I would like to apologise for last week's column. And no, I don't mean saying that Bryan Vaughan is writing a Wildstorm relaunch when, instead, it appears he's working on a new fantasy book for them instead. No, I mean the fact that I was drunk in charge of a gossip sheet. I then proceeded to vomit copiously, only interrupted by the toilet seat lid, which smashed into my nose as I lifted it, causing blood and regurgitated wine to pebbledash the walls, ceiling and floor tiles of my bathroom. Quite glad the wife is in South Africa. And thank goodness, she doesn't actually read this nonsense. Right then.

Did you see Frazer Irving's 18 pager in the Telegraph on Saturday? Did you see the big Civil War splash in the New York Times art section today? Did you hear the piece on "The Flying Friar" on the BBC on Sunday morning? Could you avoid the huge coverage of Frank Miller this week?

It's getting easier and easier to get comics coverage and to see comics used to promote ideas in the mainstream press. Use this power wisely.

Maybe I should set up a Comics PR agency.

Some people think I already am…


[Green Light]There's a new "Dr. Fate" series in the works from DC Comics. Expect a bunch of one shots to launch it, possibly a fifth week event, spinning out of the "Shadowpact" series.

The one shots include "Detective Chimp," "Black Alice," "Sargon The Sorceror," "Ibis The Invincible" and "Zauriel."

Expect a heavy Morrison influence; especially with those last ones...


[Green Light]At New York Comic Con, expect a new Spawn/Batman project to be announced. My source tells me that this won't be an Image book, so that'll be DC then. No idea as to Todd McFarlane's involvement, but he didn't look kindly on the Spawn/Spider-Man project a few years ago...


[Green Light]Marvel have been making a few noises about online comics of late. In the past they've released specifically targeted issues for free, in order to promote certain titles, but I understand some people have been made fully aware of the extent of the online pirate situation. Lying In The Gutters brought this to a head some weeks back, reporting that the large majority of Marvel titles are available to download illegally, especially newer titles. It's becoming mainstream. Even one of their star writers, Warren Ellis, admits publicly to doing so.

Well, Marvel are asking the questions now. Literally. They've created an online resource to get some information on the actual and potential digital audience for their work with a $500 prize incentive to do so. And it's rather revealing as to what their plans may contain.

Although naughtily, foreigners like me can complete the survey, including stating which country we're from, without being told that we can't win the goodies. Damn.

It acknowledges that people are already downloading Marvel comics illegally, and asks as to the extent of the situation. We can probably presume that they won't send you a writ if you admit to torrenting the latest chapter of "The Other," but you never know…

The favoured future option seems to be a choice between a renewable subscription to access a library of Marvel titles at any time, or a 99c fee for a single issue. Pretty much the iTunes model.

Question 33 asks for suggestions for Marvel.com. Feel free to suggest a gossip column.

I asked "Flying Friar" Online guru, Todd Allen, for his thoughts.

"This survey tells us that Marvel is sincere about moving ahead with their digital comics program. Better, it tells us they're keeping an open mind about what kind of material to offer and how to offer it.

"Now obviously, I'm a little biased, being the originator of the online version of the Flying Friar, but let me share the story of a friend a mine who actively wants digital downloads. He's a consultant. He gets shipped out on Monday morning to various places and comes home on Fridays. Have laptop, will travel. He'd rather have downloads for two notable reasons: he can't lug a stack of comics with him to the place he has time to read them, and since he's not around a shop during the week, he frequently has problems with sell-outs. I ended up procuring an issue of 'Infinite Crisis' for him, a couple weeks back, because his travel schedule screwed up his shopping. I see his buying starting to slow down as his lifestyle has shifted away from getting to the store.

"Downloads solve geography problems. Downloads solve print run problems. I like them.

"The direct market as we know it is a collectibles market, more than it is a reading market. Has been for quite a while. There is nothing collectible about a computer file. The reason this solves problems with sold-out print runs is the same reason online comics will not threaten the collectibles business. Ever notice web comics doing well by selling print editions? You don't want to know how well Dark Horse is doing with MegaTokyo in the bookstore market. This can only be good for collected editions. And of course, how many of your current customers do you really think are going to abandon paper for the computer screen? It's a different market.

"In a sense, digital comics can be construed as an outreach program. New readers will be introduced and some of them will want their comics on paper.

"Eventually, quite possibly in the near future, there are going to be more comics available online, so just be aware the distribution channels may be getting tweaked.

"That said, I think the prices Marvel has listed are on the low side. My experience with the traffic that came to richjohnston.com from places like comicbookresources.com and newsarama.com is that an unexpectedly high percentage of the traffic bought a copy - at full cover price. Is this solely because these readers couldn't find a copy locally? That I can't tell you. I can only tell you the conversion rate didn't suggest there were any issues with the price from the people who read their comics news online. I take issue with the highest price on the survey being a 50% discount.

"'Course, I do have a proud Scottish heritage and would rather buy them on the cheap, so there you go.

"It will be interesting to see which path Marvel chooses. All this ultimately says is that they're considering the possibilities. More power to them."


[Yellow Light]Frank Miller has hit the papers this week, promoting "Holy Terror Batman," originally LITG-scooped back in August 2004.

He's written a few diatribes of late, going all Anne Coulter on Middle East terrorists, while condemning anyone who might suggest that torture is not the ideal way to deal with suspects.

You'll have your own, but my favourite is probably, "Almost half my country equates flushing a Koran down a toilet with sawing the head off an innocent contractor." Somehow I don't quite believe that's quite true.

One wonders if he was quite so forthright with Mickey Rourke, star of the "Sin City" movie Miller directed, who over ten years ago donated a share of his fee for "Frasncisco" to the IRA, and who openly admitted to Frank that he modelled his Marv walk on IRA terrorists - something Frank was more than pleased to share.

Maybe that will be on the Special Edition DVD. Possibly an Easter Egg.

And my favourite take on the current media furore that puts to shame even my appearance on BBC Radio 4's Sunday Programme yesterday to shame,


[Green Light]

A birthday picture for Warren Ellis. Of Warren Ellis. By Lady Dagger.

I don't know why, I just thought it deserved a larger audience.


[Green Light]Are you the type of person who would like a friendly user interface for "Diamond's list of what comics are coming this week?" One with pictures and stuff? Have you got a Mac OS 10.4?

Then what you need is this visual downloadable scrollable flickable "Diamond's list of what comics are coming this week". Go here or here. PC version on the way.

Never will you be visually lost over a lack of clear "Diamond's list of what comics are coming this week."


[Green Light]Is the "V For Vendetta" movie intended to be a thoughtful satire on politics and population? Or is it just a popcorn film? Intriguingly, director McTiegue plumps for the latter.


[Green Light]Brian Garside of All New Comics emailed me:

"Reading the article on Sam Loeb on Newsarama moved me beyond words, and made me decide something. After talking it over with my partner Pete, we have decided that we are going to donate all of the money we make on 'Superman/Batman' #26 to the Sam Loeb College Fund

"If you live in Canada and want to get this from us, I encourage you to visit us at www.allnewcomics.com. We're going to ship it for free to anyone who orders it from us, and we are going to eat the cost on that. This will not in any way impact how much money we donate in Sam Loeb's honour.

"As a dad, I can't imagine anything worse than losing my baby. I think the only thing that would make me feel better is if I could know that something good could come out of the tragedy, and that for just a moment the rest of the world noticed how special my child was.

"I am putting this challenge out there to every other retailer. How cool would it be if not only did we make this the number 1 book for April, but if we all gave up our profits on it and gave back to the business that we love so much?"


[Yellow Light]Joe Quesada is planning to have lunch with Brad Meltzer at the New York ComicCon. How have I come by this precious piece of sensitive information?

I couldn't rightly tell you.

Can DC really let this go unchallenged? DiDio should bid a grand! It's all for a good cause!

UPDATE: Nick Barrucci has just outbid Joe. This could go any way...


[Green Light]At the Alpha Waves message board, Mark Millar has stated that he'll be using "Marvel Civil War", amongst other things, to bring back Alpha Flight. He writes:

"I'm really using Marvel Civil War as a means of re-establishing some of the greatest, sadly missing characters from the MU. I'm very old school, despite being only thirty-six, and put this down to reading Marvel UK reprints as a kid instead of the books you guys were reading in the 80s and 90s. Thus, the period I have the biggest affection for really runs from Stan and Jack up to classic John Byrne. I'm reading all the Byrne FFs right now and loving them to pieces. I just love the Alpha Flight stuff I'm reading too and plan to end MCW with the possibility of a very good, very high profile Alpha Flight book spinning out of the series."

I've got a lot of fond memories for those comics too. Here's hoping it all works out...


[Green Light]Toy




[Green Light]This "original" and not at all swiped piece of art.

"New Avengers" #14


[Green Light]Alias Comics have had a reputation for latesness of... late. But that's all changing.

They've made it policy that no book be solicited until the finished, coloured, lettered version of the comic is fully saved on their server, ready to print. Effective now.

So, expect your Alias comics on time. Unless of course the server crashes... but i'm sure they've got a backup. Must have. Behind the sofa. Unless the dog ate it...

No, I'm being mean. This is a very positive sign for a company that hasn't had the best comics market PR of late.


[Green Light]The latest Just One Page charity statue, sculpted by Jesse Farrell. And it's our lovely Shaun and friend. See here for more details.


Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum.

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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