaction. Including the slaughter of children on a number of occasions. Again, all depicted with lines and colours, no one is actually getting injured (except possibly the artist's wrist - and we're back to the pornography again…).
- It's rather good you know, I say so, and I should know, I'm famous. I'm getting killed off on "CSI" and everything. But no one is forcing you to buy or read it.
I've been talking about the potential controversy of the high-spec hardback oversized three volume slipcase jazz mag, "Lost Girls." And while the majority of the book covers sex and sexuality in all its variety and diversity (though quite a bit of muff diving, to be fair); there is a certain amount of child-child and child-adult goings on. Now, yes, there is an artistic and authorial purpose behind this, it's thematically sound, it's purely words and pictures, in a style that doesn't lead itself to instant gratification, and child abusers are condemned.
But I can't see this being published, with Alan Moore's current media profile, with the characters of Alice, Dorothy and Wendy used in this was (not to mention the coincidental Harold Potter) without someone kicking off.
Am I the only one who can see "PEDO PAN" as a front-page headline of the News Of The World? I've already been asked for comment by the BBC which is planning a news feature in a couple of weeks.
And if there is a furore, a real one mind, could Warner Bros. afford not to distance themselves from this writer? Maybe ordering DC to put the likes of "Watchmen" and "V For Vendetta" out of print? And eighteen months later, Alan Moore finally gets the rights back as originally planned.
Pure speculation of course. Hell of a conspiracy theory though, hey?
Oh, please yourselves.
Top Shelf is the publisher who said yes to funding and putting out the book in a fashion that might well bankrupt them if something goes terribly wrong. A $200,000 printing bill not to mention creative, editorial, marketing and legal costs caused them to solicit direct orders for the signed and numbered edition, an act that angered a number of prominent retailers.
Publisher Chris Staros could well be a co-defendant to whom charges of obscene publication will be levelled. A self-publisher who has slowly grown his business to cover such works as "Chunky Rice," "Blankets," "From Hell" and "SuperF*ckers," he also published Moore and Gebbie's rejected-by-Paul-Levitz "Cobweb" story last year.
Can he afford what could conceivably be a number of state challenges to the legality of the book, being taken through higher and higher courts until someone finally gets round to actually reading the American Constitution?
Maybe he should make sure he's on good terms with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Oh look, he's on the board of directors. He's their president in fact. That's handy.
Also on the CBLDF board is Steve Geppi, whose distribution company, Diamond, dominates the direct market comic industry and has made headway into bookstore distribution of graphic novels, signing up many prominent publishers as exclusives, including Top Shelf. Diamond have already made the decision not to distribute the book into Canada, due to fears of interest from Canadian customs and a law which criminalises any portrayal of underage sex, even if no such act took place or was simulated. Some Canadian stores have drop off points in the USA for such an eventuality. Some are ordering directly from Top Shelf and taking any seizure risks themselves, however slight. And Amazon.ca are carrying the title - indeed, I understand that Amazon has taken quite a position in stocking a large number of copies, in anticipation of customers unable to buy from their comic shop or bookstore.
Diamond UK have not chosen to comment on whether of not the book will, as the solicitation suggests, be distributed to Britain. The book also seems to be going to Australia, even though the original much tamer issues were banned fifteen years ago.
Diamond's position however is so monopolistic, that if they truly were hit by legal action, it could bring down the entire industry. Such an event however is extremely unlikely.
"Lost Girls" is on the cover of Adult Previews as well as listed in the normal Previews, an unusual but not unheard of event.
It's the retailer falling foul of local outrage that does concern me. The CBLDF has successfully defended actions against such retailers in the past, but it can be a long drawn out affair and it can seriously damage small businesses. The risk varies from state to state, with some happily putting the books on shelves without fear of reprimand, with some only ordering behind the counter for pre-orders, some stating clauses in their contract that would bar such product.
I solicited some reactions:
Rory Root, Comic Relief - "Alan sells books. So do we.... the CBLDF would love to try a First Amendment case in Berkeley's, or for that matter the Bay Area's, Courts. Burton Joseph, legal counsel for the CBLDF, has said so in the past, though the ADA saw reason long before he had to officially weigh in on that instance. I suspect this book will end up in court. I don't think it will be here."
Jerry Wall, Atomic Comics - "I'll have to limit this book to special orders only. I couldn't put this book out on the shelf."
Lee, Lee's Comics - "We will be stocking this at both Lee's Comics locations. We will keep it in stock as long as it is kept in print."
Gordon Lee, Legends - (currently the defendant in a similar case) - "All legal issues aside, I have not had one request for this book, and it would only be made available through a special order from one of my customers. Due to its price point I would require a 50% deposit up front."
Paul Eke, Amazing Fantasy - "I'll be ordering a few copies and don't anticipate any problems other than trying to get people to part with fifty quid for it."
John Harter, Waterfront Comics - "Like the other Bay Area retailers that have posted, I plan on carrying the book for as long as it is in print. Based on other threads posted on this board, I do also plan to order direct from Top Shelf and pick the books up directly from them at the SDCC. I do plan to reorder from Diamond. As for objections due to content issues, I do not see that as being a problem based on the presentation and price point of the books. I plan to rack these in my Alan Moore section next to 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.'"
Mimi, Night Flight Comics - "We are planning to stock it on our shelves. We have a guaranteed audience for Alan Moore stories and treat adult material responsibly.
"For us, it is a matter of how we want to handle it. When you are handling porn, it is going to have to be on a case-by-case basis. If it wasn't Alan Moore we might handle it differently, but the writer has credibility with us and our customers."
Carr D'Angelo, Earth-2 Comics - "Legal concerns do vary from state to state as the Federal Government does not really enforce obscenity laws. They are usually a local concern and pursued at the discretion of local politicians, law enforcement and concerned citizen groups. Local standards is part of the determination of obscenity so Arkansas is different from Los Angeles.
"I hope to have special orders to allay some of the financial risk, but this is definitely a book we will carry steadily. As you say, it is written by the industry's premier author.
"In suburban Los Angeles, content is not a problem unless I sell it to a minor which will not happen. We carry 'Omaha' and 'Black Kiss.' If this book truly contains images of children having sex, it may cause some problems, especially if that gets promoted in all this publicity that's going to be generated. There may be people who would like to shut down some comic shops for selling kiddy porn.
"A few years ago, I believe there was a federal law regarding 'virtual child pornography' to make all depictions, even photo-shopped ones, illegal, so that pedophiles could not use the 'it's not real kiddy porn' defense. But there was much arguing against such a law because it could be used to censor Lolita. It also scared movie studios away from sex scenes with characters that were younger than 18 (some movies go to great lengths to underscore that the high school students are over 18.) Not sure what the current status of the law is."
Joe Field, Flying Colors Comics - "There's a clause in my lease preventing the stocking of "adults-only" material. We skirt that for advance orders, but we don't have any advance orders for 'Lost Girls.'
"I agreed to the clause because I never had any intention of selling 'adults-only' material in my store. It was never a part of our business model. So when I read with interest Alan Moore's interviews about 'Lost Girls,' since he is blatantly referring to the work as 'pornography,' I knew it would be something we couldn't (and wouldn't want to) handle.
"I'm fairly sure the sales of 'Lost Girls' in America will come predominantly from 'safe' markets, bi-coastal urban markets where there will be little to no local repercussion for selling boldly stated pornography.
"Just not our thing here and never has been."
Benjamin A. Trujillo, Star Clipper - "Here at Star Clipper we're still debating whether we will carry shelf copies of this book.
"We have three major concerns:
"1. Being in the 'mid' part of the midwest we are sensitive to violating local pornography ordinances or offending our clientele who, though not as sensitive as those in other parts of the midwest, tend to shun these types of titles.
"2. Our store is 50% female-owned and she takes a dim view towards works that have a morbid, degrading or unhealthy interest in sex, and I'm afraid this title may qualify.
"3. Alan Moore sells a lot of books at Star Clipper, but not all of his titles have been hits. I think this one might only do middling-to-poor so I'm not sure it's worth the above stated risks.
"As to issue #1, our municipality has a pretty standard anti-obscenity/pornography ordinance. They say in part that we can not publicly display 'any pictorial or three-dimensional material depicting human masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual intercourse, direct physical stimulation of unclothed genitals, sadomasochistic abuse, or emphasizing the depiction of post-pubertal human genitals; provided, however, that works of art or of anthropological significance shall not be deemed to be within the foregoing definition.'
"The question to us is whether or not this is a work of art (which is undefined in the ordinance). We've carried shelf copies of titles that have questionable content that sold very well for us (for example, we sold cases of 'True Porn' Volumes 1 and 2) but those titles clearly had artistic value and did not predominantly appeal to prurient interest in sex.
"It is unclear to me whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, but right now I'm leaning towards 'probably would.' I need to talk to Chris a little bit before I commit either way, but you can probably tell which way I'm leaning."
W. Alan, Silver Bullet Comics - "We have decided not to carry this in-store (still some internal discussion for the website, but almost convinced not to there either). To be honest, the amount of publicity this will get is a cause for alarm to me, as its ability to gain good press could also gain negative press. I have no doubt we will receive phone calls asking if we carry this from people looking for trouble once the press hits. Material that exists for those who may want it is fine, but material that becomes known to those that want to see it obliterated is like handling napalm. I, for one, do not wish to be the one on fire for a few potential $75 sales. This kind of thing is just giving the lunatics a bible for how to shut me down, as in the court of public opinion, where facts hardly matter, a sound bite of 'child pornography for sale' is a lethal injection. I prefer my 4 year old daughter and 3 year old son to remain in my custody, not be relocated while I await pedophilia charges.
"As the only two people I knew to be interested in this already told us they would buy direct, I will not make any effort to make this book known to other potential customers. Top Shelf seems content to do their own marketing and selling here. Let them have the risk as well.
Dan Shahin, Hijinx Comics - "I don't have an adults only section, but I do have an all-ages section. 'Lost Girls' will be stocked in the Fiction/Literature section under M for Moore. I trust in Alan Moore's abilities and I'm sure this will transcend mere pornography, because I don't have any room in my store for mere smut for smut's sake.
"I have lots of kids as customers, but they have too much cool stuff made for them to even notice a book like this. To not stock it for their "protection" would do a disservice to my adult customers who expect to see the latest work by one of the most important writers in comics history. Easy decision."
Paul, Astro Books/Librairie Astro - "Isn't it rather odd that when it comes to carrying ...adult... material, those who choose not to carry it always seem to get lumped in with those who are afraid to carry it?
"Isn't it odd how often the defenders of free speech seem to forget about the concept of free will?
"If I wanted to, I could carry 'Lost Girls,' I just have to buy direct from Top Shelf. That it's porn means nothing. I used to carry porn. Hell, I used to make trips to NYC to buy it at a couple of wholesalers there.
"Then, for a couple of reasons, I chose not to carry it any more. There are many things I choose not to carry. French books for example (and I'm in Quebec - 90% francophone). Blatantly jingoist books like 'Liberality.' Books published by Avatar.
"I'm highly reluctant to order books that are pushed at me as things 'real' comic shops must have. I'm highly reluctant to order books that are pushed at me as 'making a statement' about free speech.
"You want to push an agenda? Fine. I'm not your trained monkey. Don't expect me to dance to your tune. Don't expect me to not dance to your tune either.
"I'm a bookseller. We're booksellers. We're part of a tradition of awareness that goes back beyond Thomas Paine. We know what we're doing, we know the environment we're living in, possibly far more than any pundit on the face of the earth.
"As far as 'Lost Girls' goes, even if Diamond would ship it to Canada, I wouldn't carry it.
- "There's Alan Moore that sells, and there's Moore that doesn't sell. 'Lost Girls' didn't sell when it first started.
- "Melinda Gebbie is an artist that doesn't appeal to my customers. 'Cobweb' was the most often stated reason for dropping that ABC anthology book.
- "It's from Top Shelf, a publisher that I feel engages in anti-retailer practices. Such practices are not mitigated by their retailer-friendly ones. Giving to charity does not excuse vandalism. Return for kind does not excuse grabbing sales.
- It's pornography. That it's dressed up in boards at $150 a shot doesn't change a thing. A thousand-dollar whore is still a whore. The author describes it as pornography, it must be pornography. Social statement, work of art, call it what you will. The author describes it as pornography, and neither Moore nor Gebbie sound the least bit tongue in cheek about that. I don't carry porn.
"Four reasons why I wouldn't carry it. If I did carry porn, I still wouldn't carry it, because of the first three reasons.
"Better return on investment likely by selling 'Mouse Guard,' 'X-Men' or 'Safe Area Gorazde.'"
Andrew Troth, The Mind's Eye Comics - "My lease (in a suburban neighborhood shopping center) has a clause like that too, though neither the landlord (a large property holding company) nor the (even larger) property management company it employs, seems to expend any effort on policing such things as long as nobody's raising a ruckus about it. We had one complaint a few years ago from a customer who called the police on us for displaying an issue of 'Flinch' (a fairly short-lived Vertigo horror anthology, if you don't remember it). A nice officer stopped by with a copy of the city's anti-obscenity ordinance (which we were not violating) and that was the extent of it. 'Lost Girls' would probably technically violate my lease, but that in and of itself might not be enough to stop me putting a copy on the shelf.
"What does stop me is that we apparently have no demand for the book. I don't tend to do well with high-end hardcovers in general, and my suburban clientele apparently has little interest in Alan Moore's non-DC work (aside from a surge in 'From Hell' sales when the movie came out). I'm considering ordering one for myself, but no one else has shown any interest yet. If I get a special order by the time my Diamond orders are due, I'll certainly fill it; if I get 3, I'll consider getting one for the shelf too."
And Robert Scott of Comickaze won't stock any because Top Shelf made signed and numbered versions only available to direct customers, not at wholesale. Still, as can be seen from the list above, there are plenty of willing retailers to take that business.
There's also the slight possibility that a person who has purchased the high-end book (and then carried it home, shoulders straining) could even be prosecuted for owning a copy of the volume. Or that it could be used in court to determine the character of a defendant or witness. Or it could fall off the top of the shelf and seriously damage your skull.
All sorts of things could happen.
This could well become a test case for the comics industry and free speech. That it involves an individual with a reputation as the industry's finest writer, and the creator of a number of big value brands can only draw attention, not just from the media but also the industry - some of whom would be happier if such cases were swept under the carpet.
It's a chance for comics to stand up and be counted, to say that they are a medium like any other, with a variety of audiences, and deserving of artistic integrity and respect.
It could also be the chance for the medium to be tainted with a reputation for peddling kiddie porn.
And finally, a cheap shot, with yet another sexualisation of a classic children's character…
Photoshopped by John Byrne. Fancy.
Right, away from such sexual shenanigans, time for something more wholesome.
LESBIANS IN TIGHTS
It never rains, but it pours lesbians.
The New York Times has exclusively revealed one of the stories that Lying In The Gutters published last year, that the new Batwoman series would star a Kathy Kane, and a lesbian character at that. LITG reported that the character of Detective Montoya, currently featuring prominently in "52" was considered in the role, but rejected. It was all over this morning papers as well, with the usual journalistic inaccuracies. The NYT piece goes on to report that Montoya will be Kane's girlfriend.
Ooh, it's like "The Wire" or something.
It does seem remarkable that DC Comics is taking a lead, publishing a solo non-mature readers comic with a lesbian character in the lead, in the Batman group of titles, signed off by Paul Levitz, yet this is a step that Joe Quesada says the more-issue-challenging Marvel would be unable to take because of the media's response in the current climate.
Artwork from the Alex Toth Doodlebook, now being produced posthumously.
"beatbullying" is a UK children's anti-bullying charity. They are releasing official limited edition "X-Men: The Last Stand" dogtags and glow-in-the-dark wristbands to raise awareness of bullying and to raise money for their work around the UK.
Many longtime X-Men readers came to the comic to escape from their own experiences of being bullied that not only found revenge power fantasies, but also an understanding of persecution. I can't think of a better media brand to use.
If you want to donate, or just get some of these limited edition items to put on eBay, click here.
From the Suicide Girls interview with Greg Rucka, concerning a "Whiteout" movie.
"There should be an announcement about Whiteout being made in the next couple of weeks. There's talk about actually filming something as early as October of this year."
What are Martha Kent and Ben Hubbard looking at in this well publicised still from "Superman Returns?"
Suicide Girls spoilers follow...
Daniel Robert Epstein: There is a picture of you and Eva Marie Saintin Superman Returns looking up in the air. I assume your charactersare looking at Superman flying.
James Karen: No we're looking up at Superman's room in the hospital atthe end of the picture.
I hope he has insurance...
AMERICA VS THE DEVIL
From the new Panini comic, "Captain America & Devil: Dead On Arrival" from Tito Faraci and Claudio Villa.
BATMAN VS THE JEWS
Thanks for this... this piece's headline is taken from the "ad break" in this clip, but the whole thing is very worthwhile
Chris Stone is no longer working at Boom! Studios.
Stone was working on "Yoshitaka Amano's Hero" for Boom!, scanning the original paintings, assembling the book, and doing most of the pre-press work, but his main role at Boom! was on the "Warhammer" titles.
Stone didn't respond to email inquiries before publication, but I contacted the publicity-shy Tony Lee, previously LITG-reported to be working on a Warhammer project with Stone for the company
Lee told me, "Chris has left the project and unfortunately it's left a domino effect. I don't know any more as, being the writer that Chris brought on board, I too am off the project - I found out by email after Chris had left. That said, I've spoken to Ross Richie and you should expect some BOOM! news down the line.'"
I understand that Chris has moved on to writing his own projects.
And am I the only one who has noticed that Adam Fortier now has a Boom Studios address? I hear he's a consultant. Making tea, answering the phone, that sort of thing... maybe...?
Dan Goldman, one of the ACT-I-VATE artists, has teamed with Anthony Lappé, an award winning journalist on Iraq to create an online serialised graphic novel, "Shooting War."
Worth a shufty.
Karen Traviss is a Star Wars novel writer, and the winner of a couple of awards for doing so. She has written best selling "Republic Commando" novels, that tie in with Lucas-dictated continuity and probably provide an entertaining few hours reading if you're into that sort of thing.
She's also said that there were 3 million clones making up the Clone Army, a number dictated by Lucas, but enough to get a smaller army of fans enraged at her personally. For eight months.
Lots of nasty, misogynistic hate-filled ratings - and here is the extent one 41 year old fan will go to in order to make a point however invalid.
"It's a slap in the face to have us think such a small number (barely the population of our own planet Earth) of troops is sufficient enough to fight in a galaxy-wide war. It's made all the more worse that there are a good amount of people who will actually accept and stand by it without any consideration.
"By the by, this video has been deemed adult material. How sad, the children of Traviss must have their eyes shielded for them like the babies they are."
Talking of which, Erik Ko, publisher of Udon Comics, has got in a bit of a barney online.
Quick! Someone make a film and put it on YouTube!
CIVIL WAR CONSPIRACY
Gutteratti Richard Evans writes
"Marvel might be making Iron Man a villain. Has a major hero ever changed and kept his own series?
- "Tony Stark is working with SHIELD on the Superhero Registration Act.
- "He got Spider-Man on his side, for no other reason than to use him and have a powerful bodyguard who doesn't rely on technology.
- "He hired a villain to attack the Senate while they were debating the SRA to push them to come to a decision.
- "He has been upgraded to an almost inhuman level and is as much machine inside as outside.
- "On Marvel's website, they have an entry for Nitro. It mentions that when Nitro fought Iron Man, Tony discovered a frequency that would cause Nitro to explode, Tony activates that frequency and causes Nitro to continually explode until he is too tired to keep fighting.
Tony Stark could have used his new powers to ignite Nitro from a distance. He could have even upgraded these villains the same way he upgraded Spider-Man.
"It would be a great big revelation if they did this, wouldn't it?"
Certainly would, Mr Evans! Now go easy on the frozen slurpy! After all you should see what they're saying about what's up with Ion.
Memorabilia is a large British convention that covers comics as a sideline, concentrating on the Movies, Toys and TV side. Kinda like San Diego if it hadn't actually started as a comic convention. As a result, it doesn't have the support or backing of the UK comics industry and, ironically, as a result doesn't have the soul, the media impact or the authenticity that San Diego has, despite being very similar.
I understand that for the November show, the organisers are trying to get that soul back in. By building and widely promoting a Comics Village section where small press publishers and artists can stand side to side with Manga and Anime, as well as providing comics panels, portfolio sessions, writer pitch sessions and publisher presence.
With a return of Dez Skinn's Brighton event still in doubt, it's possible that this event could become the late-2006 focal point instead. Probably with more money behind it that "V For Vendetta" cheques will allow.
More on this as I have it.
Yet more of that pesky product placement, in "Thing" #6.
Surely not a dig at the bosses for cancelling the comic?
THE LAST DAYS OF THE SHOWCASE
London comic shop Comic Showcase's last day will be June, Saturday the 17th. I won't be able to make it, but it should be a comics-celeb filled day.
If you count Dave "Watchmen" Gibbons as a comic celeb. I do!
The day is being filmed, all the comics in the shop will be sold at ludicrous prices and there will be alcohol.
Someone go along and e-mail me the highlights…
WHAT'S THE INLAND REVENUE'S CUT ON A GAJILLION?
A reader writes "when Liefeld says [in LITG last week], 'Cable has literally made me a gajillion dollars,' I assume he doesn't mean 'literally' literally."
Never assume anything, dear sir!
EAT THIS, CHEWBACCA!
More examples, "Unbreakable"-style of real life "superhuman strength" … are Grant Morrison's predictions of real life superheroes starting to be fulfilled?
"I am Luke Skywalker!!!"
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